This gem came to me via a late evening trip to the Hollywood location of Amoeba Music. I’ve been traveling way too much for work recently, mostly to Los Angeles, so following yet another insanely long day I thought I’d brave the infamous LA traffic and see if I could spend a few hours digging at Amoeba. If you’ve never been there before, it’s like you died and went to vinyl heaven. A massive electronica section broken out by subgenera; the biggest hip hop section you’ll see anywhere that isn’t a hip hop specialty store; reggae… check; spoke word… check; avant garde… check. Just about everything you could ever want.
My first stop was the same as it is in any store I go to – the New Arrivals section and it’s potpourri of assorted stuff. And that is where I came face to face with The Rapist (2012).
The cover is creepy, and it doesn’t give away anything as to the musical genre. I have to admit I passed it by at first, but quickly went back to it. I assumed it was going to be some Don Ho kind of thing, but I was wildly mistaken. A quick look at the back revealed two dudes with all kinds of electronic musical equipment laid out before them, which led to a Discogs search, which listed the style as electronic and industrial. The price was right and it looked to be in good shape, so I snatched it up.
I couldn’t find too much about this French duo online, and what I did find wasn’t in English, so I didn’t spend a lot of time researching them. Which is fine, because it’s really about the music. And it’s some cool business. Dark electronic, sometimes rich and layered, other times simple and basic. There’s an overall darkwave kind of vibe – heavy at times, but more driven by an undercurrent of emotional despair. Not the kind of rage-against-the-world clothes rending despair, but more the lonely kind, crying out against the universe for everything it has dumped on you, a combination of helplessness and hopelessness. The vocals are a bit distant and indistinct, like a voice calling out from deep inside a hole and straining to be heard.
I spend a lot of time thinking about why certain music is appealing, both generally and to me specifically. There are certainly people who will find The Rapist appealing because it fits their general mood, whether that be in the moment or part of their broader outlook on life. Others won’t be even remotely interested in it. As for me, I’m loving it even though I don’t think it fits with how I’m feeling at the moment, and I think it’s because music like this touches something deep within my psyche. And that can be very uncomfortable, which is why it won’t appeal to a lot of people – they don’t want to crack open that door, even the tiniest bit. I have to admit I find The Rapist mildly unsettling, but that constitutes an important part of its appeal, because what’s the point of art if it can’t generate some type of response from us?
Even the title and the front cover are designed to be jarring, though I almost wonder if it’s so overt as to become an exercise in simply being distasteful for the sake of being distasteful. Certainly cover art has become more extreme over the years, and musicians have pushed the envelope with the words they choose and topics they sing about. Some have made entire careers off of being shocking, and not just recently; popular musicians have been pushing the boundaries of what society finds acceptable since the birth of rock ‘n’ roll if not before. Sometimes it comes across as overly contrived, but maybe it all does serve part of the greater purpose.
If you’re into the darker strains of EDM, I recommend “Pumping Iron” with it’s weird sort of double beat sound, one coming from the drum machine, the other via the backing organ. For pure relentlessness, go with “Backdoor Action.” If you’re into the early 1980s synthwave thing, “Strychnine” is absolutely for you with it’s distinctive keyboards. If you like all of the above, well all of it is packaged together into the marathon 11+ minute title track. Knock yourself out.
The Rapist is available online at Teenage Menopause Records, so if you’re into the darker stuff go check out some tracks.