October seems to be the only month of the year where there is a general feeling that prevails throughout its stretch of thirty-one days, that being the general eerie haunt lurking in the background of our daily lives. It’s also the only month that I know of that is loved so much, but that its end is anxiously anticipated, as those of us who love Halloween get to exit our beloved October with a bang. I love Halloween. To me, it’s like Christmas in the fall, that is, if you celebrate and have a fondness for winter holidays to an extend where you can understand the parallels. What do you like to do on Halloween? It’s a tradition for my friends and I to go to the Rocky Horror Ball at midnight on the thirty-first. I look forward to it all year long.
And so, in the Halloween spirit, I chose to stick with the gloomy and ghoulish October vibes that most of us recognise and appreciate throughout the span of the month. Can you believe that October is almost over? I certainly can’t, but at least we have music, as always, to frame a state of mind to bring us back to a specific time and place in the realm of reminiscence.
It wasn’t long ago at all that I discovered Magic Trick, in fact, I think Ruler of the Night was one of the albums I started out the month with. Appropriate name and title for our theme, wouldn’t you agree? This musical discovery was a long time coming, with one of the album’s singles, “Torture”, looming in the background of my digital library for over a year. Inevitably, that one track caught hold of me and pulled me into the rest of the album. And really, I can’t think of a better album to capture everything I love about October so effectively as this one does.
This album perpetually exists in the snapshot moment of autumn trees lit up by the orange glow of a streetlamp, swarmed by a deep blue sky, somewhere in the Suburbs on a chilled October evening in the nineteen seventies. Fundamentally, this album is beautiful. It haunts, but it does so beautifully. I think the first thing I notice is the different rhythms at play in each track, coming to their liveliest in moments like the chorus of “Invisible at Midnight” and the droney trailoff of “Same People”. Expanding beyond the traditional drum kit and into the territory of xylophones, sleigh bells, electronic samples and plain old clapping, this adds another layer of interest to the album, without washing out the other melodical tones on the tracks. Another element of craft that makes this album so memorable is the dynamics between the dimmer minor, flat, diminished, and seventh tones that leave us shivering, and the major tones that add balance and warmth to all these delightful aural chills. Other things that stand out for me are the retro influences and lush, expansive opening on “Torture”, the adorably kitschy and Halloween-esque chimes on “Next to Nothing”, and the effectively ghoulish vocal chorus that prevails throughout the forty-five minutes of the album, dampening the spirits of the sunnier tones on the release. I also love how earthy the tones are, which allows you to settle into the witchy vibes comfortably and enjoy them in a very foundational kind of way.
Ruler of the Night is especially fruitful if you have an ear tuned to an instrument you play, or you have a keen observation for larger arrangements of sound, or both. As with most albums I enjoy above others, I find so much pleasure rooted in the blended tones, textures and layers of interaction between the instruments of an LP. And, as a guitarist myself, it’s only natural that I pay a little closer attention to the guitar sections of the album, which are wonderfully shining too, by the way. I feel this is an interesting exercise to train your ear to better understand the music you listen to, both inside and outside the conversation surrounding this album in particular. Even if you don’t play an instrument yourself, pick one you can identify on the track or album you’re listening to (either aurally or by reading the list in the liner notes) and pay close attention to how it is working in the song. I find that this helps to better understand the musical piece and how it works, especially if it is complex and flourishing with intricate layering.
When it comes to dealing with the fear of the unknown, the prospects are safest (and most exciting!) when discovering a new record. And, like any good scare, a good album can haunt your sleep and live in your mind in the best way possible. Let your musical discoveries lend you some sense of footing as you navigate the unknown. It is brighter than any candle in the dark.
Keep an ear out for: “Ruler of the Night” (I love this opener!), “Torture”, “Angel Dust”, and “I Can’t Imagine” (probably the most mellow seventies-esque folk tune I’ve heard in a while).
Happy haunting, ghoulish babies!