Gatekeeper - Optimus Maximus

  • Share
  • Just in time for trick or treat, Michael Mayer starts up a new imprint called Fright, dedicated to horror-centric disco, or as the label calls it, "serial killer synth symphonies." What gives? Are the Germans finally catching the disco bug? Or, as one RA forum poster asked, is this "Kompakt Does It Better"? Hard to say. But a reference to the United States' premiere spooky-synth disco label will only get you so far. For while the US version promotes a kind of darkly sensual, metropolitan suspense, the Germans prefer menace and bloodlust. By all indications, the Fright agenda would appear to be trafficking in classic horror soundtracks, the territory of greats like John Carpenter, Claudio Simonetti and Goblin, which has enjoyed a mini-renaissance thanks in part to music blogs like 20 Jazz Funk Greats. Keeping in step with the Germans, the inaugural debut from Chicago's Gatekeeper largely disposes with the atmospheric end of horror music in favor of an onslaught of crushing beats. After a dense, disorienting opening with piles of synth flourishes, "Optimus Maximus" settles into an industrial lockstep, sounding like a Pretty Hate Machine instrumental with more handclaps. Mayer and crew may rep Carpenter, et al. as their main sources of inspiration, but output by labels like Wax Trax! and TVT are arguably just as influential here. The rest of the EP traffics in the same style, but trades less on musical distinction than on well-placed genre signifiers. "Visions" sounds like it was born from the ashes of its predecessor, with a jackhammer electro beat replacing the Reznor pound, and a healthy dose of pulpy Giallo dialog samples over an abundance of drum fills. The track deftly maneuvers around a churning arpeggio, which allows the groove to dissolve into atmosphere, disappear down a blind alley or get lost in an endless shadowy forest of nightmares, then suddenly gearshift back into the riff. On the flipside, "Forgotten" clears the air with a haunting bell riff—the template being, most likely, Goblin's supremely eerie score for Dario Argento's Suspiria. The sound of 1/8th note patterns walking up and down a minor scale evokes a killer tracking his prey—up a creaky staircase, down a country road at midnight, through an abandoned factory. Likewise, with its relentless electro drums, closer "Obsidian" has a hungry momentum that evokes the telltale line from Night of the Living Dead: "They're coming for you, Barbara!" To scare up their thrills and chills, Gatekeeper largely follows an approach of baroque pastiche. The horror tradition gets invoked in an excessive, overwrought way, with tunes clearly relishing in heaps of gothic bells, screaming synths and militaristic snare fills. The effect of cramming a decade of movie soundtracks into four tunes makes Gatekeeper a bit like the Andrew WK of horror disco—not that there's anything wrong with that. For someone like Mayer who's played a pivotal role in the course of minimal techno, baroque horror disco might be a way to keep the low-end lockstep but have a bit more fun at the same time. Well, and Michael's name is eerily close to the killer from Halloween...
  • Tracklist
      A1 Optimus Maximus A2 Visions B1 Forgotten B2 Obsidian