Brandon’s Halloween Costume

19 10 2013

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks CostumesI haven’t dressed up for Halloween in years. As a child I was a firefighter, a clown, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a mime, and a vampire, but nothing lately. Well, Halloween was originally a time for adults to party, not for children to go trick-or-treating (which tradition is only about eighty years old).

My vampire was kind of shitty. It was inspired by the version of Dracula starring Christopher Lee. I had thick, opaque, stark white skin, black circles round my eyes, red lips, and blood pouring down my chin, and I wore a white shirt with some cheap pendant, black slacks, and black Brandon Vampire XVIdress shoes. I made my own cape of black velvet on the outside and red polyester on the inside. And the collar was cut out of an old pizza box. Yes, I really did that.

At the drop of a hat, this year I decided to resurrect my vampire, but this time he will be less cheesy and more genuinely creepy. In fact, I’m not even sure he won’t be a she–with a very flat chest. This time, he will be a priest raised from the dead as a vampire–or a priestess raised from the dead as a vampire. I guess in the latter case she’d have to be a Wiccan high-priestess or something, since Catholics still don’t allow women to be priests. I know, even though it’s supposed to be creepy, isn’t my new goth vampire idea still kind of corny and stupid? I kind of like that though.

By genuinely creepy, I mean she will be realistically deathlike. No more big black raccoon eyes and blood-red lips–no, this bitch is gonna have red lines around her eyes surrounded by deep grey shadow, and grey-red lips which fade toward the lip edge rather Brandon Vampire IVthan go over the edge drag queen-style. She won’t have thick, stark white, drag queen-style pancake foundation, either, but a thin, translucent veil of white reminiscent of a corpse washed ashore on the beach in Blackpool in the dead of winter. She will have long black hair, but the wig I have is too glossy, so I think I’m going to rub some dirt in it. And then I am going to stick some twigs in it. She has to look like she has just climbed her way out of the grave, you know.

Naturally, she will have fangs. How can you have a vampire without fangs? Mine are those theatre-quality fangs with the thermoplastic granules that you melt in hot water, stick into the fangs–which you press upward into your canines–and mould around your molars. The result is highly realistic, natural-looking, bloodsucking feline jugular-rippers.

Brandon Vampire XIXBut she will have black nails. I want a little bit of Vampira’s influence in there somewhere. I bought black nail polish because at first I thought I would just paint my nails black, but I have such stubby and unglamourous fingernails that I ultimately elected to buy the cheap, long, black, plastic, fake fingernails at the costume shop.

And of course there is the costume itself. My vampire won’t look sexy, not even in the kitschy 1950s Vampira way–I find that a bit predictable and passé. I do like that look, but I just want to try something different, and, besides, I don’t have Maila Nurmi‘s voluptuous, wasp-waisted physique, so I have decided to don a priest’s cassock. The cassock actually looks rather like a High Victorian bustle Brandon Vampire VIIdress without the bustle, including a short, tight-fitting bodice, so I think it suitable for a priestess who has just risen from the dead. On top I will wear a black, hooded mantle to create the appearance of a solid, matte, black column of unwelcoming gloom.

The cassock itself is something else–it was custom-made for me by the Victorian-style fashion designer Kambriel of North Carolina. I simply selected the article I wanted in the material I wanted and sent her my measurements. She produced a perfect-fitting cassock for me and sent it to me in the post, complete with a personalised handwritten thank-you note. It was a bit pricey–around USD$300–but for the style, quality, and service, perhaps it wasn’t.

I can’t remember where I came across Kambriel’s Web site, and it may be too late now to order any of her items in time for Halloween, but she crafts the most sumptuously beautiful garments, for both women and men. Just visit her site in the link above and browse her catalogue to behold some of her creations. Oh, and the wig Brandon Vampire XIIII bought came with a face-veil! So I can cover my ashen face with an ethereal, spiderwebby black net to scare the children! Madam Death. She will Fuck. You. Up.

I’m sure I’ll tweak the outfit a little more before Halloween, but you get the basic idea. I know it doesn’t sound very creative, but I like to look at Halloween costumes the way I look at dance music remixes: I prefer a complimentary homage to the classic, original version over a completely irrelevant oddball. The difference lies in the nuance. Maybe next year I will don a creepy vintage mask–I do love those–but I love makeup, and reinventing the classic vampire with an unexpected twist is a show of creativity in itself, isn’t it?

Or maybe I’m a witch.

A vampire-witch?

A witch raised from the dead as a vampire!





Austra

18 01 2012

I think I may have discovered my new favourite band. That is hard for me to say, since Erasure have occupied the most prominent setting in my crown of musical gems since 1995. That may soon change. Their competitor is Austra, a synthpop/darkwave/indie electronica band from Toronto who just released their debut album, Feel It Break, last year. (Yes, I know, as usual I am late to the game.) However I am not yet ready to give the number one position to Austra, simply because Erasure have produced fourteen studio albums, and I have only heard one by Austra, but if they keep up the amazing work, they very well could earn that place. Besides, a tie between the two bands isn’t entirely out of the question.

OK, so you want to know what the hype is all about, don’t you? It’s about their coherent, well-developed style, their professional-sounding technical wizardry, their eerily fun dance sensibility, lead singer Katie Stelmanis’s chillingly pure, cold voice, their artistically spooky themes, their rich harmonies, their otherworldly melodies. All of these in combination produce a lush, full, satisfying sonic experience. Listening to their debut album, Feel It Break, one imagines opening up a book of occult lore and exploring the hidden mysteries within. I would liken them to a cross between Florence and the Machine, Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, and Karin Dreijer of The Knife and Fever Ray. But at least as creepy as Karin Dreijer. Finally, an album that sounds weirdly Scandinavian without getting mired in slow, dissonant, undanceable experimentalism. It’s musically exploratory, thematically fascinating, and fun to dance to.

Check out the video for their single Spellwork, taken from the debut album. In my opinion is encapsulates the overall deliciously spooky theme of the work:

This song gives me goosebumps. One thing that stands out is the strong verse-chorus structure characteristic of pop songs—but it’s all done in such a beautifully strange and ethereal way that it doesn’t sound commercial or formulaic. Stelmanis’s eerily quavering vocals are spot-on, the melody soars like some dark-winged bird over bare tree branches, and those rich harmonies complete the vocal arrangements. And those layers upon layers of tinkling synthesisers just sweep you away into a glittering fairy world of yore. I can’t get enough of the cryptic occult references, either. Lots of Youtube commenters have said that the video is “weird”, but it’s supposed to be. The song is about pagan rituals (or so I think), so obviously the video reflects that. It’s so enticing because it’s so arcane.

Then there is the light, bright, beautiful synthpop gem Lose It. This is probably as pure, pretty, and pristine as synthpop can get, and Austra have distilled the essence of the genre in this song, and yet we haven’t quite heard synthpop done in such a fresh, clever way before. At least I don’t think so. Just have a listen:

Isn’t that just delightful? It makes me pee my pants. And it makes me pregnant. With twins. The most remarkable thing about this song, I think, is the perfect harmony between Stelmanis and the background singers in the chorus. Together, they create this plaintive, crystal-clear, birdlike song of hope and sorrow. It almost sounds like Enya in a strange way, but a cool, synthpoppy Enya. Delish.

OK, on to our last video. Showing their ability to master a range of synthpop sub-genres, Austra reveal their goth goth side in this video for their single Beat and the Pulse, and boy is it sexy. Be forewarned: I don’t do censorship, so this video is not safe for work! (That means it’s NSFW):

So what did ya think?? In my opinion, This is the difference between pornography and erotica. The models are portrayed in a seductive, tasteful manner, and they exude a mysterious power. It’s not crass and exploitative; it’s subtle and stylish. Besides, listen to the pulsating bassline that suddenly creeps into your ears when the beat kicks in. And, again, that rich texture of harmonies fills out the song and sends chills down one’s spine. This is dark, sinister synthpop at its finest.

Speaking of weird Scandinavian-sounding dance music, compare Austra to Karin Dreijer when Dreijer accepted the award for best dance artist on behalf of her band Fever Ray at this Swedish music awards ceremony:

Kooky! And fabulous. Now that we’ve established that both Austra and Fever Ray are cool, creative bands with a statement to make, it’s time to ask the question: which one is weirder? All that matters is that they are weird, and there’s a rhyme and reason to it, even if the typical Beyonce-glamoured American can’t see past his milquetoast Top 40 music collection. Consider this Youtube commenter’s post about the above Fever Ray video: “Its unfortunate most people cannot understand the statement of the absurdity of award shows, come up, make a stupid speech and say thank you within 20 seconds and walk off stage for the next commercial, absolutely meaningless. If viewers can only see the surface level and think ‘Man that lady is weird, whats with the face?’, they need to start digging deeper past the surface [sic]”. So true. So, so true. I cannot improve upon that observation, except to say that the average American isn’t into the musical creativity of artists like Fever Ray and Austra, because they’re only exposed to the commercially successful acts.

Anyway, I haven’t written about a cool band in a while, so when I discovered Austra I just knew I had to say something about them and spread the word. I entreat you to do the same. Spread the word. As you would your seed. No, just kidding. Sort of. I can’t wait to hear their next album! I’m thinking of writing about new releases by a few other bands who make me want to diddle myself, like Glass Candy and Chromatics, so keep visiting this blog. (Oh, and I’m posting another instalment of the fabulous lady-comic Julie Gentron and the Lady League very soon, so look for that too.) So go out and buy Austra’s debut album Feel It Break—make sure it’s the deluxe version—and support one of Canada’s most talented and interesting musical products of recent times. (The album was released by Domino or Paper Bag—can’t remember which—and it’s on iTunes, of course.)