Expect the unexpected when you listen to the work of Joel Shanahan, a.k.a. Golden Donna. On his new release, Gloaming Thirst, the Madison-based artist weaves together bizarre sounds and textures, including dark synths and sinister sound effects. With track titles like "He Knows You're Alone" and "Hider (In the House)," it's no wonder you will feel utterly creeped out when listening.
Shanahan's intent appears to be to create a miniature film score with shades of the chilling fear that rippled through the soundtracks to the Halloween and Poltergeist movies. Since "gloaming" refers to nightfall and all of these tracks scream to be added to a film that takes place in a house at night, right after the electricity mysteriously dies, he succeeds.
But Shanahan throws you for a loop by including "Ploog," a track that's quite different from the other three songs on the EP. The most "traditional" of the set, it features an ethereal, harp-like synth loop that lays the framework for a trance track that is surprisingly melodic and sparse on the slasher film-score theatrics.
"Ploog" is hypnotic in its repetition, its echoing strains taking you to an otherworldly, dreamlike location. You may wonder at first why this song on the recording, because it seems completely out of place. Part of the genius of this, however, is that the track's atmosphere is most likely meant to seem heavenly. Yet you can never escape from it, so it's actually an eternal prison. Talk about horror of a different kind.
Minimalist flourishes fill out the six-minute track as Shanahan flirts with orchestral buildup, but he also uses videogame-like sounds to add layers throughout. Like dance artists such as Orbital or the Orb, Shanahan juxtaposes calm-inducing sounds with sonic emissions that will get under your skin and leave you on edge throughout this song, constantly wondering what is happening and what will be coming next.
The scariest factor in all of this, be it on this track or the rest of the EP? Nary a single word is spoken to augment the terror and chills. That's because the sounds speak volumes by themselves. You'll practically be begging for a word to break the spell, a sort of a balm for your senses. Shanahan knows that would diminish the experience, so he wisely does not do this.
"Ploog" is simultaneously gorgeous and chilling. It will make the hair on your neck stand bolt upright.
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