Liminal Nosferatu

[Knitting Factory Works; 1995]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: illbient, dub, experimental hip hop
Others: DJ Spooky, Bill Laswell, Scorn

Liminal were an improvisational collective comprised of DJ Olive, Loop, and Danny Blume, aligned with the "illbient" hip hop/electronic music scene from New York City in the early- to mid-90s.  A sort of Knitting Factory "house band," Liminal concocted the idea of executing a live, improvisational, real-time illbient soundtrack to F.W. Murnau's classic 1922 film "Nosferatu."  The result of this experiment is a wonderfully ahead-of-its-time album, 1995's Nosferatu.

Three of the album's eight tracks are culled from actual live performances of the accompaniment to the film; the others are expositions of ideas and motifs utilized during the performances.  Nosferatu is in many ways not unlike the experimental turntablism of Martin Tetreault, Otomo Yoshihide, and Christian Marclay.  The music, however, is more tightly structured and dub influenced.  Granted, today there are a multitude of European experimental musicians who have made a career squeezing the life out of this sub-genre, but back in the mid-90s there wasn't much like it that was terribly accessible, and it certainly took a while to "get" the album.

I haven't tried syncing this record up with a rented DVD of the film, but the pops and static of the vinyl would be an appropriate accompaniment to the graininess and age scratches on the print.  Likewise, the darkness, murk, and claustrophobia of the record fits the film's mood very well.  Though similar to the illbient hip hop releases of DJ Spooky, DJ Wally, et al., Liminal's record has much more of a fractured, eerie quality.  The needle noise soundscapes and manipulated antique piano samples on "Carpathia" call to mind some of the recent releases of Philip Jeck.  The blunted beats and spooky production of the monolithic "Shreck Factor 9" are not unlike Tricky's Nearly God project, although the buried samples of creaking doors, howling wind, and fluttering bat wings imbue the track with a distinctly vampiric quality. 

Liminal could have gone all-out to create an obscenely over the top goth-fest of a ‘soundtrack' to "Nosferatu."  Instead the musicians attempted to tap into Murnau's consciousness by creating a suitably expressionistic soundtrack that would complement the film, however ‘contemporary' the music's delivery may have been.  Nosferatu was also mixed to be a stand-alone album, and, as such, it works.  Despite being a decade old, Liminal's Nosferatu is a brilliant piece of work that could have been recorded yesterday.

1. Before and After
2. Knock
3. Plague
4. Through the Wall
5. Carpathia
6. Apocolyptica
7. Schreck Factor 9