Night Stalker is an interesting choice of title for 1st Base Runner’s fifth EP, given the Netflix bioseries of the same name being so popular. Those of us old enough to remember, especially if you lived in Southern California at the time, may have even more of a visceral reaction to this EP and the music attached to it. Apparently this was on purpose.
The resurrected true crime Netflix story of serial killer Richard Ramirez, tagged by the media in the 80s as the Nightstalker, means that GenX kids of Los Angeles and Orange County who were told to keep their windows closed at night ad nauseam are now not the only ones familiar with said story. It’s unknown whether 1st Base Runner was inspired by the series or is, in fact, one of those GenX children, but Night Stalker is easily his darkest offering to-date.
With lashings of goth bands like Bauhaus and post-punk acts like Joy Division, Love and Rockets and Tom Waits heretofore prevalent in his music, it likely wasn’t a very difficult move for 1st Base Runner to tip over into darker territory. Night Stalker is nonetheless a pretty stark change. Only a little bit of the characteristic shoegazey guitars are left on this EP. Even then, in tracks like “In the Neighborhood” and “Dark Drive Through the Canyon” the guitars are tuned towards the maudelin and/or eerie electronic sound design, which gives this work a sense of madness and desolation only hinted at in previous works.
Another 1st Base Runner signature has always been that even in the most emotionally difficult tracks, there’s been a small hint of hope or appreciation, mostly in the way the harmonies meld together to create and uplifting tilt to the music. That hint is still there in Night Stalker but it generally feels at war with the creepier parts of the tracks, so instead of harmony we get discord or, as with the title track, confusion and fear. This track lives up to is title, and genuinely feels like a sonic representation of what the inside of a serial killer’s mind might feel like. It’s visceral, pogniant and makes a strong case for not giving in to intrusive thoughts. One could say there’s a little relief with closing track “The Serpent and Space,” but one could also see it as simply the peace and release those who have given in to their demons feel once the evil deed is done.
As with all !st Base Runner releases, Night Stalker was released with a beautiful and comparably visceral video for the track “Dark Drive Through the Canyon,” directed by the prolific Dilly Gent of Son&Heir Productions and Radiohead fame. Dilly has been creative director on a number of 1st Base Runner’s video projects but this has been the first one she’s shot hands-on. With the juxtaposiion of terrifying and sublime action and imagery in the video and the sort of motion stop vs compositional shot vibe she created, it’s safe to say it was a good decision that she picked up the camera. A complex track like “Dark Drive…” needed a delicate and skilled hand with the video to match what the artist was trying to say, and Gent captured it perfectly.
It really is sobering, the level of quality and creativity 1st Base Runner has managed to keep over the last two years since he released his initial “All Thoughts” single and subequent Seven Years of Silence album. The back story behind this project and everything Tim Husmann, the artist behind 1st Base Runner, has been through would indicate he likely has many more stories to tell. The fact that he’s dug even deeper on Night Stalker to explore the darker parts of humanity means he’s far from finished.