The Night Monitor – This House Is Haunted // Phono Ghosts – Warm Pad, Sharp Stab

Two new releases from Blackpool’s Neil Scrivin, an electronic music maverick who also records under the alias Meatbingo.

The first, This House Is Haunted, is yet another gem of a release on Stuart McLean’s Bibliotapes cassette imprint, now long since sold out. The Bibliotapes ethics is to curate soundtracks to accompany a book, and Scrivin’s chosen subject is Guy Lyon Playfair’s account of the purported poltergeist haunting at a house in Enfield that caught the imagination of the media in the late Seventies. Whether the events in Enfield were true or a complete hoax developed by teenage imagination and fuelled by tabloid curiosity matters not to Scrivin; his soundtrack under a new alias, The Night Monitor, is bestowed with a paranormal creepiness – heavily-shrouded melodies emerge out of thick rivers of ectoplasm, looped voices chatter and babble incoherently, and thudding percussive sounds evoke the phantasmic movement of furniture.

The occluded tonalities of standout moments like ‘One For No, Two For Yes’ or ‘Ten Coincidences’ will give chills to anyone who spent their childhood evenings cowering behind the sofa because of an especially vivid Doctor Who episode or who couldn’t sleep thanks to the BBC’s hammy Ghost Watch (which was inspired by the Enfield haunting). However, Scrivin’s conceit is not to lace pieces like the evocative, static-hued soundfield of ‘I Can’t Make That Noise’ – a collage of whining drones, clamouring, scratchy sounds and a truly terrifying bass anchor – with a schlocky sequence of hauntological reference points. In doing so, This House Is Haunted is poised somewhere between the terrifying and inquisitive. Its twenty cues face inexplicable phenomena with an overriding sense of fear yet an underlying nausea-inducing intrigue, the final echoes of concluding piece ‘The Enfield Syndrome’ casting a long sonic shadow long after it has dissipated in silence.

A different – and potentially more visceral and relatable – sort of haunting takes place on Warm Pad, Sharp Stab, Scrivin’s fourth album as Phono Ghosts. Here you find the same melodic sensibilities melodies that colour This House Is Haunted, just set in a wholly different context, the result being a deft lightness thanks to being positioned as the top line in cuts that don’t rely on creepy textures for their emotional impact.

Instead, Phono Ghosts deals with the spectres of Eighties R&B and soulful electro – all fat digital basslines, chunky rhythms and a presentation that leans into a half-remembered pop vernacular. That tracks like the upbeat ‘L’Amour And Her Hot-Wired Hands’, the shimmering PWL-esque refrain of the serene ’81 Love’ or the emotional grandeur of the muted ‘Tears Over Chroma’ were not executed during digital synthesis’s takeover of music beggars belief.

Curiously, the melodic quotient isn’t the only crossover with The Night Monitor. On this brilliant collection you also find disembodied voices fluttering gently into view, only here they are vestiges of forgotten soul tracks, not the chance capture of elusive spirit echoes.

This House Is Haunted by The Night Monitor was released September 6 2019 by Bibliotapes and is sold out. A digital version will be released by Fonolith on October 25 2019.

Warm Pad, Sharp stab by Phono Ghosts was released September 13 2019 by Fonolith.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Rupert Lally – Dune

Lally - Dune Tape

My youth was, I now realise, haunted by Dune. My mother, sensing a Star Wars-led interest in science fiction films, bought my an empty Panini sticker album that was issued to go along with David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated novel. No one else at my primary school was collecting the stickers, and with no one to swap the endless, frustrating supply of duplicate stickers I invariably ended up with, it languished, unfinished until it found itself in the bin. Later still, I ended up receiving a copy of the 1992 Amiga computer game from a friend and, like a lot of games, I was utterly hopeless at it and I guess I either offloaded it back to that friend or it went off to some floppy disc recycling place upon the occasion of one of my successive house moves.

So to say I have mixed feelings about Dune is an understatement. Those youthful experiences have meant I never bothered to read the book, and I’d rather watch Eraserhead or The Elephant Man over Lynch’s take on Dune. I know – sacrilege, right?

But maybe there’s hope for me yet in the form of Rupert Lally’s brilliant new soundtrack to Herbert’s book, released as part of the Bibliotapes series. Lally is no stranger to this endeavour, releasing a coveted score to another sci-fi novel, John Wyndham’s The Day Of The Triffids, via the label earlier this year. Herbert’s book was originally presented in the science fiction periodical Analog, and, perhaps with intentional reverence, Lally enriches these 26 evocative cues with a beautifully-rendered analogue synth spice (pun intended).

Pieces like ‘Giedi Prime’, ‘Remember The Tooth!’ and ‘Leave No Trace’ proceed on prowling, throbbing bass tones full of both threat and mystery, representing a recognisable stylistic motif that runs through the whole of Lally’s vivid score. There are moments, such as on ‘A Deal With Kynes’, where those tones eddy upward with aggressive and intensifying malice, signalling danger, while elsewhere they ebb away into distant, mollified texture.

And yet nestled within these bleak wastelands of atmospheric sound, we find the spiralling melodies, intensifying arpeggios and pulsing beats of the singular ‘Wormsign’, representing a seamless entanglement of Seventies space disco, progressive house and Eat Static-y galactic psychedelia.

The fifty copies of the cassette edition of Lally’s Dune justifiably sold out in record time. Fortunately, these absorbing, pulse-sharpening tracks are all available at Rupert’s Bandcamp page, a link to which can be found below. I’m now finally going to go and track down a copy of Herbert’s book. It’s about time…

Dune by Rupert Lally was released September 13 2019 by Bibliotapes.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Audio Obscura – Nineteen Eighty-Four

bib03 1984 front final

The third cassette release in the Bibliotapes label’s pairing of iconic books to music finds Norwich’s adaptable electronic sound artist Audio Obscura (Neil Stringfellow) providing a soundtrack to George Orwell’s chillingly accurate Nineteen Eighty-Four, released to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the its publication.

To be clear, this is not an opportunity for Stringfellow to cover, or even offer an alternative to, the (controversial) soundtrack put together by Eurythmics for the movie released in the year that the book was set in; this is about interpreting the actual text through the medium of completely newly-imagined music, and, a bit like a media-controlled slogan in Nineteen Eighty-Four itself, for the purposes of this we should profusely deny the existence of said film.

What that means is that his accompaniment to the daily, mandatory ritual of venting and screaming in collective anger on ‘Two Minutes Hate’ is presented as a bleak, primal, dissonant noisefest set to a insistent post-industrial beat; the pieces soundtracking the scenes depicting Winston, the book’s protagonist, and his attempts to wilfully evade surveillance and the controlling hand of the Party are freighted with both a pastoral, naturalistic serenity and a sort of nagging tension, filled with mournful strings and birdsong; the scenes set inside Room 101 are laced with a nagging, slow-motion sense of foreboding (and the displaced voice of Frank Skinner).

In Stringfellow’s hands, the haunting familiarity of ‘Oranges And Lemons’ is presented twice, first as a shimmering, gauzy memory resplendent in childhood innocence, and later laced with harshly-processed impending operatically-voiced doom, a vestigial scrap of something that didn’t get fully processed in a memory hole.

Something about the way that Stringfellow has crafted these pieces seems to simultaneously remind us of the unflinching horror of daily life that Orwell predicted in his dystopian musings, while also presenting a sense of resignation and dismay that this is the world we currently occupy – and one that we have willingly submitted to.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by Audio Obscura is released on June 8 2019 by Bibliotapes.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Rupert Lally – The Day Of The Triffids

Stuart McLean’s Bibliotapes cassette label is focussed on curating imaginary soundtracks for books. For its second release, Swiss electronic musician and soundtrack aficionado Rupert Lally has chosen to create a soundtrack to accompany John Wyndham’s 1951 sci-fi novel The Day Of The Triffids. Lally himself is no stranger to this concept, having previously delivered imagined soundtracks to J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise, a score that gave Clint Mansell’s music for the 2015 film a good run for its money.

Given the harrowing, apocalyptic subject matter of the book, it goes without saying that the tone here is resolutely gloomy. Using an array of synths, Optigan and Mellotron loops and instruments like flute, Lally’s cues are dark and occasionally oppressive, full of lurking dread and inescapable destruction. The use of a jaunty Optigan loop on ‘The Coming Of The Triffids’ provides a brief moment of levity before its wonky music hall leanings are quickly rearranged once more into nightmarish drones and murky tones. Moments like ‘Shadows Before’, ‘Shirning’ or ‘…And Further On’ range from near orchestral atmospherics to ephemeral, dread-inspiring low-frequency tension. It is this unpredictable, haunting variety of sounds that marks this out as arguably Lally’s most definitive statement to date.

The Day Of The Triffids by Rupert Lally was released by Bibliotapes on April 17 2019. All fifty of the cassettes are now sold out but the tracks will be available at Lally’s Bandcamp page from April 23 – rupertlally.bandcamp.com

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.