The Night Monitor – Perception Report 3

Conceived as an infrequent series of “borderland excursions into assorted strangeness”, Perception Report 3 continues The Night Monitor’s exploration of encounters and inexplicable events, presented as a sonic periodical of unfathomable Fortean mystery. The Night Monitor, one of several aliases employed by Blackpool electronic music Neil Scrivin, is here occupying territory that he has made entirely his own, featuring four tracks of spooky electronica that act as distressing anti-ambient music for unsettling phenomena.  

Previous issues of the Perception Report series have concerned themselves with tiny winged Martians and the idea of bent spoons being allegorical for twisted realities. The main feature of Perception Report 3 concerns itself with an alien encounter that took place on Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire in 1987, in which a photographer had a run-in with an archetypal green creature that later disappeared in a flying saucer. 

Scrivin has a way of presenting his pieces without hackneyed sci-fi or horror tropes. While it would be tempting to sculpt ‘An Alien On Ilkley Moor’ with brooding tones or wonky theremins, he instead imbues the track with something that falls between delicate edginess and wide-eyed curiosity. The piece opens with the sound of wind whistling across the moor, before pulses and shimmering, mystique-heavy tones take over, finally opening out into a stately, contemplative melody that feels like it belongs on Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame

‘Raven In Tomb Land’ has a tidy jazzy swagger that slots in somewhere between fusion and wonky, while ‘The UFO And The Séance’ has a ethereal sparseness so gently terrifying that I found myself checking behind doors and generally getting freaked out by my several cats, who in turn were generally freaked out by me. ‘Pyramids Of The Year 3000’ delivers more of Scrivin’s slowly-building melodic sensibilities, affixing those to a stop-start rhythm that bristles with 1981-vintage electronic pop smarts. 

Whether you find Scrivin’s subject matter credible or think it complete bunkum is irrelevant: his music tangibly exists in its own unique dimension, one that’s well worth believing in. 

Perception Report 3 by The Night Monitor is released August 6 2021 by Fonolith. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2021 Further.   

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.

Neil Scrivin – Stars And Rumours Of Stars

Neil Scrivin is an electronic musician operating under the Phono Ghosts and Meatbingo pseudonyms. Stars And Rumours Of Stars collects together tracks recorded in 2004, and the merest glance at the sleeve gives you a clue as to what the mood of the eight unreleased tracks included on Scrivin’s latest cassette might sound like.

Opening track ‘Skywatch’ is a edgy affair, full of overlapping synth tones and a central structure full of mournful texture. There is a resigned, thwarted atmosphere to Scrivin’s opening gesture, only for tracks like the hyperactive squelch and buzz of ‘Omni Voyager’ and ‘Granular Occlusion’ to move the dynamic squarely into territory that nods to sci-fi-inflected electro, while simultaneously sitting in a sort of underexplored no man’s land between industrial drama and ambient sensitivity.

The album pivots on the shrouded of ‘The Power Of The Spiral’, wherein a simple, haunting melody gives the piece a mesmerising quality caught perpetually in tension with slowed-down beats and a nagging bass motif. Dissonance and atonality are employed liberally here, on the title track and elsewhere; Scrivin’s conceit is to limit the effect so as not to induce nausea, but add just enough to create a sort of compelling uncertainty.

Stars And Rumours Of Stars by Neil Scrivin was released by Fonolith on April 12 2019.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.