Nottingham, Belbury, Tartu: Ghosts Of Bush goes DRIVE-TIME!

“Here’s a weird thing. This is weird. This is just weird…” So begins another exciting chapter in the snowballing tale of hauntological tribute album The Ghosts Of Bush.

In an attempt to clarify, let me first pose a conundrum: What’s the connection between Cliff Richard‘s ‘The Young Ones’ and Christina Perri‘s ‘Jar Of Hearts’?

The answer, I’m incredibly proud to report, is FOG! But how is this possible? Have I been named-checked by David Letterman? Have I ruined Wimbledon for everyone again? The actual answer is far more exciting:

Last week I received an email from one Mr. Alan Clifford of BBC Radio Nottingham. Alan is BBC Radio Nottingham’s drivetime presenter, announces his biog, but once upon a time he did farmyard impressions for a living. ‘Well, that’s good enough for me’, I thought, and read on to discover that listening to the album had apparently re-awakened some long-dormant ghost of his own days in Bush House; and that he had been kind enough to talk about the release and play a couple of extracts on a recent edition of his show. Needless to say I’m hugely grateful, especially as my list of things I thought would never happen almost certainly includes becoming a staple of drive-time FM radio or indeed the filling in a Cliff Richard and Christina Perri sandwich. Alan, I salute you! Listen to him weekdays at 16.00 on BBC Radio Nottingham, via FM, DAB or the internet!

Then, in a development possibly even more exciting than sharing a playlist with the man who brought us ‘Wired For Sound’, I was interviewed by one Laurie Tuffrey of award-winning magazine The Quietus as part of a very complimentary feature on the album, which you can read in full here, but of which a short extract follows, just in case you’re in a hurry:

[A]tmospheric noises are slowed down and looped, with the help of some of the World Service’s ancient reel-to-reels, to form a piece of beautiful, warm spatial exploration. Chords swell and harmonic patterns emerge out of the building’s crepuscular creaking or Robin’s whistling, using the labyrinthine Portland stone corridors of the building, at one time the most expensive in the world, as a giant reverb tank.

With one of the predominant trends in British experimental music over the past decade frequently tapping into the BBC’s sonic history – both in terms of its broadcast content and the pioneering work of the Radiophonic Workshop – The Ghosts Of Bush House feels like an unusually direct take on the ‘hauntological’ spaces mapped by the likes of Ghost Box, Mordant Music and Demdike Stare. That it’s specifically linked to the World Service, a hugely important aspect of the BBC’s broadcasting remit for the past eight decades, lends it an unusually forceful emotional resonance.

As if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Simon Reynolds one of all my all-time favourite music writers and the genius responsible for such classic works as ‘Energy Flash’ and, more recently, ‘Retromania’, picked up on the Quietus article and featured it on his own highly respected Blissblog, speculating that ‘[Ghosts of Bush] may well be the ultimate hauntological artifact’.

You hear that? ULTIMATE!

Thank you, Laurie! Thank you Simon! And speaking of Ghost Box….

I’m quite sure many of my regular visitors will already have accumulated a decent wedge of the Ghost Box back catalogue, having been drawn in by their distinctive aesthetic, both musical and visual that recalls clunky public information films about the dangers of throwing frisbees into substations; or those slightly surreal programmes for schools with titles such as ‘Science in Action’ that I’m just about old enough to remember. Suffice to say that their reputation in the hauntological field proceeds them (though I believe they shy away from the term) and that if you’re going to put out a record that falls somewhere near their remit, you’re going to want them in your corner.

So you can imagine just how excited I was to discover the Very Rev Jim Jupp, label co-founder and creative force behind Belbury Poly has featured the album in his much admired Belbury Parish Magazine! He writes:

“The Ghosts of Bush” is a beautiful monument to the work of the World Service during its 70 year tenure here and more importantly perhaps to this awe inspiring building. Declared the most expensive building in the world when it was built in 1929 and said to be the inspiration for Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.  The soundscape is more mournful than ghostly to my ears, really capturing a sense of loss – with beautiful moments when mechanical and ambient sounds swell out with an almost choral or orchestral feel. All the more impressive when you consider no artificial reverbs or other digital effects were used. I get the sense that this love letter to a building has been recorded and presented with great humility by Robin – light on concepts, ego,  mission statements and artifice (unlike a GB project )  and topped off with a pleasingly daft tip of the hat to Eno and Byrne in the title”.

‘Although not an official BBC recording, I think its fair to say that this may be the very last piece of true Radiophonics that will ever be produced’.

Did you hear that as well? TRUE RADIOPHONICS!

Jim Jupp – his word truly is gospel

These are by far some of the nicest things anyone has ever said about my work.  It really is enough to make a chap’s head swell. Even in the time it’s taken to write this I’ve just discovered DJ Food has also been blogging about the project too. Good grief!

I’m going to have to send out a lot of thank-you letters, including one to Estonia, where Tiit Kusnets added two tracks from the album to a recent edition of Fantaasia, a nightly live show on top Estonian Radio (E.R.R)’s Klassikaraadio channel that ‘ventures out into the realms of World Music, jazz, creative pop and rock, electronics and beyond’; and is available Mondays through Fridays, 2200 EEST. A broadcaster himself of some twenty year’s standing, Tiit very kindly emailed to share some fond memories of listening to the World Service back in the 80s and 90s, including jazz and pop/rock in both Russian and English, particularly the  late John Peel: ‘Just 30 minutes every week of him’, he writes, ‘but even that was something really extraordinary back then…’ Would he still find such a wealth of eclectic programming on The World Service today? Hmm, I wonder.

I’d like to doff my cap in gratitude to all of the above and to everyone else who’s listened to the album, ordered a download, pre-ordered a vinyl copy or just got in touch and said hello. We’ve raised quite a bit for chosen charity BBC Media Action so far, so please keep spreading the word. As for me, I’m off for a cigar and a lie-down. All this excitement has gone straight to my head….


Author: Robin The Fog

Sound Artist, Radio Producer, DJ, founder and chief strategist of tape-loop proejct Howlround. Devout Catalyst.

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