Staining Sound: A Generation Nourished and Futuristic Sounds Fantastic

Amazing photo courtesy of Rob Allanson

Over the past couple of months I’ve been lucky enough to receive an awful lot of what I’m almost tempted to call ‘fan mail’ (but won’t for the sake of modesty); as well as quite a number of messages from people interested in reviewing or discussing the ‘Ghosts Of Bush’ album for their magazine, blog, radio show, knitting circle et cetera. This included an email from one Etienne Noiseau, a French journalist who writes for the Syntone blog as well as LE BLOG DE LA CRÉATION SONORE, part of the online section of the magazine Télérama. Both of these websites look so interesting that I’m almost certainly going to brush up on my language skills in order to explore them further!

Unfortunately the aforementioned correspondence co-incided with what I think we might as well refer to as ‘Herbertgate‘, and as a result got rather buried at the back of my inbox. Despite my failing to properly answer any questions (for which I must apologise), he’s written a really nice feature on the album which the french-speaking quotient of my readership will find here.

For the rest of us who find our language skills to be sadly lacking, I’ve taken the liberty of running the article through that perennially unreliable engine of confusion and unintentional hilarity that is Google Translate. I expect you’re already familiar with this intriguing piece of online software, which at the merest touch of a button can transform a writer’s reasoned and thoughtful prose into absolute gibberish in almost any language in the world. Isn’t modern technology wonderful? I think it’s fair to say have Etienne’s words have not survived the process wholly intact, though I did find it most amusing to be described as ‘wispy’. Here is the bleeding corpse:

Sound design: the ghosts of the BBC
RADIO | Do you know Robin the Fog? This sound artist working at the BBC, where he hunts sounds at night. He released an album, The Ghosts of Bush. A document.

Pulsation organic, singing haunting, dark atmosphere, threadbare and sweet at the same time. Staining sound difficult to date. The Ghosts of Bush, however, is an album produced in 2012 by an artist under the pseudonym wispy sound: Robin The Fog.

Night, Robin The Fog works as director antenna “Bush House”, the headquarters of BBC World Service. In the morning, it saves the atmosphere of the workplace, offices deserts, caulked studios, halls gigantic acoustic reverberation. Then invests the reserves, made his bed on his antique machines, handles bands in all directions … and heritage work done on 12 July, the international radio has definitely left Bush House to other premises in central London .

British collective memory, this move does not without nostalgia. The World Service was a historical relay dissent Third World, as well as a cultural platform of multi-ethnic London. George Orwell was employed there (it was inspired by Bush House for the Ministry of Truth in 1984), General De Gaulle spoke to the French there, Paul McCartney young Soviets. Bush House is a mythical place that has sometimes haunted said. Robin The Fog architecture resonates like an old abandoned body. Reconnecting with creativity house, it also pays tribute to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the legendary studio in the ’60s, a generation nourished and futuristic sounds fantastic.

September 13, information on the antenna launched the BBC had the effect of a small bomb: the rebirth of the Workshop is announced, with the amazing Matthew Herbert its controllers. Known for its concept albums musiquettes electro, Herbert made from samples of atmospheres nightclub or noises pigs. This exciting news is however tinged with a shadow: the first order is entitled to Herbert Bush House and is based on an approach similar to Robin The Fog: a tribute to the sound of the BBC building. Shameless plagiarism or unpleasant coincidence? Reassured by the sales of its fan vinyl and Matthew Herbert, Robin opted for fair play. As he looks forward to the next stirrings of New Radiophonic Workshop. For now, his Ghosts of Bush continues to haunt us.

The 26/10/2012 at 19:59
Etienne Noiseau

Many thanks to Etienne for writing such a complimentary article (and for predicting that my attempts to translate it using dodgy online software would ‘surely rock’!), I urge you to go and check out Syntone and Télérama if you haven’t already done so. Thanks also to Mr. Rob Allanson for taking the above instagram picture of the second, green edition of the album, which as mentioned before, sold out in about five days. There will almost certainly be a third pressing, but those of you who haven’t  yet picked up a copy might have to be extra patient this time. Stick with me, though, I won’t let you down…

A Living Sermon: OST BBC Records Special

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It is with great pleasure that I hereby present the podcast of last Saturday’s edition of OST on Resonance FM, a two-hour special devoted to the many faces of BBC Records, compiled and presented by myself in my capacity as the corporation’s ‘Resident Hauntologist’. In response to your demands I’ve included a full tracklist too.

(Or carry it with you by choosing a download here.)

I’ve tried to steer clear of anything instantly recognisable, but there’s some truly fabulous stuff buried in this mix – songs, voices, sound effects, girl guides, home movie musics, steam trains in stereo, church bells (not an entire LP’s worth, though I could have easily managed it!), hi-fi maintenance tips, how to offer someone fruit in German, and of course a generous portion of Radiophonic nuggets, some of which will hopefully come as a surprise. It’s sometimes hard to believe just what a wide variety of weird and wonderful things BBC Records were putting out in its 60s and 70s heyday; and harder still to believe that any label could be responsible for both Keith Harris and Orville and ‘Sounds Of Death and Horror’. Then again, perhaps it’s not so hard after all…

As there was so much to get in, I’ve done quite a bit of mixing and the occasional gentle edit here and there; but nonetheless the vast majority of what you’re hearing is fresh off the vinyl and unmolested. Although I’m sure many of you will automatically assume I was trying to be wacky by juxtaposing a choir of monks with the sound of a missile exploding, in actual fact that’s exactly how it appeared on Sailor: A Portrait in Sound of the British Navy, a 1978 LP which must be one of the most quietly bizarre records the BBC ever released. I’ve used three cuts, including the rather lovely ‘Sea Fog’ and ‘Reqium’, which once again finds another settling for Dick Mills eternally haunting ‘Adagio’. There’s an awful lot of Dick amongst these tracks, which surely proves just how much of a Radiophonic cornerstone he really was.  He also turns up during Robert Dougall’s attempt to explain the dangers of loud-speaker phasing (the track used is ‘Thomas the Rhymer’) and if that isn’t his voice announcing ‘bubbling, musical, sound one’ on the Off-Beat Sound Effects LP, then I shall record the sound of eating my own hat and donate it to the BBC Grams Library.

Personally, I find a number of the most affecting moments here come courtesy of the Some British Accents and Dialects LP from 1971. It consists of thirty-odd recordings of voices from different parts of the UK speaking on various topics. Some reminisce over childhood, some describe local traditions, others tell stories and one chap recites a poem in Geordie. Often funny, curious and even strangely moving (particularly the ‘Welsh Ugly Duckling’), it’s a perfect time capsule of Britain in the 1970s, although there is frustratingly no biographical information about these people at all on the strictly functional cover. My favourite is the genial prayer of elderly man who talks to God simply ‘as an old Cotswold’ likes to talk’. He expresses gratitude for the old tree in his back garden (‘a living sermon’, he says) and the apple turnovers baked by missus, while the only thing he would ask of his creator is that it doesn’t rain too hard on his allotment. ‘Thanks to you, I don’t do so badly for an 80 year-old’ he says and you can hear the smile on his face throughout this short recording, perhaps now his only legacy – so simple and yet so deeply affecting. I find myself coming back to this track a lot – it’s something all of us in our restless, temporary, quick-fix world could do with hearing once in a while.

Naturally I’ve book-ended the programme with extracts from The Ghosts Of Bush, partly to maintain the BBC connection and partly to celebrate the second edition selling out in five days flat! I’ve also included the soundtrack to my recent ‘Haunted Homes Under The Hammer’ video, which was made entirely using processed recordings from an old 1950s BBC transcription disc, just to prove I’m not resting on my resident hauntologist laurels.

So, there you have it. There are a few honourable mentions I must make for records not included in the programme, including Lyn Marshall’s ‘Everyday Yoga’, at least twenty different LPs devoted to various types of bird fowl (including an entire album’s worth of Coastal Waders) and a cover version of ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ performed by Edd The Duck which frankly deserves to be sealed in concrete and dumped in the North Sea. Despite their splendid and comprehensive catalogue of wildlife recordings, the BBC really does have very poor form when it comes to pond life releasing pop records.

Track Listing:

1. Howlround – Cold Space and Peeling Oxide (from ‘The Ghosts Of Bush’)
2. Paddy Kingsland – Scene and Heard
3. Play Away Cast – Superstition
4. Pete Winslow & The King Size Brass – Los Reyes del Bronse
5. Paddy Kingsland – Flashback
6. Malcolm Clarke – Arcadea
7. Lionel & Toni – If I Had a Hammer
8. John Baker – Milky Way
9. Pete Winslow & The King Size Brass – Waiting in the Rain
10. Paddy Kingsland – Vespucci
11. Delia Derbyshire – Mattachin
12. Jonathan, Spike, Al & Jeff – Stops and Starts
BBC Sound Effects – Sounds of Death and Horror
Bob Symes-Schutzmann – BR. No. 92220 ‘Evening Star’ (Extract)
John Priest -Lichfield, Staffs, Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary
13. Sylvia & Bernard Broere – N.Africa (vase drum, cup bells, tambourine, flute)
14. Pete Winslow & The King Size Brass – Saturday Sounds
15. Lionel – The Hippo Song
16. Pete Winslow & The King Size Brass – Girl on the Test Card
17. The Girl Guides – Timber Yell
18. The Girl Guides – Tyrolean Tramping Song
19. Off-Beat Sound Effects – Bubbling, Musical
20. Dick Mills – Computer Waltz
21. Off-Beat Sound Effects – Big Steam Engine
22. Dick Mills – “43”
Accents and Dialects – Geordie (Durham)
23. Geoff and Derek – The Fox and the Goose
24. Geoff and Derek – The Big Rock Candy Mountain
25. The Girl Guides – Cheelo-Cheelo
26. Sylvia and Bernard Broere – Italy (Fountain)
27. Sylvia and Bernard Broere – France or Belgium
28. Dick Mills – Ascending Asteroids
29. George Martin and his Orchestra – Theme One (aka Gale Warning)
30. Hi-Tech FX – Space Intruders
31. Simon Hancock – Computer Rant
32. Dick Mills – Invaders Rock
33. Robert Dougall – Loudspeaker Phasing
34. Roger Limb – Aerial Currents (from ‘Relaxing Sounds’)
Accents and Dialects – Cotswolds
Movement, Mime & Music – Dawn Chorus
35. Wie Bitte? – Programme 7, Band 1: Like and Dislike
Movement, Mime & Music – Fairground Music
Off-Beat Sound Effects – Objects Crashing
36. Simon Hancock – Singularly Simon
37. Robert Dougall – Wow and Flutter
38. Dick Mills(?) – JDC Background (Duke Diamond, Radio 4, 1973)
39. The Brownies – Mr. Banjo
40. Dick Mills – Ascending Asteroids
Accents and Dialects –  Cornwall / Isle of Man
41. The New Philharmonia & Chorus – Neptune, The Mystic (Sea Fog)
42. The Girl Guides – Images and Reflections
43. Sailor: A Picture in Sound of the Royal Navy – Requiem (inc. Dick Mills‘ Adagio)
44. Bernard Broere – General Use: Piano Music
45. Spaceship Landing (Hi-Fi Weekly’s Demo Disc)
46. John Baker – Structures
Accents and Dialects – London (Cockney)
47. Delia Derbyshire – Towards Tomorrow
48. Dick Mills – Force of the Universe
Accents and Dialects – Birmingham
49. Monastic Choir of Hauterive Abbey – Veni Creator Spiritus (aka ‘Missile’)
50. Dick Mills – Purple Space and White Coronas
Accents and Dialects – Welsh (North)
51. Robin The Fog – Haunted Homes Under The Hammer
52. BBC Sound Effects – Combat: Karate
53. Howlround – Shortwave Fishtank
54. Howlround – The Haunted Handle / Stairwell Reprise

Thanks for listening! Time for bed…

This Month’s WIRE: Brötzmann! Niney! Fog!

Earlier this year I reported very excitedly that ‘Notes On Cow Life’, my collaborative cassette with Guy J. Jackson has gained a mention in that month’s issue of The Wire. And I maintain that my reporting of this incident on these pages was merely a case of moderate over-exaggeration rather than the grotesque fraud that some branded it. But now I suddenly find myself with absolutely no need to exaggerate at all! This helpfully coincides with the fact that the second pressing on delightfully green vinyl (with white marbling – tasty!) is now available here – you’re advised not to sleep on it!

A touch lop-sided, but you get the gist

Residential Evil: A Bit Re-Pressed

‘They found the body over here. And here, and here, and here…’

I’m sure at least some of you will be familiar with that endlessly-repeated cornerstone of BBC1’s daytime schedule that is Homes Under The Hammer. Alongside Bargain Hunt and Crap in the Attic, it’s the kind of fluffy, breezy televisual feast that Mumsie watches while drinking her coffee after taking the ironing for a walk. Though perhaps not such essential viewing for those of us who confidently expect to end their days in the magnolia wallpaper and chipboard wardrobe surroundings of rented accommodation.

This interpretation was inspired by watching an extract in the Broadcasting House canteen with the sound turned down while queuing for my third coffee of the day during heavy rain (I do wish all my ideas would arrive in this manner – I’d make a fortune). Some might argue that as the BBC’s recently-crowned ‘Resident Hauntologist’ (not my idea, but I’ve decided to stick with it) the outcome is a touch predictable; but it’s surprising how easy it is to take daytime-light-factual into Twin-Peaks territory with little more than a few screen-grabs and a sense of adventure…

Moving on, I can now officially confirm that a second pressing of The Ghosts Of Bush is in the works and should hopefully be with us sometime next week. To celebrate, check out this Press Release I knocked together using an old World Service Tape Report sheet stolen from a colleague’s locker:

I’ve ordered 200 green and white vinyl which will be heading towards my friends over at Manchester-based experimental music emporium Boomkat as soon as possible (and for the large number of you who have been emailing robinthefog at gmail dot com with the heading ‘re-press please’ I shall be sending you an advanced warning as soon as the stock leaves my hands). There are several reasons for handing complete control of the stock over to Boomkat rather than selling it personally through the label website: The first is that last week they sold 100 copies in roughly four hours. The second is that I’m facing a ban from my local Post Office after turning up five lunchtimes in a row with a trolley load of parcels taller than I was/am;  thirdly because they asked nicely, and fourthly because they wrote this about it in their mailing shot:

Having already created a huge amount of interest, ‘The Ghosts Of Bush’ is finally here on a limited vinyl pressing and is easily one of the most pertinent and interesting Radiophonic and hauntological artefacts we’ve had the pleasure of stocking in recent years. Created by World Service studio manager Robin The Fog, the album consists entirely of nocturnal location recordings made by him at Bush House, the iconic home of the BBC’s world service for over seven decades before it moved to a new location in July this year.

The recordings were eventually manipulated on dual quarter-inch reel-to-reel machines, creating a seamlessly segued side of ghostly, decaying acoustic sounds captured within the stone-clad building’s numerous corridors, lifts, studios and stairwells. As you’d imagine, the effect is immensely evocative, at once recalling Daphne Oram‘s most isolated experiments, Konstantin Raudive‘s famous EVP recordings, the disintegrating loops of William Basinski, even Burial’s most haunting interludes, and not least AFX’s ‘SAW II’ classic; a phosphorescing mass of ferric-stroked midnight sonorities and metaphysical murmurs, or as the artist himself puts it “The sounds the building makes when it thinks no one is listening”.

Daphne Oram, Burial, Basinski, AFX – All heroes of mine. At this rate I’m going to need a much, much bigger hat! But boasting aside, I imagine those 200 may well be snapped up pretty quickly, so those of you who missed out on the first pressing are advised to keep your ear to the wind. While you’re waiting, why not enjoy a bespoke promotional mixtape I put together for Mr. Joseph Stannard’s blog The Outer Church? I call it the ‘Foggy Nightshift Mix’ and it can be found here.

Finally, I was astonished today to discover a copy of the album on Ebay retailing at £50, alongside three more on popular record-selling website Discogs going for not that much cheaper. Not only that, there appears to be an almighty ding-dong of an argument occurring in the comments thread as to the moral implications of selling them at such an inflated price, as well as wondering as to what effect all of this is having on my ‘girlfriend’ (whoever she is). I’d like to make it absolutely clear that none of these people is me in disguise. I simply sell records at normal price on a first-come, first-served basis. I would suggest that if you really can’t find a copy through the usual channels you just be patient and we’ll get to you eventually. And at a reasonable price too. Have a download while you’re waiting.

Perhaps if I was a little more business-savvy I would re-think my strategy and keep a secret consignment to sustain me in my dotage. Then again, perhaps not. I’m already planning a follow-up LP on an even-more obscure subject. But that’s another story…