I hereby present the latest release on my bedroom imprint The Fog Signals for your approval, a mixtape of softs produced in collaboration with Mr. Dave ‘Hills Have Riff’s’ Briggs and recorded in the same basement studio using the same tape machines as The Ghosts Of Bush. And yet Earl Grey Whistle Test is not a sequel to that record, for Studio S6 is now well on it’s way to being turned back into a swimming pool and the tape machines have long since been either beaten senseless with a hammer and thrown into a skip (creditable rumour) or auctioned off for astronomical sums. There appears to have been very little leeway between these opposing fortunes, for which we can only assume the BBC is making good on it’s mooted attempts to dramatically reduce waste and recycle a much greater percentage of it’s material. Not that I’m bitter. Anyway, I’m drifting…
As l was saying, this album is actually something of a prequel. All of the music here was recorded in the few months before the Ghosts… sessions began, as Dave and I started to improvise and experiment with tape loops, whistles, mandolin and assorted objects we found lying around the studio, all while drinking copious amounts of the titular beverage. It was my first time experimenting with reel-to-reel machines and also the first time I’d gone anywhere near making music for several years. These late night sessions proved quite eventful – feedback snarled out of unexpected places, tape spooled everywhere, loops were snapped, mistakes were made, lessons were learned, punches were thrown*. But after a few of these clandestine evenings we had amassed a collection of brief, improvised sketches, largely recorded in mono and in a single take. It was all tremendous fun and definitely paved the way for the ghostly tape loops that were soon to follow, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with them. It wasn’t until almost a year later when I was getting fidgety for what of something to tinker with over Christmas that I got the idea of extracting some of my favourite moments from the confusion of files marked ‘S6 Robin and Dave’ on my hard-drive and editing them together into a mixtape of sorts. So I did. And here it is.
It’s perhaps a little wonky in places, but I like to think ‘Earl Grey Whistle Test’ is the sound of two people on their way to a discovery, a sort of sketchbook where the tape manipulation techniques that would eventually go on to haunt the corridors upstairs gradually took shape. Plus there’s gorgeous original artwork by Dave and yet another classic photo from Hannah Brown. A physical cassette release was on the cards and may well still occur if enough people demand it, but I got a bit bored of waiting for the people at the cassette plant to get their s*** together and decided to put it out anyway. I hope you enjoy it and that, in the context of famous prequels, you’ll find it more Pre-Emptive Strike than Phantom Menace.
As for the official Ghosts… follow-up, that’s still some way off but with Chris Weaver on board and some freshly-repaired tape-machines at our disposal, work can now begin in earnest. Not that we haven’t been busy in the meantime. Noses have been firmly on the grindstone. I’ll explain more in a couple of weeks when I come back from Belgrade. Oh, yeah, I’m off to Belgrade next week to make some Serbian Radiophonics. Did I not mention that? Hoping to find some духови!
*This is a complete lie. Have you ever met Hills Have Riffs? I doubt he’s ever thrown a punch in his life. Kick-boxing is more his thing.