Paranormal was written as a companion piece to 2019’s Ufology album. The supernatural theme was something I was really keen to explore again – it’s a subject that has been something of an obsession since childhood. I find there’s a sense of intrigue and excitement that comes from the inner conflict between belief and disbelief – I’m pretty sure all this stuff isn’t real… but what if it is?!
I started work on Paranormal at the beginning of 2020. During the initial recording sessions I produced a large pallet of sounds and textures – utilizing tape loops, field recordings, electronics and found material. These were re-recorded while being fed through different FX pedals and various pieces of software. The sections were then grouped, edited, overlaid and stitched together to create the finished tracks.
One of two EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) pieces, which were the last things I recorded for the album. They work as prologues for the A and B sides of the cassette release. Most of the sounds on EVP1 were taken from an old reel to reel tape recording of children reading to each other: “A terrible illness broke out…”
A drone piece with a music box style synth-line gliding through it. This includes some slowed down waterphone, EBowed violin, electric guitar, and the percussive ‘thud’ is me kicking a cardboard box with a contact mic taped to it. While making this track I imagined a spectral figure materializing in an everyday domestic setting. Something strange and disconcerting, but kind of wonderful at the same time.
The idea that a person can move or distort an object without touching it is a fascinating one, and is the inspiration for Telekinetic. I wanted the music and sound to convey how it might feel to focus on an inanimate object and actually influence it in some way. At the beginning of the piece there is a feeling of calm with an underlying apprehension. This is gradually drowned out by pulsing waves as the mind projects some as yet untapped energy.
This track was originally going to be built around a séance or table-tapping theme, but ended up as something else. It includes dictaphone recordings made at a local woods, cello, and several layers of tape-looped drones. The arpeggio synths were made with a MicroKorg, connected via MIDI to the step sequencer on a Poly-800. This was played in a higher octave and tempo, then slowed down with a delay added. I think this is one of my favourite tracks on the album
The setting for this piece could be a 19th Century séance. Imagine a small group of people sitting in semidarkness, unnerved and astounded at the sight of an entranced medium, who has become enveloped in an ectoplasmic cowl.
The gritty synth pads that run through the first part of this track were from an old Casio keyboard played through a distortion pedal and granular delay. The bar chimes were stealthily recorded at a music shop in Glastonbury a couple of years ago.
The second EVP piece on the album. This features layers of shortwave radio noise and a voice from a found Dictaphone tape. It was mixed down onto a particularly crusty C90 cassette.
With an album centering on supernatural themes, I was conscious of things slipping into ‘spooky’ clichés – howling wind, ghostly moans, rattling chains etc. Apparition does have some hints of that though, with unearthly voices drifting in and out of the track. These were created using voice recordings from a found cassette, which were processed on an granular app. The rhythmic sound at the start is a slowed down recording I made of an antique stone-cutting machine in Quartzsite, Arizona.
This was inspired by an 1878 photograph taken by Charles Williams, showing ivory and wooden rings that had been seamlessly interlocked during a seance. I wanted this piece to be full of brooding tension, with a kind of industrial feel, conjuring images of physical objects coming together and passing through each other. I used sounds of bowed waterphone, singing bowl, and snippets of shortwave radio, layered on top of a deep, dark drone.
This track was inspired by the psychic photography of Ted Serios, a man who claimed to have the ability to project images onto Polaroid film using the power of his mind. The energy and theatrics he put into his thoughtographic demonstrations are mirrored by the track’s intense, grinding pulse.
This piece is an interpretation of near-death experience (NDE), though the title comes from a Lobsang Rampa book about astral projection. The track starts with oppressive layers of distorted bass guitar, which could represent the fears and agonies of our physical lives. This slowly fades, giving way to a majestic string refrain, looping over and over. Peace and tranquility is found as the soul disconnects from the body