Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Neil Scrivin aka The Night Monitor aka Phono Ghosts aka Meatbingo, British musician/producer who runs Fonolith label.
More TBTs in our archives.
The title (and naturally, the album title) comes from a typically sensationalist 1977 Sun newspaper headline to an article about the Welsh UFO sightings around which the album is based. It was a perfect fit for the album. The track itself is like an imaginary opening title theme to some TV series (perhaps a BBC fictionalization if it were filmed circa 1979). The piece started life as a sequence on a Boss DR-5, which is a weird guitarist’s drum machine/backing sequencer from the ‘90s. I fed that into my Roland SH-01A and layered the other parts on by hand. Unless I deliberately want a sequenced feel, I always like to play parts live if I can.
The Broad Haven case was the initial main event in the Welsh Triangle UFO wave of 1977. On Feb 2nd (incidentally the day after I was born) a group of children at a local school witnessed what they described as a silver cigar or saucer shaped object landed nearby. Some of them also claimed to have seen an accompanying occupant. The track itself contains a snippet of an interview with one of the children. It’s a scene-setting piece for the album. Mainly it’s built up with layers of Korg MS20 and Roland JP08, apart from the Mellotron samples. The rising pitch shifter feedback effect at end was a conscious homage to the end of The Stranglers’ ‘The Gospel According to the Meninblack’ LP, which is still the quintessential UFO themed album, for me, and remains a big influence.
This track was inspired by the various reports of silver-suited figures seen around the area during ‘77. In particular the encounter reported by Stephen Taylor, who described stumbling upon an entity with bulging, fish-like eyes, breathing through some kind of ventilator, in the vicinity of a landed UFO, near to the perimeter of the RAF Brawdy base. The basis of the track is SH-01A again.
Ripperston was the focal point of many of the events that made up the Welsh Triangle narrative. Home to the Coombs family, who reported many experiences from flying saucers and silver-suited humanoid entities to poltergeist effects, ghostly visitations and Men in Black. Musically I was imagining something akin to a paranormal version of (UK soap opera) Emmerdale Farm! Those JP08 chords kind of suggested earthiness crossed with unearthliness to me. Fantastic encounters in mundane locations.
What must surely count as the centerpiece of the Welsh Triangle case, and of the album. This was the event which introduced me to the case, originally reading about it in The Unexplained (1980s UK magazine devoted to, well, the unexplained), accompanied by an illustration of the ‘spaceman’ entity at the farmhouse window. The Coombs family were shaken late one night by an unearthly intruder at their window whilst watching a late night movie on TV.
The masked figure stood as tall as the window (estimated at 8ft) and glowed eerily, causing the windows to vibrate and emitting some kind of shrill electromagnetic frequency. I attempted to recreate these sonic effects on the MS20, whilst the underlying discordant swells originate on the JP08 again via a cheap analogue delay pedal which gave a nicely lo-fi edginess. The voice of Mrs. Coombs is heard at the beginning of the track. My visual interpretation of this event serves as the album cover.
Another (infamous) Ripperston event. The story goes that Mr. Coombs safely locked up his herd of some 100 cattle for the night, only to receive a phone call minutes later from an irate neighbouring farm that his animals were now half a mile away, whilst the cowshed remained securely bolted. Teleporting cows! This track features the voice of local vet turned UFO investigator Randall Jones Pugh, who wrote (with one-time Loch Ness monster hunter Ted Holiday) The Dyfed Enigma, one of the books which informed the album. He would later denounce the entire UFO phenomenon as Satanic and burn all his research material.
The ethereal flute-like melody part was played on a Casio SK-1 sampling keyboard. I forget what the sample was, it could have come from anywhere. The wonderful thing about those old ‘toy’ keyboard samplers is that you can’t save your sounds, so you have to use them or lose them. It’s spontaneous and inspiring to work like that, I find. One of the earliest pieces recorded, circa 2018.
The title comes from Peter Paget’s book The Welsh Triangle, referencing the aforementioned Men in Black encounter at Ripperston – a visit from two clone-like men with waxy skin arriving in a strangely retro-futuristic sounding silent silver car! The clangy cascading synth sequence is the Korg Volca Modular, to which I added some muted bass guitar and MS20 melody/string parts. I imagined some kind of 70s incidental music to a sci-fi spy series.
Strangely, I can’t remember very much about making this one. There was quite a lot of material generated for the album, often in quick succession, and unless I made notes at the time (which I don’t always do) it’s not always easy to recall the process. This piece serves as an interlude and a lead-in from the previous Ripperston phase of the album into the following, slightly more mystical middle section.
This comes at the end of side one, and is intended to be a suitably epic closer. At this point we’re taking a slight detour into ‘earth mysteries’. The title comes from a phrase in Peter Paget’s book, speculating that stone circles may once have formed part of some neolithic power grid/communication network based on some unknown mystical energy force. It ties into the following track in exploring leys and their relationship with the various strange encounters with entities and unidentified objects that were reported.
An entire chapter of The Dyfed Enigma book is devoted to searching out leys which could be correlated to strange events in the area, drawing on links between ancient earthworks and contemporary accounts of unexplained phenomena. This track is entirely MS20, and was one of the first to be recorded. It’s a short piece, but says all it needs to, I think. I was thinking of it as soundtracking an incidental linking segment in a ‘70s TV documentary. Grainy film shots of zooms onto backlit standing stones and lens flare, etc.
The Haven Fort hotel was a converted fortification high on the cliffs overlooking St. Brides Bay, and with apparent access via its cellar to the beach below through a network of tunnels, thought to have once been used for smuggling. It also had a reputation for being haunted by a ‘white lady’.
Another of the numerous ‘silver man’ encounters, this time at the Haven Fort hotel. One night, owner Rose Granville witnessed two faceless humanoids in the vicinity of what looked like an upturned saucer engulfed by pulsating lights and giving off a tremendous heat. These figures appeared to be investigating a nearby concrete bomb shelter. On this I used the JP08 again and a really nice old (mid-1980s) digital delay pedal (Vestax MDX) which has some crazy modulation possibilities.
A local air base (home to a secret US installation at the time), and the center of speculation in Paget’s book concerning rumors of mysterious underground facilities. This was another of the earlier pieces made for the album, based around a repetitive Volca Keys drone and overdubs. I think this was the first track recorded for the album.
Further exploring tunnels and underground cave systems. The polyrhythmic synth lines that form the basis of this track came from the Korg Volca Bass – its sequencer allows for independent sequencing of its oscillators, which were tuned manually on the fly. That formed the basis of the track. The percussive noises are samples played on a Yamaha VSS30 (another ‘toy’ sampling keyboard from the ‘80s).
The title comes from a comment by Mrs. Coombs relating to an experience she had whilst looking out over St. Brides Bay, and speaks for itself. Conceptually, it ties into the next track concerning Paget’s postulation of a secret alien undersea base. Numerous UFOs had apparently been seen flying both out to and into the sea.
A title taken straight from an article in Flying Saucer Review (classic long-running UK UFO periodical). It describes the Coombs family witnessing a very strange sequence of events on the nearby Stack Rocks, into which they first described seeing a UFO fly via sliding doors, and then humanoid figures walking about both on the surface and inside. I originally had the idea to do an album about these events back in the early ’00s and always had the concept in mind of this being an epic central piece.
The track evolved in three separate stages which were then stitched together when I compiled the album in Ableton Live. The glitchy atonal cascading synth parts in the first two sections were created by feeding the output of the synth back into a pitch shifter’s (Boss RPS-10) key input, to get those descending pitch runs of varying intervals. That gave me the right uncanny feeling, suggestive of the weird, mechanically repetitive movements the humanoids were described to have made as they moved about both on and inside the rocks.
The Ellyllon, as described by Pugh/Holiday, are Welsh nature spirits or fairy folk. The closing track on the album, the intention here is to suggest the ongoing presence of the other world long before the events of the Welsh Triangle and way beyond into the future. ‘They’ will always be around, taking whichever form is suitable to the present era, spooking us on dark nights in the middle of nowhere, and generally going about their mischievous, unfathomable business.