by John R. Barner
About midway through mixing down the tracks on Hikikomori, the machines began to “talk back.” This is the only way I can describe the mixes beginning to augment relatively independently in the computer software. Often I would spend several days away from a mix, either getting busy with life outside of recording or taking time to think about a particular song’s structure or sound. When I would return to the song, there would be changes that I didn’t remember making in the recording process. Sometimes subtle—a bit of echo on a beat, for example—that was easily explained when in the midst of tweaking levels of effects. Others, however, were drastic and many of the songs on Funayūrei contain elements that I genuinely don’t remember adding or enhancing. It was actually quite creepy at times! The phenomena occurred enough that I began to research technical reasons why it could be happening, but turned up nothing to explain everything I was hearing. I did, however, revisit a few creative instances where sounds ended up on a recording without easy explanation. During the recording of Joy Division’s final album, Closer, producer Martin Hannett remarked once to Rolling Stone magazine that the piano line on the song “The Eternal” would be heard through control room monitors when there was no one playing the piano or even in the recording room.
John Balance and Peter Christopherson of the band Coil recorded a side project entitled ElpH. The central creative conceit of the resulting Worship the Glitch, is described in band’s Wikipedia page as “random musical compositions that were generated from their own equipment, either by itself or as an unintended yet pleasant byproduct of their own work” although Balance and Christopherson would often say that they felt these “random musical compositions” were anything but, and seemed to be “transmitted” by somewhere or something. After uncovering these examples, I let the machines (or whatever force was using them) take over and much of what made the final mixes remains unedited. Funayūrei was intended to be the darkest of the records and the most evocative of the traditional ghost story. In Japanese mythology, the funayūrei are the spirits of those who have drowned or died violently at sea and are seen as acting malevolently so that seafarers will join them in their watery afterlife. Reading these myths and legends were incredibly inspiring to both realizing my vision for the music and the recording process itself, which evolved to sampling and making field recordings of water in various forms and incorporating electronic voice phenomena or EVP—static field recordings said to capture ghostly voices.
For the latter, I was able to access several publicly available archives of EVP first broadcast on the Coast to Coast AM radio program once hosted by paranormal enthusiast Art Bell, which I first heard many years ago on a road trip to California. From these disparate elements, the final part of the Yōkai Trilogy was born.
Coil vs. ElpH, Worship the Glitch: https://youtu.be/WUp8tUlftW8
Art Bell on EVPs from Coast to Coast AM: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA0978912DC43800D