#PM15

If you follow our social media accounts you'll know we are spending this weekend amongst audio greats at Podcast Movement. First time visiting this particular conference, and already excited for the next one. Yes, they have it set.

This kicks off a couple busy weeks as we are continuing to put out The White Whale every Sunday, have some work for other shows in the mix and are playing participant to the 24-hour Radio Race from KCRW next weekend. Yes, we have asked ourselves what we are doing. Too fun to take that reality check. 

If you are new to our podcast as of #PM15 please take a listen in whatever order you please. First season is chronological, but as conversation of the records and films speaks to listening and watching in whatever order you please we have designed each episode to be part of a larger whole that can be heard unto itself.

Cheers to all following and participating in this crazy business. We are having fun. If looking for us tonight we will probably be mixing some radio somewhere in the ether. Feel free to steal attention. 

FUNAYŪREI - A Reflection

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.

LINKS:

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

Hikikomori - A Reflection

by John R. Barner

My second story idea revolved around the amount of what I call spiritual investment in our online presence. I use the word “spiritual” in a very general sense, and not indicative of faith traditions as such but rather those emotions that seem to define who we are as people: our personalities, hopes, dreams, needs for attention or consolation, our ups and downs, what we value and what we hope is valued in us by others. Hence, the great amount of time spent on “investment” in tools like computers and social media, which, if all is well, we get a “return” on, be in the form of “likes” or “retweets” or “friends.” But often we seek that kind of return, that “connection” and sense of community at the expense of real human interaction. What if that was all that was left? Only those digital traces cast adrift in the void of cyberspace—incorporeal and disembodied—that are today’s technological ghosts in the machines that connect our world.

I remembered immediately the Kate Bush song, “Deeper Understanding” from her amazing 1989 album The Sensual World (and later revisited on 2011’s Director’s Cut). The song was so eerily prescient about today’s technologically-informed social life and laid the foundation, in many ways, to the story I wanted to tell.

Another burst of information and inspiration came again from Rutledge’s Kūhaku. The hikikomori are the socially isolated youth of Japan. Government figures from 2010 suggest there are more than 700,000 individuals, most under the age of thirty, who live completely isolated lives, rarely, if ever, venturing out in the world and completely cut off from many forms of social life like family, friends, school or work. Many hikikomori get family support or are able to earn a living or have a solitary social outlet through computers, be it gaming, e-commerce, or virtual living spaces such as Second Life, but their lives are often filled with debilitating depression and psychic pain and the phenomenon can last for years, decades, or potentially the rest of their lives. I felt a tremendous resonance between what I was developing as a story idea and the tales I heard of the hikikomori. I was particularly impacted by a story I heard from a young woman who was the older sister of a hikikomori. In an interview, she stated that she empathized with her brother, and even respected his isolation, even if it meant he would not attend the funeral of their grandmother, but admitted that she herself suffered from an acute anxiety that the world itself might go out of existence and her brother would never know. It was as if, she said, he was already gone, already a ghost.


LINKS:

BBC News: “Hikikomori in Japan”: https://youtu.be/dr5y1iP9TfU

Kate Bush, “Deeper Understanding” (1989): https://youtu.be/q2HsN9WLQhI

Kate Bush, “Deeper Understanding” (2011), Official Music Video: https://youtu.be/nzqF_gBpS84

The Yokai Trilogy on the podcast!

It's been a few weeks since we have written. We've been busy getting new content out in the world and it's limited the time to write a proper update. 

The White Whale season 1 is in full swing as of yesterday with the first episode introducing John Barner properly and the ideas that have built his trilogy. Brimming with tales of ghosts and mechanical malfeasance - this should be a pretty great ride.

You'll recognize music from the catalog and certain approaches to sound unique to the games we play. The storytelling will keep evolving as the conversation evolves and grows richer so stay tuned for some impressive arrangements.

Any of the original material we bring into the mix will also get a certain mixtape remix - as we've done in the past, though this obviously being the first with music original introduced in a podcast. So, what you hear will come back around again. New shapes and forms to embrace the ideas we come upon through this journey.

We're always looking for a way to give you new work and new perspectives.

Release of the final album, Funayūrei,is also fast approaching. Album is ready,  though release date has yet to be set. We are working tirelessly to finish up the films first so you will have the full experience from get go.

Other adventures are in the mix, but for now listen to The White Whale.


Hikikomori 4

The final film for us to complete - Hikikomori 4 - took shape when a particular focus was discovered near the end. This allowed a certain amount of re-cutting to elevate it's presence and discover something buried deep in the frame.

Hikikomori 3

This film was released quite a bit ago, but with the new films coming out this week it seemed fitting to re-highlight the first two for the sake of continuity, and because why not?

As said before, the point of this work with John has always been to create unique pieces that would stand alone, but within the context of the larger structure create something valuable. Hikikomori and the larger Yokai Trilogy is becoming something quite wondrous and unique. We are hoping to do more with it, but this is the start.

With that said take a look (or re-look) at Hikikomori 3.

Hikikomori 2

The point of this work with John has always been to create unified wholes for the entire album without sacrificing the standalone quality of each piece of music and each film. Hikikomori proved to push this to a certain limit. There is a complexity to the music that in some ways pushed the visual away and required more from the films to justify their existence.

With that said take a look at Hikikomori 2.

Hikikomori 1

Happy to say we have finally completed films for the second album in John's Yokai Trilogy Hikikomori. We got a couple films out at the time of the film's release, but these last three films have taken us a while. We will release each of the last three films here first this week.

We present to you Hikikomori 1.