Stone Tapes | Purple and Orange

Hauntology, as applied to music, is a divisive term; a term used by writers and bloggers (such as myself) to describe that music that evokes memories and stirs primal instincts – a musical summation of collective memories if you will. Some artists and scholars refute the name claiming it is a ‘lazy’ tag that encompasses a whole spectrum of serious work. Whatever camp to which you may ascribe there is no doubt that as a ‘genre’ it is rich in imaginative and stirring works. In the UK we have the wonderful Ghost Box label and artists such as Jon Brooks and Leyland Kirby (in his ‘Caretaker’ guise) and elsewhere the Italian Occult Psychedelia scene takes a uniquely Italian take on hauntology. Throw into the mix the horror folk revival and ‘haunted electronics’ and you have a current crop of artists who take their musical cues from Delia Derbyshire et al and apply them to the genuinely eerie and wyrd….like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop scoring The Wicker Man. One of the finest examples of this dropped onto my doormat the other day – The Stone Tapes’ ‘Avebury’. Before we get to the music, an explanation of Stone Tapes may help to set the scene – The Stone Tape theory is the speculation that ghosts and hauntings are analogous to tape recordings, and that electrical mental impressions released during emotional or traumatic events can somehow be “stored” in moist rocks and other items and “replayed” under certain conditions. Remember that. I’m going to forego my usual track by track approach for ‘Avebury’… was recorded as a ‘story’ and so to take on each individual track would somehow lessen the whole. The Stone Tapes are Kat Beem (a classically trained pianist, poet and actress) and M. Peach (soundologist, musician and photographer) and ‘Avebury’ is told from their perspective – protagonists as well as producers, and the story is based on, and unfurls from, a chance encounter with an elderly neighbour, one George Albert Wilberforce, who gifted them a box of tapes. Wilberforce “had been a researcher of sound phenomena, and the tapes held recordings that he’d made during the course of his travels” and it transpires that the tapes were made by recording stone using special modified equipment. There is an obvious reference point in Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Stone Tape’ and not just in the name. ‘Avebury’ is a genuinely unsettling work both in its subject matter and in its construction. The spoken word pieces set the scene in a haze of echo and reverb and the musical segments are genuinely ‘haunted’ electronica – veering from rich swathes of Tangerine Dream like synths to oscillating vintage analogue electronics that inspire dread and suspense. The story and the music combine beautifully to make this a fully rounded, immersive experience. Where artists like Pye Corner Audio etc tap into childhood memories for their effect, The Stone Tapes work on more visceral, primal fears….the things that flit hither and thither at the edge of your vision and the imagined evil that dwells in the dark. ‘Avebury’ goes beyond music (in whatever ‘genre’ you may care to fit it) and into the experiential. A wonderfully dark work. A visit to the Hare’s Breath Bandcamp page will tell you all you need to know about getting your hands on this.