All of us are Possessed with two strands of memory, the personal and the collective. The former creates our narratives, the latter our Histories. And in the Liminal space between these records of our past, exists the gap into which promised futures fall.
For those of us who grew up in the bleak, austere Britain of Callaghan and Thatcher this dichotomy of memory is exemplified by the dangers that lurked beyond the bounds of our relative comfort. The threat of Nuclear War, the menace of Drugs, Aids and even the dangers of playing in Electrical substations all sought to shepherd us back to the soporific world of consumer culture, onwards to our bright collective future.
Like a Dandelion in a cracked paving slab, it is here that the genre of Hauntology has grown. A loose and fluid term it encompasses artists with disparate narratives, yet is all the while hinting at a shared History that is part nostalgia part unease; A place where our memories are not always what they seem.
One such project that explores these notions is Grey Frequency. The work of Artist Gavin Morrow it takes the form of Ambient Tape-loops, manipulated field recordings and found-sound artefacts. It is a dreamlike world haunted by Acousmatic ghosts; half seen yet somehow familiar. Visual too, it encompasses short Films of Natural phenomena recontextualised in fixed-shot black and white explorations of the Jamais-Vu.
Ufology is the fourth full-length release from Grey Frequency and, as the name suggests, takes Alien encounters as its inspiration. A theme that also explores notions of personal and collective memory and the fluidity therein.
Each track on the Album takes as source material specific encounters and incidents from the canon of English UFO folklore. From the ghostly lights of Rendlesham forest to a potential crash on Howden Moor Ufology conjures up soundscapes for these incidents that are as much about time as they are about place.
On the Record
The opening of the aforementioned Rendlesham forest (1980) begins with a wavering Kalimba-like pattern that seems to have always been looping-away somewhere and, one suspects will continue to do so as it fades away into a choral drone. These are otherworldly, almost euphoric sounds but as they depart our perception, however, we are left among the lonely windswept trees of the forest. At the back of our minds is a feeling that time passes differently here.
Blue Aura is similarly possessed with a sense of returning to the concrete from the subliminal; moving as it does from abstract drone to Feild recording. And Here to we are left with the sense that this is not the world we thought we understood.
It is this sense of cognitive dissonance that is at the heart of the music on Ufology, it evokes an experience that is “other” regardless of explanation. Track three The Dechmont Woods Encounter being an exemplar of this, with its throbbing Electronics that could be so reminiscent of hallucinations brought on by exposure to toxins; one possible reasoning put forward for the events that night.
It is in many ways the sound qualities of magnetic tape that ground this album and give these stories a documentary-like quality. There is a sense that we are observing something first hand, rather than listening to an interpretation; albeit through the distorting filters of time and memory. Howden Moor and The Cosford Incident offer another layer, evoking as they do interrupted transmissions of unknown origin.
The final three tracks represent perhaps the most soundtrack like excursions on the Album; from the musical elements of Broad Haven (1977) and You Will Improve or Disappear, to the icy drones of Solway Firth Spaceman they seem to suggest a change in viewpoint that is no less immediate in its use of more familiar elements.
There is something in Ufology and in the concept of Hauntology in general, that is so fitting of the age we find ourselves in. With mainstream Music and Culture on endless repeat and the notions of self and other eroded and reconfigured on a seemingly daily basis. The time capsule of a pre-internet age fulfils a desire for nostalgia and reminds us of a time when the unknown was on the edge of our perception rather than pervading the everyday.
There is a larger trend in Music at work here too; The rise of what might be termed Cinema Pour L’Oreille. It is a coming together of many of the trends in Electronic music from the last seventy years, drawing as it does on Musique Concrete and early Synthesiser music and is certainly a reaction against our new found digital culture.
In practical terms, it reimagines the Album as a journey to another place; both literal and temporal and with conventional music as just one vehicle. In many ways, this new found seam of Experimental music represents Sound Art in the most literal of senses; it seeks the abstraction of a History through the removal of narrative and leaves an experiential gap for the listener to step into.
If Pop music evokes those memories we want but never had, then the music of artists such as Grey Frequency is the sound of those memories that haunt us; Forever in the corner of our eye.
Ufology is available now both as Download and limited edition cassette, complete with a set of black and white prints.
Go to the Grey Frequency website for information on live dates and to explore the back catalogue