Howlround (Robin The Fog) – ‘The Ghosts Of Bush’ [Fog Signals]

Can’t tell you how stoked we are that this one here made it to wax. We’ve spoken before about the talent and creativity that comes out of Robin The Fog (ref: after some Sesame Street bonding over Kid Koala and DJ Food related bump-ins around town, and now the BBC studio manager and Resonance FM flag bearer has just arrived on wax.

Robin was talking about this project last time we chatted, his own personal quest to have the acoustics and sonic importance of the old BBC hub not be forgotten when they packed up ship and moved everyone in to one central location. At the time, it was Robin and a tape recorder roaming the deserted building at night, recording the sound waves bouncing around various parts of the architecture. As far as I know there was no plan for release at this time – maybe a digital pass-around or a follow-up cassette.

It did, however, come to life first on the BBC then as a vinyl pressing that sold out twice already way too quickly. The Ghosts Of Bush LP should’ve been a hard-sell, but instead we’re talking blink-and-you’ve-missed-it styles, with a percentage of the proceeds going to the BBC media auction – that’s right, he’s a nice guy too. Interesting as well is that the record was released under the moniker Howlround, which I’ve recently learned is “actually the old BBC term for feedback, which is how parts of the record were created. The BBC has all kinds of funny names for everything, I swear some of the older technical staff are talking in code sometimes”.

The record itself is crazy atmospherics, dubbed out layers that just mesh together for a beautiful LP. Proper modern classical this, and given the fact that it’s taken from the likes of stairwell echoes, old lifts and slowed-doen whistling bouncing of arches and cement, it’s a surprisingly easy listen. Robin explains it better himself in the release info below, but before you get to that check the accompanying video below.

Robin The Fog loves sound. I don’t think this project could have been done by anyone but him, and for our part we’re grateful that he took it on. Now that the sales are over, you can stream or download the tracks via The Fog Signals bandcamp right down the bottom.

via Robin The Fog
‘The Ghosts Of Bush’ was created entirely using the natural acoustic sounds of Bush House, the iconic home for the past seven decades of the BBC World Service which closed its doors for the last time on July 12th 2012. All of the sounds were captured in the small hours of the morning in empty offices, corridors, stairwells and other hidden corners by a Studio Manager working overnight. These recordings were then dubbed onto quarter-inch tape in the basement studio deep in the bowels of the South-East wing using two of the surviving reel-to-reel machines.

Adjusting the playback speed of the spools and ‘bouncing’ the recordings between the two tape machines lead to the discovery of a number of interesting phrases and sound textures which were then looped, layered and fashioned into rough compositions. Over time the tape would start to degrade and alter the nature of the sounds, while occasional echo was created by recording and playing various loops simultaneously, feeding the sound back into itself. The entire album was produced using these simple methods, and no other effects or studio trickery have been used. Thanks to the sonorous quality of Bush House’s Portland stone walls and high ceilings, the natural resonance of the space was all that was needed.

These are the sounds the building makes when it thinks no-one is listening, the sounds of many sleepless nights spent isolated in a labyrinthine basement surrounding by a crepuscular soundtrack of creaks and crackles. It’s an attempted homage to the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop who crafted the most incredible of sound-worlds from the most basic of sources. But mostly it’s my way of saying goodbye to a building that I and so many people have loved.

When talking of historic structures, the old clichéd approach is to wonder what one might hear if the ‘walls could speak’. I like to think that with ‘The Ghosts Of Bush’ we come closer to hearing them sing: One last song about the passage of time and the impermanence of all things, with the ghosts of the machines joining in. The last hurrah of a bygone era, of obsolete equipment and of a studio that has since fallen silent forever.