Once one gets past the name of the duo, a moniker that defies spell checking, one is freed to enjoy the music: in this case, a haunted house tape based on a detective’s personal journals. Coffin bells ring, specters glide through the house, and around every sonic corner lies a trap or at the very least, a clue. Can the mystery be solved? Can the detective be saved? Was there ever a detective in the first place, or is this all part of an elaborate scheme to lure new victims inside?
One thing is clear: April Larson and Matt Bower are having great fun with this production. With the “new” popularity of podcasts and the near-complete failure of recent horror movies to unsettle (“Woman in Black 2”, we’re talking to you), it may be time to visit the sonic world for chills and thrills. Try reading Poe to this; the cassette is tailor-made for this sort of literary/sonic excursion. Or turn out the lights and listen to the sound of heartbeats (“Flashlight in the Fog”), EVP (“The Keyhole Observations”), doors creaking and dolls falling. All the while a series of drones moves in and out of the mix like phantoms swapping shadows.
This is the first album to be released since our Haunted House feature that might have made that list; the combination of “real” sounds (“Noises in the Vents”) with manufactured noises is effectively disorienting. The titles indicate that an exorcism of some sort has taken place, and that those who play the cassette are sifting through the evidence. Folks with creaky homes may find themselves a little jumpy after the tape has ended; those whose tapes jam may find themselves completely unnerved, suspecting a literal ghost in the machine. For the optimal experience, this tape should be played on a portable device that clicks and whirrs.
The mystery is deepened by the presence of two digital bonus tracks. No mere throwaways, these come across as new evidence from a recently located witness, found languishing in a mental ward, scrawling on walls. The screeching start to “Stuck in Harbour House” takes up right where “Voisex” leaves off. The pounding is more insistent, the approach more direct. “Their Names Were Buried With Their Corpses Just To Be Sure” makes for a spooky coda, a warning not to look too closely. A full-frontal attack is enough to make one jump out of one’s seat. These spirits are far from benign.
Kudos to Auditory Field Theory for preserving the mystery around this themed release; a series of related “cases” would be welcome. (Richard Allen)