Our resident archivist Jack Dangers has been listening to voices from the other side, caught by researchers of “Electronic Voice Phenomena”, or EVP, and first committed to vinyl in 1971
There was a magazine called ‘The Unexplained: Mysteries Of Mind, Space & Time’ which started publishing in 1980. It was all about the supernatural and weird stuff. Issue one came with a free flexi disc, called ‘Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment In The Electronic Communication With The Dead’. The disc had examples of mysterious unearthly voices which had been picked up on various recording devices by a Latvian researcher called Konstantin Raudive.
Side one was ‘A General Introduction With Examples Of The Voices’, and side two was ‘Examples Of Microphone, Radio Frequency, Diode, Goniometer And Psychophone Voices’.
The first time I was able to record anything in a studio, in 1981, I used snippets from this flexi disc, and I sampled it again on the Meat Beat Manifesto album ‘Answers Come In Dreams’ in 2010 on the track ‘Zenta!’.
The voice I used was the creepiest recording on the record. According to the narrator, who is this stern-voiced woman called Nadia Fowler, the voice belongs to Margarete Petrautzki, Raudive’s wife’s assistant who had told Raudive during her life that she did not believe in an existence after death. Zenta was Dr Zenta Mauriņa, who was Raudive’s wife. On the record, Nadia explains that Petrautzki has since passed away, and what the scratchy, distant voice recording is saying. ‘Zentaaa!’, the voice almost sings. So basically, they tell you what to expect to hear, so that’s exactly what you hear. It’s great! I had to sample it.
It’s been sampled by other people too. I was playing the record to Z-Trip once, and when the voice says, “You are sleeping” he suddenly said, ‘3rd Bass sampled that!’. I had no idea, but it’s on their track ‘Triple Stage Darkness’ from the 1989 debut ‘The Cactus’, it opens with the narrator saying: “You are sleeping! You do not want to believe…”. That same sample is also on the end of ‘Rubber Ring’ by The Smiths, from 1985.
The flexi disc was a reissue of a 1971 vinyl seven-inch released on a label called Vista, which accompanied a book by Raudive about EVP. Every other release on the label, which existed from 1968 until 1979, was either organ music recorded in cathedrals, or choral works.
The label was run by Michael Smythe, who was also the label’s recording engineer and producer. Raudive’s book ame via a company called Colin Smythe Publishing, who also did Terry Pratchett’s first novels. I don’t know if Colin Smythe and Michael Smythe were related, but it would make sense if they were! I can just imagine that Colin had this weird book to publish which needed an audio document to go with it, and his relative happened to run a record label and could take care of it for him.
Raudive learned about EVP from a Swedish professor called Friedrich Jürgenson. He was a keen field recordist, and would also record birdsong, using long cables to place his microphones in natural habitats, and he noticed these peculiar voices appearing on his recordings. Konstanin Raudive worked with him at Uppsala University in Sweden and got very enthusiastic about the idea that these voices, which were obviously short wave radio interference, were the dead trying to make contact, and it was Raudive who took the EVP idea to the next level with his book and the recordings.
The record isn’t that hard to find. It was released in Italy as a seven-inch and in Germany on a 10-inch, which I haven’t managed to track down yet.
The book and record inspired the film Hollywood film ‘White Noise’ in 2005 starring Michael Keaton. There are more recordings of EVP out there. Ash International which was set up by Mike Harding and Robin Rimbaud, released a wax cylinder of EVP called ‘The Ghosts Of Effingham’ in 2010, and in 2000 the same label put together a CD called ‘From The Studio For Audioscopic Research’ of Friedrich Jürgenson’s EVP recordings made between 1959 and 1985.
There’s also ‘The Ghost Orchid: An Introduction To EVP’ which is really good, with g recordings made by Raymond Cass on it, British EVP researcher. Just don’t listen to them on your own in the dark!