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Stone Tapes - Under the Radar

  by Keith How

published: 12 / 8 / 2017

Stone Tapes - Under the Radar


In his 'Under the Radar' column, in which he searches out lesser known artists and labels, Keith How investigates 'The Stone Tapes', which, recently re-released in an expanded CD version, combines a folk/horror story with vintage electronic sound effects and music

Sometime last year I was in conversation with a like-minded friend. Our interests merge over ancient trackways, stones and earth mysteries. We were reminded of an early 1970’s BBC drama 'The Stone Tapes' (which featured Jane Asher). The story is a spooky tale which included a team of scientists working on new recording techniques in an old Victorian mansion. The team encounter a ghost and attempt to access what they believe to be a psychic impression trapped in a stone wall. The theory that ancient stones, monuments and places are infused with a “spiritual” memory or impression is not new and, of course, unproven. Many people though can often “feel” things or “sense” a presence or phenomenon in ancient places. So when a link to 'The Stone Tapes' emerged on my Facebook feed late last year I was intrigued. Hardly any information accompanied the post, only a photograph of a cassette tape in a plain cardboard box. I followed the link to the Bandcamp site only to find the cassette edition all sold out. Only a digital download was available. I did my duty and downloaded the files only to “forget” them- perhaps it was meant to be? This month, to my joy, the mysterious folks at The Stone Tapes decided to re -issue an expanded version of the tapes on to CD and release a limited run. I obtained mine without delay. 'The Stone Tapes' is a remarkable piece of work. A collage of storytelling and electronics that is eclectic and mysterious and recounts receiving a mysterious box of sound recordings, on electronic tape, made at ancient and historical sites in the British Isles from an elderly gentleman living in Avebury. Beginning with shadowy and blurry telephone conversation with the vicar of Avebury we embark on an unsettling journey where voices and whispers are distorted in a mix of electronic noise. The warning to “be careful” is unsettling. Background chatter and processed sounds and electronics provide a deep sense of darkness and danger. Sometimes a folk guitar pushes through the electronic ghostly atmosphere as the tale unfolds. Throughout the the story the listener is constantly drawn into a world of nightmarish uncertainty. The voice of the main character is constantly drenched in static, noise and layers of echoed synthesised pulses. Waves of drone like sounds wash over a reading of a description of standing stones creating a tension and feeling of uncertainty as the storyline draws to a climax. It is folk/horror at its best. Constructed on all kinds of analogue and vintage equipment, 'The Stone Tapes' is an extremely unusual and brave work and a fine example of the experimental and progressive music being produced in the quiet corners of our country. The Stone Tapes can be found on Bandcamp. P.S. A few days later I received an unmarked envelope fastened by a wax seal. Inside was some Avebury related ephemera including a warning to “be careful”. It is the attention to detail that makes things special.

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