My final performance of Pastoral was at a cinema in Walthamstow called Mirth, Marvel and Maud. As soon as I walked through the doors, I felt an overwhelming sense of pressure change. I instantly felt anxious and out of place. A staff member was setting up, so I asked, “Is this place haunted?” They looked at me a little taken aback before assuring me that there was no such thing as ghosts.
Despite their reassurance, the feeling of anxiety and unease remained with me throughout the evening. It was a familiar sensation to me, one that had been present throughout the years of making and performing Pastoral. The birth of my first child in 2016 had left me struggling with postnatal depression and recurring dreams about a ghost that would possess me and levitate my body violently. After that gig in Walthamstow, I was chatting with a friend, Alexander Tucker, who shared his own ghost story – completely randomly. It was then that I realized the connection between all these feelings and anxieties and thoughts: my next album would be about ghosts.
I began researching the technology used in ghost-hunting and discovered many connections between audio technology development and spiritualism. From there, I traced a lineage of music through people like Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, and the Radiophonic Workshop – musicians known for their use of sound machines with roots in something supernatural. Even early feminist movements were influenced by spiritualism because it gave women a platform to speak out and gain power over their own bodies. The ability to transform into another world or place allowed them to express themselves freely without fear of judgment or repercussions. In many ways, this resonated with me personally – the power of transfiguration; the ability to escape into another world or self where you can scream or be wild without fear or shame. What other space could they have found for this kind of liberation during that era?
The resulting album on Black Dog Records was an emotional response – an exploration of my own fears