Ghostophonia album by Makunouchi Bento & Silent Strike via Bela Bartok (2020)
In some ways the earth has become more hospitable to the long gone extinct ones than to the ones whose very lives are at stake in the here and the now.
On the surface, and according to the current ethno political fad, ghosts across Eastern Europe and elsewhere, ghosts of time gone by, of golden ages spent in plenty or carelessness are welcome, even as environmental and economic streams of refugees are being rapidly turned into ghosts themselves.
Ghostophonia 2020 album by Makunouchi Bento and Silent Strike arrives to wade these murky waters and to temporarily salvage, sing along and wreak creative digital havoc with early recordings made by pioneering ethno musicologist and Hungarian composer Bela Bartok.
In what was then known as comparative musicology, Bartok sampled local songs, various chants, vocalizing lost feelings into a strenuous stream of forlorn audio artifacts.
Somehow these impossible, non retrievable affects found their way onto audio wax cylinders, while he traveled across the region of Banat, Slovakia and elsewhere in the early first half of the XX c.
Never monotonous, in spite of their ancestral sound material, these insistent analogue hosts are not really your Casper the Friendly Ghosts type. Ghostophonia does not reek of nostalgia or of remastered folklore, but seems to cherish all types of analogue ghosting equally. From wax cylinders to magnetic tapes, cassette effects and digital emulators, recognizable or not, they all offer hospitable matter to the ear.
Suffering from various bouts of welcome amnesia, lacunae and willful silliness, Ghostophonia traverses the whole audible history of our lifetimes.
As the very first sound recordings ever made, they are plagued by mediumatic break downs, by parasitic hiss, by unintentional disturbances that are part and body of the recording, weaving all frequencies together. Hauntology is past its prime some say, a ghost of a ghost, but it is also a permanent feature that thrives in the current climate of replay retromanias and future past gone viral.
The ability of any material, be it stone or wax, and of any disturbance to repeat itself and reverberate all around keeps reasserting itself.
In his last book, The Weird and the Eerie, Mark Fisher takes the Nigel Kneale’s 1972 Stone Tape as a central example of why it is impossible to separate, or to say who plays who. These amorphous reverberations are played by a sensitive Human Central Nervous Systems as well as the walls and the floors of some old building.
Once the first layer is deleted there is always deeper and more disturbing layers triggering further replays.
Ghostophonia retrieves accidental analogue troubles and finally settles as an ubiquitous enlivened visitor ghost-guest house. The title actually plays on Goşti – guests – a Banat regionalism found in a wide range of slav or Church slavonic languages.
Ghostophonia will be one of the albums of the year because it eschews high cultural fidelity and still stays true to its source material. This album was born as a live concert in Timisoara in 2019 and was released in 2020 on bandcamp right here.