The final night of my tour for Pastoral culminated in a performance at a cinema in Walthamstow called Mirth, Marvel and Maud. As soon as I walked into the building, I felt an overwhelming sense of pressure change. I instantly became anxious and strange. A staff member was setting up, so I asked, “Is this place haunted?” They looked at me a little taken aback.
I couldn’t shake off this feeling, which was all too familiar to me. Throughout the years of making and performing Pastoral, I had been struggling with postnatal depression from the birth of my first child in 2016. I had 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, aka Microcorps, who was telling me a ghost story – completely randomly. It then hit me that my next album would be something to do with ghosts.
I began researching the technology of ghost-hunting and discovered many connections between the development of audio technology and the spiritualist movement. From there, there’s a whole genetic pathway of music going through people like Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram and the Radiophonic Workshop – those kinds of sounds and machines that have a heritage in something supernatural. Even the women’s rights movement was really influenced by early spiritualism because of the role women played in spiritualism. The movement gave women a platform and power that I really relate to – the power of transfiguration; the ability to freely go into another place, whether that was a spirit world or a recessive place in themselves where they could scream and be crazy. Where else could they have done that in that era?
What ended up coming out on Black Dog was an emotional response, an excavation of my own fears and lifelong psychological state. But to make the initial connection between technology, women’s rights and ghosts? It blew my mind.