Released on the Touch UK sub-label Ash International, An Introduction To EVP by The Ghost Orchid is one of those weird releases that will probably only appeal to fans of the seriously odd. EVP itself stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon, and falls into the category of the paranormal alongside stuff like UFOlogy and telepathy. Ash International has teamed up with PARC (the Parapsychic Acoustic Research Cooperative) for this rather exhaustive collection of recordings from the collection of one Raymond Cass and Dr. Konstanin Raudive (with introductions from Leif Elggren). The resulting disc is a whopping 77 tracks and sixty five minutes of static-laden pieces of scrambled voices, singing, and flat-out weirdness that is at times creepy and at others unintentionally hilarious.
Even listeners who are flat-out skeptics can find things that are enjoyable on the release, simply because of the recordings themselves. Many of them warble with a high level of hum and hiss and noise, recalling the sprawling Conet Project box-set of shortwave radio recordings. At any rate, the disc sets itself up well, with an overall introduction by Elggren before going into another explanation from Cass (which is of noticeably lower quality) that leads into the first set of recordings (looped three times each to try to help the listener try to discern the truth). In the case of most of the recordings (in all the different sections of the disc), your overall experience will be defined by just how much you actually believe in the phenomenon.
Personally, I'm a fairly pragmatic person, and as I mentioned above, most of the clips sound like weird interrupts from a radio station, with bursts of song or fragments of broken speech from a language that's indecipherable (actually, none of the "ghosts" seem to speak English). The phenomena has been portrayed and discussed recently in everything from film (the unfortunate White Noise starring Michael Keaton) to non-fiction (Mary Roach devotes a chapter of her book Spook to the study of EVP), and is obviously viewed by serious scientists as a crackpot field.
Even with my skepticism fully in place, I have to admit that some of the tracks are somewhat creepy (namely the "alien voices" and "new research" sections, which deals with direct responses to questions) if you're in the right mood. Given the range of recordings (some of them made almost fifty years ago), the sheer textural quality (including static, weird tape warbles, and high-frequencies blips) of the release is interesting, alongside the random fragments of shattered speech and talking-heads researchers trying to somehow get some sort of response from the spirit world. Further playing on the theme, the CD includes a 12-page booklet discussing EVP, including biographical information on the researchers involved and other information.
As a child, I used to completely love reading about unexplained phenomena, but somewhere along the way, my view of the field went from really wanting to believe everything to not really believing much of anything at all. My views have become much more grounded in science, and while one could argue that the existence of voices on tape actually entails scientific proof, it's also easy enough to argue away as radio or some other sort of interference. That said, many of the clips on The Ghost Orchid are edited to be so short that it's hard to get any sort of context for them. The longer sections do a much better job of laying out the evidence, and while I still don't believe (even though I was a big fan of the X-Files), the more developed setups make for much better listening than a two-second section looped three times. Supposedly, this is only the first release in a series from Ash International about EVP, so here's hoping they draw the listener (believer or not) even further into their world on future efforts.