Some of my most vivid memories of elementary school are of the educational films we’d watch in science, health, and art class. Sometimes they were film strips, sometimes shown on reel-to-reel projectors, and right at the end of elementary school we began watching them on VHS tapes. But the ones that made the most impression on me were the film strips, which were accompanied by a cassette tape that was loaded into the projector.
The art films were ususally accompanied by classical music; Vivaldi, Debussy, and Bach were favorites. The science and health educational films were different, though. They were typically soundtracked by library music, which was a vast world of analog synthesizers. Odd, quirky bleeps and blips created by a Moog or a Buchla came out of a singular speaker as you watched images of space, the ocean, or simply kids crossing the street to get on the school bus as a car comes barreling down the street straight for them. Those moments in the darkness; just me, the story of the Big Bang Theory, and de-tuned synthesizers were very special moments in an otherwise average school day. The aged film and that music pulled me from that room and put me in that world on the screen.
Where am I going with this? Well I’m leading you to something called The Chambers Tape, folks. What is The Chambers Tape? It’s a complete and absolute mindf**k of an episode of the podcast Tales From Beyond The Pale, which was written and directed by Graham Reznick. Reznick spins a story of a mysterious tape titled The Aviary which appeared in just a couple random cities back in 1974. It’s a self-help tape fashioned to lull the listener into becoming one with themselves and the world around them. The voice on this tape is Dr. William Chambers. Of course, nothing you are hearing is what it appears to be. Reznick works the episode as if we’re listening to the tape and taking instruction from Chambers, as new age-y synths come in and out of the mix. Think of the old tapes of The Dharma Initiative on Lost, or Mercurio Arboria’s Arboria Institute in Beyond The Black Rainbow. A mixture of new age psychology, psychedelics, and something sinister just below the surface.
The episode, which starred Misha Collins(Castiel on Supernatural) and Sophia Takal(director of the new Black Christmas) was originally released a few years ago on iTunes and Audible, but today it’s being released for free on Tales From Beyond The Pale podcast. If you’re not familiar with Tales From Beyond The Pale, folks you’re in for a treat. Created by independent horror legend Larry Fessenden and film director Glenn McQuaid for Glass Eye Pix Studios, the podcast is described as “radio plays for the digital age”, and they are simply magical. Hosted by Fessenden, each episode is 30 minutes of the bizarre, the twisted, and the mind-melting. And today, you will be able to listen to Reznick’s take on the 70s New Age horror for free.
As a bonus, Graham is also releasing the soundtrack to the episode, which he wrote and performed ala detuned synths and Moog madness. All those 70s educational film strips and PBS specials on the Cosmos and the existence of Bigfoot you’d watch late at night before bed, those were scored with analog synths in some dark recording studio in Philadelphia, or at a BBC-owned studio in London. Reznick used those as a jumping off point for scoring The Chambers Tape. The results are like some kind of aural time machine that sends you spinning deep inside your own mind, searching for inner peace and enlightenment.
Is that what you find? You’ll just have to listen to The Chambers Tape and find out. Word of advice, though: Don’t forget those five key words you’re told at the beginning. It’s imperative you remember them. No joke.
The Chambers Tape is free to download today at Tales From Beyond The Pale. Look for it here. And download Sounds of the Aviary – Music from The Chambers Tape over at Graham Reznick’s Bandcamp page. And heed this advice, It is not advised to cease playing these recordings until you hear The Stop Tone.