Hannah Peel first came to recognition in 2010 with her mesmerizing, hand-punched, ‘music box’ EP Rebox (featuring covers of 80’s bands Cocteau Twins, Soft Cell, New Order). Her solo career has continued with the increasingly electronic three track Nailhouse in 2013 and the stunning analogue beauty of Fabricstate EP a year later but Rebox 2, which forms part of this month’s Society of Sound release, features four new music box covers as well as three new instrumental pieces.
In this short blog from Hannah Peel she describes the process of working with the hand-punched music box and how the manual process is both challenging and hugely rewarding.
“It’s fascinating the amount of hours in manual labour it takes to essentially just punch holes into mathematical grid-like paper. I usually spend a few hours mapping out the notes and rhythms with a pencil and then get to work punching. Any mistakes can be covered with selloptape and the strips are joined together carefully with sellotape too. It’s a fine meditative process and really feels like another way to step back in time to make music.
I love combining the sounds of the music box with atmospheres and pulses… it keeps away from children’s horror themes in film.
Each track is approached completely differently as there are limitations on the range of notes for the music box, which is also equally part of its charm. It works beautifully on anything that sounds like a synth funny enough! Arpeggios are the most fun to punch out and for a song like Wild Beasts’ Palace, even if it meant changing the original key signature it worked really well and so that track lyrically and musically was kept sparse to keep both elements clear and unclouded with production. Often I have to find a much more inventive way to get around the limitations and even though it’s a lot more hours of punching and mapping out the notes, these songs are often the most rewarding when recording. In Perfume Genius’s track, ‘Queen’ I used the box as a percussive instrument, recording it through a vintage Roland Space Echo, or in John Grant’s ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ for example, where he features a Sergei Rachmaninoff Prelude, I had to punch the paper into psychedelic harp-like runs with multi-layered vocals to create a different take on the classical melody which on the record has a full orchestra!”