In 2000, five years after she released her debut album “Hello,” the singer-songwriter Poe (Anne Danielewski) released a self-produced second album called “Haunted.” “Haunted” is both a tribute to Poe’s late father, Polish-born film director Tad Danielewski, and a companion piece of sorts to her brother Mark Z. Danielewski’s bestselling novel “House of Leaves.”
One night after her father died, Poe had a dream in which he came to her, telling her that he wasn’t dead and instructing her to “find his voice.” Unable to shake the dream, Poe wondered if there were perhaps recordings of his voice among his belongings. So she and her brother went to the storage unit that contained their father’s things and rummaged around until they discovered a cardboard box filled with tapes. The tapes were made by their father and featured him talking into a tape recorder, addressing his children. Of the recordings, Poe said in an interview with Hip Online, “He was just rambling his thoughts. It returned parts of my history to me that I had almost written wrong.”
Two years after discovering these recordings, Poe emerged with her album, “Haunted,” which features those tape recordings interwoven throughout. That same year, Mark Z. Danielewski published his novel, “House of Leaves.” Along with recordings of her father’s voice, “Haunted” also features clips of Poe’s brother reading from “House of Leaves.” In fact, track number four on “Haunted” is titled “House of Leaves” and contains recordings of the siblings’ father overlaid with Spanish guitar. The track’s soundscape also includes ringing phones, crying children, parts of a French song called “Dominique,” and a Spanish schoolteacher suggesting everyone play hide and seek inside the house — a reference to the house in Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel.
The album’s title track, “Haunted,” follows the album’s opener, “Exploration B,” a relatively straightforward piece in which a woman calls her family and sings a short song into the answering machine, informing them of the death of her father. “He sends his love,” Poe sings on “Exploration B.” “He wanted you to know/He isn’t holding a grudge/And if you are you should let it go.” That track ends with the caller pleading with her mother, “Pick up, pick up please, mom? hello?” “Exploration B” leads seamlessly into “Haunted,” a song that speaks of the loneliness of being plagued by memories of those who are no longer present in our lives:
And I’m haunted
By the lives that I have loved
And actions I have hated
By the promises I’ve made
And others I have broken
By the lives that wove the web
Inside my haunted head
In the liner notes to the album, Poe writes of her process interweaving the rediscovered audio recordings of her father into her music: “Finally I began sampling him. It was an eerie process. Had I resurrected a ghost? In some ways I had.” Poe’s sense of the eerie is acutely expressed throughout this album. It is a 74-minute journey that is at once unique, absorbing, complex and, yes, haunting.
Listen to Poe’s song “Haunted” below and read the lyrics here.