02 February 2006


Well, I got curious and had a handbasin full of PayPal cash from Ebay record selling so decided to take the plunge into Ghostbox, as recommended by the likes of Blissblogger and K-punk...

Yeah, even as I was doing it I felt the creeping melancholy that comes from knowing that where you used to buy records because your friends had them (or because they didn't!) now we've got...this. It's noticeable that the above 2 bloggers have already done away with comments boxes; perhaps those reminders, however faint, of a previous, instantly reactive, way of music discussion - albeit one devoid of the facial tics and gestures and unconscious tells - were too much to bear...

Anyway, they were right. These releases have something about them.

I'm not a fan of the hauntology term that's been used - appropriating from Derrida is like stealing from Gilbert and George - but the way that the music of especially The Focus Group and The Advisory Circle breaks up into tiny bitesizes somehow evokes the idea that each piece is being forced to survive on its own. No idea why but it's music that forces anthropomorphism; you can imagine the individual tracks desperately wanting to coagulate into a whole but being resisted because they don't quite fit in. The Focus Group albums, in particular remind me, spiritually, of the way in which Nurse With Wound's A Sucked Orange fails to fit together or maybe the almost coherence of Coil's Music For Commercials.

Not quite fitting in seems a relevant theme here, one present in all the releases. The Advisory Circle sort of re-imagines Children's Educational TV in the same way that Look Around You does (I haven't seen the second series). That series always worked best when it was restrained, when it got near to an exact copy of the originals, when it didn't stray too far from a whistful re-imagining rather than a descent into piss-taking and nosethumbing... i.e. I liked episode 1, the rest was patchy at best.

It's music that attempts to occupy space between knowledge shots, music that attempts to imagine what cells and particle accelerators and gearboxes and osmosis might sound like from the perspective of 1972. The music looks to the stars with the belief that they are only decades away. Music that might have evolved in the shreds of light between the colours of the TestCard.

I can remember a friend putting their head against a black and white TV screen and yelling: I'm thinking in binary!

It's music that soundtracks those moments in a child's life. It's music that actually does what Boards of Canada are attempting to do (okay, maybe occasionally they get it right...) and the Ghostbox boys(and girls? doesn't sound like it) manage this in a far more subtle way. Where Boards of Canada force you into a mystical route through their titles, covers etc, even when the music suggests otherwise, The Focus Group let you get there on your own by hinting at the odd glamour of the 70s schoolroom and re-suggesting the idea that it could be a place of real alchemy and hope and wonder...

The mystic grounded. Space used as a beacon rather than an investment.

It's music that Lustmord said he was making but never did. Always thought he wasted that name.

Eric Zann and Belbury Poly work more conventional structures (Eric Zann is a new drone king ) but they're mapping the same accents and angles: the perhaps illusory idea(l) of quintessential Britain, one happily corrupted by foreign influence (several tracks from Belbury Poly can't help but make me imagine the Moomins) and assimilated into a kind of grubby and languid (and often accidental) occulture which allows wooly jumpers and radio-kits and brick-dust and swinging hand-painted pub signs (The Slaughtered Ass, The Golden Calf, The Hump-A-Back...) into the mix alongside the American 50s Sci-Fi gleam and Scandinavian Philosphy.

Children of the Stones, Sapphire and Steel, Dr Who, (that show about a Russian place where they made lots of poison gas...), Teach Yourself Chess TV. Take your pic.

It's music that seems to believe there was a time of innocence and expectation, a place pre-spin where the threat of Nuclear War and the Utter End Of It All made everything other seem much closer.

It's a pity the Millenium didn't come in 1972.

Go here for some Ghostbox tracks


GTTRBRKZ said...

Yeah, as soon as I've got a bit of spare paypal money I'm gonna invest in some of these too.

Andren said...

Likewise. I like the blog btw.

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