Electronic Sound: Reviews (Issue 62)

Reviews originally published in Issue 62 of Electronic Sound magazine, February 2020: 

Time to Dream But Never Seen
(Castles In Space)

“Owner of some synths, and always a tad lost.” So goes Keith Seatman‘s self-effacing description of himself, and both are apparent in this utterly magical concoction, an album steeped in the sweetshop mysticism of a stranger, gentler England. Certainly the wistful tootlings of ancient keyboards are present and correct, conjuring delicious images of topsy-turvy fairground rides, of wonky, body-bending mirrors and clanging Ghost Trains. With Seatman himself marooned in the throng, bemused and out-of-time, a static observer in a stop-motion crowd scene.

Write his name in the centre of a crumpled notepad, and – as this extraordinary musical adventure unfurls – let the comparisons explode around it. You’ll end up with Syd Barrett, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, even Tommy Cooper and the remnants of Music Hall. But they’re not influences, nor inspirations. It’s more than that. It’s genetic. This is the sound a man of whose DNA is infused with the spirit of what The Alberts once described as “British Rubbish”. It’s the glorious inheritance of arcane weirdness, and it’s painfully touching to acknowledge that such a thing even exists any more. It’s like finding a beloved, elderly relative, long assumed dead, living in a disused lighthouse on the South Coast, surrounded by wheezing harmoniums and stuffed puffins.

You need actual proof? Try the zig-zagging, end-of-the-pier Wurlitzer of ‘Tippy Toe Tippy Toe’. The spectral, skeletal waltz of ‘Compact Bedroom Circus’. Or ‘Speak Your Piece’, in which poet, songwriter and regular collaborator Douglas E. Powell invokes the spirit of Ronald Duncan in his Seasons pomp: “Where the acorn lands upon the ground, the hare, mouse and pig are found.” We’re now six albums into the career of this Puckish troubador, this mercurial genius on the fringes of popular hauntology. But, like those old ‘Nationwide’ weirdies who would row to abandoned sea forts in the Solent and declare them an independent state, Seatman has become the king of his own beautifully bespoke realm.

And a tad lost? Yes, but wonderfully so. Stay lost Keith, and keep sending us postcards like this. Assuming he’s on the same calendar as the rest of us dreary mortals, it’s barely February. But he might already have made the album of the year.

Album available here:

Interview with Keith Seatman here:

Hoohah Hubbub
(Buried Treasure)

Always the most genial of sinister overlords, when Alan Gubby isn’t staging immersive gatherings in remote MOD facilities, he’s marshalling the collected musical forces of Revbjelde. “Chaos is coming!” barks post-punk legend Peter Hope on the opening title track of this follow-up to 2017’s eponymous debut, and he’s not understating the matter. What follows is a white-knuckle ride through lusciously tangled psychedelia, with Hope a growling, forceful presence throughout, and Magic Mushroom Band drummer Jim Lacey lending a potent, muscular urgency.

There’s anger here: it’s an album whose creation Gubby says was “enveloped in a post-referendum smog of lies, schemes and misinformation”. ‘Swamp Gas’ is a gloriously filthy Beefheart-esque swipe at fossil fuel carmaggedon; while ‘Geistig’ is thrillingly discordant, sax-drenched beat poetry – in its own words, “well-versed in structureless defiance”. But there are tender moments, too: ‘Verdant Green’ is sensual, blissed-out jazz-prog with a whiff of early Floyd. Alternately furious and restorative, it’s the antidote album for an already troubled new decade.

Album available here:

Interview with Alan Gubby here:

Par Avion
(Modern Aviation)

Seeking an album of somnambulant, hallucinogenic daydreams to soundtrack lazy, Spring afternoons? Look no further. It’s a rare compilation that works as a seamless, coherent suite of music, but label boss Will Salmon has assembled an impressive roster of contributors to achieve precisely that. The soothing harps and swooning ambience of Rupert Lally‘s ‘Every Home Should Have One’ give way to the melancholy, fractured piano of newcomer Benjamin Winter’s ‘Still Animals’; which in turn surrenders to The Leaf Library‘s gently burbling ‘Wave Of Translation’. It’s rather overwhelming.

Elsewhere, Ghost Box alumni ToiToiToi brings skittering beats and accordions, redolent of austere, Central European childrens’ dramas on long-ago school holiday mornings. And Polypores‘ ‘Absent Farther’ could be the lonely, electronic communication of a slowly disappearing space probe. Salmon claims the collection has no distinct theme or remit, but it has an overpowering air of sweetly wistful loneliness, both contemplative and soothing. A gorgeous, splintered reverie of an album.

Album available here:

Not to Be Unpleasant, But We Need to Have a Serious Talk
(Lakeshore Records)

This soundtrack to a Greek indie film – in which a serial womaniser discovers he is carrying an STD lethal only to women – sees Greek-born, LA-based Kid Moxie (aka Elena Charbila) combining her considerable talents for both bombastic synth anthems and haunting electronica. There are joyous covers of Alphaville’s ‘Big In Japan’, and – curiously – ‘The Night’, a 1983 reunion single from The Animals. But original instrumental pieces like ‘The Distance Grows Again’ are beautifully stately, elegantly wearing the influences of Charbila’s previous collaborator Angelo Badalamenti.

Album available here:

Pies Sobre la Tierra
(Unheard of Hope)

The title means “Feet On The Ground”, but it belies the lofty ambitions of Guatemalan cellist Fratti, whose improvisational background shines through on this experimental and uplifting album. Ambient electronica, contemporary classical, even shoegaze… they’re all in there, fused together by Fratti’s restless cello and effortlessly shimmering vocals. And on penultimate track ‘Direccion’ the combination coalesces into a melody that is genuinely transcendent. The Cocteau Twins and Oldfield’s Ommadawn might offer vague comparisons, but really – she’s in a world of her own.

Album available here:

Electronic Sound – “the house magazine for plugged in people everywhere” – is published monthly, and available here:


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