Electronic Sound: Reviews (Issue 65)

Reviews originally published in Issue 65 of Electronic Sound magazine, May 2020:

Alderson Loop
(Castles In Space)

In 1993, Carlos Castaneda wrote The Art of Dreaming, one of the final accounts of his shamanistic apprenticeship with his Yacqui Indian mentor, Don Juan Matus, and a guide to the practical, self-changing powers of lucid dreaming. Dalham‘s Alderson Loop takes its inspiration from the book, and its title – seemingly – from computer coding slang: the loop in question being an infinitely repeated process with an exit condition available, but inaccessible. The link between the two, though? Complicated. “Are there multiple planes of existence that we filter out? Can we re-enter them through a conscious effort? The Alderson Loop is one of these…” explains Dalham himself, aka Suffolk-born keyboard maestro Jon Michaelides. Rather like Castaneda, he is a somewhat enigmatic figure.

The facts as we know them: Alderson Loop is Dalham’s fourth album in total and his second for Castles In Space, it being the follow-up to 2019’s acclaimed Heat Death. It occasionally echoes its predecessor’s waves of doomed, industrial-tinged electronica, but stops short of the “scorched Earth” dystopia of that album, frequently heading into gentler, more reflective territory. Opening track ‘First Gate’, a direct reference to Castaneda’s initial stage of the lucid dream experience, begins with alluring ambience, before the skittering beats of ‘1I_2017 U1’ draw us slowly away from the reassuringly familiar. By the time we reach ‘Forrice’, at the album’s mid-point, we’re drifting into a thrillingly serene out-of-body experience, and closing track ‘Red Forrest’ is triumphantly anthemic. It’s a hell of a journey.

Michaelides, with admirable ambition, clearly is aiming for the musical evocation of a profound, progressive dream state. “The deeper you go and the more gates you pass through, the further you are removed from objective reality,” he continues, in a rare missive to the outside world, passed through label boss Colin Morrison. “The first gate is very shallow though, so be careful you don’t get trapped there unwittingly…”. If his Alderson Loop is the escape clause by which he guides us all beyond this opening stage to a deeper plane of musical existence, then it’s mission accomplished. The album is an immersively beautiful and rewarding experience.

Album available here:

(Ghost Box)

Joyousness abounds! The return of these Birmingham-based godfathers of retro-futurist fun is cause for celebration itself, and the album is overflowing with grin-inducing melodies; a shaft of sunlight through a 1970s velour curtain. Complete with motes of dust dancing around the Test Card girl and her grinning clown, for Puzzlewood is infused with the sheer brio of vintage library music. The title track itself would have been the ideal musical prelude to “programmes for our younger viewers”, and ‘Miniature Magic’ sounds for all the world like Roger Limb or Paddy Kingsland hearing Bob Marley for the first time and thinking “I’ll have a crack at that…” 

There is the odd reflective moment: ‘Red Kite’ is clearly the wistful theme from some forgotten Children’s Film Foundation tearjerker, and ‘The Model Village’ is the melancholy last day of every seaside holiday of your childhood. But, 21 years on from debut album ‘For Beginner Piano’, Billy Bainbridge and Mike Johnston have found a spiritual home at Ghost Box, and Julian House’s sweetshop-inspired packaging is the perfect wrapper for this fabulous, fizzy confection.

Album available here:

Plone interview here:

A Haunting Strip of Marshland
(Castles In Space)

The power of landscape pervades this beautifully unsettling soundtrack. Specifically Orford Ness, a shingle-coated sliver off the Suffolk coastline, and a psychogeographical hotspot: MOD testing site, experimental radio beacon, abandoned nature reserve. Mulholland masterfully manipulates field recordings and ambient radiophonica to accompany Adam Scovell‘s evocative short film Ness, itself inspired by Robert MacFarlane and Stanley Donwood‘s book of the same title. “The wind sings in the wires of perimeter fences” is MacFarlane’s sleevenote summation of the site’s acoustics, and Mulholland’s eerie score echoes this, with 11-minute epic ‘The Black Beacon’ the cornerstone.

Album available here:

Interview with Adam Scovell and Drew Mulholland here:

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

2 thoughts on “Electronic Sound: Reviews (Issue 65)

  1. J. Eric Smith October 20, 2020 / 5:34 pm

    LOVE that Plone album!!! Off to investigate the others, with thanks for the recommendations and reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. James (UK) October 20, 2020 / 10:58 pm

    Just bought the £7 download version of “A Haunting Strip of Marshland” based on your write-up and the two tracks you can preview on BandCamp.. looking forward to listening to it in it’s entirety. From the samples I’ve heard I think “beautifully unsettling” is a perfect way to describe it. 😉 Thanks for the recommendation Bob, appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

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