Electronic Sound: Reviews (Issue 70)

Reviews originally published in Issue 70 of Electronic Sound magazine, October 2020:

(Frequency Domain)

In which Polypores gets completely pixelated. It’s hard to imagine the prolific Stephen James Buckley ever kicking back with a games console and a pizza, but the nostalgic bleeps of ‘Terrain’ are inspired by both a 1990s childhood spent chained to an Amiga 1200, and a lockdown summer in a deep relationship with a Mini SNES, exploring the retro gaming worlds of Earthbound and Zelda: A Link To The Past.

Buckley’s music creates distinct environments. Recent albums Flora and Azure stranded him in oversized woodland and aquatic paradise respectively, but the landscape of Terrain is evocatively 16-bit: one of clunky forests and scrolling, snow-capped mountains. In ‘Draw A Moon’ his trademark tides of ambience are punctuated by hypnotic chiptune motifs, and the tinkling, midway point of ‘Streems’ feels like the triumphant collection of a cache of bonus points. Buckley is slowly vanishing into his own worlds, and we should be grateful for these charming postcards from his modular Mind Palace.

Album available here:

Felt Trips here:

Stephen James Buckley interview here:

And here:

The Layering
(A Year In The Country)

Label boss Stephen Prince here assembles an impressive roster of folktronic maestros to explore “places literally layered with history”. So Sproatly Smith’s ‘Chapel Still Stands’ employs vintage radiophonica to chart the chequered life of a medieval Herefordshire church, and ‘At the End of the Aeriel Flight’ sees Rob ‘Handspan’ Colling celebrate North-Eastern mining heritage with an affecting melding of windswept field recordings and traditional pipe melodies. Vic Mars, Pulselovers and The Heartwood Institute also contribute to a haunting evocation of “what lies beneath”.

Album available here:

Stephen Prince interview here:

A Beautiful Stage
(Modern Aviation)

Fittingly for a collection whose title track takes inspiration from Philippe Petit’s heart-stopping 1974 high-wire walk between New York’s Twin Towers, Floodlights’ second album feels gently daring. The haunted synths of John Alexander and Mat ‘Pulselovers’ Handley provide a spectral framework for the graceful sax melodies of Harriet Lisa, although it’s Lisa’s heartbreaking violin that weaves through stand-out track ‘Can I Come Back’; the tale of a marooned astronaut drifting hopelessly and silently into space. Exquisite.

Album available here:

In Your Dreams
(O Genesis)

A fixture in Ariel Pink‘s band and a seasoned noise experimentalist, Tim Koh throws a delicious curveball here: offbeat, wonky pop partly inspired by his terrible record of accidents and ill-health. You have to admire a man who can turn his hospitalisation for a ruptured ulcer into the magnificently spirited ‘The Stomach’, and ‘Please Don’t Go’ is the sound of lovelorn summery heartbreak. Fans of Eno’s pop experiments, ‘Loaded’-era Velvet Underground and – indeed – the woozy psych of Pink himself will find lots to love here.

Album available here:

Methods of Dreaming
(Spun Out Of Control)

Lacking the time, money or stomach to spend 45 minutes in an amniotic flotation tank? Try Methods of Dreaming, a Moog-drenched opus from Bristol-based James McKeown. Its title derives from a 1979 academic paper investigating techniques of lucid dreaming, and McKeown’s gentle synth loops and organic bass are sublimely somnambulant. There are rhythms and melodies in the ambience (‘Strict Parallels’ has a Berlin School urgency, and ‘La Peste’ is even redolent of Tomita) but the overall feel is of blissful afternoon slumber.

Album available here:

Marine Life
(Glass Reservoir)

The salty waters of Brighton ebb around the eclectic ambient missives of Marine Life. The current home of Glass Reservoir, and the childhood haunt of granular sampling convert Lally, the town provides the inspiration for a musical boat trip where the gentle paddle of ‘Deceptively Calm’ surrenders to the pulsing, whitewater ride of ‘High Speed Crossing’. And the murky waters of the title track are a beatific sub-aquatic haven, just crying out for a florid Jacques Cousteau narration.  

Album available here:

Rupert Lally interview here:

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


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