Electronic Sound: Reviews (Issue 85)

Reviews originally published in Issue 85 of Electronic Sound magazine, January 2022:

THE BRITISH STEREO COLLECTIVE
Mystery Fields
(Castles In Space)

Possibly sipping from a beaker of warm milk in front of a three-bar electric fire, square-eyed Staffordshire producer Phil Heeks has immersed himself in the flickering Cathode Ray treats of his 1970s childhood. After contributing to Castles In Space’s Scarred For Life collections of imaginary teatime TV themes, Heeks has now gone the whole hog: Mystery Fields isn’t so much an exercise in nostalgia as a full-blown marathon. With the finishing line held by Valerie Singleton and Lesley Judd, somewhere in the snowy wasteland of Jim Callaghan’s Winter of Discontent.

Half the fun of spoof TV themes is imagining the shows in question, but Heeks has gone the extra mile here, too. The album comes complete with painstaking Radio Times listings, so we know that ‘The Ghosts Of Fleet Forests’ stars Stacy Dorning and Judy Bowker as two sisters beckoned by mysterious voices in the local woods, and ‘Space Guardians’ boasts an unlikely threesome of Patrick Troughton, Lewis Collins and Jenny Agutter. And the music is gloriously authentic, a loving homage to those wonderful BBC Radiophonic Workshop albums that would languish in sleepy corners of Woolworths. Through A Glass Darkly? This is more Through A Tumbler Of Tizer With Unrestrained Joy.

Which is the key here. It’s easy to be cynical about Men Of A Certain Age languishing amid the fuzzy half-memories of their receding school years, but when the homage is presented with such melodic brio and loving attention to period detail, you simply have to step back and admire the artistry. Heeks has been a regular sleeve designer for Castles In Space, and his music conjures up similarly graphic imagery. The cod-medievalism of ‘At The Court Of Queen Jezebel’ is the sound of Shakespearian luvvies chewing the shaky castle walls in a floodlit BBC studio, and ‘Ringstone Round’ positively reeks of rum doings at a windswept stone circle.

Elsewhere, there are cod regional idents, snippets of “library” field recordings (‘Dog Barking At Innocent Birds’) and the soundtracks to alarming Public Information Films. That wondrous slice of the 20th century, that giddy hinterland between Abbey Road and the Commodore 64, continues to exert a potent grip on a generation of British artists, and Heeks has distilled its magic with aplomb.

Album available here:
https://thebritishstereocollective-cis.bandcamp.com/album/mystery-fields

TALES FROM THE LIBRARY OF THE OCCULT
Wolf
(Library Of The Occult)


Blow the dust off your tomes… Library Of The Occult has become an actual library. Never a label to shy away from a narrative thrust, their plan for 2022 is to release a short story every month: all written by Folk Horror Revival stalwart John Reppion, but each with a different narrator and composer. Here, the seductively sepulchral tones of actor Matthew Holness – Garth Marenghi himself – accompany the sinister synth squelches of label overlord Tom “Dream Division” McDowell, and it’s a gloriously fruity confection.

It’s January 1980. There’s a desolate village, a creepy old inn, and two new arrivals: single mum Carolyn and her seven-year-old daughter, Gwen. Boarding in the pub while renovating a nearby farmhouse, they find strata of ancient animal remains and hear tales of a crazed Victorian toff… but, as is often the case, it’s everyday human behaviour that is most terrifying. The tale itself is one side of a bespoke 12”, with McDowell’s isolated music cues summoning the spirit of Roger Webb on the other. Dig in, vintage Hammer fans, for a year of splendidly cavalier chills.

Album available here:
https://libraryoftheoccult.bandcamp.com/album/wolf-narrated-by-matthew-holness

FIELD LINES CARTOGRAPHER
Superclusters
(Woodford Halse)

“We reside in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of the Local Group collection of galaxies,” writes Mark Burford in his sleeve notes to this, his eighth album. “This forms part of the larger Virgo Supercluster, which itself resides within the enormous Laniakea Supercluster…”

Anyone now cheerfully singing “Cos there’s bugger all down here on Earth” gets a week’s detention. Burford uses the overwhelming scale of the cosmos to inspire a collection of suitably epic modular compositions, and 11-minute opener ‘Gas Clouds Form’ sets the tone perfectly. The bass rumble of some vintage Moog succumbs to beautiful, amniotic ambience with a sense of blissful, alien disconnect. ‘Through Starlight’ adds anthemic underscores, ‘Inside A Star’ is disquietingly overpowering. You can’t fault the ambition of a man looking to document the infinite expansion of the universe from a studio just off Junction 33 of the M6, and Burford has an impressive ear for the truly cosmic. There may not be intelligent life somewhere out in space, but there’s definitely a little pocket near Lancaster.

Album available here:
https://fieldlinescartographer.bandcamp.com/album/wf-65-superclusters

THE LOVED ONE
Locate And Cement
(Metaphon)


“The least desirable record on the planet”? So claimed contemporary reviews of this 1985 album by Bicester experimentalists The Loved One. It’s the latest beneficiary of frontman Dryden Hawkins’ diligent reissue campaign, and actually a fascinatingly nihilistic time capsule. ‘I’ve been living on a diet of nitro glycerine…” chants Hawkins at the album’s opening, while Angela Widdowson adds possessed wails to the brilliant, head-melting beeps of ‘…Down The Pollen Path’. Punctuated throughout by the industrial clanks of ‘Fatcher’s Britain, it’s ‘Revolution 9’ as post-punk Peel Session.

Album available here:
https://metaphon.co.uk/product/360751

MIKE DICKINSON
The Medusa Frequency
(Bandcamp)


Holed up in some dark corner of Middlesbrough (and there are plenty), Mike Dickinson sought lockdown refuge in surrealist fantasy and sci-fi, producing his first three albums in the space of a year. The Medusa Frequency is inspired by Russell Hoban’s 1987 novel, in which a lovelorn writer is drawn into a world of hallucinatory Greek myth. And Dickinson’s album is suitably trippy, with the howling guitars of ‘Hermes Soundways’ surrendering to the Floyd-esque piano chords of ‘Orpheus Is A Lyre’. Putting electronic squalls through a prog-fuelled blender, he’s produced a thrilling concoction.

Album available here:
https://mikedickinson.bandcamp.com/album/the-medusa-frequency

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Listen With ME
(Anticipating Nowhere)


Finally attaining an ME diagnosis after years of illness, Simon Klee set about raising both awareness and spirits. Listen With ME is the result – a beautifully curated collection of acoustic drones and electronic ambience from the rosta of his own label. The mood shifts and shimmers: ‘T.R.A.F.F.IC.’ is a wafting, roadside lament from Dogs Versus Shadows, while ‘Random Shot’ is arresting, beat-heavy arrythmia from Warland Drain. Klee himself contributes ‘It’s Only Foggy On The Inside’, an affecting hummadruz. A classy summation of an expanding label, with all proceeds to the ME Association.

Album available here:
https://label.anticipatingnowhere.com/album/listen-with-me

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

https://electronicsound.co.uk/

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