As the Crow Flies was and is one my favourite albums of the last five years. Hence, it was without hesitation that From Out Here was pre-ordered from the ever reliable Ghost Box. I did not regret that decision.
With this release, The Advisory Circle has seemingly left the lanes of the crepuscular autumn countryside and moved into the laboratory. Yet the hazy low sun still streams in through the windows, casting shadows from the equipment stacked on the benches. At times the experiments in sound modules, low frequency oscillators and controlled voltages suggest something more cosmic, more inter-planetary. It’s as if the white coated ones are readying some space mission, but aren’t quite sure of the destination or what shape the means to get there will take. However, it is apparent that this undertaking will be a lonely endeavour, caught between solipsism and holism, as earth disappears from view, and haunted by an ever-receding sense of home and vague memories of leaves crunched underfoot and the sting of frost.
The melodies that co-ordinate this album are some of the most stunning you will hear in any form of electronic music (there are too many to mention here, but ‘Vibrations and Waves’ and ‘Winter Hours’ standout).
Jon Brooks is simply a (or possibly the) master of the analogue made achingly, almost painfully, beautiful. Buy it here.
If my memory serves me right, just before School’s TV in the seventies and early eighties there was a countdown which consisted of a circle made up of dots that would gradually disappear as the time came closer for the programme to start. Given it was such a treat to be watching telly at school this used to fill me with excitement and such anticipation that it seemed that those little dots would never, ever disappear. The Advisory Circle’s As The Crow Flies manages to rekindle that sense of exhilaration and expectation (and more besides).
The Ghost Box records brand aesthetic is a tightly and seamlessly organised one built around library recordings, vintage synths and retro-futurism. This release from Advisory Circle (aka Jon Brooks – see also his amazing ‘Music For Thomas Carnacki’ here) further underscores the themes that Ghost Box have pretty much made their own.
In addition to the aforementioned School’s programmes, As The Crow Flies evokes Ladybird books, Tomorrow’s World, scuffed knees, grey flannelling, over-strong orange squash and sticky chops. Yet The Advisory Circle don’t just peddle a predictable nostalgia. Instead they manage to reawaken a sense of hope long since repressed. It’s an album that fills you with yearning for a past now changed (see Ronald Hutton’s sleeve notes), but a hopeful future still possible.
This past as newly evoked is mostly a rural and bucolic one. Yet just under the surface there is a sinister element to this pastoral vision that tells of such things as the dangers of swimming in reservoirs and beds of stinging nettles or, darker still, The Wicker Man’s horrific folk. Elsewhere, the melancholic atmosphere – especially on last track, ‘The Lonely Signalman’ – is so palpable it actually hurts.
As The Crow Flies is an achingly beautiful album. I can’t recommend it enough. Purchase.
And here’s a series of clips: