“Sleep came to me also, but that night dead friends visited me in dreams,” offers American writer Justin Hopper delivering spoken word and poetic introspection over field recordings, folk music and electronics created by English singer and folk musician Sharon Kraus and Ghost Box co-owner and electronic artist Belbury Poly.
Hopper’s words stem from live performances of his 2017 book The Old Weird Albion, which is an account of his experiences at Chanctonbury Ring on the West Sussex Downs. Chanctonbury Ring is a place steeped in myths and folklore, an ancient hill-fort that has been linked to witchcraft, UFO sightings, cult rituals, and paranormal activities. Druids, Saxons, Romans, it’s a place steeped in history. A place for discovery of “new unknowns.”
Hopper sees his dead grandmother levitating (“like many have done at Chanctonbury”) for an instant before disappearing. He describes a peculiar kind of fever dream, as he explores his connection to the magik of the place, and his own sense of believing. Here Belbury Poly offers melodic oscillating keys and Kraus provides wordless vocals filled with wonderment. It’s beautiful, intoxicating, overwhelming.
There’s something quite peculiar about an American accent detailing a distinctly English tale. But he’s not telling secrets, he’s offering his experience, relishing the abundance of myths that surround the Ring. It’s possibly the strangest travelogue you will ever hear, his phantasmagorical fascination of folk tales, but also his own connection to his grandmother, and to belief itself, as he embraces the magik of the location and the effect it has on him.
This is a remarkable journey, both sonically and psychologically. It’s truly immersive listening. It works best in one sitting with headphones. It’s simultaneously like nothing Ghost Box has ever released and entirely consistent with their unique aesthetic. This is a powerful piece of work, not unlike the location itself. This music has it’s own magik; it’s own history, its own myths. Who knows what it will conjure?