Belbury Poly is audio nostalgia, a synthetic representation of a kind of feeling that you get when falsely remembering a bygone era (possibly English television the 1960’s) with a certain longing or warmth. You were probably never there, or if you were it was never like this, but that’s not what’s important. Belbury Poly creates another world, an alternate past, and it is simultaneously magical and reassuring.
It’s the work of Ghost Box founder Jim Jupp, who has previously enlisted others to augment his vision, yet this time he is all on his own. More recently he contributed to a pretty mystical and magikal spoken word album with Justin Hopper and Sharron Kraus Chanctonbury Rings (you can read our review here). His new work is similarly magical, influence by fairy folklore.
“…the wild songs of fairyland sung to unearthly tones, are the only medicine for the heartache and the headache of humanity,” reads a quote in the inner panel of this disc. It comes from Arthur Machen in 1911, and it feels like an apt description of what is happening here.
As always Jupp is mining British educational films and library sounds, yet they always seemed so cold (and slightly horrific). He rescues them, imbuing the arpeggiated patterns and brisk no nonsense sequences with not only a mournful soul, but also a peculiar kind of pathos. There’s real emotion here. With an acoustic guitar and various synthesizers, Jupp creates a woozy electronic psychedelia, a jaunty melancholic wobble. At times it can sound reminiscent of recent Ghost Box signing Plone in the woozy synthetic sense of wonder inherent in his sounds, whilst there’s even a Morricone moment on the disturbed sweetness of Magpie Lane. There is range here too, light and dark, perhaps best evidenced by the menacing highly theatrical fairytale Copse that conjures up an evil medieval army on the march, which is seamlessly followed up by They Left on a Morning Like This that wouldn’t be out of place on an Air album.
Belbury Poly has always been obsessed with a peculiar kind of psychedelic English mysticism, so the concept of fairies doesn’t seem entirely out of character, particularly when you realise the kind of mischievousness and darkness in Welsh folklore. Track titles include ffariesees, sticks and stones, Look Again, and Corner of the Eye – which is where we all know we see fairies and other mystical delights from. After all if you look at them straight on they disappear.
“My eyes are doors,” offers a strangely weighted voice at the beginning of ffarisees, “the moon walks through them. ” The Gone Away is a portal too, it’s a place of wonder and imagination, where the magical can be real, and the laws of our universe no longer apply. To some extent most Ghost Box albums feel like their own special world, yet The Gone Away takes it one step further. It’s medicine, Jupp’s “wild songs of fairyland sung to unearthly tones, ” feel like a tonic for these crazy times.