The bands signed to Ghost Box records are developing the most fully-formed musical mythology in British music since The Fields of the Nephilim (or possibly the JAMMs). With “From An Ancient Star”, Ghost Box band Belbury Poly have continued to expand and integrate their range of retrofuturistic references, blending them into an intensified musical dreamtime of the historical and technological uncanny of the 1970s.
This is the time (and space) of ouija boards and “Tomorrows World”, synthesizers and maypole dances, standing stones and polytechnics, Eric Von Daniken and Denis Wheatley. This is the synthesis of techno-social utopia and haunted rural folk culture. Add the words “dialectic” and “simulacra” to taste. And as the album’s cover strongly suggests, this is the time of the final Quatermass adventure and of “The Children Of The Stones”.
It’s an accessible and rewarding listen. The analogue synth sounds echoing Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, The BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The musical styles and found archive reodings echoing folk culture, television and film music, and public service announcements. The reslt is much more than the sum of its parts, and very contemporary. This is not nostalgia, it uses the musical past as a prism for the cultural present.
A nagging voice at the back of my mind asks “what next?” Is there only so far this formula can be refined? But then the reggae rhythm starts. And it works, and works well. If you’ve bought any other Ghost Box releases, this is one that you have to ad to your collection. And if you haven’t bought any other albums from Ghost Box this is definitely the one to start with.