Hey Let Loose Your Love
The Focus Group

 

You hurriedly park your Morris Minor Traveller outside your pebbledash bungalow and tear into the lounge bedecked in brown acrylic, feverishly removing the sleeve from the new Focus Group LP, carefully lowering the 12 inches of static crackling plastic onto your formica-clad entertainment centre. Its creator, celebrated sleeve designer Julian House (Stereolab, Broadcast, Primal Scream) is an exacting collector of the tainted British parochial. Obsessed by the twilight world of Diana Dors, Donald Cammell, Joe Meek and Delia Derbyshire, he crafts both exquisite visual collages in thrall to European Modernism (the moiré effects from the covers of penguin books, Lettrism and Polish movie Posters) and divinely wrought soundscapes that hark back to an eternal past.
The 19 instrumentals on Hey Let Loose Your Love Love are so heavily woven that the fabric that holds them together threatens to disintegrate. Detail isn’t oppressive in the least, merely destabilisingly delicate. Songs are like lopsided Victorian automata, instruments mismatch in incongruent tempos (one of House’s stock sources are library records in which instrumental parts for songs are separated individually, tracks he proceeds to reconstruct elliptically) and sequences frequently crumble into soft-edged bliss before one’s ears. It is almost as if the very action of their exposure is the agent of their collapse. Stranger still, though plainly audible, occasionally the music seems to disappear from earshot, becoming proverbially invisible, sinking into the netherworld of the unconscious. Recurrent themes serve as mnemonics luring the listener’s attention to the surface.
Pieced together from the mustiest samples- children’s exercise records, vintage BBC drama, clunky Brit jazz and (most pertinently) library records, this is an archaeology of emotion, a philosophically motivated exploration of the power of not just one’s childhood memories, but of the collective unconscious. In the work of The Focus Group and House’s partners Belbury Poly ant Eric Zann at ghostbox.co.uk (where the collective’s entire output is available), memory is a theoretical portal to the phantasmal kingdom, not a trivial exercise in retro stylistics.

Matthew Ingram
The Wire

 

Julian Houses’s Focus Group should appeal to anyone who grew up in Britain in the ’70s: its a condensed memory of that decade’s daytime and after hours television. These 19 soundbites ape the incidental music for The Tomorrow People, The Clangers and Follyfoot, jazz drums, bass flutes, continuity men and grubby science-lab electronica. Like Boards of Canada minus beats, the feeling of smothered innocence evokes powerful intimations of the uncanny.

Rob Young
UNCUT

 

Ghostbox is a label co-founded by Julian House, probably best known for his packaging design for Primal Scream, Razorlight, and most relevantly, Stereolab and Broadcast. Most relevant because the least obviously structured, most texturally concerned moments of those groops is a good place to start thinking about the sounds that emerge from the Ghostbox. Start there and take three good paces outward.

Ghostbox artists deal in a very British style of sound manipulation; perhaps it could be called music-hall concrète. But this is not the Britishness of the lad-mag lie-dream of Michael Caine driving an open top sports car, filled with women that know when to keep their mouths shut, down Carnaby Street after kicking the winning goal in the 1966 World Cup (perhaps we can change one letter and call that brutishness.) This is an open ended form that can easily accommodate a Pole, Roman Polanski, travelling with a French actress, Françoise Dorléac, to Holy Island in the far north of England to film Cul-de-Sac in 1966.

Sketches and Spells by The Focus Group reveals them as non-idiomatic cratediggers searching for the bits other than the beats, for the reflective moments that the headz miss. This is music by and for shoppers who come home with dirt ingrained deep into their fingerprints from flipping through stacks of old books and records at jumble sales and charity shops. It is as refreshing as the cup of hot tea served by the church bric-a-brac stall where you’ve failed to find anything interesting among the Sven Hassel novels and stained flannel shirts.

Sketches and Spells is as warm and strange as a clockwork sunrise accompanied by a dawn chorus of steam driven birds. Super-dry jazz hi-hat work mixes with offhand synth-bass and slivered chirrups of sound sliced thin enough to be just impossible to place. There’s a lot of percussion but it’s the click-clack sticks, spacious triangles and tentative, carefully considered woodblocks of primary school rather than the dense free-for-all of the hippie jam (you can almost smell the wood-shavings covering childish vomit.)

It is tempting to give these tracks descriptions redolent of those found on the back of the library music albums that obviously serve as an inspiration. So tempting that I will:

Corn Holes
—disconnected staccato acoustic guitar & droll electronics

Colouring Toys
—pinball percussion ballet; eerie & silly male and female harmonies

Verberation Int.
—cool machine rock; sensuous tape-grot

What Are You Seeing?
—jazz drums disguise sinister nebulous quasi-melody; moderne

Starry Wisdom
—dreamy fanfares with anxiety xylophone

Ghostbox music is a hairs breadth from novelty music (and that’s meant as a big compliment), almost a Mogadon and Brown Ale UK equivalent to Raymond Scott or Bruce Haack, almost a post 20th century Slippery Rock Seventies or Mouldy Old Dough.A hairs breadth away because of the realisation of the possibilities of noise not loud and abrasive noise as automatically comes to mind when confronted with the word, but disquieting noise, barely there noise, comforting noise, sweet noise.

The name adopted by Eric Zann is one of the few non-Anglo references in the Ghostbox catalogue. It’s taken from New Englander H. P. Lovecraft’s gnarled 1922 weird tale The Music of Erich Zann, in which Zann plays his viola so madly and intently, so beyond earthly means that he becomes lost in the unutterable void.Ouroborindra is correspondingly darker and more miasmic than Sketches and Spells. More electronic and more like ‘classic’ music concrete with longer, deeper, darker swathes of matte sound rather than the constantly changing, glinting chops and loops of The Focus Group.

Patrick McNally
Stylus

 

The Focus Group
GBX004

You hurriedly park your Morris Minor Traveller outside your pebbledash bungalow and tear into the lounge bedecked in brown acrylic, feverishly removing the sleeve from the new Focus Group LP, carefully lowering the 12 inches of static crackling plastic onto your formica-clad entertainment centre. Its creator, celebrated sleeve designer Julian House (Stereolab, Broadcast, Primal Scream) is an exacting collector of the tainted British parochial. Obsessed by the twilight world of Diana Dors, Donald Cammell, Joe Meek and Delia Derbyshire, he crafts both exquisite visual collages in thrall to European Modernism (the moiré effects from the covers of penguin books, Lettrism and Polish movie Posters) and divinely wrought soundscapes that hark back to an eternal past.
The 19 instrumentals on Hey Let Loose Your Love Love are so heavily woven that the fabric that holds them together threatens to disintegrate. Detail isn’t oppressive in the least, merely destabilisingly delicate. Songs are like lopsided Victorian automata, instruments mismatch in incongruent tempos (one of House’s stock sources are library records in which instrumental parts for songs are separated individually, tracks he proceeds to reconstruct elliptically) and sequences frequently crumble into soft-edged bliss before one’s ears. It is almost as if the very action of their exposure is the agent of their collapse. Stranger still, though plainly audible, occasionally the music seems to disappear from earshot, becoming proverbially invisible, sinking into the netherworld of the unconscious. Recurrent themes serve as mnemonics luring the listener’s attention to the surface.
Pieced together from the mustiest samples- children’s exercise records, vintage BBC drama, clunky Brit jazz and (most pertinently) library records, this is an archaeology of emotion, a philosophically motivated exploration of the power of not just one’s childhood memories, but of the collective unconscious. In the work of The Focus Group and House’s partners Belbury Poly ant Eric Zann at ghostbox.co.uk (where the collective’s entire output is available), memory is a theoretical portal to the phantasmal kingdom, not a trivial exercise in retro stylistics.

Matthew Ingram
The Wire

 

Julian Houses’s Focus Group should appeal to anyone who grew up in Britain in the ’70s: its a condensed memory of that decade’s daytime and after hours television. These 19 soundbites ape the incidental music for The Tomorrow People, The Clangers and Follyfoot, jazz drums, bass flutes, continuity men and grubby science-lab electronica. Like Boards of Canada minus beats, the feeling of smothered innocence evokes powerful intimations of the uncanny.

Rob Young
UNCUT

 

Ghostbox is a label co-founded by Julian House, probably best known for his packaging design for Primal Scream, Razorlight, and most relevantly, Stereolab and Broadcast. Most relevant because the least obviously structured, most texturally concerned moments of those groops is a good place to start thinking about the sounds that emerge from the Ghostbox. Start there and take three good paces outward.

Ghostbox artists deal in a very British style of sound manipulation; perhaps it could be called music-hall concrète. But this is not the Britishness of the lad-mag lie-dream of Michael Caine driving an open top sports car, filled with women that know when to keep their mouths shut, down Carnaby Street after kicking the winning goal in the 1966 World Cup (perhaps we can change one letter and call that brutishness.) This is an open ended form that can easily accommodate a Pole, Roman Polanski, travelling with a French actress, Françoise Dorléac, to Holy Island in the far north of England to film Cul-de-Sac in 1966.

Sketches and Spells by The Focus Group reveals them as non-idiomatic cratediggers searching for the bits other than the beats, for the reflective moments that the headz miss. This is music by and for shoppers who come home with dirt ingrained deep into their fingerprints from flipping through stacks of old books and records at jumble sales and charity shops. It is as refreshing as the cup of hot tea served by the church bric-a-brac stall where you’ve failed to find anything interesting among the Sven Hassel novels and stained flannel shirts.

Sketches and Spells is as warm and strange as a clockwork sunrise accompanied by a dawn chorus of steam driven birds. Super-dry jazz hi-hat work mixes with offhand synth-bass and slivered chirrups of sound sliced thin enough to be just impossible to place. There’s a lot of percussion but it’s the click-clack sticks, spacious triangles and tentative, carefully considered woodblocks of primary school rather than the dense free-for-all of the hippie jam (you can almost smell the wood-shavings covering childish vomit.)

It is tempting to give these tracks descriptions redolent of those found on the back of the library music albums that obviously serve as an inspiration. So tempting that I will:

Corn Holes
—disconnected staccato acoustic guitar & droll electronics

Colouring Toys
—pinball percussion ballet; eerie & silly male and female harmonies

Verberation Int.
—cool machine rock; sensuous tape-grot

What Are You Seeing?
—jazz drums disguise sinister nebulous quasi-melody; moderne

Starry Wisdom
—dreamy fanfares with anxiety xylophone

Ghostbox music is a hairs breadth from novelty music (and that’s meant as a big compliment), almost a Mogadon and Brown Ale UK equivalent to Raymond Scott or Bruce Haack, almost a post 20th century Slippery Rock Seventies or Mouldy Old Dough.A hairs breadth away because of the realisation of the possibilities of noise not loud and abrasive noise as automatically comes to mind when confronted with the word, but disquieting noise, barely there noise, comforting noise, sweet noise.

The name adopted by Eric Zann is one of the few non-Anglo references in the Ghostbox catalogue. It’s taken from New Englander H. P. Lovecraft’s gnarled 1922 weird tale The Music of Erich Zann, in which Zann plays his viola so madly and intently, so beyond earthly means that he becomes lost in the unutterable void.Ouroborindra is correspondingly darker and more miasmic than Sketches and Spells. More electronic and more like ‘classic’ music concrete with longer, deeper, darker swathes of matte sound rather than the constantly changing, glinting chops and loops of The Focus Group.

Patrick McNally
Stylus

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