New Ways Out
The Belbury Poly
‘The Poly’ take a lighter path, but still lead us to escape lane magick
Since 2012’s ‘Belbury Tales’, Ghost Box co-boss Jim Jupp has been busy. Handling production work, side projects and one-off singles including the superb collaboration with John Foxx, you’d wonder where he finds time. But find some he has, and to boot he’s changed the beat here, channelling a new ebullience into his recording alias.
So ‘Playground Gateway’ nods deliciously to Chicory Tip’s ‘Son of My Father’, giddily melding distorted schoolyard rhyme to hormone-high keyboards, transporting you to those especially daft places only BP can – Tizer-fuelled 70s youth club discos with side-rooms for Ouija boards, say.
‘The New Harmony’ is a beauty too, fusing NEU!’s whirling insistence with incidental jaunt, and ‘The Green Scene’ brilliantly imbues a folk sample with the quality of a reggae echo chamber piece, with characteristic off-kilter verve. ‘Here Now Here He Comes’ is another glam-stomper, tossing Tull flutes around with joyous Radiophonic game-show abandon, for a right laff.
On his fifth Belbury Poly LP, Ghost Box co-founder Jim Jupp has expanded his usual palette of occult-infused library music to embrace a more poptastic range of half-remembered ’70s childhood sounds. Is that Kraftwerk tackling one of ABBA’s more melancholy compositions on ‘These Ringing Hills’? Could ‘The New Harmony’ be an excerpt from Chicory Tip’s great lost ambient album (surely a Moroder-Eno co-production)? ‘Hey Now Here He Comes’ meanwhile summons visions of the SMASH robots doing the bump to Herbie Mann’s overlooked glam-rock phase on a particularly off-the-wall episode of Tiswas. Happily, the old touchstones are still present too; ‘Starhazy’ and ‘Old Ways In’ remain wonderfully eerie and unsettling, while David Sharp’s finger-picked guitar on ‘Water Wheel’ (with accompanying Moog squelches) would easily suit a Schools TV drama about kestrels and pylons. But there’s an added bounce and groove that makes New Ways Out Belbury Poly’s most immediate and accessible release to date.
Sunnier fifth from hauntology’s house band.
Jim Jupp and Julian House’s Ghost Box label is now in its 12th year, and its conceptual novelty – broadly, ’70s library music and vintage electronica treated with eerie, uncanny nostalgia – is no longer the new thing. Luckily, there’s content to back up the ideas, and the new LP by Jupp’s Belbury Poly succeeds purely as a listening experience. Lighter than most Ghost Box fare, Jupp and a small gang of session musicians explore space-age glam (“Hey Now Here He Comes”), fingerpicked folk (“Water Wheel”) and a sort of English pastoral take on Michael Rother-style Krautrock. The sepia edges and occult undercurrents are mostly absent, but New Ways Out ploughs a satisfying new furrow.
These Ringing Hills is part John Carpenter and part In the Land of Gray and Pink: the aftertaste is of a slight departure from this universe. Steeped in naivete and Canterburyana, it’s a game between the reassuring and the disturbing that underlies the entire Ghost Box catalogue . Compared to its predecessor New Ways Out, as the title infers, prunes back the branches and plays with more accessible and pop styles. The place we end up in is still otherworldly, and the singalong motorik of The New Harmony, the gaudy glam flute and vocoder of Hey Now Here He Comes and the bucolic library music of Water Wheel disorient even more than before. Belbury is always the same place, a Shangri-La for the retromaniac grandchildren of Doctor Who.
Parte These Ringing Hills ed è subito John Carpenter nella land of grey and pink: il retrogusto di un quasi impercettibile scarto da questo universo intriso però di naiveté canterburyana, con quel gioco tra il rassicurante e l’inquietante che sta alla base del catalogo Ghost Box. Come sembra indicare il riferimento a nuove vie d’uscita nel titolo, rispetto al predecessore questo nuovo disco sfronda i rami e gioca con stilemi sempre più universali e pop. Ma il luogo cui si approda è comunque invariabilmente altro, e il singalong motorik di The New Harmony, il glam pacchiano con flauti e vocoder di Hey Now Here He Comes e la library music bucolica di Water Wheele disorientano come e più di prima: Belbury è sempre al suo posto, una Shangri-La per i nipoti retromaniaci del Doctor Who.
Alessandro Besselva Averame