Ways of Seeing
The Advisory Circle
Ghost Box’s prolific production, mastering and recording mainstay Jon Brooks, who records under numerous guises, returns here under his principle moniker, to once again honour the library music pioneers ofthe 70s and 80s.
Brooks’ paradoxically familiar-yet-neutral score-like instrumentals always manage to balance a just-out-of-reach nostalgia with flourishes of contemporary, tech-savvy guile. And typical of his cerebral, self effacing work, ‘Ways Of Seeing’ forms incrementally.
Beginning in slavish homage to the library genre (see ‘Skyways’), its melodic strength and complexity builds subtly right up to the halfway mark, where the album really hits its beguiling stride.
‘Airborne Seeds’ brings to the fore the easy, gold-hued nostalgia and bittersweet idealism that continues to mark Brooks’ distinctiveness, though the album’s best moments come courtesy of Friendly Fires’ Ed Macfarlane and Edd Gibson. The former’s contribution to ’No Way Back’ is breathtaking, adding a yacht-luxe cool to an album that
could’ve otherwise lacked breadth.
The theme of Ways of Seeing is that of the relationship between photography and reality. A theme which runs parallel to the music of the Ghost Box universe and its increasing fascination with 80s library music and its antiseptic and geometric contours. Jon Brooks continues with these ideas, already explored by his collective project The Pattern Forms (the other members of whom, Ed Macfarlane and Edd Gibson, make appearances here). He refines them further and defuses the notion of a music that might otherwise be seen as monolithic, soulless, patinated and unmoving. The pastoral melodies of this British musician and his ability to work on the tonal nuances infuse his synthetic circuits with a vital breath and emotion that, like Blade Runner, give rise to melancholic contemplation and reflections on mortality.
Il tema di Ways Of Seeing è quello dell’inganne vole rapport tra fotografia e realtà, che scorre parallelo a una musica, quella dell’universo Ghost Box, sempre più affascinata dalla library music degli anni 80 e dai suoi contorni asettici e geometrici. Jon Brooks porta avanti le suggestioni già assimilate nel progetto collettivo Pattern Forms (qui intervengono, ciascuno in un brano, Ed Macfarlane e Edd Gibson); asciugandole ulteriormente e disinnescando la fama ambigua di una musica apparentemente monolitica, senz’anima, patinata e inscalfibile. Le pastorali melodie del musicista britannico e la sua capacità di lavorare sulle sfumature timbriche infondono ai circuiti sintetici un soffio vitale e un’emotività che, come insegna Blade Runner, contempla malinconie e riflessioni sulla mortalità.
Alessandro Besselva Averame,
At its heart, the new Advisory Circle record is Jon Brooks doing what he does best, creating synth worlds that explode into vivid view over the course of an album. He’s long been using the moniker to explore hypnogogic wonderlands and Library music in equal measure but his latest leans much heavier on the latter this time, leaving the psychedelic touches that marked ‘From Out Here’ behind. Jumping off from the works explored by his recent team up with Jim Jupp as Belbury Circle he’s jettisoning the Omni via Radiophonic works of his previous LP and the pastoral filmstrip aesthetic of early classics like As The Crow Flies and embracing the synth led excess of the ‘Me Decade’ in full swing.
Where Belbury Circle found its way to the darker side of synth, plumbing the depths of horror soundtracks and Goblin inspired italo-freak classics, ‘Ways of Seeing’ embraces the late ‘70s and ‘80s television serial and the self-serious caper film via library tracks stuffed with tension, gloss and the kind of plastic wrapped synth lines that immediately date some of the most indelible film memories of an ‘80s childhood. There’s no moment in movies like Real Genius or Kung Fury that is not hinged on the faux futurism of digital joy that bubbles beneath the action. Likewise shows like Miami Vice found their edge in this same sonic cocoon, subtly giving viewers the feeling that recycled themes held a more modern meaning with a few extra silky synths plodding the plot along.
That seems to be the core theme of ‘Ways of Seeing’, perception changed through aural accompaniment, and its reflected in the spot-on packaging (as usual) of Julian House which mirrors ‘80s film and camera magazines and brochures of the era. Brooks has proven time and again that he’s a scholar of the music that moves behind what we watch and while his references here are no doubt well beyond my soundtrack prowess his zeal has produced an album that transports the listener to an immediate time and place, snapping the senses awake as easily as a smell tied to childhood. Even if you didn’t notice it consciously, these were the sounds that permeated a decade or more of programming. Their sounds are already in your DNA, Brooks just brings it bubbling to the surface like a long hidden scar.
Raven Sings the Blues
‘Ways Of Seeing’ by The Advisory Circle is the latest mystical masterpiece to come out on UK institution Ghost Box. Needless to say, if you haven’t heard of either artist or label yet then there is no space for you in my life (apart from you Mum. You’re OK!). Inspired by late 70s and early 80s library music, Jon Brooks has created an album which is hazy, enchanting, and gloriously sedate. Recalling the dub inspired ambiance of The Orb one minute, the wistful hauntology of Dream Catalogue the next, the record is a blissful listening experience which conjures a world of images in the mind. After the short intro of ‘Ektachrom Logotone’, the soft synthscapes of ‘Be Seeing You!’ enchant with a lush mid-paced groove. Also worthy of your affection is the mournful piano ballad ‘Time Shapes The Lens’, the wide eyed optimism of Airborne Seeds, and the splendidly laid back ‘High Climber’. Everything here is excellent though, making ‘Ways Of Seeing’ the perfect album for idle daydreamers and those not afraid to reach for the stars.
A library music composer, mastering engineer and member of Belbury Poly (Circle – GB), Jon Brooks is one of the central figures of Ghost Box – the boutique imprint that’s become synonymous with the hauntology movement. Whereas his peers sometimes end mired in the conceptual, Ways Of Seeing feels casual and unhurried, its polished synth instrumentals evoking a breezy modernism only slightly faded by age. Its simplicity largely works to its benefit, although “No Way Back” – a graceful update of ‘8os New Romantic pop, featuring vocals from Friendly Fires frontman Ed Macfarlane – is undoubtedly a highlight.