Jim Jupp ‘Farmer’s Angle’

Jim Jupp mulls over ‘Farmer’s Angle’, his debut Belbury Poly EP from 2004 – the release which launched the iconic Ghost Box label and also kickstarted 21st century hauntology

“A lot of what I’ve done as Belbury Poly has been inspired by my memories of TV library music and theme tunes. They’re probably false memories, but I really wanted to recreate that atmosphere of 1970s afternoons off school absorbed in programmes ‘For Schools And Colleges’. It was an era when we just watched whatever was on TV, because there were only three channels! That opened the door to all kinds of weird stuff you wouldn’t normally choose to see. Educational shows, programmes about engineering and science, folk tales and nature documentaries.

“And ‘Farmer’s Angle’ definitely came from growing up in the HTV region, which covered Wales and the West Country. There was a lot of agricultural programming, but what really stuck in my mind was the theme from ‘One Man And His Dog’! I honestly think that’s the template for Belbury Poly – that gentle, pastoral, electronic sound.

“In the 1990s, a couple of things triggered those memories. There were retro-futurist bands like Broadcast and Plone – they excited me. I’d fallen out of love with indie bands and got a bit bored with dance music, but those groups seemed to connect with that first excitement of playing around in a synth band at school. But even then, all that weird old telly was something I’d never really thought about as having creative potential. Not until Boards Of Canada appeared in the late 1990s. And then it was, ‘Oh god! All this stuff! This world!’. Not long after, there was [spoof science show] ‘Look Around You’ on TV as well, so there was definitely something in the air. The time felt right.

“I’d been in bands before and got a bit tired of it. But I’d built my own home studio, and when I started recording what became ‘Farmer’s Angle’, there was a moment when I suddenly thought, ‘Nobody will like this, but it’s the best music I’ve ever made and I’m enjoying doing it’. And it all came flowing out, it was a real epiphany. I was living in Mile End in London, and I had a wobbly set-up – a spare room with a barely working old computer, a cheap Akai desktop sampler and the synth I’d had since I was a kid. But somehow the lo-fi equipment gave those recordings a sound I still really like.

“The ‘Farmer’s Angle’ track itself came from discussions with Julian [House, Ghost Box co-founder]. It felt like what we were doing was somehow connected to what’s now called ‘folk horror’ – those weird 1970s TV serials, Hammer Horror movies, even the songs on shows like ‘Play School’. That whole world of folk music, horror, science and synthesisers all seemed to make sense and lent itself to the imaginary TV themes on the EP. ‘Wildspot’, for example, is my memory of how a wildlife programme might have sounded. ‘The Eleventh House’ is more Dennis Wheatley territory, and the vocal samples are from ‘To The Devil A Daughter’. They’re a bit buried because I recorded them with a microphone in front of the TV!

“And ‘Cool Air’… the title came from a short story by HP Lovecraft, which is about a physician who lives beyond the point of death by keeping his New York apartment at sub-zero temperatures. He eventually decomposes in a bath full of ice! It’s a very odd tale, written in a very decadent, flowery way and was inspired by Arthur Machen’s story, ‘The Novel Of The White Powder’. While I’ve never been sure what the music itself would actually soundtrack, there’s something very eerie about its atmosphere.

“As I was working on ‘Farmer’s Angle’, Julian was crystallising the ideas that became The Focus Group.

We’d have a regular weekly meeting at my house amid all the old synths and instruments. Although we were meant to be recording music together, we never did! Those meetings became world-building sessions, and that was when the ideas behind Ghost Box began to really take shape. The visual identity, and the concept of the label being based in this fictional place – Belbury.

“We never wanted to provide a map of Belbury – it’s not a fantasy novel, with the vicarage there and the hospital there. But we’d put an image on a back sleeve, or a reference in a song title, or a little footnote in the sleeve notes. We built the Ghost Box world that way, through hints.

“Going back to our teens, Julian and I were both into HP Lovecraft, and we’d always been interested in the way he did that. At the time, making a record look like a book felt really unusual! I’m not saying Julian was the first person to do it, but within a few years it had become a cliche to reimagine any record sleeve you’d ever seen as a Penguin Books design. We just wanted to feel like our releases could have been a teaching aid, from an era when schools were supplied with educational records to help with lessons.

“We thought if we could sell 20 copies of our CDs, that would be brilliant. I used to burn them at home on demand. I worked in an architect’s office in central London at the time, and I’d always have a big duffel bag full of padded envelopes which I’d lug down to the Post Office in my lunch hour, with everyone grumbling in the queue behind me.

“I still feel an exciting connection to those early recordings, and to the memories I was trying to resurrect from my own past. We’re now intending to re-release everything. We’re starting with ‘Farmer’s Angle’, and they’ll continue – maybe one every two or three months. Our aim has never been to release, sell and delete. We’ve been accused of it, but we’re not in the business of making our records so obscure that people can’t get them – we’re just a small label with limited manufacturing means. Ideally, I’d love them all to be available all the time.”

The reissued ‘Farmer’s Angle’ EP is out on Ghost Box

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