Hintermass ‘The Apple Tree’ (Ghost Box)

Hauntology mainstay delivers acousto-electronic belter

Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks, the Ghost Box stable’s uber-producer and fabled ex-King of Woolworths, has teamed-up with Tim Felton of Broadcast and Seeland fame to form vintage synth-led duo Hintermass and, with this debut long-player, bottled a bit of the old alchemical magick. Emotionally engaging and nostalgically transportive, the golden-hued scenes and sketches of ‘The Apple Tree’ should set you up nicely for the returning spring.

Someone has needed to do an album like this for a long time. Electronic yet also multi-instrumentally organic (imagine a hook-up between Popol Vuh or Ash Ra Tempel and acid-folk dons The Incredible String Band), but washed with a poised, contemporary sheen of interpretive, skillfully referenced analogue futurism. “It’s the album we wanted to make,” Brooks told Electronic Sound soon after its completion. “It isn’t stuck in a particular time or place, but it’s all based purely on feeling and a sense of experimentation.”

It’s actually been a few years in the making, such is the pair’s respective workloads. Brooks, for example, records as Advisory Circle for Ghost Box and also under his own name through both his Café Kaput label and also the excellent Clay Pipe imprint. And he’s the go-to production and mastering guy for much of the GB roster and a few associated acts, including Moon Wiring Club and Pye Corner Audio included. Felton meanwhile continues to record as Seeland along with Neil McAuley and ex-Plone man Billy Bainbridge.

“Initially we thought we might work on it piecemeal, without time pressures or constraints,” explains Brooks. “Tim talked about the idea of ‘building a glider in the loft’.”

That delightful comparison feels apt as ‘Luftglider’ drifts with slow-motion effortlessness out of an opaque haze. Its slight but serene, Moog-founded presence is so coolly air-like it’s barely there at times; one of the many instrumental highlights that are interspersed between Felton’s warm, welcoming, unforced vocal-led tracks. Even tablas and the resonating exotic hum of a sitar form the basis of ‘The Rituals Of Reversal’, unexpectedly so and without the slightest whiff of paneer.

“Our influences were cast far and wide,” Brooks explains. “Listeners will probably hear Can, Harmonia, Neu! and the like, but we’ve also been enchanted by the Congolese Missa Luba and, with the drones that underpin some of the tracks, I brought in touches from Morton Subotnik and Eliane Radigue too.”

Multi-faceted and eclectic, this is one hell of a full-textured, elevating experience. With spiritual edges but crucially, and as one should probably expect of old Ghost Box hands, there’s always a well-placed edge of nuanced, melancholic ambiguity to keep any err towards the earnest in check. The evocative pastoral reverie of the title track and album highlight, typifies this; it’s a bittersweet paean to the half-remembered high summer tryst under the fruit trees that you never had. File under “minor classic”.

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