Deep analogue atmospherics for long winter nights
Who lives in that crumbling old house down the lane where no one ever leaves or enters, but whose lights you see in winter if you walk down that way? Maybe it’s the unhinged posh sounding lady whose voice is sampled on ‘Once More With The Whirligig’ – “Never no more will we dance will we sing / In a whirligig ring to the old woman’s tune on a bucket with a spoon / In the moonlight on Mondays”. It’s a startling, unsettling track that evokes occasionally felt uneasiness triggered by particular places or sounds, giving voice to some murky corner of our subconscious.
Summoning these sentiments is the business of psychogeographic explorer Keith Seatman. And on this, his fourth long-player, he really hits the ghostly, half-dreamt target. This new work was inspired by walks and field recording missions around the beaches and woods near the Devon recording studio of alt-folk singer Douglas E Powell (whose album ‘Good Men Get Lost At Sea’ is highly recommended). Powell provides vocals on a brace of blindingly good tracks; the plaintive ‘My Morning Ritual’ and the hauntingly hypnotic ‘Broken Folk’.
‘A Rest Before The Walk’ is a spellbinding, captivating piece of emotionally nuanced electronic experimentation, which sits somewhere close to the burgeoning section marked hauntology. Fans of electro-recontextualisers like Moon Wiring Club, Pye Corner Audio and The Advisory Circle will be glad to make its acquaintance, with its blend of evocative Radiophonic-like keyboard compositions and glacial electronic folk. The album has been freshly re-pressed after its initial run sold out within a week following airplay on BBC 6 Music and Radio 3’s underrated ‘Late Junction’. Which is no surprise given the immersive, diverting range of audiological textures on show.
From the eerie John Carpenter-inspired filmic sounds of ‘Strange Tales & Lost Paper Trails’ to the stompingly propulsive sci-fi house of ‘Broken Folk’, there’s an incredible expanse of patterned depth in what Seatman has cooked up here. Using a vast array of instruments and equipment including an unlikely stylophone and some beautifully retro-sounding synths like the Korg Monotron Duo and Roland’s famous SH-101, as well as a Boss DR-220 drum machine, he’s captured a classically 80s analogue feel with some aplomb. Belbury Poly’s Jim Jupp is credited with additional production touches, which makes sense given the Ghost Box man’s predilection for keyboards at the more obscure end of the used market.
There are plenty of standouts among the 14 tracks, but none more head-turning than the snappily titled ‘Along The Corridor 1st On The Left Room 2882’, which bottles the thrill and fear of the chase with adrenalised menace. We hear fast-paced footsteps in the dark, an old telephone endlessly ringing in some distant room and an increasing sense that our pursuer is closing in. Brilliant.