Ghost Box drone slinger/synth wizard Jon Brooks has been an integral part of the label’s evolution, popping ’round in banner releases from The Advisory Circle, Pattern Forms, Hintermass and The Belbury Circle. He’s also been running a string of great releases out of his own Cafe Kaput, the latest of which takes shape as Agri Montana. The record is constrained to two instruments, the Buchla Music Easel and ARP Odyssey and as is often the case with self-imposed restrictions, the handicap becomes a decisive advantage. The resulting album, inspired by Alpine landscapes dives into the heart of ’70s synth work with an icy resolve that keeps emotions at an arm’s length, wandering around human ties with the kind of detachment reserved for Sofia Coppola films that should be packaged and released solely on filmstrip and cassette.
The record does have an isolating feel to it, that perhaps brings to mind the mountains if your idea of a trip to the mountains involves a lot of staring out the window contemplating the fragile line between life and death. The synthetic buzz and opposing emptiness give me flashbacks to the artworks of Alex Da Corte’s Free Roses, feeling just as much a soundtrack to his glowing, sterile surrealism as it could be to the Alpine hills. By the end of Agri Montana the listener is sanded down and numb, giving everything around them a darkened hue and plastic finish.
While that might sound like an undesirable outcome, it’s not such a sour deal to put a layer of plexiglass between oneself and the greater world’s sinkhole slide of late. Brooks creates a set of sonic hackles that protect and repel an onslaught of overwhelming emotions too abundant to parse and too weighty to bear alone. That distance is abundantly welcome, at least around here. If you do need a shock back to life, then Brooks’ other release from this year, the gorgeously pastoral Autres Directions should pump some color back into your cheeks. The two act as a nice dichotomy on hope and hopelessness for the modern age.
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