On his last album, New Ways Out, Jim Jupp took Belbury in a less fantastical direction. ‘80s vapors crept into the cabin and the album began to imagine cinematic reaches and glossy magazine cover shoots. There was a surreal undercurrent (it is Belbury, how could there not be), but for the most part it was an album that embraced something more upbeat. It was modern life looking to imitate nostalgia and doing the feeling well. But those who’ve traveled through the Polyverse in the past know that Jupp’s world isn’t just synthscapes looking to give a backdrop to adverts that are looking for the rosy glow of the ‘70s in the rearview. Enter the next chapter, The Gone Away. The record returns to some sort of imagined captive kingdom that’s lodged somewhere between fever dream and coma nightmare.
The synths lay out a queasy backdrop of bewildered travelers grappling with being dropped into danger and unpredictable surroundings. While so many rely on a barrage of effects to initiate the psychedelic storm, Belbury has always succeeded in simply creating an unfiltered sound that simply feels like the floor being pulled from underneath you, like the sight of an extra moon on the horizon, or like encountering fauna in colors that defy human comprehension. While so many countless contemporaries armed with synths keep trying (and largely failing) to recreate the exploratory fear of ‘70s horror cinema, Jupp’s gone ahead and begun world building in sound, and the results are beguiling, disorienting, admittedly terrifying in their own way. The Gone Away is pocked with wonder, sadness, fear, and confusion, but as only Jupp can conjure the pieces fit together into a half remembered narrative that’s crawling through the subconscious and leaving iridescent footprints in is wake.
Naturally, as a Ghost Box release, this also benefits from the incredible art direction and design of Julian House, who remains as incredible as ever. Somehow Ghost Box seems to elude the larger review outlets, and that’s always been a shame, each release remains and essential piece of a puzzle that’s been doled out over decades. Perhaps one day the puzzle box will open. Until then. I’m going to keep listening.
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