A new portfolio of synth excursions arrives this week from The Advisory Circle. The longtime Ghostbox project has, like labelmates Belbury Poly, found a way to weave through the myriad genres of experimental synth without ever succumbing to them. In her tenure under the Advisory name Cate Brooks has found a way to traverse the worlds of Hauntolgy, Library Music, John Carpenter soundtrack synth, and ambient while tying them together into a journey that feels cohesive, if not a little fantastical. Her last outing, 2018’s Ways of Seeing, adopted an iciness that evoked ‘80s cinematic tension — an imagined backdrop to heists and dystopian intrigue propelled by formica-slicked synths. There’s still quite a bit of that drama present on Full Circle, but like the name implies, this album rounds back to all moments of The Advisory Circle’s past, feeling oddly super modern in its attempts to interpret antiquated visions of humanity’s trajectory.
That sense of futurism drives the album’s core — pristine environments wrought from technological marvels, but dotted with natural elements that feel hermetically sealed and perhaps even forbidden. Scents of PVC, ozone, and succulents fill the recycled air. Is this an idyllic dream or air-conditioned nightmare? It’s hard to get a feel sometimes as the album creeps its way along streamlined corridors. Brooks has been a master of texture no matter what name is above the fold (Cafe Kaput, Belbery Circle, D.D. Denham), but The Advisory Circle remains her encapsulated universe and the smoothness of the album’s world feels almost too planned (in a good way). The past is present, the album captures a feeling of waking up in a world where technology stopped at the early ‘80s, but in the pit of your stomach you know that it’s much later and the facade might slip at any time. If you love Ghost Box, these feelings are certainly familiar, but the mystery is exciting all the same.
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