With the zeitgeist in full swing and America and the world at large back in the throes of their favorite horror-synth duo and the TV show they rode in on, it’s good to remember that the sound underwent a ton of iterations before this point. It’s also enjoyed a few revivals in the last few years, with high water marks from Outer Space, Emeralds, OPN and Pye Corner Audio picking up the Goblin/John Carpenter reigns well before Dixon and Stein found their calling. Add to that list The Belbury Circle, the duo of Ghost Box honcho Jim Jupp and The Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks. The pair have followed up an excellent synth-mining EP (that featured the legendary John Foxx) with an equally adept full-length. The duo proves that there’s still more inspiration left in the well and show the youths how to make the most of your influences.
Both have explored moments of uneasy nostalgia in the past, though their mainstays, The Belbury Poly and The Advisory Circle, spend a lot more time in the hypnogogic light-end of the spectrum than the anxious depths they plumb here. Outward Journeys is taken from the school of synth that populated Italian Library issues, crafting sweeping scores that aren’t just rooted in the nail-bitten horror end of the spectrum. Instead they manage a bittersweet ache that’s punching holes in nostalgia’s preciousness. Both halves credit television scores as the impetus to pick up synths in the first place and the album is a clear love letter to their memories of an evolving medium.
Then there’s the kicker – two more collaborations here with synth legend and Ultravoxx frontman John Foxx. The one-off collab from the EP seemed like a stroke of luck, an impossible scenario that wouldn’t be repeated. He returns, however, to hand down lessons in how to get the most out of synth-pop’s brooding atmospheres. In just two turns at the mic, Foxx outpaces the whole lot of synth-pop imitators hoping to grasp at the thread of ’80s pop permanence. The record’s soundtrack feel, prime guest spot and packaging tie-in (Julian House design as always with Ghost Box) make this one a key 2017 release and a reminder that there’s no need to settle for average synth.
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