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Ghost Box Records – Parallel Worlds, Conjuring Spectral Memories, Magic Old and New and Slipstream Trips to the Panda Pops Disco: Chapter 5 Book Images

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“Via its record releases, events, videos and artwork Ghost Box conjures its own particular parallel world: one that harks back to some previous age, though not necessarily a time or place that strictly ever existed but which could be said to loosely take place approximately from around the early 1960s to the late 1970s and which also looks towards some form of a related lost utopian, modernist and progressive future.”

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“There is a hazy familiarity to the work of Ghost Box due to the way it references cultural forms and work such as the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, public information films, library music and educational literature from earlier eras, but the resulting aesthetic and parallel world is not a retreading, rather an often quietly unsettling reimagining or as they put it themselves, a misremembering.”

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“…a poster that accompanied the Ghost Box-released Belbury Poly’s Belbury Tales album from 2012 talks of the record taking in: “…medievalism, the supernatural, childhood, the re-invention of the past, initiation and pilgrimage (both spiritual and physical).””

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“Midwich-ian could be an apposite phrase to use in reference to such atmospheres that Ghost Box at times conjure, in the sense of it referring to the preternatural occurrences within a bucolic English village that can be found in John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos novel from 1957 and its film adaptation as Village of the Damned in 1960.

That subtle sense of unease is something that can also be found on The Advisory Circle’s “And The Cuckoo Comes” from the early Ghost Box-released album Mind How You Go (2005).

It uses a vocal sample of nature-related studies, observations or prose that I do not know where it came from, although it conjures a sense of being an artifact from the 1960s or 1970s.

A brief half-listen of the words imply that it should be all pastoral delight as it describes the changes of the seasons. However, it is anything but an idyllic journeying through such things:

“In the summer, well, it’s usually cold and sometimes it snows.
The winds blow. In the autumn the flowers are out and the sun shines.
In the winter, the leaves grow again on the trees.
And in the spring the winds blow and the leaves fall from the trees.
And the sun shines and the leaves grow again on the trees.
And sometimes it snows… and the cuckoo comes.”

The dislocation in the words seems hidden as their delivery flows quite naturally, causing initial association with its fractured quality more with the song’s multi-layered, swirling, repetition.”

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“Ghost Box-related work… often has a very playful element which intertwines with the more parallel world or occult side of things.

This is particularly present on the Belbury Poly album New Ways Out from 2016, which Electric Sound magazine described as:

“…transporting you to those especially daft places only Belbury Poly can – Tizer-fuelled 70s youth club discos with side-rooms for Ouija boards…”

That quote creates anticipation of a sense of fun or playfulness from the album and indeed New Ways Out has that via a set of rather catchy pop hooks, but with that playfulness being quietly filtered through a Ghost Box parallel world filter.”

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“Ghost Box co-founder Julian House is generally responsible for much of the design work for the label, and the resulting visual work plays an important part in creating the overall Ghost Box world, myths and aesthetic and the hazy familiarity referred to earlier.

It often plays with or conjures a sense of being parallel world governmental departmental or educational literature, the utilitarian nature of which seems to have quietly stepped to a place elsewhere.

At times the work contains Op art mandalas and geometric shapes, and while they may share an hallucinogenic quality with it they do not put me in mind so much of 1960s-esque psychedelia but rather they often contain a more subtly unsettled, darker aspect and atmosphere.

The Ghost Box design work is often created in part or whole via collage and found images but this is not always perfectly polished and may be presented nearer to a form of raw visual jump cutting where components are cut out inexactly, often leaving parts of their original background still present.

This is not dissimilar to the way in which Julian House’s Ghost Box musical output under the name The Focus Group, abruptly and irregularly cuts and splices samples and other elements, a technique that is also present in his collaborative musical and video work with Broadcast.”


Online images to accompany Chapter 5 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

Details of the book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.


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