February 2012

The Belbury Tales - Belbury Poly


The solo project of Ghost Box co-founder Jim Jupp, the ‘Poly has been responsible for some of the finest releases in the label’s catalogue, most notably 2004's The Willows (which was named among FACT’s 100 best albums of the 2000s). The Belbury Tales is his fourth album to date, and the follow-up to 2009's From An
Ancient Star.

Though its mood and aesthetic is very much in keeping with previous Belbury offerings, sonically speaking The Belbury Tales has a more live, organic feel than we’ve come to expect - the result not just of substantial contributions from Jim Musgrave (drums) and Christopher Budd (bass, electric guitar), but of Jupp himself playing guitar, zithers, melodic and ocarina as well as his usual analogue synths and keyboards. Voices too, presumably sampled, are deployed to suitably bewitching effect on ‘Green Grass Grows’, ‘My Hands’ and especially ‘The Geography’.

The library music of Basil Kirchin is an obvious reference point, as perhaps is the electronically-enhanced British jazz of Neil Ardley, and some of the more whimsical, folk-influenced prog records to have emerged from the mists Albion in days of old. The Belbury Tales is the kind of record you feel should have come out on Vertigo around ’73, but never actually did.

The cover art and design is, as with all Ghost Box releases, by Julian House, beautifully evoking the cover of a wyrd fiction paperback from the 1970s. Also included in the booklet is ‘The Journeyman’s Tale’, a piece of short fiction by Rob Young, whose 2010 non-fiction book Electric Eden convincingly positioned Ghost Box and its artists as part of Britain’s visionary folk continuum, and a short quote from the late Trish Keenan of Broadcast: "It seems to me that the past is always happening now. In the present we are always memory."

We’ve not had long to digest The Belbury Tales, but it’s already safe to say that in terms of both music and concept it’s one of the most rewarding and fully realised projects in the Ghost Box catalogue and that’s high praise indeed.

Kiran Sande