Mark Fisher, The Wire
April 2010

The Advisory Circle - Mind How You Go (Revised edition)

"The Advisory Circle - helping you make the right decisions." With its suggestions of a paternalistic organisation, The Advisory Circle was always the perfect name for a Ghost Box act. Julian House's designs for all the Ghost Box sleeves calls to mind a culture in which, instead of being despoiled by the semiotic pollution of advertising, public space is ordered by a benevolent bureaucracy.

On Mind How You Go, originally released in 2005, producer and vinyl archivist jon Brooks produced a kind of Anglo-analogue pastoralism that is as affecting as anything that the label has releases. Brooks's analogue synthesizer doodles - all the more powerful, somehow, for their unassuming slightness - gently trigger drifts down (false) memory lanes, inducing you to recall a mass mediated past which you never quite experienced. Mind How You Go frequently invokes that talisman of 1970s paternalism, the Public Information Film, and it's perhaps no accident that the rise of Ghost Box has coincided with the emergence of YouTube, which has made Public Information Films and other such street furniture of 1970s audio-visual experience widely available again.

This release - the first of a promised series of Ghost Box vinyl editions - sees Mind How You Go expanded from an EP to an LP, with the addition of four new tracks, two by guest artists. The best of the new additions is "Seasons", in which Brooks distils The Advisory Circle's essence into two and a half minutes of plaintive bliss. Seeland's extension / re-imagination of "Osprey", "Osprey's Odyssey", seems at first hearing to be a little leaden, the drum kit in particular threatening to overwhelm AC's spry lightness; on subsequent listens, though, the track emerges as a pleasingly seasick version of the original. Belbury Poly return to Mind How You Go's weirdest track, the reverb-saturated nonsense nursery rhyme of "And the Cuckoo Comes", reinventing it as a bizarre volkish stomp played by a synthesizer tasked with imitating a tuba.

What Brooks poignantly captures is the conflicted cluster of emotions involved in nostalgic longing. "Mind How You Go" and "Nuclear Substation" summon remembered sunlight from childhood summers even as their doleful melodies are laced with a deep sense of loss. Yet there's a very definite but subdued joy here too, in the way that a track such as  "Osprey" achieves a kind of faltering soaring. It's not for nothing that the word ache is often associated with nostalgia; and The Advisory Circle's music positively aches with a sadness that is simultaneously painful and enjoyable.