The Focus Groupís third release for
engaging electronics label Ghost Box occupies some
impossible space between the spectral mythologizing of
Arthur Machenís The Great God Pan and the haunted
soundstage in the now empty Top of the Pops studio.
Some people will walk through this world on cloven hoofs,
others in white vinyl go-go boots. It feels pretty groovy
and strange, managing to generate some real excitement at
the same time.
The effect is a little like coming
across an obscure catalogue of library recordings that you
know could never really have existed. Feedback loops and
decaying echoes are spliced into intricate straggling test
patterns with snippets of Easy Listening: heavy on the flute
and harpsichord but with a laid back electric guitar on the
side to keep the kids interested. Disembodied voices caught
up in flights of poetic incantation or mumbled asides drift
politely through this seamless kaleidoscopic montage of
sounds and effects spread across 25 tracks but with a
combined running time roughly equal to what youíd expect
from a long-playing vinyl record.
Thereís also something quite knowing
about the clumsiness with which the pieces present
themselves: rattling Moroccan percussion and tuneless
clarinets are roughly combined on "Soho>St.Ives>Tangier"
while the epic "The Green Station Haunt" collapses into one
long disjointed series of incomplete endings, only to be
followed immediately by the distorted reverberations of the
actual closing track "Leaving Through".
With a sense of boldness that only
skilful pastiche can bring, We are all Panís People
summons up a lost world where rosebay willow herb still
grows on old bomb sites waiting for the developers to move
in, and television sets emit spooky blue auras in peoplesí
front rooms. London is swinging, youth is definitely in the
air and Syd Barret has just finished reading The Wind in
the Willows for about the 20th time.
Intimately acquainted with this uncertain hinterland between
yesterday and tomorrow, The Focus Group are also smart
enough to realise that anyone can pass for modern if they
still listen to Pierre Henry, Tom Dissevelt, Jacques
Loussier or Dave Brubeck. Or as Peter Jones used to announce
repeatedly in the 1963 film adaptation of Billy Liar, "Itís
all happening !"