Joseph Stannard, The Wire
March 2009

Belbury Poly From An Ancient Star 

Various Ritual And Education

It is now five years since Jim Jupp and Julian House unveiled Belbury Poly’s Farmer’s Angle EP, the inaugural release on their DIY label Ghost Box. Then a humble conduit for their aesthetic of weird Britishness, Ghost Box have since found themselves in the perhaps unenviable position of leading a scene that is, appropriately enough, almost entirely spectral. This anniversary offers the perfect opportunity to assess their achievements so far, hence Ritual and Education, a comprehensive, download-only label sampler.

The sampler is a good illustration of how Ghost Box offer more than simple nostalgia. Perceiving post-World War Two methods of education and social engineering as transparent attempts to harness ancient impulses, Jupp and House present their impression not of a golden age, but a grey area perpetually overshadowed by a Gothic foreboding established by fin de siècle writers Arthur Machen, Ambrose Bierce and Algernon Blackwood, confounded by the very real horrors of the Holocaust, and later reappearing in the form of 1980s Cold War paranoia. Their concerns could be dismissed as parochial; yet if we consider Ghost Box to be positing a form of synthetic folk music, should this really prove problematic ? The music could conceivably offer an exotic frisson for non-UK listeners, something that is thrilling partly because of its unfamiliarity - consider the reaction of African- Americans in the Bronx to Kraftwerk, even the current Brooklynite craze for African polyrhythms.

Judging by From an Ancient Star, however, it would seem that Jupp (aka Belbury Poly) is actively anticipating his critics. He has expanded his textual lexicon to incorporate the extraterrestrial origin theories of Erich von Daniken and the cosmic horror of HP Lovecraft, while further developing the textural and structural complexity exhibited on 2006’s The Owl’s Map, folding in elements of disco ("From An Ancient Star") and dub ("A Great Day Out") to create music that’s both highly atmospheric and melodically rewarding. From An Ancient Star is proof that for Ghost Box, there is life beyond the village green.