, March 13th, 2013 08:16
Returning home from ATP one year, our driver took the wrong turn out of Taunton and got lost. Attempting to orient ourselves somewhere in the direction of Glastonbury Tor, we slipped from A to B-roads and beyond, drifting and backtracking through the mist-covered marshes and disorientating villages of Sedgemoor. That grey December afternoon of looming churches and concealed turnings found the power of the ancient landscape infecting the car interior, bringing a creeping panic to our tired bodies.
A similar experience on an August night was the trigger for this low-key release by Ghost Box associate Jon Brooks (The Advisory Circle). His accidental drive took him through the Sedgemoor village of Shapwick, where he says, "I felt a certain energy around the place... It struck me that an album could be based on an imaginary impression of this area."
Brooks' creative response is a collection of short instrumentals, tone experiments and field recordings, pieced together on old tapes on a four-track recorder. The listener need not have been lost in the low Somerset valleys before (Bussex, Bawdrip, Pedwell, Meare – any road map of England can be read as a regional rewrite of 'It's Grim Up North') to respond to this pastoral fantasy. A simple trip to Wikipedia will reveal enough semi-unreliable references to anachronistic church towers and Thankful Villages to spark flashes of curiosity in the most distant receiver. Students of the occult television references of Brooks' Advisory Circle records should perhaps take note of Shapwick's namesake in neighbouring Dorset, however, location for one of Doctor Who's most Ghost Box paralleling stories, 1984's prescient 'The Awakening'.
Passing over such curious diversions, Shapwick contains a handful of Brooks' most simple and beautiful compositions. The light woodwind melody of 'Winter's Hamlet' has more in common with a children's serial like The Animals Of Farthing Wood than any Hammer House Of Horror story, while the elementary piano piece 'Quiet Movement For A Silent Night' is as new age as you wish.
The pre-used cassette stock works in the album's favour, unifying each fragment whether synthesizer theme, music box cycle or acoustic pattern. The natural and the supernatural are buried in the ferric murk. Birds and bats flutter through the mix, cars reverse through time. As Brooks notes at the outset, from every village greeting-cum-warning sign, 'Please Drive Carefully'.