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Various Artists
Down To The Silver Sea Stuart Huggett , August 28th, 2013 11:42

Compiled by Moon Wiring Club's Ian Hodgson for his Gecophonic label, Down To The Silver Sea departs from the isolated, mythical Clinkskell home for a day trip to the coast. The sleeve transfers MWC's vintage artwork from its usual nocturnal habitat onto a psychedelic version of a Hippodrome playbill, pictograms and aliases leaving clues to the cast of performers within. Between them, the assembled musicians re-imagine the traditional British holiday that lives in the nation's collective memory.

Tempting though it is to leave the conceptual enigma intact, some unravelling is required. Aside from Moon Wiring Club itself, there are apparent appearances from Time Attendant, Sarah Angliss, Knö, The Original Uptown Sycophants, Jon Brooks and Howling Moss. The latter is a mask for Our Head Technician from Pye Corner Audio, while some will recognise analogue manipulator Paul Snowdon's Time Attendant from his Exotic Pylon recordings and sound historian Sarah Angliss from her uncanny, robot-enhanced band Spacedog. By various means, regular Gecophonic collaborator Brooks (of The Advisory Circle) is responsible for the remaining contributions. Each musician was presented with a set of summery photographs for inspiration, encouraging them to produce new instrumental pieces to soundtrack this fantasy holiday.

The sea around these isles is rarely silver except when tinted by nostalgia, and Down To The Silver Sea is a similarly idealised vision of domestic holiday making. The more haunted elements of the musicians' works are exorcised, with tracks like Knö's 'Morgane' and Howling Moss' 'June Buggy' offering a gentle spread of downtempo beats and bright keyboard melodies.

Samples of birds (gulls, crows, exotic hothouse species), amusements (merry-go-rounds, ballrooms, arcades) and the sea itself recur throughout. Where voices break through, as on Moon Wiring Club's tightly edited opener 'The Summer Door' (“Come, have some tea”) and Angliss' dreamlike 'Hello Sunshine', the effect is only as unsettling as the listener's imagination allows. You could paste an old BBC Roundabout label on and pass it off as a rediscovered children's LP.

Down To The Silver Sea is a smooth trip because each piece, even the miniatures, sounds carefully constructed to fit the concept, with no obvious off-cuts thrown in to make up the numbers. Moon Wiring Club delight with the ship-going-down humour of 'Voyages De Plaisir', while Howling Moss' and Brooks' diverse contributions complement their broad output. It's a welcome showcase for the lesser known participants too: Time Attendant's unrolling tape collages reveal Snowdon's fastidious, restless ear, and, ahead of Spacedog's forthcoming Ghost Box single, Angliss leaves her theremin aside in favour of cascading arrangements for harpsichord tones, recorder and carillon.

Released to coincide with the school holidays, Down To The Silver Sea may have exhausted its limited run by the time autumn crawls around. As finely detailed as a bottle of sand, as sweet as a stick of rock, it's a charming souvenir of a fine summer.