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The Belbury Circle - Outward Journeys album review

Superior 80s-style retro futurism from Ghost Box linchpins; John Foxx guests

The Belbury Circle - Outward Journeys album artwork

The Belbury Circle are two of Ghost Box’s key artists: Belbury Poly’s Jim Jupp and The Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks. While Ghost Box have built their reputation on curating an uncanny version of the pre-modern 1970s, perky proto-electronica with a hint of existential horror, Outward Journeys takes its inspiration from the synth-pop and rock of the early 80s. It’s wonderfully accessible, full of haunted dancefloor fillers and windswept digital ballads, but retains the melancholy longing for a vision of the future that’s a dream of the past. No Cat’s Eyes sets the tone, a warm bass pulse and snapping machine snare against a menacing synthetic backdrop, the sound of sodium-lit acceleration on suburban ring roads. Forgotten Town, featuring a luminous vocal from John Foxx, ramps up the alienation, the line ‘Someday they’ll say they’re not forgotten now’ both threatening and regretful. Transports is a particularly groovy stretch of Ceefax, and Café Kaput is the lilting sound of zeroes and ones at play. There’s also fun to be had spotting references: Trees is Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy on Mogadon; Departures Int. channels the exquisite sadness of Duran Duran’s Save A Prayer.

Joe is a regular contributor to Prog. He also writes for Electronic Sound, The Quietus, and Shindig!, specialising in leftfield psych/prog/rock, retro futurism, and the underground sounds of the 1970s. His work has also appeared in The Guardian, MOJO, and Rock & Folk. Joe is the author of the acclaimed Hawkwind biographyDays Of The Underground (2020). He’s on Twitter and Facebook, and his website is https://www.daysoftheunderground.com/