Joe Meek and the Blue Men's I Hear a New World is astonishing. I was expecting a laughable, novelty collection of late-50s beat music with zappy noises, but it's not that at all. It's closer to Brian Eno's ambient experiments than anything on contemporary pop radio. It's frequently gorgeous, sometimes very silly, but always interesting, not least because of the mystique that surrounds it - at the time, only parts of it were released, and as Joe Meek's reputation grew following his suicide in 1967, it was hailed as something of a great lost masterpiece by people who hadn't heard it. The title track is eerie. It's supposed to set the tone for a journey into space, but with lines such as 'I hear a new world / haunting me / how can I tell / what's in store for me', it's hard not to think of Joe Meek's eventual mental disintegration. The photograph of him on the sleeve- frightened, hunted-looking - doesn't help. The album has a loose theme of a trip to the moon to witness the strange beings that inhabit the satellite, such as the fun-loving Globbots and their despondent neighbours, the Sarooes. It was intended as a showcase for Meek's production talents, and uses a strange mixture of effects, found sounds, varispeeded voices and Hawaiian guitar to produce a set of ambient songs which wouldn't have been out of place on Chris Morris' Blue Jam. It's mostly instrumental, although some of the songs feature high-pitched chanting to represent the inhabitants of the moon. Entry of the Globbots and March of the Dribcots, in particular, would not be out of place on the soundtrack to a children's television programme, and the whole album has a wide-eyed innocence that seems at odds with the seedy pop scene of the time. Standout tracks include The Bublight, Valley of No Return and Valley of the Saroos, all of which combine soaring, beautiful tunes with an eclectic, fragile-sounding production. Whether due to the limitations of the recording tape or because Meek wanted it that way, the music sounds airy, with lots of bass and lots of treble and not much in the middle, as if you're listening to it over a radio that isn't quite tuned in. Magnetic Field starts off with a series of pulses before turning into shambolic folk music, but with Hawaiian guitar. It's important to understand that this isn't some amusing novelty record. Bits of it are genuinely excellent and work well today - The Bublight, in particular, is basically Brian Eno's Apollo, but in 1960. As you listen to it, remember that Revolver, never mind Sergeant Pepper, was still seven years away - coinciding, as the sleeve puts it, with Meek's 'final career move'. Elsewhere on the album there's a short film clip of Meek in the studio, convinced that his attempts at founding a record label were squashed by the majors, and a lengthy monologue in which Meek - softly-spoken, halting - describes his life and works for use in radio interviews.