I'm not massively into the Ghost Box label aesthetic. Nothing against these guys but if you're gonna be "exploring the musical history of a parallel world" then it'd have to be pretty out-there to work, otherwise it becomes weakly generic. Plenty of the electronic music from our own non-parallel world is enough to be getting on with, making the parallel redundant. If you can't outdo, say Eyeless In Gaza's No Noise, Conrad Schitzler's Blau or the theme tune from the public information film where the kid and his mum go to buy new shoes and nearly get run over by the dad 'in his new car' - then what's the point?
Empty Avenues works though. It's a totally convincing work right from the opening seconds. It used to be that artists became a fading Xerox of themselves, but there's a lot of old dudes these days who are producing stuff as good as (or better than) what they done in their yoof, yeah? The Stones ran out of ideas after mid- 1968. On the other hand Tom Waits, John Cale, Leonard Cohen, Brian Eno, John Foxx - all free bus pass eligible - are producing really great work. David Bowie (another member of the 65+ club) recently released an album that was officially quite good in places.
Empty Avenues echoes some of the themes of Foxx's collaborative (and infinitely brilliant) work with Harold Budd, which explored (without lyrics) a kind of city-space at night psychogeography, with wonderful titles like Down A Windy Street,Nighthawks,Avenue Of Trees. The Foxx/ Budd collaborations are total genius and I play my favourites from them more or less daily so it was interesting to see this thematic similarity.
This record is very different from Foxx's work with Budd though. Standouts for me are:
Track 1 'Empty Avenues'. Lovely fat retro synth sound. Foxx admittedly does sound (in terms of the vocal treatment) very 1983 - but in a time travel rather than revivalist way. Lyrically this is fantastic stuff: "All that I can do/ Is walk these avenues/ down empty avenues". Avenues here being the routes life takes us, the choices that bring us to where we are.
Track 2 'Almost There'. Makes a great companion piece to 'Someone Almost There' from the Budd collaborations. Ghosty voice, quite soupy production. "I see your shadow in the rain sometimes/ someone who's almost there". Again, great lyrics.
Track 5 'The Time of Your Life'. Brilliant. "Here is the time we spent together/ look where the shadows stayed in the living room". Vocally seems to (deliberately?) reference Peter Gabriel. Utter genius.
Yeah so all in all a mighty fine record. A muted, crepuscular steampunk journey taking in love, aloneness, the nature of time, and the UK weather.
Someone online described it as "pastoral electronica"... I found this a very apt description! Don't take me wrong, I love Foxx' Metamatic-era type stuff but I also very much enjoy the title track of The Garden. If you like that, you should try this and prepare to be surprised!
I've always been interested to hear what John Foxx is up to so I was really pleased to learn of this collaboration with Jon Brooks and Pye Audio Corner, two of my favourite artists. Now having listened to it twice a day for a week all I can say is that it is FANTASTIC! Every track is a stand-out (if that make's sense?) and there's not one filler on here. I just wished they'd do a whole album as this a 24 min EP.
Tremendous effort from the LEGENDARY geniuses of modern music. Absolute gem of a release. Can't wait to hear a full album's worth of stuff. C'mon John and the Belbury Circle! You can do it. This has just been a beautiful taster for more to come, I hope.
I haven't bought the whole album - as with all his albums there are always just a couple of tracks i like - so i bought "almost there" typical foxx - but i guess its what you get outta his stuff that's important . Technically a good track , im just wondering what it would sound like on a decent graph . - cheers