Castles In Space
A duel book / audio release, The Soulless Party return with an album of eerie hauntological soundscapes and unsettling ambient pieces. Simon Tucker reviews.
Albums tagged as high in concept and with grand ambition can often fall flat on their face. One listen through an album will reveal the holes in the so-called ‘concept’ of the release and you realise the spiel coming out of the artists mouth is just a way of trying to dress up their work so it seems more interesting or lofty. Arriving at the tail end of last month, The Soulless Party, Kev Oyston (composer/musician) and Chris Lambert (Novelist/musician), released The Black Meadow Archive Volume 1. An album (by Oyston) created in conjunction with a book (by Lambert) released via the ever-reliable Castles In Space label telling us tales of folklore, myths and Cold War paranoia based around a specific area of North Yorkshire.
Now you know the background you need to know that what you embark on when you listen to The Black Meadow Archive Volume 1 is an delightfully eerie and shadowy trip through what seems like a myriad time zones. In sections the album can seem like it is drawing from the well of ancient folk songs and village hymns where the beautiful melody masks a darker underbelly and then there are other moments which feel like we are stepping into our relatively close past where the synthesizer first started to implant itself into our consciousnesses throwing up the duality of intrigue and fear in machines. Do not worry if you have not read the book (I have not) or if you forget the backstory I skimmed through above as the music that Oyston has created in so dense in rich and wordless imagery that it has the capability of taking your hand and guiding you through its landscape without you having to do anything other than relax and allow it. This is not a piece of music that is easy-listening or built for background. It is cinematic and grand yet remains a level of intimacy that only comes when a musician is completely immersed in their work. Every little detail here feels just right. There’s the bubbles and chimes that float through the latter half of The Village Under The Lake, a piece rammed full of operatic power and creeping dread. Then you have the static that smothers the distant planes during Ghost Planes making you feel like you are trapped in a bomb shelter hearing the dogfight above as the radio seeks for a signal and other signs of life. Even the opener Walking on Black Meadow feels like an ancient recording of a traditional waltz brought to life again after a thousand or so years of being lost to us.
The Soulless Party have not only created a work that bends time-frames and is wonderfully cinematic, they have also managed the trick of making music that doesn’t seem to have a fixed location and by which I mean it sometimes feels human whilst other moments feel like they are not quite from our own spinning planet. The backstory may tells us we are meant to be in North Yorkshire but the audio tells us we could be anywhere, at any moment in time which is the epitome of transcendental music. This is a journey you should all be taking.