A tourist's guide to Belbury
February 11, 2012 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Belbury is an English market town with a picturesque 11th century church, and some notable modernist architecture, including the Polytechnic College. None of which exist except in the constructed world of the Ghost Box record label, whose founder Jim Jupp records under the name Belbury Poly, and publishes the Belbury Parish Magazine.

The Ghost Box aesthetic is a stuttering transmission of fragments from 'an imaginary past. But given that, it’s from the late-70s of this imaginary past'. The music often sounds like lost theme tunes to children's science fiction TV shows from the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, with interference from fragments of late-night Open University lectures (previously on Mefi), school broadcasts, and public service announcements (also previously on mefi) that manage to be at once educational and profoundly disturbing (like the infamous 'Lonely Water').

Co-founder of the label, Julian House (designer of sleeves for Primal Scream, Oasis and Stereolab, amongst others) produces cover art which draws on classic Penguin paperback designs (like here, and here), and the whole is shot through with the kind of British folklore and affection for the weird that encompasses writers like Algernon Blackwood (Belbury Poly's 'The Willows', Algernon Blackwood's short story), Alan Garner's haunted landscapes (Belbury Poly's 'Owls and Flowers' draws its title from Garner's wonderful 'The Owl Service'), and John Wyndham's stories of ordinary English village life turned disturbingly wrong.

Given all that, it's perhaps understandable that those interested in the idea of hauntology (previously on Mefi) have found much to like in the Ghost Box project.

Other Ghost Box artists include The Focus Group, The Advisory Circle (whose Everyday Hazards is very much in the spirit of the public service broadcasts mentioned above), and more. Enjoy, but please: stay away from the dark and lonely water.
posted by reynir (5 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
That's awesome, thanks for posting this. I saw a few of their 7"s in a shop in Glasgow and almost bought them on the strength of their (cryptic) covers. Glad I know what they are now... but wish I'd taken the risk.
posted by pmcp at 10:33 AM on February 11, 2012

I like the idea of imaginary English towns, but at the end of the day I need a dose of the real thing from The Framley Examiner.
posted by Decani at 10:55 AM on February 11, 2012

I have friends who are really into this stuff, and I've long meant to investigate it. Thanks for giving me a resource! (Also, I had no idea of the Advisory Circle connection.)
posted by immlass at 12:07 PM on February 11, 2012

How delightful! I will check it out. Museums of the imaginary past are so much fun.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:21 PM on February 11, 2012

Sounds like the name is a direct reference to C.S. Lewis' Belbury of That Hideous Strength which seems apropos. Funny to imagine the aesthetics of that town, one generation on from the N.I.C.E.
posted by nangua at 5:03 PM on February 11, 2012

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