The Advisory Circle The Advisory CircleAs The Crow Flies
There are some aspects of Jon Brooks and his work that will always remain the same. And there are some that change over time, though they are fewer. One constant, that has remained unchanged for a decade - ever since he made his debut as King Of Woolworths at the height of chill out music in the UK - is his creatiion of horizontal music, almost static, with hardly any movement. When, years later and with his flirts with down-tempo buried in time, Brooks surfaced as The Advisory Circle (with his mythical debut on Ghost Box, 2008’s “Other Channels”) - his sound was still quiet and virtually motionless. However, the hauntology scene was taking shape - and instead of broken beats and dub bass lines - the ‘in’ sound was sixties and seventies TV commercials, documentary and B-movie soundtracks and proto-electronica made by radio studios and the concrete music scene. An archaeologist of old vinyl, capable of communicating with the ghosts of the past, Brooks was justifiably considered the jewel in the crown of Ghost Box. That sound (something like expressionist ambient with a Ouija board) is the sound he has been cultivating after starting his own label, Cafe Kaput, on which he has released three new textbook hauntology titles to date: “Electronic Music In The Classroom” (December 2010, under the moniker D. D. Denahm), “Music For Thomas Carnacki” (February 2011, under his own name) and “Music For Dieter Rams” (May 2011, a more electro-acoustic record).
“As The Crow Flies” is, however, somewhat different from its predecessors. Or, rather than different, it’s more harmonic and melodic, more solid (whereas the others are vaporous and not very tactile). The spectral miniatures from before become small but concise blocks of sound, in which the influence of the commercials (and also that of the soundtracks, in part) is smaller and the synth sounds of the seventies become more important. Brooks has been digging through a lot of early cosmic music - late sixties psychedelic pop - and “As The Crow Flies” contains 19 tracks that are like puzzles in which you have to guess what or who influenced each track; they’re like a chocolate egg with a surprise inside. The three interludes refer to the stereo tests of the old vinyl records and to the leftovers of the radio commercial culture that is so important in Brooks’ sound ( “Logotone I - Decisions”, “Logotone II - The New Traffic Signs” and “Logotone III - Eyes Inside You”). On “Now Ends The Beginning” however, the synth melodies start and you notice a key influence; Broadcast - or more specifically - the shared influences of Broadcast. It has taken him to an almost pop format; the sound continues on “Here! In The Wychwoods” and “The Patchwork Explains”, both decorated with analogue tones and arpeggios reminiscent of songs like “The Book Lovers”, from the first EP by the Birmingham band.
It is at this point that Brooks begins to test new waters; with the modular synths leading the way (a technique for which he already used “Music For Dieter Rams” as a source for experimentation). Sometimes he uses the German model ( “Modern Through Movement” takes elements from the epic arabesques of Tangerine Dream; “As The Crow Flies”, “Learning Owl Reappears” and “Wheel Of The Year”, with its marching loops, refer to “Autobahn”, “The Hall Of Mirrors” and “Europe Endless”–era Kraftwerk), “Everyday Hazards” sounds more French (i.e. like Jean-Michel Jarre and Joël Fajerman) and “Innocence Elsewhere” could easily be on Vangelis’ “Opera Sauvage”, with its erotic soundtrack piano and its underlying romanticism.
Far from sounding kitschy, The Advisory Circle works all these influences as if it were a work of editing - removing the ugly or out of fashion stuff and keeping the essence of all the styles that border on the progressive (the tracks are usually no longer than three minutes; he never says more than he strictly needs to). His efforts make “As The Crow Flies” a hypnotic and enchanting record. He even has time to play around with music for kids ( “Route Along 18 Corners” is much in debt with Raymond Scott) and misty, semi-Celtic folk music that could have come from a less pompous version of Mike Oldfield’s first symphonic albums ( “Ceridwen”, “Further Starry Wisdom”, “Beyond The Wychelm” and “Unforgotten Path”), before finishing with the ghostly choir that gives the album its final shape. The mysterious and accessible “Lonely Signalman”, puts the finishing touch to an especially inspired moment in the already impressive career of Jon Brooks.