Now begins a strange time on the music calendar: most year-end lists have been released, the number of local shows slows down for a few weeks before Tomorrow Never Knows starts up (with the exception of New Year’s Eve, and most of those shows are expensive or sold out), and January is typically a sleepy time for new music releases. It’s a good time to spend indoors listening to old records or stuff you might have missed this year, and 2014 boasted a particularly strong slate of December releases. For me the most remarkable is From Out Here, the latest from UK electronica act the Advisory Circle. I wrote about Brooks a couple years ago when he released his Summer Triangles mix and since then he has been prolific, releasing many new titles under his own name and various aliases (the best way to keep track is via Cafe Kaput, the blog for his label). Despite the high quality of all these releases, the Advisory Circle material tends to stand out, and From Out Here exceeds all of my expectations—it’s among the best work Brooks has ever done, and one of the finest albums of the year.
Like other acts on the Ghost Box label, Brooks’s work as the Advisory Circle channels old British popular music, specifically library music, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and 1970s folk. But the signature sound of From Out Here are synthesizers, specifically those of horror-film maestros like John Carpenter, Alan Howarth, and Goblin. Yet as sinister as the music made by those artists can be, From Out Here retains the quirky playfulness and occasionally the pastoral whimsy of 2011’s As the Crow Flies and 2008’s Other Channels. Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is “Escape Lane,” my favorite selection off of From Out Here, in which an initially menacing arpeggiated synth bass is brightened by the fanfare of a synth horn that provides the central melody of the song. Highly recommended for fans of Boards of Canada’s Tomorrow Harvest and the work of Warp Records acts generally, clips of From Out Here are available on a Soundcloud stream (embedded below).