A few years ago Flexagon released an album that was somewhat of a diversion from his past work, 7 Nocturnes East, based on field recordings made along Guernsey’s east coast.
After a few ones of pieces and taking part in an art project with a similar theme, he has dropped a new album, the first part of a planned trilogy, again focussing on locations around Guernsey, in this case towers, called appropriately The Towers I: Inaccessible.
The ‘Inaccessible’ part refers to the fact that the locations referenced here are, generally speaking, inaccessible for various reasons and so the soundscapes created come from a place familiar to many on the island but that we haven’t been able to get that close to.
Field recordings made at these locations are then combined with a mix of synthesised and real instruments and deep production work to create the nine piece of music on the record.
The first, Gazing At The Towers, is something of a scene setter before we are taken on a journey through sound to Second World War bunkers, windmills, water towers, look out posts in trees and more.
Across all of these Flexagon builds a sound that, while divided into individual pieces, does take us on a trip starting calm and quiet and building into something that becomes at times meditative at others transcendent and at other strangely threatening.
A comparison to Vangelis’ soundtrack to Blade Runner is, for a film fan like me, inescapable but more than that the thought that struck me as I listened to the record is that it’s like a musical version of Chris Foss’ paintings of Guernsey locations in a sci-fi setting – appropriately I think one of the towers here even features in one of Foss’ works.
This gives the whole thing a somewhat science fiction feel which adds an extra layer to proceedings as the locations connect us to the past while the field sounds are of the present but the whole has something of a feel of the future, something only added to further but the one track with some form of vocals, a poem by Shaun Shackleton and read by James Le Page.
Following the beat-less 7 Nocturnes East percussion in various forms does start to creep in as this album goes on. Initially it feels like something as subtle as a distant, alien, heartbeat but then builds in insistence across a few tracks into something far from ‘banging’ but acting as a nice counterpoint to the more ethereal earlier pieces.
As a whole, with its mix of organic and electronic sounds, The Towers I: Inaccessible sort of exists in a place between many things but pulls them all together to make something truly transporting that could easily fall into gimmickry but doesn’t as it manages to capture something of the locations referenced while also sounding like it could be the soundtrack to an as yet unmade science fiction film.
Now I think I’m going to find some good headphones and lie in the dark letting the album wash over me as that feels like the ideal way to listen.