Visualisation and imagination were once two musical components intrinsically interlocked within the constructs of pop music. However, as times, tastes and technologies have moved on, a more inward-facing, vain, constructed idea – or notion – of imagination has been a more favoured form of creativity. Often replacing a more outward-looking, experimental approach and, on occasion, becoming a fleeting, throwaway musical plasticity based on what Likes, Shares and traffic it can garner. By doing so it has eclipsed the very literate and cinematic approach of true musical imagination, creating places, people and sprawling worlds for them to operate and exist in. The Eccentronic Research Council are a group that really hammer home how imaginatively stagnant some pop music has become in recent years. That said, to say this is just pop music would skirt over the head-fuck brilliance of all the other genres it so flawlessly flies through (from space rock and haunted fairground music to drowning techo). The brilliant thing about the ERC is that there is a knowing quality to them and this record; should they want to put out a club banger of an album or indeed an esoteric sci-fi synth drone record, they could do so with both ease and quality, but their approach reaches for something higher, something more pure and truly innovative in its experimentations. Something creepy.

Playing like a kitchen sink rock opera-come-nightmare, this is a concept album based in Valhalla Dale, Sheffield (a fictional location) and it tells the tale of an obsessed music fan (as played out by the wonderful Silk actor Maxine Peake) who is in love with a band called the Moonlandingz (a fictional group that has actually been created within the record and features Lias and Saul from The Fat White Family as key contributing members). It’s a tale of an obsession that goes sour and the unfurling of the story is gloriously cinematic in its tense evolution as the narrative plays out like a deconstructive mental collapse, as everything goes a bit fucking west.

Such is the quality of the lyrics – and Peake’s sublime, precise delivery of them – and the unique narrative concept that it’s almost easy to forget the music on this album, which you shouldn’t because it’s consistently brilliant. Heavy on synth experimentations, the it is not only a seamless accompaniment to the story but it creates a realm for it to live in – when the story is set in a club, for example, the ERC have produced the music that can be heard playing in the background. They haven’t just made a record with sounds here – they’ve made an entire dazzling world.


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