Wow, that is one beautiful book. Book, you say? Don’t worry, we’ll get to the music! The album-sized 48-page softcover book is the entry point for this elegant release. It somehow managed to get all the way across the ocean during a global pandemic and is one of the few physical releases this season to impress with grandeur. Even though it’s not vinyl, this is one of the reasons we miss vinyl: the ability to hold something large and tactile and to appreciate the art. A secondary form of nostalgia is present in the photos themselves, of seemingly ordinary, extraordinary things found in “nowhere spaces,” which include “a gate restricting access that leads to no place in particular.” The comfort trifecta of sight, sound and format makes this a standout release.
We’ve been waiting a few years for Ben Holton and Rob Glover to release a new instrumental album. Their beguiling blend of ambience and gentle shoegaze is fully present here, but without vocals. This allows the viewer / listener to drift among the images of Staffordshire and to imagine their own. Our eyes are typically drawn to the obvious: a monument, a popular beach. But here we see an abandoned car, a despondent sign, a row of trash cans. For every path or bridge, there is a suggestion of something forgotten; a dilapidated shed leans like the tower of Pisa. Over the music lies a thin layer of gauze, the soft crackle of wind and warp. Even the titles imply the passage of time: moss laden, among ruins, our last sky. The world as we know it is fading into oblivion, and epic45 is her chronicler, determined to offer dignity where little is found.
The cautious piano of “Through Frosted Glass” is like a child wondering about the grass and the trees, not caring if one particular scene is considered “better” than another, simply curious about sight and smell and texture. “Among Ruins” floats on a quiet pulse, a reminder that the past, and the stories of the past, are intensely alive. We remember this whenever we walk off the beaten path and discover a broken-down property wall, a deserted fox den, an arrowhead. “Old Light” treats such findings with careful hands, as one might cradle an injured bird.
Antony Harding’s field recordings on “Your Life Is A Broken Spire” drive the point home. We are not only connected to the beings around us, but the beings before us and after. The birds we hear may be descendants of the birds our grandparents heard. The moss may belong to the same family. The glass we drop carelessly in the woods may be unearthed by a member of our family a century from now ~ if we last that long. The closing “Eulogy” suggests that no beauty is permanent save for Beauty itself. While the earth may endure, one day it may seem as if we were never here. (Richard Allen)