Grasscut take psychogeography to a new level. Their album is designed to be listened to whilst taking a walking tour of the South Downs of Sussex and discovering the site once known as Balsdean; a village which was destroyed during World War II. The group consists of well-respected soundtrack composer Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair.
‘High Down’ sets the scene for the adventure but it’s not quite how you might imagine. A haunted ghostly vocal from Phillips is accompanied by sombre piano but soon some baroque keyboards kick in. ‘Old Machines’ is even quirkier since it is part historical tour, part dance music and ‘The Door In The Wall’ is remarkably upbeat. There’s already a strong sense that Phillips and O’Dair are fighting against any feelings of atmosphere and nostalgia.
‘Meltwater’ is the first time Phillips begins to soar and the music around him seems lifted too whilst ‘Muppet’ emerges from its awkward, glitchy backing to a moment of rare beauty courtesy of a choir; it sounds like Talk Talk put through a techno blender. ‘1946’ – featuring the voice of Mrs. May Phillips (presumably a relative of Andrew, she passed away last year) – is arguably the most chilling moment where apparently innocent lines such as “it was a hell of a winter” attract deeper resonance amongst the mournful accompaniment.
Not having taken the walk as described in the sleeve notes, I can only imagine what it is like based on what the music evokes. There is a sense of history but also a sense of modern trends having taken over due to the often disorientating reliance on techno music. Neverthless, sometimes it works and the unholy alliance of the old and the new can be curiously attractive.
July Skies, Talk Talk