P.J. Philipson will be unknown to many but his CV encompasses stints in bands such as Starless & Bible Black and The Woodbine & Ivy Band as well as production credits. All the material from ‘Peaks’, his solo debut, was recorded in one overnight session at a Manchester church with each track named according to locations in England’s Peak District. With these sources of inspiration one could almost feel Philipson couldn’t fail and happily he doesn’t.
Philipson acknowledges the influences of Robert Fripp, Robin Guthrie and Vini Reilly and it is the latter he most closely resembles, partly helped by the natural reverb in the chosen recording environment. The Durutti Column comparisons are particularly prevalent on the pretty textures of ‘Landings At Stanage Edge’ and ‘The Dane And The Goyt’, which are also noteworthy for being the brightest and most optimistic of the pieces included here.
There’s a tendency for Philipson to give very literal track titles, leaving the listener in no doubt as to what images the music is intended to evoke but if beauty is the aim then it is a beauty which is tarnished by darkness. The elegant ‘Looking West From Bleaklow Head’ brings in gorgeous layers of drone but far murkier waters are explored on an eerie ‘Kinder Baroque’, whereas ‘Litton Funeral Chase Scene’ emulates an especially warped version of a wedding march. As the album draws to a close, the descent into darkness shows no sign of letting up and it’s easy to imagine Yellow6 fans approving of the attention to delay and reverb on ‘Memory Of Marshall Howe’ and ‘At The Tallest Gates’.
Philipson’s talents for playing and arranging ensure this near hour’s worth of instrumental music proves to be a captivating and enchanting endeavour. Given its rather melancholic outlook on Northern England and its religious setting, ‘Peaks’ becomes a suitable accompaniment to ‘Communion’ by labelmate Black Walls and it’s accurate to say that, on its own terms, ‘Peaks’ becomes a spiritual experience too.
Durutti Column, Black Walls, Yellow6