One of the great surprises of 2018 for me has been the discovery of Isvisible Isinvisible. The analog synthesizer project of Simon Pott came into my view back in the spring with the Burning Witches Records release of his self-titled cassette. A double album’s worth of beautifully eerie modular synth soundscapes that felt like a musical journey born part Vangelis, part Klaus Schulze, and part the dark cloud grey of a UK countryside. It was like a sci fi journey born of a very much earthbound upbringing. Childhood adventures that consisted of getting lost in long afternoons and emerging from the unknown as the moon made its presence known.
Before that release there was the more personal Ghosts of Furness Vale, another collection of modular synth madness very much born of human emotion and memory. It seemed as if Simon Pott was putting his childhood memories to music via the interconnected circuits, spidery wires, and flashing lights of the modular synthesizer. It was as engaging and hypnotic as the self-titled, but with more of a story to tell.
Isvisible Isinvisble is readying their newest modular creation, the woozy and melody-driven Ghosts of New Mills. Pott continues his synthesizer journey, and this time it’s his most personal piece to date. Once again delving into melody making via modular synth, Pott works his magic to create his greatest collection of music yet. Ghosts of New Mills is also a high watermark for modular synth in 2018.
When I asked Simon about the story behind the album and album art, this was the backstory, “Quick story behind it is that it was my Auntie’s shop. She died close on 30 years ago, but my Uncle couldn’t bare to change anything about the shop. So it stayed closed and was left exactly as it was when she died up until earlier this year when my cousin, also called Simon, died. As he was the last member of the family (they all died relatively young) it was sold along with their flat above the shop.” When you hit play on Ghosts of New Mills you feel the history of that shop, and the melancholy of loss and death that comes with it. Not wanting to let go of something, worried of losing something(or someone) else if you do.
The album opens with “Newtown Neurotics”. A robotic heartbeat of a rhythm starts up as a synth line pulsates and carries you along on what will most definitely be a journey. Even at the opening track I’m amazed. There’s so much melancholy and eerie abandon conveyed with such a technical instrument. Pott truly is a master at the modular synth. This track feels like a walk thru the dusty, dilapidated remains of his Auntie’s shop. You can almost hear the ghostly echoes of the voices that once filled the place.
This track is a thing of sheer beauty.
“The Viaduct” settles into a more ghostly groove. Part Rudiger Lorenz and part Bernard Szajner, this song seems to float along on a cloud of memory and sketchy dusk adventures. You can almost feel ghostly eyes watching. “Marsh Lane” somehow is both menacing and child-like at the same time. Isvisible Isinvisible sort of ends up sounding like the modular synth version of Kevin Shields here. The whining synth lines sound like Shields’ classic guitar lines melting into the reel-to-reel in a Loveless session.
I know that using modular synth is less a science and more a trial by fire each time out, but Simon Pott makes it sound effortless here.
Elsewhere, “There’s Nothing There” builds tension thru manic rhythm and beautifully Gothic swells of synth. “The Goyt” lumbers like an old videogame soundtrack put to an old Casio drum line. “The Burning Lab” feels like the centerpiece of Ghosts of New Mills. It takes its time over 6 1/2 minutes, slowly building layers of sonic sway and dense melodies. It’s the heart of this beast built from memories and the fight to not let go of those memories. It’s a beast of a track that carries us into the almost pop sensibilities of a track like “Iron Fillings”. An electro beat and simple melody that seem almost quaint in comparison to the heady sound that came before it. It’s not without its moments of aural overwhelm, though.
The journey ends on the gentle and eloquent “Patricia’s”, the name that dons the storefront we’ve come to know on that black and white album cover. The song feels like we’re stepping back into the light from the dark shadows of a long rundown shop. Closing the door, locking it, and never stepping back in again. A robotic lament for the human condition.
Isvisible Isinvisible’s Ghosts of New Mills is a beautifully-constructed collection of songs that once again take us on a journey into the past. It’s an album filled with ghosts, both literal and figurative, that hang out in an old, long-closed shop and of course in the shadows of the Dark Peaks. Simon Pott is the wizard at the heart of this modular beast. A beast that saunters and sways like an automaton granted both the blessing and curse of human emotion.
Ghosts of New Mills is a journey of an album. A journey you need to take.
8.5 out of 10