Well, full marks to Future Loop Foundation for at least trying to make a progression away from sounding just like Lemon Jelly. Until track eight, Experimentation Begins At Home, that is, when experimentation clearly begins somewhere between KY and the one with the gatefold cityscape on the sleeve, but until then they were having a good run.
In fact, Memories From A Fading Room can almost be described as an album of two halves. From tracks one through seven, it’s as if Mark Barrott is deliberately holding himself back from letting his previous influences seep in, producing instead a series of dreamy ’70s prog in the style of Tubular Bells or Tangerine Dream. Or, as he himself describes it, “the kind of album you could find for sale in the dusty corner of the type of junk shop that Bagpuss would inhabit”. It’s a fitting description.
The gentle ’70s feel to Barrott’s fourth album comes from the fact that it’s constructed around remnants of family interviews he recorded more than a quarter of century ago and which have been gathering dust in an attic ever since. The result is nostalgic and magical, conjuring up images of a lost decade, half-captured in sun-bleached photographs and forgotten memories.
The dreamy soundscapes he has built around this are excellent period pieces, mixing the blissed-out progressive experimentation of the days before punk with the 21st century’s electronic subtleties. The mix brings everything up to date, while maintaining a sound that belongs to the past as well as the present.
As a result, Memories From A Fading Room is a fabulously chilled album, in many ways because it’s simply a presentation of the recordings, sampled in amidst the ambient orchestration, rather than a true concept work. There’s no agenda trying to give any deep and significant meaning to the samples, nor to that particular period of Barrott’s life or its influence on him. What comes across instead is an image of hazy dreams and partially reconstructed memories woven together with beautiful ambient harmonies.
Where it doesn’t sound dreamy, it sounds desperately haunting, such as on the scratchy opening, like a distant radio heard from behind a cellar door. The almost-instrumental nature adds to this, creating a trippy, slightly paranoid but at the same time comforting musical experience that’s all together very satisfying.
The album also comes with a 50-minute film featuring home movies from the same period, edited by BAFTA-nominated director Annie Watson. Together with the album, it forms an excellent record of a time gently fading into memory.