[sic] Magazine

Charles Vaughan – Pylon Reveries

Remember the 70s? ‘Sapphire & Steel’, ‘Children Of The Stones’ and arguably the best ‘Dr. Who‘ ever – Tom Baker. But really, who can forget those early synthesizers which appeared on Tomorrow’s World? Often strange bits of kit, housed in wooden (!!!) boxes and called weird names such as ‘Moog’ and ‘DX7’. I was just a young boy at the time – but even to me, the idea of a guy (usually sporting a beard, it must be said) sitting down in front of something which looked like a cross between a piano and a green TV screen, was a source of amazement. He’d proceed to dig around in a box full of floppy discs, insert one of them into the drive, type some commands into the connected QUERTY keyboard and some bizarre sounds would then be produced. It was all so futuristic.

That sets the scene quite nicely for this latest outing by Charles Vaughan. Even the gatefold sleeve has something of a tenth generation photocopy feel, almost like a relic from the period. Right from the off, we’re on a mission right to the heart of the 70s with that Moog/Fairlight sound. ‘Wasteland’ possesses a wonderful darkness and sets the scene quite nicely for the album. ‘Fallen Pylon On Pagan Burial Ground’ isn’t going to win any prizes for ‘Song titles which roll off the tongue’, but it’s a fine specimen. I love not only the density within the layered keyboards, but the little noises which pepper the track throughout. There appear to be several things going on at the same time and it takes a fair bit of listening to decipher the various levels of music.

By ‘Chased Through A Field’, things have turned decidedly sour for our lead character. It’s as if we are travelling on a steam train but are feeling very sleepy, barely able to remain awake. ‘Drones Above’ could be the soundtrack to waking up in an underground dungeon, not dissimilar to the bizarre science experiment which is ‘The OA’ from Netflix. Maybe if The OA had been made 40 years earlier, it would almost certainly have sounded like this. The constant deep tap throughout is reminiscent of disturbing footsteps. The pulsing end note doesn’t bode well for the participants of that basement either.

That the record label chooses to keep Charles Vaughan’s real identity a perpetual secret is fitting. Describing him only as “a musical project linked to epic45” simply underlines the fact that he prefers this side of his music output to remain shrouded in mystery. He mysteriously leaves CDr discs at electricity substations and his first CD ‘April 15th’ is now so incredibly rare that I know nobody who knows anybody who owns or has even seen a copy.

All of this, of course, merely confirms what we already know (or more accurately – don’t know!) about Charles Vaughan. He describes this music as a “love letter to the ubiquitous totems of utility that inanimately populate our landscape”, but I actually think that it’s so much more than that. Epic45 have remained a constant source of fascination for me for around a decade now – and this album drives into the very heart of why their music absolutely matters. Yes, it’s reminiscent in terms of conjuring up all kinds of memories of our childhood, it’s haunting in terms of the subject matter, but more than anything it’s a shadow of ourselves – the dark heart of our lives.

For fans of Ulrich Schnauss, Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, this album is an absolute joy.

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