Review: The Circular Ruins And Mystified ‘Fantastic Journey’

An album from the recent past featuring timeless sounding music about imagined futures, it’s strange to think The Circular Ruin And Mystified‘s Fantastic Journey was actually recorded, and initially released, almost a decade ago now prior to this newly expanded edition courtesy of Cold Spring Records.

The Circular Ruins And Mystified ‘Fantastic Journey’

With a concept derived from classic early science fiction and fantasy, you’d be entirely forgiven for expecting Fantastic Journey to be in the vein of some of the more recent 70/80s centric synth spookery that might bring to mind the era’s TV library or incidental music, or perhaps even a voyage into the more cosmiche ends of electronic music.

While there are vague tinges of both by nature of the instrumentation responsible for these sounds, the result is more haunted than hauntological, bordering more via the glassy drones of a track like The World Beneath on (dark) ambient than retro Moog abuse. That track in particular is both spectral and unsettling, the background music for a torchlight exploration of an underground labyrinth hinted at in the title.

Field recordings, crystalline synthesisers and subtle bleepy bloopy interjections all swell and ebb gradually throughout the album. The whole thing has an almost gaseous feel, like a musical cloud gradually dragging you in and passing again. Beyond The Farthest Star sounds like its title suggests, the piece beginning with a prime example of textural float before reaching a plateau of burbling, but strangely pretty, synth tones flickering around each other.

Field recordings, crystalline synthesisers and subtle bleepy bloopy interjections all swell and ebb gradually throughout the album…

Each piece here has a flow that suggests motion, the arc of Verne’s underwater vessel, the drifting grains of the surface of Rice Burrough’s Martian landscape. The subtlety exercised by Anthony Paul Kerby (The Circular Ruins) and Thomas Park (Mystified) is masterful. It serves to suggest mental images to the listener, rather than fully immerse, to provide a soundtrack allowing the imagination to build its’ own scenarios to which Fantastic Journey is an enhancement, rather than schematic.

At the same time, Fantastic Journey has more to it than simple atmospherics. Mysterious Island might be the ‘hit’, for want of a better phrase, the most accessible melodic sequence here, and it’s not difficult to imagine it accompanying a nature or travel documentary. The opening thirteen minutes of Twenty Thousand Leagues eases from an almost New Agey field recording, opening into a stretch of breathy harmonious chords. Both balance and compliment the more galaxial moments throughout the album.

A fresh, spacious piece of work that deserves dedicated and undisturbed listening, it’s interesting that the album can take the influence of literary giants and translate them into something more unique and ambiguous. Far from a series of literal musical translations of the source material, the interpretations leave plenty of room to let you start a journey to worlds of your own design.

Label: Cold Spring Records
The Circular Ruins: Bandcamp
Mystified: Bandcamp

Scribed by: Jamie Grimes