Unlike vinyl, VHS tapes are one lump of black plastic few are sad to see the back of. Yet, as well as providing a rich source of samples, there are musicians who seem to have been inspired by their murky qualities. Demdike Stare's recent live shows have featured cut-ups of old video as sinister and disorientating as their soundscapes, while Oneohtrix Point Never's recent Replica album was based on recorded snippets of TV adverts from his youth.
Although Glaswegian multimedia artist Tom Scholefield—who has actually designed sleeves for Oneohtrix Point Never in the past—hasn't specifically sampled VHS for his debut Konx-Om-Pax album, it does possess the same fuzzy and antique feeling as that format. As a video director, his promo for Hudson Mohawke's "Joy Fantastic" aped the garish visuals of '80s MTV, but Scholefield made his love of lo-fi video most explicit with his promo for Mogwai's "Rano Pano" which followed two stoners trying to recreate '80s teen flick Weird Science in their living room. But it's two other Scotsmen Scholefield shares the most ground with. Boards of Canada's name was inspired by the National Film Board Of Canada documentaries Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison watched as kids, and Regional Surrealism has the same feel of eerie memories blurring into one, of subconscious fears never entirely erased no matter how many adult experiences are taped over the top.
There's also a supernatural atmosphere akin to Boards Of Canada's Geogaddi and its layers of arcane symbolism. The very name Konx-Om-Pax is taken from a book by occultist Aleister Crowley, and the album as a whole has a decidedly spooky Wicker Man vibe. Indeed, it's not too far-fetched to imagine Regional Surrealism as the soundtrack to some remote Hebridean island, one where it's Polygon Window's Surfing On Sine Waves crashing on the shore as much as the wind and rain. "Silent Reading" for example slowly engulfs the ears in thick fog, while the electronic cries of "At Home with Mum and Dad" sound as lonely and evocative as a curlew at sunset.
But this is far from a bleak and barren place by any means. Squint through some of the fuzz on "Lagoon Leisure" and you can see the same lush vistas as Future Sound Of London's Lifeforms emerge; "Glacier Mountain Descent" has a choir of synthetic seraphim, and "Let's Go Swimming" closes the album with a ray of pure warm sunshine, making Regional Surrealism somewhere you'll want to lose yourself again and again.
Tracklist: Konx-om-Pax - Regional Surrealism 01. Intro
02. Isotonic Pool
03. At Home with Mum and Dad
04. Twin Portal Redux
05. Sura-Tura-Gnosi-Cosi feat. Steven Retchard
06. Zang-Tumb feat. Stuart Braithwaite
07. Glacier Mountain Descent
08. Pillars of Creation
10. Lagoon Leisure
11. Hurt Face
13. Silent Reading
14. Let's Go Swimming