Jim Jupp is both the main music maker in Belbury Poly and a co-founder of the Ghost Box Music label, the latter alongside graphic designer Julian House. Jupp named his musical project after a provincial English town created by C.S. Lewis in his allegorical novel That Hideous Strength and, on their 2006 release The Owl’s Map, Jupp and House even went so far as to include a ‘Field Guide to British Towns and Villages’ for Belbury Poly. Tellingly, via this field guide, the duo celebrated ‘the post war period [during which] much of Belbury was re-planned with the addition of some notable modernist architecture including the Polytechnic College, Public Library and the striking Community Fellowship Church’ alongside notes about local legends, foreboding Iron Age ramparts and Neolithic stone circles. ‘Some feel that Belbury is an uneasy mix of ancient and modern’, added the guide, perhaps simultaneously describing Jupp’s project more bluntly than is actually necessary.
Reminding the listener most acutely of whimsical future-retroist trio Plone, the music on Belbury Poly releases is akin to half remembrances of public information films, secondary school chemistry textbooks and old television themes. Jupp admits to looking to the past for inspiration but contextualises his music (and that of Ghost Box, generally) as an attempt to create an imaginary world rather than as an exercise in nostalgia. Music journalist Simon Reynolds has dubbed Belbury Poly’s sound/aesthetic as ‘hauntology’ and the group sound at their most explicitly ‘ghostly’ on ‘Caermaen’ (from 2004’s The Willows), where they appropriate a vocal of Lincolnshire folk singer Joseph Taylor from a 1908 cylinder recording.