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Focus Group

South Wales-raised graphic designer Julian House's eerie and electronic sound collage project the Focus Group was born out of his co-founding of the influential Ghost Box label in London with Jim Jupp in 2003. While Jupp's simultaneously fashioned Belbury Poly tread a similar path of warped electronics, intentionally misremembered folklore, and British cultural ephemera, House's music scuttled away from the conventional structures betrayed by the music of his longtime friend and fellow BBC Radiophonic Workshop obsessive. Built around uncommon, disjointed loops of anything from textured woodwind samples to excerpts from vintage percussion LPs, the music that House released as the Focus Group was equal parts comforting and unsettling. Inspired by '50s electronica, '60s British jazz, and '70s library music, House's audio collages offered vague glimpses of what our musical landscape could have been like if the distorted electric guitar had not established itself as the archetypal late-20th century rock & roll star's instrument of choice.

The succinct debut Focus Group album -- 2004's Sketches and Spells -- was comprised of 25 tracks in just over 35 minutes, an indication of the fleeting and elusive nature of the sound fragments that were contained within House's strange and beguiling, part-Corn Flakes packet, part-Penguin paperback-influenced cover design. Radiophonic bleeps, clipped xylophones, looped flutes, treated strings, out-of-context choral passages, crowing cockerels, and mangled acoustic guitars all bustled for space to create what was effectively an alternative take on psychedelia. Released in 2005, the equally abstract and enchanting Hey Let Loose Your Love garnered further acclaim by using a similar template and also managed to incorporate snatches of Charles Causley's poem "I Am the Great Sun."

House used a combination of digital and analog sources, and his careful positioning of these disparate sounds within the mix was undoubtedly inspired by his visual collage work. As each new Ghost Box release appeared, his singular gift for design ensured that they became coveted items among fans of a genre that would ultimately become known as "hauntology." Away from his own experimental sphere of music, the sleeves for albums by high-charting artists of the era -- such as Primal Scream (2000's XTRMNTR) and Oasis (2008's Dig Out Your Soul) -- also benefited from House's striking imagery.

Released in 2007, We Are All Pan's People was playfully titled in simultaneous reference to Arthur Machen's pagan-themed supernatural horror novella The Great God Pan and the kitsch, light entertainment dance troupe that appeared on BBC’s Top of the Pops throughout the '70s. Perfectly pitched between the strange and the everyday, it was House's longest and most ambitious record to date. However, in 2009 he reached a career high, collaborating with like-minded friends Trish Keenan and James Cargill of Broadcast, an act for which House had designed every sleeve since their 1996 debut single. Broadcast & the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age was a major achievement, fusing House's stray and atmospheric loops of unanswered phones and rattling doors with the late Keenan's mesmerizing Gertrude Stein-inspired verse. Almost all of Broadcast's live performances from this point until the sad passing of Keenan in January 2011 were accompanied by House's film Winter Sun Wavelengths. Later that year, his sequel, New Summer Wavelengths, was premiered at the Green Man Festival in Wales. May 2013 brought a third Focus Group album, the swirling, appropriately titled Elektrik Karousel. ~ James Wilkinson, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: We Are All Pan's People

1. Dancing Horse (Logotone)

2. LOOK HEAR NOW!

3. The New Activity

4. Salty Sun Tales

5. Elmford (Logotone)

6. Falling Leaf Beat

7. Backyard Rituals And Spare Times

8. Willowedge Vision (Logotone)

9. Albion Festival Report

10. Oakston Associated (Logotone)

11. Wake Up! He's Here

12. The Bohm Site

13. Hob's Rumble

14. The Harmony Programme

15. Pan Calling

16. Through The Green Lens

17. Sinistralle (Logotone)

18. HANG ALONG!

19. ____________ (Logotone)

20. Soho > St.Ives > Tangier

21. The Other Birds

22. We Are All Pan's People

23. Shining Stone (Logotone)

24. The Green Station Haunt

25. Leaving Through

x

Track List: EP

1. Very Truly Yours

2. Baby Fat

3. White Folk Is Freaky

4. Purple From A Snail

5. Teeth First

x

Track List: Sketches And Spells

1. Stringed Winds

2. Verberations

3. Open The Gate

4. Activity And Scales

5. Corn Holes

6. Verberations Exp.

7. Bells Hazes

8. Alsh

9. Hocusing Fee

10. Colouring Toys

11. Danse & Atoms

12. Free Psych & Mirrors

13. Verberation Int.

14. Jout Sections

15. Geometree Hou

16. Sun Groof

17. Diagonalam

18. Underwater Pries

19. Jass Tarp

20. Hocusing Loe

21. What Are You Seeing?

22. Bromiding Place

23. Kasratu

24. Swirling Paths

25. Starry Wisdom

x

Track List: Hey Let Loose Your Love

1. Icicle Wheel

2. You Do Not See Me

3. Clockbell

4. Echo Release

5. Xylophone Signal

6. Modern Harp

7. Inside The Rubber Box

8. Lifting Away

9. Todays Rhythm People

10. Hey Let Loose Your Love

11. String Sine Romance

12. The Moon Ladder

13. Planning For Urban Green

14. Swinging Phantom

15. The Thre

16. Jam-Jar Carnival

17. Baroque Face

18. The Leaving

19. Reflected Message

x

Track List: The Elektrik Karousel

1. Make Way

2. The Elektrik Karousell

3. Petroleum Paisley

4. Tigt Gruffil

5. The Flourescent Host

6. Skipping Spook

7. Kinky Korner Klub

8. The Kool Kranium

9. Bachoo

10. Hypnoradiol

11. The Heavy Blessing

12. Chordfl

13. Hope Hodgsone

14. Poppingart

15. Let Them Go

16. The Magic Pendulum

17. Flaming Voices

18. The Church Bellows

19. Oakston New Scene

20. Wax Phantoms

21. Frumious Numinous

22. The Plastic Castle

23. Let's Listen

24. Oh Want Away

25. Harmonium

26. Spolk

27. Hoojumany

28. A New Mystery

29. More Night Films

Comments

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