Delia Derbyshire / Elsa Standfield - Circle Of Light LP


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Label: Trunk

Our Review:

Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) was an English electronic music pioneer best known for the original version of the Doctor Who theme song, one of the earliest television themes to have been recorded using entirely electronics. That theme and much of her known work, including the groundbreaking and influential avant-electronic-pop group White Noise, was all recorded during the 11 years, from 1962 to 1973, that she was employed in the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop.

Here, released for the first time in any format, is her soundtrack to the experimental film Circle Of Light, which she recorded in collaboration with Scottish artist Elsa Stansfield, Derbyshire moonlighting from her day job at the BBC. The film is the work of photographer Pamela Bone, and filmmaker/producer Anthony Roland. Featuring transparencies Bone shot during travels throughout India, including the states of Sikkim and Kashmir, this is hardly your standard nature film; Bone experiments with double exposures, laying transparencies on top of one another, blowing images up until all that's left is an unidentifiable texture, while Roland slowly tracks the images, transporting the viewer not into another world, but a distorted version of this one.

In perfect lockstep with the film, Derbyshire's soundtrack mixes electronics with field recordings of birds, insects, water, wind, and more. This soundtrack has very little in common with, say, that CD you bought of soothing sounds at The Nature Company circa 1994, though the source material may be similar. There's a undercurrent of disquieting darkness and drone flowing through the two pieces here that is at times reminiscent of another landmark recording of 1972, The Wind Harp's Song From The Hill, while some of the segments are downright Hitchcockian. The soundtrack flows seamlessly from manipulated field recordings to electronics and back again in a way that feels almost like proto-new-age, in the darkest, best sense of that weighted term. As usual, Derbyshire was leaps and bounds ahead of the field and this 1972 masterwork, her longest known recording to date, should further cement her legacy as an electronic pioneer.