Ghost Town Burning

The Lonely Bell


Liam Murphy

April 23, 2023

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

A scene of forgotten tragedy stands below before this eerie ambient release guides the listener through the sooty ruins, charged with emotion

Perspective is always an interesting aspect of art. In old religious artwork, like that of Hieronymus Bosch, the perspective is often all-encompassing, as painters sought to convey a grandeur and wholeness to the depiction of religious figures and events. In more modern art, as the industrial revolution closed the world in around us, we can see closer and more personal perspectives play more of a part. In the paintings of Edward Hopper for instance, our perspective is often curious. Not far away, but not close and often set a little uncomfortably in the corner of a room or scene. 

This sense of perspective is challenging to implant in music, but it seems fairly justifiable to say – without referencing any complex studies on human’s reaction to audio stimulus – that wide and blurry soundscapes usually conjure sprawling scenes to mind, whereas narrow and sharper ones give a purposely closed perspective on something, or maybe used to elicit some physical reaction from the listener. With this rule in mind, the perspective of Ghost Town Burning is worth exploration. Though taking the suggestively wide form of ambient, the sounds are numb and hindered from being rich and boundless. It feels as though the listener stands a fair distance away from the subject and an austere tone sits eerily in the air. 

In the first track, something obscures the listener’s vision – possibly ash or soot in the aether – but the numb clamouring sounds communicate a sense of tragedy. The release’s title, shared by the first track, steers the imagination towards a harrowing scene of destruction, be it through fire or some other corrosive force. Yet, this is not a tragedy due to loss of life, as such. No signs of activity make themselves clear through the soundscape, though this may be a trick of the listener’s faraway perspective of the scene. Instead, it is the spectre of tragedy. A desolate place in the midst of destruction, or the vision of a horrifying event long-since consigned to the history books. This scene lasts 20 minutes, conjuring the idea of a solemn nightmare that the listener can’t escape from. A particularly chilling moment comes midway through as choral voices rise from the general anxious ambience, joined by the repetitive peeling of a bell. A ghost calling for help relentlessly, a few 100 yards from the listener, but an eternity apart. 

Though continuing in that same uncanny tone, the second track, entitled Then The Snow… provides the listener with some respite, or at the very least, with a development of the narrative past the initial instance of eeriness. Wind blows through the soundscape now, seeming to wash away any sign of struggle from the faraway destruction the listener played spectator to earlier. Still that numbness persists, The Lonely Bell’s ability to make the landscape seem distant or make the listener feel disassociated from it, is impressive and results in a sense of dread that doesn’t permeate enough to become panic, but sits defiantly at the periphery of the experience. That once-experienced disaster flutters a little closer to the listener as a sound – similar to the bell in the last track – begins to sound. One could be forgiven for thinking that it is a human cry. Again, that numb terror closes in, the essence of a ghostly encounter.

Though Ghost Town Burning is a downbeat ambient experience, it is a deep sorrow that has had years to fester. That spectral horror that one may feel at the site of some great tragedy that happened centuries ago. The Lonely Bell works heartbreak, grief and loneliness into the very air that surrounds the listener. The resultant feeling is one of shock and concern, but not of action or immediate emotion. Instead, the listener is left to explore ruins as gossamer figures and flames seem to fill the heavy air.