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658017 Posts in 9261 Topics by 3396 Members Latest Member: - vlozan86 Most online today: 57 - most online ever: 494 (Jul 01, 2007, 02:59:53 PM)
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Author Topic: Ghost Box Music  (Read 3282 times)
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Nick Ink
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« on: Aug 19, 2011, 03:06:32 PM »

The Ghost Box record label first came to my attention when The Focus Group joined forces with Broadcast on 2009's '...Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age', and since then I've very gradually got more interested in it. 'The Wire' magazine had some of the main protagonists on the cover and in interview a while back, and recently I've been playing The Advisory Circle's 'As The Crow Flies' quite a bit. I like the fainty lysergic, sci-fi-tinged, Weird-England nostalgia that suffuses the sounds on these records. Some of the other key bands on the label that are on my list to check out are Belbury Poly and Roj.

According to wikipedia "the concept for the label was hatched by founder members, (Julian) House and (Jim) Jupp in 2003; a manifesto of influences was compiled, which included 'music for schools, cosmic horror stories, library music, English surrealism, and the dark side of psychedelia'". The signature sound of Ghost Box bands is all vintage synths, oscillators, toy instruments and 70s TV theme-electronica, and a touchstone is definitely Boards Of Canada.

Like Boards Of Canada's albums, the things I've heard on Ghost Box tend to have lots of shot sketches and field recordings linking and interspersed between the more developed tracks. There's a kind of uncanny vibe to it all (it's really the epicentre of the scene Simon Reynolds has called "Hauntology"), sometimes created through the combination of composition and gear, and in other cases, like on guest artist, Moon Wiring Club's 'A Spare Tabby At The Cat's Wedding' album, it's more built up through masses of juxtaposed samples, like a pile of old polaroids spread out on the carpet.

I recently missed a label-showcase gig down here in Brighton, not realising it had happened until after the event, but reading the reviews I also learned that these concerts are often accompanied by a wall-full of projections and visuals, which are complement the music. Another thing I quite like is the album art, all of which is done by House:







If inclined, you can listen to a bit of The Advisory Circle here, and The Belbury Poly here. And not forgetting that brainblisteringly great Broadcast & The Focus Group album here

Anyway, if any of you have heard any of this stuff or care to point me in the direction of particular releases, I'd be glad to hear about it. I only really know two-and-a-half albums and a scattering of clips and soundclouds, so it would be good to get some pointers. Otherwise, just feel free to express your wonder, curiosity, indifference or irritation below....
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Thermofusion
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 19, 2011, 04:04:02 PM »

Word! It took me a bit to come around to that Broadcast and Focus Group album, but after it marinated in my brain for many months it became one of my favorites. It's even been an influence on some of the musical stuff I'm doing with a buddy at the moment. I really like how deliberately specific the aesthetic is, and how it demands really obscure cultural baggage from the listener for them to really appreciate the aesthetic (to me it "sounds" like the trashy occult detective novels from the 70s that I used to collect from use bookstores, mixed with some of the old gothic romance comics I used to read as a teenager, mixed in with the scores to vintage Italian horror flicks, etc.)

Anyway, outside of Witch Cults of the Radio Age I've barely heard anything else out of the label, though, so I should probably dig into this stuff. Good post!
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 19, 2011, 04:09:39 PM »

Anyway, outside of Witch Cults of the Radio Age I've barely heard anything else out of the label, though, so I should probably dig into this stuff. Good post!

Thanks ~ and you should! I'm hearing that The Advisory Circle's earlier 'Mind How You Go' album was even more on that unsettling, Wicker-Man-esque vibe. The more I listen to 'As The Crow Flies', the more crucial that Boards Of Canada reference seems. I'd go so far as to say that if people don't like BOC, they're unlikely to like this (and vice versa, perhaps).

edit: I don't want to put people off, but I've got to be honest - I'm hearing Human League in these Advisory Circle synthesisers - more the Travelogue/Radiophonic feel than the later, better-known machines, but y'know, it's in there. - think, 'Gordon's Gin'.
« Last Edit: Aug 19, 2011, 04:15:31 PM by Nick Ink » Logged

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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #3 on: Aug 19, 2011, 09:39:57 PM »

Yeah, dude, Warren Ellis (British writer, not Aussie musician) has been really up on the hauntology stuff for years, and as he's one of my favorite comics writers, I have been following his occasional blog posts about the stuff, and would read threads about it on his message board, Whitechapel. Plus Simon Reynolds is all over it too, so I've read a lot of what he's written about it over the years as well. I am not really educated about the style to the point where I can list off a variety of albums or artists or whatever, I tend to just nibble around the edges of the genre, but the Broadcast/Focus Group album is one I have really enjoyed, and pretty much anything Moon Wiring Club does gets a few listens from me. However, this stuff is all so weird and seemingly unknowable, I tend to react to it like I've been thrown into a new environment that I know nothing about, and just check out whatever's to hand rather than trying to explore the whole timeline and educate myself about the leading lights of the scene and whatnot. Therefore, even though I'm totally stoked that this thread is here, I feel like you probably know as much or more than I do about the actual facts of the whole scene, so I doubt I could give any worthwhile recommendations.
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #4 on: Aug 20, 2011, 05:08:41 AM »

Yeah, thanks Andrew. I knew you had some interest in it. I think we're in the same boat actually. And also a bit late to the party - a lot of these bands' major albums seem to have come out 2005-8. Still, that seems quite fitting, giving the backward-looking sound of the music. This short 2007 interview reveals a bit more clearly the label's aesthetic and inspiration, in terms of British social/cultural history.

I think this new 'As The Crow Flies' album by The Advisory Circle has got me enthusiastic enough to start digging into this stuff. Maybe after a couple of weeks or so, I might post a mix here.

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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #5 on: Aug 20, 2011, 11:41:22 AM »

Well I sure would love that!
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RavingLunatic
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« Reply #6 on: Aug 20, 2011, 01:19:17 PM »

I really like the Advisory Circle clips I heard on the label website. I think I could maybe get into this band, maybe even the label as a whole. Hauntology sounds like a genre I could get into.
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #7 on: Aug 20, 2011, 01:55:40 PM »

I really like the Advisory Circle clips I heard on the label website. I think I could maybe get into this band, maybe even the label as a whole. Hauntology sounds like a genre I could get into.

It's certainly electronic music that emphasises melody, so you might well dig it.
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Thermofusion
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 21, 2011, 11:58:10 AM »

Listened to the new Advisory Circle while biking along the river with an early morning thunderstorm looming - accidentally completely appropriate. I especially liked "The Patchwork Explains", which is very simple but effective in its creepiness (I have a soft spot for bitonal arpeggiation)
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 26, 2011, 10:58:58 AM »

I've been listening to little else but Ghost Box and related bands for the past week or three and the promised mix is not far away now. Incredible music!
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 27, 2011, 08:02:45 AM »

According to my lastfm stats, I’ve listened to nothing but Ghost Box for the last couple of weeks. At this point, it’s become a fully-fledged obsession which has led me in that time to clock up over 500 track listens, buy 3 albums from the label website and, to use the parlance of our times, ‘snag’ a fair few more.

A lot of this stuff is now 5 or 6 years old, but digging back through reviews and press stuff, it’s clear that there are things everyone always talks about when writing about Ghost Box Music; a feeling of ‘a lost Englishness’ (some of the bands and albums’ concepts are constructed around fictional village settings, e.g. 'Belbury'), the references to science fiction and TV themes (real or imaginary) and a kind of queasy, cosmic early 70s childhood vibe. It's One thing I really like about this handful of bands is that while they have their own clear identities and occasionally quite stark differences, they are all unified by this location-specific clash of the mundane and the freaky.

The artists are quite distinctive from one another though. The Advisory Circle are, I think, the most straightforwardly melodic and electronic. There’s the mid-tempo, buzzing ’Moon Safari’ throb of ‘Now Ends The Beginning’ and the spoken word sample and sci-fi hooks of ‘Learning Owl Reappears’, while ‘The Patchwork Explains’ motorik beat encases elevating Boards Of Canada melodies. On the earlier ‘Keep Warm, Keep Well’, Public Information Film samples (another GBM trademark) are submerged in crackly ambience.

My favourite is The Focus Group, whose wildly unpredictable kitchen-sink psychedelia sometimes reminds me of certain bands on the Finnish Fonal label, like Kemialliset Ystävät. The ‘title’ track on the first of these two mixes, ‘Salty Sun Tales’ sets a skipping and mangled Charles Causley poem against an almost 8-bit background, and on ‘The Thre’, sickly sweet strings contrast with crashing BBC Radiophonic synth-farts. Ominous vibes are spliced with goofy moments of humour - the poppy vocal loop on ‘Hey Let Loose Your Love’ makes you smile, but then disappears into a disorientating coda.

Belbury Poly are the other best-known band on the label, but can sometimes be a little ‘cartoonish’ and are more lightly represented here., GBM albums tend to be 15-25 tracks long with lots of short pieces, however, so there are always plenty of little gems to be found. The ear-tingling vibrations of ‘A Warning’ and the jaunty, analog theme of ‘Wildspot’ are two of these miniatures.

The label’s tiny catalogue (only 15 albums in 6 years) also includes some interesting one-offs and side-projects. The mysterious Mount Vernon Arts Lab predate the label by years, yet you can hear the Ghost Box aesthetic on the trippy carousel of ‘The Submariner’s Song’ and the sinister toy-synths of ‘Hobgoblins’. Perhaps the stylistic outlier amongst these is the ‘Ouroborindra’ album from Belbury Poly’s Eric Zann, which almost completely sublimates the songs to a frothy, scrambled mass of outer-space signals. I really like the Roj album too (former Broadcast keyboard player, Roj Stevens), with its emphasis on rhythm, be it the percussive rattle of ‘Go Without Me’ or the spacious trot’ of ‘The Gamelan Threshold’. On ‘What I Saw’ (a track title shared or borrowed by Broadcast & The Focus Group on their brilliant album from the same year), he finishes up with a sound I can only describe as Christmassy Krautrock (!)   

Speaking of Broadcast, label founders Jim Jupp and Julian House have cited the group as “our central and primary influence” and whilst it was their much celebrated ‘…Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age’ collaboration with House’s The Focus Group that first turned me on to Ghost Box, it’s only through my own investigations of the last 3 or 4 weeks that I’ve come to realise how extraordinary that album was. It still saddens me that we've lost Trish Keenan, and I thought her voice should be on this mix somewhere.

That album wasn’t actually released on Ghost Box though, and I’ve also included a couple of fellow travellers not on the label itself in these compilations. I’m not 100% convinced about Mordant Music (itself a label/scene as well as a ‘band’), but I do like some of that stuff and the tribal judder of ‘Belgian Blues' and squiggly keyboards of ‘Pissing In Sinks’ fit well here. The last band to mention are the relatively well-known Moon Wiring Club (Ian Hodgson) who has put out minor releases on Ghost Box, though not last year’s breakthrough ‘A Spare Tabby At The Cat’s Wedding’. That album is quite heavy on spoken-word samples, gloopy synths and crunchy Boards Of Canada-like hip-hopisms, but I think he’s more interesting when he branches out, as on the disjointed creep of ‘Concealed Playroom’, and the loopy, electronic-reggae earworm that is ‘Coquettish Insane’. That last track, by the way, comes from 2011’s ‘Somewhere A Fox Is Getting Married’, an album Hodgson describes as a commemoration of this year’s ‘fairytale’ royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton (“ I find that interesting – a lot of fairytales are incredibly disturbing. So when you have these headlines that say 'inside the fairytale', my thought was: 'What if it really was inside a fairytale?'")  Cool

Links behind the mix titles:

While The Sulky Channel Thundered Like An Old Trafalgar Gun  (49.06)
1) Belbury Poly – Thorn (4.15) [from ‘The Willows’, 2005]
2) The Focus Group - Salty Sun Tales  (1.43) [from ‘We Are All Pan’s People’, 2007]
3) Roj – Go Without Me (1.27) [from ‘The Transactional Dharma Of Roj’, 2009]
4) The Advisory Circle – Unforgotten Path (2.27) [from ‘As The Crow Flies’, 2011]
5) The Advisory Circle – Sam The Signalman (4.33) [from ‘As The Crow Flies’, 2011]
6) Broadcast & The Focus Group – Drug Party (1.28) [from ‘…Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age’, 2009]
7) The Focus Group – Hey Let Loose Your Love (2.19) [from ‘Hey Let Loose Your Love’, 2005]
8) Mount Vernon Arts Lab – The Submariner’s Song (1.20) [from ‘The Séance At Hobbs Lane’, 2007]
9) Moon Wiring Club – Coquettish Insane (4.41) [from ‘Somewhere A Fox Is Getting Married’, 2011]
10) Mordant Music – Belgian Blues (3.29) [from ‘SyMptoMs’, 2009]
11) The Advisory Circle – Learning Owl Reappears (3.54) [from ‘As The Crow Flies’, 2011]
12) The Focus Group – The Thre (1.06) [from ‘Hey Let Loose Your Love’, 2005]
13) Roj – Inhale. Exhale. Love! (3.16) [from ‘The Transactional Dharma Of Roj’]
14) The Advisory Circle – Mind How You Go (2.58) [from ‘Mind How You Go’, 2005]
15) Belbury Poly – A Warning (1.06) [from ‘The Willows’, 2005]   
16) Belbury Poly – The Moonlawn (4.18)  [from ‘The Owl’s Map’, 2006] 
17) The Focus Group – Inside The Rubber Box (1.19) ]from ‘Hey Let Loose Your Love’, 2005]
18) Moon Wiring Club – Woodsmoke & Treacle (3.27) [from ‘A Spare Tabby At The Cat’s Wedding’, 2010]   


To See The Summerland  (42.51)
19) The Focus Group – Look Here Now! (0.25) [from ‘We Are All Pan’s People’, 2007]
20) The Advisory Circle – The Patchwork Explains (2.54) (from ‘As The Crow Flies’, 2011]
21) Broadcast & The Focus Group – One Million Years Ago (2.17) [from ‘…Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age’, 2009]
22) The Advisory Circle – Now Ends The Beginning (3.28) [from ‘As The Crow Flies’, 2011]
23) The Focus Group – Albion Festival Report (2.41) [from ‘We Are All Pan’s People’, 2007]
24) Mordant Music – Pissing In Sinks (2.28) [from ‘SyMptoMs’, 2009]
25) Mount Vernon Arts Lab – Hobgoblins  (5.49) [from ‘The Séance At Hobbs Lane’, 2007]
26) The Focus Group – The Other Birds (0.49) [from ‘We Are All Pan’s People’, 2007]
27) Broadcast & The Focus Group – What I Saw (1.03) [from ‘…Investigates Witch Cults Of The Radio Age’, 2009]
28) Roj – What I Saw (4.03) [from ‘The Transactional Dharma Of Roj’, 2009]
29) Roj – The Gamelan Threshold (2.35) [from ‘The Transactional Dharma Of Roj’, 2009]
30) Eric Zann – Threshold (2.59) [from ‘Ouroborindra’, 2005] 
31) Moon Wiring Club – Concealed Playroom (2.06) [from ‘A Spare Tabby At The Cat’s Wedding’, 2010]
32) The Advisory Circle – Keep Warm, Keep Real (2.48) [from ‘Other Channels’, 2008]
33) Moon Wiring Club – Edwardian Romance (4.05) [from ‘A Spare Tabby At The Cat’s Wedding’, 2010]
34) Belbury Poly – Wildspot (1.25) [from ‘The Willows’, 2005]
35) Mordant Music – (0) CoMMents (0.56) [from ‘SyMptoMs’, 2009]
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Ignatius
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« Reply #11 on: Aug 27, 2011, 11:50:22 AM »

Thanks Nick!
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Thermofusion
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« Reply #12 on: Aug 29, 2011, 11:37:53 AM »

Nick, this is awesome. Thank you!
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #13 on: Aug 29, 2011, 02:08:36 PM »

It was a labour of love, and a very interesting process. Let me know what you think.
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Thermofusion
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« Reply #14 on: Aug 29, 2011, 02:59:54 PM »

This is a fantastic mix, man. I'm especially liking the Moon Wiring Club stuff and the two creepy Mount Vernon Arts Lab tracks. Also really like the "Moonlawn" track from Belbury Poly, which to my ears is kind of a cousin to that "The Patchwork Explains" track I liked so much on the new Advisory Circle album. I'll post some more in-depth comments later.
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Andrew_TSKS
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« Reply #15 on: Aug 30, 2011, 03:29:08 PM »

Eric Zann, huh? Innnnnteresting.

I haven't listened to this yet--am just downloading now--but I am SUPER stoked for it. Thanks Nick!
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #16 on: Aug 30, 2011, 03:46:34 PM »

That is interesting!

As are the expressions of interest in this thread - Ghost Box Music, where lovers of rap, rock, folk and ambient can be united at last.
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RavingLunatic
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« Reply #17 on: Oct 01, 2011, 04:56:08 PM »

Wanna say thanks to Nick for getting me into the Advisory Circle through this thread. Love the album. Is their previous stuff as good as As the Crow Flies? Regardless, I'm downloading and am going to give a listen to this mix to see which Ghost Box band I should check out next.
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #18 on: Oct 02, 2011, 02:37:37 AM »

Wanna say thanks to Nick for getting me into the Advisory Circle through this thread. Love the album. Is their previous stuff as good as As the Crow Flies? Regardless, I'm downloading and am going to give a listen to this mix to see which Ghost Box band I should check out next.

Cool. I think I like my mixes better than any of the albums actually  Cool
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Almanzo
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« Reply #19 on: Oct 18, 2011, 02:40:45 PM »

My favorite current label - I've been gaga about them for years now. I could have sworn I was talking them up on this board to general disinterest a few years ago, but a search doesn't really turn up anything so I dunno. Their US distribution is ass - I've made multiple $100 orders from them. BEAUTIFUL objects to hold and own, esp their vinyl releases.
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #20 on: Oct 18, 2011, 02:44:10 PM »

I could have sworn I was talking them up on this board to general disinterest a few years ago, but a search doesn't really turn up anything so I dunno.

Yeah, I'm well behind the news on this one - I realise most of these albums are 5 or 6 years old.

Not to blow my own mix-horn, but I still keep coming back to these two comps I made, more so than any particular band/album. I need to branch out properly and get more into the individual albums.
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edison
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« Reply #21 on: Oct 18, 2011, 02:54:22 PM »

A welcome reminder that I need to check this out. Also, Almanzo! Good to see you here.
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Nick Ink
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« Reply #22 on: Oct 18, 2011, 02:56:29 PM »

A welcome reminder that I need to check this out.

You DO!  Smile
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edison
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« Reply #23 on: Oct 18, 2011, 03:19:34 PM »

This is hard to say without sounding stupid and petty, given the amount of work and love that goes into making these awesome mixes, but the main reason I sometimes put off checking out your mixes is that I have to reorder all the files in Itunes for them to play in order, which can take a fairly long time. But obviously when I quit being such a lazy ass, the result is always rewarding!

edit: now downloading, of course
« Last Edit: Oct 18, 2011, 03:24:15 PM by edison » Logged
Nick Ink
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Posts: 7018


« Reply #24 on: Oct 18, 2011, 03:30:14 PM »

This is hard to say without sounding stupid and petty, given the amount of work and love that goes into making these awesome mixes, but the main reason I sometimes put off checking out your mixes is that I have to reorder all the files in Itunes for them to play in order, which can take a fairly long time. But obviously when I quit being such a lazy ass, the result is always rewarding!

edit: now downloading, of course

Oh, really? I didn't realise - sorry. I have never had anything to do with itunes (or indeed i-anything). I'm a Sony Walkman man.
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