Spiritual Friendship is the self-titled debut from the duo of Gareth Jones and Nick Hook. Jones needs no introduction to readers of Cold War Night Life, having played key studio roles for John Foxx, Wire, Fad Gadget Tuxedomoon and Depeche Mode – just a few names in a long list of artists. Hook is Jones’ mate. Well, he has been involved in music for some time in a variety of roles, but the point of the collaboration is that Jones and Hook get along rather well and this is their joint creation.
It’s not a conventional album, though at times it threatens to become one. There are danceable moments (in “Dance” and “Chicago K Hole”), but this isn’t a dance record. It is a collection of field recordings that bears some comparison to Gaia la terre, the 1980s cassette release by Pierre Perret. The artists themselves refer to it as a soundtrack to an urban stroll, so it might be thought of as a counterpoint to Perret’s more pastoral work.
Is it any good? That rather depends on what you are expecting. There’s no point looking for fragments of old Depeche Mode recordings, like early Recoil, and there aren’t many tracks that will fit into a playlist. Taken as a conceptual whole, however, the album is full of playful surprises and delightful twists. Like some of Brian Eno’s work, or the studio adventures of Dome, there are ideas described enough to get the point across, which intersect with other suggestions and fade into the background. If you want three singles, then you’re on the wrong channel – but it’s free to play on Tidal or Soundcloud, so just hit >> or << and find something more contained, commercial and comfortable. If you have 40 odd minutes and an open mind, then, yes, this really is good.