The Balloonist is the latest project from Ben Holton, who’s made a career out of producing dreamy, nostalgia-soaked music via such projects as Birds In the Brickwork and My Autumn Empire, and as one-half of Epic45. Not surprisingly, The Balloonist’s self-titled debut doesn’t deviate too far from those aforementioned groups. As Holton writes, the album’s eight songs are best experienced as “a lost TV or film soundtrack from the 70s” that serves as “a temporary escape from the present.”
Nowhere is this better experienced than the album’s penultimate song, “Seen From Paths.” For four-and-a-half minutes, the listener is immersed and suspended in a world of shimmering synths and glittering guitars. It’s a disorienting experience, as if the song is in a perpetual state of fading away like some distant childhood memory — which is precisely what makes it so captivating and affecting. Indeed, when the song’s over, I find myself wishing it was two or three times as long. Then again, brevity is also what makes it so good.
Nostalgist pop always runs the risk of being vapid and indulgent, but with an experienced craftsman like Holton, there’s never any cause for alarm. As dreamy and ethereal as his music gets, it’s always elegant and self-assured. By now, he could probably produce songs like this in his sleep. Indeed, given its dreamy nature, that might very well be the case here.