Bristol-based James McKeown has been releasing music in various guises since 2010.

But in 2017, he started an instrumental electronic project HAWKSMOOR which has since become his most prolific vehicle. The moniker was inspired by Nicholas Hawksmoor, an architect who worked alongside Christopher Wren and John Vanbrugh on the design of several buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral and Blenheim Palace while he also designed several London churches.

Known as ‘The Devil’s Architect’, it is fitting that Nicholas Hawksmoor’s musical namesake has been an exponent of hauntology which takes the idea that elements from a social or cultural past can return in the manner of a ghost. Having released the Ballardian ‘Concrete Island’ with THE HEARTWOOD INSTITUTE and the druidic Solstice celebration ‘Head Coach’ both on Spun Of Control in the past couple years, McKeown issues his first HAWKSMOOR album with the prestigious Sounds Of The Universe imprint Soul Jazz Records.

Entitled ‘Telepathic Heights’, as with previous HAWKSMOOR works, it is inspired by German pioneers such as CLUSTER, ASHRA, TANGERINE DREAM and NEU! Making use of a Moog’s Sub37 and DFAM drum machine as well as occasional guitar, the album opens with ‘Cycloid’, a fine engaging piece comprising of gritty percussive noise and manually manipulated drifts in the tradition of early KRAFTWERK, CLUSTER and the Fast Product period of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Floating over a rhythmic stutter, drones and repeated synth patterns shape ‘Nuclear Kites’ while utilising a subtle but speedy waltz beat, ‘Praxis’ offers abstract textures although its hooks help keep it from being totally obscure. The eerie resonances of the ‘Telepathic Heights’ title track do as instructed with minimal guitar providing additional harmonic tension inside a cavern of reverb, echoing elements of KRAFTWERK’s ‘Mitternacht’.

Retaining the six string and threatening at various point to turn into SUEDE, ‘Athanasia’ provides a less intense soundscape as a breather before ‘A Neural Interval’ provides a filmic interlude into the second half. ‘Synesius’ chills with subtle industrial elements but utilising E-bow, ‘The City Ships Of Alpha’ provides melodic focus to a flowing backdrop. ‘Dream Logic’ possesses an appealing iciness before providing what it says on the tin, ‘Abstract Machines’ closes the album with dystopian ambience.

With a particularly strong first half, ‘Telepathic Heights’ offers a heady but accessible listening experience. Its fresh but familiar soundtrack of electronic interventions will prove satisfying to enthusiasts of that classic Brain / Sky Records period of cosmic adventure, with the additional distinct touch of English discontent.

‘Telepathic Heights’ is released on 30 June 2023 by Soul Jazz Records as a CD or vinyl LP with download code, audio preview and pre-order available at

HAWKSMOOR opens for FENELLA on 10 June 2023 at London’s Courtyard Theatre in Hackney

Text by Chi Ming Lai
6 June 2023