The Nation’s Most Central Location by Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan

Release date: May 19, 2023
Label: Castles In Space

With the cultural torch of nostalgia now firmly in the grip of the 1990’s untrustworthy recollections it surely cannot be all that long before we finally round the corner into the 21st century, even if it’s in the rear view mirror. The uneasy sense that time has slowed, that we’ve started looping, going backwards, or become lost, continues to darken the skies. Turning off the motorway at Junction 12 we cruise the ring road towards an abandoned future.  

The fourth album of glowing electronic soundscapes from Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan finds the optimism of earlier releases increasingly worn and faded. Rain streaked with diesel filth, sprouting defiant Buddleja. Composed as our mafia government attempted to deflect from its own corruption with hollow blather about a ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, The Nation’s Most Central Location concerns itself thematically with the UK’s North-South divide and decades of associated failure and broken promises, particularly regarding the built environment. According to Gordon Chapman-Fox, the one man committee behind Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan, this led to a new sense of anger in the music. Certainly the local history aspects of the project telescope more vividly into the now.

The album’s title comes from an 80s TV advert exhorting businesses to relocate to Warrington and Runcorn. Forty years along things have not really worked out. The first track ‘Just Off The M56 (J12)’ offers directions with a firm musical nod towards Vangelis and the opening minutes of Blade Runner. It’s a perfect introduction to the record, neatly overlaying one drift through the city of the future over another. “A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.”


Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan operates in an area of overlapping concerns. It is not the unreliable narrator of memory or occult television but hauntological in the concrete sense of being about lost or abandoned potential futures, how grand ideas about the organisation of daily human life shape the physical space around us. Finding its own place among the strange ambience of ruined light industrial-landscapes brings a clarity to the music. To be clear, Warrington, Runcorn and the various places mentioned in the track titles are real, but they stand in for all the new town developments, the hopes and ideas that created them, the sadness of their failures.

The music is not grim though, more machine like than organic but not cold. Retro futurist synth tones drift, bleeps loop quietly in the distance. It’s calm, empty, but also oddly beautiful. ‘Europa Boulevard’ is quite still, a night time rhythm sparkles as if the boulevard is deserted. Rather than bright and loud with activity it feels like driving along a deserted ring road under failing streetlights, indeed its sense of motion sometimes seems on the edge of collapse. This general mood is contrasted by the hopeful, ethereal, twinkle of ‘Busway’ before being firmly restated by the final track.

Bearing another ironic title, ‘A Brighter And More Prosperous Future’ is a mournful elegy for a time we might even imagine such a thing, a grey drone, softly distorting and decaying. Essentially this is abstract, instrumental, electronic music that is a pleasure to listen to, it’s never dull or difficult and you can take it on those terms and enjoy it. If you have no interest in the collapse of the post-war consensus and the way this plays out in the shape of our crumbling towns and cities, or you live on the other side of the world and don’t even know what I’m on about it won’t stop you from finding much to love in these eight electronic meditations.  

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