• Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Part 1 – Post-Populuxe Ghosts That Brood While the City Sleeps: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 33/52

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-1

    At first glance the photography book Cars: New York City, 1974-1976 by Langdon Clay, published in 2016 by Steidl, can seem like something of a cuckoo in the often pastoral nest of A Year In The Country

    However parallel stands could be connected between it, European hauntology and lost spectres of the past…

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-2

    This book focuses exclusively on nighttime photographs of parked cars, in the city and period mentioned in the title.

    Looking through the book it is as though the population of the world has disappeared, leaving only these automobiles and as the book progresses the viewer can find themselves beginning to question if the cars are merely vehicles/vessels for transport or are they living entities themselves – they instill a sense of being ghosts, both sentient and yet not.

    However these are not the friendly, anthropomorphised “Cars” of Pixar fame.

    Eerie is a word that has been used in connection with the photographs and that would seem appropriate – there is something subtly disquieting about these brooding, alone, nighttime inhabitants.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-4

    There are very few people in the whole book and where they appear they are not captured in sharp detail: they appear as a blurred figure in a diner which stands alone and apart from the city and could be from both the 1950s and/or the 1970s.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-10

    While in another photograph the faceless person pictured in a car, although probably the result of late night lighting conditions and a related long film exposure, here seems to edge towards a sense of being trapped, a form of possession, horror films etc.

    There are occasionally signs of human habitation and activity – here and there lights are on in businesses and bars but rarely can anybody be seen inside nor entering or leaving and in a small number of photographs the lights of passing cars have been reduced to vapour like trails but these are few and far between.

    Accompanying which and returning the “eerie” atmosphere of the photographs, these images of empty streets in a teeming, heavily populated city induce a subtle sense of unease or dread, in a not dissimilar way to that in which John Carpenter has often used empty streets in his films, which although in the middle of densely built urban spaces seem to be isolated and alone.

    (And they possibly also connect to John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Christine and its central character which is a possessed, supernatural late 1950s American car.)

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-8

    Although book is page after page purely of stationery cars at night, it does not impart a sense of repetition. Rather the endlessly changing or sometimes almost morphing from one to another character of the cars and the small details in the backgrounds of the photographs keep the viewer entranced – the changing businesses that stand behind where the cars are parked, the fallout shelter sign next to a meat company and its inspection certificate and so forth.

    (It is surprising just how ubiquitous fallout shelters appear to be in these photographs, with them reappearing a number of times, in a manner which viewed today seems both surreal and a potent reminder of the threat of destruction which populations then lived under.)

    Most of the cars in the photographs are “civilians” – cars for personal use – but one image features a police car which as a symbol of power/authority seems to be something of an interloper in amongst what is otherwise the empty frontier like nighttime city depicted in the book.

    One factor which decidedly separates the photographs and the cars in the book from today is the capturing of signs of rust, advanced wear etc – something which you rarely seem to see today in cars.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-11

    The non-American made cars – the recurring Volkswagen Beatles etc – also seem like interlopers amongst what are often muscle car-esque and post-populuxe American vehicles.

    (The phase muscle car is generally used to refer to often two-doored American sports cars that feature powerful engines and which are designed for high performance driving. They generally have an aesthetic which is quite distinct and separate from European sports cars.)

    Populuxe space age advertisement-1

    Populuxe illustration

    Populuxe was a consumer culture and aesthetic in the United States popular in the 1950s and 1960s – the term comes from a combination of popular and luxury. It is associated with consumerism and overlaps with mid-century modern architecture, Streamline Moderne, Googie architecture and other futuristic and Space Age influenced design aesthetics that were optimistic in nature, futurist and technology focused.

    Populuxe-Thomas Hine book covers-original and new edition
    (Two editions of Thomas Hine’s book on populuxe style and culture.)

    Viewed now such design can look like a vision of the future’s past – a more consumer and market lead, colourful and seemingly joyous American version of British progressive modernism and various related post-war state lead attempts at “building a better future” that included new towns, high rise flats and other brutalist architecture.

    Often the style/aesthetic of the cars pictured in Langdon Clay’s book seem to hark back to that earlier 1950s-1960s era in America; a time of expanding power and influence on the world stage, optimism and excess production capacity (delineated by automobile’s extravagant design and physical size) but in this context – late at night, alone, empty, battered, worn and with temporary often rough repairs –  they seem to imply a sense of a society and/or nation that was tired, weary, past a peak.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-6

    To be continued in Part 2…

     

    Elsewhere:
    Cars: New York City, 1974-1976 Langdon Clay’s own site
    Sample pages of Cars at Joseph Chadleck’s photograph book site
    And at Steidl
    The Vault of the Atomic Space Age
    Thomas Hine, author of the book Populuxe

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Week #22/52: Fractures Signals #1; Flickerings From Days Of Darkness
    2) Fractures – Night and Dawn Editions Released
    3) Week #24/52: Fractures Signals #3; A Dybukk’s Dozen Gathering (/Looping?) From Around These Parts
    4) Ether Signposts #42/52a: Matthew Lyons and a Populuxe Mid-Century Modern Parallel World
    5) Wanderings #48/52a: A Few Ether Gatherings… Ghost Signs, The Vault of the Atomic Space Age and Avantgardens
    6) Chapter 7 Book Images: 1973 – A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures

     

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  • Image AA/32

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Poles and Pylons and The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society – A Continuum of Accidental Art: Chapter 32 Book Images

    The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society-A Year In The Country-3The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society-A Year In The Country-2

    “The internet has given space, nooks and crannies to all kinds and manner of niche interests, and it’s safe to say The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society and its website is one of the more niche, even amongst the further flung of such crannies.

    The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society declares that its aim is to celebrate “the glorious everyday mundanitude of these simple silent sentinels the world over”, which has a rather fine poetic lyricism and intent. Amongst its pages you will find numerous photographic documentings of telegraph poles, Pole of the Month, Pole Appreciation Day and reporting on photographic recordings of poles from around the world.

    A sense of appreciation is woven tightly throughout its collecting and documenting work; though sometimes cast in jovial language, there is a genuine love for these utilitarian objects, an appreciation of their accidental art.”

     Telegraph Poles and Electric Pylons-A Year In The Country-5

    “An accompanying but not formally connected website is Poles and Pylons (or to give its full name, Telegraph Poles and Electricity Pylons). At this site, communication poles and their lines of communication can be found alongside fellow land-striding brethren and their humming power carrying cables. It is possibly a more otherly/psychogeographical study and documenting than The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society but both sites and their related activities complement one another somewhat; the flipside of one another’s coins.”

       Electric Eden-Rob Young-book and CD cover

    “The images they contain can often be a literal expression of the juxtaposition of technology, modernity and the pastoral, of the old ways and the new, when they are photographed amongst the landscape. In this manner they connect with the cover image of the first printing of Rob Young’s Electric Eden book from 2010 which depicts a farmer ploughing the land in a traditional horse-drawn manner under the gaze of electricity pylons.”

     Disused Stations-Belmont railway station-3

    Subterranea Britannica-Cold War Bunkers-Nick Catford-The Royal Observer Corps Underground Monitoring Posts-Mark Dalton-logo and books

    “Further sites which act as archival documentation hubs and expressions of an appreciation of similar structures and aspects of infrastructure include Disused Stations, which focuses on closed British railway stations and Subterranea Britannica, which documents often forgotten or decommissioned underground structures and installations such as Cold War Monitoring Posts and bunkers.

    Sites such as these can also capture a sense of a lost age, of lost futures and a related melancholia or even paranoia at points with Subterranea Britannica.”

    The Music Library-Jonny Trunk-2005 and 2016-library music books-Fuel

    “The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society and Poles and Pylons also remind us of Jonny Trunk’s book collections of library music covers, The Music Library (2005 and revised in 2016).

    While library music was produced in the more overtly creative medium of music, it was still designed to serve a particular purpose, to be stock audio that could for example soundtrack or reflect particular moods in film and due to that utilitarian intent the appreciation of it has links with that of the more accidental art of poles and pylons.”

    Jeremy Dellar-Allan Kane-Folk Archive book

    Unsophisticated-Arts-Barbara Jones-Little Toller books-A Year In The CountryBlack Eyes & Lemonade exhibition-Barbara Jones

    “Also, a line could be drawn from such things to Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane’s Folk Archive book (2005) and exhibition, Barbara Jones Unsophisticated Arts book (1951) and the associated Black Eyes and Lemonade exhibition. These focus on, document and serve as an appreciation of creative work from everyday life that may have been created for utilitarian purposes and may not be considered art by its makers or wider society such as fairground ride decorations and cafe signs.”

    Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The CountrySoviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-2

    “Further lines could also be drawn to Christopher Herwig’s Soviet Bus Stops book published in 2015, in which he creates a photographic document and appreciation of Soviet era bus stops and their designs which seems to have a reach beyond their utilitarian purpose and to reflect the visions and far-reaching striving of an empire.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 32 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Detectorists, Layered Timeslips, Albion in the Overgrowth, The Unthanks and Secrets Never Told: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 32/52

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-1

    Previously at A Year In The Country I have written about “glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth” – referring to times when mainstream television has explored, expressed and/or reflected a sense of the undercurrents or flipsides of rural, pastoral and folk culture, its layered, sometimes semi-hidden tales and histories (something I have also referred to as a form of “otherly pastoralism” and which has also been known as “wyrd” culture).

    Along which lines is the ending of the first episode of Series 3 of the BBC television program Detectorists.

    In this sequence the two main characters, Andy and Lance, played by series creator Mackenzie Crook alongside Toby Jones, are in a field and just about to stop their metal detecting (which is their hobby) for the day, when one of them picks up a signal on his detector, which leads him to digging up a falconry whistle.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-2

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-3

    When he blows this whistle there is a sense of a chill, unsettled wind running through the air and in the sequence the whistle’s tone acts as a carrier signal back through time.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-4

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-5

    As they begin to leave, via the use of CGI, the field in which they are in and its trees slip back through time to many centuries ago and the edges of the screen start to flicker and vignette, while the colours become subtly muted and sepia-ish.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-6

    A youngish woman in white shroud like garments blows the same falconry whistle that Andy and Lance have just found and looks around to find the returning bird.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-7Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-8Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-9

    Off slightly in the distance from her, and it is not clear if she is watching across time or not, she observes a priest overseeing a ceremony in which a woman is burying a pot of gold coins in the ground – possibly as a form of tribute to the gods and spirits – accompanied by what I assume are her children and family.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-10Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-11Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-12Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-13

    Magpies watch the group and then time slips forward, the seasons change, a couple/young lovers, who via their clothing can be identified as being from centuries later, stroll across the field.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-14Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-15Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-16Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-17

    Time moves forward again and a farmer is shown ploughing the field and unearthing the buried coins behind him, which the magpies are drawn to and fly off with.

    Then time once more advances and the images fades back into to the present, with Andy and Lance being shown walking across the field once more, while the viewers now possess the knowledge that, unbeknownst to the detectorists, there is treasure in this field.

    (It is part of folklore that magpies are drawn to shiny objects and decorate their nests with them, although apparently research shows that this is not the case – more details at the “The science vs folklore of Magpies” link below. Also, I’m not sure, particularly in light of this research, whether the magpies flying off with the coins was filmed in the real world and involved an awful lot of patience or if this was also created via CGI – I expect I don’t really want to know, as it might remove some of the magic of this sequence.)

    The ending of the episode is not overtly dark, although there is something quietly unsettling about it, which may in part be due to the magpies lending a slightly ominous presence to proceedings.

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country

    The sequence is artfully done and somewhat entrancing, being enhanced by the English folk group The Unthanks evocative performance of Daved Dodd’s song The Magpie that soundtracks it and which in itself draws its lyrics from the traditional children’s nursery rhyme One For Sorrow:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for joy,
    Three for a girl,
    Four for a boy,
    Five for silver,
    Six for gold,
    Seven for a secret,
    Never to be told.
    Eight for a wish,
    Nine for a kiss,
    Ten for a bird,
    You must not miss.

    The first known recording of this nursery rhyme dates back to John Brand’s Observations on Popular Antiquities in Lincolnshire in 1780, when it was just four lines:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for mirth,
    Three for a funeral
    And four for birth

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-4

    One of the earliest known versions to extend this was published in 1846, with variations, in Michael Aislabie Denham’s Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for mirth
    Three for a funeral,
    Four for birth
    Five for heaven
    Six for hell
    Seven for the devil, his own self

    Which adds something of an almost folk horror like aspect to the rhyme.

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-2

    Along which lines, the lyrics to Magpie as sung by The Unthanks are as follows:

    One’s for sorrow
    Two’s for joy
    Three’s for a girl and
    Four’s for a boy
    Five’s for silver
    Six for gold
    Seven’s for a secret never told
    Devil devil I defy thee
    Devil devil I defy thee
    Devil devil I defy thee

    Oh the magpie brings us tidings
    Of news both fair and fowl
    She’s more cunning than the raven
    More wise than any owl
    For she brings us news of the harvest
    Of the barley we done called
    And she knows when we’ll go to our graves

    And how we shall be born

    One’s for sorrow
    Two’s for joy
    Three’s for a girl and
    Four’s for a boy
    Five’s for silver
    Six for gold
    Seven’s for a secret never told

    The-Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie-Crook-Toby-Jones-Johnny-Flynn-A-Year-In-The-Country-1px

    In this episode of Detectorists closing sequence the version of the nursery rhyme from above which has ten “for”s is not completed, rather in the song Magpie it ends on “Seven for a secret, Never to be told”, which in this context, along with the verse where the magpie is attributed with prescience, helps to invoke a sense of a land layered and possibly even haunted by its secrets, treasures and past events.

    Johnny Flynn-Detectorists-single artwork cover

    Which connects to Johnny Flynn’s theme song for the series, which explores not dissimilar themes, alongside a related sense of modern-day seeking and searching (related to which, as I say in the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, Detectorists is in part “a portrait of people just trying to make the most of things while hopefully adding some magic to their lives”):

    Will you search through the lonely earth for me
    Climb through the briar and bramble
    I’ll be your treasure

    I felt the touch of the kings and the breath of the wind
    I knew the call of all the song birds
    They sang all the wrong words
    I’m waiting for you, I’m waiting for you
    (Mmmmmm)
    Will you swim through the briny sea for me
    Roll along the ocean’s floor
    I’ll be your treasure
    I’m with the ghosts of the men who can never sing again
    There’s a place follow me
    Where a love lost at sea
    Is waiting for you
    Is waiting for you
    (The lyrics to Johnny Flynn’s Detectorists.)

    The sequence also sets in motion the ending of this apparently final series of Detectorists, where (and hopefully not to give too much away) Andy and Lance finally seems to find some of what they have been seeking; their treasure both literally and in the form of a more settled sense of belonging and their hopefully rightful places in the world.

    Programme Name: Detectorists series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Varde (ORION BEN), Louise (LAURA CHECKLEY), Lance (TOBY JONES), Andy (MACKENZIE CROOK), Terry (GERARD HORAN), Hugh (DIVIAN LADWA), Russell (PEARCE QUIGLEY) - (C) Channel X North/Treasure Trove/Lola Entertainment - Photographer: Chris Harris

    Elsewhere:
    Detectorist Season 3, Episode 1 ending featuring The Unthanks
    Johnny Flynn’s Detectorists
    The science vs folklore of magpies

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #146/365: Glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth
    2) Day #274/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth…
    3) Day #275/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth (#2)… becometh a fumetti…
    4) Day #316/365: The Detectorists; a gentle roaming in search of the troves left by men who can never sing again
    5) Wanderings #19/52a: The Folk Roots Of Peak Time Comedians From Back When / Wandering The Layers
    6) Chapter 20 Book Images: “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth
    7) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52: Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations

     

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  • Image AA/31

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Folkloric Photography – A Lineage of Wanderings, Documentings and Imaginings: Chapter 31 Book Images

    John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-5John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-4

    “There is an area of photography which concerns itself with documents of British folkloric rituals and costumes.

    A starting point for such things is Sir Benjamin Stone’s work in the late 19th and early 20th century, when he photographed British traditional customs, collected in book form in A Record of England: Sir Benjamin Stone and the National Photographic Record Association 1897 -1910, which was published in 2007.

    The people, times and places in Benjamin Stone’s photographs seem as though they belong to somewhere now impossibly distant from our own times…

    Alongside this they can also possess an air of surreality: in one photograph a stuffed figure is shown as if it is floating in the air amongst the foliage of a tree; dressed in a white flowing dress its face and hands are completely obscured or replaced by what appear to be harvest crops.”

     John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-1Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-2

    “Other photographs contain numerous stag’s antlers worn as part of ritual costume.

    This, along with the challenging stance and stares of their subjects, lend them a folk horror aspect, almost as though they are a glimpse forwards and backwards to the transgressive rituals of the villagers in 1970 Play for Today television drama Robin Redbreast.”

    Published by Gordon Fraser in 1977 ( Isbn 0900406704 ) OUT OF PRINT. I have a few new or nearly new copies left. I am happy to sign and dedicate copies Email me for prices.

    “Benjamin Stone’s work is an early point in a lineage that leads to more recent books which document British folkloric tradition, ritual and costume such as Homer Sykes Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs (1977), Sarah Hannant’s Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year (2011), Merry Brownfield’s Merry England – the Eccentricity of English Attire (2012) and Henry Bourne’s Arcadia Britannica: A Modern British Folklore Portrait (2015).”

     ONCE A YEAR, some Traditional British Customs. Isbn 0900406704

    “As a starting point, Homer Sykes Once a Year… is a collection of photographs from seven years of journeying around Britain and was reissued in 2016 by Dewi Lewis Publishing.

    As with sections of Benjamin Stone’s work, some of the photographs in Once a Year have a genuinely eerie or unsettlingly macabre air, particularly the cover photograph of the original edition which features the custom of burning tar barrel-carrying in Allendale, Northumberland.”

    Once a Year also acts as a document of period 1970s detail and style, while also capturing the way traditional customs existed in amongst such things…

    One of the key images in the book is of somebody completely enclosed in a Burry Man folkloric costume, which is made from sticky flower or seedheads, in a pub who is being helped to drink through a straw. It is a precise distilling and capturing of a particular moment in British life, full of subtle signifiers of a way of life which, while only being a few decades ago and not yet as inherently distant as the world captured by Benjamin Stone’s photographs, still seems to belong to a world very far apart from our own.”

     Mummers Maypoles and Milkmaids-Sarah Hannant-A Year In The Country 5

    Mummers Maypoles and Milkmaids-Sarah Hannant-A Year In The Country 3

    “In a number of ways Sarah Hannant’s Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids is similar to Once a Year in that both books are documentary photography social histories of the ongoing observance and enactment of British folk rituals…

    In Sarah Hannant’s book this positioning and juxtaposing is shown in photographs which, for example, picture somebody dressed in a straw bear folkloric costume next to a local metro supermarket and a fluorescent-clad safety officer next to carnival float queens.”

    Mummers Maypoles and Milkmaids-Sarah Hannant-A Year In The Country 6

    “Often the rituals pictured have a playful, dressing up, knockabout air but just once in a while something else seems to creep into the photographs, in particular in one photograph where the blackened faces of those engaged in and wearing the costume of folkloric rituals peer and appear through a pub window.”

    day-3a-merry-england-merry-brownfield-folk-costume-straw-bear-a-year-in-the-country-2

    day-3a-merry-england-merry-brownfield-folk-costume-billinsgate-porter-a-year-in-the-country-1

    “Alongside Once a Year and Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids, Merry Brownfield’s Merry England is a book which utilises documentary photography via its photographs of its subjects in real world settings.

    At first glance and from the book’s cover, which features somebody dressed in traditional green man folk costume, it appears to be another book in this lineage, one which directly focuses on folkloric traditions and photographs of people in traditional folk costume forms the heart of the book with sections titled “Straw Bear”, “The Castleton Garland Day”, “Holly Man”, “Mummer’s Plays” and “Morris Dancers”.

    However, it also travels considerably further afield to encompass pop culture tribes and styles such as mod and people who appear to have tumbled from the page of The Chap magazine in “The Tweed Run” and “Vintage Style” sections.

    Alongside which it also documents the city-based London East End tradition of pearly kings and queens, the comic convention-esque costumes of attendees to the World Darts Championship, traditional Billingsgate fish market bobbin hats and a number of possibly more contentious hunting and aristocratic areas.”

     Henry Bourne-Arcadia Britannia-photographs-folklore-British-pearly kings and queens

    “Henry Bourne’s Arcadia Britannica takes a different approach to the above books in that, as its subtitle suggests, the book contains more formal posed portraits of those in folkloric costume.

    The photographs are described as being “shot in the wild” at various events and festivals but apart from the occasional appearance of grass beneath the feet of some of those in the photographs, due to the use of a blank white backdrop aesthetically they could be studio portraits.

    The white backdrop removes those in the photographs from the wider world and accompanied by the capturing of detail which is enabled by the formal posing and controlling of light sources it lends the project the air of an almost scientific recording of its subjects; through these choices of technique the book represents and contains a precise documenting of a particular point in folkloric time archived for future generations.

    While the book largely focuses on those wearing traditional folkloric costume, although less so than in Merry England it also branches out further to include Pearly King and Queen costumes, while also taking in practising witches and warlocks (and in an interconnected manner includes an introductory essay by Simon Costin, who is the director of the Museum of Witchcraft alongside being the founder and director of the Museum of British Folklore).

    Charles-Freger-Wilder-Mann-Dewi-Lewis-Publishing-book cover and photographs-folkore costume and ritual

    “All the above books and photography focus on the British isles but there are a number of books which carry out similar studies and documenting of folkloric rituals and costumes elsewhere in the world, one of which is Charles Fréger’s Wilder Mann: The Image of the Savage originally published in 2012. This takes as its theme:

    “The transformation of man into beast is a central aspect of traditional pagan rituals that are centuries old and which celebrate the seasonal cycle, fertility, life and death.”

    Reflecting such transformations, generally the images in the book are of costumes where the human features of their wearers are no longer visible, being much more hidden than many British folkloric costumes.”

     The abominable snowman-doctor who-A Year In The Country-1

    “In British folklore-focused photography and books the sense of unset- tling folk horror-esque undercurrents are more glimpses here and there; with Charles Fréger’s images such atmospheres are much more prevalent.

    Many of the costumes in his photographs could well be escapees or prototypes for the 1970s British BBC costume and creature effect department in terms of their design.They appear to be creatures from a forgotten Doctor Who episode from back then, possibly compatriots of the befurred yetis or abominable snowmen that had a nation’s children hiding behind the sofa.”

      Axel Hoedt-Fasnacht-Once A Year-Der Steidl-German folklore-A Year In The Country-rogues gallery collage 1

    “The images in Wilder Mann and the above books of British folkloric rituals often focus on documenting rurally-orientated or located events and customs. Axel Hoedt’s book Once a Year from 2013 shifts focus more exclusively to streets and towns, in particular the Swabian Alemannic carnival known as Fasnacht, Fastnacht or Fasnet, a custom in southwest Germany. The carnival is described in text which accompanies the book as being:

    “…when the cold and grim spirits of winter are symbolically hunted down and expelled. Every year around January and February processions of people make their way through the streets of Endingen, Sachsenheim, Kissleg, Singen, Wilfingen and Triberg dressed up lavishly as demons, witches, earthly spirits and fearful animals to enact this scene of symbolic expulsion.”

    The language used seems brutal and harsh; hunted down, expelled, expulsion, fearful.”

     Estelle Hanania-Glacial Jubile-Shelter Press-European folklore costume-1

    Estelle Hanania-Glacial Jubile-Shelter Press-European folklore costume-3Estelle Hanania-Glacial Jubile-Shelter Press-European folklore costume-8

    “In Estelle Hanania’s Glacial Jubilé book (2013), some of the European folkloric costumes and creatures from Wilder Mann seem at points to reappear and breach the rural/urban divide, but this time they can seem like alien invaders as they are shown advancing in formation across the landscape and then appearing in urban streets and shopping centres.”

    Photograph from the project Senseless

    Laura Thompson-Senseless-1

    “(In Laura Thompson’s Senseless photography series from 2016) she produced staged photographs of figures in the landscape dressed in costumes made from disposable manmade objects.

    These photographs appear to recall European folkloric or mythical costume that may have appeared in say Charles Fréger or Estelle Hanania’s work but filtered as though via a story of outer space creatures who are lost and wandering the earth.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 31 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • The Shildam Hall Tapes – Album Released

    Released today 31st July 2018. 

    CD available via our Artifacts Shop, at Bandcamp and Norman Records.
    Dawn Light Edition £11.95. Nightfall Edition £21.95.

    Both editions are hand-finished and custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink by A Year In The Country

    Download available at Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon etc.

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    Features work by Gavino Morretti, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Circle/Temple, A Year In The Country, The Heartwood Institute, David Colohan, Listening Centre and Pulselovers.

    “Reflections on an imaginary film.”

    In the late 1960s a film crew began work on a well-funded feature film in a country mansion, having been granted permission by the young heir of the estate.

    Amidst rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults.

    Few of the cast or crew have spoken about events since and any reports from then seem to contradict one another and vary wildly in terms of what actually happened on the set.

    A large number of those involved, including a number of industry figures who at the time were considered to have bright futures, simply seemed to disappear or step aside from the film industry following the film’s collapse, their careers seemingly derailed or cast adrift by their experiences.

    Little is known of the film’s plot but several unedited sections of the film and its soundtrack have surfaced, found amongst old filmstock sold as a job lot at auction – although how they came to be there is unknown.

    The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was.

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    “Every track unsettles and enthrals in equal measure.” Ben Graham, Shindig! magazine

    “A gorgeously woven twilight apparition… amid a becoming spectral haze, these chiming serenades shimmer in and out of focus to play tic tac toe with both the enchanted and the eerie.” Mark Barton, The Sunday Experience

    Nightfall Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £21.95
    Hand-finished box-set contains: album on all black CD, 1 x sheet of accompanying notes, 1 print, 3 x stickers and 3 x badges.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-front of box-A Year In The Country The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-opened box-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-contents-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-accompanying notes-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-print-A Year In The Country The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-stickers and badges-A Year In The Country
    The Shildam Hall tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-all black CD-A Year In The Country
    Top of CD.                                                             Bottom of CD.

    Further packaging details:
    1) Cover, notes and print custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
    2) Contained in a matchbox style sliding two-part rigid matt card box with cover print.
    3) Fully black CD (black on top, black on playable side).
    4) 1 x folded sheets of accompanying notes, printed on textured laid paper – numbered on back.
    5) 1 x print on textured fine art cotton rag paper.
    5) 1 x 2.5 cm badge, 1 x 4.5 cm badge.
    6) 1 x 5.6 cm sticker, 1 x 3.5 cm sticker, 2 x 12cm stickers.

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    Dawn Light Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £11.95.
    Hand-finished white/black CD album in textured recycled fold out sleeve with fold-out insert and badge.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-front-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-opened-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-back-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-accompanying notes-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-black white CD-A Year In The Country
    Top of CD.                                                          Bottom of CD.

    Further packaging details:
    1) Custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
    2) Includes 2.5 cm badge, secured with removable glue on string bound tag.
    3) 1 x folded sheet of accompanying notes, hand numbered on back.

     

    Tracklisting:

    1) Gavino Morretti –  Dawn of a New Generation
    2) Sproatly Smith – Galloping Backwards
    3) Field Lines Cartographer – The Computer
    4) Vic Mars – Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden
    5) Circle/Temple – Maze Sequence
    6) A Year In The Country – Day 12, Scene 2, Take 3; Hoffman’s Fall
    7) The Heartwood Institute – Shildam Hall Seance
    8) David Colohan – How We’ll Go Out
    9) Listening Center – Cultivation I
    10) Pulselovers – The Green Leaves of Shildam Hall

     

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  • James Herriot, Robert Macfarlane and Parallel Spaces/Methods for Escape and Repose: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 31/52

    James Herriot-All Creatures Great And Small-2013 book reissues-Tom Cole artwork-A Year In The Country

    I have written about the semi-auto biographical memoirs of the Yorskhire based vet James Herriot’s before at A Year In The Country but I am returning to them as a while ago I finished reading the series of books and this post is something of a tip of the hat to Mr Herriot’s work both as a vet and author (and also something of a wandering down other parallel pathways.)

    (I say semi-auto biographical as apparently, contrary to popular belief, the books are only loosely based on real events and people and are actually a melding of fact and fiction. James Herriot was actually the pen name of James Alfred Wight.)

    They were originally published in seven books between 1970 and 1993 and have in more recent years been compiled into five books with a set of cover illustrations by Tom Cole which, if placed together, create a panorama that reflects both the passing of the seasons and of life in general.

    (They were also made into a popular mainstream British television series in the 1970s.)

    The books are set in the 1930s through to the 1950s, which within British life, farming and veterinary practise was a time of great change – a time when, to quote James Herriot, there was a “melting away” of the blacksmiths, the arrival of tractors on farms to replace horses and vast changes and advances in veterinary methods and techniques, which in some ways in the way it is presented in the books, particularly previously to the 1940s, seems to have not advanced all that much further from previous centuries.

    It is often the small details of the changes in life and technology that are mentioned in the books which are particularly fascinating – such as in the days before heated windows were fitted as standard (or possibly even been invented) in cars, James Herriot receiving by mailorder a small car window de-icing heater device, which when clamped to the windscreen gave a few inches wide area of visibility in windows that froze up every few miles in cold weather

    Previous to the arrival of this device the car would have to be stopped every few miles in order for the ice on the window to be scraped off, which as a then inherent part of driving is almost difficult to imagine today.

    James Herriot-book covers-Vets Might Fly-It Shouldnt Happen to a vet-Vet in a spin

    The books appeal to a sense or yearning for a rural escape and idyll but while they may have a gentleness to their tone, they do not flinch from the realities of this life.

    The life and work of a vet depicted in the books seems curiously hard, both physically and mentally: vets are shown as having been constantly on call – a recurring event in the books seems to be James Herriot being called out in the middle of the night to help deliver a newborn farm animal in the middle of all kinds of harsh weather and primitive unsheltered conditions – a job which often was physically not just demanding but exhausting and could take many hours.

    While the worry about sometimes not being able to successfully treat an animal is also a recurring theme in the books.

    Having said which, James Herriot expresses a great pride and sometimes joy in his work, in amongst its rigours, particularly when seeing the successfully delivered newborn farm animals and in being able to return a beloved pet to good health and vigour.

    That just mentioned yearning for a rural escape, of searching for a restful Arcadian idyll and repose seems to be an inherent part of the English/British character.

    The interest in the flipside and undercurrents of pastoral and folk based culture in recent years – what could loosely be called “wyrd” culture – could be seen as an alternative expression of that yearning.

    The Edge Is Where The Centre Is-books-Texte und tone-Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-Mordant Music

    As I have mentioned before, author and lecturer Robert Macfarlane is quoted in the book The Edge Is Where The Centre Is as saying that this area of cultural interest and work may be an attempt to make sense, explain, account for and possibly act as a respite, allow refuge from and act as a bulwark against the current dominant economic/political system.

    Robert Macfarlane-book covers-Landmarks-The Old Ways

    As also mentioned by Robert Macfarlane, part of the above work, acitivity and interest can involve a utilising or reconfiguring of the spectral or preternatural as a form of expression, exploration and escape from related turbulence and pressures.

    This is in contrast to say the more overtly gentle views of the rural presented in James Herriot’s books, rather in such work etc the attempt to create a space for respite and repose has often taken the form of hauntological-esque pastoral inflected work and interests, which often contain eerie or unsettling aspects,

    Elsewhere:
    Details on James Herriot
    Details on Robert Macfarlane

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Wanderings #35/52a: All Creatures Great And Small And Non-Chocolate Box Chocolate Box-isms
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 2/52: Penda’s Fen and The Edge Is Where The Centre Is – Explorations of the Occult, Otherly and Hidden Landscape

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Folk Archive and Unsophisticated Arts – Documenting the Overlooked and Unregulated: Chapter 30 Book Images

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    Folk Archive-Jeremy Deller-Alan Kane-A Year In The Country Folk Archive-Jeremy Deller-Alan Kane-A Year In The Country 2 Folk Archive-Jeremy Deller-Alan Kane-A Year In The Country-scarecrow

    “Folk Archive: Contemporary Popular Art from the UK is a book and exhibition from 2005, created and collected by Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane.

    The Folk Archive collection is a gathering and documenting of creative work that could be loosely considered folk art from everyday life in the UK, part of which includes work which may have been created for utilitarian purposes or decoration such as cafe signs and often things which may not be considered art by its makers or wider society.

    Jeremy Dellar-Allan Kane-Folk Archive book

    “The phrase “folk art” often conjures or represents a particular quite well-defined, often rural or cottage industry aesthetic and has been frequently used to refer more to work from previous eras but The Folk Archive does not make such distinctions.

    In the pages of the book you can find largely photographic images of tattoos/tattoo guns, artwork from prisons, burger van signs, illustrations painted onto the bonnets of cars and crash helmets, fairground paintings, sandcastles, cake decorations, Christmas decorations, protest banners, shop signs, decorative costume for a night out or a carnival, clairvoyant’s hand created signs, crop circles and the trappings of what could be considered traditional folkloric rituals.”

    Valeries snack bar-float-Jeremy Deller-Procession-Manchester 2009Jeremy-Deller-The-English-Civil-War-Boyes-Georgina-A Year In The Country

    “Jeremy Deller’s work often involves, incorporates and is interactively accessible or co-created by the public.

    In line with that, his work in the past has included taking modern music technology to record with retired musicians in an English seaside town, re-enacting pitched battles in political disputes in conjunction with those involved at the time and re-enactment enthusiasts, taking a bouncy castle version of Stonehenge around the country, a traditional brass band playing acid house records to a young dance audience or a procession through Manchester that incorporated everything from a local pensioner-friendly snack bar recreated on the back of a float to Manchester’s musical legacy reinterpreted by a calypso band.”

    Unsophisticated-Arts-Barbara Jones-Little Toller books-A Year In The CountryThe Unsophisticated Arts-Barbara Jones-English Vernacular Art-Little Toller Black Eyes & Lemonade exhibition-Barbara Jones

    “The Folk Archive collection provides a pathway to a modern-day revisiting of some of the themes of Barbara Jones’ Unsophisticated Arts, originally released in 1951 and republished in 2013 by Little Toller Books.

    That book told the story of her explorations in the 1940s of everyday art throughout Britain and which took in some similar subject matter to that in Folk Archive: fairgrounds, tattoo parlours, taxidermists, houseboats, high street shops, seaside piers and amusement arcades.

    Also in 1951 Barbara Jones organised the Black Eyes and Lemonade exhibition in the Whitechapel Art Gallery as part of the Festival of Britain, which in a similar manner to the Folk Archive presented creative work and objects which would normally not be included within the realms of fine art and associated gallery display…

    Although it was intended as a recording of real life and day-to-day art, viewed now it provides a document of a fabled lost Britain; there is a certain whimsical fairytale like quality to the images of often ornately and elaborately decorated canal boat interiors, fairground rides, table cupboards etc.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 30 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Welcome to the Village Green Non-Preservation Society – The Avengers and Further Visitings of Villages as Anything but Idyll: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 30/52

    The Avengers-Series 5-1967-Murdersville-village green-opening title-2

    A while ago I watched an episode of the 1960s television series called Murdersville.

    The episode in question is from series 5, originally broadcast in 1967 and I think was the second to last in which Diana Riggs played the iconic Mrs Peel, accompanying the bowler hatted Steed as a duo of some form of loosely defined trouble shooting agents of authority with a somewhat flippant, irreverent attitude to the problems they encounter (although they invariably have a certain accompanying steely resolve in terms of getting the job done).

    They are often called in and/or accidentally stumble on bizarre, surreal, grandiose plots to say take over the world or turn domestic pets into trained assassins via the use of brain wave modulators.

    The episodes, particularly the later colour ones, have a set-in-the-real-world but not aspect, a sort of stylised cartoonish presentation that is not a million miles away from the 1960s television series of Batman.

    The Murdersville episode could be considered something of a forerunner to Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz film from 2007 in the way it depicts an English chocolate box like idyllic village or small town gone bad.

    The Avengers-Series 5-1967-Murdersville-village sign

    Murdersville opens with a sign which says “Welcome to Little Storping-in-the-Swuff. Voted the best kept village in the country. Please help us to keep it that way.”, which caused me to think initially that as with Hot Fuzz the dastardly deeds would also be in order to maintain its “best kept village” status.

    However, whereas in Hot Fuzz the village/townsfolk are involved in a murderous conspiracy to essentially keep out the riff-raff and make sure it retains a picture perfect appearance and its title of Village of the Year, in Murdersville the village has become a place run by the Murder Incorporated organisation and where for a fee you are able to lure people to and do away with them, which is then covered up by the villagers.

    The Avengers-Series 5-1967-Murdersville-village pub

    And as in Hot Fuzz, you know something is seriously wrong when the good old English bobby (a colloquial, possibly period phrase for a uniformed British police officer) and the “pint of warm ale” serving local pub are part of the corruption.

    The Avengers-Series 5-1967-Murdersville-library silence sign

    In Murdersville these symbols of civility are part and parcel of the corrupted ways of the village, while in a “keeping standards up” manner, even during an assassination the Silence sign in the local library is still pointed to by a librarian and obeyed.

    The Avengers-Series 5-1967-Murdersville-villagers

    As is often the way in fantastical depictions of villages, here the village and villagers are shown as the “unknown” or other to the city folk and at one point, as in The Wicker Man and The Village of the Damned, they become a mob handed mass and as also in The Wicker Man they are shown as employing medieval/olden ways methods when they use a witch trials like ducking device on Mrs Peel.

    The Avengers-Series 5-1967-Murdersville-Mrs Peel-village green

    Mrs Peel looks wonderfully out-of-place in her purple, stylish, pop-art-esque outifit in amongst the olde worlde village, the village green and the countryside etc.

    The Avengers-Series 5-1967-Murdersville-Mrs Peel pie flinging

    Towards the end of the episode it turns into a Tiswas like set of flan flinging fisticuffs and despite the life threatening, murderous aspects of the village, by the end the villagers run of when threatened by Mrs Peel armed with but a pie made for a traditional English produce competition alongside the likes of jars of homemade jam, knitting and needlework.

    The Avengers-Series 5-1967-Murdersville-Mrs Peel-cocktail

    Which fits really with the subtly imaginary, cartoon-like world of The Avengers, where even quite traumatic events are treated as essentially jolly japes with seemingly little mental after effects on Mrs Peel, Mr Steed or their sartorial elegance and definitely nothing that a droll quip and a post-action cocktail won’t put to bed.

    Elsewhere:
    The Avengers introduction and credits sequences
    The Hot Fuzz trailer

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Day #173/365: “Douglas I’m scared”; celluloid cuckoos and the village as anything but idyll…

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham, Dystopian Tales, Celluloid Cuckoos and the Village as Anything but Idyll: Chapter 29 Book Images

    The Village Of The Damned poster-French-A Year In The Country-Martin Stephens

    “Watching The Village of the Damned, the 1960 film adaptation of John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos, it seemed like the perfect summing up of one of the themes of A Year In The Country; an imagined sense of an underlying unsettledness to country idylls, of something having gone wrong and rotten amongst the hills, valleys and sleepy local streets of this green and pleasant land.”

    The Village Of The Damned-A Year In The Country-Midwich Cuckoos-John Wyndham-film adapation 6

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    “It is a film full of iconic imagery: nearly every scene arriving with at least one more: the early collapse into unconsciousness of that most British symbol of pastoral civility the bobby on a bicycle (bobby being a colloquial and possibly now period expression meaning police officer), nighttime mobs with burning torches and the children themselves with their emotional detachment, silver hair and glowing eyes.”

    british-quatermass-and-the-pit-poster-by-tom-chantrell-1967

    “In many ways it could be seen to be the flipside or even accompaniment to the film and television versions of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (1958-1959 and 1967 respectively).

    Quatermass and The Pit is a post Second World War consideration of the battle for genetic superiority, purity and control as experienced in a then still recent historic conflict, while in The Village of the Damned an amoral, Aryan-esque race are seeded amongst the population, determined to survive and colonise whatever the cost.”

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    professor-bernard-quatermass-a-bakers-dozen-a-year-in-the-countryDay 23-The Stone Tape Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country 2

    “Both Quatermass author Nigel Kneale and John Wyndham seemed to often specialise in tales where the landscape and rural areas were far removed from idylls.

    For example, in John Wyndham’s work there are the preternatural invaders of Village of the Damned and in his 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids survivors of a worldwide cataclysm take refuge in a rural cottage against predatory plants.

    In Nigel Kneale’s final series of Quatermass from 1979, rural stone circles are the sites of extraterrestrial reapings of the world’s youth, the research conducive space that a country manor house should provide in 1972’s The Stone Tape instead becomes the scene for an unearthing and return of spectral events.”

    Village Of The Damned-Martin Stephens-A Year In The CountryThe Innocents-O Willow Waly-George Auric-Isla Cameron-Finders Keepers 7 inch vinyl-Finders Kreepers-A Year In The Country 5

    “(In The Village of the Damned the children) are essentially a hive mind or colony, their leader or more vocal spokesperson is played brilliantly by Martin Stephens (second from right in the above still), just the touch of a smile playing about his lips as he stares otherwise without emotion at his mother after sending someone to a fiery departure.

    He appears to have been the go-to young actor for such quietly unsettling preternaturalness in the early 1960s as he also appears amongst the reeds, willows, hauntings and transgressions of the 1961 film The Innocents.”

    Day Of The Triffids-1981 TV series-A Year In The CountryDay Of The Triffids-John Wyndham-tv tie in tv adaptation book-A Year In The Country.

    “(The title sequence to the 1981 television adaptation of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids novel has) an air of being genuinely unsettling, in particular the introduction, where green and blue-tinted faces stare wonderingly at the cosmic light show which will make mankind blind, the brief terrifying attack by a triffid plant and the accompanying spectral choral soundtrack.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 29 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Audio Albion – Further Wanderings Amongst the Airwaves, the Ether and Elsewhere…

    A selection of further broadcasts, reviews etc of the Audio Albion album…

    First up Audio Albion was reviewed by Mark Roland in issue 42 of Electronic Sound magazine, where you can find it nestled in amongst a cover feature on Mute Records, the usual selection of potentially bank balance worrying selection of gadgets and synths, The The, David Sylvian, A Flock of Seagulls, Finiflex/Finitribe etc. Count me in, as they say (!):

    “Starting with the banjo of Bare Bones’ Marshland Improvisations, replete with birdsong and other ambient noise, Audio Albion continues on a gentle path of discovery. It traverses the electronic droplets of Field Lines Cartographer’s Coldbarrow, the wash of Howlround’s Cold Kissing and numerous other well fashioned reactions to England’s strange and forgotten corners.”

    Visit the issue at Electronic Sound’s site.

    Retromania author Simon Reynolds included the album in his June 2018 Hauntology Parish Newsletter, which serves as a gathering/round-up of all things (generally) musically spectral orientated. You’ll find Audio Albion in the company of the likes of Moon Wiring Club, Bloxham Tapes and Andrew Peckler’s Phantom Islands – A Sonic Atlas project which is described as “an interactive online map that charts the sounds and histories of islands that were once found on nautical maps but have since disappeared.”

    Visit the Newsletter here.

    Kim Harten has reviewed the album at her Bliss Aquamarine site, where it can be found in the company of previous A Year In The Country releases The Quietened Cosmologists and All The Merry Year Round, alongside a fine and eclectic selection of other album reviews:

    “…each musical composition (incorporates) sounds of place whilst using music and sound-art to further explore the history, myth and atmosphere of these locations… Audio Albion is a fine selection of eerie, experimental, cinematic sounds inspired by folklore and landscape.”

    Visit that review here.

    Stephen Palmer and Andrew Young included a piece about Audio Albion as part of the Terrascope Rumbles for July 2018 gathering of over 40 (yep, 40) album reviews:

    “There are some gems to be discovered… Time Attendant’s “Holloway”, is both immersive and impressive… Vic Mars Dinedor Hill… a slowly unwinding song all about said hill, a hill which Vic could see from his bedroom window as a child. Ebbing and flowing synth lines are punctuated by some very strange whir’s and pulses.”

    Visit those Rumbles in amongst some rather lovely previous era letter press-esque designs and illustrations at Terrascope’s site.

    In a rounding the circle manner, Audio Albion contributor Mat Handley of Pulselovers played Vic Mars’ and Widow’s Weeds’ tracks from the album on his You, the Night & the Music radio show, amongst the likes of Sharron Kraus, The Advisory Circle and Making Tea For Robots.

    Originally broadcast on Sine FM, the show can be found archived here.

    Stuart Maconie played Grey Frequency’s Stapleford Hill from the album on his BBC Radio 6 Music Freak Zone show,  where it can be found alongside the likes of Spacemen 3, Hannah Peel, Harold Budd and A Silver Mt. Zion.

    Visit that episode of Freak Zone here.

    A selection of previous broadcasts and reviews of Audio Albion can be found here at A Year In The Country.

    It can be found there at the likes of radio shows including Late Junction, Gideon Coe, Fractal Meat, Flatland Frequencies, Gated Canal Community Radio, Pull the Plug, The Unquiet Meadow, Sunrise Ocean Bender and The Séance, plus various sites, magazines etc including We Are Cult, John Coulthart’s feuilleton, Touching Extremes, Goldmine, Music Won’t Save You, The Guardian, The Sunday Experience and Shindig!.

    As always many thanks and a tip of the hat to everybody involved.

    Audio Albion is a music and field recording map of Britain, which focuses on rural and edgeland areas. The album features work by Bare Bones, David Colohan, Grey Frequency, Field Lines Cartographer, Howlround, A Year In The Country, Keith Seatman, Magpahi, Sproatly Smith, Widow’s Weeds, Time Attendant, Spaceship, Pulselovers, The Heartwood Institute and Vic Mars.

    Further details can be found here at A Year In The Country.

     

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  • The Wicker Man, Edge of Darkness and Village of the Damned – The “Tricky” Cult Remake: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 29/52

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 5

    Remaking a much-loved and cult classic seems like a tricky path to choose in cinema and to a degree television drama: the film/programme you are making will often have a certain pre-existing recognition factor but that is also a double-edged sword as you are essentially pitting yourself against, well, the love of and for a cult classic.

    Along which lines it is also a potentially odd and tricky thing for a director to do to attempt to make a semi “in the spirit of” sequel to his own much-loved cult classic (see The Wicker Tree).

    Along which lines, three such films and programmes which have been remade that I have previously written about at A Year In The Country are The Wicker Man, The Village of the Damned and Edge of Darkness.

    Now, although I thought it was an odd thing to do, to attempt to remake The Wicker Man, I tried to go into watching the 2006 version with an open mind and without being overly prejudiced against it – as a cultural behemoth the original version of The Wicker Man casts a long and imposing shadow.

    It’s a fair while ago since I watched the remake and despite my trepidation in watching it, one of the main things that struck me was rather than thinking it was inherently bad, that it was essentially just another film, almost workmanlike, in contrast to the fantastical/fantasia like multi-layered cultural and aesthetic aspects of the original.

    (The original film version of The Wicker Man’s troubled and intriguing production and release history has also come to be fairly inherently intertwined with those cultural aspects – adding a further layering which makes it shadow all the longer and more imposing on any remake.)

    All of which brings me to the 2010 film adaptation/remake of Edge of Darkness.

    It seems like both a tricky and odd path for a director to remake his own much-loved, not so much cult but widely and critically acclaimed classic but that is what Martin Campbell did (he also directed the 1985 television original).

    For myself the original of Edge of Darkness is so rooted in my psyche and also the time, place and historical context of when it was made that I think I am too wary to watch the remake removed from that context and to possibly dispel my appreciation of the original, even out of curiousity about what the remake is like.

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still

    Which brings me to John Carpenter’s 1995 adaptation of The Village of the Damned (originally adapted from John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos), here remade as Village of the Damned.

    (There was also a British made sequel to The Village of the Damned made in 1964 called Children of the Damned.)

    John Carpenter is known for holding British science fiction/fantasy writer Nigel Kneale in high regard (as I have mentioned before, in homage to Nigel Kneales’s Work, his Prince of Darkness film is credited to Martin Quatermass and he commissioned Kneale to work on the script for Halloween III which John Carpenter co-produced and co-scored) and it’s not much of a jump from Nigel Kneale’s intelligent take on British science fiction etc to John Wyndham’s.

    Halloween III-John Carpenter-Tommy Lee Wallace-Alan Howarth-Nigel Kneale-1982-5
    (Although not directed by the same person, the above still from Village of the Damned shares something of a similarity or two with the below still from Halloween III and both have a somewhat classic John Carpenter-esque “empty/isolated streets” dread.)

    The 1995 remake of Village of the Damned is an odd film texturally: it has the look and feel of a made-for-television movie, although it had a budget of $22 million (approximately $36 million today allowing for inflation), which is hardly small change.

    That look and feel may be in part due to the period aesthetics of when it was made, related film stock and/or the DVD transfer process.

    It could also possibly be a side effect of the way in which when viewed now 1990s and turn of the millennium film and television can have a sense of not yet being old enough to have gained a retro fetishistic aspect, more just still rooted to the period of its production and a little out of step with modern tastes and expectations.

    In this remake the story is moved from the English countryside to a smallish Northern Californian American town.

    While the village in the 1960 version is peopled largely by the middle classes with terrribly good diction, alongside working class and labourer types, in John Carpenter’s version at the start the town seems to be largely populated by male hunks and styled female blondes.

    The film also features a number of lead actors who previously starred in various well-known and market-leading science fiction/fantasy franchises (Mark Hamill – Star Wars, Christopher Reeves – Superman, Kirstie Alley – Star Trek).

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 2

    The government/authorities’ response to essentially the town’s women being impregnated by a possibly alien race seems curiously unofficial/ramshackle – particularly viewed today in an era of heightened security measures.

    Here the problem seems to be tackled by say the kind of grungey, underfunded, self-directed groups or organisations that would perhaps be found in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.

    As I have mentioned before sections of John Carpenter’s work, particularly his earlier films in the 1970s and during parts of the 1980s, contained a kind of ragged, tight, almost street energy to them, a possibly more fun, less arthouse parallel to David Cronenberg’s earlier films.

    There is still some kind of left-of-centre cinema feel to this version of Village of the Damned and elements of that tighness or energy but it feels less focused or to not have quite the same energy of some of his other work:

    “I’m really not passionate about Village of the Damned. I was getting rid of a contractual assignment, although I will say that it has a very good performance from Christopher Reeve, so there’s some value in it.” (John Carpenter in an interview at Vulture website.)

    Possibly that lack of a sense of lean example of cinema could also be a result of the translation and remaking of an earlier piece of work and the way in which during that process some of the original energy or “magic”, that indefinable something can sometimes be lost along the way.

    However, as I say, it’s a tricky proposition attempting to remake a much loved cult classic and the creators of the new version may well find themselves treading on what some may consider culturally hallowed ground. Taking on such a task could be considered something of a double edged sword in many ways; you have the pre-existing recognition factor and possibly proven appeal of the story etc of the earlier version but then there are also a whole host of expectations and comparing with its forebear to contend with.

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 4

    Elsewhere:
    The Wicker Man 1973 / The Wicker Man 2006
    Edge of Darkness 1985Edge of Darkness 2010
    The Village of the Damned 1960 / Village of the Damned 1995
    John Carpenter at the Vulture website

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #173/365: “Douglas I’m scared”; celluloid cuckoos and the village as anything but idyll…
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 4/52a: Halloween III: Season of the Witch – A Curious Slice of Culture and Collisions with the Past
    3) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 22/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 1 – The Sleeper Awakens
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 23/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 2 – “This is not a dream”
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 24/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 3 – Quatermass-esque Non Bebop Filmmaking
    6) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 8/52: In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories Part 2
    7) The Wicker Man: well, that would be in a fair few “Elsewhere at A Year In The Country”

     

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  • Image AA/28

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • No Blade of Grass and Z.P.G. – A Curious Dystopian Mini-Genre: Chapter 28 Book Images

    ZPG-Silent Running-Soylent Green-1970s science fiction film posters

    The Omega Man-Logans Run-Noahs Castle-1970s science fiction film and television posters-DVD cover

    “In the 1970s there was a curious mini-genre or gathering of doom laden apocalyptic, dystopian science fiction films, which warned of the dangers of ecological collapse, the depletion and battle for vital resources, out of control population growth and related ways citizens might be controlled and manipulated.

    You could include Z.P.G. (1972), Soylent Green (1973), Silent Running (1972) and The Omega Man (1971) in amongst these, possibly in a more crowd and eye-pleasing way Logan’s Run (1976) and you could draw a line from them to later British television series along similar lines such as Noah’s Castle (1979), which also dealt with the effects of dwindling resources and the resulting societal breakdown.”

    No-Blade-Of-Grass-The Death of Grass-John Christopher-book covers and film poster

    “No Blade of Grass (1970), based on John Christopher’s The Death of Grass novel from 1956, was another such film.

    This is a surprisingly bleak, brutal film (admittedly with some inappropriate almost sitcom-like music here and there and longstanding UK sitcom and soap opera actress Wendy Richards as a slightly out-of-place comic female character) about what happens when a new strain of virus kills the world’s grass, related plants and crops.”

    No Blade Of Grass 1-A Year In The Country

    “The title frames show a lone group of figures armed and on the run on a parched, cracked landscape, set against images of pollution and decay, which are soon followed by scenes of abundant food and conventional affluent middle class ways of life.”

    No Blade Of Grass 2-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass 8-A Year In The Country

    “In the 1970s it often seemed to be wild gangs of bikers who were the recurring societal bogeymen that would take over when civilisation collapsed (John Christopher’s 1968 novel Pendulum novel takes a similar line, while the 1973 film Psychomania sees the bikers become undead countryside hoodlums).”

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 11-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass 11-A Year In The Country

    “Meanwhile those sometime symbols of bucolic English pastoralism, the good old tweed clad country farmer and the stone farmhouse become almost Deliverance (1972) style hijackers and scenes of troop insurrections.”

    No Blade Of Grass-3b-A Year In The Country

    “While in the cities the dependable British bobby has become an altogether different gas mask wearing, gun-toting symbol of authority.

    The spires of a land forever England now merely act as a backdrop to the chaos.”

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 17-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 16-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 19-A Year In The Country

    “Although in some ways quite a mainstream, possibly even exploitation piece of cinema, throughout the film there are quite non-mainstream moments, presentation and commentary on what has led the world to this place: the action will stop and be replaced by non-narrative sequences and stills that show fields full of carrion, rivers strewn with dead aquatic life, smokestacks framed by leafless nature, rows of discarded cars are pictured on riverbanks, a luxury car is shown abandoned in the countryside as an advertising voice over says “You can do anything in a Rolls-Royce” while the almost unnoticeable specs of citizens fleeing the rioting and looting mobs in the cities can be seen on the hill behind it.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-4Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-The Edict-Max Ehrlich-A Year In The Country

    “Z.P.G. (which stands for Zero Population Growth)  is not as overtly apocalyptic, more being a depiction of a dystopian-regulated future. It was inspired by Paul Ehrlich’s factual 1968 book The Population Bomb which warned of the potentially disastrous effects of mass resource depletion due to overpopulation, with a screenplay by Frank De Felitta and Max Ehrlich (the second of whom also published a novel based on the screenplay called The Edict in 1971 prior to the film’s release).”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-11

    “The film seems reasonably obscure and overlooked but is somewhat intriguing, not least because of the cast which includes Oliver Reed, past his peak but still full of a glowering, brooding power, Geraldine Chaplin who is the daughter of bagged trousered celluloid tumbler and sometimes dictator botherer Charlie Chaplin and the bewitching, almost otherworldly luminescence of sometime The Wicker Man (1973)/Summerisle inhabitant Diane Cilento.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-10

    “The setting is a massively polluted, smogbound Earth where natural childbirth has been banned for 30 years in order to try and preserve resources, with those who stray from these rules being punished in a particularly draconian manner as it results in execution, which slightly surreally and unsettlingly involves plastic domes printed with the word “Transgressor” being used as traps which are spray painted pink to hide the inhabitants who are then left to run out of air.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-12

    “Couples are offered robot child substitutes, in a way that seems prescient of Japanese electronic Tamagotchi toys where the users had to nurture a digital pet but without giving away too much, not all citizens are obeying the “no children” edict.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-still

    Planet of the Apes-1968-ending

    “As a film, it is a good representation of a point in time when downbeat bleakness was often presented as part of mainstream entertainment, possibly reflecting the troubled times of the 1970s and the collapse of post-1960s utopian dreams…

    It contains elements of B-movies and action movies but also possesses a certain intelligence and investigation within its genre tropes that put the viewer in mind of Planet of the Apes (1968) and the sense of “What have we as a species done?”.” 

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 28 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • The Shildam Hall Tapes – Preorder

    Preorder today 10th July 2018. Released 31st July 2018. 

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall and Dawn Light Editions-CD albums-fronts-A Year In The Country

    CD preorder available via our Artifacts Shop and at Bandcamp.
    Dawn Light Edition £11.95. Nightfall Edition £21.95.

    Both editions are hand-finished and custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink by A Year In The Country

    Download preorder available at Bandcamp now and available on release date at iTunes, Amazon etc.

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    Features work by Gavino Morretti, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Circle/Temple, A Year In The Country, The Heartwood Institute, David Colohan, Listening Centre and Pulselovers.

    “Reflections on an imaginary film.”

    In the late 1960s a film crew began work on a well-funded feature film in a country mansion, having been granted permission by the young heir of the estate.

    Amidst rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults.

    Few of the cast or crew have spoken about events since and any reports from then seem to contradict one another and vary wildly in terms of what actually happened on the set.

    A large number of those involved, including a number of industry figures who at the time were considered to have bright futures, simply seemed to disappear or step aside from the film industry following the film’s collapse, their careers seemingly derailed or cast adrift by their experiences.

    Little is known of the film’s plot but several unedited sections of the film and its soundtrack have surfaced, found amongst old filmstock sold as a job lot at auction – although how they came to be there is unknown.

    The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was.

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    Nightfall Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £21.95
    Hand-finished box-set contains: album on all black CD, 1 x sheet of accompanying notes, 1 print, 3 x stickers and 3 x badges.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-front of box-A Year In The Country The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-opened box-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-contents-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-accompanying notes-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-print-A Year In The Country The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-stickers and badges-A Year In The Country
    The Shildam Hall tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-all black CD-A Year In The Country
    Top of CD.                                                             Bottom of CD.

    Further packaging details:
    1) Cover, notes and print custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
    2) Contained in a matchbox style sliding two-part rigid matt card box with cover print.
    3) Fully black CD (black on top, black on playable side).
    4) 1 x folded sheets of accompanying notes, printed on textured laid paper – numbered on back.
    5) 1 x print on textured fine art cotton rag paper.
    5) 1 x 2.5 cm badge, 1 x 4.5 cm badge.
    6) 1 x 5.6 cm sticker, 1 x 3.5 cm sticker, 2 x 12cm stickers.

    dividing-line-just-black-a-year-in-the-country-620px

    Dawn Light Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £11.95.
    Hand-finished white/black CD album in textured recycled fold out sleeve with fold-out insert and badge.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-front-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-opened-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-back-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-accompanying notes-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-black white CD-A Year In The Country
    Top of CD.                                                          Bottom of CD.

    Further packaging details:
    1) Custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
    2) Includes 2.5 cm badge, secured with removable glue on string bound tag.
    3) 1 x folded sheet of accompanying notes, hand numbered on back.

     

    Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall edition-sticker rectangular-1

    Tracklisting:

    1) Gavino Morretti –  Dawn of a New Generation
    2) Sproatly Smith – Galloping Backwards
    3) Field Lines Cartographer – The Computer
    4) Vic Mars – Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden
    5) Circle/Temple – Maze Sequence
    6) A Year In The Country – Day 12, Scene 2, Take 3; Hoffman’s Fall
    7) The Heartwood Institute – Shildam Hall Seance
    8) David Colohan – How We’ll Go Out
    9) Listening Center – Cultivation I
    10) Pulselovers – The Green Leaves of Shildam Hall

     

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  • Requiem Part 3 – Whisperings of Otherworldly Pastoralism, Hidden Layers and Intertwinings: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 28/52

    Requiem soundtrack-Dominik Scherrer-Natasha Khan-Dubois Music

    In Part 3 of this post on the television series Requiem, created by Kris Mrska and first broadcast in the UK by the BBC, I wander back towards the soundtrack.

    As I mention in Part 1 this was created by Dominik Scherrer with Natasha Khan, who is known for her work as Bat For Lashes and could be filed alongside The Living and the Dead’s soundtrack in that it explores/accompanies a sense of otherly pastoralism (and in The Living and the Dead’s case folk music and culture) and the super or preternatural in a rural  within a mainstream television setting.

    Natasha Khan’s wordless vocals accompany the instrumentation and the resulting work is rather fine and lovely, entrancing even and while the music at times contains a subtly unsettling, darker tinged and sometimes dread filled or ominous atmosphere, it has a sense of warmth or even intimacy to it.

    Accompanying the themes in the series, the music soundtracks a sense of visitations by spectres, spirits and possibly demons that are near by, whispering in your ear or just at the edge of vision in a room you have stumbled into. Otherworldly or conjurings are words that also come to mind.

    The Duke of Burgundy-Cats EyesValerie And Her Week Of Wonders seven inch-Finders Keepers Records-Record Store Day 2017-2Jane Weaver-Intiaani Kesä-Parade Of Blood Red Sorrows-Kiss Of The Damned-A Year In The CountryKelli Ali-rocking horse-cover art-the kiss

    Reference points for the soundtrack?

    Well, they may include the likes of Cat’s Eyes pastoral fantasia soundtrack for The Duke of Burgundy or the also fantasia like soundtrack to Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, the melodic conjurings of Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows and maybe the soundtrack for some semi-forgotten supernatural tinged Italian giallo (along which lines, I could also mention Kelli Ali’s The Kiss, which has not dissimilar semi-forgotten soundtrack qualities).

    Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country

    Other possible references points?

    The also pastoral wanderings and wordless vocalisations of Sharron Kraus’ Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails, which connects back to Part 1 of this post as in that I mentioned how Peter Anderson Studio created the intro sequence for Requiem and also designed the artwork for this particular Sharron Kraus album.

    Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 2

    In Part 1 of this post I also mention how the Peter Anderson Studio work for requiem has:

    “…a certain classy texturality, the lineage of which could be traced back to the likes of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson’s work for 4AD in the 1980s”.

    Which for myself brings me to some other possible reference points for The Requiem soundtrack: it puts me in mind of something pleasingly leftfield that you might have found on say 4AD or Mute in the 1980s.

    Holger Hiller-Waltz-Whippets-Oben Im Eck-Mute-album and twelve inch covers

    Possibly in some way the accessible, melodic experimentalism of Holger Hiller on the album Obem im Eck/the track Waltz or the more experimentally arthouse, atmospheric side of gothic tinged (but not actually goth) work such as some of Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard’s work, in particular The Host of Seraphim from 1988’s The Serpent’s Egg.

    Dead Can Dance-The Serpents Egg-4AD-album and insert artwork

    As with some of Dead Can Dance’s work, the soundtrack for Requiem also here and there brings to mind a sense of reimagined medieval aesthetics – although less overtly and with a more contemporary edge than Dead Can Dance’s work, which also often has a more epic, almost glacial quality or distance to it, in contrast to the Requiem soundtrack which as mentioned earlier has a warmer more intimate character.

    The title’s to Requiem’s soundtrack’s tracks are composed of generally short non-words including Aigra, Naaa, Rgoan, Lsraph and Omsia. I can’t bring a particular album to mind but these titles also seem to remind me of some similarly titled left-of-centre work that travels in not too dissimilar terrain from the 1980s.

    His Name Is Alive-Livonia-album artwork-4AD

    Or moving slightly further along in time on 4AD, His Name is Alive’s Livonia album from 1990 could also be a reference point for the Requiem soundtrack, particularly the opening track As We Could Ever, which shares with Requiem’s soundtrack a sense of otherworldly, female vocaled conjuring.

    (As an aside, although all possessing their own character, a number of the track’s/music mentioned in this post – Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows, Kelli Ali’s The Kiss and Sharron Kraus’ Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails, Dead Can Dance’s Host of Seraphim and the Requiem Soundtrack itself –  share a similarity in featuring female wordless vocals.)

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-5

    And talking of otherworldy, as with the Peter Andersen Studio work for Requiem, the album cover art for Livonia and the insert for The Serpent’s Egg contain otherworldly, almost spectral aesthetics and a certain texturality in regards to pastoral inflected work – all of which reflects the rural setting and super or preternatural themes of the episodes of Requiem.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-3

    As a further reference point, in some way the soundtrack to Requiem also put me in mind of the loose cultural/musical grouping that David Keenan has called England’s Hidden Reverse – the post-industrial likes of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound.

    Requiem-BBC television series-still 2

    In Requiem the music is a soundtrack to, rather than a hidden reverse, more a layered, super or preternatural world and related conspiracies/machinations.

    As with Requiem, sections of Coil’s work and the neo-folk aspects of Current 93 also bring to mind and/or explore a flipside or unsettled undercurrents of rurality/the pastoral.

    The Ballad Of Shirley Collins-1

    With regards to Current 93, that aspect is also highlighted due to founder David Tibet’s championing and releasing of Shirley Collins’ music, who in recent years appears to have been situated/to have come to situate herself amongst and work alongside a sense of “wyrd” Albion and has been called “The High Queene of English Folk” in promotional material for the documentary The Ballad of Shirley Collins.

    Her connection to England’s Hidden reverse is also made more implicit due to her recording with Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown of Cyclobe, who have also worked with Coil.

    Requiem-BBC television series-still 3

    Anyways, returning more directly to Requiem:

    Music is also an inherent part of the plot of Requiem as the main character is a famous, stylish young cellist and her partner in her attempts to uncover the truth behind the machinations she discovers is her onstage musical partner and accompanying pianist.

    As part of their investigations they discover in a hidden basement recordings of haunting music, which appears to have been created and used for ritualistic purposes – something that, albeit for somewhat different reasons than those presented in Reqiuem, sections of England’s Hidden Reverse and Coil in particular have been known to do or state that their music is intended for.

    Requiem-BBC television series-still 5

    Day 23-The Stone Tape Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country 2

    Partly because of the time in which they were created these recordings which are discovered in Requiem were made on reel-to-reel cassettes.

    In the supernatural context of the series, the media on which they are recorded seems to have an inherently more spooked or spectral nature to it than say a digital recording might have, although my view of such things is possibly partly influenced by the hauntological inflections which have come to be attached to physical and period analogue media and also their use and intrinsic presence in the likes of The Stone Tape and Berberian Sound Studio.

    Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country-12

    As an aside, returning to listen to sections of the soundtrack to Berberian Sound Studio, the melodic, spectral, entrancing, female vocaled otherworldly nature of some of Requiem’s Soundtrack shares some similar territory with Broadcast’s soundtrack for Peter Strickland’s film.

    While in a further intertwined manner Andrew Liles who has worked with both Current 93 and Nurse With Wound reworked the sound design of Berberian Sound Studio for a record release titled The Equestrian Vortex, which is the name of the film-within-a-film in Berberian Sound Studio.

    Peter Strickland-Berberian Sound Studio-tape cassette recorder-reel to reel

    And talking of physical and digital releases of music and other culture, as mentioned in Part 1 of this post, the Requiem soundtrack is only available digitally to download or stream but I chose to purchase the album as a download.

    The Ghost In The MP3-Takahiro Suzuki-Ryan Maguire-Ghosts Of My Life-Mark Fisher-hauntology-A Year In The Country-4

    (The series itself is also only available in high-definition online/as a download, something which I discuss further in Part 1 of this post. Also, as far as I know, it is only available as a 192 kbps download, which is essentially a compressed, lossy file format and so although consciously I can’t hear the parts that have been trimmed away, semi-consciously I wander what parts of the music is missing – see “The Ghost In The MP3 and considerations of past/future loss” below.)

    Despite the convenience and instant access to millions upon millions of songs that streaming can offer, in terms of just sitting down to appreciate and experience an album, in an almost modern-day sacramental manner, downloads possibly offer a more distilled and undisturbed experience in the way that a physical CD or record can – there isn’t the hurried, slightly harried sense of “What’s next? What else can I listen to?” that the almost unlimited nature of streaming offers.

    (Not too dissimilar could also be said of the streaming of films and television and the sometimes overwhelming selection of available titles, in contrast to say just downloading one particular title and that being the one which you focus on and watch.)

    Having just one album to listen to, in a self-curated manner, seems to offer a moment of repose in a rather busy contemporary cultural and digital landscape.

    Requiem-BBC television series-still 1

    Elsewhere:
    Aigra – Requiem’s main title theme
    The Requiem trailer
    The Requiem title sequence by Peter Anderson Studio
    More on Dominik Scherrer and Natasha Khan’s score
    The Stone Tape and the Capturing of Resonances
    Berberian Sound Studio / Requiem musical intertwining
    Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows
    Kelli Ali’s The Kiss

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #23/365: Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape – a study of future haunted media
    2) Day #153/365: Stepping through into… Berberian Sound Studio
    3) Day #327/365: A fever dream of Haunted Air…
    4) Day #349/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #2; the semi-random placing of England’s hidden reverse…
    5) Week #12/52: The Ghost In The MP3 and considerations of past/future loss
    6) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #19/52a: The Ballad Of Shirley Collins Trailer and Wandering Amongst Shadowed Furrows/The Hidden Reverse
    7) Day #58/365: Lullabies for the land and a pastoral magicbox by Ms Sharron Kraus
    8) Day #150/365: Parade Of Blood Red Sorrows
    9) Week #1/52: The Duke Of Burgundy and Mesmerisation…
    10) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #28/52a: Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders – Unreleased Variations Away From Bricks And Mortar
    11) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #48/52a: Kelli Ali’s The Kiss and Cinematic Conjurings
    12) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 26/52: Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations
    13) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52: Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations
    14) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 26/52: Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations

     

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  • Image AA/27

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

    (…something of a return, aesthetically…)

     

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