• 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

    The-Village-Of-The-Damned-A-Year-In-The-Country-Midwich-Cuckoos-John-Wyndham-film-adapation-5b

    “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.”

    John Wyndham-The Day Of The Triffids-book cover-A Year In The Country 5

    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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    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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  • General Orders No. 9 and By Our Selves – Cinematic Pastoral Experimentalism: Chapter 27 Book Images

    General orders no 9-a year in the countrygeneral orders no 9f

    “General Orders No. 9 is a 2009 film by Robert Persons. As a very brief precis, the film takes the viewer on a journey through the transformation of a section of mid-Southern America (Alabama, Mississipi and Georgia) from a wilderness into its modern state and although not overtly stated or didactic it seems to be in part a mourning of the loss of wilderness areas and a connection to nature due to the encroachment of civilisation and urbanisation.

    It is a non-narrative film, a form of expressive documentary with elements of experimentalism but it is eminently watchable and makes use of original location film footage, maps, vintage photographs, found objects and views of natural and manmade landscapes.”

    General orders no 9d

    “It could be thought of as a film which explores the hauntology of the Southern states; the land is seen to be littered with the remnants and spectres of mankind’s industrial and technological endeavours – old factory installations, derelict mobile phone masts, rooms filled with discarded detritus and hundreds of scattered old books.”

    F# A# ∞-God Speed You Black Emperor-album artwork and booklet

    “Adding to the texture and layers of the journey the film takes is an accompanying narrative by a voice which could well be announcing the end of days (it is reminiscent of God Speed You Black Emperors song “Dead Flag Blues” from their 1997 album F# A# ∞, which in some ways could almost be a companion piece to General Orders No. 9, with its sense of lyrically beautiful apocalyptic dread).”

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    By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-2

    “(General Orders No. 9) could be placed very loosely amongst a strand of films that may be described as cinematic pastoral experimentalism. Along which lines is Andrew Kötting’s film By Our Selves from 2015, which involves a retreading of the wanderings which Northamptonshire nature poet John Clare undertook in 1841, as he went on a pilgrimage from a mental asylum to find Mary Joyce, the woman with whom he thought himself to be in love.”

    By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-8Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-A Year In The Country

    “John Clare is played by Toby Jones, who is accompanied by a straw bear (a character from folklore, the costume of which involves its wearer being covered head to toe in straw), with director Andrew Kötting playing this part.”

    Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-11Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-10

    “Alongside the film’s depiction of John Clare’s journey through the land are a number of separate sections where, for example, writer Iain Sinclair interviews Northamptonshire resident comic book writer Alan Moore (who describes Northampton as being so imbued with literary and poetic associations that it is “a kind of vision sump”) and Toby Jones’ own father appears and revisits his performance from a 1970 Omnibus documentary in which he played John Clare.”

    Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-9

    “Possibly more appealing than the film’s specific dealings with John Clare’s story is its “folkloric in the modern-day” imagery (for example Toby Jones in ramshackle period costume leading the straw bear through a field of crops under the gaze of pylons) and its exploration of the hidden, underlying layers and roots of the land’s tales, people and history.

    It seems to be very much an expression of those who are involved’s love of and enthusiasm for exploring and delving amongst the interconnectedness of such things and by its nature is a literal psychogeographic wandering.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 27 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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  • Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 27/52

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-still 3

    Continuing on from Part 1 of this post, a few further points about the television series Requiem:

    1) As has been a recurring trope in cinema and television, it presents rurally based communities in contrast with urban ones as insular or “other”, to have their own ways and beliefs that connect back to previous eras, in a not dissimilar manner to say Hot Fuzz and The Wicker Man.

    2) Talking of The Wicker Man, without wishing to give too much of the ending of Requiem away, as in The Wicker Man, here the outsider victim is essentially lead on a misleading merry dance by the rural folk in pursuance of their beliefs and practices and for the correct completion of their ritual the chosen one must come willingly.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-2

    3) As is often the case with modern drama, Requiem sidesteps or ignores some of the realities of modern life, communications, the dissemination of news, images etc: here a strikingly stylish famous musician whose mother has died in bizarre circumstances is able to go and raise merry heck in a community and rake up all kinds of semi-buried truths in a very public manner, with only one apparent instance of a reporter and a traditional newspaper headline and little or no recordings of her actions digitally by the public nor social media postings.

    The truth is likely that in such an instance today her actions would be recorded and/or posted about and spread widely online within minutes of them happening.

    It must be difficult as a scriptwriter to get around the “well, the characters are trapped and threatened by forces x, y and z but with just one mobile phone call they could summon help” aspect of modern life.

    Possibly hence a fair bit of character’s in modern dramas holding up mobile phones and saying “No, no signal”, having left them at home, dropping them etc.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-still 1 copy

    4) Largely in Requiem supernatural elements are seen in only very fleeting glimpses or represented via audio but at one point a form of spirit or demonic possession is shown as having not dissimilar characteristics as electrical charges and discharges.

    Which caused me to wander how do you represent the supernatural on film and in television? What is the possible literal physical manifestation of such things? Are they/should they be all otherworldly spectral or ectoplasmic apparitions? Do they have a connection to and/or have the characteristics of other real world, natural and/or scientific phenomenon?

    (See John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness for a further consideration of the commingling of science and the supernatural, also for sharing with Requiem a depiction of mirrors as portals through which the super or preternatural can attempt to enter the day-to-day world.)

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-7

    5) Aside from the above electric like possession, there is only one other overt special effects orientated visual expression of the supernatural, which leaves space for the viewer’s imagination.

    That other overt expression is when one of the character’s has been possessed and in order to show this her eyes flip to opaque black for just a moment.

    Such elements are tricky as once you have overtly shown the supernatural it can normalise it or seem a little obvious or too signposted as “this person is now bad”.

    6) In Requiem the “good”, respectable people of the rural community who are actually up to no good appear to be largely the relatively affluent middle class and above; the local “coven” is made up in part by a doctor/psychiatrist, a solicitor, a mildly bohemian antiques dealer and an owner of large rural estate. They appear to have their more working class or lower in class footsoldiers but they are more the lead than the leading.

    Programme Name: Requiem - TX: n/a - Episode: Requiem - Ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Matilda (LYDIA WILSON) - (C) New Pictures - Photographer: Adrian Rogers

    7) A pivotal character in the plot, although one without a large amount of screen time, is that mildly bohemian antiques dealer, who is played by Tara Fitzgerald and seems to have an almost smugly evil aspect to her character.

    That character puts me in mind in part as a form of occult middle manager with a sense of self-satisifying expectation.

    (This put me in mind of Sean Hogan’s 2011 film The Devil’s Business, which explores some similar themes as Ben Wheatley’s Kill List; two assassins or mercenaries find themselves embroiled in occult activities, the carrying out of which in both have a curiously banal infrastructure and management aspect.)

    Symptoms-1974-BFI-A Year In The Country

    8) The main character Matilda Gray in the series is played by Lydia Wilson, who here has a very striking and almost otherworldly “Woman Who Fell to Earth” aspect to her appearance, which looking back over the series could be seen as a reflection of the hidden, preternatural forces which are present  around and also even contained within her.

    Although in a more overtly fashionable, almost hipster way in Reqiuem, that otherworldly aspect of the appearance of a disturbed individual can also be found in Angela Pleasance’s physical appearance and screen presence in José Ramón Larraz’s 1974 film Symptoms, which as with Requiem, also depicts rural areas as being far removed from bucolic idylls.

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

    Elsewhere:
    The Requiem trailer
    The Requiem title sequence by Peter Anderson Studio
    The Symptoms trailer via the BFI

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Week #28/52: Symptoms and gothic bucolia
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 22/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 1 – The Sleeper Awakens
    3) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 23/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 2 – “This is not a dream”
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 24/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 3 – Quatermass-esque Non Bebop Filmmaking
    5) 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/26

    Image-AA26-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Katalin Varga, Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy – Arthouse Evolution and Crossing the Thresholds of the Hinterland Worlds of Peter Strickland: Chapter 26 Book Images

    duke-of-burgundy-the-2014-004-sidse-babett-knudsen-chiara-danna-bicycyle-silhouette

    katalina-varga-2009-peter-strickland-a-year-in-the-country-2Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country 3

    “The three full length films which Peter Strickland has made so far: Katalin Varga (2009), Berberian Sound Studio (2012) and The Duke of Burgundy (2014), all create their own immersive worlds, often self contained and separate from wider reality and its markers.”

    Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country 4

    “Berberian Sound Studio is set in the enclosed world of a recording studio in 1976 and could be considered an homage to and a possible comment on that period’s “giallo” and Italian horror film genres and their sometimes-questionable excesses…

    Berberian Sound Studio involves a garden shed-based British sound effects expert, played by Toby Jones, who travels to Italy to work on a film which turns out unbeknownst to him to be a disturbing giallo horror.

    As time passes at the recording studio life and art implode and fall into one another and apart from going to his bedroom he does not seem to leave the studio complex.

    His sanity crumbles and he becomes increasingly both part of and complicit in a culture and celluloid of misogyny, one which is masked and masquerading as art and the barriers between reality and unreality become increasingly blurred.”

    David Cronenberg-Videodrome-still

    “Alongside the link to giallo it shares a number of similar themes with David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983); the stepping into an altered reality via recorded media and the degradation of its listeners, watchers and participants.

    Although whereas that film has a certain ragged, driving, visceral, hallucinatory and at times street-like energy, Berberian Sound Studio has and creates a more subtle, phantasmagoric dreamlike atmosphere.

    This is not a film which intrigues and draws you in through a plot arc, rather it is the imagery, experimentation, atmosphere and its cultural connections.”

    The Berberian Sound Studio-Julian House-A Year In The CountryJulian House-Intro-Peter Strickland-The Berberian Sound Studio-A Year In The Country

    “With Berberian Sound Studio the cultural connections include a soundtrack by Broadcast and design/film work by Julian House (variously of Ghost Box Records, Intro design agency, The Focus Group musical venture and sometimes Broadcast collaborator), with striking elements of its visual character being created by him.

    These include the tape packaging, edit sheets etc. for the studio setting and as a film it is deeply steeped within such pre-digital recording technology, with its physical form and noises becoming an intrinsic part of the story and its enclosed world.”

     Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country 5 The Equestrian Vortex-Berberian Sound Studio-Julian House-Broadcast-A Year In The Country

    “Julian House’s work also includes an intro sequence for the film within a film called The Equestrian Vortex, which is the one Toby Jones’ character is helping to create the sound effects for.

    Accompanied by Broadcast’s music this uses found illustration imagery and creates an unsettling, intense sequence which draws from the tropes of folk and occult horror.”

     The Duke Of Burgundy-Cat's Eyes

    “Following Berberian Sound Studio, Peter Strickland’s next feature film was The Duke of Burgundy.

    On initial glance and indeed for the first section of the film this appears to be something of a stylistically salacious piece of work, drawing from the more erotically-inclined side of the likes of director Jess Franco’s films, which it is said in part to be a homage to.

    Jess Franco was a Spanish film director, writer, composer, cinematographer and actor. He is known for having a prolific output of around 160 films released between 1959 and 2013, which often focused on exploitation genres. His work has gained a cult following, in part due to the exploitation elements of the films alongside his own at times distinctive film making style/aesthetics and also because his prolific output was largely made with little or no funding and has come to be considered a form of almost renegade or outsider film production.

    However as The Duke of Burgundy progresses its cinematic journey is shown to not be an exercise in purely prurient cinema.”

    the-duke-of-burgundy-peter strickland-title-film still The Duke of Burgundy-Peter Strickland-lecture-image film still

    “It focuses almost exclusively on the lives of two female lovers, largely in the setting of one particular romantically and texturally ornate house and whose work involves the research, collecting and study of crickets and lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).

    Although not explicitly explained, the wider world they live in seems to be largely concerned or even obsessed by such study, with their own lives revolving around little else (apart from boudoir activities).

    Much of the decoration of the main house involves framed mounts of these creatures and the film will periodically focus on these and related images, creating a returning refrain and a near scientific but also reflective, expressive study of the beauty and decorations of nature.”

     Terry and June-British sitcom

    “Connected to the strife of the film’s central characters, their conflicts and day-to-day nature of relationships, one of the reference points that Peter Strickland quotes in relation to the film is the 1979-87 British television sitcom Terry and June.

    he Duke of Burgundy has much in common with such work in the way that it is an observation of the practicalities and unbalanced wishes and desires that can be present in relationships, of the sometimes petty, sometimes far from petty, annoyances and compromises that can be part of them.

    Although in The Duke of Burgundy such things have an exotic setting and involve private, intimate rituals, ultimately some of the issues it considers are very similar to those in Terry and June; the frustrations of two people in their nightwear and pyjamas in bed.”

    katalina-varga-2009-peter-strickland-a-year-in-the-country-4

    “Katalin Varga was Peter Strickland’s first full-length film. Set in a contemporary period the films tells of a horse and cart journey and mission of revenge through the land by a mother, accompanied by her son who is unaware of the purpose of the journey.”

    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country

    “Josephine Decker’s Butter on the Latch film from 2013 is more stylistically experimental but might well be an appropriate reference point for Katalin Varga; pastorally set work that wanders off the beaten paths of conventional cinema or indeed a slasher in the woods and the land without the slashing.”

    katalina-varga-2009-peter-strickland-a-year-in-the-country-1b

    “Katalin Varga could almost be a period film and in part it seems to be set in a generally pastoral world that may not have changed all that much since medieval times.

    During the film it is physically jarring when the viewer sees a more built up area and modern buildings, or when a mobile phone ring tone is heard in the film, while a yellow plastic plate that appears at one point seems almost offensive in this setting.

    The modern world often seems to only appear in relatively small details: the contemporary rubber car tyres on the cart that is used in the journey, haymaking carried out by hand while in the background is a building with a satellite dish.”

     Scala cinema program-1986-London Scala cinema-London-photograph

    “Katalin Varga does not necessarily have the more polished production sheen of the honey toned fantasy land of The Duke of Burgundy or the cloistered, contained and imagined interiors of Berberian Sound Studio but it creates a sense of its own world, time and place nonetheless. It may in part be a side effect of that lack of sheen but it seems as though it could be some semi-lost European film from an unspecified point in time, possibly the 1970s, which although arthouse did not quite belong to the accepted, reputable canon of cinema.

    The kind of a film that would have been screened at London’s Scala cinema around the early 1980s to the early 1990s, which was something of a home for such things.

    Peter Strickland’s films bring to mind those kind of arthouse, sometimes transgressive films that have often gone on to find a cult following but have not always become mainstream critically acceptable.

    For example films that would have once appeared in the pages of Films and Filming magazine which was published from 1954-1990; often European cult arthouse independent cinema, with leftfield, exploratory and sometimes transgressive or salacious subject matter and presentation.”

    duke of burgundy-moths-collageStan Brakhage-Mothlight-1963 mothlight-1963-001-still-brakhage

    “(The) sense of homage within Peter Strickland’s films can sometimes be quite overt; in The Duke of Burgundy the earlier-mentioned night-time dreamlike sequence which sees the screen and one of the main characters consumed by a rapidly layering collage of lepidoptera seems to quite directly visually reference experimental film maker Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight film from 1963, which layered natural elements and insects to create a rapidly moving montage.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 26 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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  • Arcadia – “She Was Told the Truth Lay in the Soil” – Views from a Not so Always Arcadian Idyll: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 26/52

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-2

    Arcadia was something of a treat to arrive through the old digital letterbox a while ago.

    It is a film directed by Paul Wright which was created from a collage of found images, with a soundtrack by Adrian Utley from Portishead and Will Gregory from Goldfrapp, alongside music by Anne Briggs amongst others:

    “Using a mixture of film and TV footage from the BFI National Archive and regional archives around the UK, director Paul Wright creates a mosaic of contrasting images, sounds and moods, taking in folk carnivals and masked parades, hunting and harvesting, communes and raves, mechanisation, environmental issues, fires, floods, storms and much more.” (From the film’s accompanying promotional text.)

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-3

    At times and particularly earlier in the film it can seem like a pastoral reverie but as it progresses the overall atmosphere and impression it leaves is far from a twee rural idyll and is at times deeply, quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) unsettling.

    At A Year In The Country I have previously talked about particular television series etc being a form of “Albion in the overgrowth”, in the sense that they may contain glimpses of what could be loosely called an otherly, undercurrents or flipside of pastoral related culture; due to the institutional funding via the BFI, the “known” performers of its soundtracks and its still independent/arthouse but wider scale cinematic and upcoming home release, Arcadia seems like a time when the underground goes overground – a more publicly prominent expression of a contemporary interest in what could also be called “wyrd” pastoral and folk culture.

    MisinforMation-Mordant Music-Central Office Of Information-BFI-DVD cover-A Year In The CountryIt could be seen as a companion piece to the also BFI released DVD MisinforMation, which was also created using found footage:

    “The BFI invited Mordant Music to re-score a series of 70s and 80s public information films, resulting in a startling and ingenious audiovisual mash-up.” (From the DVD’s promotional text.)

    Arcadia even shares the use of similar archival public information film footage, although due to its focusing on PIFs, MisinforMation can be seen as being more strictly hauntological than Arcadia, as such films are something of an ongoing mainstay and reference point for hauntological orientated ideas and work.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-1

    Paul Wright’s film seems to explore and exist in the undefined but still recognisable territory where the hauntological, spectrally imprinted layers of history and culture intertwine with that aforementioned sense of an otherly pastoralism and the further reaches of folk culture.

    Well, I say further reaches but actually much of for example the more folk ritual orientated footage that can be found in Arcadia would once and in a different context be considered to be fairly normal day-to-day archival footage of local activities and celebrations; within Arcadia they seem to gain another meaning as the film builds to become far more than the sum of its parts and reveals a sense of hidden layers and the stories to be found running beneath and throughout the land.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-11

    Although in large part being created from what appears to be archival documentary footage, Arcadia does not purely draw from such film but also includes sections of Brownlow and Morro’s film Winstanley and its recreation of the 17th century diggers and their radical communal ways of living – although in a way that film seems almost nearer to documentary footage than a work of biographical fiction and so seems to fit particularly well in amongst Arcadia’s use of found footage.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-13

    Elsewhere as mentioned earlier there are glimpses of public information films, what appear to be rurally set performance art and artist’s films and also the likes of David Gladwell’s experimental/exploratory film Requiem for a Village:

    “The idyllic, rural past of a Suffolk village comes to life through the memories of an old man who tends a country graveyard.” (From the DVD’s promotional text.)

    boards-of-canada-tomorrows-harvest-warp-artcard-edition-a-year-in-the-country-1 boards-of-canada-tomorrows-harvest-warp-artcard-edition-a-year-in-the-country-4

    At points Arcadia’s soundtrack brings to mind Ghost Box Records-esque electronica and possibly also Boards of Canada’s hauntological progenitorial work; connected to which and some of the atmospheres Boards of Canada’s work creates, the images on the screen in Arcadia are often pastoral in nature but the soundtrack at times appears  to conjure a sense of a foreboding dystopic future.

    At other points Arcadia’s soundtrack becomes a pounding, acid rave beat and images of the abandonment that is sometimes found in folk rituals and games are interspliced with footage of rave/club scenes, which historically could still be seen to have a rural connection as the unlicensed side of raves at one time often took place in country settings, in say deserted rural warehouses and open fields, although it is not made overly clear in Arcadia if this is the case with the footage which is used.

    Elsewhere the escapism of participants in psychedelic/hippy probably 1960s or earlier 1970s rural festival footage appears in the film, which is is somewhat contrasted by the use of other footage which depicts the harsher form of escapism and youthful expression of urban punk gigs.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-7Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-16Henry Bourne-Arcadia Britannia-photographs-folklore-British-pearly kings and queens

    Some of the images in Arcadia could be seen as being accidental forebears to Henry Bourne’s portraits of contemporary folk costume wearers in his book Arcadia Britannica: A Modern British Folklore Portrait. In fact Arcadia as a whole seems almost as if it could somehow have fallen both backwards and forwards through time and to somewhow be both an influence on and reflection on spectral pastoral work.

    Adding to that sense of time slip, the version I watched was a compressed, lossy, timecoded preview version, which along with some of the degraded/multi-generational nature of sections of the source footage lend Arcadia a sense that it could well be a semi-lost film that you might stumble upon on the likes of Youtube.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-6Broadcast-Trish Keenan-photograph

    Sections of Arcadia appear to be taken from previous era’s witchcraft/occult pseudo-documentaries and in a further falling backwards-and-forwards through time manner, some of the related footage in the film shares a similar aesthetic with some of the imagery and work created/collaborated on by the band Broadcast and its core members James Cargill and Trish Keenan, who released a collaborative album called Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio age.

    That album also used found sounds from similar pseudo-documentaries, while part of Broadcast’s avant-pop aesthetic seemed to draw from and/or channel a form of psychedelic occultism.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-5

    There appears to be a utopian/progressive undercurrent to Arcadia, related to which, at times the use and juxtaposition of images – for example the idyllic pastoral and the voracious actions of industry – can veer towards a more overtly polemic direction and possibly intention; it seems stronger as a piece of work when those elements are less stridently and more space is left for the viewer to travel with the film and I expect still be subtly signposted towards a particular conclusion and point of view.

    The Innocents-O Willow Waly-George Auric-Isla Cameron-Finders Keepers 7 inch vinyl-Finders Kreepers-A Year In The Country

    The film ends with George Auric and Isla Cameron’s haunting performance of the song O Willow Waly, a version of which was used in Jack Clayton’s unsettling pastoral supernatural 1961 film The Innocents and which was also released on seven-inch by often archival release orientated record label Finders Keepers. Due to that supernatural/pastoral connection, its use here seems somewhat appropriate and something of a rounding of the circle back to earlier work which also explored the undercurrents and hidden, layered stories of the land and rural areas.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-12

    In reflection of the collaged, layered nature of the film, I thought I would continue and finish off with a few examples of the voiceover found in Arcadia, which I assume are also largely taken from archival footage:

    “She was told the truth lay in the soil.”

    “For a thousand years these valleys have had a secret which no one else has shared.”

    “A secret past. A hidden history.”

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-10

    “A land of great magic. A land of great mystery.”

    “All over Britain many still take part in these otherworldly rituals… return to a time when we were connected to the land. A time when we were connected to each other.”

    “Does your mam know what you get up to when you come down here?” – “She will do now with you lot showing this on the telly.”

    “None knew that a shadow had fallen on the land.”

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-8

    “For those with an image of the countryside as being somehow related to ‘Merrie England’, the presence of those who are impoverished and underpriveliged is a real threat.”

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-15

    “If I wanted to I could fill this little room with ghosts.”

    “The past is gone, the future is unwritten.”

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-14

    Elsewhere:

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

     

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    Image-AA25-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology-1px stroke

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Tim Hart, Maddy Prior and “The Dalesman’s Litany” – A Yearning for Imaginative Idylls and a Counterpart to Tales of Hellish Mills: Chapter 25 Book Images

    Tim-Hart-and-Maddy-Prior-Folk-Songs-of-Olde-England-two different versions of the album cover

    Tim Hart and Maddy Prior-Folk Songs of Olde England-A Year In The Country 4

    “It is wise to be wary of harking back to some imagined pre-industrialisation idyll; as someone whose thoughts are recorded in the 1969 oral history book Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village by Ronald Blythe says, the old ways which were often quite harsh at the time can come to seem like pleasant aspects of life and times as the years add a distance and rosy glow to them.

    Having said which, the song “The Dalesman’s Litany”, as performed by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior on their 1968 album Folk Songs of Old England, which takes as its subject matter a yearning for a return to pastoral idylls and away from a life working in industry is an appealing thing.

    Originally a poem by Frederic William Moorman written around 1900, it is a tale told by an agricultural worker who has to choose between a life with his beau on the land he loves and working in towns, cities and mines because the local landowner does not want married workers.

    In the later 1960s when this song was released, an idyllic, pastoral view of Olde England alongside the use and reinterpretation of traditional folk music and lore were sometimes part of a more experimental, exploratory strand in music and culture which to a degree was intertwined with psychedelia and a “hippie” utopian viewpoint…

    The song imparts a sense of an aching yearning to return to the moor and leave the coalstacks, which makes the song a more personal counterpart to William Blake’s “Jerusalem/And did those feet in ancient time” which was originally published in 1808 and its words of dark satanic mills; a text which was a reaction to the societal disturbances brought about by the industrial revolution.”

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    “As mentioned in the chapter 7: “1973: A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures”, by the early 1970s the spirit of “hippie” utopian ideals, which backgrounded the era in which the song was recorded, had begun to turn sour and inwards…

    Accompanying which, being drawn to imagined, bucolic idylls from times gone by, folk music and culture may in part have come to be a reaction to a period of social, political and economic turmoil within Britain, related energy shortages and electricity blackouts.

    Indeed, The Dalesman’s Litany almost seems like a subtle protest song aimed at the era of its recording, obliquely filtered via, to reference Rob Young’s Electric Eden book (2010), a form of imaginative time travel, which further removes it from the more twee, romanticised side of folk interpretation and revival.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 25 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 and Release Dates

    Shildam Hall-Dawn Light cover

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

    “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 the 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.

    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
    Pulselovers

     

    Will be available via our Artifacts ShopBandcamp and at Norman Records.

     

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  • Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-1

    A while ago I watched Requiem, which is a television series created by Kris Mrska and co-produced by the BBC and Netflix.

    It is a largely rurally set supernatural thriller, which is fairly unsettling without overly relying on gratuitous gore/fx as a form of entertainment/questionable audience stimulant, as seems to often be the case with much of contemporary television and film.

    As a very brief introductory precis of the plot it involves a famous classical cellist who after the self-immolation of her mother attempts to seek the truth behind her death and her own origins, the search for which, after she finds newspaper clippings collected and hidden by her mother, leads her to a rural community where a young girl had gone missing and was never found many years before, the mystery of which begins to have a multi-layered, supernatural conspiracy aspect to it.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-6

    Requiem could be placed in a loose gathering of “glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth” television – mainstream dramas etc which to various degrees explore, utilise and express a flipside or otherly pastoralism.

    (As I have mentioned before there is no overarching, definitive genre name for such things but elements of the further reaches of folk culture, paganism, the supernatural, hauntological timeslip etc can be found in such things. Wyrd is a word that is often used but for some reason it also seems a little possibly clumsy or inelegant in terms of trying to capture a sense of such spectral cultural phantasms.)

    Britannia television series

    Along similar lines in relatively recent times in that loose gathering could be included Britannia, The Living and The Dead and elements of Detectorists, while if you cast the net further in years it could also take in the Savage Party Hollyoaks trailer and the turn of the millennium remake of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – the latter two of which I have written about at the A Year In The Country site before and in the Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    Detectorists-Unthanks-Timeslip sequence

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-4

    Anyways, back more directly to Requiem.

    The introduction sequence is particularly striking. It combines various layered elements and atmospheres – a sense of beauty, subtle eeriness and darkness, a cello semi-hidden in the images, nature and wildlife, ancient folklore and superstition. Aesthetically it is nicely textured and kaleidoscope/mirrored, with subtle tinges of offset RGB transmissions and puts me in mind here and there of biological illustrator Angela Mele’s work for The Creeping Garden.

    (As an aside, the sequence is by the Peters Anderson Studio – which now I know makes sense I’d thought it had 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. The Peters Anderson Studio also created the nicely textured pastoral artwork for Sharron Kraus’ Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails album released by Second Language Music and which I have written about at A Year In The Country previously.)

    The Living And The Dead-BBC series-3

    The soundtrack for Requiem was created by Dominik Scherrer and Natasha Khan, who is known for her work as Bat For Lashes and could be filed alongside The Living and the Dead’s, in that it explores/accompanies a sense of otherly pastoralism (and in The Living and the Dead’s case folk music and culture) within a mainstream television setting and which has been released to buy but only, at the time of writing, via download.

    (The Living and The Dead’s soundtrack was released independently by The Insects who created/recorded it, Requiem’s by Dubois Music.)

    Which is a shame, as apart from having a softspot for physically presented music I think that both series’ imagery and themes could lend themselves to some fine packaging.

    Along which lines of such things being released physically or not, I have noticed increasingly that BBC television series are only being released in high definition online/digitally and in standard definition on DVD and not Blu-ray, which also seems a shame and restrictive in terms of options. The Living and the Dead was released on both Blu-ray and DVD but as far as I know Requiem is only being released on DVD.

    I guess this is market-lead consideration, with Blu-ray sales still only being a fraction of those for DVD (20/80 respectively the last I read).

    Although sometimes HD can be a little harsh in its presentation and possibly seem a little too “real” or break the spell of a drama, not having the option for it in physical media is still a tad annoying.

    Such is the modern world I guess. Which brings me to Part 2 of this post…

    To be continued in Part 2…

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

    Elsewhere:
    The Requiem trailer
    The Requiem title sequence by Peter Anderson Studio
    More on Dominik Scherrer and Natasha Khan’s score
    The Living and the Dead trailer
    The Unthanks/Detectorists timeslip
    The Britannia trailer
    The Creeping Garden trailer
    Angela Mele’s illustrations

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #58/365: Lullabies for the land and a pastoral magicbox by Ms Sharron Kraus
    2) Day #146/365: Glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth
    3) Day #274/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth…
    4) Day #275/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth (#2)… becometh a fumetti…
    5) Day #316/365: The Detectorists; a gentle roaming in search of the troves left by men who can never sing again
    6) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #16/52a: The Living And The Dead
    7) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #28/52a: Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders – Unreleased Variations Away From Bricks And Mortar
    8) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 9/52: The Creeping Garden – an exploration of a science / science fiction fantasia – Part I
    9) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 10/52: The Creeping Garden – an exploration of a science / science fiction fantasia – Part 2

    (Which is a fair few here’s and elsewheres…)

     

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    Image AA24-A Year In The Country Year 4 image-journeys in otherly pastoralism, the outer reaches of folk and the parallel worlds of hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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