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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • The Seasons, Jonny Trunk, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Howlround – A Yearning for Library Music, Experiments in Educational Music and Tape Loop Tributes: Chapter 38 Book Images

    The-BBC-Radiophonic-Workshop-Delia DerbyshireTHE_BBC_RADIOPHONIC_WORKSHOP-album-BBC records and tapesSeasons-David Cain-Jonny Trunk-BBC-A Year In The CountryThe-Music-Library-Jonny-Trunk-2005-original edition-library-music-books-Fuel

    “One of the defining elements of hauntology is considered to be an interest in, and taking inspiration from, educational and library music from previous times, particularly the 1960s and 70s, alongside a similar interest in the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

    Educational music is generally that which was created to be used as a classroom aid and/or music created by children in an educational setting under the guidance of adults.

    In the 1960s and 1970s it produced some remarkable recordings that if placed in a different context may well have been considered experimental or avant-garde work.

    Library music, sometimes otherwise known as production music, is music which is available ready and licensable off the shelf in a similar manner to stock photography and is music that has generally been created quite specifically for that purpose and made available for use in adverts, films, television, radio etc.

    Daphne Oram-Radiophonic Workshop

    The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was established in 1958 to produce sound effects and new music for BBC radio and later television, and was closed in 1998.

    During the late 1950s through to the 1970s in particular it was responsible for creating a body of renowned and technically innovative work, with this often being considered the “classic” period and the one that hauntological interest generally revolves around.

    Often the sounds required for the atmosphere that programme makers wished to create were unavailable or non-existent through traditional sources.

    This lead to some of those working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to explore new techniques to produce effects and music for their pieces utilising tape manipulation, experimenting with electronic music equipment etc.

    Doctor Who-original introduction visuals-Delia Derbyshire-Ron Grainer

    “Using such methods allowed them to create often unique soundscapes and music, notably the iconic theme tune to Doctor Who which was created electronically by Delia Derbyshire in 1963 utilising Ron Grainer’s score.

    Simon-Reynolds-Haunted-Audio-The-Wire-Magazine-Retromania-Ghost-Box-Records-article-3 pages in a row-1px stroke

    One of the reasons for the connection between educational music and that of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and hauntological areas of work is that it connects with a hauntological sense of a yearning for lost progressive futures associated with the 1960s and 70s.

    Simon Reynolds describes this aspect of hauntology in the November 2006 issue of Wire magazine in his article “Haunted Audio”, which focuses on Ghost Box Records and other hauntological-related work, as being:

    ‘A wistful harking back to the optimistic, forward-looking, benignly bureaucratic Britain of new towns and garden cities, comprehensive schools and polytechnics.‘”

    Glo Spot Music Recorded Library-Electrosonic-Delia Derbyshire-album artwork-sleeve

    John Cavanagh who runs the Glo Spot label, which has reissued library music originally released by the company KPM has commented:

    ‘There’s a striking originality to library records from that time because they were all about the search for new sounds. Back then, musicians weren’t told what to do. Big companies also weren’t so obsessed with focus groups and demographics, so musicians were allowed to have more open-ended adventures.’

    KPM-New York Trouble-The Big Beat-Tummy Touch reissues-library music albums

    Tim Lee, MD of Tummy Touch Records which has reissued a number of recordings also from the KPM music library, has commented about this and the sometimes-associated snobbery around such music, saying that:

    ‘Library music was never supposed to be expensive. By its nature, it was utilitarian and designed to be used as cheaply as possible. People forget that these records were made to be used and heard often, rather than being treated like fetishistic objects. So by distributing these sounds to more and more people, labels like ours treat the music in a similar way to its initial intentions.’

    Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI-Jonny Trunk

    Jonny Trunk has for a number of years been championing, compiling and reissuing library music via his Trunk Records label, journalism and broadcasting.

    He seems drawn to, and expresses an appreciation for, such music for a number of reasons including its at times musically innovative and intriguing qualities, alongside the significance that its scarcity lends it and the investigative work required to find such music, while also wishing to extend its reach into the world by reissuing it.”

    G-Spots-The Super Sounds of Bosworth-Trunk Records-Jonny Trunk-library music albums

    Dawn of the Dead-Stand By For Adverts-Barry Gray-Trunk Records-Jonny Trunk-library music

    “The Trunk Records library music-related releases have included compilations of the work by different performers originally released by a particular company such as The Super Sounds of Bosworth (1996) which brings together work from The Bosworth Music Archive and G-Spots (2009) which is subtitled “The spacey folk electro-horror sounds of the Studio G Library”.

    They also take in related releases in an album such as Dawn of the Dead (2004), the soundtrack of which used library music in part from the Music De Wolfe label, alongside albums that focus on the work of one particular musician in this field such as Stand by for Adverts (2011), subtitled “Rare Jingles, Jazz and Advertising Electronics” and which features work by Barry Gray.

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

    “In a further appreciation, exploring and archiving of such work Jonny Trunk has also authored two editions of The Music Library, published by FUEL in 2005 and revised in 2016, a book which collects the cover art of library music.”

    Seasons-David Cain-Jonny Trunk-BBC-A Year In The Country David Cain-Seasons-Trunk Records-A Year In The Country

    Another strand of the Trunk Records reissues focuses on educational music. One such record is The Seasons, which features music by David Cain of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and poetry by Ronald Duncan. Originally released in 1969 by BBC Radio Enterprises, it was reissued by Trunk Records in 2012…

    Listening to it is one of those “shake your head and be pleasantly slightly stunned” moments in culture.

    The album was “designed to stimulate dramatic dance, movement, mime and speech” and was part of a series of radio broadcasts by BBC Radio For Schools called Drama Workshop, a creative drama programme for children in their first and second years of secondary school.

    The album’s songs (that word is used fairly loosely in this instance) are divided into twelve months and four seasons and to a minimal Radiophonic-esque musical backing it features poetry along these lines:

    ‘Like severed hands, the wet leaves lie flat on the deserted avenue. Houses like skulls stare through uncurtained windows. A woman dressed like a furled umbrella, with a zip fastener on her mouth steps out of number 53 to post a letter. Her gloved hand hesitates at the box. Then, knowing there will be no reply, she tears it up and throws it in the gutter. And autumn with its pheasants tail consoles her with chrysanthemums.’

    Which could be regarded as being a touch odd for a later 1960s psychedelic album or performance piece, let alone something aimed at schools.“…

    When the album was reissued by Trunk Records, Ghost Box co-founder Jim Jupp said at his Belbury Parish magazine website:

    ‘It’s an album that’s very much part of the DNA of Ghost Box: the perfect example of the spooked educational media we reverence and reference so often.’

    MusicForChildren-Carl Orff-Gunild Keetman-A Year In The CountryClassroom-Projects-CD-Trunk Records-A Year In The Country

    The Seasons is part of a mini-genre of educational music-related oddness which as mentioned earlier also includes work performed by children themselves under adult guidance, examples of which have been issued on two other Trunk Records releases: Carl Orff & Gunild Keetman’s Music for Children/Schulwerk and the compilation of work by different groups of schoolchildren Classroom Projects, both released in 2013.

     The-Langley-Schools-Music-Project_Innocence and Despair-A Year In The Country-wide

    “One of the best-known of all such recordings and albums is The Langley Schools Music Project Innocence & Despair, containing recordings from 1976-77 by Canadian schoolchildren reinterpreting the likes of David Bowie, The Carpenters and The Beach Boys in a somewhat unique and inimitable style and which was first released commercially in 2001.

    It was a project undertaken by Canadian music teacher Hans Ferger, who said about it:

    ‘I knew virtually nothing about conventional music education and didn’t know how to teach singing. Above all, I knew nothing of what children’s music was supposed to be. But the kids had a grasp of what they liked: emotion, drama, and making music as a group. Whether the results were good, bad, in tune or out was no big deal – they had élan. This was not the way music was traditionally taught. But then I never liked conventional ‘children’s music’, which is condescending and ignores the reality of children’s lives, which can be dark and scary. These children hated ‘cute.’ They cherished songs that evoked loneliness and sadness.’

    john-paynter-toys-and-techniques-the-school-is-full-of-music-a-year-in-the-country-4

    The School Is Full of Noises, a documentary on the BBC’s Radio 4 first broadcast in 2015. In it, poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster Ian McMillan considered:

    ‘How did tape loops, recycled everyday sounds and countless other weapons of the avant-garde find their way into school music lessons during the 1960s?’

    To quote one of the documentary’s participants, this was music education which:

    “‘…wasn’t about privilege, it wasn’t about instrumental lessons outside school, it was about something that everybody could engage with, understanding music from the inside… knowing what it takes to make a piece of music, that it’s not something fully formed that exists in the world, it’s something that you make.’

    Jonny-Trunk-The-OST-Show-Broadcast-trunk records logo

    …Jonny Trunk is also a broadcaster, in particular being known for his long-running The OST Show on Resonance FM.

    It is one of the avenues by which he explores his appreciation of and penchant for the often-overlooked nuggets of gold and sometimes tarnished with neglect areas of music, with this programme concentrating on films and television soundtracks, library music and other related work.”

    max-bygraves-with-the-grimethorpe-colliery-band-do-it-the-safety-way-ncb-Andrew weatherall-from the bunker-Pete Fowler-Monsterism illustationThe Advisory Circle-Jon Brooks-Ghost Box RecordsGhost Box Records logoThe Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country-8Moon Wiring Club-A Year In The Countrybroadcast-wire-magazine-a-year-in-the-country-4

    “Over the years these guests have included Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle and sometimes Ghost Box Records, whose appearance was accompanied by a good deal of knitting and “doing” the actions to a mining safety song by once highly popular light entertainer and singer Max Bygraves.

    They have also included the DJ and musician Andrew Weatherall, Monsterist illustrator Pete Fowler, Jim Jupp and Julian House of Ghost Box Records, Radiophonic Workshop explorer Paddy “The Changes” Kingsland, more Radiophonic exploring courtesy of David “The Seasons” Cain, Ian Hodgson of whimsical hauntological music and visual project Blank Workshop who releases records as Moon Wiring Club and some excellent delving and wandering through the undercurrents of music courtesy of Trish Keenan and James Cargill of Broadcast.

    Howlround-Robin The Fog-the-ghosts-of-bush-A Year In The CountryRobin The Fog-Howlround-The Ghosts Of Bush-A Year In The CountryHowlround-Robin The Fog-the-ghosts-of-bush-alt-press-release-Ghost Box-Scanner-Simon Reynolds-A Year In The Country

    The OST Show has at times been hosted by the aforementioned Robin The Fog who releases records as one half of Howlround, working in collaboration with Chris Weaver.

    Howlround came to prominence with their first album, 2012’s The Ghosts of Bush.

    This is a recording which documents the last days of Bush House, the once home to broadcasting stalwart the BBC World Service. It takes as its initial source material indoors field recordings which were captured late at night in the empty rooms and corridors of the building towards the end of the BBC’s tenure of it and the resulting album is a culturally and musically fascinating and intriguing piece of work.

    The album is a tribute to its subject from whence it sprang, one which is made up of many layers; whether literally in terms of the sounds it contains and how they were made, the history of where it was made or the Robin The Fog’s own connection to the work (at the time he was a studio manager at Bush House).

    Part of that layering process and how the recording was made comes about by a literal layering of sound. The record was created using only tape loop manipulation which utilised some of the last remaining of such machines in Bush House…

    When I listen to The Ghosts of Bush I often think of the distant howls of long-lost and departed creatures, huge as dinosaurs. Which in these days of almost ubiquitous free market culture, may well be somewhat appropriate as Bush House was responsible for transmissions from that possibly endangered philosophical idea, publicly owned broadcasting in the free market-orientated West.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 38 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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  • Recording Our Own Ghosts – A Review of A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields at Folk Horror Revival (and Other Intertwinings)

    There is a piece on the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book by Grey Malkin at the Folk Horror Revival site:

    A Year In The Country embrace a wide range of avenues to bring together not only a sense of how far reaching and varied the origins, mainstays and current players of genres such as folk horror or hauntology can be, but crucially also how they intertwine and cross pollinate.

    Each chapter expertly charts its chosen subject’s impact upon the public consciousness as well as indicating that these artefacts are now part of a greater cultural cobweb that may well have threads and components that are radically different in genre or style but that equally have a strong commonality in their sense of unease and their haunted content; of similar ghosts in the machine (or spooks in the television and bookshelves).

    The article is a layered exploration of both the book and the cultural background it explores, taking in the likes of The Wicker Man, The Midwich Cuckoos, No Blade of Grass, 70’s acid folk, hauntology etc.

    Alongside Grey Malkin’s own writing on the book, the piece also contains extracts from a conversation between him and the book’s author Stephen Prince:

    I think, to a certain degree, the way in which it isn’t easily definable how the different and loosely gathered areas of culture that are discussed in ‘Wandering Through Spectral Fields’ appear to connect, influence one another, have become part of a lineage etc is an aspect of what is appealing about them and that gathering; it is part of what creates a certain mystique around it. Possibly in an age where every area of culture, no matter how niche, can be investigated and explained by for example a brief online search, it is the sense of a hidden history and stories, of an at least partly unexplained aspect to such work that is one of the things which may draw people to it.

     

    Intertwinings:

    Harvest Hymns II – Sweet Fruits, was published in 2018 by Folk Horror Revival and as with a number of their other book releases explores otherly folkloric and hauntological orientated work. It includes Cuckoos in the Same Nest, which is an alternate version of the Cuckoos in the Same Nest: Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings chapter from the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    Grey Malkin is one of the instigators of/collaborators with The Hare And The Moon, Embertides and Widow’s Weeds.

    Embertide’s Ash, Oak & Sulphur is included on the upcoming A Year In The Country released album The Quietened Mechanisms:

    An exploration of abandoned and derelict industry, infrastructure, technology and equipment that once upon a time helped to create, connect and sustain society… and their echoes and remains.

    The Hare And The Moon’s work has also been featured on a number of A Year In The Country released albums, including A Whisper In The Woods on The Forest / The Wald, which is a:

    …study and collection of work that reflects on fragments and echoes of tales from the woodland and its folklore; greenwood rituals performed in the modern day, fantastical childhood rhymes, sylvan siren calls that tremble through tangles of branches, electronics pressed into the summoning of otherworldly arboreal creations unearthed amidst the creeping thickets and elegies to woodland intrustions, solitudes and seasons.

    The Hare And The Moon “existed between 200 and early 2017 and are now as ghosts”. You can visit the spectral echoes of their explorations of the further furrows of folk/folklore at their Bandcamp page.

    Also Widow’s Weeds’ track The Unquiet Grave was included on the A Year In The Country released album Audio Albion, which is a:

    …music and field recording map of Britain, which focuses on rural and edgeland areas… the history, myths and beliefs of the places, their atmospheres and undercurrents, personal and cultural connections – the layered stories that lie amongst, alongside and beneath the earth, plants and wildlife.

     

    Elsewhere:

     

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

     

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  • The Old Weird Albion and Eighth Climate – Spectres of Myths and Psychogeographic Explorations: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 38/52

    The Old Weird Albion-Justin Hopper-front and back book cover-Penned in the Margins

    In a recent post I wrote about a loosely interconnected continuum and contemporary interest in:

    “…the uncanny, sometimes mystical or mythical flipsides and undercurrents of pastoral and folk orientated work, the old weird or “wyrd” ways and a related interest in the preter or supernatural.”

    Old Weird Albion-book-Justin Hopper-Penned in the Margins-text

    These are intertwined areas that Justin Hopper has explored through various avenues in his work and which he more recently wrote about in the book The Old Weird Albion, published by Penned In The Margins, accompanying text from which is below:

    “The Old Weird Albion moves across the Sussex and Hampshire Downs, interrogating the high, haunted landscape of the English South.

    Justin Hopper traces memories, myths and forgotten histories from Winchester to Beachy Head, joining New Age eccentrics and accidental visionaries on the hunt for crop circles, ancient chalk figures and eerie suburbs: the ruins of prehistoric pasts and utopian futures. Hopper casts himself as the outsider – an American initiate searching for an English heritage – and mixes doubt with desire in pursuit of mystical encounters in the Downs.”

    Eight Climate-Documents-Houses On The Borderland-Drew Mullholland-The Making of Landscape

    His other projects have explored similar cultural landscapes and territories and have included the I Made Some Low Inquiries poetry sequence that was released as a CD with accompanying book by Eighth Climate, which is an imprint of English Heretic.

    This release was, as with much of Justin Hopper’s work, part of an ongoing exploration of the flipside or undercurrents of the pastoral, alongside a form of interconnected rural, spectres of myths and folklore psychogeographic wandering.

    I Made Some Low Inquires has in part a distinctive gothic Americana aspect to it: as I have mentioned at A Year In The Country previously, such related aesthetics and culture could be seen at times to have parallels with “wyrd” or weird Albion-esque culture, particularly in the way that they explore and express a sense of mythic, folkloric tales and cultural identities.

    Alongside I Made Some Low inquiries Eighth Climate’s releases have also included The Making of Landscape, wherein Drew Mulholland made recordings at an ancient burial site in a manner which recorded, explored and utilised hidden frequencies of sound.

    The recordings were of VLF sounds, which stands for very low-frequency – they are sounds below human perception and which can be caused by the massive discharges and their after-effects in lightning storms and by the solar wind buffeting the earth’s magnetic field.

    Viewed as a whole there is a sense within Eighth Climate’s releases of unearthing and interconnecting different sometimes semi-hidden cultural and geographic points, which brings to mind a form of contemporary, almost mystical ley line-ing.

    The Séance at Hobs Lane Mount Vernon Arts Lab-Ghost Box Records-Drew Mulholland

    As an aside and connected to the above mentions of exploration of spectres, Drew Mulholland’s earlier work is seen as one of influences on and inspirations for what became known as hauntological work:

    “The main location in Quatermass and the Pit is used in the 2001 album title The Séance at Hobs Lane by Mount Vernon Arts Lab. This album was created by Drew Mulholland and is in itself an exploration of the echoes of society and culture, being a psychogeographic exploration of London’s hidden and underground spaces, eighteenth century secret societies and Quatermass itself. It is seen as a forebear of hauntological work and in what could be seen as an acknowledgement of the path- ways it helped to pioneer was reissued by Ghost Box Records in 2007.”

    (the above quote is a text extract from the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.)

    Elsewhere:
    The Old Weird Albion at Penned In The Margins

    Eighth Climate
    Pastoral Noir at Justin Hopper’s site
    Hauntological forebears: Mount Vernon Arts Lab’s The Séance at Hobs Lane
    Drew Mulholland’s Audiological Archiving, Dusting Off and Unearthing

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #51/365: General Orders No. 9… wandering from the arborea of Albion to…
    2) Day #198/365: Wandering from the arborea of Albion (#2) and fever dreams of the land…
    3) Wanderings and Signposts 6/52: Bare Bones and Fellow Travellers in Rif Mountain’s Phase III
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 37/52: Flipside Noir Part 2 – Folkloric Transgressions

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • The Owl Service, Anne Briggs, The Watersons, Lutine and Audrey Copard – Folk Revisiters, Revivalists and Re-interpreters: Chapter 37 Book Images

    Jane Weaver Fallen By Watchbird bw-A Year In The Country0001-A Year In The Country-Gather In The MushroomsThe Owl Service-The View From A Hill-album

    On the Way Towards starting A Year In The Country the three albums I probably listened to the most were Jane Weaver Septième Soeur’s conceptual cosmic folkloric Fallen by Watch Bird (2010), the acid folk compilation Gather in the Mushrooms (2004) and The Owl Service’s The View from a Hill (2010).

    0030-The-Owl-Service-The-View-From-A-Hill-A-Year-In-The-Country

    The View from a Hill could be categorised as folk but it has its own take or edge to it.

    Many of the songs on it are folk or traditional music mainstays and both musically and visually it uses what could be considered standard tropes of folk music, folklore and culture but this is anything but a mainstream folk album.

    The reasons for that are hard to fully define but there are other layers and intelligence to the album, a pattern beneath the plough as it were; it feels subtly experimental but still maintains its listenability.

    Mellow Candle-A Year In The Country-2Nancy Wallace-Old Stories--Dom Cooper-A Year In The CountryVexed Soul-Hobby Horse Recordings-The Straw Bear Band-Dom Cooper-A Year In The Country

    The songs wander from the Archie Fisher-esque widescreen but intimate take on “Polly on the Shore”, through to the “quite pretty but if you listen to the lyrics you realise that this is actually quite an odd story of attraction and paternalism” “Willie O’Winsbury” (and a reprise by way of 1973 film The Wicker Man’s “Procession” as if played by a New Orleans marching band), through to the spectral “The Lover’s Ghost” (featuring vocals by former 1970s acid/psych folk band Mellow Candle member Alison O’Donnell) and the album also draws on the talents of amongst others The Memory Band’s Nancy Wallace and The Straw Bear Band’s Dom Cooper.

    The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The CountryThe Owl Service-Alan Garner-tv tie in tv adaptation book-A Year In The CountryJeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The Country

    The band were formed by Steven Collins in 2006 and were active until 2016, with the band name being drawn from Alan Garner’s The Owl Service novel from 1967 and its subsequent television adaptation from 1969.

    According to an interview with him in Jeanette Leech’s Seasons They Change (her 2010 book on the story of acid and psychedelic folk that is discussed in Chapter 47: “…Lost Focal Points and Privately Pressed Folk”), originally The Owl Service did not physically exist as a band but was more created by him as an imagined idea for his ideal folk band, one which drew its influences from a certain section of 1960s and 1970s British film and television and the sound of the English folk revival.

    Anne Briggs-A Year In The Country-8

    I would not necessarily consider The Owl Service as overtly acid or psych folk: it is more a revisiting and reinterpreting of traditional folk and folk rock in a quietly left field or exploratory, respectful to but not hide bound by tradition manner.

    In that sense of revisiting and reinterpreting, they could be seen to be carrying on another tradition that can be traced back to the likes of folk singer Anne Briggs in the 1960s and early 1970s.

    As mentioned in Chapter 39: “…The Worlds and Interweavings of Kate Bush”, Mike Scott of The Waterboys said that when Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” went straight to number one in the 1978 singles chart that it “was like an old British soul got returned to us”.

    Which puts me somewhat in mind of Anne Briggs and her music…

    There is a beauty, purity and transcendence to her music and her voice that quite simply stops the listener in their tracks.

    Anne Briggs-The Time Has Come-A Year In The Country Anne Briggs-A Year In The Country-10

    Aside from a handful of collaborative and compilation appearances there are only three recorded solo albums and two EPs that document her music, with the third of those albums Sing a Song for You being her final album, which she recorded in 1973 but that was not released until 1997 after which she seemed to wish to largely step back from public view and performance.”

    Derrick Knight-Travelling For A Living-The Watersons-1966-BFIPlayer-1

    Travelling for a Living, a 1966 documentary by Derrick Knight that focuses on folk band The Watersons, in which Anne Briggs briefly appears…

    The film follows The Watersons throughout their life on the road, playing their interpretations of traditional folk songs at folk clubs, recording in studios and at home in Hull as friends and other performers visit.

    Derrick Knight-Travelling For A Living-The Watersons-1966-BFIPlayer-3

    Although it was released in 1966, it seems to belong to an earlier much more kitchen sink, almost post-war period.

    Often representations of British life and social history from that time focus on a swirling, colourful, pop-mod about-to-be-psych Swinging London metropolitan view of things.

    Travelling for a Living presents a more gritty Northern contrast to that (although no less vital), an almost alternative history view of culture at that time which seems to have been semi-written out of popular cultural history.

    However, quite possibly, the locations and music shown in Travelling for a Living were nearer to the day-to-day life of more of the nation than that of Swinging London; more backroom of a local pub than Kings Road high life club and boutique orientated.

    Travelling-For-A-Living-Derek-Knight-The-Watersons-A-Year-In-The-Country-8b-in a rowEugene Doyen-Medway-Billy ChildishEugene Doyen-Medway-The Milkshakes

    This is a much more grassroots, kitchen sink, gritty culture and makes the viewer think more of the 1950s than the 1960s; all monochrome Northern living and black-wearing beat style.

    In a way it is reminiscent of images of the 1980s Medway garage punk scene, such as photographs taken by Eugene Doyen; it shares a similar sense of a culture that is occurring separately to the mainstream stories and histories of the time and as with his photographs contains a similar kitchen sink, no frills and fripperies aesthetic.

    Cecil Sharp House-The English Folk Dance and Song Society

    This music doesn’t exist today as a living form but only in odd corners of memory; selected, hidden in the early recordings, notes and jottings treasured in the collections of Cecil Sharp House. From these still warm ashes The Watersons created music which is then seen to be very much alive.” (On The Watersons work, from the narration to the film).

    Lutine-Sallow Tree-Front and Follow-2-A Year In The Country  Lutine-Sallow Tree-Front and Follow-A Year In The Country

    Which brings us to Lutine, whose work is rooted in folk music but which also exists within its own landscape, creating work which draws from folk and other music but is not a recreation or homage…

    His Name Is Alive-Livonia-Vaughan Oliver-v23-4AD-A Year In The CountryHarold Budd-Cocteau Twins-Moon And The Melody

    Lutine’s 2014 debut album White Flowers, released by Front & Follow, is reminiscent of a peak point of the label 4AD in the 1980s until around the turn of the decade, a time when it was a home for fragile, textured beauty and explorations, with its releases often being packaged, enhanced and accompanied by the equally textured and intriguing visual work of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson working as 23 Envelope. 

    A particular point of reference in terms of Lutine and that period of 4AD is His Name Is Alive and the ethereal beauty of their 1990 album Livonia. If you take one of the literal definitions of ethereal as being “something which is extremely delicate and light, in a way not of this world” then you may be heading towards the atmosphere and work Lutine create…

    Lutine’s is chamber music from a time neither then, today or tomorrow. Thoroughly modern and yet steeped in waters from previous eras, gently experimental but particularly accessible.

    English Folk Songs-Audrey Copard-Folkways Records-Scarborough Fair-A Year In The Country English Folk Songs-Audrey Copard-Folkways Records-Scarborough Fair-A Year In The Country 2 copy English Folk Songs-Audrey Copard-Folkways Records-Scarborough Fair-A Year In The Country-Hares On The Mountain

    Which brings me to the just mentioned Audrey Copard and her 1956 folk revival album titled simply English Folk Songs.

    There is a playful, sometimes cheerful, sometimes wistfully sad delivery to the songs on this album, with its 14 traditional folk songs being presented simply and in an unadorned manner, featuring just Audrey Copard’s voice and sometimes guitar accompaniment.

    It features the first recorded and commercially released version of traditional song “Scarborough Fair” which used the melody that was later used on the commercially successful version of the song released by Simon & Garfunkel in 1965.

    English Folk Songs enabled this author to hear some of these songs’ earlier incarnations and caused me to wonder how these versions may have somewhere along the line come to influence their future versions existences, revisitings and reinterpretations of folk music.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 37 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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  • The Quietened Mechanisms – Preorder

    Preorder today 11th September 2018. Released 2nd October 2018. 

    The Quietened Mechanisms-Nightfall and Dawn Light editions-A Year In The Country CD album

    The album is an exploration of abandoned and derelict industry, infrastructure, technology and equipment that once upon a time helped to create, connect and sustain society.

    It wanders amongst deserted factories, discarded machinery, closed mines, mills and kilns and their echoes and remains; taking a moment or two to reflect on these once busy, functioning centres of activity and the sometimes sheer scale or amount of effort and human endeavour that was required to create and operate such structures and machines, many of which are now just left to fade away.

    Features music and accompanying text on the tracks by Howlround, Grey Frequency, Listening Center, Sproatly Smith, Embertides, Keith Seatman, Time Attendant, A Year In The Country, Dom Cooper, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Depatterning, Pulselovers, Quaker’s Stang, The Heartwood Institute and Spaceship.

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    Available in two CD editions: Dawn Light edition £11.95. Nightfall edition £21.95.
    CDs available via our Artifacts Shop, at Bandcamp and Norman Records.

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

    Downloads will be available at Bandcamp,  iTunes, Amazon etc.

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

    The Quietened Mechanisms-Dawn Light edition-front-A Year In The Country-CD albumThe Quietened Mechanisms-Dawn Light edition-opened-A Year In The Country CD album
    The Quietened Mechanisms-Dawn Light edition-notes-A Year In The Country CD albumThe Quietened Mechanisms-Dawn Light edition-back and badge-A Year In The Country CD album
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    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.

     

    Nightfall Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £21.95
    Hand-finished box-set contains: album on all black CD, 2 x sheets of accompanying notes, 1 print, 3 x stickers and 3 x badges.

    The Quietened Mechanisms-Nightfall edition-front cover-A Year In The Country CD album The Quietened Mechanisms-Nightfall edition-opened box-A Year In The Country CD albumThe Quietened Mechanisms-Nightfall edition-components-A Year In The Country CD albumThe Quietened Mechanisms-Nightfall edition-notes-A Year In The Country CD albumThe Quietened Mechanisms-Nightfall edition-print-A Year In The Country CD album
    The Quietened Mechanisms-Nightfall edition-stickers and badges-A Year In The Country CD album
    The Quietened Mechanisms-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) 2 x folded sheets of accompanying notes, printed on textured laid paper – one sheet hand numbered on back.
    5) 1 x print on textured fine art cotton rag paper.
    5) 1 x 2.5 cm badge, 1 x 4.5 cm badge.
    6) 1 x 5.6 cm sticker, 1 x 3.5 cm sticker, 2 x 12cm stickers.

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    The Quietened Mechanisms-Nightfall edition-landscape sticker 1-A Year In The Country CD album

    Tracklisting:

    1) Birkby and Allbright Mine: The Heartwood Institute
    2) The Hoffman Kiln: Quaker’s Stang
    3) Of Looms in the Housen: Depatterning
    4) Ash, Oak & Sulphur: Embertides
    5) Metallurgy: Dom Cooper
    6) The Mill in the Forest: Field Lines Cartographer
    7) Nottingham Canal: Grey Frequency
    8) A Closed Circuit: Howlround
    9) Rattler to the Tower: The Soulless Party
    10) Rural Flight: Keith Seatman
    11) Clarion of the Collapsed Complex: Listening Center
    12) The Stones Speak of Short Lives: Spaceship
    13) Canary Babies: Sproatly Smith
    14) Fuggles: Pulselovers
    15) Hidden Parameters: Time Attendant
    16) Watchtower and Engine: Vic Mars
    17) The Structure/Respite: A Year In The Country

     

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  • Flipside Noir Part 2 – Folkloric Transgressions: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 37/52

    Aberystwyth Mon Amour-Malcolm Pryce-book front and back cover

    In Part 1 of this post I discussed the surreal, magic and druid imbued Welsh noir novel Aberystwyth Mon Amour by Malcom Pryce.

    I ended Part 1 by saying:

    “…as a cultural form isn’t necessarily something that could be obviously linked to much of the other culture and wanderings at A Year In The Country but with a little delving a connection or two could be made…”

    Part 2 involves in part some such delving (and to a degree is also a revisiting of previous writing both online and in the  A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book).

    In 2016 Justin Hopper, the author of The Old Weird Albion, curated an exhibition In Pittsburgh, USA called Pastoral Noir.

    Ghost Box Records-Wood St Galleries-Pittsburgh-Justin Hopper-A Year In The Country

    The work shown in the exhibition by the likes of Tessa Farmer, Jem Finer, Ghost Box Records, Tony Heywood & Alison Condie, Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton explored the undercurrents, flipside and sometimes darker or eerie corners of pastoral culture and where they intertwine with the spectres of hauntology:

    “The use of the phrase pastoral noir may be part of a seemingly wider, ongoing process of experimenting with and searching for names that could possibly serve to encompass and define such intertwined cultural explorations.”
    (From the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.)

    Noir as a phrase tends to refer to fiction, film, culture and aesthetic which takes in both the knight-in-shining-armour like private detective of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and a sometimes intertwined almost nihilistic depictions of desperate acts by protagonists who may be flawed, morally questionable or just involved in desperate circumstances.

    It is also often, although not exclusively, set in urban locations

    Shirley Collins and The Albion Country Band-No Roses-cover artwork and gatefold

    Looking towards more pastoral and folk orientated culture, noir-ish elements can be found in the likes of the song Poor Murdered Woman and its desolate, dark and unsettling tale, which was recorded by Shirley Collins and featured on her and the Albion Band’s No Roses album, alongside the Bob Stanley curated compilation Early Morning Hush – Notes From The UK Folk Underground 1969-1976.

    0030-The-Owl-Service-The-View-From-A-Hill-A-Year-In-The-Country

    While there is also a noir-ish element to the song Cruel Mother, as also recorded by the likes of Shirley Collins, Steeleye Span and The Owl Service, the latter of whom included the song as the final track on their album The View from a Hill and featured the lyrics prominently within the packaging.

    This tells a particularly brutal tale of the desperate actions of a mother deserted by her lover and subsequent damnation and it could in a different context and era well be the plot to a noir-ish film or novel (albeit with a supernatural element).

    The Wicker Man-film still-Edward Woodward

    While in part the cultural behemoth of The Wicker Man can be seen as both a folk horror and a form of folk crime film: its tale of an incorruptible detective attempting to single-handedly investigate a multi-layered conspiracy is not all that far removed from similar elements in noir fiction and film.

    Albeit here the detective is an officer of the law and somewhat priggish, in contrast to for example the stubborn but generally more warmly likeable private detective Philip Marlowe from Raymond Chandler’s novels and their film adaptations such as The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Long Goodbye.

    Sight & Sound-2013-The Wickerman-2010-The Films Of Old Weird Britain-2

    (As an aside, the main protragonist’s in The Wicker Man’s official position of authority and the film’s folkloric elements are the source of a double meaning in Vic Pratt’s article on the film Long Arm of the Lore, which was published in Sight & Sound magazine around the time of The Wicker Man’s fortieth anniversary and related reissues. It is well worth seeking out as it is a considered, reflective exploration of the film and the context within which it was made.)

    It is not much of a step from say the variously crime, supernatural and mystical/faith elements of The Wicker Man, Poor Murdered Woman and Cruel Mother back round to the magic-in-the-modern-day aspects of the likes of Aberystwth Mon Amour nor some of the more uncanny elements of the work shown in Pastoral Noir: to a degree they are part of a loosely interconnected continuum of such things and a contemporary interest in the uncanny, sometimes mystical or mythical flipsides and undercurrents of pastoral and folk orientated work, the old weird or “wyrd” ways and a related interest in the preter or supernatural.

    Elsewhere:
    Malcolm Pryce
    Long arm of the lore – Vic Pratt’s article on The Wicker Man archived at the BFI’s site

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #3/365: Gather In The Mushrooms: something of a starting point via an accidental stumbling into the British acid folk undeground
    2) Day #30/365: The Owl Service – A View From A Hill
    3) Week #20/52: Pastoral Noir, if onlys, a seeking of names / the ether giveth and the ether taketh away
    4) Chapter 10 Book Images: The Wicker Man – Notes on a Cultural Behemoth
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 36/52: Flipside Noir Part 1 – Aberystwyth Mon Amour and Gangsters in Mistletoe

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Vashti Bunyan – From Here to Before – Whispering Fairy Stories until They are Real: Chapter 36 Book Images

    Vashti Bunyan-From Here To Before-Kieran Evans-2008 film-NFT BFI Sensoria Showroom Sheffield

    Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before (is) the 2008 documentary about her fabled horse-drawn trip across the country at the end of the 1960s and turn of the decade and the album she made at the time.

    Finisterre-film-Saint Etienne-Paul Kelly-Kieran Evans

    Other films and documentaries made by its director Kieran Evans, including the Saint Etienne and Paul Kelly collaboration Finisterre (2003), edgelands exploration The Outer Edges (2013) which was made as part of a wider project with Karl Hyde and dramatic film Kelly + Victor (2012) have all had fairly widespread releases in the cinema and/or on DVD.

    However, From Here to Before although covered in the press to a certain extent seemed to have a fairly limited cinematic release and then, apart from a few clips that can be viewed online, it seems to have more or less disappeared from view and has never had a commercial home release.”

    Vashti Bunyan-Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind CD-The Train Song vinyl

    Vashti Bunyan-From Here To Before-Kieran Evans-2008 film-3

    Born in 1945, in the mid 1960s Vashti Bunyan worked with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, released two singles which did not sell in great numbers and recorded further songs for Oldham’s Immediate records which remained unreleased for many years.

     

    Vashti Bunyan-A Year In The Country

    After this she decided to travel with her boyfriend Robert Lewis by horse and cart to the Hebridean Islands to join a commune planned by a friend, fellow singer/songwriter Donovan. During the trip, she began writing the songs that eventually became her first album, Just Another Diamond Day which was released in 1970.”

    Devandra-Banhart-Joanna-Newsom

    “By 2000 Just Another Diamond Day had acquired a cult following and it was re-released, with her work and story becoming inspirational to a new generation of musicians, some of whom including Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom, who have been loosely connected under the label “freak folk”.”

    Vashti Bunyan-Lookaftering-Heartleap-Fat Cat

    “After this re-release and a gap of more than 30 years Vashti Bunyan began recording again, collaborated with contemporary musicians and appeared live.

    She released the album Lookaftering in 2005 and in 2014 what she said was to be her final album Heartleap (both on Fatcat).

    Vashti Bunyan-From Here To Before-Kieran Evans-2008 film-7

    Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before… serves as an entrancing exploration of a youthful journey of exploration and searching and also an associated self-created almost parallel sense of reality.

    To quote author Rob Young from his 2011 book Electric Eden they seemed to be undertaking a form of “imaginative time travel”, a wish to get back to the land and simpler ways of life, which seems to have been fairly widespread at the time within certain often folk leaning areas of culture and music.

    Just Another Diamond Day has become a totem and reflection of such yearnings.

    This is due in part to the album’s gentle farside of folk delivery and vocals, alongside the almost dreamlike bucolic subject matter of its songs and the evocative nature of her horse and cart journey when she began work on what would become the songs on the album.

    Adding to this are the equally almost dreamlike, fantasy rural atmosphere conjured by the cover image of Vashti Bunyan in period rural clothing and headscarf, where she is pictured outside her cottage accompanied by painted animals.”

    Vashti Bunyan-From Here To Before-Kieran Evans-2008 film-10 Vashti Bunyan-From Here To Before-Kieran Evans-2008 film-11Vashti Bunyan-From Here To Before-Kieran Evans-2008 film-9

    Alongside recording Vashti Bunyan’s thoughts and memories of her journey, life and work as she revisits places from her journey or prepares for a live appearance, contemporary interviews make up part of the film.

    These include amongst others Andrew Loog Oldham, her 1960s producer Joe Boyd, Adem Ihan who is one of the musicians rehearsing with her for a live performance and artist John James who was a companion for parts of the journey.

     Vashti Bunyan-From Here To Before-Kieran Evans-2008 film-4

    The film also includes archival footage and photographs of Vashti and her partner in their folkloric, late 1960s-esque, gypsy like garb that they wore at the time.

    This is clothing that at times is almost medieval and which accompanied by images of them travelling in their horse and cart shows the degree to which they lived out their dreams and attempted to remake their lives in the image of those dreams.

    Vashti Bunyan-From Here To Before-Kieran Evans-2008 film-5

    From Here to Before was made over four years around the mid to later 2000s, when interest in her work was flowering and she began to express herself again creatively in public via music and live performance and the film is a respectful observation of this period in her life and her earlier stories.

    Vashti Bunyan’s music of the time and her journey have created an iconic story, set of images and songs; a modern-day fable or almost fairy-tale. The film is a reflection and exploration of this fable-like nature but it also captures the realities and hardships of their journey and subsequent home but without shattering the allure or spell of that dream.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 36 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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  • Flipside Noir Part 1 – Aberystwyth Mon Amour and Druid Gangsters in Mistletoe: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 36/52

    Aberystwyth Mon Amour-Malcolm Pryce-book front and back cover

    There is a subsection of crime and mystery fiction which utilises elements of its genre and adds variously surreal, absurd, comedic, period and farcical elements to create a form of genre fiction which can often by lightweightly playful (or to describe it in a less charitable way – a little “silly” or wacky).

    When I first picked up a copy of Malcolm Pryce’s Aberystwyth Mon Amour novel, which has on its cover a noir-ish detective standing opposite a femme fatale in a red dress and a traditional Welsh dress hat, I though it might well belong to that playful/silly subsection of crime fiction.

    On reading it I discovered that although it is thoroughly entertaining and has some parallels with such work, it is actually a more considered, layered piece of fiction.

    It could be called a surreal Welsh noir, set in an alternate world where the old ways, magic and druids still abound (albeit within recognisably contemporary structures and society).

    The book depicts a parallel version of the Welsh seaside town Aberystwyth, which is run by druids who are essentially to all intents and purposes actually “gangsters in mistletoe” and the society depicted within the book is a mixture of a brutal, pagan world and the “real” world.

    In the town schoolboys keep disappearing and Louie Knight, the town’s private investigator, sets off to solve a multi-layered mystery and conspiracy.

    Peaky Blinders-series-screenshot

    The book has similarities with the British television series Peaky Blinders in the way it mythologises UK crime and organised crime in a not dissimilar manner to that which Hollywood does with its equivalent in America but which is rarely done with British genre work.

    While the book borrows from many of the traditional tropes, themes and signifiers of noir detective fiction, including the central character being an “awkward” detective out to solve the mystery no matter what after he is visited by a femme fatale nightclub singer, it also contains an intriguing disjunctive aspect as amongst such things the traditional signifiers of a British seaside town are an inherent part of the story but without the book stepping into wacky territory; the barman who the detective goes to for solace here is the owner of an ice cream parlour, sticks of traditional Blackpool rock confectionery play a part in the mystery and the all night cafe/bar of noir fiction here is an all night whelk stall.

    Connected to which while there is a fantastical aspect to the novel, it also shows a world rooted in real world practicalities:

    “I’ll need some help to cover my bus fare.”  

    I put another 20p piece down on top of the 50p piece.

    (An informant/helper talking to Louie Knight and the detective upping their fee or payoff.)

    In this version of Aberystwyth magic and its application are an aspect of life.

    Cast a Deadly Spell-1991-Witch Hunt 1994-Julianne Moore-Dennis Hopper-Fred Ward-Paul Schrader-Martin Campbell

    Within the book there is not an explanation as to why or how magic is used and exists, it just is and in this sense and the way in which the book intertwines such aspects with noir detective/crime tropes it shares parallels with the films Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) directed by Martin Campbell and its sequel Witch Hunt (1994) directed by Paul Schrader, in which a hardboiled private detective named Harry Philip Lovecraft (named after the fantasy/horror writer H.P. Lovecraft) lives in a world where magic is real, monsters and mythical beasts stalk back alleys, zombies are used as cheap labour and everyone, excepting Lovecraft, uses magic on a day-to-day basis.

    Gumshoe-1971-Stephen Frears-cafe-2

    Elsewhere in cinema it also connects with Stephen Frears’ 1971 film Gumshoe, in which a bingo-caller and occasional club comedian in a Northern British city dreams of being a private eye of the kind he knows from films and pulp novels and who almost accidentally becomes involved in solving a mystery, which utilises some of the signifiers of noir detective film but relocates it to an unexpected geographic and cultural locale.

    Also in its playing with noir genres tropes and relocating them to an unusual, disjunctive setting it also has parallels with Rian Johnson’s 2005 film Brick, which draws heavily from noir fiction but its depiction of a hardboiled detective story is peopled by high school students.

    While in terms of depicting a British resort gone bad the book shares some territory with Edgar Wright’s 2007 film Hot Fuzz, in which the picture perfect surface of an English country village idyll actually masks a murderous conspiracy – although in Aberystwyth Mon Amour the sense of corruption is hardly masked at all.

    (As an aside there is also a further connection between Gumshoe and Hot Fuzz, in that actress Billie Whitelaw appeared in both, with Hot Fuzz being I think her final screen performance.)

    Raymond Chandler-Philip Marlowe-The Big Sleep-Farewell My Lovely-The Long Goodbye

    In some ways Aberystwyth Mon Amour is darker and bleaker than say noir progenitors such as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories.

    In those although there may be corruption and elements of the hierarchy, authorities and police which are corrupt, these “bad apples” are only a section of society. Whereas in Malcolm Pryce’s book the whole town appears to be either corrupt and/or under the thumb of the druids/the bad guys.

    By its end the book becomes a curious parable about urban renewal: Louie Knight’s decisions, actions and non-actions unleash a Biblical like flood that both sweeps away all the old vice and corruption but also seemingly the old ways, beliefs, tastes and forms of consumption; the ice cream stall becomes a chain of espresso serving bistros, the 24 hour whelk stall becomes a 24 hour moules marinière stall and so on.

    This leaves the reader with a curious sense of ambiguity, of being glad that the good guys have trounced the bad and ended the associated corruption and their plans for a Biblical apocalypse but also a slight sense that it has merely been replaced by a form of cultural cleansing and an associated cultural superiority/smugness and almost a sense of not quite being sure who won or if indeed they did.

    As a finishing note, noir as a cultural form isn’t necessarily something that could be obviously linked to much of the other culture and wanderings at A Year In The Country but with a little delving a connection or two could be made…

    To be continued in Part 2…

    Elsewhere:
    Aberystwyth Mon Amour
    Malcolm Pryce
    Peaky Blinders trailer
    Cast a Deadly Spell trailer
    Witch Hunt trailer
    Brick trailer
    Gumshoe trailer

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

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • Magpahi, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council – Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and Considerations of Modern Day Magic: Chapter 35 Book Images

    Magpahi EP-Alison Cooper-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryThe Watchbird Alluminate-Jane Weaver Septieme Soeur-Magapahi-Finders Keeepers Bird Records-album cover art

    “Alison Cooper, who often records under the name Magpahi, creates work which feels as though it exists in and has tumbled from an indefinable fabled time and place of its own creation, work which at times seems to have been created by or also tumbled from arcane and lost music boxes.

    Her recorded work includes the tremulously vocalled acid or psych-esque folk on the Magpahi EP compilation, released by Jane Weaver’s Bird Records in collaboration with Finders Keepers Records in 2008, which is a gathering of imagined poems and tales told in folk music refracted through a filter of woodland fantasia.

    The creation and transporting of its listener to an unknown or unknowable place can also be found in her more folk-orientated work as Magpahi on the album Watchbird Alluminate from 2011 where songs from Jane Weaver’s Fallen by Watchbird album released in 2010 are reimagined or reinterpreted, on which Magpahi reinterprets “My Soul Was Lost, My Soul Was Lost and No-One Saved Me”, imparting an otherworldly fabled atmosphere to the song.”

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    Berberian Sound Studio-soundtrack album-Broadcast-Warp-Julian House-Intro Design AgencyThe Duke of Burgundy-Cats Eyes

    “On Devon Folklore Tapes Vol. IV – Rituals and Practices, released by Folklore Tapes in 20122 Magpahi’s contribution includes leftfield glacial otherly and exploratory folk pop, instrumentals and wordless singing as though captured by far away dusty recording mechanisms; in spirit it may not be a million miles away from work that say Broadcast or Cat’s Eyes might have created for the insular dreamscapes of Peter Strickland’s films.”

     Natural Supernatural Lancashire-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-DiM-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryHood Faire record label-logo

    “As Alison or A. Cooper and collaborating with fellow sometimes Folklore Tapes collaborator and co-founder of the Hood Faire record label Sam McLoughlin, she has released two volumes of folkloric soundscapes called Natural/Supernatural Lancashire and Supernatural Lancashire Volume Two, released in 2009 and 2013 respectively by Finders Keepers Records.

    These are largely instrumental works (though just occasionally her voice will fleetingly appear) which create a soundtrack or an audiological tribute to the northern British Lancashire landscape and its stories…

    However, neither part is a straightforward pastoral view and on the Natural Lancashire side you can be immersed in the wheezing almost carny previous era world of “Stream Power” one second and then transported to the meadows via “Edder” the next.”

    Alison Cooper-Gwendolen Osmond-Crystal Mirrors-Folklore Tapes-Hood Faire

    Mistletoe and Cold Winter Skies-Was Ist Das? cassette albumthe-forest-the-wald-cover-a-year-in-the-countryAll The Merry Year Round-album cover-A Year In The CountryThe Quietened Cosmologists-CD album cover-A Year In The Country-1080p

    “Alison Cooper has also released work in collaboration with Gwendolen Osmond as Crystal Mirrors on a joint Folklore Tapes/Hood Faire released cassette in 2014, alongside contributing tracks as Magpahi to the compilation Mistletoe & Cold Winter Skies released by Was Ist Das? in 2014 and several A Year In The Country released themed compilations including The Forest/The Wald in 2016 and All The Merry Year Round and The Quietened Cosmologists in 2017.”

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    Jane Weaver-The Fallen By Watchbird-video-press shot

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

    “The Magpahi EP, Natural/Supernatural Lancashire, Supernatural Lancashire Part Two and Watchbird Alluminate were all released by Finders Keepers Records or its collaborative sister label Bird Records, which is run by musician Jane Weaver.

    Both labels have proved to be a home for various often female-led or sung explorations of music that could very loosely be connected to folk but which wander amongst their own particular landscape of such things.

    This has taken in both modern, newly created work and also the release of archival material such as “O Willow Waly” by George Auric taken from 1961 film The Innocents which was released on 7” by Finders Keepers in 2013.

    Sung by Isla Cameron, it could be considered a precursor to the folk horror and soundtrack of the likes of The Wicker Man film from 1973 in the way that it draws from traditional music tropes to create beguilingly entrancing music which also summons a sense of the “other” out amongst rural climes.”

    Paper Dollhouse-A Box Painted Black-Bird Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country Paper Dollhouse-A Box Painted Black-Bird Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country 2

    “Devon Folklore Tapes Vol. 4 – Rituals and Practices, as mentioned earlier was a split release by Magpahi and fellow Bird Records-released Paper Dollhouse, whose 2012 album A Box Painted Black is an experimental piece of music but as with much of Magpahi’s work it also contains an accessibility and/or a left field folk-pop sensibility.

    This album was made by Astrud Steehouder working as solo artist; it has been described as “dark gothic minimal folk” and at the time she listed her influences as:

    “…bewildering post nuclear landscapes, bleak fields, forests, thunderstorms and archaic industrial objects in the middle of nowhere…”

    As with Magpahi’s work, the album seems to belong to a time, place and landscape of its own. It comes across as having been recorded in some semi-lost wooden cottage, in an indefinable place and time and the noises and creaks of its habitat have seeped in and become part of the very fabric of the music.”

    Paperhouse 1988-A Year In The Country Marianne Dreams-Escape Into Night-Paper Dollhouse-Catherine Storr-A Year In The CountryEscape Into Night 1972-A Year In The Country

    “Paper Dollhouse in part take their name from the intriguing rurally-set 1988 film Paperhouse and its themes of childhood dreams and nightmares of drawings come to life, which was previously made as a television series in 1972 called Escape into the Night, with both being based on Catherine Storr’s 1958 novel Marianne Dreams.”

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    Maxine-Peake-The Eccentronic Research Council

    Kings Have Long Arms-Phil Oakey-Add N to X-I Monster-record covers

    “Bird Records also released the 2012 album 1612 Underture by The Eccentronic Research Council. This was a collaborative work by Adrian Flanagan and Dean Horner, who had previously worked in the fringes and left-of-centre areas of electronica and electronic pop via the likes of Kings Have Long Arms, Add N To (X) and I Monster, alongside renowned actress Maxine Peake.”

    Eccentronic Research Council-1612 Underture-Maxine Peake-Andy Votel-Bird Records-Jane Weaver-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country 4

    “1612 Underture is a concept album which takes the form of a spoken word, soundtracked travelogue play, one that sometimes moves into more overtly song based moments; it is said to be “one part political commentary and feminist manifesto and two parts theatrical fakeloric sound poem”.

    The album’s subject matter is the historical persecution of the Pendle Witches in the early 17th century and as suggested by the word “fakeloric” in the album’s description, throughout its observations on a contemporary voyage of discovery and pilgrimage it also interweaves historical events, folklore and imaginings and reimaginings of past events.

    During the telling of its stories the album draws more than a few analogies with modern-day times: moral panics, folk devils and economic/ political goings on and shenanigans then and now. All of which are wrapped up in a warm, woozy, acoustic and synthesized analogue take on hauntological folk music, primarily voiced by Maxine Peake.”

     The Eccentronic Research Council-klunkclick video still-2 The Eccentronic Research Council-klunkclick video still-1

    “The album was accompanied by an extended accompanying video/ film by kluncklick (who also worked with Jane Weaver on her The Fallen by Watch Bird album from 20105).

    This is rather slickly done on a (presumably) shoestring and handful of pennies budget.

    Although using footage of actual people, it is not dissimilar in a way to a semi-animated children’s programme from years gone by, while also reminding us somewhat of Chris Marker’s film La Jetée (1962) in that it is built up largely from still images rather than traditional movement.

    You could call it a fumée: the comic strips that are put together using actors or the book adaptations of films that were made up of stills that in previous decades were published fairly regularly.

    While the album’s themes are quite serious and it is experimental in spirit, this is also a record which is deeply rooted in electronic pop and has been called non-populist pop.

    “Another Witch Is Dead” is pop music, unabashedly so, including ear worm-like choruses, in particular the rhyming couplet “It’s a middle class vendetta, on women who are better”, which is a fine piece of class-related lyricism.

    Today, often even within more leftfield music, it is relatively unusual to hear overt comment on class politics and relations and so in this sense 1612 Underture is somewhat refreshing. It also considers analogies with previous era’s magic and belief systems and that of today, describing mobile phones as being “modern-day magic on a monthly tariff ”.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 35 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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  • A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 2; Chapters 14-26

    The second of Chris Lambert’s Wyrd Kalendar mixes is now online – visit it here.

    This mix is one of a set of four, in each of which he explores/plans on exploring 13 chapters of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    They’re rather lovely and create an “otherly” soundscape world to travel with and drift off into.

    This episode includes music by Broadcast, Cat’s Eyes, Virginia Astley, Brian Eno, Kate Bush, Jim Williams, David Colohan, Howlround, Keith Seatman, Loose Capacitor, The Twelve Hour Foundation, Shirley Collins, Stealing Sheep, Leyland Kirby, David Sylvian, Fairport Convention, Roy Redmond, Nirvana (no, the other one), Luke Haines, Tim Hart and Maddy Prior – alongside soundtracks, clips and a narration which is both humorously entertaining and subtly eerie.

    Below are the chapters Mix 2 explores.

    An I-Spy game for all the family; if you hop over the Ghost Box stile and wander off on this second part of the journey, see if you can match the above musicians/groups with their appropriate chapters.

    Here’s a clue to start you off – David Colohan and Keith Seatman’s tracks from the Mix were included on the A Year In The Country released album The Quietened Bunker.

    14. Christopher Priest’s A Dream of Wessex: Twentieth Century Slipstream Echoes

    15. Sapphire & Steel and Ghosts in the Machine: Nowhere, Forever and Lost Spaces within Cultural Circuitry

    16. Kill List, Puffball, In the Dark Half and Butter on the Latch: Folk Horror Descendants by Way of the Kitchen Sink

    17. The Quietened Bunker, Waiting For The End of the World, Subterranea Britannica, Bunker Archaeology and The Delaware Road: Ghosts, Havens and Curious Repurposings Beneath Our Feet

    18. From The Unofficial Countryside to Soft Estate: Edgeland Documents, Memories and Explorations

    19. The Ballad of Shirley Collins and Pastoral Noir: Tales and Intertwinings from Hidden Furrows

    20. “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased): Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth

    21. Uncommonly British Days Out and the Following of Ghosts: File under Psychogeographic/Hauntological Stocking Fillers

    22. Gone to Earth: Earlier Traces of an Otherly Albion

    23. Queens of Evil, Tam Lin and The Touchables: High Fashion Transitional Psych Folk Horror, Pastoral Fantasy and Dreamlike Isolation

    24. Luke Haines: Our Most Non-Hauntological Hauntologist

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

    26. Katalin Varga, Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy : Arthouse Evolution and Crossing the Thresholds of the Hinterland Worlds of Peter Strickland

     

    Chris Lambert is the author of Tales from the Black Meadow and co-author with Andy Paciorek of Wyrd Kalendar – details at the links below.

    “When Professor R. Mullins of the University of York went missing in 1972 on the site of the area known as Black Meadow atop of the North Yorkshire Moors, he left behind him an extensive body of work that provided a great insight into the folklore of this mysterious place.

    “Writer Chris Lambert has been rooting through Mullins’ files for over ten years and now presents the Tales from the Black Meadow collection of weird and macabre tales.”

     

    Elsewhere:

    1. Tales From The Black Meadow – the book (or few), the CD (or few), the project
    2. The Wyrd Kalendar book by Chris Lambert and Andy Paciorek (published by Wyrd Harvest Press / Folk Horror)
    3. A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1; Chapters 1-13 at Mixcloud
    4. Mix 1 at the Wyrd Kalendar website
    5. A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 2; Chapters 14-26 at Mixcloud
    6. Mix 2 at the Wyrd Kalendar website
    7. Tales from the Black Meadow – the book by Chris Lambert
    8. Chris Lambert’s own writing website

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

    1. A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1; Chapters 1-13
    2. The Quietened Bunker
    3. The A Year In The Country Wandering Through Spectral Fields book

     

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  • Peter Mitchell’s Memento Mori and Bugs in Utopia: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 35/52

    Memento Mori-Peter Mitchell-RRB Photobooks

    Peter Mitchell’s book Memento Mori, originally published in 1990 and reissued in 2016 by RRB PhotoBooks, is a documenting of the demolition Quarry Hill Flats, which was a large housing estate in Leeds (a Northern city in the UK), that was built in the 1930s and which was built using advanced, then revolutionary construction techniques and  the estate had a distinctive modern continental design.

    The flats were built as part of a “great social experiment” and intended to house an entire urban community. However soon after being built the flats were shown to have a number of serious infrastructure problems and this “daring vision for the future” began to crumble, literally.

    Memento Mori-Peter Mitchell-RRB Photobooks-2

    Peter Mitchell arrived in Leeds just in time to record that demolition, with the resulting book not just being a photographic record but also effectively a tribute to those who engineered and built the Flats and those who lived there. It includes extensive archive material and reflects on the ideas behind the Flats, their construction, eventual demise and the reasons why they failed.

    In connection to reflections on the demise of such building projects, in the Preface Bernard Crick says:

    “Nobody welcomes decay, in the contrary; but contemplating such sights sets off a slow burning mixture of nostalgia and hope for a better future. These are somewhat conflicting emotions but if one is honest, it is useless to deny that many of us live with them both.”

    Which is a conflicting set of emotions which could well be applied to much of, for example, a contemporary appreciation of brutalist architecture and hauntological orientated work and interests, particularly in relation to lost progressive futures.

    Memento Mori-Peter Mitchell-RRB Photobooks-3

    The practical problems that caused the flats to fail include that the automatic waste disposal gummed up and was very costly and difficult to clean, the prefabricated steel and concrete blocks used in the Flats’ construction were either defective or poorly welded, leading to water seepage and rust and by the early 1960s repairs were going to cost more than building an entire new estate.

    Alongside which due to the outbreak of the war many of the intended communal facilities were never completed.

    These practical problems were accompanied by (and possibly in part were some of the causes of) vandalism and antisocial behaviour which plagued the Flats.

    By the 1950s the flats were infamous and in the 1970s the decision was made to demolish this “stone jungle”.

    Memento Mori-Peter Mitchell-RRB Photobooks-4

    Memento Mori is a curious book: Peter Mitchell’s evocative photographs of the demolition and dereliction of the estate are interwoven with period photographs, blueprints, historical details, quotes, news clippings etc – all of which tell a tale of both the initial optimism in regards to the estate and its subsequent decline.

    Viewed now these various elements from different periods and their related optimism and sense of failure, defeat and sometimes anger seem to almost not connect with one another nor be records of the same place.

    In one spread, which is fairly indicative of much of the book, children are pictured on a slide and swings next to news reports of the playground’s vandalising, while on the opposite page is one of Peter Mitchell’s photographs which shows a semi-demolished mass of concrete and steel that was once one of entrance’s to the Flats.

    Adding pathos to that photograph, there is a small illustrated sign which contains an illustration of children playing with a ball and which appears to indicate that this was once an exit which lead to a play area.

    The way in which different elements from different time periods and levels of optimism are placed in close proximity to one another in the book create a sense of disjuncture, a fracturing of the traditional photographic book narrative, which may well be appropriate to and a reflection on the fate of the Estate itself.

    However, as Bernard Crick also says in the Preface, the book is:

    “…no easy polemic against utopianism or modernism in architecture and planning, even though Quarry Hill failed: it is only, if a polemic at all, a polemic against utopias that fail.”

    Memento Mori-Peter Mitchell-RRB Photobooks-5

    When viewed now the aesthetics and grand intentions of creating an entire urban community in such mass housing projects appear to be nearer in spirit to a top-down imposed Soviet/Eastern Europe attempt at social engineering.

    As discussed in part by Bernard Click in the Preface, such projects in the UK may have had high and well minded ideals and initial intentions but they also seemed to ignore some of the often basic human needs or wishes for decent autonomous family units, home and hearth.

    They appeared in part to neglect or overlook the possibility that say more traditional individual houses may have been more wished for or appreciated by residents and that an accompanying sense of a “home of your own”, which such traditional housing may instill, could be more important to the people who actually lived in such homes than a romantic outsiders’ intellectual sense of the importance of building communities within and via large scale, flat orientated modernist social housing projects.

     

    Elsewhere:
    Sample pages of Memento Mori at propagandaphotos
    Memento Mori at RRB PhotoBooks
    Peter Mitchell’s Strangely Familiar site

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Ether Signposts #1/52a: Peter Mitchell’s Some Thing means Everything to Somebody

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • The Shildam Hall Tapes – Broadcasts and Reviews from an Imaginary Film

    A selection of links and excerpts from reviews etc of The Shildam Hall Tapes album:

    “Vic Mars contributes a woozy neoclassical dream sequence interspersed with snippets of vintage-style electronica; very lovely and totally in keeping with the album’s theme… The Heartwood Institute provide a foreboding piece of cinematic incidental music, its chilling and haunting atmosphere perfectly illustrating a seance taking part on the grounds of Shildam Hall… an engaging collection of dark, ethereal and psychedelic experimental sounds.”

    Kim Harten, Bliss Aquamarine

    “Morretti provides a marvellous piece in the Goblin/Fabio Frizzi manner that effortlessly conjures a title sequence of mists, coloured filters and Art Nouveau typefaces… (The Shildam Hall Tapes is) sinister, perfectly-pitched and leaving enough gaps in the scenario for the imagination to operate.”

    John Coulthart, feuilleton

    “Suggestioni ispiratrici e caratteri del contenuto della raccolta corrispondono appieno con l’idea di colonna sonora per un film che non è possibile vedere, ma certamente immaginare, attraverso la sensibilità di artisti in grado di creare mondi immaginari, distanti nello spazio e nel tempo, ma originati ancora una volta da presenze immanenti tra i campi della Britannia rurale di questi anni.”

    Raffaello Russo, Music Won’t Save You

    (Read a fractured English translation here.)

    “‘Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden’ is all knotweed and nettle, tendrils of melody and petals of expectation… Circle/Temple’s ‘Maze Sequence’ leads you through the silent hedges, and leaves you in the middle.  You’ll find your own way out eventually.  Probably… The Shildham Hall Tapes leaves you convinced that you remember the show; can picture certain scenes; might even recall the unease you felt when you went up to bed when it finished.  Which is an startling achievement in itself.  The fact that you now have proof that it happened is even more amazing.”

    Dave Thompson, Goldmine

    “The sounds venture into 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… Just as film is the visceral, visual experience needed to startle and stimulate the eyes, The Shildam Hall Tapes is the appropriate aural experience needed to caress and connect the ears to everything they are listening to.”

    Eoghan Lyng, We Are Cult

    “…just as strange and accomplished as you’d expect… every track unsettles and enthralls in equal measure.”

    Ben Graham, Shindig magazine, issue 82

    “‘Day 12, Scene 2, Take 3: Hoffman’s Fall’… is a gorgeously woven twilight apparition that manages seamlessly to align itself to the outer points of the ghost box realm, amid a becoming spectral haze, these chiming serenades shimmer in and out of focus to play tic tac toe with both the enchanted and the eerie.”

    Mark Barton, The Sunday Experience

    The album can also be found in Simon Reynolds June 2018 Hauntology Parish Newsletter, in the company of the likes of Moon Wiring Club, Bloxham Tapes’ releases and Andrew Pekler’s Phantom Islands.

    Visit that here.

     

    And now to the radio etc broadcasts:

    Vic Mars “Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden” was featured on Eledir Seren’s Mind De-Coder show, which is described as:

    “Your weekly fix of new and classic psychedelia, acid folk, krautrock, hauntology and avant-garde going’s on, segued into a continuous mix for listening pleasure.”

    On that episode of the show you’ll find Vic Mar’s track amongst the likes of the Trunk Records release Music for Children, Lisa Knapp, Halo Maud, Folklore Tapes, Revbjelde and The Advisory Circle. Well worth taking a “trip” to visit.

    The show was originally broadcast on Waiheke Radio, is archived at Mixcloud here and accompanying notes can be found at the Mind De-Coder site.

    Verity Sharp played The Heartwood Institute’s “Shildam Hall Seance” on the 23rd August 2018 episode of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction:

    “A continuous curveball selection from the fringes of alternative music. Featuring the critically acclaimed voice of a rising star in English folk Jackie Oates, spontaneous explorations on repetition by Luke Wyland and reflections on an imaginary feature film lost to aristocratic decadence and psychedelic influences called The Shildam Hall Tapes, the latest release by A Year In The Country.”

    Produced by Rebecca Gaskell, that show will be listenable to until around the 27th of September. Visit it here.

    Pulselovers’, Listening Center’s and Gavino Moretti’s tracks from The Shildam Hall Tapes were played on Sunrise Ocean Bender (and where in a further connection to cinematic reimaginings they shared the airwaves with Sinoia Cave’s soundtrack to the “Reagan era fever dream” Beyond the Black Rainbow).

    Originally broadcast on WRIR FM, the show is archived here.

    Vic Mars’ and Listening Center’s tracks from the album were played on Flatland Frequencies:

    “Playing the finest in electronic explorations, from early electroacoustic and musique concréte, to new and upcoming ambient and drone.”

    Originally broadcast on Future Radio 107.8 FM, the show is archived here.

    Field Line Cartographer’s “The Computer” was included in the 29th July 2018 episode of the Gated Canal Community Radio, which is ably hosted by the folk responsible for the Front & Follow and The Geography Trip labels, who respectively have been “offering a firm handshake to sonic reverie since 2007” and set out to explore “the exotic beside the mundane; tin foil glinting in the magpie’s mouth.”

    Originally hosted by Reform Radio, the show is archived here.

    Gavino Morretti’s “Dawn of a New Generation”, David Colohan’s “How We’ll Go Out” and Pulselovers’ “The Green Leaves of Shildam Hall” can be found amongst the spectral electronic and otherly folk wanderings of The Unquiet Meadow radio show.

    Originally broadcast on WSFM-LP 103.3 FM, the show’s playlists are archived here, here and here.

    Further details on the show can be found here.

    Sproatly Smith’s “Galloping Backwards” was featured in a mix by The Ephemeral Man (alongside various musical accompaniments for a saggy old cloth cat created by misters Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate) which was released as part of issue 3 of the Wyrd Daze online zine/magazine.

    That mix is archived at Mixcloud. Issue 3 of Wyrd Daze can be visited here.

    And finally, in a rounding the circle manner, Vic Mars’ “Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden” was played on the You, the Night & the Music radio show, which is hosted by Mat Handley of Pulselovers.

    Originally broadcast on Sine FM, the show is archived at Mixcloud here.

     

    Thanks as always to everybody concerned.

     

    The Shildam Hall Tapes contains “reflections on an imaginary film”:

    “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.”

    The album 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.

    More details can be viewed here.

     

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  • The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water – Public Information Films and Lost Municipal Paternalisms: Chapter 34 Book Images

    Dark and Lonely Water-2-A Year In The Country

    “The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water is considered something of a “classic” public information film from 1973, some of which are renowned for having scared the heck out of a generation of youngsters through their forthright, graphic or unsettling atmospheres and depictions of potential dangers.

    Public information films were a curiously blunt tool used to educate the population, often on matters of health and safety and were issued by the government-run and funded Central Office of Information in the UK from 1945 until 2005.

    The structure, naming and concept puts me in mind of a previous era’s underfunded, unsophisticated benign paternalism, of a “we know best” tea and limp sandwiches committee which was in charge of a sub-sub-Orwellianism, though it actually seems to have sprung forth in part from that previous era’s social consensus orientated wish to help, nurture and protect its citizens.”

    Charlie-Says-Public-Information-Films-DVD covers

    Scarred For Life-Volume One-Book-1Scarred For Life-book-contents-c

    “…public information films have been collected in various commercially released DVDs, including a series by the BFI. They are also featured extensively in the Scarred For Life – Growing Up in the Dark Side of the Decade – Volume One: The 1970s book by Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence, published in 2017 and which focuses on ongoing unsettled reverberations from these films and related period culture.”

     The_wicker_man_film_1973-final sequence

    “Revisiting The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, which was intended to warn children of the dangers of playing near water, there is a striking similarity with that other cultural artifact of 1973, The Wicker Man, at the point when Lord Summerisle tells Sergeant Howie of the characteristics he had that made him ideal as their sacrifice/source of plant renewal:

    “I am the spirit of dark and lonely water, ready to trap the unwary, the show-off, the fool…”
    (from The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water).

    “A man who would come here of his own free will. A man who has come here with the power of a king by representing the law… A man who has come here as a fool…” (from The Wicker Man).””

    The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water-Public Information film still

    “(The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water) invokes a sense of the journey that UK society has gone on, from youngsters playing amongst a culture’s debris, in the muddy puddles and potential deathtraps of its discarded places and edgelands (although that word did not yet exist at the time of the film’s release) to a time of much more intensified commodification and birthday trips to softplay centres and so on…

    … it could be seen as a document produced during or transmission from one of the times when society was battling over its future shape, order and social consensus; hence the link to the themes and interests of hauntological study and work and associated yearnings for forgotten futures and municipally organised utopias.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 34 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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  • The Quietened Mechanisms – Preorder and Release Dates

    Preorder 11th September 2018. Released 2nd October 2018. 

    The album is an exploration of abandoned and derelict industry, infrastructure, technology and equipment that once upon a time helped to create, connect and sustain society.

    It wanders amongst deserted factories, discarded machinery, closed mines, mills and kilns and their echoes and remains; taking a moment or two to reflect on these once busy, functioning centres of activity and the sometimes sheer scale or amount of effort and human endeavour that was required to create and operate such structures and machines, many of which are now just left to fade away.

     

    Featuring work by:
    The Heartwood Institute
    Quakers Stang
    Depatterning
    Embertides (The Hare And The Moon / United Bible Studies)
    Dom Cooper (Rif Mountain / The Owl Service / Bare Bones / Circle/Temple)
    Field Lines Cartographer
    Grey Frequency
    Howlround
    The Soulless Party (Tales from the Black Meadow)
    Keith Seatman
    Listening Center
    Spaceship
    Sproatly Smith
    Pulselovers
    Time Attendant
    Vic Mars
    A Year In The Country

     

    Preorders will be available at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp.

     

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  • Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Part 2 – Totemic Spectres and Signifiers: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 34/52

    Langdon-Clay-Cars-New-York-City-1974-1976-Steidl-12

    In Part 1 of this post I wrote about Langdon Clay’s photography book Cars – New York City, 1974-1976, which documents cars in that location and period parked at night, with very few people present in the images and how the photographs appear to have an almost spectral, eerie quality and that they could be seen as totemic signifiers of a country struggling in a socio-economic sense with a sense of its direction, power and virility.

    At the time the photographs were taken America was indeed struggling with the fallout of 1960s progressive utopianism, which had curdled and in part turned towards a more sometimes nihilistic mindset, alongside the malaise and disenchantment caused by government scandals such as Watergate and the tail end of an unsuccessful and physically and psychically wounding conflict in Vietnam.

    In this sense, to a degree they could be seen as a parallel reflection of some of the themes of British hauntology and the way it often focuses on and draws from a not dissimilar period in time and a related sense of social, economic and political schism or fracturing and lost futures – here cars that contain echoes of populuxe aesthetics, a connected optimistic philosophy and/or an almost strutting presence and expression of virility are now often ghosts or spectres of their former selves.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-7

    The Friends of Eddie Coyle-Peter Yates-Robert Mitchum-Criterion blu-ray-cover The Friends of Eddie Coyle-Peter Yates-Robert Mitchum-Criterion blu-ray-inside

    This sense of muscle car’s representing a tired virility can also be seen in two different era’s film adaptations of George V. Higgins novels; in Peter Yate’s 1973’s film adaptation of The Friend’s of Eddie Coyle the cars are relatively contemporary but as with the not dissimilar period depicted in Langdon Clay’s book they often appear a little worn, while the background millieux and atmosphere in which they are set depicts a country or society which is in a malaise, has lost its way and its inhabitants are often having to scrabble for every few cents whenever and however they can, whatever the cost or potential threats.

    Accompanying and reflecting this, Robert Mitchum in the lead role, in contrast to the strident sense of presence and power he possessed and portrayed in films made in previous decades, has the air of a big, tired, world-weary bear of a man for whom things just don’t or won’t quite ever work out for.

    Killing Them Softly-2012 film-car 1 Killing Them Softly-2012 film-car 2

    In Andrew Dominik’s 2012 contemporarily set film adaptation of Killing Them Softly, a similar style and era of muscle car as those pictured in The Friend’s of Eddie Coyle appear. However in the later film adaptation they are often much worse for wear and/or feature patched repairs.

    In a cyclical manner in Killing Them Softly they also are part of a representation and reflection of a society suffering from a sense of disenchantment and struggling financially due to being mired in problems connected to economic and other issues, resulting, as in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, in the characters in the film also having to scrabble, barter and take ill-advised routes out of their problems.

    In the film even some of those involved in larger scale organised crime are depicted as being penny pinching and budget lead, while also being constrained and restricted by their own form of corporate bureaucratic paralysis, in a manner which appears to be a parallel with and comment on more mainstream society, government and business.

    Further reflecting the sense of societal malaise depicted in the films, in both The Friend’s of Eddie Coyle and Killing Them Softly, the 1970s muscle/post-populuxe cars seem to often be featured amongst scrubby and even abandoned seeming edgelands and post-industrial spaces – even when the locations are more overtly urban there is a sense that you are looking at a literal and metaphoric hinterland.

    Returning to Langdon Clay’s work, New York in particular during the period in which the photographs were taken was struggling socially and economically, being down at heel, financially strapped and near bankruptcy.

    (The resulting cheap rents and effectively cracks or spaces that opened up in the fabric of the city were some of the factors which allowed the flourishing of what would become punk and new wave – Blondie, The Ramones, CBGBs etc.)

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-5

    It is strange just how beguiling, alluring and beautiful these photographs of often beaten up and well-worn cars are: as writer and critic Luc Sante says in accompanying text, the cars are:

    “…arranged like mugshots but lit like Hollywood stars.”

    (Although actually they were not lit by the photographer – rather as Langdon Clay says: “The night becomes its own colour.”)

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-9

    These cars sometimes initially appear almost nattily dapper, particularly as some of them have noticeably shining, lush wax finishes but when viewed closer the viewer begins to notice the signs of lives well lived.

    Connected to that quote by Luc Sante, the photographs in the book remind me of author Peter Doyle’s curating of Australian police photographs of those in custody from the 1920s which were collected in the book Crooks Like Us – in those photographs the subjects viewed now appear nearer to say characters in a Hollywood noir rather than those residing at the authorities’ leisure.

    In Langdon Clay’s Cars there is something about these vehicles which makes them seem as though they might be ne’er do wells; brooding, just taking time out but possibly up to no good some time in the future.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-3

    The book itself, while not cheap, is something of a beautifully produced, hefty tome and the “always the same and always different” nature of the photographs lends itself well to losing oneself in its physicality and the atmosphere it conjures and builds as you turn the pages.

     

    Elsewhere:
    Cars: New York City, 1974-1976 Langdon Clay’s own site
    Sample pages of Cars at Joseph Chadleck’s photograph book site
    And at Steidl
    The Friends of Eddie Coyle at the Criterion Collection
    The Friends of Eddie Coyle at Eureka!/The Masters of Cinema
    The Killing Them Softly trailer
    Crooks Like Us

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Week #22/52: Fractures Signals #1; Flickerings From Days Of Darkness
    2) Fractures – Night and Dawn Editions Released
    3) Week #24/52: Fractures Signals #3; A Dybukk’s Dozen Gathering (/Looping?) From Around These Parts
    4) Chapter 7 Book Images: 1973 – A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 33/52: Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Post-Populuxe Ghosts That Brood While the City Sleeps

     

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