The A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields Book and A Visual Accompaniment

  • Chapter 3 Book Images: Hauntology – Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre

    Online images to accompany Chapter 3 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Day 162-Hauntology-A Year In The Country

    The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 2Children Of The Stones-TV series-A Year In The CountryThe Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country-8

    Daphne Oram-Radiophonic WorkshopBruton Music Flexi-Steens Dilemma-via James CargillSeasons-David Cain-Jonny Trunk-BBC-A Year In The Country

    “Although it is hard to precisely define what hauntology is, it has become a way of identifying particular strands of music and cultural tendencies. As a cultural form it is fluid, loose and not strictly delineated but below are some of the recurring themes and characteristics of hauntological work:

    1) Music and culture that draws from and examines a sense of loss of a post war utopian, progressive, modernist future that was never quite reached.

    2) A tendency to see some kind of unsettledness and hidden layers of meaning in public information films, TV idents and “a bit too scary and odd for children though that is who they were aimed at” television programmes from the late 1960s to about 1980, which include the likes of The Owl Service (1968), Children of the Stones (1977) and The Changes (1975).

    3) Graphic design and a particular kind of often analogue synthesised music that references and reinterprets some forms of older library music, educational materials and the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, often focusing on the period from around 1969 to 1979 and related culture which is generally of British origin.

    4) A re-imagining and misremembering of the above and other sources into forms of music and culture that seem familiar, comforting and also often unsettling and not a little eerie, creating a sense of work that is haunted by spectres of its and our cultural past, to loosely paraphrase philosopher Jacques Derrida.

    5) The drawing together and utilising of the above elements to conjure a sense of a parallel, imagined, often strange or Midwich-ian Britain.”

    Day 162-Hauntology-A Year In The Country faded 2

    “For a while the phrase hauntology when used to refer to a genre of music had been deleted on Wikipedia.

    As author Simon Reynolds – who as just mentioned was, along with Mark Fisher, one of the first people to use the phrase hauntology in relation to such culture – points out, those doing the deleting have taken a fair few steps to make sure their own comments on Wikipedia are not deleted or modified. “Do as I say and not as I do” as it were.

    Just as with deletion via consensus, a larger mass of consensus does not necessarily mean something is correct, but typing the word “hauntology” alongside “music” into a search engine at the time of writing brought up 170,000 pages to look at, while “hauntology music genre” returned over 50,000 results.

    That would tend to imply that there is not a “consensus to delete” in the wider world, or at the very least there is a “consensus to discuss, explore, consider, create and debate”.

    So, maybe rather than deleting the whole notion, making the debate around whether hauntology exists part of its page would have been a more reasonable or culturally democratic thing to do.”

    Pye Corner Audio-Sleep Games-Ghost Box Records-album artwork Pye Corner Audio-Stasis-Ghost Box Records-album artwork

    Beyond The Black Rainbow-still-1
    “The creation of work which conjures a parallel world via a misremembered past need not necessarily draw purely from one particular period or set of cultural reference points, as has often been the case with hauntological work but rather that concept and process could be used as a general framework to also explore other eras and cultural areas.

    To a certain degree this has been the case in the earlier mentioned hypnagogic pop, which draws more from the 1980s period and related culture and Italian Occult Psychedelia which focuses on non-British culture and Pye Corner Audio, who Ghost Box Records have released recordings by, appears to also extend the hauntological palette to incorporate a more 1980s VHS-esque aspect…

    …while a film such as Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) could be seen as a form of hauntological work in its creation of a parallel world that creates a “Reagan era fever dream”.”


    Details of the 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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  • Chapter 2 Book Images: Gather in the Mushrooms – Early Signposts and Underground Acid Folk Explorations

    Text extracts from and online images to accompany Chapter 2 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book:

    Gather In The Mushrooms-Bob Stanley-The British Acid Folk Underground-album-A Year In The CountryGather-In-The-Mushrooms-Bob-Stanley-The-British-Acid-Folk-Underground-album-inner sleeve artwork copy0001-A Year In The Country-Gather In The Mushrooms-backGather In The Mushrooms album-folk-Bob Stanley-Vashti Bunyan sleevenotes image

    While Wandering down the A Year In The Country pathways, there have been an awful lot of cultural reference points that have inspired, in uenced and intrigued (the three I’s as it were).

    The Gather in the Mushrooms album is one of the first. It is a 2004 compilation curated by Bob Stanley who is a member of the band Saint Etienne, subtitled “The British Acid Folk Underground 1968-1974” and it does what it says on the can.

    The period of time that the album focuses on was a point in music/culture when the likes of Fairport Convention were reinterpreting traditional folk music, combining it with the more contemporary elements of rock to produce what has come to be known as folk rock.

    Acid or psych folk was an extension or offshoot of such work, which often tended to wander down more overtly exploratory or experimental avenues and at times intermingled aspects of psychedelia with folk and rock elements.

    Morning Way-Trader Horne-Judy Dyble-A Year In The Country-2

    The first lines on “Morning Way”, a track on Gather in the Mushrooms are “Dreaming strands of nightmare are sticking to my feet”, followed closely by a somewhat angelic female voice in counterpart. It is odd and appealing.

    The Pentangle-Basket of Light-album cover The Sallyangie-Children Of The Sun-Love In Ice Crystals-cover

    Forest-Full Circle-psych folk-acid folk-A Year In The Country

    Subcultural/countercultural movements tend to be thought of as having sprung from the cracks beneath the city’s walkways, whereas acid/psych folk seems to have been created by participants who were either physically located out in the cottages and meadows or who used a form of imaginative geographical travel to create a culture which, in contrast to urban influenced and inflected cultural movements, was hazily narcotically pastoral.

    Early Morning Hush-Folk Underground-Bob Stanley-album-A Year In The CountryEarly Morning Hush-Notes from the UK Folk Underground-album-inner sleeve artworkEarly Morning Hush-Notes from the UK Folk Underground-album-tracklisting


    Details of the 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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  • Chapter 1 Book Images: Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields-book-Stephen Prince-front coverAs mentioned at the start of this year, later in the year (probably around March/April time, more details to come) I am going to publish a text based book called A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields which across 52 chapters collects, revises, revisits and interweaves the writing from the first three years of A Year In The Country.

    Each week of this year I will be posting a gathering of images, alongside text extracts from the book, which are intended to become an online “cut out and keep” set of visual accompaniments to the chapters of the book.

    So, without further ado…

    Chapter 1: Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music: Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New

    Extracts from the text of the book and accompanying online images:

    Rob Young-Electric Eden-book covers-1st edition-2nd edition-US edition

    (Electric Eden) the 2010 book by Rob Young, served as an ongoing reference for much of the earlier years of A Year In The Country.

    It is an epic tome of a book which, in simple terms, is a journey through British folk and pastoral music and related culture from its roots to the modern day, but instead of serving as a straightforward documenting of such things, is more an exploration of its undercurrents, of at times semi-hidden or overlooked cultural history and its interconnected strands.

    The book travels with folk revivalist collectors such as Cecil Sharp, the social idealism of William Morris and Ewan MacColl, the late 1960s/early 1970s folk rock of the likes of Fairport Convention and Pentangle, the acid or more experimental folk of Comus and Forest, The Wicker Man film from 1973 and related occult folklore, contemporary esoterically interconnected hauntological practitioners such as Ghost Box Records, the pastoral tinged work of pop music explorers Kate Bush, David Sylvian and Talk Talk and pastoral speculative/science fiction.

    There is a sense within the book of folk and related culture seeming to point towards an otherly Britain: an imagined Albion of hidden histories and sometimes arcane knowledge, wherein there is still the space or possibility to sidestep some of the more ubiquitous, dominant and monotheistic tendencies of modern day culture and systems.

    Forest-Full Circle

    Kate Bush-Lionheart-vinyl-A Year In The Country

    The Wicker Man-construction-production photograph

    Ghost Box Records logo

    Steeleye Span-All Around My Hat-single-1975-The Wombles

    Which brings things round to to The Wombles and what happens when folk meets or tries to become pop. What appeared to happen in the mid-1970s is that music arrived at a point where one of folk rock’s more popular bands Steeleye Span have a hit single with their version of the traditional folk song “All Around My Hat”, which reached number five in the UK singles charts in 1975.

    The single was produced by Mike Batt, who also oversaw records for the novelty pop band The Wombles: these were a musical offshoot of an animated children’s television series originally broadcast from 1973-1975 where furry, pointy-nosed creatures who live in burrows on Wimbledon Common spend their time recycling rubbish in creative ways.

    All Around My Hat is folk that has wandered quite a way from its roots and seems intrinsically to be nearer to pop, a kind of glam romp with folk trappings.

    Which is not to dismiss this version as it is a rather catchy and full of life interpretation, with the video and the song capturing a certain point in time and period nuances of British cultural history: of pop music and culture not yet overly-styled, honed and marketed, which in its own particular way is still from a less tamed cultural landscape.

    This is one of the themes of Electric Eden; a sense of a taming of the cultural and at points literal landscape, of what Rob Young presents as music and culture of a utopian or visionary nature that draws from the land and folk culture.

    Acts of Inclosure map-A Year In The Country

    “He has discussed the connection between such areas of work and culture and how there is a connection to historic acts of land enclosure and clearance; the way in which from around 1760 onwards common land was put into private ownership by government Inclosure Acts, forcing agricultural workers towards the newly expanding cities and factories and how this displacement could be one of the roots of the British empathy with the countryside, with relics such as songs or texts from the world before this change having come to be revered as they seem to represent or connect to a pre-industrial “Fall” golden age.


    Details of the 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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