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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    No Blade Of Grass 1-A Year In The Country

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

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

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

    No Blade Of Grass 11-A Year In The Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Planet of the Apes-1968-ending

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

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

    General orders no 9d

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 27 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    David Cronenberg-Videodrome-still

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     The Duke Of Burgundy-Cat's Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Terry and June-British sitcom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 26 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fractures-Night and Dawn Editions-A Year In The Country

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

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

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

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 25 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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  • Luke Haines – Our Most Non-Hauntological Hauntologist: Chapter 24 Book Images

    Luke-Haines-The Auteurs-Black Box Recorder-album and single covers and tracklisting-video still

    “Musician and author Luke Haines is a curious gent and his work is an interesting example of how pop/rock can be conjoined with a certain intellectual stance and influence and still be good pop/rock songs.

    Along which lines it could be considered to be “non-populist pop” (to quote the sleeve notes to The Eccentronic Research Council’s Underture 1612 album from 20121) .

    The term “pop” is used as two of the bands he was involved with, The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder bothered the singles charts in the days when such things kind of still mattered, while the songs themselves are often catchy.

    However, his work also seems to largely exist in a genre all of its own, one without a particular name.

    It is without a name as probably something appropriately descriptive would need to be multi-layered and include the likes of One Time French Breakfast TV Indie Popstar, Brief Top Twenty-er, Musical Dada-Pantomine Villain and Pop Culture’s Hidden Undercurrents Explorer.

    Which would be just a touch too long as a genre title for the racks of record stores.

    As a background to the above possible genre title his band The Auteurs had a period of mainstream success in France which included Luke Haines appearing on breakfast television and Black Box Recorder’s single “Facts of Life” spent one week at number twenty in the UK singles chart. Although his work has a pop edge, it often also interacts with and explores more fringe or even experimental cultural areas, while he at times seems to position himself/be positioned as an arch observer or outsider, possibly even nemesis, to much of music and pop culture.”

     Day 10-The Auteurs How I Learned To Love The Bootboys-A Year In The Country

    “There has been a connection or few with his work and what has come to be known as hauntology…

    If you consider hauntology in a more general sense to mean the present being haunted by spectres of the past then Luke Haines is probably one of the more hauntological musicians out there.

    His music often seems to literally be haunted by the past – his own, society’s, culture’s and bogeymen-like figures or worries of one sort or another from previous decades.

    Take the 1999 album How I Learned to Love the Bootboys by one of his previous bands The Auteurs, which he was the instigator/frontman of.

    The lead track and single of the same year “The Rubettes” borrows liberally from 1970s pop (“Sugar Baby Love” by its namesakes in particular), there are marauding skinhead bootboys from a similar era, an ode to a 1950s pop rock band (the singer of whom is “dead within a year”), imbibements popular in other eras (Asti Spumante, known as a “noxiously sweet poor man’s Champagne”) and so forth.”

     Luke Haines-Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop

    “Elsewhere, such as on his 2006 solo album Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop there are teddy boys discos and Vauxhall Corsas, “the three day week, half-day Wednesdays, the spirit of the Blitz” and an unsolved 1960s celebrity boxers death.”

     9 1:2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s & Early '80s-Luke Haines-album cover art

    “While in 2011 he released a concept album dedicated to 1970s and early 1980s wrestling, called in an “it does what it says on the can” manner Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ’80s, which is a fine title and subject matter.”

     Black Box Recorder-England Made Me-The Facts of Life-Passionoia-three albums-cover art-1px stroke

    “Between 1998 and 2003 Black Box Recorder, his trio with cohorts Sarah Nixey and John Moore, released three unparalleled albums which contained seething, brutally repressed, “now that the Empire has faded”, “I know what you’re doing in the afternoons”, arch Albionic pop-noir.

    They often sounded as though they were singing from some kind of brutal, sneering, imaginary 1970s English hinterland.

    Their work could be considered its own unique take on hauntological work’s creation of parallel worlds through a form of hazy misremembering and reinterpreting of previous eras and an associated sense of exploring resonant cultural reference points and atmospheres from the past and weaving with them to form new cultural forms and myths.”

    Moon-Wiring-Club-Rob-Young-album review in Uncut and album cover art-2

    “To a degree this connects with work that can be considered hauntological in a more conventional sense in that it puts me in mind of Rob Young’s review of a Moon Wiring Club album in Uncut magazine, where he talks of the enclosed music being “slathered in the fiction that it comes from an older, weirder England”.”

    Like-Haines-Maximum-Electronic-Rock-N-Roll-2-cover art and promo photograph

    Luke Haines-A Year In The Country

    “His 2015 album British Nuclear Bunkers took him nearer to conventional hauntological territory, being a largely instrumental, Radiophonic-esque album which was recorded in part using (presumably, from his championing of them online around the time of the album’s release) cheap tuppence ha’penny synthesisers.

    Aside from the album’s title, the titles of the tracks include “This Is the BBC”, “Test Card Forever”, “Mama Check The Radar at the Dada Station”, “New Pagan Sun”, “Deep Level Shelters Under London” and “Electronic Tone Poem”.”

     Luke Haines-Bad Vibes-Post Everything-book covers

    “What he brings to hauntology-related work is a playful, sometimes outright humorous take on such things; an absurdist and dada-like exploration of occult histories.

    If you should look up the definition of dada you may find that it was an art movement founded on “irrationality, incongruity, and irreverence towards accepted aesthetic criteria”,which sounds somewhat appropriate for Haines’ work and might also be used to refer to his insubordinate to the cultural status quo stance as an author in the 2009 and 2011 autobiographical books Bad Vibes and Post Everything and possibly also at points his interviewee stance.”

     Luke Haines-video still-2 Luke Haines-video still-1

    “Along which lines, the video that accompanies British Nuclear Bunkers features him with only somebody wearing a gorilla suit for company.

    They are pictured in a largely featureless room that implies a sense of it being part of a subterranean, not known to the public Cold War interrogation centre.

    The gorilla squeezes lemons and plays an analogue synthesiser while Luke Haines, dressed in what appears to be a biohazard protection suit, practises what can only be described as occult pagan yoga.”

     luke-haines-smash-the-system-album-morris-dancers-a-year-in-the-country-stroke-1

    “Haines’ 2015 album Smash the System seemed to also travel, in his own particular way, to the point at which hauntological concerns meet otherly folklore. So, for example, while there are all kinds of pop culture titles and references to the album (Marc Bolan, Bruce Lee, Vince Taylor etc.) there are also tracks called “Ritual Magick”, “Power of the Witch” and “The Incredible String Band”.

    The album has an archival photograph of morris dancers as its cover image and the accompanying video for the title track shows their contemporary equivalent on a slightly worrying and unsettling bender or borderline riotous fracas in an urban capital city setting (while the song also namechecks his love of The Monkees and The Velvet Underground).

    luke-haines-smash-the-system-%22pop%22-video-a-year-in-the-country-2 luke-haines-smash-the-system-%22pop%22-video-a-year-in-the-country-3

    “The video also features gas masks and a tray full of shots for the Morris dancers to drink (for some reason the latter of which seems most unruly, unsettling and just a bit wrong).”

     Earl Brutus-The SAS and the Glam That Goes With It-Tonight You Are The Special One-Scott King design

    A Clockwork Orange-film still-Stanley Kubrick

    “Appropriate reference points may also include the arty-lairiness of Earl Brutus, with whom Luke Haines has at various points shared a designer and collaborator in the form of Scott King and possibly even the imagined troublesome youth cult of the film version of A Clockwork Orange from 1971.”

    The-Auteurs-The-Rubettes-cover art and insert

    “…the cover to the “The Rubettes” single from 1999 travels further along this path with its depiction of genuinely unsettling folk horroresque masked men in black industrial protective weather proofs combined with Mr Punch-like outfits and masks.

    They have parked their livestock van out in the countryside in the middle of nowhere and one of them peers out from the slats in its rear at the viewer with intentions that can only be far from good.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 24 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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  • Queens of Evil, Tam Lin and The Touchables – High Fashion Transitional Psych Folk Horror, Pastoral Fantasy and Dreamlike Isolation: Chapter 23 Book Images

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 8The Touchables-film-1968-French posterTam Lin-1970-film poster-A Year In The Country

    “There is a mini film sub-genre of pastoral fantasy, with at times elements of folk horror, wherein late 1960s and turn of the decade high fashion mixes with grown up fairytale high jinx, wayward behaviour and sometimes a step or two or more towards the dark side, all carried out in dreamlike isolation in the woods and pastoral settings.

    The three main films aligned with such things are Queens of Evil aka Le Regine or Il Delitto del Diavolo (1970), Tam Lin aka The Devil’s Widow (1970) and in a more loosely connected manner The Touchables (1968).

    All three of these films draw from, to varying degrees, some of the often defining themes of folk horror: being set in rural places and buildings where activities and rituals can develop or take place without easy escape to or influence from the outside world, normality and societal norms.”

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 1

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 4c

    “Queens of Evil’s plot follows a handsome young freewheeling hippie idealist who comes across a house in the woods after he has been involved in a road accident where a materially wealthy gent was killed.

    Living in this house are three young women who take him in, charm, nurture, seduce and confuse him. Everything is rosy for a while but there is something off-kilter about the setup and he cannot quite seem to leave.”

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 5c

    Psychedelic-Folklorist-collection of images-1px stroke

    Celia Birtwell-Ossie Clark-1960s-three fashion photographs-pastoral-folk

     “It is an at points chimeric fantasy which is largely set in sharply stylish but indolent, tree-inhabited period interiors and is full of late 1960s ethereal high-fashion along the lines of Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell’s work from then and also incorporating the period folkloric-meets-psychedelia imagery collecting of website Psychedelic Folkloristic and its reflection of a relatively brief point in time around the later 1960s to early 1970s when fashionability turned towards folk and pastoral concerns.”

    daisies-1966-sedmikrásky-1 daisies-1966-sedmikrásky-2

    “(In terms of) reference points it creates a sense of a gently decadent grown ups version of a tea-party in the woods, a dash of Snow White (at one point somebody says “It’s just like Snow White’s house” about the cabin in the woods), a bit more of a dash of Hansel and Gretel and its tales of leading astray, more than a touch of the earlier mentioned and loosely interconnected kidnapping and pop-art pastoral playground film The Touchables, alongside the social critique and/or dreamlike qualities of some of Czech New Wave films such as Daisies (1966) and Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970).”

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 4

    The Wicker Man-1973-film still-procession

    It could well also be appropriate to include The Wicker Man (1973) as another reference point.

    “In both films there is a similar sense of game playing, of leading a worldly innocent through a set of rituals and of differing levels of power and control in a rural setting.

    Also, in common with that towering relatively modern folklore tale, apples and symbols of temptation play a part in this game.

    And as with The Wicker Man, this is a tale full of its own and borrowed mythology, which seems to exist and be told in a world of its own imagining, where the outside rarely intrudes.”

    Liefe & Lief-Fairport Convention-album cover art Comus-First Utterance-album cover art

    “In many ways it is a story of a culture tottering right on the edge of when the utopian, carefree, sundrenched dream of the 1960s was about to fall into the darkness of its own dissolution in the following decade (Liege & Lief becomes Comus, to draw parallels with folk music’s progression at the time).”

    the-touchables-1968-film-a-year-in-the-country-2

    The Touchables-Brian Freemantle-book-novelisation-Robert Freeman 1968 film The Touchables-1968-Robert Freeman-film still

    the-touchables-film-1968-a-year-in-the-country-3

    “In terms of this loose mini sub-genre of pastoral fantasy, The Touchables is more rooted in the later part rather than the tipping point of that 1960s dream, although it does represent a world and culture which seems to have become untethered and possibly one which lacks a moral centre.

    It is a very modish tale of a group of stylish sixties women who live in a huge see-through plastic bubble in the middle of the countryside who kidnap a pop star as “a temporary solution to the leisure problem” and in order make him their plaything.

    the-touchables-1968-film-a-year-in-the-country

    Nirvana-1968 album-All of Us-The Touchables film 1968

    “Mixed in with this are the stealing of a Michael Caine dummy, gangsters, wrestlers with rather refined aristocratic tastes, a fair bit of high-fashion styling and a fine pop-psych title song by Nirvana (the 1960s band rather than the later Seattle based grunge group).

    Essentially, at heart it is a caper romp but one that is more than one remove from the mainstream and quite surreal in its setting and the mixture of elements it contains.”

    Performance-1970-Nicholas Roeg-Donald Cammell-James Fox-Anita Pallenberg-Mick Jagger-Michele Breton

    “It was not a surprise to discover that The Touchables was based on a script by Donald Cammell (with a screenplay by Ian La Frenais), as in part it represents a proto, more pop-art, possibly light hearted take on Performance (1970), which he wrote and co-directed.

    As with The Touchables, Performance also incorporates a theme of a popstar living in an enclosed bubble world, although its setting is in some ways more prosaic as it involves a former popstar who lives a reclusive, isolated life in a London flat rather than in a rurally set large-scale see-through plastic dome as is the case with The Touchables.”

     the-touchables-1968-film-a-year-in-the-country-4

    “One intriguing aspect of The Touchables is that there is not even an attempt to explain how the stylish group of female kidnappers’ bubble or lifestyle are afforded, nor why there seems to be no outside comment or interference by mainstream society, authority etc. about their quite frankly rather unusual giant blow-up see-through home that is sitting in the middle of the countryside, complete with jukebox, canopied merry-go-round etc.”

    Tam Lin-1970-opening sequence 2-A Year In The Country.jpg

    Tam Lin-1970-opening sequence-A Year In The Country.jpg

    “Tam Lin is a curious film which as with Queens of Evil and The Touchables does not easily fit into any particular mainstream genre; it is a loose modern adaptation of the traditional folkloric tale and song “The Ballad of Tam Lin”, relocated to the country home of an almost mythologically wealthy older woman which is peopled by various late 60s hipsters, hunks and prepossessing actresses of the time (including Madeline Smith, Joanna Lumley and Jenny Hanley) and soundtracked by British jazz-folk band Pentangle.”

    Ian McShane-Ava Gardner-Tam LinIan McShane-Tam Lin-Stephanie Beacham

    Tam Lin-1970-screenshot 2-Ava Gardner-lighter-A Year In The Country.jpg 

    “Hollywood legend Ava Gardner stars as that wealthy, older woman, alongside a dapper Ian McShane who plays a young man that catches her eye and Stephanie Beacham as the innocent from the world outside.”

    Planet of the Apes-1968-ending

    Roddy McDowall-Ava Gardner-Tam Lin-on setRoddy McDowall-Cornelius-Planet of the Apes

    “It was directed by Roddy McDowell, who is possibly most famous for playing the lead simian character in the Planet of the Apes films that were released from 1968 to 1973.

    This was the only time he directed which is a pity as this film shows that he had considerable promise in that area.”

    Tam Lin-1970-screenshot-A Year In The Country.jpg

    Tam Lin-1970-screenshot 2-Joanna Lumley-Madeline Smith-A Year In The Country.jpg

    Tam Lin-1970-screenshot 2-A Year In The Country.jpg

    “The plot involves an immensely rich older lady Michaela Cazaret, gathering up hip young things to come and live, play with and amuse in her country mansion; her actions seems like a scooping up or pied piper-esque leading as she heads a convoy of cars through roads walled by pylons into her country lair.

    Cue childlike games (how can a game of frisbee seem so very odd?), partying, pleasing of the senses, imbibing and so forth.”

     Psychomania 1971-screenshot-A Year In The Country

    “In Tam Lin there is a sense of playful opulence and a mod/post-mod sharpness to the style which could be compared and contrasted with say the murk, grime and tattiness of the also sub/counter-culture orientated folk horror related film Psychomania which was released in 1973.

    They are separated by but a few years but are worlds apart in terms of the aesthetic style, societal/economic conditions, atmosphere and possibly optimism that they represent or portray.”

     Pentangle-band-group photograph

    “Tam Lin was also made at a high water mark of folk rock and the returning music refrain throughout the film is traditional folk song “The Ballad of Tam Lin” from which the film takes its inspiration, performed in the film by Pentangle and which infuses and intermingles with the more conventional music score.

    The film’s story follows that of its folk music forebear which with its fantastical tales underpins and layers the sense of this being an adult fairytale.” 

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 23 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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  • Gone to Earth – Earlier Traces of an Otherly Albion: Chapter 22 Book Images

    Gone To Earth-1950-Powell and Pressburger-Jennifer Jones-poster-costume-A Year In The Country

    Gone To Earth-Mary Webb-Four Square Books film cover-2

    Gone To Earth-1950-Powell and Pressburger-Jennifer Jones-A Year In The Country-3b

    “Gone to Earth is a film from 1950 directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, based on the 1917 novel by Mary Webb. It is also known as The Wild Heart in a considerably re-edited version created at the instigation of producer David O. Selznick after a disagreement and subsequent court case between the directors and him.”

    Jennifer Jones-Gone to Earth-1950-Powell and Pressburger-A Year In The Country-2

    “In the film Hazel Woodus, played by Jennifer Jones, is a beautiful but innocent young woman who lives in the Shropshire countryside in 1897 and is very steeped in an older more rural way of life and lore. She loves and understands wild animals and whenever she has problems, she turns to the book of spells and charms left to her by her gypsy mother.”

    Jennifer Jones-Gone to Earth-1950-Powell and Pressburger-A Year In The Country-4

    In some ways it is a caddish melodrama, with the untamed main female character marrying the local priest (the “good man”) but being lead astray by the archetypal baddie, the local squire.

    However, while containing elements of more mainstream cinematic fare of the time it also contains a non-populist or exploratory nature presented within a populist framework.

    As you watch the film you can feel it straining at its period restrictions in terms of sexuality, desire, faithfulness and respectability, accompanied by expressions and considerations of sin, acceptance, redemption and retribution…

    As a film it also appears to be a forebear of later culture which would travel amongst the layered, hidden histories of the land and folklore, showing a world where faiths old and new are part of and/or mingle amongst folkloric beliefs and practices. Accompanying which, in the world of Gone to Earth (and it is most definitely its own world) the British landscape is not presented in a realist manner.”

    Harp In Heaven-Gone To Earth-Powell and Pressberger-A Year In The Country-2

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

    “The film’s elements of older folkloric ways and its visual aspects combine to create a subtle magic realism in the film and the world and lives it shows, conjures and presents.

    It also creates a bucolic dream of the countryside, particularly during the “Harps in Heaven” song and sequence.

    In this section Hazel Woodus is pictured singing on the crest of a hill in her Sunday best dress and bonnet, accompanied on a full size harp by her father…

    The song itself is reminscent of “O Willow Waly” from the 1961 film The Innocents in that it has a similar haunting quality and a purity of voice that stops and captures you in your tracks.”

    THE LITTLE MERMAID (MALÁ MORSKÁ VÍLA)-A Year In The Country-collage 2

    THE LITTLE MERMAID (MALÁ MORSKÁ VÍLA)-A Year In The Country-collage 3

    Finders Keepers Records-Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders soundtrack

    “In some ways the air of not-quite-real-ness that can be found in Gone to Earth makes it seem like a forerunner to the more adult fairy tale side of the Czech New Wave (especially Valerie and her Week of Wonders from 1970 and possibly Malá Morská Víla/The Little Mermaid from 1976 and also of the style, character and imagery of a younger Kate Bush, of a free spirit cast out upon and amongst the moors.

    The Red Shoes-Kate Bush-album cover artFilm Title: Retrospective -Michael Powellthe lines the cross & the curve-kate bush-miranda richardson-laserdisc cover

    “The connection between Kate Bush and Gone to Earth is also further entwined in that her 1993 album Red Shoes takes its title from and was inspired by Powell and Pressburger’s 1948 film of the same name, which was also an influence on her 1993 film which accompanied the album The Line, the Cross & the Curve.”

    David Sylvian-Gone To Earth-album cover art Secrets of the Beehive-David Sylvian-cover art-Vaughan Oliver-Nigel Grierson-23 Envelope-cover art David Sylvian-Taking The Veil-cover art

    “In a further interconnecting of later music, David Sylvian’s Gone to Earth album from 1986 took its name from Powell and Pressburger’s film and it is possible to trace a line from my interest in Sylvian’s work and what grew into A Year In The Country.

    Towards the later 1980s I was somewhat enamoured and intrigued by his 1987 album Secrets of the Beehive and the textured, layered nature based imagery of the cover by Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson working as 23 Envelope, alongside being drawn to his 1986 single taken from the Gone to Earth album, A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil. Both of these seemed to sidestep the sometimes-brash mainstream bustle of culture and attempt to create some kind of respite or repose…”

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

    Kate Bush-Never For Ever-album cover artJulian Cope-Fried-album cover artDavid Sylvian-Secrets of the Beehave-back coverTalk Talk-the colour of spring-album cover art

    “…along which lines his and Kate Bush’s work are also linked in amongst related cultural and literal landscapes by Rob Young in his Electric Eden book from 2011, in a section also titled “Gone to Earth” which in part could also be connected back to some of the themes of Powell and Pressburger’s film:

    “In the changed, materialistic Britain of the 1980s, the ideas about myth and magic, memorial landscapes and nostalgia for a lost golden age were banished to internal exile, but scattered links of the silver chain glinted in the output of certain unconventional pop musicians of the time, most notably Kate Bush, Julian Cope, David Sylvian and Talk Talk.””

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 22 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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  • Afore Ye Go – A Final Visit to A Year In The Country at Late Junction, Accompanied by Explorations of Pastures New in Starburst and Revisiting a Highland Lament in Willow’s Songs

    AYITC image and Late Junction

    Just a brief note to say that if you should fancy a listen there is only one day left to listen to the A Year In The Country piece with Verity Sharp on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction:

    Day 16-Willows Songs Inside-Finders Keepers-A Year In The Country

    Ah well, seeing as it is May the 1st we just had to kick off with that didn’t we? It’s a tune called May Day from The Hare And The Moon. They were a band that once existed but now are they say ‘as ghosts’. Which means that they slot perfectly into a genre called hauntology and that’s something that I’m going to be exploring a little bit later on with Stephen Prince, who works under the guise of A Year In The Country and he goes seeking out what he calls pastoral otherlyness in this sceptred isle.

    You don’t have to look very far for it either. I wander how many of you were up at dawn watching your local Morris side dance as the sun came up? And forget maypoles in the imagined town of Scarfolk, children would once again be dancing around that May Pylon.

    “And for me personally Beltane is the thing, that ancient Celtic tradition where you can light a big bonfire and join hands with your friends and share thoughts about new beginnings. Let us celebrate all of that tonight…
    (Verity Sharp, from the introduction to the show.)

    The Advisory Circle-Jon Brooks-Ghost Box RecordsGather In The Mushrooms-Bob Stanley-The British Acid Folk Underground-album-A Year In The CountryThe Duke of Burgundy-Cats Eyes

    The Hare And The Moon-2009 album cover art-Reverb Worship-May Day-1px strokethe-forest-the-wald-weekly-track-03-the-hare-and-the-moon-a-year-in-the-country-bcA Coat Worth Wearing-Neil McSweeney

    Wander amongst the spectral fields in the company of amongst others the just mentioned The Hare And The Moon, alongside The Advisory Circle, Trader Horne and Cat’s Eyes and enter a land of imagined plenty with Neil Mc Sweeney via the BBC’s iPlayer.

    Previous posts about the episode and Late Junction can be found at A Year In The Country here and here.

    Thanks again to Verity Sharp and Rebecca Gaskell for inviting me on and putting together the show.

    Starburst-issue 448-A Year In The Country Wandering Through Spectral Fields book review

    Plus this review for the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book recently appeared in issue 448 of Starburst magazine, which was nice to see:

    …aimed fiercely at turning over soil in pastures new… if you’re already interested in folk culture and want to be astonished by how deeply its roots run, you’ll treasure A Year In The Country enormously… covers everything from folkloric film and literature to electronic music to acid folk to folk horror to the dystopian fiction of John Wyndham and the classic unearthings of Nigel Kneale to the formation of under-the-furrows record labels like Trunk, Ghost Box and Finders Keepers… there are excursions to Kate Bush and Broadcast, television shows like Children of the Stones and Sapphire & Steel, the psychogeography of the Uncommonly British Days Out books and even a visit to the gentler landscapes of Bagpuss and The Good Life.”

    More details on that issue of the magazine here and the review can also be read online here.

    Thanks to Ian White and Ed Fortune for that, much appreciated.

    Day 16-Willows Songs b-Finders Keepers-A Year In The CountryPS The above maypole image is from the booklet that accompanies the Willow’s Songs album released by Finders Keepers records, which is a collection of 12 vintage recordings of traditional British folksongs that inspired the soundtrack to The Wicker Man.

    Well worth seeking out, particularly for the wonderfully evocative version of Highland Lament and its tales of social dispossession.

    At the time of writing Willows Songs can be found for but a few pounds on CD at Finders Keepers and in a previous post at A Year In The Country here.

     

    Elsewhere:

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

     

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  • A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1; Chapters 1-13

    A Year In The Country-Spectral Fields-Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1-Chris Lambert

    Throughout the year Chris Lambert, author of amongst other works Tales from the Black Meadow, is planning on creating four mixes which each explore 13 chapters of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    Tales from the Black Meadow-Chris Lamber-Nigel Wilson-book-front and back covers

    They will include a selection of music tracks, trailers, clips from the book etc which in various ways connect with and reflect the wanderings in the book.

    A-Year-In-The-Country-Wandering-Through-Spectral-Fields-book-Stephen-Prince-6 copies-front cover and back cover

    The first mix is now online and can be listened to at Mixcloud and read about at the Wyrd Kalendar site.

    And rather fine it is. At points it made me laugh out loud, at other times it was good to revisit some old audio friends, at others just to be able to step back and appreciate the intermingling and interweaving of tracks, styles, text and ideas.

    It also made me wander if it is possible to sponsor a stile, in the same way that you see say public benches that have been sponsored by people?

    I’m not sure but in the meantime, hop over the Ghost Box stile and wander the Spectral Fields with Mr Lambert

    I-Spy books-Trees-The Sky

    A quiz for all the family:

    While you wander the Spectral Fields, in an I-Spy manner, can you match the chapters and song titles below?

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

    Chapters explored in the Spectral Fields Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1:

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

    2. Gather in the Mushrooms: Early Signposts and Underground Acid Folk Explorations

    3. Hauntology: Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre

    4. Cuckoos in the Same Nest: Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings

    Julian-House-Intro-design-Ghost-Box-Records-A-Year-In-The-Country-5-stroke

    5. Ghost Box Records: Parallel Worlds, Conjuring Spectral Memories, Magic Old and New and Slipstream Trips to the
 Panda Pops Disco

    6. Folk Horror Roots: From But a Few Seedlings Did a Great Forest Grow

    7. 1973: A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures

    8. Broadcast: Recalibration, Constellation and Exploratory Pop

    The Book of the Lost-Emily Jones-The Rowand Amber Mill-CD albumThe Book Of The Lost-A Year In The Country

    9. Tales From The Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost and The Equestrian Vortex: The Imagined Spaces of Imaginary Soundtracks

    10. The Wicker Man: Notes on a Cultural Behemoth

    11. Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen Red Shift and The Owl Service: Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes

    12. A Bear’s Ghosts: Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures

    13. From “Two Tribes” to War Games: The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture

     

    Albion Country Band-Battle of the Field

    Songs etc included in the Spectral Fields Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1:

    “We’re going to take a slightly different route…” – The Kalendar Host
    I Was a Young Man – The Albion Country Band
    Glistening Glyndebourne – John Martyn
    Black Country Rock – David Bowie

    Gather In The Mushrooms-Bob Stanley-The British Acid Folk Underground-album-A Year In The Country 0001-A Year In The Country-Gather In The Mushrooms-back

    Love in Ice Crystals – The Sallyangie
    Morning Way – Trader Horne
    Children of the Stones – Sidney Sager
    Caged in Stammheim by Demdike Stare

    The Quietened Village-album CD cover-A Year In The Country-1px strokeThe Stone Tape-1972-logo credits-Nigel Kneale

    Flying over a Glassed Wedge vs. The Stone Tape – Howlround
    Playground Gateway – Belbury Poly
    Mind How You Go Now – The Advisory Circle
    Forgotten Places – Hoofus
    The Magic Yard – Lubos Fiser

    Hoofus-The Edgelands-game soundtrack-album artwork-HoofusEdgelands-Marshlight software-Hoofus-3b

    Loomings – Hoofus
    Witch Hunt – Frog
    Trailer – The Final Programme

    Dark and Lonely Water-6-A Year In The Country copy

    The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water – Central Office of Information
    The Be Colony – Broadcast and The Focus Group
    I See, So I See So – Broadcast and The Focus Group

    Noahs Castle-television series-1979-1980-John Rowe-A Year in The Country-5Noahs Castle-television series-1979-1980-John Rowe-A Year in The Country-6

    Noah’s Castle – Jugg

    Tales From The Black Meadow-A Year In The Country Tales From The Black Meadow-Professor R Mullins-Chris Lambert-A Year In The Country

    Tales from the Black Meadow (Main Theme) – The Soulless Party
    The Book of the Lost – Rowan Amber Mill and Emily Jones

    Berberian Sound Studio-Equestrian Vortex-Julian House-Peter Strickland

    The Equestrian Vortex – Broadcast
    Corn Rigs – Magnet
    Wickerman – Pulp

    The Wicker Man-Trunk Records release-OST-vinyl-soundtrack-map

    Gently Johnny – Magnet
    How Do – Sneaker Pimps
    Searching for Rowan – Magnet

    The-Owl-Service-TV-program-A-Year-In-The-Country-3bThe-Owl-Service-TV-series-titles-Alan-Garner-A-Year-In-The-Country-b

    The Owl Service – Ton Alarch
    The Dream of Gerontius/Penda’s Fen/Robin Redbreast – Edward Elgar
    The Tomorrow People – Dudley Simpson
    Red Shift Trailer – Phil Ryan
    The Changes vs. The Ash Tree – Paddy Kingsland

    The Owl Service-Garland Sessions-album artwork

    The Bear Ghost – The Owl Service

    Wargames-1983 film-A Year In The Country

    WarGames – clip
    Dancing with Tears in my Eyes – Ultravox
    WarGames Theme – Arthur B. Rubinstein
    Since Yesterday – Strawberry Switchblade
    The Game Begins – Arthur B. Rubinstein
    I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me – Nik Kershaw
    Edge of the World (End Title) – Arthur B. Rubinstein
    Coming Soon – The Kalendar Host

     

    Thanks indeed to Mr Lambert for being such a helpful and informative Kalendar Host and for the work involved. A tip of the hat to you good sir.

    Wyrd Kalendar-book cover-Chris Lambert-Andy Paciorek-Folk Horror Revival-Wyrd Harvest Press

    Elsewhere:
    Tales From The Black Meadow – the book (or few), the CD (or few), the project
    The Wyrd Kalendar book by Chris Lambert and Andy Paciorek (published by Wyrd Harvest Press / Folk Horror Revival)
    A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1; Chapters 1-13 at Mixcloud
    The mix at the Wyrd Kalendar website
    Tales from the Black Meadow – the book by Chris Lambert
    Chris Lambert’s own writing website

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    The A Year In The Country Wandering Through Spectral Fields book

     

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  • “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth: Chapter 20 Book Images

    Hollyoaks-Savage Party-folklore-A Year In The Country 4

    “In 2012 in the earlyish days of planning for A Year In The Country there was a trailer being broadcast for an episode called “Savage Party” of the British television youth-orientated soap opera Hollyoaks.

    The trailer is basically a high street-esque take on some of the visual language, themes and tropes of the flipside or undercurrents of folkloric culture expressed in the likes of The Wicker Man (1973): a glimpse of Albion in the cultural overgrowth, a step through the gates into the secret garden (with spangly hotpants as your attire).”

    Hollyoaks-Savage Party-folklore-A Year In The Country 12

    “It shows the young folk entering a gated slightly magical-seeming woodland; they are often animal masked, behorned and May Queen crowned and enter an unsupervised carnivalesque atmosphere which seems to subtly hark back to earlier almost pagan times…”

    Hollyoaks-Savage Party-folklore-A Year In The Country 11

    “And yes the trailer is a simulacra of folklore-inspired culture but still enjoyable…

    For some reason this promotional video blurs those lines a touch. It is joyous, ridiculous, a copy and also created with some sense of love or passion for its source material, even if that is but a flickering, passing moment of interest.”

    Stealing Sheep-Shut Eye

    Coco-Rosie-Arthur-Magazine-Devandra Banhart-Joanna Newsom

    “The trailer’s soundtrack is Stealing Sheep’s “Shut Eye” (2012), which is a lovely catchy sort of psych-folk indie-pop song, with the band’s music reminding me in a way of a more youthful, British Coco Rosie  (the sister duo who were loosely connected with American freak folk in the 2000s, along with the likes of Devandra Banhart and Joanna Newsom).”

    Halloween on Hollyoaks-trailer-2016

    “Curiously in 2016 there was a “Halloween on Hollyoaks” trailer which drew from one of the other more flipsides of filmic culture, Italian super- natural horror and interconnected giallo, and was basically a homage to Dario Argento’s Suspiria film from 1977.”

    021-Randall & Hopkirk-Charlie Higson-Vic Reeves-Bob Mortimer-Emilia Fox-Tom Baker-A Year In The Country

    Randall-Hopkirk-Charlie-Higson-Vic-Reeves-Bob-Mortimer-Emilia-Fox-1

    Randall-Hopkirk-Charlie-Higson-Tom-Baker-television series still

    “The appearance of such less thoroughly travelled themes in mainstream culture can seem like something of an unexpected treat when it is treated in a respectful manner and done at least reasonably well.

    Along which lines, a soft spot should be reserved for the turn of the millennium remake of television series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) that was broadcast in 2000-2001, and which was produced by Charlie Higson, who also wrote and directed some episodes, and starred comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer alongside Emilia Fox and gloriously white-haired former Doctor Who Tom Baker.”

    Hot Fuzz-film-Simon Pegg

    “…it often shows a great love for a whole slew of fantasy, television, literature, crime horror and science fiction films etc. from years gone by in the way that it references and draws from them.

    “The episode Man of Substance in particular, which seems to predate Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz film of 2007 by a year or few in a number of its themes, borrowings and the story of a sleepy country idyll gone bad and is rather folk horror-like in its setting and plot.”

    John Barleycorn Reborn Rebirth-Dark Britannica-Cold Spring-A Year In The Country-collage

    “I guess we should have known something was not quite right when shown the unsettling monument on the way into the village that looked as though it should have been on the cover of one of the John Barleycorn Reborn series of dark Britannica compilation albums of wyrd, exploratory, underground etc folk that were released by Cold Spring beginning in 2007.”

    Randall-Hopkirk-dancers collage

    stills from The Wicker Man-The Monster Club-Pendas Fen-Curse of the Crimson Altar-2

    “Along the way the episode wanders into the territory of and borrows from: The Wicker Man, The Monster Club, Curse of the Crimson Altar, Hansel and Gretel, Witchfinder General, The Bloody Judge and Penda’s Fen.”

    tom-baker-doctor-who-wearing scarf

    “And just having Tom Baker, possibly still the archetypal Doctor Who, in amongst it all makes the episode fundamentally interconnected in the minds of watchers of a certain vintage with particular culture and tropes.”

    Gareth Thomas-Blakes 7

    “…and that is before we get to Gareth Thomas, who once starred as a freedom fighter in the cult science fiction series Blake’s 7 (1978-1981), who here plays a real ale pushing pub landlord who later appears in his festival garb only to be revealed as a centuries-old medieval lord of the manor.”

    The League of Gentleman-Royston Vasey sign

    “Randall & Hopkirk is not necessarily as dark but thinking back this episode may have shared some ground with the similar time period’s The League of Gentleman series that was broadcast from 1999-2002 and its mixing of horror and comedy in a rural setting gone bad where “You bain’t be from round here” is the general refrain.”

    The Wicker Man OST soundtrack-Jonny Trunk-Trunk Records-A Year In The Country

    “Just prior to its broadcast the The Wicker Man soundtrack had been first released in 1998 via the efforts and investigating of Jonny Trunk and Trunk Records and this is thought to have been one of the sparks that ignited that growing interest.

    However, the number of different references to fantastic fictions from before that time in the series suggest its creator had a knowledge, interest and love of such things that stretches back some way.”

    030-Randall & Hopkirk-Charlie Higson-Vic Reeves-Bob Mortimer-Emilia Fox-Tom Baker-A Year In The Country 002-Randall & Hopkirk-Charlie Higson-Vic Reeves-Bob Mortimer-Emilia Fox-Tom Baker-A Year In The Country

    Doomwatch-still altered-states-1980-movie-ken russell

    Raiders of the Lost Ark-last scene-warehouse Scooby Doo-unmasking

    “The episode Fair Isle is set on an isolated island called Strait Isle which has its own laws and ways of doing things, produces its own unique foodstuff under the direction of an eccentric lord ruler and includes high jinx with the locals in a very local hostelry, all of which further echo The Wicker Man.

    That episode also features Doctor Who-esque folkloric costumed creatures, ecological worries that have shades of the series Doomwatch (1970-1972), transformations which echo Ken Russell’s Altered States film (1980), a hiding of relics which harks back to The Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and even an “I would’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” Scooby Doo-esque unveiling of the baddie.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 20 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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  • From The Unofficial Countryside to Soft Estate – Edgeland Documents, Memories and Explorations: Chapter 18 Book Images

    Karl Hyde-Kieran Evans-Edgeland-Outer Edges-A Year In The Country-lighter

    “Edgelands is a word that refers to the edges of towns and cities that are neither urban nor rural; transitional, undeveloped or developing areas such as the land surrounding power stations, scrublands, wastelands, semi-derelict areas, semi-industrial areas and so forth.

    These are often the places where society creates, stores, repairs, discards, forgets about and disposes of the things it physically needs and they can also be starkly aesthetically neglected, though in contrast and in part because of that neglect or overlooking can also become something of a haven for nature and wildlife.”


    veloelectroindustrial-edgelands-wasteland-photography-harworth-machine-a-year-in-the-country-2(Above: photograph by Veloelectroindustrial.)

    “Marion Shoard was the first person to use the term “edgelands” to describe these areas in her Edglands essay from 2002, where she eloquently describes and defines them and considers how they are often overlooked by society:

    “Britain’s towns and cities do not usually sit cheek by jowl with its countryside, as we often casually assume. Between urban and rural stands a kind of landscape quite different from either. Often vast in area, though hardly noticed, it is characterised by rubbish tips and warehouses, superstores and derelict industrial plant,office parks and gypsy encampments, golf courses, allotments and fragmented, frequently scruffy, farmland. All these heterogeneous elements are arranged in an unruly and often apparently chaotic fashion against a background of unkempt wasteland frequently swathed in riotous growths of colourful plants, both native and exotic… Huge numbers of people now spend much of their time living, working or moving within or through it. Yet for most of us, most of the time, this mysterious no man’s land passes unnoticed: in our imaginations, as opposed to our actual lives, it barely exists… As we ash past its seemingly meaningless contours in train, car or bus we somehow fail to register it on our retinas.””

    The Unofficial Countryside-Richard Mabey-original edition and Littler Toller edition

    “In a continuum from Marion Shoard’s observations, an extensive body of literature and creative work exists which has focused on these hinterlands. One of the early and most renowned documents or celebrations of such overlooked, often unloved parts of our world was Richard Mabey’s The Unofficial Countryside book, originally published in 1973 (and reissued in 2010 by Little Toller Books, who specialise in work which takes in a gentle flipside of rural, pastoral and landscape concerns).”

    UNOFFICIAL COUNTRYSIDE-richard mabey-television program film still-1975
    (Above: image from a 1975 television programme also called The Unofficial Countryside, which featured Richard Mabey.)

    “The Unofficial Countryside records Richard Mabey’s explorations and wanderings through edgeland areas and the natural world, which has made a home in places that had previously often been considered inauspicious for plants and wildlife such as inner city car parks, gravel pits and rubbish tips.

    Rather than being purely a natural history document, within the book he also proposes another way of seeing and experiencing nature during our daily lives, whether wild flowers glimpsed from a commuter train, fox cubs playing on a motorway fringe or a kestrel hawking above a public park.”

    Edgelands-Paul-Farley-and-Michael-Symmons Roberts-hardback and paperback books

    “Edgelands – Journeys into England’s True Wilderness is a 2012 book by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts and is a literary, poetic exploration of such areas, in which the authors document their travels, personal memories and connections to these transitional landscapes, taking in along the way childhood dens, container ports, wastelands, ruins, mines and the endpoints for society’s automobiles.”

    Karl Hyde-Edgeland-CD-Kieran Evans-The Outer Edges-film-stroke

    Karl Hyde-Kieran Evans-Edgeland-Outer Edges-A Year In The Country 4

    “In a more audiovisual manner the film, music and photography project by Karl Hyde and Kieran Evans’ Edgeland/The Outer Edges presents a psychogeographic expressive, creative and documentary wandering through what feel like semi-uncharted lands and lives, ones which are overlooked, strewn with debris and contain a faded battered beauty amongst the mixture of nature and pylons.”

    Edward-Chell-Soft-Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-book cover and 2 other images

    “Edward Chell’s 2013 Soft Estate also makes use of multiple forms, including a book, traditional gallery exhibiting and what are effectively returning to their source installations. It takes as its subject matter such edgeland places when they are found at the side of motorways.

    The phrase soft estate refers to the description given by the UK Highways Agency to the natural habitat that the motorways and trunk roads it manages occupy; an often unstopped-on hinterland that most of us only view as a high-speed blur from the corner of our eyes as we travel past these autobahn edgelands.”

    laser-etched stainless steel, 3D work by Edward Chell

    “Soft Estate interacts with and documents these verges and landscapes, sometimes in a quite literal sense as some of the work is printed using road dust from such places, other work uses (presumably) engine oil, features plant life illustrations from these verges laser etched onto brightly chromed exhaust pipes or uses the same materials and colours as road signs.”

    Edward-Chell-Soft-Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-3 artworks

    “In (Edward Chell’s) paintings of the tubing which protects sapling trees (many millions of which have been planted on such lands), the mind’s eye sees them rather as gravestones…

    Indeed there is a ghostly, spectral quality to these paintings; they have a hauntological aspect in that although they are created in contemporary times, they also seem like documents of modernity’s future and past.”

    Edward-Chell-Soft-Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-Little Chef-cafe

    “Intriguingly, some of Edward Chell’s work has been installed in Little Chefs, which are British roadside family cafes/restaurants.

    For many British children, these provided a first taste of what are now regarded as American-style burgers and fries…

    On now-rare sightings of Little Chefs, they feel like endangered species: a quaint remnant of times gone by before the ubiquity of transnational chains and the utilitarian installations of motorway service stations.

    It brings a smile to think of Edward Chell’s work in them, which seems like an apposite, humorous coming together of cultures.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 18 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 A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields Book at the Ghost Box Guest Shop

    A Year In The Country book-Stephen Prince-Ghost Box Guest Shop

    The A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book is now available at the Ghost Box Guest Shop, where it can be found in the fine company of previous guests including Moon Wiring Club, Howlround, Folklore Tapes, Keith Seatman, Jon Brooks, Children of Alice, The Hardy Tree, Alasdair Roberts, Assembled Minds, Listening Center, The Memory Band and previous guest appearances by various A Year In The Country albums.

    Accompanying notes on the book’s arrival at the Guest Shop can also be found at Ghost Box’s local online newsletter The Belbury Parish Magazine.

    Thanks and a tip of the hat to Jim Jupp and Julian House.

    BJ outerART.indd Ways of Seeing-The Advisory Circle-Jon Brooks-Ghost Box Records-album cover art The Belbury Tales-Belbury Poly-Ghost Box Records-album cover art

    If you should not know of Ghost Box Records, it is:

    “…a record label for a group of artists exploring the misremembered musical history of a parallel world. A world of TV soundtracks, vintage electronics, folk song, psychedelia, ghostly pop, supernatural stories and folklore.

    The parallel world it creates and conjures up is well worth a visit and wander around.

     

    Elsewhere:
    A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields at the Ghost Box Guest Shop
    And at The Belbury Parish Magazine
    Ghost Box Record’s site

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) The book’s page
    2) Ghost Box Records – Parallel Worlds, Conjuring Spectral Memories, Magic Old and New and Slipstream Trips to the Panda Pops Disco: Chapter 5 Book Images

     

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  • 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: Chapter 17 Book Images

    Kelvedon Hatch-decommissioned-museum

    “Abandoned and decommissioned bunkers are a subsection of utilitarian brutalist architecture that has come to gain totemic significance and to have a form of romance attached to them.

    This can take a hauntological form where Cold War bunkers in particular have come to represent and be symbols of the spectres of history.

    This connects with a central defining tenet of hauntological strands of interest: explorations of and fascinations with lost futures and areas of culture, artifacts, buildings, institutions etc. which are imprinted with spectres of those lost histories.

    In this sense such bunkers are physical embodiments of the (thankfully) lost futures of end of days conflicts: the unsettling and disquieting counterpart to social and municipal brutalist buildings from a similar epoch and the yearning for lost progressive utopian futures that they can represent…

    (They can be) a somewhat spectral reminder of the Cold War, in both a hauntological and fear-instilling manner.

    Or as writer, illustrator and designer John Coulthart has said bunkers are:

    “…a source of contemporary horror that doesn’t require any supernatural component to chill the blood.””

    The Quietened Bunker-Night and Dawn Editions-release date-A Year In The Country-2

    “Connected to (their) sense of futility or delusional projections of their effectiveness, in 2014 as part of A Year In The Country a themed album called The Quietened Bunker was released.

    This featured work by Keith Seatman, Grey Frequency, A Year In The Country, Panabrite, Polypores, Listening Center, Time Attendant, Unknown Heretic and David Colohan and interpreted the album’s theme via recordings that included field recording subterranean ambience, paranoid industrial distortion, Radiophonic inflected electronica and elegiac end of days sequences.

    (The following is an edited selection of the accompanying notes for the album):

    “The Quietened Bunker is an exploration of the abandoned and/or decommissioned Cold War installations which lie under the land and that would have acted as selectively populated refuges/control centres if the button was ever pushed.

    These bunkers could be seen as once modern fortresses – reinforced concrete and blast doors replacing moats and stone battlements…

    Now it can all seem like a dream from another world, one where for a number of decades populations lived under the day-to-day threat of total annihilation and where millions was spent on this network of shelters and defences; preparations to allow fiddling once all had burned, such bunkers possibly being nearer to utilitarian national follies than fortresses – indeed, today they are as likely to be signposted tourist attractions as operative defences…”

    Richard-Ross-Waiting-For-The-End-Of-The-World-bunkers-photographs and cover   

    “(The Quietened Bunker) is part of a lineage of work that explores, is inspired by and documents bunkers, shelters and related infrastructure.

    The book Waiting for the End of the World by Richard Ross published in 2004 is part of this lineage. It contains photographs of active and decommissioned bunkers and shelters around the world, both those built by governmental/military organisations and by private individuals.

    One intriguing thing about some of the photographs of domestic shelters are the details of the way they have been made to feel homely and the amount of aesthetic consideration often given to their entrances, in the face of and opposition to what their occupants would be faced with if their intended purpose was ever called upon…

    (Richard Ross) found a sense of hope and optimism in their repurposing as clubs in St. Petersburg, Russia and how these have become places where people go to celebrate life rather than anticipate destruction.”

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

    “Other photography-based work which explores such buildings and installations is more strictly documentary in nature, in particular that done by the British based Subterranea Britannica society. Subterranea Britannica’s members:

    “…study and investigate man-made and man-used underground places – from mines to railway tunnels, military defences to nuclear bunkers and everything in between.”

    They have published a number of comprehensive books featuring bunker-related work, including Nick Catford’s Cold War Bunkers (2010) and Mark Dalton’s The Royal Observer Corps Underground Monitoring Posts (2011)…

    Via its publishing activities, the collecting of archival material and photographs and notes from exploratory expeditions to locations by members which are viewable on its website, the society’s work represents a comprehensive mapping of these often once secret or inaccessible to the public places and infrastructure networks.”

    Paul Virilio-Bunker Archaeology-Princeton Architectural Press-A Year In The Country-2b Paul Virilio-Bunker Archaeology-Princeton Architectural Press-A Year In The Country-3b

    Paul Virilio-Bunker Archaeology-Princeton Architectural Press-A Year In The Country-4b Paul Virilio-Bunker Archaeology-Princeton Architectural Press-A Year In The Country-1 

    “A predecessor to the above Cold War bunker related lineage of work is Paul Virilio’s book Bunker Archaeology, originally published in a French edition in 1975.

    This collects his photography and writing on the abandoned World War II German bunkers and related installations that lie along the coast of France.

    Along with their Cold War counterparts, these could also be filed as a form of brutalist architecture as they share a number of similarities in terms of the materials used and their aesthetics.”

    Soviet-Bus-Stops-Christopher-Herwig-Fuel-book cover and photographs

    Jan-Kempenaers-Spomenik-photographs

    “Viewed now they seem to almost be a form of accidental utilitarian art: something they share with the likes of similarly appreciated pragmatic constructions such as telegraph poles, pylons, Soviet era bus stops or even library music.

    Although they were created with a very practical intent, looking at them now they seem nearer to monuments or tributes, reminsicent of the Cold War era Spomenik memorials that Jan Kempenaers photographed and which are collected in his 2010 book of the same name.”

     Planet of the Apes-1968-ending

    “With the structures in Bunker Archaeology, whatever their original intents, viewing them today they could be artifacts from an almost science fiction-esque future that never was, a form of hauntology possibly but one that steps aside from or precedes many of the more often referred to British cultural history related tropes.”

    (The original Planet of the Apes film from 1968 swims into view with its mingling of crashed future/past visitors and part-buried monuments to mankind’s folly.)” 

    The Delaware Road event-July 28th 2017-1bThe Delaware Road At Kelvedon Hatch-Map and Guid Booklet-Buried Treasure

    Kelvedon Hatch-bunker museum-The Delaware Road event

    (Decommissioned bunkers are even) available to hire for events: one such of which is The Delaware Road event organised by record label Buried Treasure in 2017 and which accompanies their themed album of the same name.

    This event was deeply interconnected with hauntological themes and tropes, featuring a number of performers whose work has been to various degrees linked with such areas of work including Dolly Dolly, Howlround, Radionics Radio, Ian Helliwell and Saunders & Hill.

    It was described as an immersive mix of theatre, film and live music and some of the notes that accompany the event are reproduced below:

    “The Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker at Kelvedon Hatch, in the Borough of Brentwood in the English county of Essex, is a large underground bunker maintained during the cold war as a potential regional government headquarters. Since being decommissioned in 1992, the bunker has been open to the public as a tourist attraction, with a museum focusing on its cold war history…”

    “This special performance takes place deep underground in a nuclear bunker, hidden in remote Essex woodland. The audience is free to explore the secret, cold war facilities where they will encounter a host of performers, experimental artists & musicians.”

    As with some of the bunkers in Waiting for the End of the World which have come to be used as clubs, this is a repurposing of such structures for entertainment or cultural purposes, albeit in this case a form of cultural exploration which explicitly refers to and explores the history of them rather than being more strictly hedonistic socialising and abandonment.”

     The Quietened Bunker-secret bunker tourist road signs-A Year In The Country-2The Quietened Bunker-secret bunker tourist road signs-A Year In The Country

    “Returning more directly to the heritage and tourist industry repurposing of such installations, on British roads you can find official road signs that direct you towards the tourist destination of a “Secret Nuclear Bunker”, often appearing on the same sign as one which also points drivers to an industrial estate and various towns.

    Viewing these signs may bring kind of mental disconnect – a mixture of disbelief, humour and relief that we are no longer living in a political situation where these bunkers are considered necessary and possibly a touch of sadness, anger and grief for us having once done so.

    In part this disconnect is due to the very Britishness of names like Chipping Ongar and Chigwell that the road signs also point to.”

    The Quietened Bunker-For Sale-A Year In The Country 

    “Accompanying and interconnected with such road signs are the estate agent signs for when a decommissioned bunker has been made available for sale; the hoardings name the property for sale as a nuclear bunker and list its square footage and acreage of land.

    Begging the question: is this a buyer’s or a seller’s market?

    There is scarcity value to the property but presumably only a very limited number of potential buyers and allowable uses (data storage seems to be one such usage that is mentioned on these boards).

    It would be interesting to see whether these installations are listed on general commercial property websites, so that your search results might bring up a warehouse for rent, listed as having plenty of onsite parking and then a former secret nuclear bunker listed as razor wire and emergency air filtration system included.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 17 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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  • Kill List, Puffball, In the Dark Half and Butter on the Latch – Folk Horror Descendants by Way of the Kitchen Sink: Chapter 16 Book Images

    Kill List-Ben Wheatley-A Year In The Country-2Kill List

    “…folk horror is a film genre which as a cultural strand has created ever-growing reverberations and led to and/or inspired more recent work.

    One such piece of work is Ben Wheatley’s thoroughly unsettling film Kill List from 2011. As a film it is an intriguing, fascinating, inspiring piece of work. An online discussion about the film said “some pieces of culture are the thing that they purport to be about”; this is a film about evil.

    Visually, if not thematically, it shares similarities with the grittier side of social realism British cinema. For a large part the world it represents, although about the lives of somewhat shady mercenaries, is presented in an every day, social realist, kitchen sink manner.”

    Kill List-Ben Wheatley-still-2

    Kill List-film-Ben Wheatley-mirrorKill List-Ben Wheatley-A Year In The Country-4

    “It does not feel like an esoteric otherly world, at least initially; people are shown having dinner, a couple argues about money and so forth. But something else lurks and creeps in; a symbol is scratched behind a mirror, a descent begins and the mercenaries are drawn into an arcane, hidden world and system.

    In many ways the film feels like a sequel to 1973’s The Wicker Man, or at least of its direct lineage or spirit, exploring the themes of that film but through a modern day filter of a corruption that feels total and also curiously banal; there is a sense of occult machinations and organisations but also of just doing a job, of the minutiae of it all…

    The film utilises tropes from more recent horror and possibly voyeuristic exploitational film but seems to layer and underpin this with what psychogeographic thought has called “the hidden landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters which charge environments”: occult in both the literal and root meaning of hidden.”

     Adam Scovell-Folk Horror-Hours Dreadful and Things Strange-Auteur-book coverThe Wicker Man-1973-film still-statueQueens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 6

    “Continuing on from Kill List, kitchen sink or realist folk horror is a description that could be applied to other films such as Josephine Decker’s Butter on the Latch (2013), Alastair Siddons In the Dark Half (2011) and Nicholas Roeg’s Puffball (2007).

    These films take some of the recurring themes of folk horror (precised by Adam Scovell, author of the 2017 book Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, as featuring landscape, isolation, skewed moral beliefs and a happening or summoning) but which strip away some of the more fantastical presentation and sometimes stylisation that can be found in The Wicker Man or 1970’s Queens of Evil and utilise a more “rooted in the real world” approach.”

    Puffball-Nicolas-Roeg-2007-625px wide

     Kate Bush-Aerial-A Sky of Honey-vinyl label-side aGrand Designs-television series-logo titleEnglands Hidden Reverse-David Keenan book-Coil-Current 93-Nurse With Wound-b

    “Puffball is… set in a remote part of the countryside, it is a television-esque kitchen sink folk horror film that mixes Grand Designs with the music of Kate Bush and England’s Hidden Reverse.

    (Grand Designs is a long-running British television series that documents people spending often large sums of money custom building unusual homes for themselves and their families, England’s Hidden Reverse is a 2003 book by David Keenan that focuses on the work and music of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound and posits the idea that they represent the real English cultural underground. The soundtrack to Puffball features Coil and Nurse With Wound, with the music to the film all sinister portents and drones that veers upwards and outwards, venturing into more normal climes and back again.)

    In the film new age-ish imagery intermingles with “are-they-real or not?” folkloric and witchery shenanigans, tales of fertility battles, fertility ending with ageing and the slick yuppie-like outsiders gutting and rebuilding a cottage that was previously the site for intense local loss in a possibly inappropriately modern, minimalist, over-angled style.

    In some ways it feels like the story of the old ways battling with the new: of the arrogance of money and man trying to push out the mud and nature of the land.”

    Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-Play For TodayRobin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-5Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-4

    “(Robin Redbreast) is reminiscent of the Play for Today television drama Robin Redbreast from 1970 in the sense of the entrapping of an outsider in fertility rites and rituals and the use of a slightly simple man of the land for those ends.

    Puffball adds a graphic, almost dissolute sexuality to that realism. This is not an easy film in parts: it is both unsettled and unsettling in various ways.”

     The Wicker Man and Dont Look Now-double bill adverts

    “As an aside, (Puffball) is loosely connected back to early 1970s folk horror by the appearance of Donald Sutherland, and being directed by Nicolas Roeg, it is but a hop, skip and jump from them to The Wicker Man via Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 film Don’t Look Now, in which Donald Sutherland stars and which was released cinematically as part of a double bill with The Wicker Man.”

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    Rita Tushingham-A Taste of Honey-film still

    “Further connecting Puffball to kitchen sink, the film also features the bird-like late beauty and fascinating screen presence of Rita Tushingham, who appeared in A Taste of Honey (1961), which is known as one of the classic 1960s kitchen sink/British new wave films; here she is all staring eyes and grasping country ways.”

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    The Red Shoes-Kate Bush-album cover artthe lines the cross & the curve-kate bush-miranda richardson-laserdisc cover 

    “Throughout the film Kate Bush’s song “Prelude” from her 2005 album Aerial, which features the angelic voice of her son accompanying her piano playing, appears and reappears, interconnecting the themes of the film and its stories of progeny to come and those lost.

    Puffball is also further connected to Kate Bush’s work through two of its actors: Donald Sutherland appeared in the video for her 1985 single “Cloudbusting”, while one of the film’s lead actors is Miranda Richardson, who was also one of the main cast members in Kate Bush’s The Line, the Cross & the Curve film which accompanied her Red Shoes album from 1994.”

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    The Company of Wolves-film still

    “(Puffball) also has the more exploitation friendly title The Devil’s Eyeball (puffballs are large round white fungi, also known by this other name). The imagery which accompanies The Devil’s Eyeball version of the DVD release makes the film look nearer to a cheap b-movie, teenage friendly take on say the 1984 gothic fantasy-horror film The Company of Wolves, which is in part an adult take on the fairy story Little Red Riding Hood and could be considered an early example of folk horror with its tales of deceitful ravenous wolves in the wood.”

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    “In the Dark Half takes some of the tropes familiar from British social realist cinema such as a rundown estate on the edge of the countryside, family loss or dysfunction and a sense of social depravation or lack of chances to escape but wanders elsewhere with them.

    It is not quite magical realism, but rather the subdued, downtrodden landscape is given a subtle sheen which creates a sense that you are looking in on a magical otherly world.

    There are folkloric, borderline folk horror elements to the film, but it is not so much those which create the sense of a world with its own rules and even magic.

    Rather via its visual presentation there is a certain lush, soft beauty to the rundown estate and the nearby countryside: a refreshing view of such things in contrast with gritty, realist and sometimes-dour cinematic presentations of similar locales.”

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

    Joesphine Decker’s Butter On the Latch was discussed in the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine… with the headline “Dark Pastoral” and with “Lovely, dark and deep” written below a picture of a solitary wooden shack-like building in an isolated moorland landscape, with two female figures approaching it from the edge of the frame.

    It is an intriguing image and pair of descriptions which, while not overtly signalling such things, seemed to conjure up a dreamlike, rather classy take or variation on folk horror.

    Along with the above, a well-known online commerce site has this description of the film:

    “At a Balkan folk song and dance camp in the woods of Mendocino, California, Sarah reunites with her old friend Isolde and with a song she learned years before about dragons who entwine themselves in women’s hair and carry them off through the forest, burning it as they go.”

    …while Butter on the Latch interacts with cinematic tropes and conventions, it beats its own fragmentary path through them; the film is imbued deeply with a sense of dread and dysfunction and following those just mentioned conventions there’s a sense of waiting for something terrible to happen in a conventional thriller or slasher manner.”

    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country-4

    As a moment or two of calm amongst that dread, at points the film may just stop, pause and focus on close ups of woodland foliage. There is an entrancing beauty captured in such moments: you hope to remain ensconced in them but in this tale that is not how things are to be.

    This is a form of folk horror where “folk” could be taken as implying “being from the wild woods”; these are woods that seem both tamed and untamed, connected to civilisation and yet those within it have also crumbled away from it.” 

    Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares-album-4AD Inland-Empire-spotlight-David Lynch-film still

    “…the music that accompanies the film and which is played in the camp is to the untutored ear in part not far removed from the stately, elegiac, otherly album of Bulgarian folk songs Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares which 4AD released in the 1980s. While the film is also reminiscent here and there of the lower-fi aesthetics of David Lynch’s 2006 film Inland Empire; Hollywood but at a far, dark remove.”

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    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country-3

    The hand-held documentary feel is complimented or should that be fractured by surreal flashes of staring faces in the woods and other intriguing, hypnotic, yet terribly unsettling images and sounds, often with a more overtly folk horror/horror aspect; such split second moments, even if you pause or try to watch the film frame by frame are hard to quite fathom, explain or take in. To again quote Sight & Sound magazine:

    “Decker creates a weave of woozy camera movements and abrupt cuts that at once trouble and open up the viewer’s perception.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 16 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: Wandering Through Spectral Fields – Book Released

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-front and back cover

    Journeys in Otherly Pastoralism, the Further Reaches of Folk and the Parallel Worlds of Hauntology

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    “The first book of it’s kind to catalogue all these disparate strands, many of which cross over time and space to influence one another.” DJ Food575px by 1px line

    Released today 10th April 2018.

    Paperback available at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp page.

    Paperback and Ebook available at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Australia etc.

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    Paperback: £15.95. Ebook £6.95
    338 pages. Author: Stephen Prince
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    “An essential field guide to a distinct aesthetic that remains loosely defined, like a fluttering night moth that would die if pinned down.Ben Graham, Shindig!575px by 1px line

    A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields is an exploration of the undercurrents and flipside of bucolic dreams and where they meet and intertwine with the parallel worlds of hauntology; it connects layered and, at times, semi-hidden cultural pathways and signposts, journeying from acid folk to edgelands via electronic music innovators, folkloric film and photography, dreams of lost futures and misremembered televisual tales and transmissions.

    In keeping with the number of weeks in a year, the book is split into 52 chapters and includes considerations of the work of writers including Rob Young, John Wyndham, Richard Mabey and Mark Fisher, musicians and groups The Owl Service, Jane Weaver, Shirley Collins, Broadcast, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Virginia Astley and Kate Bush, the artists Edward Chell, Jeremy Deller and Barbara Jones and the record labels Trunk, Folk Police, Ghost Box and Finders Keepers.

    Also explored are television and film including Quatermass, The Moon and the Sledgehammer, Phase IV, Beyond the Black Rainbow, The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, Bagpuss, Travelling for a Living, The Duke of Burgundy, Sapphire & Steel, General Orders No. 9, Gone to Earth, The Changes, Children of the Stones, Sleep Furiously and The Wicker Man.

    The book draws together revised writings alongside new journeyings from the A Year In The Country project, which has undertaken a set of year-long journeys through spectral fields; cyclical explorations of an otherly pastoralism, the outer reaches of folk culture and the spectres of hauntology. It is a wandering amongst subculture that draws from the undergrowth of the land.

    As a project, it has included a website featuring writing, artwork and music which stems from that otherly pastoral/spectral hauntological intertwining, alongside a growing catalogue of album releases.

    A-Year-In-The-Country-Wandering-Through-Spectral-Fields-book-Stephen-Prince-6 copies-front cover and back cover

    Download two sample chapters at this web page: Contents list and sample chapters575px by 1px line
    “Author Prince has pulled together a mass of material culled not only from the website and its associated albums, but also a great deal more that was written specifically for the book. And the result is spellbinding.” Dave Thompson, Goldmine575px by 1px line

    “This incredibly well-researched book, which is obviously written by a man with an enormous passion for this subject, is probably as comprehensive as it is possible to be.

    “Stephen Prince’s densely packed tome covers everything from folkloric film and literature to electronic music to acid folk to folk horror to the dystopian fiction of John Wyndham and the classic unearthings of Nigel Kneale to the formation of under-the-furrows record labels like Trunk, Ghost Box and Finders Keepers.

    “If you’re already interested in folk culture and want to be astonished by how deeply its roots run, you’ll treasure A Year in the Country enormously.

    “Almost every one of the 52 chapters sideswiped me with a revelation that is already making me look at a genre I love with new, more appreciative eyes.

    “Books this culturally valuable don’t grow on hedgerows, so make sure you harvest it immediately.” Ian White, Starburst

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    The book has been designed/typeset by Ian Lowey of Bopcap Book Services and edited by Suzy Prince, who are the co-authors of The Graphic Art of The Underground-A Counter-Cultural History.575px by 1px line

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    An excellent compendium of Prince’s musings and meditations on all things wyrdly bucolic, uncanny, and elegiac, spanning a spectral spectrum from Richard Mabey to Zardoz, Virginia Astley to Sapphire & Steel.Simon Reynolds, author of Retromania and Energy Flash

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-pages 12 and 13A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-pages 14 and 15

    An online “cut out and keep” set of visual accompaniments to the chapters of the book can be visited here and text extracts from the book can be visited here, both of which will build throughout 2018 to include all 52 chapters.

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 1 to 10 contents list copy

    Book Chapter List:

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

    2. Gather in the Mushrooms: Early Signposts and Underground Acid Folk Explorations

    3. Hauntology: Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre

    4. Cuckoos in the Same Nest: Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings

    5. Ghost Box Records: Parallel Worlds, Conjuring Spectral Memories, Magic Old and New and Slipstream Trips to the
 Panda Pops Disco

    6. Folk Horror Roots: From But a Few Seedlings Did a Great Forest Grow

    7. 1973: A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures

    8. Broadcast: Recalibration, Constellation and Exploratory Pop

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-tales from the black meadow the book of the lost the equestrian vortex-imaginary soundtracks

    9. Tales From The Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost and The Equestrian Vortex: The Imagined Spaces of Imaginary Soundtracks

    10. The Wicker Man: Notes on a Cultural Behemoth

    11. Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen Red Shift and The Owl Service: Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes

    12. A Bear’s Ghosts: Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures

    13. From “Two Tribes” to War Games: The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture

    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

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 11 to 37 contents list

    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

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

    27. General Orders No. 9 and By Our Selves: Cinematic Pastoral Experimentalism

    28. No Blade of Grass and Z.P.G.: A Curious Dystopian Mini-Genre

    29. The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids: John Wyndham, Dystopian Tales, Celluloid Cuckoos and the Village as Anything But Idyll

    30. Folk Archive and Unsophisticated Arts: Documenting the Overlooked and Unregulated

    31. Folkloric Photography: A Lineage of Wanderings, Documentings and Imaginings

    32. Poles and Pylons and The Telegraph Appreciation Society: A Continuum of Accidental Art

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    33. Symptoms and Images: Hauntological Begetters, the Uneasy Landscape and Gothic Bucolia

    34. The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water: Public Information Films and Lost Municipal Paternalisms

    35. Magpahi, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council: Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and Considerations of Modern Day Magic

    36. Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before: Whispering Fairy Stories until They are Real

    37. The Owl Service, Anne Briggs, The Watersons, Lutine and Audrey Copard: Folk Revisiters, Revivalists and Reinterpreters

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-chapter-The Seasons album-Jonny Trunk-the BBC Radiophonic Workshop-Howlround-OST radio show-libary music-tape loops

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

    39. An Old Soul Returns: The Worlds and Interweavings of Kate Bush

    40. The Stone Tape, Quatermass, The Road and The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale: Unearthing Tales from Buried Ancient Pasts

    41 Folklore Tapes and the Wyrd Britannia Festival: Journeying to Hidden Corners of the Land/the Ferrous Reels and Explorations of an Arcane Research Project

    42. Skeletons: Pastoral Preternatural Fiction and a World, Time and Place of its Own Imagining

    43. Field Trip-England: Jean Ritchie, George Pickow and Recordings from the End of an Era

    44. Noah’s Castle: A Slightly Overlooked Artifact and Teatime Dystopias

    45. Jane Weaver Septième Soeur and The Fallen by Watch Bird: Non-Populist Pop and Cosmic Aquatic Folklore

    46. Detectorists, Bagpuss, The Wombles and The Good Life: Views from a Gentler Landscape

    47. Weirdlore, Folk Police Recordings, Sproatly Smith and Seasons They Change: Notes From the Folk Underground, Legendary Lost Focal Points and Privately Pressed Folk

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-The moon and the sledgehammer film-sleep furiously film

    48. The Moon and The Sledgehammer and Sleep Furiously: Visions of Parallel and Fading Lives

    49. From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Wintersongs, Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails: Lullabies for the Land and Gently Darkened Undercurrents

    50. Strawberry Fields and Wreckers: The Countryside and Coastal Hinterland as Emotional Edgeland

    51. Zardoz, Phase IV and Beyond the Black Rainbow: Seeking the Future in Secret Rooms from the Past and Psychedelic Cinematic Corners

    52. Winstanley, A Field in England and The English Civil War Part II: Reflections on Turning Points and Moments When Anything Could Happen

    A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Chapter 37 to 52 contents list

     

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  • Christopher Priest’s A Dream of Wessex – Twentieth Century Slipstream Echoes: Chapter 14 Book Images

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    “Christopher Priest’s 1977 novel A Dream of Wessex came to this author’s consciousness via a trail of cultural breadcrumbs dropped by Rob Young in his book Electric Eden (2010), which explores interconnected and underlying lines of folk and rural orientated British music and culture and how it has been handed down and transformed by successive generations.

    It is featured in the later “Toward the Unknown Region” section of the book wherein the lines through an otherly Britain he has drawn and explored wander towards an almost maelstrom gathering of the more hauntological concerns and hidden landscapes of the likes of exploratory record labels/projects such as Ghost Box Records and English Heretic, public information films that have gathered layers of uncanniness over the years, Oliver Postgate’s gently off-centre animations, the unsettled televisual pastoralism of Penda’s Fen (1974), The Stone Tape (1972) and Children of the Stones (1977) and related folk horror-esque work.”

    Including A Dream of Wessex in amongst such work seems particularly apt as though it was written before the term or concept had been created, at points it reads like part of a manifesto from or description of a release by a hauntologically-inclined record label; the text talks of spectral versions of oneself, time being deposited like layers of sedimentary rock which could be excavated via imagination and the muddy remains of the twentieth century being scattered like shipwrecks across the landscape.”

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    “…one of the main strands of the book involves time-travelling ability developed by participants whose minds have been electronically pooled but which is nearer to a visualisation via technological dream projection equipment.

    In such ways, A Dream of Wessex connects with a hauntological sense of spectral, misremembered and reinterpreted histories and culture and the related creation and exploration of parallel worlds…

    …essentially A Dream of Wessex narrates a mass dream or hallucination, which makes its inclusion in Rob Young’s book at the Ghost Box/hauntological juncture all the more fitting; such activities form part of what he has called experiments in consensual hallucination, whereby the participants willingly allow themselves to become immersed or even subsumed in the dream like atmospheres, phantasms and worlds that particular cultural activity can at times create…

    Within hauntological-related work there is also often a deliberate misremembering of the past, filtering it through your own personal vision, reimagining it in your own form – which is mirrored by the researchers in A Dream of Wessex creating and shaping their own version of the future in their mass projection.”

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    “The cover artwork of the earlier printed editions of A Dream of Wessex further reflect and forebear that Ghost Box/hauntological world and intertwining.

    The original hardback cover from 1977 published by Faber & Faber is quite a traditional landscape painting by Paul Nash but knowledge of the plot of the book and its appearance in the “Toward the Unknown Region” section of Electric Eden seem to infer a subtle sense of otherliness to it.

    The original softback cover from 1978 released by Pan Books features a depiction of a happy couple ensconced amongst the idyll of a rural landscape but then wanders off to more Sapphire & Steel-esque hauntological territory; they are sitting on an incongruous maroon fabric stool that would be more fitting in a gentrified parlour, their outlines glow and their featureless faces reflect only a further imagined idyll, while far off in the distance behind them a red sun hangs over what appears to be some kind of futuristic, scientific building.

    In this sense the cover’s layering of the known, even comforting with elements of the unknown and unsettling atmospheres could be seen as a prescient reflection of some of the defining aspects of what would later come to be thought of as hauntological work.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 14 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 Bear’s Ghosts – Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures: Chapter 12 Book Images

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    “There have been a number of books and photography projects which could be seen to document a form of former Soviet Union hauntology; work that often focuses on monuments and remnants of Cold War era striving, dreams and far reaching projects…

    Jan Kempemaers’ Spomenik from 2010, contains his photographs of structures that were created in Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s as memorials to the Second World War but which now apparently are largely abandoned.

    These take a largely abstract, geometric, concrete modernist form and there is a brutalist beauty and fascination to them, while they also seem to have tumbled from both the future and the past; despite the all too real history which inspired them, they now seem almost like impossible fictions or props from the fantasies of a cinematic story.”

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    “The structures photographed in (Christopher Herwig’s Soviet Bus Stops) could also be considered in the eyes of some beholders to have gained elements of being utilitarian or pragmatic accidental art.

    As with the Spomenik photographs, in Soviet Bus Stops some of the more architecturally brutalist designs appear to be artifacts from lost futures, of a time when an empire reached for grand horizons and even the stars.”

     Danila tkachenko-Restricted Areas-Dewi Lewis Publishing-A Year In The Country-2Danila tkachenko-Restricted Areas-Dewi Lewis Publishing-collage gs-A Year In The Country-4

    “…Danila Tkachenko’s Restricted Areas book from 2016, the photographs in which focus on abandoned hardware, secret cities and installations from the Soviet Union during the Cold War period…

    Danila Tkachenko says of the places, structures, equipment, vehicles and mechanisms he has photographed:

    ‘Those places lost their significance together with the utopian ideology which is now obsolete. The perfect technocratic future that never came.’

    And as with Spomenik and Soviet Bus Stops the spirit of these photographs seem like a different time and place’s hauntology: a differing but also partly parallel strand to that which has come about in the UK and the West and its sense of reflections on, mourning and yearning for a more utopian future which did not occur.”

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    “Today there is a considerable amount of photography out in the world and particularly online that focuses on derelict buildings, machinery and so on and which is sometimes referred to as urban exploration or urbex photography.

    However, in amongst the masses of such photography, Ralph Mireb’s images of abandoned and incomplete Soviet era space shuttles (which are a curious simulacra of the American space shuttle in terms of design and can be found at the website Bored Panda) stand out.

    This is in part due to the sheer scale of the infrastructure and buildings that surround them which they document – the space shuttle hangar is many storeys high and dwarves the other structures nearby.”

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    “In photographs that act as an accompaniment to Ralph Mireb’s, Alexander Marksin has documented the discarded wooden wind-tunnel models of these space shuttles.2

    Due to the materials used, these bring to mind thoughts of a folk art project rather than an institutionally and nationally funded attempt at space exploration, which is heightened as they have been left outside to age, weather, crumble and be slowly reclaimed and covered by nature.”

     abandoned-Raketas-or-Rockets-that-once-plied-the-Volga-and-other-great-rivers-of-the-Soviet-Union-during-the-Cold-War-years

    “In terms of vehicle design, in the Soviet Union there is a cul-de-sac that could well be called “The Shape of the Future’s Past” which takes in abandoned Soviet era hydrofoils and which were known as river rockets.

    These were made from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s and viewed now with their sleek, finned, almost space vehicle like designs appear as prototypes for a mid-century modern, atomic age take on how the future was to be.

    There is a bravery, an optimism, a genuine progressive modernism and venturing onwards and outwards to designs like these that seems to have been lost somewhere along the way, surrendered to a more day-to-day practicality in design.”

     Rebecca Litchfield-Soviet Ghosts-book cover

    “Throughout this chapter a number of times (I refer) to a sense of the science fiction-esque or fantastical, often accompanied by a grand sense of an empire and its once ambitions, which many of these photographs imply.

    This is particularly captured by the cover of Rebecca Litchfield’s Soviet Ghosts, a book released in 2014 which focuses on the extent of abandonment in the former Soviet Union and its satellite states in the Eastern Bloc.

    In the book’s cover image an abandoned and derelict circular stadium has been photographed, capturing the enormous scale and futurist grandeur of this structure…

    To the Western eye, as is similar to varying degrees with much of the above photography and structures, it conjures more a vision of a Flash Gordon-esque empire and future than something grounded in 

    the reality of a still relatively recent earthbound political, economic and societal system.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 12 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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  • Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen, Red Shift and The Owl Service – Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes: Chapter 11 Book Images

    Redshift-Robin Redbreast-The Changes-BBC-BFI-DVD-A Year In The Country

    Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-2John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-5

    “Robin Redbreast is a 1970 television programme, which although it was originally made and broadcast in colour, now only a black and white version is known to exist. It contains a plot and atmosphere that draw you in, grip and unsettle you…

    (It is not) an as-overtly visual representation of folkloric rites as say The Wicker Man is (apart from one brief moment where the locals gather, clad in folkloric attire, which could almost be a photograph by late 19th/early 20th century documenter of folk customs Benjamin Stone or a modern day re-enactment of his photographs); it does not have the broad cinematic sweep or cult musical accompaniment of that film but this is a different creature.

    It is a more intimate, enclosed story, a television play with I expect a relatively small budget, a small cast and a quite limited number of locations but none the worse for it.”

    The Omega Factor-TV series-A Year In The CountryNoahs Castle-1979 TV series-John Rowe Townsend-A Year In The Country-6Quatermass-1979-The Conclusion-Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country 2

    “…some of the most intriguing pieces of work leading up to and during the creation of A Year In The Country have been the introduction and end title sequences to some of those television series and plays from the late 1960s to mid 1970s; this probably extends to around 1980 to take in Children of the Stones (1977), Sky (1975), The Tomorrow People (1973-1979), Noah’s Castle (1979), The Omega Factor (1979) and the final series of Quatermass (1979).

    They often seem to represent a very concise, at points quite surreal capturing of the otherly spirit of the various series, related flipside and undercurrents of bucolia, hauntological concerns and a particular era…”

    The Tomorrow People-4 intro credits stills-1970s

    Penguin Modern Poets-Julian House-Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age-A Year In The CountryJulian House-Intro design-Ghost Box Records-A Year In The Country

    “The intro sequence for The Tomorrow People is a collage of images that include geometric science fiction-esque shapes, a single eyeball, cosmological swirls, a hand opening and closing, a shadowy figure in a doorway etc.

    It could be a mixture of the stark, darkly pastoral covers of The Modern Poets series of book covers from the 1960s and 1970s and Julian House of Ghost Box Records’ design work tumbling backwards and forwards through time, filtered somehow through an almost Woolworths-esque take on such things but still having a particularly unsettling air.”

    The Owl Service-TV series titles-Alan Garner-A Year In The Country-1200

    The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 2 The Owl Service-TV series titles-Alan Garner-A Year In The CountryThe Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 3 The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country

    “The Owl Service’s intro sequence mixes and layers imagery that includes tinted largely monochromatic images of the forest, pulsating geometric circles, a candle flame flickering against a black background, hands making bird silhouettes and a mirrored illustration where the same elements can be seen as both owls and flowers.”

    Children Of The Stones-TV series-A Year In The Country The Children Of The Stones series-intro 3

    “Children of the Stones’ intro is presented in a more realist, visually conventional manner, though it still more than hints at flipside tales of the land.

    To a soundtrack of a memorable, spectral, eldritch and wordless choir, it features multiple images of ancient standing stones, variously shown as ominous looming structures, with the sun refracting over them or in a layering of the past and present as they are pictured next to local village housing.”

    Sky-1975 TV series-A Year In The Country

    Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 3 in a row

    Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 6 Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 4Sky-1975 British TV-A Year In The Country 7

    Sky is another of those “Hmmm, what was in the water at TV commissioning meetings in the seventies to think that these were quite normal programmes for children’s television?” series, which over time has grown layers of exoticism…

    It is a sort of rurally-set children’s television version of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), with a cockney alien and ecological overtones which the promotional information describes somewhat esoterically as:

    ‘Out of the sky falls a youth, not of this place or time, ‘part-angel, part-waif ’, a youth with powers he can neither control or understand… nature itself rejects him and takes on the cadaverous body of Goodchild in sinister personification of the forces of opposition… He speaks of time travellers ‘Gods you call them’ who had tried again and again to help the people of Earth… Sky must find the mysterious juganet, the cross-over point in time, that is the key to his return to his own dimension.'”

    The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country-8The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 4 The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 2

    The Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The CountryThe Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country 5

    “(In The Changes) black and chain-wearing louche beatnik styled robbers and brigands roam the land and at points the series wanders off into a milder version of Witchfinder General (1968) territory where those who are suspected of using machinery or even saying their names are seen as “wicked sinners” and considered to be witches…

    ..in one of the memorable phrases from the series overhead electricity (and so on) cables become known as “the bad wires” and people are not able to pass underneath them as this brings a return of The Noise and the madness which compelled people to destroy technology…

    The source of The Noise and the machine smashing/rejecting madness is eventually tracked down by Nicky and her companion to a form of sentient lodestone which has been uncovered in quarry workings.

    Although it is not explained what this stone is or how it came to be, we are told that it had given magical powers to Merlin in ancient historical times and it is now trying to take Britain back to what it considers to be a better pre-industrial time by psychically inducing the rejection of machinery…

    How on earth did this come to be made as children’s entertainment? In particular the first episode where the madness has gripped mankind and the machines are being smashed in the streets: the scenes of which have an unnerving intensity…

    …The Changes could be seen as a reflection of some of society’s fears of social breakdown at that time and the threats represented by a reliance on modern technology which needed modern fuel, which was at that time under threat due to a crisis in oil supplies.”

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 2

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 5The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country

    The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country 6 The Ash Tree-David Rudkin-MR James-A Ghost Story For Christmas-The BBC-A Year In The Country-10

    “(The Ash Tree television play from 1975, based on a story by M.R. James) shares some themes with Witchfinder General in its dealing with folk horror and persecution.

    M.R. James’ short story was adapted for television by David Rudkin, who for a while seemed to be the go-to chap for otherly Albion-ic television and also wrote Penda’s Fen…

    In many ways The Ash Tree could sit quite comfortably amongst the not-so-salubrious fare that littered the faded cinemas of mid 1970s Britain; it has that nasty, unsettling feeling to it that a fair few cinematic releases from that period did, possibly reflecting a wider sense of corruption and malaise in society…

    There is little beauty in this landscape and its rolling fields. Bleak is a word that comes to mind; these are moors and feeding grounds full of judgement, punishment, voyeurism and unexplained carrion.”

    Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 5 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 8 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 7

    Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 3 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 2 Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country

    “(Penda’s Fen) is a tale which takes in the revival of ancient pagan kings, hidden underground government facilities (cities?), left-wing truths, ranting and paranoia, substitute Mary Whitehouse-esque self-appointed moral majority figures, awakening sixth form adolescent sexuality, alternative religious histories and theological study, fancying your local milk man, demons, army cadet forces, William Blake’s Jerusalem, the threat and worry of the never stopping industrial conveyor belt, returning dead classical musicians who wish to see the silver river and verdant valleys but who are actually staring at a flaking brick wall, the battle of religion against older gods, a birthday cake, adoption, fertility, almost breaking the fourth wall self-criticism about himself in David Rudkin’s script, angelic riverside visitations and Kenneth Anger-esque phallic firework dreams…

    It could be a head spinning melange and collage of freakish, cult film making but it is not; although in its hour and a half (actually, its first half hour) it manages to have covered more topics than a whole catalogue of other films may do, this is a very cogent and coherent film which at its core deals with conformity, coming of age and mankind’s sacred covenant with the land.’

    Play-For-Today-1200-Red Shift-Alan Garner-BFI-BBC-A-Year-In-The-Country-smaller Red Shift-Alan Garner-1978-BBC-Play For Today-A Year In The Country-2 darker Mow Cop-David Byrne-Red Shift-Alan Garner-A Year In The Country

    “Red Shift from 1978 shares some similarities with Penda’s Fen: it is a visionary take on the landscape and its stories and histories, older forms of worship, tales of coming of age and a priggish not always likeable teenage protagonist…

    In part it could be seen as an exploration of the literary, intellectual and cultural idea that similar, interconnected things continue to happen in the same places over time, almost as though places become nodes or echo chambers for particular occurrences or a kind of temporal layering occurs: something which is also explored in Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape from 1972.”

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The CountryFilming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 3

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 8 Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-Dafydd Rees-A Year In The Country

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 4Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 11Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 5

    Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 10Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 2Filming The Owl Service-Alan Garner-Peter Plummer-A Year In The Country 9

    “Filming the Owl Service (1970)… is long out of print and rare as hen’s teeth to find second hand, which is a shame as it is a fine companion piece to the series, full of rather lovely photographs, artifacts, anecdotes, background story, prop sheets and designs from the filming and the series itself.

    The book is split into three parts; an “Introduction” by Alan Garner in which he discusses the making of the film, some of what inspired the original book, the coincidences around it and so on, “Our Diaries” by his children who took nine weeks off school while it was being made to be on and around its filming and “Making the Film” by its director Peter Plummer.

    Some of the points of interest from the book are:

    (Please note: there are 12 such points in the A Year In The Country book.)

    5) When Peter Plummer introduced the actors to Alan Garner for the first time and asked if they looked right, Alan Garner’s recollection of it was that it was a “nasty experience”:

    “I wanted to run. They looked too right. It was like a waking dream. Here were the people I’d thought about, who’d lived in my head for so long; but now they were real. I couldn’t accept that they were only actors.”

    6) Alan Garner had based the part of Huw on Dafydd, an actual gardener from one of the locales of filming, but a Dafydd as he had imagined him being at the age of forty. When he saw them together he said that it “was like seeing father and son”. Apparently the two people in question when they saw one another said:

    Dafydd: “I wish I was young and forty again.” Raymond: “Now I know what I’ll look like at eighty.”

    The book leaves a sense that Dafydd was a very particular kind of person, one of those people who seem to have been part of the land forever, an archetype almost.

    11) Alan Garner is one of the villagers in one scene in the series and apparently he was a foot taller than all the actual local people who were in the series and they all found it hard to behave normally when the man-made storm rain hits them.

    Alan Garner: “…as soon as the solid water hit us we all gasped and yelled, and looked like anything but villagers out in a storm.” Dafydd: “We must be dumb and waterproof.”

    Alan Garner: “That scene is still odd, because I was about a foot taller than anybody else, and I look like the village freak – which may be what Peter was after all the time.”

    12) The end of Alan Garner’s section is a quote taken from a letter sent by Dafydd, referring to the time during the filming and The Stone Of Gronw, which the production had commissioned to be carved, prepared and set in place for the series:

    “It was a good time… I have been to the stone. It is lonely now.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 11 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 Wicker Man – Notes on a Cultural Behemoth: Chapter 10 Book Images

     The Wickerman-rating

    “The Wicker Man… has become something of a towering cult celluloid behemoth. This is particularly the case amongst all things on the flipside of folkloric, as well as within areas of culture that have come to be known as folk horror…

    At its heart, The Wicker Man could be viewed as a mystery thriller, although in actuality it is a film which defies categorisation, mixing elements of fantasy, horror and musical.

    Within its enclosed rural setting it intertwines folkloric practices, pagan rituals, reimagined and reinterpreted traditional and folk music, unfettered sexuality and an older religious faith in conflict with a more contemporary Christian belief system.

    These elements, along with a background of its at-times troubled production and distribution, have come to create a heady mixture, which includes imagery and a soundtrack that have gained iconic status and the creation of an almost myth-like set of stories and reference points which surround it and that have reverberated throughout wider culture.” 

    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster-A Year In The Country 

    “In 2013 a ’40th Anniversary’ – possibly misleadingly named – Final Cut of the film, running at 91 minutes, was released cinematically as well as on DVD and Blu-ray.

    This was not a complete, cinematic quality version of the film but rather an intermediate director-approved version which, as with earlier restored versions, featured segments which had varying levels of reproduction due to original source materials not being available.

    In one sense, the sections where the quality varies are appealing; the shift in quality can give these scenes a slightly surreal, almost parallel plains of 3D or cutout look, similar to the effect that viewing a faded set of images through a Viewmaster children’s toy might do.

    It would be interesting to see the entire film represented in this manner, to step away from the ongoing quest for a picture perfect representation of the tales of The Wicker Man and to embrace its otherworldliness more overtly with regards to its visual presentation.”

     The Wicker Man Collage-A Year In The Country-1080 

    Day 16-Willows Songs b-Finders Keepers-A Year In The Country Day 16-Willows Songs back-Finders Keepers-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-Trading cards-A Year In The Country-9The Wickerman-Unstoppable Trading Cards-Binder-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-trading card collection 1-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-RBeckettWickerman-A Year In The Countrynuada-wicker-man-journal-issues

    The Wicker Man book collection

    “While waiting for an actual final complete version there have been an ever-proliferating number of re-releases of the film and its soundtrack that have been released on video tape, DVD, Blu-ray, CD and vinyl, alongside period and modern associated posters, trading cards, books, zines, magazine articles and so forth.

    The resulting releases have become part of a whole not-so-mini industry that could keep industrious collectors busy but there are a few related items of particular interest.

    One is Willow’s Songs: an album released in 2009 by unearthers of rare and sometimes previously lost recordings Finders Keepers Records and which aims to showcase the British folk songs that inspired the soundtrack to The Wicker Man…

    Its lyrics tell a tale of agricultural dispossession and intriguingly it is not credited to a performer on the album, which in these times of instant knowledge about almost everything via online searches adds a certain appealing mystique that this author is loath to puncture.”

     The Wicker Man OST soundtrack-Jonny Trunk-Trunk Records-A Year In The CountryThe Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country 2

    “One of the curious things with The Wicker Man soundtrack (and indeed the film itself ) is that this is a case of where something authentic has been created from an inauthentic or commercially-orientated premise.

    The soundtrack has come to feel as though it features songs which have belonged to these isles for centuries: ones which are deeply rooted in the land, its folklore and history, when in fact a number of them were written and all were recorded especially for the film.”

     Ritual-David Pinner-First Edition-Finders Keepers Edition

    “Finders Keepers Records also reissued Ritual in 2011, which is the 1967 book by David Pinner, the basic idea and structure of which was in part the inspiration for what became The Wicker Man after David Pinner sold the film rights of the book to future Wicker Man cast member Christopher Lee in 1971.

    In both, a police officer attempts to investigate reports of a missing child in an enclosed rural area and has to deal with psychological trickery, seduction, ancient religious and ritualistic practices.

    The Finders Keepers reissue contains an introduction by writer and musician Bob Stanley called “A Note On Ritual”, which serves as an overview of and background to this very particular slice of literature which deals with pastoral otherlyness, the flipside and undercurrents of bucolia and folklore:

    ‘…be warned, like The Wicker Man, it is quite likely to test your dreams of leaving the city for a shady nook by a babbling brook.’ (Bob Stanley on Ritual from the introduction.)” 

    Inside The Wicker Man-Allan Brown-1st edition and revised edition The Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The Country 2Your Face Here-Ali Catterall-Simon Wells-The Wicker Man

    The Wicker Man has been extensively written about over the years, both online and in print, including Allan Brown’s entertaining and extensive unearthing and researching of the background and myths that surround the film in his book Inside The Wicker Man: How Not to Make a Cult Classic…

    A concise and revealing look at the film is also included in the 2002 book Your Face Here by Ali Catterall and Simon Wells…

    There is a rigour to the research in the book without it stepping into the sometimes drier grounds of academia and the text reflects a genuine love for and appreciation of these films…

    …the chapter now reflects a sense of the ongoing and growing story of this now quite well harvested in one form or another film, albeit one which through its ongoing appreciation and cultural inspirations/reverberations still occupies apparently quite fertile and not yet completely unearthed or unburied ground.” 

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

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

    “Of the reams of writing on The Wicker Man, Vic Pratt’s article “Long Arm of the Lore” from the October 2013 issue of the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine is well worth seeking out…

    The article intertwines the cultural and historical context of the film, the romance of analogue recording techniques and the inner and wider myth and folkloric aspects of it…

    In it Vic Pratt places The Wicker Man in its period cultural context of changing times and mores, considering how the children of the 1960s had grown up and taken their place in respectable society and sometimes the media, bringing or infiltrating their countercultural interests with them, possibly having lost some of their political fervour while also looking for the more authentic or spiritually fulfilling but not via traditional avenues.

    The article describes how accompanying this was a sense of folk custom, witchcraft and the occult no longer being quite such marginalised or extreme interests; they had become the stuff of relatively mainstream film, television, music and publishing and a reflection of this can be seen in the themes of The Wicker Man…

    In many ways, both this and the issue of the magazine could be seen as a companion to the August 2010 Sight & Sound issue, which has as its cover strapline “The Films of Old, Weird Britain”, accompanied by a Wicker Man-like, landscape myths and folk horror-esque illustration and features “The Pattern Under the Plough” article by Rob Young as its main feature.

    That article delves beneath the topsoil of British cinema to find a rich seam of films and television which take the landscape, rural ways, folklore (of the traditional and reimagined varieties) or ‘the matter of Britain’ as their starting point…”

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 10Akenfield film 1974sleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-A Year In The Country

    Derek Jarman-Journey to Avebury-still Patrick Keiller-Robinson in Space-film still Chris Petit-London Orbital-film still

    Quatermass and the Pit-Nigel Kneale-bluray cover artPendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 3

    “(Rob Young’s The Pattern Under the Plough article) further contextualises The Wicker Man, placing it alongside other such folk horror films as Witchfinder General. It then goes on to consider an interrelated loose grouping of films and television which in part explore those flipside Albionic cracks in the landscape.

    These include Winstanley (1975) and its dramatising of historical English Civil War era searching for an earthly paradise, the journey through a rural year of Akenfield (1974), the almost straight documentary that also seems to quietly explore the undercurrents of the land Sleep Furiously (2008)…

    It also includes considerations of and connects the above with the art film experiments and psychogeography (a form of explorative wandering) of Derek Jarman’s Journey to Avesbury (1971), Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Space (1997) and Chris Petit’s London Orbital (2002), the atavistic memories of Quatermass and the Pit (1967) and the layered spectral rural history tales of Penda’s Fen (1974).

     The Sneaker Pimps-How Do-Willows Song-Becoming X-Spin Spin Sugar-Kelli Ali-The Wicker Man 

    “The Wicker Man has also acted as a wider source of musical inspiration and influence, branching out into more mainstream and even chart music. The band Sneaker Pimps recorded a song called “How Do”, which is a version of “Willow’s Song” from The Wicker Man soundtrack and includes samples from the film…

    It was a curious thing for a quite pop orientated band, even if a more left-of-centre one, back then to include a song from The Wicker Man soundtrack. At the time of How Do’s release The Wicker Man was a known film but its extended and ever growing cultdom had not really started to gather pace yet and Trunk Records’ release of the soundtrack was still a couple of years away, so information about the film was probably still relatively thin on the ground.”

     Kelli Ali-Rocking Horse and Butterfly

    “In a possible further example of the ongoing influence of the film, in 2008 Kelli Ali, who was the singer with Sneaker Pimps at the time of Becoming X, released a pastoral folk inflected album called Rocking Horse on record label One Little Indian, which was produced by Max Richter…

    (On her album) Butterfly there is also another version of Willow’s Song, which takes it back nearer to its purely imagined folkloric roots and although being her own interpretation it is closer to how the song was performed for The Wicker Man’s soundtrack than the Sneaker Pimps version and indeed would not seem all that out of place if heard amongst the other music in the film.”

    Pulp-We Love Life-CD-back of cover-2001 Pulp-The Trees-Sunrise-CD singleForge Dam-Sheffield-Pulp-The Wicker Man-1Kill List-Ben Wheatley-A Year In The Country-4

    “In a further Wicker Man connection with one time chartbound bands, Pulp included a song called “Wickerman” on their 2001 album, We Love Life.

    The song is a multi-layered piece of culture, one that interweaves samples from the original The Wicker Man film soundtrack recording and hence otherly folkloric concerns, alongside a sense of urban exploration, the true life history of the band, spoken word, a certain grandiosity in its production (possibly courtesy of producer Scott Walker), the social history of Sheffield and surrounding areas and a yearning, wistful love story…

    …members of Pulp went on an expedition through tunnels beneath Sheffield that were used for sluicing industrial run off… that journey became increasingly dangerous feeling and… it inspired the Pulp song Wickerman…

    …what the real life story of the band wandering through those tunnels also brings to mind is the underground tunnel sequence in Ben Wheatley’s 2011 film Kill List, and its related occult vision of folkloric machinations; lines from which could be connected backwards to The Wicker Man and its flipside views, expressions and interpretations of folklore and an unsettled take on pastoralism.”

     The Wicker Man-construction-production photograph The Wicker Man-1973-Production notes The Wickerman-lost scene in hairdressersWillow Umbrella-Christopher Lee-The Wicker Man-1973

    “Along with the above books, articles and records which explore and/or draw inspiration from The Wicker Man there are an extensive number of websites and documentaries which focus on the film.

    One of the most in depth of such websites is The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia site which on a recent visit had 138 different pages related to the film…

    Of particular note are the images of the construction of The Wicker Man structure used in the film and also the numbered on-set and press photographs taken from contact sheets.

    Even though they are on a public site these seem to offer a semi-hidden view or a glance behind the curtain of the film.

    However, despite this they do not diminish the mystique or myths of the film, which can sometimes be the case with such photographs or “How We Made the Film” documentaries and DVD extras.

    This is possibly because The Wicker Man has such a multi-layered set of myths around it, some of which are intrinsically connected and interwoven with the production of the film itself and related backstories, all of which have become part and parcel of its intriguing nature.”

     The Wicker Man BBC Scotland On Screen 2009 

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005-b2

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005-2

    “Further behind the scenes views and discussion can be found in a now quite considerable number of The Wicker Man documentaries, including those on the various DVD/Blu-ray releases of the film and also in documentaries which were originally broadcast on television.

    These include:

    1) The Wicker Man/BBC Scotland on Screen (2009), in which actor Alan Cumming wanders around the film’s locations, with how they are today segueing into scenes from the film…

    This features… the woman who runs the gallery where the sweet shop scene was filmed (who says something along the lines of some visiting tourists thinking that those who live in the area actually are pagans).

    2) The Wicker Man episode of the BBC 4 series Cast and Crew (2005), which hosts a round table discussion of the film.

    (Which includes) cast members Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt being her delightfully eccentric and expressive self (slightly embarrassing/ awkward for more reserved British sensibilities to know how to cope with this)…

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

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

    (Another Wicker Man related documentary is) Sing Cuckoo: The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Sound track… 

    (Which features) the musicians Stephen Cracknell of The Memory Band and Mike Lindsay of Tuung (who have both created and released The Wicker Man-related work) and Jonny Trunk who is variously an archival record researcher, collector, writer and was responsible for the release of the first commercial edition of The Wicker Man’s soundtrack via his label Trunk Records…

    There is something very evocative and moving about this particular documentary and it has a certain classiness to it, a sense of a deep respect for the film both by those shown in it and from behind the camera.

    Part of that is the way it is divided into titled chapters that connect with the themes of the film and its influence; Creation, Isolation, Resurrection, Inspiration and Resolution…”

     Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI-Stephen Cracknell-Mike Lindsay 

    “In terms of some of the reasons for the ongoing and expanding appeal of the film and its soundtrack, Stephen Cracknell makes an incisive point about how the songs have become like folk standards for young indie-folk musicians and says:

    “I think it will go on influencing people by giving them this idea of ‘Wow, you can be playful and sexy and daring and scary, not just reverential with old music and make it new and vibrant’. It stands like a beacon for that really.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 10 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.

     

    continue reading