The ether has given space, nooks and crannies to all kinds and manner of niche interests…
…although I expect the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society is one of the more niche, even amongst the further flung of such crannies…
As somebody who can be endlessly fascinated by these interconnected parts of our societies’ infrastructure, I can appreciate the sentiment of such a site (although part of me hankers after days when such a thing would have been a hard to find samizdat stapled zine)…
And such infrastructure underpins some of the core themes touchstones of A Year In The Country; the film Threads, its cold war and beyond dread takes its name from such lines and well, threads, which bind a society together, allowing it to function and communicate and how easily disrupted such gossamer strands can be.
The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society declares that its aim is to celebrate “the glorious everyday mundanitude of these simple silent sentinels the world over”, which has a rather fine poetic lyricism and intent.
Amongst its pages you will find Pole Of The Month and Pole Appreciation Day alongside reporting on an appreciation of poles from around the world… and it’s a sense of appreciation that is woven tightly throughout this collection and body of work; though sometimes cast in jovial language, there is a genuine love for these utilitarian objects, an appreciation of their (possibly) accidental art.
For some reason it reminds me of the fun, farce and foibles that are particularly peculiar to this particular island… it seems like but a hop, skip and step or two away from the trial and tribulations of Reggie Perrin-isms.
Visit The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society in the ether here.
Visit the creation of aviaristic refuges via listening post perching at Day #46/365.
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #35/52.
Well, around these parts I seem to often refer to and be drawn to cultural artifacts from one year in particular, 1973…
If I see that something was made in 1973 I tend to be more interested in it and there’s not a lot of leighway. It’s not an overtly conscious thing but when perusing anything past that year I tend to feel that it represents a move and tumble towards a sea change in society…
…earlier, particularly around 1970 and there still tends to be a 1960s psych/mod sharpness to it, cultural work from that time hasn’t yet become a reflection of the end of a dream and a society that wasn’t yet fully struggling with the changes and aftermath from that awakening…
And so, I was curious to cast my eye and mind back to that particular year and over the days, weeks and months of A Year In The Country and a few interconnected pathways to see what I turned up from that particular year…
1) Day #273/365: Dark and Lonely Water… a recent visiting, which in part prompted this particular wandering, surveying and gathering; probably the hauntological Public Information Film. All scattered debris and that voice…
2) Day #90/365: The Wickerman… well, need I say more. Quite possibly the touchstone for all things interconnected to A Year In The Country and particular cultural explorations of an otherly Albion… a reflection of 60s counter cultural urges and explorations gone wayward/bad?…
3) Day #37/365: Psychomania; Nicky Henson and zombie motorcyclers bothering shoppers in 1970s Britain? Well, count me in for that I think…
4) Day #266/365: Judy Dyble stepped back from making music; well, the removal of such a voice from the landscape in itself could well be seen to harken a wandering into darker times.
5) Day #195/365: World On A Wire; a rather prescient virtual reality… also curiously against the grain of 1970s grit…
6) Day #1973/365: Preliminary filming began on the final Quatermass series; ah, I only recently discovered this. It makes the series make more sense in a way as it seems like such a reflection of a society that was in dire strife/potentially collapsing, as was the way in 1973… such things were still going on by the time of its broadcast but by then the stamping heels of a certain iron lady were already marking the soul of the land.
7) Day #213/365: Soylent Green… part of the mini-genre of ecology/resources having gone to heck in a handbasket. Spoiler alert: “Soylent Green Is People”… make room, make room.
8) Day #87/365; The Asphyx… of all the Hammer films, this one seems to have stuck with my imagination from all the years back, more concept than shock’n’horror driven perhaps? ‘Tis many years since I have seen it but I was reminded and returned to it via the work of Cathy and Eric Ward…
9) The Final Programme; talking of earlier 1970s films often seeming like they belonged more to a particular kind of sharp psychedelia… something of a cuckoo in the nest. It escaped into the world in 1973 and while it showed a side of decadence gone dark it also seems to stroll equally from a dandified 1960s counter-culture.
10) Blue Blood; I once heard myself describe this as being like The Wicker Man without a plot. On a rewatching it’s not necessarily but a line could be drawn from that film to this… Mr Oliver Read and companies questionable allegiances in a country estate; probably nearer to the bubble occurring decadences of Performance (and maybe a touch of The Servant) but with a background of truth, a lord of the land with multiple wifelets, a Page 3 girl and redecorating of the stately home with DIY rather physically amative murals… not sure if this particular celluloid story would be made today. Unsettling/troubling are words that come to mind.
11) Day #10/365: England Made Me; the film but when I think of it tends to send me back to Black Box Recorder’s album of the same name… a very particular non-hauntological slice of hauntology and to semi-quote Rob Young, appears to have sprung from a mythological England of the past that has its own particular brutalities but ones which are all English stiff upper lip and quietly furious repression.
12) Day #46/365: The Changes (filmed in 1973, released in 1975); ah, the bad wires – a tale of a world that has rejected and destroyed all modern technology to return to an almost medieval/feudal way of life and in which the sound of the combustion engine has become the mark of the devil… I suspect it was considered a little too close to home to be broadcast in the year of its making to a nation huddled around candles and suffering from the effects of an oil crisis.
13) Carry On Girls; ah, Carry on films. These feel like they have become part of our modern-day folklore, the soul of England in a way. This particular part of the series seems to fairly directly reflect a Britain in crisis and a tipping point where the aforementioned 60s utopian dream curdled, as did British cinema, to descend into smutty farce and tattered screens.
As I’ve mentioned around these parts before, 1973 in Britain was a particular unsettled time politically and socially; there was an almighty battle between organised labour and the elected (but essentially oligarchically self-appointed) managers of the land, an oil shortage and power crisis, a 3 day working week and so forth…
…and one thing that has stuck in my head along the way towards and through this A Year In The Country is Rob Young’s comment that possibly people were drawn to folk/folkloric/pastoral culture and its projection of undisturbed imagined idylls as an escape from that… hence Steeleye Span in the charts and one of folk/folk rock’s high water marks in popularity and amongst the wider society.
And while I’m talking about borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth and slightly guilty pleasures (see Day #273/365)…
When I was a considerably younger personage than I am now I had a small number of book adaptations of films that used multiple photographs from their cinematic parents in order to tell their story in a live action comic strip/annotated stills manner.
You would see similar kinds of things in romance comics, where the tales of loves won, lost and fretted over were represented by posed actors…
Very occasionally since I’ll come across such a book from back when that I haven’t seen before and they always seem like quite a find, an odd little corner of culture and merchandising.
Or indeed Punk magazine’s couple of issues done in that vein that featured New York’s downtown/blank generation cognoscenti such as Debbie Harry, Richard Hell, Chris Stein, Joey Ramone, David Johansen and the like. Good stuff if you should ever find such a thing.
They’re known as fumetti apparently, somewhat popular on the continent.
The only other time I have come across such things was in the pages of the revival of Eagle comic in the early 1980s…
…and talking of revivals and revivifications… a day or so ago I had a wander through the folkloric, folk-horror, science fiction and fantasy borrowings of the remake of Randall & Hopkirk (deceased)…
…and talking of that and fumettis, I thought a bit of a mix and match of the two may well be appropriate.
…which is largely a rather sizeable amount of The Wickerman (which is… spoiler alert… postmodernly referred in the episode itself)…
…and along the way a somewhat familiar approach to a particular island state, a dash of Doctor Who-esque 1970s costume clad monsters…
…a 1970s Doctor himself, a police officer who has the physiognomy of Sergeant Howie’s brackish beliefs, a visit to the eccentric Lord of the manner…
…folkloric costumes as decoration in the lordly manor which remind me somewhat of the (car crash) of The Wicker Tree…
…the kung fu butler from The Pink Panther… hi-jinks with the locals in the very local hostelry… the hiding of the covenant in Raiders Of The Lost Ark… some more chasing by those costume clad folkloric monsters… “I would’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” Scooby Doo-esque unveliing… the transformations of Altered States courtesy of Ken Rusell…
Anyways… complete the captions below…
…and you could add to that list, although not directly represented in the fumetti above but in the episode itself…
…an island state that produces its own unique foodstuff under the direction of one particular lord and master… the ecological worries and disasters of Doomwatch (another part of the mini-genre of ecology and resources gone to heck in a handbasket that was somewhat prevalent in the 1970s).
Oh and although without an ability to take references from cultural work that hasn’t yet happened, this is unlikely to have been a reference point… but there is more than a dash of the workmanlike-took-me-a-few-goes-to-get-through-but-I-don’t-seem-to-hate-it-as-much-as-I-thought-I-would-and-its-still-better-than-The-Wicker-Tree remake of The Wicker Man in the playing with gender expectations and roles in this Fair Isle story.
A visit to that particular mini-genre in the company of No Blade Of Grass, Z.P.G., Soylent Green, Phase IV, The Omega Man, Logan’s Run at Day #88/365… artifacts from that curious mini-genre at Day #213/365… and a visual tip of the hat to both that particular mini-genre and a particular lionheart(ess) at Day #83/365.
I have a mild soft-spot for the turn of the millennium remake of Randall and Hopkirk (deceased), chaired by Charlie Higson, starring Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Emilia Fox and a gloriously white-haired Tom Baker.
It is a series which concerns itself with a still living private investigator who is visited/helped/hindered by the white-suited ghost of his former partner (the deceased of the title) and isn’t a million miles away from the likes of say Doctor Who in its mixing of fantasy and science fiction in a mainstream setting.
And yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it has that curiously dated appearance that cultural work from the 90s and around then currently has… not yet old enough to have gained a patina of retro fetishistic kitsch, not quite modern enough to fit with current tastes… yes, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s acting isn’t necessarily going to be having Sir turning in his grave but…
…it’s good knockabout fun. Nothing too challenging but it often shows a great love for a whole slew of fantasy, crime horror and science fiction films, television literature etc from years gone by.
The episode Man Of Substance in particular, which seems to predate Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz in a number of its themes, borrowings and the story of a sleepy country idyll gone bad by a year or few…
It begins somewhat noirishly with a red silk clad femme fatale giving a private eye the glad eye and purr in his office…
…before it wanders off to a classic chocolate box English idyll of a village… all tea rooms, commemorative tea towels, an avuncular British bobby on the beat (who appears to be the living incarnation of a laughing policeman you might have chuckle for 20p at the seaside); a neat, quiet and tidy piece of heritage real estate.
But… well, not so surprisingly things aren’t quite what they seem (spoiler alert about now)…
The village has a dark secret or two and quite quickly turns more than a little Belbury/Hot Fuzz like; something is not quite right in this particular chocolate box.
Essentially its population have been trapped inbetween life and death, unable to leave the village since the days that a pestilence had cleared a considerable percentage of the English population a number of centuries previously.
I guess we should have known something wasn’t quite right when we passed that monument earlier on the way into the village that looked as though it should have been on the cover of one of the John Barleycorn Reborn Dark Britannica albums (see Day #248/365).
Along the way towards the almost taking over the world shennanigans that the villagers get up to, the episodes wanders into the territory of/borrows from;
The Wickerman… petal scattering woodland nymphs dance through the churchyard… 1970-ish British horror portmanteau films such as The Monster Club and its “you’re never going to escape from the village” theme… medievalistic fetishistic pleasures by way of Curse Of The Crimson Altar… a touch of Hansel and Gretel and the fattening up of the chose calfs… the somewhat unpleasant punishments of the incarcerated via The Witchfinder General (or it’s less well-known brethren The Bloody Judge)… maybe even a touch of Penda’s Fen and its sense of the mythic/mystical in the landscape and returning kings… and back to The Wickerman, as the fool becomes the king for the day (and eternity) during a local festival in service of the communities ends and a pyre is made for a sacrifical burning…
…and just having Tom Baker, possibly still the archetypal Doctor Who, in amongst it all makes it fundamentally interconnected in the minds of watchers of a certain vintage with certain culture and tropes. Oh and that’s before we get to Gareth Thomas, one Federation fighting Blake’s 7 leader as a real ale pushing pub landlord who later turns out in his festival garb only to be revealed as a centuries old medieval lord of the manor…
At the time of its transmission the revivification of all things Wicker Man and folk-horror-ish had not yet fully gained pace and yet here are many of its themes and interests looked to for peak viewing entertainment.
(Just prior to Randall & Hopkirk’s broadcast the The Wickerman soundtrack had been first sent out into the world in 1998 on its own via the efforts and investigating of Jonny Trunk and Trunk Records, which has been thought to have been one of the sparks that reignited that particular conflagration of interest but the number of different references to fantastic fictions from before it suggest a knowledge, interest and love of such things that stretches back some way… Randall & Hopkirk isn’t as dark but thinking back this episode may have shared some ground with the similar time period’s The League Of Gentleman 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).
So, borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth… as a TV episode this is a guilty pleasure but a pleasure nonetheless.
A previous glimpse of Albion in the overgrowth at Day #146/365, in the good company of pop-psych-folk courtesy of Stealing Sheep.
Some background information on Randall & Hopkirk (deceased) via the electronic pages of the world’s current Encyclopedia Britannica-And-All-Else here.
The Curse Of The Crimson Altar and the majesty of Ms Steele at Day #184/365.
That from which it borrows: The Wickerman – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore at Day #90/365.
Day #273/365: Artifact #39/52; She Rocola Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother town CD released – Night / Day Editions
She Rocola Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother town CD.
Night Edition £22.00. Day edition £15.00.
Night Edition: Limited to 52 copies. £22.00.
Hand finished box-set contains: album on all black CDr, 12 page string bound booklet, 4 x 25mm badge pack, 3 x vinyl style waterproof stickers.
1) Booklet/cover art custom printed using archival Giclée pigment ink.
2) Contained in a matchbox style sliding two-part rigid matt card box.
3) Printed box cover print.
4) Fully black CDr (black on top, black on playable side).
5) Black string bound 12.8cm x 12.8cm booklet:
a) Hand numbered and signed
b) Hand bone creased cover.
c) 12 pages (6 sides printed).
d) Front and rear covers are printed on 310gsm textured fine art cotton rag paper.
e) Two inner sheets are printed on 245gsm paper.
f) Two inner sheets are printed on semi-transparent 110gsm vellum paper.
6) 4 x 25mm/1″ badge set, contained in a see-through polythene bag with a folded card header.
7) 3 x vinyl style waterproof stickers: 9.5 x 6.8cm, 7.2 x 6.8cm, 2.9 x 2.6cm.
Day Edition: Limited to 52 copies. £15.00.
Day Edition Details:
1) Booklet custom printed using archival Giclée pigment ink.
2) Wrapped in wax sealed, hand stamped black tissue paper.
3) White/black CDr (white on top, black on playable side).
4) Jute string bound 14.4cm x 13.2cm booklet:
a) Hand bone creased cover.
b) 10 pages (5 sides printed);
c) Front and rear covers are printed on 310gsm textured fine art cotton rag paper.
d) Two inner sheets are printed on 245gsm paper.
e) One inner sheet is printed on semi-transparent 110gsm vellum paper.
h) Hand numbered and signed.
5) CDr held in protective fleece-lined sleeve.
Burn The Witch (2014)
Words: She Rocola.
Music: Andrea Fiorito.
Vocals: She Rocola.
Violin: Andrea Fiorito.
Recorded and produced by Joe Whitney and Andrea Fiorito.
Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town (2014)
Words: She Rocola.
Music: She Rocola/Joe Whitney.
Vocals & Guitar: She Rocola.
Bass & Toy Piano: Joe Whitney.
Recorded and produced by Joe Whitney.
Artwork and packaging design by AYITC Ocular Signals Department.
Ms She Rocola’s dress is inspired by a beetle wing dress made for Ellen Terry in the 19th century. The dress was originally designed and made by Mrs Nettleship…
The intention was to make the original dress “…look as much like soft chain armour as I could and yet have something that would give the appearance of the scales of a serpent… (it is) sewn all over with real green beetle wings, and a narrow border in Celtic designs, worked out in rubies and diamonds“.
The song Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town draws from Ms She Rocola’s own personal folklore and that of her home town; childhood experiences of chasing her playmates around Molly Leigh’s grave and the rhymes which accompanied such games. It is an audiological conjuring of hazy, sleepy small-hours memories and dreams from those times.
Burn The Witch’s story is interconnected with those childhood memories and is in part inspired by formative viewings of late-night folk-horror films from in front of and behind the sofa.
Here at A Year In The Country, we are proud to be able to send these stories out into the world.
The story and mythology of Molly Leigh can be investigated further here.
Prices include free UK shipping. Normally ships within 7-14 days.
Preview Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town below.
Previous wandering amongst the corn rigs and Victorian light catching with Ms She Rocola at
Day #39/365 of A Year In The Country.
The full current library of the A Year In The Country Audiological Research and Pathways series:
Case Study #1: Grey Frequency: Immersion
Case Study #2: Hand of Stabs: Black-Veined White
Case Study #3: Michael Tanner: Nine of Swords
Case Study #4: United Bible Studies: Doineann
Case Study #5: She Rocola: Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town
I find Axel Hoedt’s images of German folkloric costume, from his Once A Year book, somewhat intriguing and also somewhat unsettling.
…they put me in mind of folklore as rethought by club kids (think Party Monster), with a certain percentage of 1970s Doctor “how do we scare the heck out of people for relatively tuppence ha’penny” Who added for good measure.
There’s a sense of being in amongst the denizens of a land far from the twee fields of folklore with this particular slice of karnivalesque dressing up…
This is from information about the book:
“The Swabian-Alemannic carnival, known as Fasnacht, Fastnacht or Fasnet, is a custom in southwest Germany when the cold and grim spirits of winter are symbolically hunted down and expelled. Every year around January and February processions of people make their way through the streets of Endingen, Sachsenheim, Kissleg, Singen, Wilfingen and Triberg dressed up lavishly as demons, witches, earthly spirits and fearful animals to enact this scene of symbolic expulsion.”
The language used seems brutal and harsh; hunted down, expelled, expulsion, fearful…
The creatures his photographs capture (and I use that word somewhat appropriately and possibly hopefully) seem like the darker urban cousins of Charles Frégers Wilder Mann (see Day #65/365), which in themselves are not all cuddly and light… but Axel Hoedt’s once a year capturees are voyagers from further flung outlands and less well-lit crevices of imagination.
Hmmm. Not sure I want to spend all that much time amongst these particular revelers…
Day #271/365: The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water and a hop and skip to lost municipal paternalisms…
The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water is a “classic” Public Information Film from 1973, renowned for having scared the heck out of a generation of youngster…
Public Information Films were a curiously blunt tool used to educate the population, often on matters of health and safety, issued by the government-run/funded Central Office Of Information in the UK. The whole structure, naming and concept puts me in mind of a previous eras underfunded, unsophisticated take on a kind of benign paternal, “we know best” tea and limp sandwiches committee in charge of a sub-sub-sub-Orwellianism… but which actually may well have sprung forth in part from that previous eras social consensus orientated wish to help, nurture and protect its citizens.
The first thing that struck me when I went back to revisit this particular Public Information Film was some kind of similarity with that other cultural artefact of 1973, The Wickerman, at the point when Lord Summerisle tells Sergeant Howie of the characteristics he had that made him ideal as their sacrifice/source of plant renewal…
“I am the spirit of dark and lonely water, ready to trap the unwary, the show-off, the fool…”
“A man who would come here of his own free will. A man who has come here with the power of a king by representing the law… A man who has come here as a fool…”
(Of course, adding some extra phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium to the plants nourishment via a good fertiliser may well have had a better chance of increasing apple growth but probably wouldn’t have made for as good a story. Such are human foibles…)
I suppose in part, both films have come to signify/been repurposed to become part of a form of modern-day folklore… The Wickerman more directly in a folkloric sense, Dark And Lonely Water more in a hauntological manner.
Also, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it might have been. On a first re-viewing I found it oddly almost comic in a way, although that may just be my mind connecting particular clothing aesthetics with knockabout 1970s childrens shows.
But then what struck me was the scene that pans across rusted debris on a river bank…
“Under the water there are traps: old cars, bedsteads, weeds, hidden depths…”
There was something about this, mixed with the styles of clothing in the film and the sense of, well essentially playing on wastelands, that reminded me of just how foreign and far away place the early 1970s are from today; the journey that a society has gone on from youngsters playing amongst a cultures debris, in the muddy puddles and potential deathtraps of its then edgelands (although that world did not yet exist at the time) and discarded places to a time of much more intensified commodification and birthday trips to softplay centres and the like that cost hundreds of pounds.
In that sense, the film seems like an antideluvian recording of a pre-Thatcher, (not actually) end of history, the market is all time and with but a hop and a skip or two could be seen as a document produced during one of the times when UK society was battling over its future shape, order and social consensus. A transmission from a time when the future was being fought over and lost; hence the link to the themes/interests of hauntological study and its yearnings for forgotten futures and municipally organised utopias.
Such themes/work appear to consider in part that maybe such paternalistic tendencies within politics/society weren’t such a bad thing, particularly in contrast with the harsher market lead times in which we live; a sense that what was once considered Big Brother was also possibly a more nuanced “big brother”.
So yes, it’s that year, 1973.
A few earlier and outside pathways;
Playing amongst the discards and the work of Jon Brooks: Mind How You Go; Day #81/365.
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #34/52.
And while I’m in the subject of overlooked gems that turned my head towards the further fringes of folk music and its possibilities away from the cultural stereotypes that can be associated with it (see Day #266/365)…
Forest’s Graveyard, which I also discovered via Bob Stanley’s Gather In The Mushrooms compilation (see way back near the start of the year here).
For a long time I knew almost nothing about Forest and quite enjoyed it that way. In fact, I knew so little that for a good while of that long time I had assumed that the singer was female…
I’ve actually read quite a bit about them I think but my mind seems to have quite quietly hidden away the associated information and I seem to enjoy just wandering off into the music.
The little else I know; they were a trio from the late 1960s/earlier 1970s who hailed from a Northern English town (with a most unethereal name considering the music they produced). One of the band has since worked on music with his son which appears on one of the Dark Britannica John Barleycorn albums (see Day #248/365)…
They put out two albums and then… well, no more.
How would I define Forest’s Graveyard? Well, minstrel like, classical/early music/medieval balladry, acid/psych folk may well be a reasonable reference point… gothic folk maybe?
On first glance the cover of the album Full Circle from when and where the song came appear quite pleasant, gently, pastoral and whimsical… and photographs of the band from the time put me in mind of the gentle kind of English reverie that the likes of Bagpuss and Emily may well have sprung from…
…but if you should step into the inner sleeve of Full Circle or listen closely to the lyrics of Graveyard… well that would be stepping towards the territory of the unsettling folk-horror of the likes of Comus.
And now that I come to type and think about it, it would not be particularly hard to draw a line that stretched from this song and forward to what is sometimes labelled doom-folk, gloom-folk, neo-folk, pagan-folk and the like… the outer, darker shores of folk music that are associated with and in a way a mutation from certain strands of industrial music (more in the exploratory art sense, ie post-Throbbing Gristle than the electronic body music use of that genre name)… some of which is explored on the aforementioned Dark Britannica series.
(If you should wish to explore such things, then heading towards the work of Novemthree may well prove fruitful – see Day #86/365)…
Considerably more background information and story on Forest courtesy of Terrascope here.
Well, this is something of a hop, skip and step back to near the start of the year…
Morning Way by Trader Horne, as come upon by my good self amongst the oft-overlooked treasures of Gather In The Mushrooms (see below)…
To my mind and ear this particular song is something of an apotheosis of all things that have come to be known as acid/psych folk.
It sits just at a particular point at the very end of the 1960s/very start of the 1970s and in amongst its notes there is a crystalline purity of a heady, exploratory dream just before it began to tip over into something and somewhere else.
The song is from the album of the same name (their only album it pains me to say)… and talking of playful lysergisms, the cover art reminds me of Malcom English’s Carnaby Street illustrations but re-thought by way of Oliver Postgate and The Pogles, maybe after stepping out for an imbibe and escapade or two with Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius (albeit during an evening when he was in a lighter mood)…
I’ve mentioned this before but this was probably one of two songs that I heard where I thought “Hmmm, something interesting going on here, this isn’t the idea of folk music that I thought I knew”…
It’s a decidedly explorative (that phrase again) track but also wonderfully melodic and accessible. It is a shimmering and a promise of an other world that you may just be able to step into, amongst and back to, even if only for but a few brief moments.
I’ve just gone away and taken a look and listen at the lyrics in full for Morning Way… the opening set of lines still stops me in my tracks when I hear them… and looking at the remainder of the lyrics, there’s a sadness, a gladness, a hope and an optimism to what may well be somebody’s passing.
…and in an alternative timeline, Judy Dyble of Trader Horne went on to be lauded as one of the voices of the high watermark of folk rock (prior to this she sang with an early incarnation of Fairport Convention but stepped back from music in 1973 for a number of years… ah, it’s that year again).
With that in mind, that other timeline I expect would need to be curated and visualised by Psychedelic Folkloristic (once again, see below),
Ah, we can but dream.
Talking of which…
Dreaming strands of nightmare
Are sticking to my feet
It’s time to wake up and throw away
The last remaining sheet
Sunlight sliding down my back
And dripping on the gray
It’s time to watch the dawning light
Reveal the morning way
Dreams are fading
Now it’s nearly noon
And then it’s afternoon
The leaves are creeping
Green inside the day
To where the friends
Who used to lend me love
Are all above my head
And looking down at me
To smile at how it ought to be
To where the friends
Who used to lend me love
Are all above my head
And looking down at me
To smile at how it ought to be
Visit Mr Bob Stanley’s rather fine collection of such semi-lost gems, Gather In The Mushrooms, here.
Visit a few other crystalline voices that have been lost and found over the years at Day #141/365.
Ms Judy Dyble in the ether today here.
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #32/52.
I must apologise for today’s brevity but I have a calling to go wassailing in Kensington Park…continue reading
Day #264/365: Weird Britain In Exile: A Bakers Dozen of Cuttings and Clippings Concerning Psychic Heterotopias, Collections Writ Large and Imagined Arcane Mirrorings
And while I’m thinking about the sense of good vs bad retro in relation to hauntology (see Day #262/365)…
The quotes from this page are from an academic article by Jamie Sexton called Weird Britain in Exile: Ghost Box, Hauntology, and Alternative Heritage.
Although academically formal in nature, it doesn’t tend to stray too far into the drier fields of such things and serves as an interesting overview and debate of a number of themes surrounding such things, taking in along the way the aforementioned Ghost Box Records, English Heretic, Mark Fisher (see Day #163/365), the writing of Simon Reynolds and the wanderings of Iain Sinclair and Shena Mackay (see Day #225/365 and Day #222/365).
It’s a curious world where it has become acceptable for their to be serious academic study of areas of culture which would have previously been considered throwaway, too much a part of low/pop culture etc.
That’s not said in a judgemental on either side manner, more just its intriguing when you can wander through the isles of the library deposits of such places and go “Oh, there’s the section on mondo British trash cinema” and the like…
If you take one of the aspects of hauntological culture to be a kind of mourning for lost futures and the nurturing/space provided by publicly funded creative and municipal projects, then academia could well be seen to be one of the last outposts of such freer spaces; a place where society goes to think and dream, to semi-quote William Gibson.
Although now those particular spaces are more likely to be at least partly funded via the future earnings and debts of its temporary participants than via the public purse.
An interesting mirroring occurs between the article and its subject of hauntology/Ghost Box Records…
In Simon Reynolds article on such things, Haunted Audio (again see Day #262/365), he says about some of the cultural creators who have been labelled hauntological: “Like Stereolab or the England’s Hidden Reverse groups (Current 93, Coil, etc) they enjoy the game of mystique cultivation but feel an equally strong impulse to edify, a pedagogic compulsion to share their knowledge treasure.”
If you should replace the names/groupings of musicians with that of academia/academics, particularly in the realms of media studies, then more or less the same could apply.
Ghost Box and cohorts appear to often take the ordinary and reimagine/reinterpret it so that it is presented in a more arcane manner. So, once mainstream television transmissions and films become otherly reflections and reinterpretations of themselves.
Academia carries out a not dissimilar activity in the realms of popular media investigations by applying its own esoteric language, rituals, naming structures, cataloguing and so forth.
Upon finishing reading this article, wherein one arcane cultural investigator considers the work of other but separate arcane investigators, I came away with the sense that somewhere, in an imaginary parallel existence, Ghost Box Records and interconnected compatriots had carried out a study on the intriguing semi-hidden world of academics.
The article discusses legitimate vs non-legitimate cultural curators/collectors/collections (ie museums vs bedroom record etc archivists) and retro/pastiche orientated work when it is self-aware/declaring as opposed to strictly revivalist… but accompanying that is an unacknowledged and quite intriguing subtext of its own cultural position and milieu mirroring of such things.
Below is a selection of cuttings and clippings from this particular investigation:
1) “…critics have tended to steer away from exploring issues such as nostalgia and pastiche within the work of such artists due to their rather negative connotations; yet these concepts are crucial to the strategies of many hauntological artists.”
2) “Psychic Heterotopias… refer to places that exist within society (unlike utopias) but which are in some senses separate from, and other to, the broader social space within which they exist.”
3) “One of the key themes feeding into this strain of hauntology is the role of the collector. Ghost Box, for example, is a label that emerged with a very particular aesthetic identity forged from a mixture of speciﬁc references. It was, in a sense, a particular aspect of its owners’ collections writ large, a projection of their tastes.”
4) “…socially less respectable collector-organizations emerging around the nineteenth century, such as wax museums… It is this “underside” of collecting which informs the Ghost Box aesthetic, though its collecting is largely based on recordable media—record collectinginparticular,butalsothecollectionofbooks,ﬁlms,andtelevision programs.”
5) “Rare records, in their very sacredness, have recovered some of the specialness lost to mass-produced, commodiﬁed artworks.”
6) “The regularity of particular types of material—horror and other forms of fantastic media, outdated forms of media hardware, state-assisted education initiatives,antiquated visions of the future—forming this aesthetic is so insistent that it must also be considered a form of curating, of highlighting particular cultural artifacts as worthy of preservation, a process of “containing the past to recover and revivify it.”
7) “…introduces a new model of media access and amateur historiography that, whilst the images are imperfect and the links are impermanent nonetheless realizes much of the… potential to circulate rare, ephemeral, and elusive texts.”
8) “…there exist a number of what could be termed marginal movements which place an emphasis on different kinds of heritage from those propounded by organizations such as the National Trust or English Heritage. Ghost Box and its affiliates can be partly related to this surge of interest in marginal national history, in preserving a form of alternative heritage.”
9) Via English Heretic: “…we aim to help people decode and realise the alchemical ciphers and conspiratorial interplay of the buildings and landscapes around them.”
10) “The “media pilgrimage” has become a common part of modern life, as physical locations become overwritten with meanings and values which emerge from their use within ﬁctional environments.”
11) “Mount Vernon Arts Lab’s The Seance at Hobs Lane, is also inspired by a ﬁctional location featured within Quatermass and the Pit… and can be considered to be a kind of ritual sound excursion inspired by a ﬁctional space.“
12) “This, as noted, is a quite self-conscious defamiliarization of more conservative notions of heritage: whereas that form of heritage generally celebrates the past as a safe haven, Ghost Box emphasizes the more eerie, unsettling vestiges of cultural history; whereas that mode of heritage viliﬁed post-war Brutalist architecture, Ghost Box includes it as another inspirational touchstone… an uncanny experience occurs either when infantile complexes which have been repressed are once more revived by some impression, or when primitive beliefs which have been surmounted seem once more to be conﬁrmed…. By being placed within a uniﬁed aesthetic framework, these apparently dissimilar references are uncannily connected, made strange through their interrelationships.”
12)b) “Thus, similar to the way in which Ghost Box can be seen as engaging in alternative forms of heritage, it can also be considered to be practicing alternative forms of nostalgia and pastiche… this is a mode of pastiche that can be largely differentiated from other forms through its ransacking of generally obscure sources. It is, therefore, not so much the absence of pastiche and nostalgia that typiﬁes the label and its general critical acclaim, but rather the displacing of these concepts through strategies of selectivity and framing.”
The article can be read (after jumping through a few hoops) here.
It was interesting stepping back to a high-water mark of earlier interest in all things spectral and hauntological via Simon Reynolds Haunted Audio article in Wire magazine…
This was a time when the (non)genre (see Day #162/365) of hauntology hadn’t fully settled on a name yet and there were a few such things being bandied around; eldritchonica, sampladelia, memoradelia and the like, something which this article considers.
These other names would come to be but placeholders, in I suppose a not dissimilar way that the gothic subculture and bands were initially tagged with the label positive punk – a phrase which has now been passed largely to the footnote of footnotes of history.
The article is a consideration of some of the history, prime purveyors and interconnected cultural workers who have sent what was then coming to be labelled hauntological out into the world; it takes in Ghost Box Records, the re-archiving tendencies of Jonny Trunk, the magpie-isms of Mordant Music and predecessors such as Position Normal, Boards of Canada and the work of the Radiophonic Workshop alongside philosophical considerations of the unearthing of the past via sampling and the tendency within such work to “look forward to the past”.
And also it is the seeding for Simon Reynolds chapter on such things, Ghosts Of Futures Past: Sampling, Hauntology and Mashups, in his book Retromania.
One of the things that struck me within the article was that you could see the roots of the frustration with an endless cycle of disinterring pop cultures past and his books confrontation of “a central paradox of our era… we’re empowered by mind-blowing technology, but too often it’s used as a time machine or as a tool to shuffle and rearrange music from yesterday” (from the back cover of the book).
Now, when I listen to “young people’s music” and it’ songs appear to be overly faithful replications of a band from the past that I can’t quite place, all done with a very sharp eye for the details of that reproduction, well I tend to find myself wandering off pretty quickly.
But then such music probably isn’t particularly aimed at or intended for personages of my particular age. Bands from my younger days often sounded not too dissimilar to bands that had come before but I didn’t yet know about the predecessors.
And it didn’t matter. I still found this newly recorded music to be vital, something to share, live and love amongst.
Maybe at the moment pop culture’s forward movement isn’t in the form of distinctive, well-defined new aesthetics, chronologically arranged and advancing. Maybe it is more taking the shape of methods of transmission and transference (ie via the ever multiplying avenues for sending out zeros and one encased audiological work, its corporeal equivalents and the endless nattering, chattering and discussing about such things in amongst the ether).
To semi-quote Billy Childish (who can also be found in Retromania) – novelty is over rated.
In some ways the hankering after more clearly delineated times gone by when rock’n’roll became mod became psychedelia became glam became punk became new romantic and cultural access and its bandwidth was much more limited can be a variation on “Bah, humbug, what’s all this modern racket, it was all better in my day you know”.
Alongside which in some ways it can also seem like obscure(ish)=good, popular=bad in such debates. Or in a a similar equation obscure(ish) releases=cool/acceptable, more mainstream releases=look away. And so say the eighties looking pop-heard-through-a-bedroom-wall experiments of say Aerial Pink are allowed/appreciated but something which seems in part like an art project reimagining of certain American cultural representations of 1980s high school archetypes (by way of a flipside of the work of John Hughes) such as She Wants Revenge probably wouldn’t be.
It is curious how such things happen. Anyways…
This sense of good/bad retro is something that Simon Reynolds acknowledges/considers within Haunted Audio and Retromania’s discussion of the idea of “good retro” (the more spectral inclinations of Ghost Box Records and the like) vs “bad retro” (more mainstream pilfering of the past, that removes any sense of the uncanny in such burrowing and borrowings).
An interesting point Simon Reynolds made as a guest on an airwaves broadcast hosted by Jarvis Cocker, which was a kind of Retromania special, is that maybe say a particular era’s aesthetic style is the best way of conveying particular things, stories and emotions.
To a certain degree this endless looking to the past and borrowing/recycling what is found there may be just a side effect of technology changes and a time when the resulting access to the recorded artifacts from different eras has meant that culture has become increasingly atemporal.
This just wasn’t the way of the world not all that long ago.
Again, in my younger days it was necessary to endlessly trawl through second-hand shops and what our cousins over the seas call thrift shops to find even a glimpse, a hint of certain previous audio releases.
Such was the scarcity of certain areas of earlier culture that I still think of a particular of such places as quite magical because I once found a 7″ sent forth by él Records in there, despite never finding anything else of interest to my good self.
And looking back, él Records were resolutely retro in their inclinations but they referred back to a time that never quite existed, they created a world which was a time and place of who knows where and when.
Something that as a label they could be said to share with the likes of Ghost Box.
And maybe that is part of the lesson for such things and the thoughts on this particular page; disinterring is all good and fine but effectively pressing pause to freeze frame and exactly replicate the past is likely to lead to something that lacks a little in life blood as the years go by.
File under: Trails and Influences. Recent Explorations. Case #34/52.
I suppose the value of things is in part how much people are prepared to spend on them.
If that’s the case, then a handful of Katie Jane Garside related artifacts are rather precious indeed…
Here are a few tumbling glimpses of but a few of them…
Katie Jane Garside’s work can be found in amongst the John Barleycorn Reborn pastures… something of a cuckoo in the nest in many ways.
Previous glimpses: Katie Jane Garside/Ruby Throat via Day #44/365 of A Year In The Country.
…and elsewhere in the ether.
Over the days, weeks and months, here and there I’ve mentioned Jonny Trunk’s OST radio show…
However, I think it’s deserving of a day or so all of its own.
In a brief nutshell, The OST Show is one of the places where Mr Trunk explores his appreciation of and penchant for the often overlooked nuggets of gold and sometimes tarnished with neglect gems of audiological culture, concentrating on soundtracks of celluloid and cathrode ray origin, library music and other such interrelated music and sonic thingymabobs.
One of the things that makes it particularly fine are the guests that he has along, who bring with them their own findings, collections and stories, all of which are added into an eclectically flavoured musical stew.
So, over the years, guests have included Jon Brooks (The Advisory Circle… and as has been mentioned around these parts before, accompanied by a good deal of knitting and “doing” the actions to a mining safety song by Max Bygraves… yes indeed), sometime singular swordsman Andrew Weatherall, monsterist illustrator Pete Fowler, Jim Jupp and Julian House of Ghost Box Records, Radiophonic explorer Paddy “The Changes” Kingsland, more Radiophonic exploring courtesy of David “Seasons” Cain, teacake time with Mr Ian Hodgson of Moon Wiring Club, some excellent delving and wandering courtesy of Broadcast…
And that’s before we come to one off themed specials which have included shows on John Barry, Eno Moriconne, Bruton Library music, Kenneth Anger, Ms Delia Derbyshire, BBC Records… well, quite frankly a whole smorgasboard of spinning delights.
…oh and one of my favourites, where Ms Fenella Fielding slinks and sveltes by. I still find myself chuckling when she compares her “attributes” to Barbara Windsors and Mr Robin Fog has cause to mention that it’s suddenly gotten very warm in the studio (cue steaming up of glasses and tugging of collar).
Along which comedic lines, the show is ably assisted and sometimes hosted by the just aforementioned Mr Fog. I am again chuckling out loud as I think of the plays on words that he sends forth into the world via his co-organising of the weekly competitions, wherein the general public will pick up their telephonic devices in order to try their arm at having the postie deliver them a handful of goodies, via some punning and playing on film names, characters and actors.
One of the highlights of the show indeed. I won’t spoil first time hearing of said puns other than to say they are often worth the price of admission on their own.
So, if you should have a spare hour or two and would appreciate a fair few “Oh, what’s that, that’s nice” accompanied by a sprinkling of “Ah, that’s what that is” moments, then a quick pop along to Mr Trunk’s weekly transmissions could well be just the ticket.
And while I’m on the subject of Mr Trunk’s endeavours, I feel it somewhat necessary to mention this… I shall pass you over to Mr Stewart Lee for a sentence or two…
“Jonny Trunk has taken the astonishingly thorough archive of Smallfilms… and presented it as one would a collection of artefacts in an exhibition detailing some much-admired 20th century art movement, like Fluxus or Dada. The Smallfilms’ partnership’s sacred relics repay his trust, and our repeated viewings.”
A tome well worth a viewing and considering of. 320 pages of a saggy old cloth cat and his companions. The Art of Smallfilms here.
PS More than a touch of glorious hauntological curmudgeonliness courtesy of Mr Lee here.