• Day #93/365: Seasons They Change and the sweetly strange concoctions of private pressings…

    Jeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Touchstones.
    Case #18/52.

    When I was connecting the dots between all things more leftfield folk music, one particularly informative book was Jeanette Leach’s Seasons They Change, a book which to quote the back cover “tells the story of the birth, death, and resurrection of acid and psychedelic folk.”

    …which it does indeed do, dropping a trail of breadcrumbs largely chronologically through that particular story.

    There are only really a tiny handful of books on such or interconnected things (the A Year In The Country friendly ones would probably be Seasons They Change, Rob Young’s Electric Eden, Shindig magazines Witches Hats and Painted Chariots and the 1970s The Electric Muse: The Story Of Folk Into Rock). Although a wander through the digital ether can help to inform and make connections, there’s something about a well put together book that codifies and coheres a story…

    Jeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The Country-2From what I remember I made a particular trip to buy it from an actual bookshop (a rarity nowadays in the land) and with the sun shining down sat next to a pond to begin quite a journey… which I seem to recall ended with an almost palpitatory experience of sitting with headphones scan-listening to just about every band, record and song that was mentioned as I came across it in the book.

    …and it was something of a fine education which did indeed help me to connect up the aforementioned dots between everything from 1960s psychedelic folk to the 2000s arrival of freak folk via Current 93 and…

    …well, the world of privately pressed folk music.

    In these days when it’s a relatively easy task to record and then put out into the world creative work via everything from music hosting sites to print on demand everything, it’s almost hard to imagine the dedication and commitment that was once required to do such things; the expense, expertise and access to equipment which was required to privately press vinyl records provided a heavy-handed filtering system…

    But some made it through and a handful of the results have become rarefied, treasured artifacts, totems and tokens of semi-hidden and once almost lost culture.

    A Year In The Country-Early Morning Hush folk compilation-A Year In The CountryIn Seasons They Change the chapter Sanctuary Stone is dedicated to such things. Some of those featured I first stumbled across via one of the early touchstones of A Year In The Country: the compilation Early Morning Hush (Notes From The Folk Underground 1969-76) but at the time I never got to read the sleevenotes and I didn’t look up any information on the songs or those who recorded them, possibly I was just enjoying letting my wander amongst this world of a folk music that was a far sweeter and stranger set of concoctions than anything that I had come across under the label of folk before…

    Midwinter-The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow-acid folk psych folk-Early Morning Hush-A Year In The Country 2Midwinter-The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow-acid folk psych folk-Early Morning Hush-A Year In The Country-bSo, who are we talking about? Well, on the Early Morning Hush album it would be Midwinter, the connected Stone Angel and Shide And Acorn. Further afield I would probably look to Oberon and Caedmon (whose Sea Song I didn’t consciously know that I had listened to it before but when I first heard it on vinyl it was like discovering a long-lost friend that I thought I never knew).

    Most of those mentioned in the paragraph above are covered in Seasons They Change, alongside their privately pressed counterparts from over the seas…

    Oberon-A Midsummers Night Dream-folk-private press-A Year In The Country…and some of the songs which were put out into the world through personal endeavour now sound like folk which should have bothered the pop charts at the time, in particular the epic folk-pop of The Sea, Midwinter’s The Skater, Shide And Acorn’s Eleanor’s Song and Oberon’s Nottanum Town.

    So, if you should want to wander down the pathways of the undergrowths of folk music and map the crisscrossing strands that you come across, well, look no further than Seasons They Change. Ms Leech, a tip of the hat to you.

    Jeanette Leech-Seasons They Change poster-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The Country-2Early Morning Hush compiled by author/St Etienne-r/musical archiver Bob Stanley can be perused here. Jeanette Leech can be found ornithologically here, archivally here, Seasons They Change here and a year of book wandering here. The story of Stone Angel here.

    Read more about Early Morning Hush and it’s travelling companion from earlier days of A Year In The Country here.

     

    PS Due to their scarcity and rarity, most of the original vinyl versions of the records mentioned above are well beyond the humble purse strings of A Year In The Country… so, this English Garden reissue of Caedmon’s album is the closest to such things that is likely to be visited around these parts.

    Caedmon-acid folk psych folk-Seasons They Change-A Year In The CountryCaedmon-acid folk psych folk-Seasons They Change-A Year In The Country 2

    Caedmon-acid folk psych folk-Seasons They Change-A Year In The Country 3

     

     

     

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  • Day #92/365: Sproatly Smith – The Minstrel’s Grave and visions of a land rolling away just out of sight of the mind’s eye…

    Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The Country 3File under:
    Trails and Influences: Touchstones.
    Case #18/52.

    Now, I know little about Sproatly Smith. It’s another case where I don’t really want or need to, the music they create exists in a land unto itself for me and reading all kinds of interviews and the like may well just disturb such things… sometimes you need to tread gently.

    I think looking back when I came across some of their songs I started to realise that I was on the right track towards… well, towards something that would become A Year In The Country.

    If I had to describe the music they create I would probably say, well, something along the lines of “spiralling pastoral acid folklore tinged music” (is this a new genre name?) and they have been described by fRoots magazine as “The mystery flagship band of the new wave of weirdlore”…

    For a while there didn’t seem to be any photos of them at all wandering around the ether. Now there are a few. I still don’t know all that much about them but I don’t really mind…

    (It’s curious how things have gone from a time in my youth where I could wait and hope for months or longer to see one photograph of a band/artist etc or a tiny article in the print media, maybe never seeing any at all to a time when I sometimes enjoy and hanker scarcity, obscurity and knowing little about such things in amongst the easy deluge of information which abounds in modern times… be careful what you wish for and all that…).

    In terms of how their music has wandering out into the world… Some of their albums have been put out in hand finished/sewn limited editions by Reverb Worship. Some by the now sadly departed Folk Police Recordings. The most recent has been put out by themselves via good old ferrous tape and its digital accompaniment…

    Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The Country 2

    …and there was a split 7″ with The Woodbine & Ivy band on Static Caravan where they both covered Gently Johnny in a particularly fine manner (something I’ve briefly mentioned before and may do again).

    Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The CountryOn the Minstrels Grave album, I seem to have often revisited two songs in particular: Blackthorn Winter which seems to manage to be shimmeringly stark, dark and beautiful all at once. I’m a-listening to it as I type and my hair is stood on end… and The Blue Flame, which is gentler but still… well, I don’t know if I have come across the music of any other group of musicians while on my journey towards and through A Year In The Country which quietly builds into a vision of pastoral otherlyness to such a degree.

    Or to quote myself quoting The Gaping Silence their songs can be “like something from the Wicker Man, if the Wicker Man had been a 1960s children’s TV series about time travel” (see Day #85/365: Weirdlore: Notes From The Folk Underground and legendary lost focal points…).

    Some of Sproatly Smith’s homes in the ether: here, here and here. At Folk Police Recordings here. On vinyl platters at Static Caravan hereReverb Worship here.  

     

    PS As a final point, I’ve just noticed that one of the songs on the album is a version of O Willow Waly, as heard in the film The Innocents. It’s strange how you can listen to/look at something so many times before your mind makes connections. Now, that is a song which I no doubt shall be considering at some point in the future around about these parts…

     

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  • Day #91/365: Artifact #13/52: Mind How You Go ribbon bound canvas book released

    Artifact #13/52: Mind How You Go ribbon bound canvas book. £12.00.Artifact 13-Front cover-A Year In The Country

    Limited edition of 52. Each book is signed and numbered.

    Artifact 13-Inside Page 3-A Year In The Country Artifact 13-Inside Page 2-A Year In The Country Artifact 13-Inside Page-A Year In The Country Artifact 13-Signature Page-A Year In The Country
    Size: 17 x 7 cm / 6.7 x 2.7 inch.
    Page count: 24 (12 pages printed).
    Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on textured matt canvas material.
    Bound with black ribbon.

    Free UK shipping.

    Artifact 13-all prints-A Year In The Country

    Available at our Artifacts Shop.

     

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  • Day #90/365: The Wickerman – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore

    The Wicker Man Collage-A Year In The Country-1080File under:
    Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #12/52.

    I suppose there was a certain inevitability that The Wicker Man would come knocking at the door of A Year In The Country one morning…

    Over the years it seems to have become such a touchstone and point of reference for people and there seems to be an exponentially increasing amount of text, articles, referencing and so on which shows no sign of dwindling even a touch.

    Via storage and dissemination through various mediums and artifacts, such celluloid and (once) cathode ray stories could now be considered to be our modern-day folklore or folktales, allowing for a common cultural language in days when people no longer live and share such things with their geographic neighbours to as large a degree as in the past.

    The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-Insert-A Year In The Country-2The title of the page mentions “future lost vessels”. Why you may ask? Well, one day in years to come it is quite likely that some of the physical artifacts, the digital discs and ferrous cassettes, that have been used to pass on our folk tales from the 1970s onwards may well still exist as objects but will the stories that they contain still be readable by all but a few? The current machines for such things will have more than likely returned once more to the ground from whence they originally came. The stories themselves may well have been re-recorded and transferred to other mediums but the original artifacts will quite possibly just have become symbols or ornaments that represent them…

    But who knows what may happen in the future and what the future story may be of a tale which is already possibly partly buried beneath passing cars (see here about half way down the page for more details).

    Hmmm.

    And so, this page is a document of some my favourite (or at least the ones I find the most interesting) of the vessels and artifacts of this particular slice of modern day folklore…

    (In memory of possible future lost vessels, only the casing that contains the discs and tapes are shown below, I’ve included a touch of actual vinyl as such things have proved a certain longevity).

    Here goes…

    I think one of my favourite of such things is the hessian bag release of the DVD… it just seems to fit…

    The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-A Year In The Country 2 The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-DVD-A Year In The Country

    One of the Dan Mumford poster designs for the 40th Anniversary re-issue of the film…
    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster-A Year In The Country
    …and some variations on the poster via Dark City Gallery
    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster detail-A Year In The Country
    Below on the left is what seems to be one of the rarer DVD issues of the film, featuring part of a still that seems to be something of a favourite out in the world (and which has been used by contemporary pastoral-psych-folk band Sproatly Smith, who also released a 7″ single of Gently Johnny)…

    Nice rarer paperback cover on the right below… well, when I saw nice, it’s in the context of somebody being thrown onto the altar so that people can grow some mildly exotic apples…
    The Wicker Man-The Cult Classic Film Series-A Year In The Country The Wicker Man-Pocker Fiction paperback-A Year In The Country

     

    Ah, the days of VHS (was this ever released on Betamax? Video 2000?)…
    The Wicker Man-1973 1972-VHS Thorn EMI-Pick Of The Flicks-A Year In The Country copy
    Now, I should really love the hinged wooden box edition of the film but there’s something just slightly off or maybe unloved about it…
    The Wicker Man-Wooden Box Edition-DVD-A Year In The Country
    Something which may well have been responsible for some of the increase in interest over the last decade or so… The Trunk Records vinyl release of the soundtrack album, the first time it had been commercially available…
    The Wicker Man OST soundtrack-Jonny Trunk-Trunk Records-A Year In The Country
    If you should wish to read about how film cults came about in part because of the siren call of ladies in metal bath tubs to the cigar chomping folk behind the scenes…
    The Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The CountryThe Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The Country 2
    …and a return to VHS, this time with a slightly more sober cover (and more giving away of the plot)…The Wicker Man-VHS video cover-A Year In The Country
    Now this seems to be one of the rarer artifacts out in the world… the 2012 Record Store Day 7″ single release of Willow’s Song/Gently Johnny…
    The Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country 2The Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country
    …and (almost) finally, Richard Beckett’s poster for the 40th Anniversary (as seen on t-shirts, the aforementioned posters and a new differently edited version of the soundtrack)…

    …plus one of the lesser seen DVD releases. I like the simplicity of this one.
    The Wicker Man-Richard Beckett poster-silver hair variant-A Year In The Country

    The Wicker Man-Studio Canal DVD-A Year In The Country

    So, 12 artifacts to accompany A Year In The Country seems quite an appropriate number.

    I know what, let’s make it a baker’s dozen as I quite like the story behind that phrase…

    A double page spread from a copy of Film Review magazine back in 1974, showing The Wicker Man side-by-side with its cinematic partner Don’t Look Now:

    The Wicker Man-Dont Look Now-Film Review Magazine-A Year In The Country-1200

    (In case you’re curious the cover of that issue featured Sid James, Babs Windsor, Margaret Nolan and Valerie Leon in Carry On Girls… something of a favourite in the Carry On cannon round these parts, a point when the films began to change and reflect a country “gone to the dogs” but before the films just became seedy shams. Anyway, I digress…).

    As an (actual) final note: don’t watch The Wicker Man with an older relative, suggesting a viewing as your mind seems to have momentarily selectively remembered it as a bit of a knockabout light-hearted folkloric musical…

    Ah, we live and learn.

    A few trails and pathways: The appeal for lost Wicker Man materials here and at The Art Shelf here. Corn(flake) rigs via Johnny Trunk at Feuilleton, at Fuel and at Mr Trunk’s home in the electronic ether. A whole slew of Wicker soundtracks here. Richey Beckett’s hand of glory here. An interesting “behind-the-scenes” on the creation of the artwork for the 2012 Record Store Day Willow’s Song/Gently Johnny 7″ here and here. Sproatly Smith and the Woodbine & Ivy band split version of Gently Johnny (something of a favourite) at purveyor of vinyl artifacts Picadilly Records and Static Caravan.

    A baker’s or devil’s dozen here.

     

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  • Day #89/365: Image Z

    Image Z-A Year In The Country
    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

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  • Day #88/365: No Blade Of Grass and a curious mini-genre…

    No Blade Of Grass 24-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #12/52.

    In the 1970s there seemed to be a curious mini-genre of doom-warning apocalyptic, dystopian science fiction films, which warned of the dangers of ecological collapse, battles for resources, out of control population growth, ways citizens might be controlled and so forth. You could include Z.P.G., Phase IV, Soylent Green, The Omega Man in amongst these, possibly in a more crowd and eye-pleasing way Logan’s Run and you could draw a line from them to later British television series along similar lines such as Noah’s Ark and Day Of The Triffids.

    No Blade Of Grass, based on John Christopher’s The Death Of Grass novel, was one such film. This is not really a piece of knockabout period kitsch, it’s a surprisingly bleak, brutal film (admittedly with some inappropriate almost sitcom music here and there and longstanding UK sitcom/soap opera actress Wendy Richards as a slightly out-of-place comic dollybird) about what happens when a new strain of virus kills the worlds grass, related plants and crops…

    …and what seems to happen is that society and normal morality/rules of law almost immediately break down and life becomes more a Lord Of The Flies/survival of the fittest/the best armed battle for food and control in the cities and amongst the fleeing gatherings of people in the countryside, while governments take to nerve gas bombing their own populations, killing hundreds of millions of people in order to have enough food for those who remain.

    Like I say, not all that cheery. I was a little shocked and silenced after the end of it and below is a look at some of what happens in the film when the veneer of civilisation doesn’t so much fade but rather is rent asunder.

    The title frames show a lone group of figures armed and on the run on a parched, cracked landscape, set against images of pollution and decay, which are soon followed by scenes of abundant food and conventional affluent middle class ways of life…No Blade Of Grass 1-A Year In The Country
    None of which lasts for long as the main protagonists flee the rioting city to try and reach the safety of a family member’s remote farm. Which leads them to…

    In the 1970s it often seemed to be wild gangs of bikers who were the recurring societal bogeymen who would take over when civilisation collapsed (John Christopher’s Pendulum novel takes a similar line, Psychomania sees the bikers become undead countryside hoodlums). In No Blade Of Grass this is shown to once again be the case they’re wrong uns and no mistake, en masse attacking refugees (although said refugees are shown to be no angels themselves)…No Blade Of Grass 2-A Year In The CountryNo Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The Country

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

    No Blade Of Grass 2b-A Year In The CountryMeanwhile those sometimes symbols of bucolic English pastoralism, the good old tweed clad country farmer and the stone farmhouse become almost Deliverance style hijackers and scenes of troop insurrections (while in the cities the dependable British bobby has become an altogether different gas mask wearing, gun-toting symbol of authority)…

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

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

    …and 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 12-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 11-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: 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, an advertising voice over saying “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…

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

    …and negative frames and flash forwards show the horrors which have happened and are to come…

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 18-A Year In The Country

    Over the years and different shores the novel The Death Of Grass has been sent out into the world in a fair number of different jacket designs… I think the film tie-in edition shown top left below wins a prize for being one of the book covers that I have come across during my A Year In The Country wanderings which gives me the heebie jeebies the most…

    No Blade Of Grass 20-A Year In The CountryNo Blade Of Grass 23-A Year In The Country

     

    No Blade Of Grass 22-A Year In The CountryNo Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher-A Year In The Country

    Find the most recent UK publishing of the novel here, the Archive Collection release of the film here, watch the trailer here, a selection of lobby cards and posters here and here.

    …and the curiously out of place, upliftingly apocalyptic (two words you don’t normally see together) theme tune by Roger Whittaker can be listened to here.

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  • Day #87/365: Faded foundlings and Tender Vessels…

    Corn Husk Crafts-Facklam Phibbs-A Year In The Country-4File under:
    Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #11/52.

    Recently I was browsing through the weather-beaten, sun faded cheaper books outside one of the few remaining bookshops in the world and I came across a book on corn-husk crafts… the art of, well, creating figures, decorations, wreaths etc from corn husks.

    There was something both sweet, comforting and just a touch unsettling to some of the resulting faceless folkloric figures which peopled the book… they made me think they could have tumbled from a school project recreation of The Wickerman which had lain forgotten and gathering dust since it was made, something that Jonny Trunk would rediscover and release the lost soundtrack to years later…

    …or of the faceless monsters, intruders and mannequins come to life which seemed to populate so much of my childhood television watching and it didn’t surprise me to see that it was released around a similar time in the earlyish 1970s…

    Corn Husk Crafts-Facklam Phibbs-A Year In The Country-1

    Corn Husk Crafts-Facklam Phibbs-A Year In The Country-2Corn Husk Crafts-Facklam Phibbs-A Year In The Country-3

     

    The figures also put me in mind of some of the folkloric/”post-industrial folk art” (to quote Ken Hollings) work of Cathy Ward and Eric Wright, in particular the Home Rites wheat sculptures from their Tender Vessels project. Of these I shall say no more and let the images of them speak for themselves…

    Tender Vessels-Home Rites-Cathy Ward and Eric Wright-A Year In The Country

    Tender Vessels-Home Rites-Cathy Ward and Eric Wright-A Year In The Country 2
    The book which accompanied the Tender Vessels exhibition is available from Strange Attractor.
    A review of the book by Ken Hollings is here. Visit Cathy Ward and Eric Wright’s home in the electronic ether here. An interesting piece on the Trunk Records release of The Wickerman soundtrack here.

     

    PS It may be just me but the Home Rites sculptures also make me think of The Asphyx, the 1973 Hammer film where the spirit which comes to take people at the point of departing from this realm is captured under glass domes and this enables them to live forever (well, in my memory, that seems to be what happened)…

    …it’s curious how so many of the things that fascinate me, that I am drawn to and which have an otherly or slightly off-kilter, “what was going on there?” nature seem to have been put out into the world around 1973. Hmmm…

     

    Well, that seems like this one old-ish book has put my mind a-thinking about a fair few things…

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  • Day #86/365: novemthree-Scythe to the Grass and gentle pastoral melancholia that wanders under the skin…

    Novemthree-tshirt design-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences:
    Touchstones. 
    Case #17/52.

    Now, I don’t know all that much about Novemthree and it’s one of those times where I’m not sure I want to as for me this song seems to be something of a pinnacle of all things gently pastoral and yet quietly unsettling in folk music and I seem to want to leave it  undisturbed*.

    The song was released as part of a hand assembled split album with Arrowwood: You can listen to/purchase the song here or via Little Somebody here. The song was also featured on the John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth compilation release by Cold Spring.

     

    *As an aside, If you wander along the pathways that lead from novemthree you will soon wander into the meadows and territories of what could be called pagan folk, heathen folk, dark folk, wicca folk, doom folk, gloom folk and the like… tread gently…

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  • Day #85/365: Weirdlore: Notes From The Folk Underground and legendary lost focal points…

    Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 3File under:
    Trails and Influences:
    Touchstones. 
    Case #16/52.

    Once upon a time there was an event called Weirdlore, which could well in future years have come to be known and constantly referred to as a focal point for a new wave of what could be called acid, psych or underground folk… or possibly weirdlore.

    Unfortunately said event was cancelled. Apparently there was an awful lot of enthusiasm for it but this hadn’t translated into the necessary parting with of lucre…

    However, there was still to be a document of this now never happened event, which was the Weirdlore compilation released by Folk Police Recordings (who were responsible for one of my favourite corners of the electronic ether, which also sadly is nolonger with us).

    The album has rather fine artwork by Owl Service compatriot/Straw Bear Band gent/Rif Mountain-er Dom Cooper, which reinterprets traditional folkloric imagery and iconography in a contemporary manner…

    Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 1

    The album is a snapshot of things musically, well, Weirdloric and includes tracks by Telling The Bees, Emily Portman, Rapunzel & Sedayne, another sometime Owl Service-r Nancy Wallace, Pamela Wyn Shannon, Katie Rose, The False Beards, Foxpockets, Boxcar Aldous Huxley, the aforementioned Straw Bear Band, Starless And Black Bible, Alasdair Roberts, Corncrow, Ros Brady, The Witches With Kate Denny, Harp And A Monkey, Wyrdstone…

    …and I think the standout track for me is Sproatly Smith’s version of Rosebud In June, which I think if I had to save my A Year In The Country Desert Island Discs from the waves, may well be scooped up for nights under the stars.

    It is a song which has been described by The Gaping Silence as being “like something from the Wicker Man, if the Wicker Man had been a 1960s children’s TV series about time travel”… which as a quote has always stuck in my mind and I think sums it up really rather well and so I shall say no more.

    Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 2The album is also well worth a peruse (and purchase?) for the accompanying text by Ian Anderson, of fRoots magazine, written with Weirdlore still a month away and still to be a future point in history. In it he rather presciently describes the album as “celebrating a day which has yet to happen and a genre that quite conceivably doesn’t exist.”

    Within the album’s packaging there is also an extended piece by Jeanette Leech (author of Seasons They Change: The Story Of Acid and Psychedelic Folk) where she discusses the use of genre names, how such music as that which is featured in Weirdlore came to be and the brief shining of media spotlights on its and associated practitioners:

    When light is not on a garden, many plants will wither. But others won’t. They will grow in crazy, warped, hardy new strains. It’s time to feed from the soil instead of the sunlight.

    I think that last sentence is one of the ones which has haunted and lodged in my psyche the most when I’ve been working towards, on and thinking about A Year In The Country.

    The electronic ether wisps of Weirdlore here. The electronic ether wisps of Folk Police Recordings here and an introduction to the album from them here. Dom Cooper here. Rif Mountain here. Seasons They Change by Jeanette Leech here.

    The Wickerman soundtrack as a 1960s children’s TV series about time travel via Sproatly Smith herehere and listen to or even purchase the soundtrack itself here.

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  • Day #84/365: Artifact #12/52 released: We Have Summoned Them And Now The Time Is Upon Us print

    Limited edition of 52. £20.00.
    Artifact 12-Image of Print-A Year In The Country

    Print Detail:Artifact 12-Print Detail 1-A Year In The Country
    Print Detail:
     Artifact 12-Print Detail 2-A Year In The Country
    Limited edition of 52. Each print is signed and numbered.

    Size: 42 x 14.85 cm / 16.45 x 5.8 inch (including 1 cm / 0.4 inch border).

    Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on Hahnemühle fine art 310gsm 100% cotton rag paper.

    Free UK shipping.

    Available at our Artifacts Shop.

     

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  • Day #83/365: Image Y – Hello Earth (A Midnight Dawn)

    Image Y-Hello Earth-A Year In The Country
    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

    Something of a tip of the hat to both the re-emergence of Ms Kate Bush, 1970s science fiction films which concentrated on ecological/resource related societal collapse and control (i.e. Z.P.G., Soylent Green, No Blade Of Grass, Logan’s Run etc) and also quite possibly the light that is brighter than a hundred suns.

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  • Day #82/365: Image X

    Image X-A Year In The Country

    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

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  • Day #81/365: Image W – Mind How You Go

    Image W-Mind How You Go-A Year In The Country

    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

    Something of a tribute to wandering, The Advisory Circle, Public Information films of my youth…

    …and a tribute to times as a child of playing in a valley on the edgelands of a post-industrial town where the water of the stream would change colour (blue? orange?) depending on what was being pumped into it, a sewage pipe over the river with a spiked guard to stop you climbing across it seemed like an impossibly exciting and exotic barrier to surpass and we would be told to not play inside the discarded washing machines etc that scattered the side of the hill (as if we would)…

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  • Day #80/365: The Films Of Old Weird Britain… celluloid flickerings from an otherly Albion…

    BFI Sight & Sound-The Films Of Old Weird England-Rob Young William Fowler-A Year In The Country 3File under:
    Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
    Case #10/52.

    A page which could well be subtitled More Fields In England (see Day #78/365 on Winstanley and Day #73/365 on A Field In England for previous celluloid meadow visitings).

    This was an issue of the BFI’s Sight and Sound magazine which was published in August 2010.

    The main feature The Pattern Under The Plough was written by Rob Young and could well be seen as a companion piece or a lost chapter for his Electric Eden book which journeys through the “imaginative time travel” impulses of folk and interconnected music and culture (see Day #4/365 and Day #40/365).

    As the title to the article suggests, it delves beneath the topsoil of British cinema to find a rich seam of films which take the landscape, rural ways, folklore (of the traditional and reimagined varieties) or “the matter of Britain” as their starting point and which often wander off through a celluloid and cathode landscape that the article describes as one where an older weirder Albion peeps through the cracks or “the sense of the past lying just behind the present”.

    BFI Sight & Sound-The Films Of Old Weird England-Rob Young William Fowler-A Year In The Country 2

    As a journey the article has many stopping points of such things, amongst them are the earlier mentioned Civil War era document of a search for an earthly paradise Winstanley (from which the opening still is taken), the folk horror of Witchfinder General and The Wickerman, the journey through a rural year of Akenfield, the “almost quite straight documentary but it’s not, something else is going on there” Sleep Furiously, the almost-canon of pastoral hauntological television The Changes, The Owl Service and Children Of The Stones, the art film experiments and psychogeography (a form of explorative wandering) of Derek Jarman, Patrick Keiller and Chris Petit (Journey to Avesbury, Robinson In Space, London Orbital), the atavistic memories of Quatermass and The Pit and the “was this really commissioned and allowed for mainstream television broadcast?” of Penda’s Fen…

    BFI Sight & Sound-The Films Of Old Weird England-Rob Young William Fowler-A Year In The CountryAnd as can be found in Electric Eden, connections and lines between things are drawn… the article mentions how David Hemmings, who stars in 1969’s Alfred The Great, a Dark Ages costume drama which opens the piece, went on to fund one of the definitive acid-folk records, Mellow Candle’s Swaddling Songs… curiouser and curiouser

    The Pattern Under The Plough is also accompanied by a shorter article by William Fowler; Absent Authors: Folk In Artist Film, which concentrates on the more experimental art film side of such things and I think both articles were published to accompany the BFI’s Here’s A Health To The Barley Mow compilation of folklore films (a still from its booklet is below)…

    Which lead me to the Colloquim for Unpopular Culture and their presentation of The Barley Mow: Archive Folk Film Program (1912-2003), presented by William Fowler, who contributed to the risograph finery of The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale book (see Day #15/365) and appeared at the associated A Cathode Ray Séance event…

    Heres-a-Health-to-the-Barley-Mow-A Year In The Country

    Here’s a (slightly edited) text about The Barley Mow Film Program from here:

    Recent years have seen a ‘rural turn’ in British cultural studies. Artists have wandered into an interior exile and a re-engagement with the countryside – its secret histories, occult possibilities. Psychogeographers are drawn to its edgezones and leylines, fringe bibliophiles are rediscovering the dark glories of writers such as Alan Garner, John Wyndham and Nigel Kneale, while organizations such as English Heretic and Lancashire Folklore Tapes exult in mystical toponymies and wiccan deep probes.

    Key to this rural turn has been a critical reappraisal of ‘folk culture’, seeing it less as a repository of conservative tradition, but rather a teeming, eerie, almost surreal archive of customs and practices that might serve as an antidote to pasteurized urbanism. The Barley Mow, a kind of Anglo-celluloid version of Harry Smith’s American Folk Anthology, is a 60-minute programme that illuminates the charming, startling, uncanny convergences between populist and experimental approaches to capturing the folk music, dances, customs and sports of a semi-forgotten Albion.

    Well, that sums things up quite well I do believe.

    The cover to this issue was designed by Becca Thorne. You can find her here (rather fine and lovely illustration work, well worth a visit indeed).

    Details on this particular issue of Sight & Sound and backissues here. Akenfield here. Here’s A Health To The Barley Mow here. Will Fowler at the BFI here. And it can’t hurt to once again say Electric Eden here.

     

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  • Day #79/365: Paper Dollhouse – A Box Painted Black and songs which quietly nest in the mind…

    Paper Dollhouse-A Box Painted Black-Bird Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #15/52.

    Well, as I seem to fairly often begin with; while we’re talking about industrial objects from other years in the English countryside (see Day #76/365: Josh Kemp Smith – Illuminating Forgotten Heritage)…

    This was one of the first albums I bought when I was working towards A Year In The Country. It is undoubtedly an experimental piece of work but it’s one with a folk pop sensibility and the songs quietly nest in your mind…

    It has been described as “dark gothic minimal folk” and Astrud Steehouder who created it lists her influences as “bewildering post nuclear landscapes, bleak fields, forests, thunderstorms and archaic industrial objects in the middle of nowhere”, which makes it sound like the album will be quite a heavy, dark thing but though it has elements of the night, it’s not just that…

    Paper Dollhouse-A Box Painted Black-Bird Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country 3

    I tend to think of it as having been recording in some semi-lost wooden cottage I don’t know quite where or when and the noises and creaks of it’s habitat seem to have seeped in and become part of the very fabric of the music.

    As the songs begin it feels like opening the shutters to the sun in that lost home; shimmering and golden but also quietly fractured and unsettling, a view of a landscape and world all of it’s own…. there is a dreamlike, subtley surreal quality to the music and I have brought it out over and over again in the months and now years since it arrived in an attempt to capture something which isn’t quite captureable about it.

    Quite simply, I think it’s a lovely, accomplished piece of work.

    You can’t ask for more than that.

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

    Paper Dollhouses aeries can be found here and here and in more experimental form with now fellow co-Paper Dollhouse companion Nina Bosnic via Folklore Tapes Here.

    The album was release by Bird records, the offshoot of Finders Keepers Records. There’s a lovely evocative write-up about the album at Finders Keepers Records here.

    Paperhouse 1988-A Year In The CountryThe trailer to Paperhouse, the sometimes clunky but intriguing rurally set 1988 film of childhood dreams and nightmares, from which in part Paper Dollhouse take their name can be seen here. It’s 1972 but curiously anachronistically seeming still monochromatic earlier incarnation Escape Into Night can be found here.

     

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  • Day #78/365: Winstanley – Another Field In England

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 2 posterFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
    Case #9/52.

    And while we’re talking about fields in England (see Day #73/365), here is another interconnected meadow…

    (Brief background: Winstanley is the 1975 Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s film tribute to Gerrard Winstanley, who was a religious reformer and political activist in the 17th century and was one of the founders of an English group known as the True Levellers or Diggers, who occupied previously public common lands which had been privatized and lived in what could be considered some of the first examples or experiments in socialist communal living…

    Previous to this film they made It Happened Here, which was an alternative history imagining of what would have happened if Britain had been occupied by the Nazis. Both films were made largely independently and on very small budgets.)

    In many ways Winstanley could be seen as a companion piece to Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England, possibly the more erudite, learned, historical brother to its rumbunctious sibling: there are a fair few similarities to them – both films are set around a similar time period of English Civil War, have similar costumes, are set in the rural landscape, are shot in crisp black and white and in different ways both show another side to English history.

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country poster 2Winstanley is an odd film to watch after watching A Field In England. At times my mind would almost become confused about which film I was watching; some of the characters and their faces in Winstanley seem as though they have tumbled from A Field In England (or vice versa). I think in some ways that’s because the physiognomy of those of many in both films feels right; many of the characters look as though they could have come from these fields, rather than the too-well fed look that can trip up modern visual reenactments of times gone by.

    One of the things I liked and found interesting about Winstanley was the making of documentary from when the film was made, It Happened Here Again, that accompanies the BFI re-release.

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 7

    In it there is a curious mixture of the centuries and styles – the costumed cast are pictured in amongst contemporary families, the rickety cars and vans of the 1970s, folk who could have tumbled from 1970s Open University broadcasts and a fair few counter cultural, I suppose hippie styled, people who helped on the film, both behind and in front of the camera (and could be seen to be some kind of link between the ideals of Winstanley and compatriots then and possibly similar travellers in the 1970s).

    Winstanley-1975-Documentary-A Year In The Country

    In many ways the then contemporary world seen in the documentary feels as or more exotic than the 17th century imagery and characters do.

    There is a sense of it capturing a very specific time and place in English history – possibly the last days of the utopian sixties dream and aesthetics before punk and the Thatcherite 1980s arrived and made much which immediately preceded them seem so, well, otherly; the images in the documentary seem as though they are from a long-lost land and time, one which seems very separate and apart from today.

    Jeremy-Deller-The-English-Civil-War-Boyes-Georgina-A Year In The CountryThe period during which Winstanley was made could also be seen as a link to the time when it and A Field In England were set as there are similarities to both points in history; they were both periods of unrest and historical points of battle/change in society…

    In Winstanley it was the battle/change between magic, religion, science, the old ruling order/economic models and the new; in the 1970s at the point when Winstanley was made Britain was wracked by internal unrest, economic strife and the battle which would lead to the turning of elements of society towards the right/a new economic/political model and also lead to another battle which could be seen as a decisive turning point in a field in England and which has become known as The English Civil War Part II (see Battle of Orgreave, Jeremy Deller’s film here and book here).

    Interestingly, Ben Wheatley who directed A Field In England has talked about being interested in making a film about a period when Britain was in “free fall and chaos”, “a moment when anything could happen”… which could apply equally to Britain at that point in the 17th or 20th centuries: essentially a time when history could have gone various ways and which could be seen as the start of a turning point in the world/society and the battles that occurred around those times.

    It’s curious how these things connect up as I type…

    And so, back to Winstanley: it is a curiosity which lingers in the mind, one which ploughed its own furrow and created its own very particular corner of British film making.

    Winstanley 1975-A Year In The CountryWinstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 4
    There is such an attention to detail and authentic recreation in Winstanley: I liked the way that soldiers are shown as wearing political tracts and publications strapped to their hats as a way of showing their allegiances and beliefs (see image on the left below).

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 5Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 6Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 8

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 9 Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country Collage Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 10 Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 11
    View the BFI release of Winstanley here. Watch it online here. Watch a clip here.

    Visit A Field In England here.

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  • Day #77/365: Artifact #11/52 released: They Come Unbidden string bound book (Sapling Edition)

    Limited Edition of 52. £6.00.
    Artifact 11-5-A Year In The Country

    Artifact 11-1-A Year In The Country

    Artifact 11-2-A Year In The Country

    Artifact 11-3-A Year In The Country

    Artifact 11-4-A Year In The Country

    12 on a page-1080p-A Year In The Country

    This is a smaller (Sapling Edition) version of Artifact #5/52 and contains the same images as that book.

    Printed using archival Giclée black/grey pigment inks.
    Each book is handstamped, hand signed and numbered on the rear outside cover.

    Book page size: 7.2 x 5.2 cm / 3.6 x 2 inches.
    Book page count: 24 pages (12 printed).

    Front and rear cover printed on 310gsm textured fine art 100% cotton rag paper.
    Inside pages printed on 245gsm paper.

    Free UK shipping.

     Available at our Artifacts Shop.
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  • Day #76/365: Josh Kemp Smith – Illuminating Forgotten Heritage

    Josh Kemp Smith-Illuminating Forgotten Heritage-A Year In The Country 2File under:
    Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #11/52.

    Last year I came across Josh Kemp Smith’s Illuminating Forgotten Heritage project.

    In it the forgotten and crumbling remains of industrial buildings throughout the countryside are lit and photographed at night.

    There is something quite beautiful and even romantic about the resulting photographs: these overlooked piles of brick, stone and concrete become almost otherworldly and magical, appearing to be links or even gateways to another time and way of life.

    And often the photographs seem to capture a certain graceful grandeur to these once proud and imposing man made edifices – here they stand, stoic, accepting of their fates and (in part) resilient to the elements and the passing of time, while some of the structures seem to possess an almost masonic appearance and have an air of being standing or ritualistic stones.

    Josh Kemp Smith-Illuminating Forgotten Heritage-A Year In The Country 1

    Josh Kemp Smith-Illuminating Forgotten Heritage-A Year In The Country 3

    Josh Kemp Smith-Illuminating Forgotten Heritage-A Year In The Country 4

    Well worth a look-see. Find them here.

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  • Day #75/365: Image V

    Image V-A Year In The Country

    File under:
    A Year In The Country: Work

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  • Day #74/365: Image U

    image-u-a-year-in-the-country

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    A Year In The Country: Work

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