Monitoring The Transmissions triptych print set. £25.00.
Monitoring The TransmissionsTriptych Print Set:
Monitoring The Transmissions (#2)
Once Dark, Now Stilled
The Departure Before The Storm
Limited edition of 31 sets of prints. Each print is signed and numbered.
Size Per Print 42 x 16 cm / 16.5 x 6.3″ (includes 2cm/0.8″ unprinted border).
Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 100% cotton paper.
Free UK/International shipping. Ships rolled in a strong poster tube.
Available at our Artifacts Shop.continue reading
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #19/52.
I’ve just put the album on and it’s like saying hello once more to a very welcome old friend. It’s the very definition of bucolic and is an album which summates England’s pastoral, edenic dreams…
I first listened to music from this album late one hot, hazy, balmy summer night and I was just transfixed and transported. Appropriately I think one of the first songs I listened to was It’s Too Hot To Sleep, which is a gentle lullaby of a song, all lilting and the soft hoots of owls; which in a way could describe much of the album.
The title says so much about being English, some of our needs and wants, the small spot of greenery which accompanies our domestic castles in which, well, we can hopefully feel secure.
I think I came across the album via Rob Young’s Electric Eden book (well, I’ve not mentioned it for a while, so it’s probably due for one). It features in probably one of my favourite sections of the book: The final Poly Albion gathering of writing, in the chapter Towards The Unknown Region, wherein he considers more the outerlying areas of the music and culture which has sprung forth from secret gardens, the more hauntological side of things, the spectres of the land in cathode ray transmissions, Ghost Box Records and the like.
In this section when describing the music in the album he begins by saying that it “doesn’t go anywhere”, in I think an attempt to show the albums ambient, non formal song structure. It’s an interesting choice of phrase as it also suggests how as a nation we sometimes hanker after these unchanged, unending idylls where we can lock the gates, rest, slumber and dream, with the rambunctious march of progress safely held at bay even if just for a moment.
Although the album largely a suite of music which invokes such an Albionic Arcadia, conjuring up lives spent in timeless English villages, it’s not merely a chocolate box or twee reverie; there’s a sense that there is a hidden reverse to that dream, that the nightmare may well intrude on that eden… and that comes to pass as The Summer Of Our Dreams gives way to When The Fields Were On Fire, which is a darkly ambient piece of quietly unsettling pastoralism, which though the album was originally released in 1983 wouldn’t be a surprise to find on a more contemporary Ghost Box Records release or maybe nestling away in an outtake from Coil’s Horse Rotorvator.
It possibly wanders some of the same fields as the outer regions of an alternative albion which could be found in say The Wickerman or some psych/acid folk music but here while the sense of an idyllic rural eden has a otherly quality it’s not overt; more a kind of wistful nostalgia or reverie, even where it is most present on say When The Fields Were On Fire.
The music? How to describe it? It’s an ambient mostly instrumental work but very melodic, the main instruments seem to be piano and a touch of woodwind instruments but the sense is largely one of music which has been painted and layered rather than played and made; rurally collected field recordings of the English countryside being a large part of the pigments and paint it uses.
Ms Astley, all I can say is I salute you for this piece of work.
The album is out of print. It can be found second-hand, although you may well pay a pretty penny for a CD copy.
And once again: Rob Young’s Electric Eden here.
As a final note, below is the text from Electric Eden on From Gardens Where We Feel Secure; “Furtive music hiding in the shrubbery” is a good concise way of describing the albums subtle pastoral otherlyness.
A Year In The Country: Work
This is part of a triptych that accompanies images D and D/2.continue reading
The phrase Soft Estate refers to the description given by the UK Highways Agency to the natural habitat that the motorways and trunk roads it manages occupy; an often unstepped on hinterland that most of us only view as a high-speed blur from the corner of our eyes as our transport travels down these autobahn edgelands.
Soft Estate is also the name of a book/project/exhibition by Edward Chell, which interacts with and documents these verges and landscapes; literally interacting with as some of the work is printed using road dust from such places, other work uses (I assume) engine oil, features plant life illustrations from these verges laser etched onto brightly chromed exhaust pipes or uses the same materials and colours as road signs themselves.
I only really quite recently came across his work but I very much connected with it, in particular his oil on shellac on linen prints; I thought I saw an echo of my own imagery, spirit and inclinations there, although to my knowledge neither of us had seen one another’s work when embarking on making it.
Indeed there is a ghostly, spectral quality to these paintings; they are literally hauntological in that though they are created in contemporary times, there is something about them that makes them seem like documents of a modernities future and past.
They’re just a lovely capturing of the point and spirit at which nature tumbles alongside and into mankind’s march of progress.
And there is a meditative, calming sense to them. I’m not quite sure why but they ease the soul and provide a moment’s respite.
This post/page is largely concerned with Edward Chell’s own artwork, as featured prominently in the Soft Estate book.
However, the book is also a collection of essays and effectively an exhibition catalogue, albeit one which exists as a handsomely produced artifact in its own right.
It includes a piece of writing by Richard Mabey, one of the original authors on what have become known as edgelands (the overlooked landscapes at the edges of town and cities; often undeveloped or transitional/liminal areas where nature meets industry and bleeds into the ragged edges of urban development). The inclusion of his writing here can be seen as providing a continuing line from and through considerations of edgelands in their various forms. Peruse the reprint of his Unofficial Countryside book at Little Toller here.
I may well return to the book around these parts later in A Year In The Country. In the meantime, if you should like to peruse a more in-depth consideration of the book and it’s themes then a visit to Landscapism’s page on it here may well provide such sustenance or in more concise manner New English Landscape’s thoughtful review of the book can be visited here.
View Edward Chell’s superlative oil paintings and other work at his site here.
As a final point, some of Edward Chell’s work has been installed in Little Chef restaurants. For those of you who don’t know these places, they are British roadside family cafes/restaurants. As a child we would visit them occasionally (which was a real treat back then before the days when eating out had become more the norm) and they were one of the first places that I ever ate and tasted what I suppose could be considered more American style burger and chips. Though they were served on a plate with knives and forks in a more traditional restaurant setting. Another transitional/liminal point I suppose.
I don’t know how many of them still exist but I rarely see them anymore and when I do I always have a momentary frisson of excitement, I’m back to being that kid looking forward to visiting them. On those rare spottings they feel like endangered species, a quaint remnant of times gone by before the ubiquity of transnational chains and the utilitarian installations of motorway service stations.
It made me smile to see his work here. A nice, humorous coming together of cultures.
I go into this in more depth in the About page but one of the roots of A Year In The Country and the way it intends to express a duality about a sense of bucolic pastoralism (the countryside as both an idyll and a place of otherlyness) comes from my experiences around and discovery of the possible end of the world via nuclear annihilation in my youth, during one of the peaks of the Cold War.
It was a simple thing really; the rest of the family were playing Monopoly (at which my dad no doubt won, possibly via £500 notes hidden under the board) while I watched something like Panorama or some similar weekly news topic program which just happened that week to be covering a potential nuclear conflict, the UK government’s Protect And Survive program (leaflets/adverts on how to protect you and your family from a blast with the power of over a hundred suns by whitewashing your windows and hiding behind a mattress leant against the wall)…
Where does the countryside/landscape come in? Well, at the time we were living in a small country village which only really had one lane and as I mention in the About page, by day I was living a Famous Five-esque existence of bike rides, rolling down hills and trying to dam rivers… by night my mind would be full of childhood fears, which after watching the program above took on a very contemporary conflict directed form.
The discovery of the possible end of the world was compounded by both the office on our forecourt (my dad was one of two local village bobbies) and a friend’s front room (his house was attached to the local Tourist Information centre) having old-fashioned bakelite looking nuclear air raid sirens in them; smallish things about the size of a microwave oven just sat on shelves with notices on the side explaining what noises they would make when the silver finned harbingers were about to fall from the sky into these mole-hilled fields or the winds were to carry their after effects.
All of which kind of blew my young mind. It was probably both exciting and terrifying. I still find it hard to type the actual terms which refer to the type of weapon, those wind-borne after effects etc.
One of the things that really stuck with me was the fact that in Switzerland every house had to have a fully stocked and functioning air raid bunker. I suspect that I really wanted us to have one.
It’s a bizarre idea really; digging up your idyllic back garden to install an underground haven to protect you from the end of the world, which in real terms won’t actually do that, it will just delay the inevitable
The two weeks or so shelter they would give you before air filters, power, food etc ran out would be unlikely to be of much genuine use in terms of long term survival as the world you emerged into would most likely be poisoned, destroyed and have a blackened sky from the debris thrown into the atmosphere.
Around the same time as discovering the above, the countryside/edgeland landscape around me seemed to be scattered with crumbling and discarded military emplacements, weapons, crashed planes and the scarifying mythology of air raid bunkers which we would descend into, knowing not what we would find (but I expect hoping they would contain a ghost or two).
It’s curious how these things still remain and survive over the years in the countryside (as I type there is a WWII air raid shelter not twenty yards from me in the back garden); probably the march of redevelopment and modernity is not so all-consuming in such parts* of the world and so such things are left alone until needs be, quiet reminders or ghosts of conflicts both real and feared.
And ever since there has always been a fascination at the back of my mind with the mysteries of bunkers and the sirens of impending doom. Such things still have a power to haunt me; occasionally around these parts the wind will carry the sound of the klaxon call that declares they’re about to blow up part of a hill for quarry excavation and my mind holds it’s breath for just a moment as the young me wanders if this is the sound that means it’s time to head for a bunker.
Perhaps part of A Year In The Country is hoping to lay these ghosts that still inhabit the back of my mind to rest a little, even if just personally as it’s in the face of the continuing physical, corporeal presence of the roots of those fears.
The end of the world via the weapons which the Swiss still have their bunkers to defend them is now rarely spoken of but the weapons still exist and the ghosts of that once more prominent fear are still dotted around the world in bunker havens, both those instigated by families/individuals and projects built by governments/institutions.
One document of these havens/ghosts is the book/project Waiting For The End Of The World by Richard Ross, from which the images on this day are taken.
One intriguing thing about some of these photographs of domestic shelters are the details of the way they have been made to feel homely and how their aesthetic consideration is often given to their entrances, in the face of and opposition to what their occupants would be faced with if their intended purpose was ever called upon.
That’s not said in a mocking manner but with a sense of genuine affection for the foibles, eccentricities and concerns of people. How it is pictured in some of the photographs makes it seem not all that different to the urge to create your own jam or any one of a hundred other quaint, homely hobbies…
To semi-quote Virginia Astley; From Gardens Where We Hope To Feel Secure.
View more of Richard Ross’ work here.
*Having said which, I did visit a nuclear attack bunker buried underneath Berlin a few years ago, a spectral reminder of the Cold War. It was full of outdated technology, still fully functioning and maintained, designed to hold 20,000 people in the near dark and almost total humidity, without medical care. Row upon row of metal bunk beds. Not a fun place. They had a short video that showed the attack sirens sounding and the bunker door slamming shut. I still think of and pity the young student guide who in a tremulous voice said that it didn’t get any easier watching this sequence of events day after day…
Trails and Influences: Electronic Ether. Case #14/52.
“Landscape-based anxiety… rendering strange and dangerous what many think of as the ideal community… the first great ‘strange village’ movie in British cinema… secrets lurk in the Cornish countryside, atmospherically presented even though the filmmakers never went anywhere near Cornwall… a skin for dancing in… it is not the landscape itself that is the source of unease but rather the savagery of the people who occupy it… takes place entirely in France, yet it presents a rural setting as alienating as anything presented in other rural horrors and refracts it through a distinctive English sensibility… A desolate and appalling landscape… for here there really are witches and demons on the loose in the English countryside… This is still Britain but it is also something else… I will never forget the way I felt when I came out of that film…”
Now if any of that intrigues or draws you in for a night of stealing glances away from the flickers of the screen, out of the windows at a landscape full of a darkness unlit by sodium orange… well then a visit to the BFI’s 10 Great British Rural Horror Films may well be on the cards (as may be a debate on what you would’ve/should’ve been included etc).continue reading
Intricacies and Intrigueries A2 print. £35.00
Size A2: 59.4 x 42 cm / 23.4 x 16.5″ (includes 2cm/0.8″ unprinted border).
Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 100% cotton paper.
Shipped rolled, tied with string.
Free UK/International shipping.
Available at our Artifacts Shop.continue reading
Now along the winding ways of A Year In The Country I’ve come across all kinds of fascinating cultural projects and artifacts… right now, this is something of a favourite.
It’s a 1960 album released by Folkways where Jean Ritchie and George Pickow travelled around England recording literally the music of the folk of the land; from the peels of church bells to children’s rhymes via sailors laments and folk songs passed down through generations of families.
Here are stories of sea fairers who squander their money and life wandering with “flesh-girls” (ladies of the night shall we say), a grand old gardner singing crackedly of riding up to Widdecombe Fair with “Phil Lewer, Jan Brewer, Harry Hawkins, Hugh Davy, Philly Whitpot, George Pausley, Dick Wilson, Tom Cobley and all”…
…a childs instructions for chopping off of heads in Orange and Lemon, tabloid scandal mongering and sensationalism from days gone by via folk song in Death Of Queen Jane, a paper costume adorned Mummers Play and a particularly boozy version of John Barleycorn from the Haxey Hood games (He’ll make a maid dance around this room, Stark naked as ever she was born; He’ll make a parson hold his boots, With a little John Barleycorn. He’ll turn your gold into silver, Your silver into brass; He’ll make a man become a foll, And a foll become an ass”).
I’ve said this before about different items but this is an album that feels as though it’s a long lost project that has been sent out into the world by a modern day cultural rarities curator such as Jonny Trunk: it almost feels too authentic, too real.
These Folkways records had lovely packaging and a really solid physical presence; all matt printing on textured stock, they feel built to stand the tests of time.
And this particular copy of the album has: it’s one of the original 1960 issues, as far as I know it’s not been reissued on vinyl and it was one of those rare occasions in the electronic ether where it was actually quite hard to find a copy. Though it is available as a print on demand CD I felt that for me do it justice I wanted to hear and feel how it looked and sounded at the time when it was first sent out into the world, crackles and all.
Jean Ritchie grew up in the Cumberland Mountains in Viper, Kentucky, one of 14 (!) children and was part of a generation in that area where traditional living finally began to succumb to technological, travel etc, long after much of the rest of the US had already done so.
Apparently she grew up singing traditional and more recent folk songs with her family, which in part lead her to travel the British Isles in order to trace the sources of her family songs.
And I’m glad she did as in these recordings there is a document of a sense of an end of an era which possibly parallels her own family/cultural history; a sense of some kind of final golden age of pre-technological transmission of songs and stories.
This isn’t done in a capturing and preserving things just so way but rather the recordings feel like living, breathing documents, which capture a very human spirit. The album is allowed to retain it’s raw field recordings; you can hear laughter at the end of songs and is it just me or can I hear the reels of the tapes going round?
You can listen to clips from the album and view a digital version of the accompanying booklet at Fokways here.
Day #108/365: Let me grab your soul away – Kate Bush and darkly cinematic flickerings through the meadows, moors and mazes…
Trails and Influences: Electronic Ether. Case #13/52.
And while we’re talking about The Innocents (see Day #106) and much of the world has been a-twitter about Ms Bush (including me just presciently before she announced her live dates – see Day #71/365 – maybe there was something in the air)…
Now, I’ve been a-listening to Ms Bush’s work on and off for a fair few decades but curiously I didn’t know about all that many of the sometimes quite direct cinematic influences with regards to a number of her songs.
Although I’ve read a book or two on her, I think that part of my mind has wanted to deliberately avoid unravelling the mysteries of a somewhat unique English Lionheart.
Having said which, this article on things cinematically Kate Bush from the BFI was an interesting find… it travels from Wuthering Heights to The Shining (isolationist pastoral horror?) via Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (which influenced both a song of the same name and also her film The Line, The Cross and The Curve), the song Hounds Of Love borrowing of a line of text from 1957’s Night Of The Demon (“It’s in the trees! It’s Coming!”… ah, so that’s where that’s from)…
…to the aforementioned The Innocents influence on a song from her Never For Ever album and it’s referencing of Willow O Waly from the films soundtrack, Hammer Horror as both song and film studio (“The first time in my life I leave the lights on to ease my soul” indeed), the audiological conspiracies of Experiment IV and the possible influence of Witchfinder General on the sorcery accusations and trials of her Waking The Witch song (which is a brutally unsettling experimental song and would be wherever it was found, let alone on a hit album… it starts as a gentle rousing from the sweet comforter of sleep and then… well I’m quite nervous listening to it as I type, let’s just say every night time creature tumbles from out of the cupboard and from under the bed)…
Read the article here.
Day #107/365: Archie Fisher & Acid Tracks – An Introduction to the roots of psych-folk: subculture not from beneath the paving stones but from under the plough
When I was first really discovering and connecting up the dots between much of the music which I’ve visited on the way to and through A Year In The Country, this compilation put together by The Owl Service and released as a download by record label Rif Mountain (home of Jason Steel, Straw Bear Band, Nancy Wallace and former home of The Owl Service) was something of a particular point of reference.
It does what it says in the title – it is an introduction to some of the headier concoctions of what has become known as acid or psychedelic folk.
Here’s a full tracklisting:
01 – Spiggly – Spirogyra
02 – Sea Song – Caedmon
03 – Dragonfly – The Strawbs
04 – Thruxton – Dando Shaft
05 – Kilmanoyadd Stomp – Dr Strangely Strange
06 – Carnival & Penitence – Heron
07 – Ten Maidens Fair – Caedmon
08 – Orfeo – Archie Fisher
09 – Missing the Head – Dulcimer
10 – Old Boot Wine – Spirogyra
11 – Nottamun Town – Oberon
12 – September Wine – Dando Shaft
13 – The Skater – Midwinter
14 – Psalm 42 (edit) – The Trees Community
Ah, listening to it again, that’s where I know Caedmon’s The Sea from and why listening to it on vinyl felt like rediscovering an old friend (see Day #93/365).
Well, if you should want a soundtrack for wandering through gently lysergic fields, this would be it… in many ways it feels like a companion piece to Bob Stanley’s acid/folk underground Early Morning Hush and Gather In The Mushroom compilations. In common with the first of those albums, this compilation takes in a fair number of songs from privately released albums (see Caedmon, Midwinter, Oberon).
Interesting as well how such, well, out there music sometimes came from very religious inclinations (both Caedmon and The Trees Community came from such a background)…
In fact, when you think about it, it’s both interesting and curious how acid/psychedelic folk grew from a mixture of sources, which incorporated at different times religious beliefs, traditional folk song (though thoroughly reinterpreted) and the late 60s counter-culture.
Subcultural/counter-cultural movements tend to be thought of as having sprung from the cracks beneath the cities walkways, whereas psych-folk seems to have been created by participants who were either physically located out in the cottages and meadows or who used a form of imaginative geographical travel to create a culture which, in contrast to urban influenced/inflected cultural movements, was hazily narcotically pastoral. Heady days.
The particular standout song on the Acid Tracks compilation for me is Archie Fisher’s Orfeo… possibly one of the recording artists on the compilation who at first glance would appear the least acid/psych like but Orfeo is a magnificent, epic song, cinematic in scope… and there are these monstrous horns/pipes/foghorns (?) which appear repeatedly throughout the song and arrive like depth charges.
The album, also called Orfeo, on which it originally appeared was first released in 1970 and though it had been re-released on both LP and CD since it’s still something of a rarity, so here’s good luck if you should go a-hunting.
Listen to Archie Fisher’s Orfeo song here.
Listen to the compilation… well, that may take a bit more ether trawling.continue reading
Willow O Waly is the song which is the recurring motif for the 1961 film The Innocents…
Haunting. Lilting. Lovely. Indeed.
Finders Keepers Records fairly recently released a version of it on 7″ vinyl as part of their Finders Kreepers series:
“Starting the series off on a good foot Finders Kreepers bring you a mysterious and beguiling piece of music that has enchanted and eluded fans of vintage horror for decades. A game changer for the new wave of British horror when it was originally released the most unnerving attribute of The Innocents was the recurring childlike song that haunted the corridors and gardens of a haunted house in between bursts of concrète effects and drones (made by an uncreditted Daphne Oram). A forerunner to a generation of lullaby lead horror scenes (such as Rosemary’s Baby and Profondo Rosso) whilst drawing comparison with other macabre music featuring minor maestros such as The Night Of The Hunter and The Wickerman, this song is an oft requested gem of a micro-genre which seldom passes through second hand record stores and bookshops undetected in its original vinyl form. Produced as an ambitious commercial tie-in for the release of the film in 1961 this elongated studio version sung by the lead Scottish born actress Isla Cameron (who many will also recognise as a prolific traditional folk singer on the early 60s) was casually marketed to a small audience of movie fans who perhaps liked the idea of bringing the ghost into their own house. This rare original studio version is one of the only ways to capture the short leading motif that has echoed, in limbo, through the consciousness of film enthusiasts for over five decades.”
Ah, re-reading that piece helps makes sense of something that I thought when I recently watched the film: that the music/sounds which accompanied Willow O Waly were curiously experimental sounding, so it’s not a suprise to see that they were created by a pioneer of electronic music (see Daphne Oram here).
As an aside, I’m still mildly annoyed with myself for missing a talk that Martin Stephen, the main male child actor from The Innocents gave which I had the change to go to. ‘Twould have been interesting I expect and something of a rarity to hear him talking about such things as after appearing in The Innocents, The Hellfire Club, Village Of The Damned, the Nigel Kneale penned The Witches etc he gave up acting at 18.
John Wyndham’s book The Midwich Cuckoos on which Village Of The Damned was based was one of the earliest pieces of adult science fiction I read and has been mentioned in these pages before, see Day #46) borrowed from the shelves of books that ran round most of the side of one of the two classrooms in the small country school I attended at the time… the final page or so was missing and so the end was a mystery for a fair while.
The unsettling visions of Mr Wyndham’s fiction seems to have stayed with me somewhat over the years and keeps cropping up around these parts… I think I may have to be a-returning to such things in a more indepth manner during the journey of this year in the country…continue reading
Nature’s Calligraphy 12 x Giclée card/print set. £15.00.
Each envelope is hand stamped and signed/numbered.
Printed using archival Giclée pigment inks.
Each card is hand signed and numbered on the reverse.
Card size: A6; 14.8 x 10.5 cm / 5.8 x 4.1 inches.
Printed on matt 245gsm matt paper.
Free UK/International shipping.
Available in our Artifacts Shop.continue reading
Day #104/365: Anthromorphic Leporids; a wander down some otherly rabbit holes and the fantastic visions of childhood tales
Well, that should probably be Anthromorphic Leporids (the rabbit family), the occasional companion and a possible interloper…
There is something unnerving about bunny/rabbit masks on a human. I’m not quite sure why.
When I see rabbits/hares in the wild (or the occassional time I’ve seen them bounding around inside a home), there is a a surreal air to them, again I’m not quite sure why.
Maybe those Adventures of Alice in Wonderland that I read/watched back in childhood have set down deeper roots than I think… the waistcoated, time keeping rabbit (and associated rabbit holes) is such an iconic character and theme.
…which coincidentally for quite a while was the only photograph of Sproatly Smith (see Days #85, #92, #101 of A Year In The Country) that I’d seen. Well, not that it was of them but that was the only photograph they had put forth into the world.
Most of these images are gleaned from a collection in the ether by Becky Wells*. I’m not sure where they are originally from and whether some of them are her own work. The collection errs towards the more gothic/creepy side of folkloric and related imagery. Tread gently…
*All images are via Becky Wells except the above trio of faceless rabbits which is by Nadja Jovanovic, which puts me in mind of 1970s genre fiction paperback covers by way of vintage East European cinema poster art…
Talking of such genre fiction, I expect an interest in things otherly was propagated in part by being left alone with an uncle’s collection of such 1970s science fiction paperbacks on family visits as a child, books which endlessly fascinated me with their visions and promise of fantastical worlds; I would try to plough through and read at probably too young an age to be able to fully take in their concepts but the stories of which seemed to have stayed with me over the years.
Looking back I think many of those books were possibly from a point at which science fiction often seemed to be an expression of/lean towards the counter culture and non-mainstream thinking rather than being strictly standard genre fare, including classics by those such as H.G. Wells in that collection which often dealt with social problems, divides etc from a liberal/progressive perspective.
Something of a nod towards William Blake’s Jerusalem poem and it’s reference to “dark Satanic mills”.
I think I’ve tended to think of that part of the poem being about mills etc in cities but living in the countryside for the first time since I was a child I’ve realised just how much industry, mining and engine works etc there were in the countryside. As I’ve learned about where I live I’ve discovered about all kinds of long forgotten works, subterranean tunnels and abandoned mines which have sucked down the concrete foundations of newer buildings and so on.
Now these once mighty industrial edifices and engines are largely tourist attractions or have been left to crumble, although there is still a suprising amount of industry of one sort or another that occurs slightly off the main track in amongst the “pleasant pastures” and “clouded hills”.continue reading
Well, here we are a-returning once again to the pastures and culture that surrounds The Wicker Man…
There have been a fair few versions of Gently Johnny over the years (and not always in the film itself in some of it’s shorter versions), these are two of my favourites.
Why? Well, I think this quote from Static Caravan who released this split 7″ puts it quite well:
“In his 1958 exploration of the more ribald aspects of English folksong*, The Idiom of the People, James Reeves suggests that Gently Johnny has its roots in medieval minstrelsy. However, it is better known as the slightly sinister song of seduction sung by the regulars in the Green Man pub in the cult British horror film, The Wicker Man. The song has continued to exert an influence over musicians, but many of the recordings that have been made of it are a little reverent and bloodless – either too faithful to the film version or treating the song as a precious and fragile faux-pagan remnant, maybe these two versions will go some way to redress the balance.”
Sproatly Smith’s version has a lilting, gentleness to it that doesn’t bely it’s salaciousness… including some found sounds and wanders off into a touch of dialogue which you may well be familiar with…
…while The Woodbine & Ivy Band has a graceful delicateness that’s all English Rose and soft wantonness with just a hint and twang of dustbowls across the sea here and there…
Well worth a listen to and parting with a few pence or more. Indeed.
As a slight aside, while I was looking up things for this page I came across different sheet music versions of the song, including one recorded by folk archivist Cecil Sharp. Interesting to see the variations on the song and just how… well, lively shall we say, the song is or has been… which brings us back to James Reeves and the ribald lyrical content of native English song (more details on his book here.)
Sproatly Smith’s version can be listened to here.
The Static Caravan of the vinyl single (on appropriately green vinyl**) can be read about here, where you will no doubt be told it’s sold out but a bit of a rummage around the ether may find a copy in that now rarity the physical record shop such as here and possibly still via Reverb Worship here.
If you delve back into the earlier days of A Year In The Country there is a consideration of the roots of the music that became The Wicker Man soundtrack. View Day #18/365: Willow’s Songs here. And more recently the vessels and artifacts that have carried the modern(ish) folklore of The Wicker Man at Day #90/365 here.
*”Where shall I meet you my pretty little dear
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal black hair
I’m going a milking kind sir she answered me
But it’s dabbling in the dew where you might find me.”
**”Some things in their natural state have the most vivid colours” (Willow McGregor)continue reading
Well, recently a note arrived through my digital letterbox for an intriguing looking event: Delia Derbyshire Day.
If you should not know who this lady is (was), she was an electronic music pioneer who worked at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, was particularly renowned for her recording and arrangement of a piece of music which has topped and tailed all kinds of childhood dreams and nightmares over the years (the original Doctor Who Theme), which was one of the first ever electronic signature tunes used on television, created the first electronic music to accompany a fashion show… and well, I expect the world of music might well be quite a different place without her work and it’s not hard to draw a line back from some of the more electronic composers who appear amongst A Year In The Country.
I never knew the lady but I always feel quite moved and sad when I read about her life and her passing away at a relatively early age. I feel the world lost a great talent and there’s a sense that her work has never been correctly allowed to flourish, be heard or documented fully (indeed 267 reel-to-reel tapes were discovered after her death, which have been digitised but have not been released due to copyright complications, her released work seems to be patchily represented in official forms).
The Delia Derbyshire Days are a nod towards and a mark of respect for her and her work and hopefully will play a part in assigning the respect she and it deserve.
Of note and well worth a wander: well there could well be quite a few but Dreams, her work with Barry Bermage, where people described their nocturnal stories to an electronic accompaniment is well worth a visit, there’s Mathew Sweet’s radio documentary Sculptress of Sound (listen here), the Audiological Chronology Delia Derbyshire site here, Blue Veils and Golden Sands, a radio play based on her life which can be visited here and The Delian Mode, a documentary about her by Kara Blake can be perused here. Well, that’s a start at least… and that soundtrack, well, I expect you can easily visit that in your mind.
Visit Delia Derbyshire Day here (quick quick, it’s coming soon), which will be starting at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester, before wandering off to Hebden Bridge, The Horse Hospital in London, Norwich and Oxford.
Read her obituary by a friend and work companion here (a touching, evocative, moving piece).
Read more about Delia Derbyshire here.
Ms Derbyshire, I salute you. Rest in peace.
I shall leave the final words to her, quoted from the above obituary: very prescient and also humble:
“What we are doing now is not important for itself but one day someone might be interested enough to carry things forwards and create something wonderful on these foundations.”