• A Small Archive of the Oddly Pastoral and an Experience Centre Time Machine by Way of the Museum of Obsolete Media: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 50/52

    sight-and-sound-magzine-bfi-spring-1971sight-and-sound-magzine-bfi-summer-1978Sight and Sound-film magazine-BFI-Winter 1978-1979

    This post would appear to be part of A Year In The Country which, to quote author, artist, musician and curator Kristen Gallerneaux is:

    “…planted permanently somewhere between the history of the first transistor, the paranormal, and nature-driven worlds of the folkloric…” 

    Things I found when I went a-wandering:

    Above is a small selection of oddly pastoral 1970s covers for the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine…

    I have looked up which film the images were from but I prefer to let my imagine wander and create its own narratives…

    Cartrivision-1972-1973-video recorder and rental catalogue

    A while ago I stumbled upon the Museum of Obsolete Media and I was surprised to see just how many formats have come and gone over the years, one of which was the Cartrivision video cassette system, which in 1972-1973 was the first consumer video-recorder available in the US:

    “I offer you and your family immediate access to TV programs, your choice of feature-length films, educational and cultural materials, and your own home movies. You can see and hear them in the privacy of your living room any time you desire, without driving anywhere, without fighting crowds, without commercials or other interruptions. I can do this because I’m a time machine, a very special sort of time machine.”
    (Promotional text for the Cartrivision system.)

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Cartrivision were pioneers not only in terms of the video-recorders but also because, considerably in advance of other such services, it offered rental by post of films on its cassettes.

    The system employed its own version of rights management – rental tapes could only be rewound using special equipment at retailers (pictured above), meaning tapes could only be watched once.

    This brings to mind other now quite bizarre seeming rights management systems, such as the DIVX/Digital Video Express system from 1998-1999, whereby you could pay to watch a DVD-like disc but only via a dedicated player and which 48 hours after playing the disc would nolonger be watchable and needed discarding unless you paid again (the system “phoned home” to a central server system to check the disc’s status).

    Or the even more bizarre and wasteful Flexplay DVD-compatible discs that were available from 2003-2009; this was intended as a means for the rental of films without the need to return the discs.

    Well, there wasn’t really any use in returning them as they were supplied in a vacuum-sealed package; after opening the bonding resin holding the inner and outer layers together reacted to oxygen and turned black, making the discs unplayable.

    Catrivision-a unique way of looking at things-logo

    Catrivision failed for a number of reasons: the recorders were often sold as part of units which also contained a colour television and cost the modern-day equivalent of $9000 (approximately £6450 at the time of writing).

    Plus being built into television units meant that for example on the shop floor it was not all that visible and separate from standard televisions.

    Also apparently it was complicated to use and, in a further forebearing of digital storage techniques, it had its own form of analogue compression as it only recorded every third frame, which meant that the picture was fuzzy.

    By 1975 Sony began shipping the less expensive Betamax video-recorders and the following year JVC began shipping VHS units and the rest, as they say, was history (one which had its own epic format war but that’s another story).

    Cartrivision-cassette rear and On The Waterfront

    Elsewhere:
    A brief history of Cartrivision
    Exhibits at the Museum of Obsolete Media: CartrivisionDigital Video ExpressFlexplay.
    Catrivision at LabGuy’s World
    The VHS vs Betamax format war

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 13/52: Jeffrey Siedler’s Logic Formations – Hybrid Spectres of the Spectron Video Synthesizer

     

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  • Image AA/49

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Wintersongs, Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails – Lullabies for the Land and Gently Darkened Undercurrents: Chapter 49 Book Images

    Virgina-Astley-From-Gardens-Where-We-Feel-Secure-vinyl-Rough-Trade-A-Year-In-The-Country-2b-CD front and back

    “Virginia Astley’s 1983 album From Gardens Where We Feel Secure is the very definition of bucolic and is an album which summates England’s pastoral, Edenic dreams, albeit with subtly melancholic and unsettled undercurrents.

    It is a largely piano and woodwind-led melodic record, which is accompanied throughout by the sounds of the countryside and blissful repose: birdsong, lambs, church bells and rowing on the river.”

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

    “It features in Rob Young’s Electric Eden, the final “Poly Albion” section, in the chapter “Towards the Unknown Region”, where he considers the more outerlying areas of the music and culture which has sprung forth from the likes of hauntology and an otherly, spectral take on pastoralism.

    In this section when describing From Gardens Where We Feel Secure he begins by saying that it “does not go anywhere”, in presumably an attempt to show the album’s ambient, non-formal song structure.”

    Virgina Astley-From Gardens Where We Feel Secure-vinyl-Rough Trade-A Year In The Country 4

    “It is an interesting choice of phrase as it also suggests how the English can sometimes hanker after unchanged, unending idylls where the gates can be locked, allowing rest, slumber and dreaming, with the rambunctious march of progress safely held at bay even if just for a moment. Although the album is largely a suite of music which invokes such an Albionic Arcadia, conjuring up lives spent in timeless English villages, it is not merely a chocolate box or twee reverie, as it also contains a sense that there is a flipside to those dreams: that the nightmare may well intrude on the secure Eden.”

    Virgina Astley-From Gardens Where We Feel Secure-vinyl-Rough Trade-A Year In The Country

    “The record distantly wanders some of the same fields as the outer regions of an alternative landscape which can be found in say the film The Wicker Man (1973) or some psych/acid folk music but here while the sense of an idyllic rural Eden has an otherly quality it is not overt: more it is a form of wistful nostalgia or reverie, even where such aspects are most present on When the Fields Were on Fire.”

    Plinth-Wintersongs

    “Such views of the landscape which are both bucolic but also quietly, subtly travel through its flipside can be found on the 1999 album Wintersongs by Plinth, which was made by Michael Tanner with Steven Dacosta, accompanied by Nicholas Palmer and Julian Poidevin…

    In a similar manner to From Gardens Where We Feel Secure it creates a soundtrack for the landscape: one that is in parts gently melancholic but also gently magical and on a track like “Bracken” it almost feels like a walking companion for Virginia Astley’s album in its melodic, looping and minimal exploration of a bucolic atmosphere.

    However, as with From Gardens Where We Feel Secure this is not a twee trip through the land; while at times it may be a journey amongst a certain kind of pastoral reverie there is also something else going on amongst the hills and trees.

    There is heartbreak in the pathways of its songs at points and the quiet melody and refrain of “Hearth” makes the mind wander towards losses along the byways of life.”

    Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 4

    “Walking and exploring amongst similar territories is Sharron Kraus’ 2013 album Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails.

    In the text that she wrote to accompany it there is a sense of her discovering and rediscovering the land as she had begun to live in or visit the Welsh countryside, exploring her surroundings and unlocking some kind of underlying magic or enchantment to the landscape…”

    Sharron Kraus-Night Mare-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 2

    “A phrase which springs to mind when listening to Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Tales and its bonus disc Night Mare was “these are lullabies for the land” and in many ways they do literally feel similar to or have a lullaby-like effect, as they contain a dreamlike quality that is rooted in the land but is also a journey through its hidden undercurrents and tales.

    This is music which also literally soundtracks the landscape where it was made, utilising field recordings captured along the way; the sound of birds, streams, waterfalls, animals, the wind and jet planes which were recorded on Sharron Kraus’ explorations.”

    His Name Is Alive-Livonia-album artwork-4AD

    “Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails is beautifully packaged; it was released in a very limited edition by Second Language Music and designed by Martin Masai Andersen/Andersen M Studio and it feels like a precious artifact: one which you want to pick up carefully and gently.

    The album was presented as a small book-sized gatefold, with the packaging and the gently transformed nature and landscape photography (which in its textural qualities recalls the 23 Envelope work of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson for 4AD records), capturing the beauty and grace of the land through which Sharron Kraus travelled and in which she worked.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 49 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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  • The Corn Mother – Album Released

    Released today 4th December 2018. Price £12.95.
    Available at our Artifacts ShopBandcampNorman Records and Amazon.

    Dawn Rising edition – factory pressed CD in matt 4-panel gatefold sleeve.

    Features music by Gavino Morretti, Pulselovers, The Heartwood Institute, United Bible Studies (David Colohan, Dominic Cooper of The Owl Service, Alison O’Donnell of Mellow Candle), A Year In The Country, Widow’s Weeds (featuring former members of/collaborators with The Hare And The Moon), Depatterning, Sproatly Smith and Field Lines Cartographer.

    dividing-line-just-black-a-year-in-the-country-620px

    Reflections on an Imaginary Film:

    In the early 1970s a folk horror-esque screenplay made the rounds of the film industry but remained unmade until 1982.

    The story is set in the late 19th century in a rural British village and revolves around the folklore of the “corn mother” – where the last row of the corn harvest is beaten to the ground by the reapers as they shout “There she is! Knock her into the ground, don’t let her get away!”, in an attempt to drive the spirit of the corn mother back into the earth for next year’s sowing.

    The small closely-knit farming community’s worries about coming modernisation and the possible repeat of a blighted harvest that had occured earlier in the village’s history, lead to burgeoning irrational fears and a search for a scapegoat to salve those fears.

    A local woman is seen wandering amongst the crops alone late at night and word spreads that she was attempting to curse the harvest and to unseat and take the place of the corn mother, thereby controlling the village and its sustenance.

    These anxieties and rumours result in her persecution – although the plot does not make it clear if they merely drive her from the village or undertake more sinister measures that result in her literally residing within the land.

    Suffering from guilt and remorse at their actions, the villagers become plagued by dreams and nightmares in which this woman returns to them to exact her revenge, and this becomes known as “the visiting of the corn mother”.

    As the community’s psyche becomes ever more fractured by the corn mother’s nocturnal visits, the elders and leaders of the village attempt to both calm the local populace and to discover the cause of these visiting night wraiths; the plot descends into a maelstrom where reality and unreality merge and the village becomes the kingdom of the corn mother.

    The film was completed but was never released due to financial problems with the production company which resulted in legal wrangles, unpaid fees and recriminations, during which knowledge of the whereabouts of the footage became lost, though subsequent rumours suggest that it may even have been deliberately destroyed.

    Those involved in its making have seemed reticent to talk about the film, appearing often to have an aversion to resurrecting the whole affair and claiming that they would rather put it all behind them. But it is also suggested that there are legal binds – which arose as a result of the disagreements surrounding the film after its completion and non-release – which restrict those involved from discussing the production in public.

    Various versions of the screenplay do still exist, many of which are reportedly so radically different in tone and approach to the themes of the eventual film, that there is ongoing debate and conjecture as to just which version of it went into production. It is also reported that a handful of preview copies of the film were made available on the now defunct formats of the time and these have become something of a mythical grail for film collectors.

    As the years have passed a Chinese whispers aspect to the film has evolved, with stories springing into existence that tell of somebody meeting somebody who knew a collector who had met someone else who had seen or owned a copy of the film – although such reports have never been verified or the rumoured copies proven to exist.

    Through related second, third and more-hand reports and interpretations of the different versions of the screenplay, it has been suggested on the one hand that The Corn Mother was a typical direct-to-video piece of exploitation fare designed to take advantage of a rapidly-expanding home video market, and on the other that while the film does indeed contain elements of such things, it is actually nearer to a folkloric fever dream and closer in spirit to arthouse experimentalism than B-movie schlock.

    This album is an exploration and reflection of the whispers that tumble forth from the corn mother’s kingdom, whisperings that have seemed to gain a life of their own, multiplying and growing louder with each passing year.

    Tracklisting:

    1. Ritual And Unearthly Fire – Gavino Morretti
    2. Beat Her Down – Pulselovers
    3. Corn Dolly – The Heartwood Institute
    4. From Thee Last Sheaf On The Braes – United Bible Studies
    5. The Night Harvest – A Year In The Country
    6. The Keeper’s Dilemma – Depatterning
    7. The Corn Mother – Widow’s Weeds
    8. Caught In Thee Coppice – Sproatly Smith
    9. Procession At Dusk – Field Lines Cartographer

    Original artwork: A Year In The Country
    Design and layout: Ian Lowey

    Artifact #10a
    Dawn Rising Edition
    Library Reference Number: A015TCMDR

     


    “You want to see the film as described in the liner notes, and as conjured in the songs on the album, and that’s an incredible trick to pull off.” Alan Boon, Starburst

    “This remarkably cohesive collection is shaping new nightmares from yesterday’s broken dreams.” Ben Graham, Shindig!

    “Understated, pastorally inclined A Year in the Country release another charming collection in characteristic monochrome. Today’s folkloric ruminations concern the mysterious 1970s screenplay for a made-but-never-released horror film called The Corn Mother. Destroyed or squirrelled away somewhere, the film is, in effect, lost to the ages. It endures by its whispered reputation alone; enough to inspire eerie contributions from the likes of Gavino Morretti, Widow’s Weeds and Sproatly Smith.” Norman Records

     

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  • The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 3 – Artifacts and Curios from The Conversation, The Parallax View, 3 Days of the Condor and The Anderson Tapes: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 49/52

     

    Reel to reel tape-The Anderson Tapes-1971

    In Part 1 and Part 2 of this post I wrote about a number of 1970s American films which are variously imbued with a sense of paranoia, unease and surveillance and which reflected the domestic turbulence of the background in which they were made.

    Part 1 focused on The Anderson Tapes (1971), Part 2 on Three Days of the Condor (1975) and I also mentioned The Parallax View (1974) and The Conversation (1974) as being two of the other notable examples of such films.

    3 Days of the Condor-16mm trailer-1

    3 Days of the Condor-16mm trailer-2

    There have been a huge variety of physical artifacts created which are connected to these films: posters, other promotional literature, different editions and formats of home releases of the these films etc, both period and contemporary items, some of which I collect in this post.

    Above and at the top of this post is the 16mm trailer for Three Days of the Condor.

    Such trailers I have something of a softspot for, partly for their compact physicality and also because as they were only produced in small quantities and intended for use within the industry, they tend to be particularly rare and so have a sense of being quite precious cinema artifacts.

    The Parallax View-1974-16mm trailer

    Along which lines, above is the 16mm trailer for the Parallax View.

    The Anderson Tapes-Super 8-covers and film reel

    I’m also rather taken by the above left Super 8 for-home-projection version of The Anderson Tapes and its simplified illustrated artwork, which sort of looks like Sean Connery.

    Was it cheaper to have the artwork redrawn than license the original or is this from an alternate original cinema poster?

    Before home video recorders and laser disc players were affordable and/or widely used/available, these condensed, heavily edited versions were one of the only ways in which films could be watched at home and often featured for example a 2 hour film condensed into an eight minute running time, sometimes without sound.

    (Connected to which, the one on the left mentions that it is part of the “Columbia Pictures The Condensed Features Collection”.)

    The 17 minute Super 8 version of The Anderson Tapes is also included as an extra on the Powehouse Films Indicator Series Blu-ray release of the film – which could be watched as both a curio and y’kno’, for when you’ve only got just over quarter of an hour in which to watch the film (!).

    The Anderson Tapes-The Conversation-3 Days of the Condor-The Parallax View-Polish-Soviet-Eastern European film cinema posters

    The above Polish and former Soviet Union posters travel from (left-right) an almost playful illustrated take on The Anderson Tapes, a frankly deranged and more than a little unsettling interpretation of The Conversation, a quite surreal and also in parts very literal take on Three Days of the Condor and an almost boozy illustration for The Parallax View.

    2626ecja.tif, 3/14/02, 12:00 PM, 8C, 3750x5000 (0+0), 62%, Curve0321, 1/8, R252, G184, B420,

    I’m particularly taken by this poster for The Parallax View which seems to be channelling the further reaches of psych-like 1970s science fiction novel covers and could well be, for example, a poster for a contemporary cinematic conjuring and reimagining of a previous era along the lines of the manner in which Panos Cosmatos Beyond the Black Rainbow created a “Reagan era fever dream” of the 1980s.

    The Conversation-Three Days of the Condor-The Parallax View-The Anderson Tapes-Blu-ray and DVD covers

    I shall (almost) end with some of the recent Blu-ray and DVD covers of the The Conversation, Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View and The Anderson Tapes; the Region A only version of The Conversation has a nice polish to it and a design that puts me in mind of Berberian Sound Studio and its use of the physicality of period recording equipment.

    Klute-All The Presidents Men-The Parallax View-film posters-Alan J Pakula

    As a final note and in a “should you wish to read more”: Adam Scovell, the author of Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, wrote an article called The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (a phrase used for a memoir by Henry Miller) for the November 2017 issue of the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine, which focused on some similar areas of cinema as the three parts of this post and more specifically what has become known as director Alan J. Pakula’s “paranoia trilogy” – Klute, The Parallax View and All the President’s Men.

    At the time of writing that article can only be read in the magazine itself and is not online, the link for which is below.

     

    Elsewhere:
    Adam Scovell on Alan J. Pakula’s “paranoia trilogy”
    The Anderson Tapes limited edition reissue at Powerhouse/Indicator
    The Anderson Tapes trailer
    Three Days of the Condor at Eureka!/Masters of CInema
    Three Days of the Condor trailer
    The Parallax View trailer and that scene
    The Conversation trailer

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Audio Visual Transmission Guide #9/52a: Beyond The Black Rainbow and Phase IV
    Audio Visual Transmission Guide #10/52a: Beyond The Black Rainbow Soundtrack Clips
    1) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 47/52: The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 1 – The Anderson Tapes
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 48/52: The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 2 – Three Days of the Condor

     

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  • Image AA/48

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • A Statement on and Rejection of Extremism

    It has recently been brought to our attention that Richard Moult, one of the music contributors to the A Year In The Country releases, had previous associations with an apparently small fringe organisation that holds and promotes extreme right views and that to some degree despite saying that he was no longer connected with the organisation he may have possible and alleged ongoing connections with it.

    There is no space or place within A Year In The Country for such views; we find them abhorrent, repugnant and fundamentally reject them.

    When we released music featuring his work we had no knowledge of his association with such a group nor of any related extreme former or possible ongoing political or other beliefs held by him nor of any related activities. At that time his solo and collaborative work had been released by literally dozens of record labels, none of which to our knowledge held or espoused such or similar extreme views and therefore we accepted the work in good faith.

    While we are not able to corroborate the facts relating to this matter we do not wish in any way to be associated with such extreme views and therefore we have removed work by him from A Year In The Country and related sites. We have also applied to have any work by him released by A Year In The Country removed from any wider music downloading and streaming sites – although the completion of this removal process once submitted can take up to 30 days.

    We have not released music containing work by him since March 2017 and will not be releasing any further work by him.

    We also do not wish to give the ongoing air of publicity to such extreme views and therefore beyond this statement we will not be entering into further public or private debate about this matter.

    Thank you.

    A Year In The Country
    29th November 2018

     

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  • The Moon and the Sledgehammer and Sleep Furiously – Visions Of Parallel and Fading Lives: Chapter 48 Book Images

    The Moon And The Sledgehammer-A Year In The Country-10

    “The Moon and the Sledgehammer is a 1971 documentary film directed by Philip Trevelayn that shows a snapshot of a family (a father, two sons and two daughters) who live in an isolated woodland English house.”

    The Moon And The Sledgehammer-A Year In The Country-6 The Moon And The Sledgehammer-A Year In The Country-13

    “Their lives and ways of living have a sense of drawing from the past while living in the present; water is drawn by bucket from a well, if there is any mains electricity it is not to be seen, they run and hand build old steam engines, the men dress like working class labourers from earlier in the 20th century (all suit jackets and hats for hard manual and engineering work) and the family play hand-pumped organs and pianos out in the open.

    This way of life does not appear to have come about in any modern dropping off the grid, overly conscious manner but rather to have happened or continued to happen naturally over the years.”

    The Moon And The Sledgehammer-A Year In The Country-1

    “The only time the film shows them leaving their own land and home is during a police-escorted trip down country lanes on a black-smoke puffing steam engine amongst the Morris Minor etc. cars of the period.”

    Akenfield film 1974

    “In part, it is a fitting travelling companion with the 1974 film Akenfield, which is more a recreated/partially dramatised but based on the stories of rural living example of filmmaking (it draws from Ronald Blythe’s oral history 1969 book Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village) than documentary representation but which also seems to represent some kind of earlier 1970s interest in, and attempt to, capture or recapture a disappearing world and pastoral idyll.”

    Two Years At Sea-Ben Rivers-A Year In The Country 14

    “However, The Moon and the Sledgehammer is possibly nearer to Ben Rivers’ Two Years at Sea film from 2011, which focuses on the life of a man who lives alone in an isolated rural environment, in that it is a picturesque but also unadorned document of lives that have stepped to one side of normal life, with both being filmmaking which records and presents its subjects lives largely without narration.”

    Two Years At Sea-sleep furiously-The Moon & The Sledgehammer-Akenfield-A Year In The Countrysleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-New Wave Films-DVD cover-A Year In The Country

    “The Moon and the Sledgehammer, along with Two Years at Sea is connected to a small genre of British filmmaking that is in part landscape/pastoral based documentary but which to varying degrees is non-conventional and/or may include elements of art or expressive film.”

    sleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-A Year In The Country

    “Along with which, we could include Gideon Koppel’s 2008 film Sleep Furiously.

    This film is a view of a small village community that is slowly fading away as the population and local amenities decline. Parts of it are nearer to stills than film; contemplative views of the landscape, sometimes time-lapsed, sometimes with just one tiny figure or vehicle traversing the land.”

    General orders no 9-a year in the countryGeneral orders no 9dPaul Hill-White Peak Dark Peak book cover-Dewi Lewis Publishing-A Year In The CountryMinninglow, Looking North-Paul Hill-White Peak Dark Peak-Dewi Lewis Publishing-A Year In The Country

    “It shares a sense of an almost painterly or photographer’s eye for such things with the 2009 film General Orders No. 9 and reminds me of art-photography views of the landscape such as Paul Hill’s Dark Peak, White Peak photography book from 1990; work which combines that just-mentioned expressive view alongside a documentary recording of the landscape.”

    sleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-A Year In The Country-2 copy

    “In contrast to General Orders No. 9, Sleep Furiously is not an overtly otherly view of the countryside and pastoralism but it is more than just a straight documentary in some manner which is hard to define; there is an understated gentle magic to it.

    And gentle is an apposite word as in many ways this is a gentle film; gently soporific and largely gently soundtracked, a gentle possibly muted visual colour palette and gently visualised.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 48 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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  • The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 2 – Three Days of the Condor: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 48/52

    3 Days of the Condor-Sydney Pollack-1975-film poster

    In Part 1 of this post I began to write about a section of 1970s American film that is variously imbued with a sense of paranoia, unease and surveillance and which reflected the domestic turbulence of the background in which they were made, commenting that along these lines could be included, amongst others, the films The Anderson Tapes (1971), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Parallax View (1974) and The Conversation (1974).

    Three Days of the Condor was directed by Sydney Pollack and based on the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady.

    In it a desk bound American intelligence agent, code named Condor, works in a research department whose job it is to read books, newspapers and magazines from around the world looking for hidden meanings, possible connections to real world plots and also to draw from fiction possible new techniques for use by the intelligence services.

    While he is out at lunch one day his entire department is assassinated and when he realises that he does not know who he can trust in the intelligence services he goes on the run and attempts to work out the reasons for the assassinations, hiding out in the city with an at first unwilling female accomplice.

    The film presents a sense of a vast, heavily funded and technologically advanced intelligence agency infrastructure and headquarters, accompanied by an almost workmanlike efficiency and procedures which seems a cold remove from the reality of lives being lost and people getting their hands dirty in the field.

    3 Days of the Condor-Sydney Pollack-1975-film still-title computer font

    Both The Anderson Tapes and Three Days of the Condor use credit card/cheque fonts in their title sequences, which at the time suggested computerisation and an associated sense of the use of new technology.

    Connected to which both films are in part a reflection of advances in surveillance and related technology – whether equipment used and adapted to observe and record subjects or period computers.

    3 Days of the Condor-Sydney Pollack-1975-film still-computer

    An inherent part of the films mentioned in this post is their use of then modern recording equipment and sometimes computer based technology, something which at the time of their making had a bulky, often imposing physical presence.

    As with the typefaces used in the credits, the flashing lights, teletype printer and constantly moving reel-to-reel data tapes of the computers featured are prominent signifiers of a particular period and stage of development in digital technology.

    3 Days of the Condor-Sydney Pollack-1975-film still 4

    Sydney Pollack’s film shares not having a “happy” ending with The Anderson Tapes; in Three Days of the Condor the plot is left particularly ambiguous as the Condor turns his back on the intelligence agency and goes to the press with details of the conspiracy he has uncovered.

    However, the film ends with him not knowing if his story will be printed and having been told by an intelligence agent that he is “about to become a very lonely man”.

    In many ways the story is one of an individual who is initially just going to work and doing his job in a day-to-day manner, without possessing or being driven by a great need to serve his country etc, nor seeming to even particularly be aware of the wider, real world ramifications of the research he is doing.

    (This attitude shares some territory with the just mentioned efficient, workmanlike infrastructure of the wider intelligence agency and the sense in the film of it being in part at a remove from the realities of field work.)

    3 Days of the Condor-1975-film still

    As the film progresses he becomes not dissimilar to a lone noir-ish knight in shining armour private detective as he attempts to understand and later expose the conspiracy he has uncovered and in common with say author Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, he displays a variously resourceful, determined, stubborn and almost pig-headed determination in doing what he considers right.

    Although with Marlowe there is a sense that his morality is an inherent part of him and ever present, while within the Condor it is portrayed as possibly always having been a part of his character but it was subsumed under a wish for an easy, routine life, with him only being morally radicalised by his experiences.

    Three Days of the Condor has had numerous DVD and Blu-ray releases, most recently in the UK by Eureka!/Masters of Cinema, in an edition which, as with Powerhouse’s release of The Anderson Tapes, has a high-level of attention to detail, extended booklet, extras etc.

    James Grady’s novel on which the film is based is also worth seeking out – it is a short first novel that has stood up well to the passing of time and is a gripping, quick and easy read which also reflects the author’s extensive research into the intelligence agencies, communities and methods of operation.

    Pressbook-3 Days of the Condor-1975

    Elsewhere:
    Three Days of the Condor at Eureka!/Masters of CInema
    Three Days of the Condor trailer

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Week #39/52: An elegy to elegies for the IBM 1401 / notes on a curious intertwining
    Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 47/52: The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 1 – The Anderson Tapes

     

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  • Image AA/47

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • Weirdlore, Folk Police Recordings, Sproatly Smith and Seasons They Change – Notes from the Folk Underground, Legendary Lost Focal Points and Privately Pressed Folk: Chapter 47 Book Images

    Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 3Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 2

    “Once Upon a Time in 2012 there was an event called Weirdlore, which could well in future years have come to be known and referred to as a focal point for a new wave of what has variously been called acid, psych, underground or wyrd folk.”

    froots magazine covers-andy Irvine-show of hands-mekons-the rheingans sisters

    “The phrase weirdlore was coined by Ian Anderson of fRoots magazine,

    who organised this event, as a name for the one-day gathering and also as a possible genre title for such things.

    There have been quite a few different genre titles attached to this area of music but none has ever really fully stuck or come to fully define or delineate a loose grouping of music that draws from various strands of folk music, culture and traditions, while also often being exploratory and/or underground in nature and audience.

    Unfortunately said event was cancelled. Apparently there was a lot of enthusiasm for it but this did not translate into actual ticket sales.”

    -Folk Police Recordings logo-A Year In The Country

    “However, an accompanying compilation album called Weirdlore was still released in 2012 by the no longer-operating Folk Police Recordings. Folk Police Recordings was a Manchester-based record label that was active from 2010-2013 and was a home for work that took folk music as its starting point but which wandered off down its own paths (while still generally keeping an eye cast towards its roots).”

    Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The Country 3The Woodbine & Ivy Band-Folk Police Recordings-A Year In The Country Harp and a Monkey-Folk Police Recordings-A Year In The Country

    “Their releases included work by amongst others Sproatly Smith, The Woodbine & Ivy Band, The Owl Service, Harp and a Monkey and Lisa Knapp as well as an album by Frugal Puritan which was alleged to have been a recording of lost Christian acid folk (please note the “allegedly” as this may in fact have been a project created and imagined in contemporary times).”

    Folklore-Tapes-front & follow-Clay pipe-was ist das?-rif mountian-hood faire-stone tape

    “Folk Police Records could be seen to be one of a number of record labels and music orientated projects which to various degrees have worked in and released left-of-centre, exploratory folk and related work and/or work related to the flipsides and undercurrents of pastoralism and the land.

    Along which lines are included amongst others Deserted Village, Was Ist Das?, Hood Faire, Patterned Air Recordings, Front & Follow, Caught By The River’s Rivertones, Stone Tape Records, Clay Pipe Music, The Geography Trip, Folklore Tapes, Rif Mountain and A Year In The Country itself.”

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

    “The Weirdlore album is, as was the intended event, a snapshot of things musically weirdloric and includes tracks by performers whose work was released separately by Folk Police Recordings and others and included songs by Telling The Bees, Emily Portman, Rapunzel & Sedayne, Nancy Wallace, Pamela Wyn Shannon, Katie Rose, The False Beards, Foxpockets, Boxcar Aldous Huxley, The Straw Bear Band, Starless & Bible Black, Alasdair Roberts, Corncrow, Rosalind Brady, The Witches with Kate Denny, Harp and a Monkey and Wyrdstone.

    Aside from the music the album is also well worth a peruse in part for the accompanying text by Ian Anderson, written with Weirdlore still a month away and not yet cancelled. 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.”

    A particular standout track is Sproatly Smith’s version of traditional folk song “Rosebud in June”, which was described by website 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 sums up the song and the atmosphere it creates rather well; otherworldly, transportative, dreamscape acid or psych folk.”

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

    “Sproatly Smith were described by fRoots magazine as “the mystery flagship band of the new wave of weirdlore” and in keeping with that sense of mystery, for a while there did not seem to be any photographs of them online.

    On the Folk Police Recordings released Minstrels Grave album from 2012 by Sproatly Smith two songs in particular stand out: “Blackthorn Winter” which manages to be shimmeringly stark, dark and beautiful all at once and “The Blue Flame”, which while gentler conjures visions of a land rolling away just out of sight of the mind’s eye.”

    Gently Johnny-Sproatly Smith-The Woodbine & Ivy Band-Static Caravan-The Wicker Man-Magnet-A Year In The CountryThe-Wicker-Man-poster-1973-Anthony Shaffer-Peter Snell-Robin Hardy

    “Another recording of Sproatly Smith’s which is particularly appealing is a split seven-inch single with fellow Folk Police Recordings released performers The Woodbine & Ivy band on Static Caravan, released in 2012. On this release they both covered the traditional and evocatively erotic and unblushing song “Gently Johnny” which was reinterpreted by Paul Giovanni for The Wicker Man’s soundtrack in 1973…

    Sproatly Smith’s version has a lilting gentleness to it that does not belie its salaciousness, while The Woodbine & Ivy Band’s has a graceful delicateness that is all English Rose and soft wantonness with just a hint and twang of dustbowls across the sea here and there.

    Music such as this builds visions of pastoral otherliness, taking the roots of folk and late 1960s and early 1970s acid or psych folk music and quietly wandering somewhere new.”

    Jeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The CountryJeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The Country-2

    “Within Weirdlore’s album packaging there is an extended piece of writing by Jeanette Leech who is the author of the book Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk (2010), 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…”

    Witches hats & painted chariots-shindig-psych folk-electric muse-folk rock-seance at syds-dave thompson-electric eden-rob young

    “Seasons They Change is one of only a small handful of books that focus on such or interconnected areas, which includes Rob Young’s Electric Eden (2011), Shindig magazine’s Witches Hats and Painted Chariots (2013), The Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock (1975) and Dave Thompson’s Seance at Syd’s (2015) which loosely groups contemporary acid folk with, amongst other areas of music, psych and space rock.”

    Devandra-Banhart-Joanna-Newsom

    “Seasons They Change draws connecting lines of history between everything from 1960s psychedelic folk to the 2000s arrival of freak folk such as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom via the apocalyptic underground folk of Current 93 and the world of privately pressed folk music.”

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

    “Some of those featured appear on the compilation Early Morning Hush: Notes From the Folk Underground 1969-76, released in 2006 and compiled by musician and writer Bob Stanley, which included privately pressed folk amongst its tracks.

    Along with its companion album Gather in the Mushrooms from 20042 it presented folk music that was a far sweeter and stranger set of concoctions than anything that springs to mind under the label of folk before, which is a description that could well be applied to much of privately pressed folk from the later 1960s and 1970s.”

    stone angel-folk-album covershide and acorn-album coverMidwinter-The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow-acid folk psych folk-Early Morning Hush-A Year In The Country 2

    “The Early Morning Hush album features songs that were originally released via private pressing by Stone Angel on their eponymous album from 1975 and Shide & Acorn from their 1971 album Under the Tree, of which just 99 copies were pressed.

    The album also includes a track by Midwinter (who later evolved into Stone Angel) that was part of a set of recordings from 1973 that were not released until 1994.”

    Caedmon-acid folk psych folk-Seasons They Change-A Year In The CountryOberon-A-Midsummers-Night-Dream-folk-private-press-A-Year-In-The-Country-cropped

    “Other privately pressed folk from the time includes the eponymously titled Caedmon album from 1978 and the album A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1971 by Oberon, which as with Under the Tree was originally pressed in an edition of just 99 copies.

    There is a mixture of the lost and found, the strange and familiar to such music which is possibly a result of it springing from earlier traditional music while progressing and exploring elsewhere.”

    the-forest-the-wald-both-editions-a-year-in-the-country

    “When John Coulthart was discussing at his Feuilleton website the A Year In The Country-released themed compilation album The Forest/The Wald from 2016, which in part contained music that could be seen as a continuum of the experimentations of the acid or psych folk found on such private pressings, he said that it is:

    “…a response to British folk traditions that acknowledges the history without seeming beholden to it.”

    Which could also be a way to describe both the likes of Midwinter and Shide & Acorn or the contemporary visitings and revisitings of traditional folksongs and acid or psych folk by Sproatly Smith (whose work is featured on The Forest/The Wald).”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 47 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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  • The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 1 – The Anderson Tapes: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 47/52

    2626ecja.tif, 3/14/02, 12:00 PM, 8C, 3750x5000 (0+0), 62%, Curve0321, 1/8, R252, G184, B420,

    There is a section of 1970s American film that is variously imbued with a sense of paranoia, unease and surveillance which reflects the domestic turbulence of the background in which they were made.

    Amongst others, of particular note along these lines could be included the films The Anderson Tapes (1971), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Parallax View (1974) and The Conversation (1975).

    The Anderson Tapes-Lawrence Sanders-3 different version of book cover

    The Anderson Tapes is based on a 1970 book by Lawrence Sanders, which was written in an unusual style, being made up of surveillance, police reports etc rather than being written in a conventional manner.

    The film adaptation by Sidney Lumet is narratively fairly conventional and depicts the planning and carrying out of a burgarly of on entire upscale New York apartment building by a gang of ex-convicts, who are unaware that from the start they are under surveillance by various agencies and individuals, including government taxation investigation and law enforcement agencies and a private detective.

    Re-examining the plot again, what in part it reveals is a form of intensive, multi-layered and almost total surveillance, which mirrors and forebears elements of contemporary society and technology.

    However, possibly due to way that in a pre-digital age there was a lack of ease in which information could be exchanged and pooled, all of these groups and individuals are working separately and are unable to “connect the dots” and anticipate the robbery.

    Despite this, In keeping with much of 1970s cinema, the film does not have a happy, wander off into the sunset ending for the gang of robbers, who are in part foiled by an amateur radio enthusiast in the building who manages to alert fellow radio enthusiasts to what is happening, in a manner that suggests both plucky publicly spirited resourcefulness and also seems to suggest and possibly even anticipate forms of technological submission, use, reliance, snitchery and self-surveillance.

    The Anderson Tapes-VHS cover

    The Anderson Tapes also could be seen as dry-run or earlier experiment in some of its themes and atmospheres of conspiracy, paranoia and new uses of technology that would be later explored in Network, which Sidney Lumet directed in 1976.

    Accompanying The Anderson Tapes is a soundtrack by Quincy Jones, which features striking, jarring, synthesized stabs of music and noise which both reflect the use and introduction of new technological surveillance techniques and equipment and also are an intriguing contrast with this otherwise in some ways quite traditionally presented film.

    In 2017 The Anderson Tapes had a reissue on limited edition Blu-ray by Powerhouse/Indicator, whose release catalogue is shaping up rather well.

    Their releases generally have a high level of attention to detail and extensive accompanying booklets and extras, which often, as in the case of The Anderson Tapes, appear to give or return a certain level of respect and appreciation for sometimes slightly overlooked or underrated examples of cinema.

    The Anderson Tapes-CED videodisc cover

    Elsewhere:
    The Anderson Tapes limited edition reissue at Powerhouse/Indicator
    The Anderson Tapes trailer

     

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  • Image AA/46

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • Detectorists, Bagpuss, The Wombles and The Good Life – Views from a Gentler Landscape: Chapter 46 Book Images

    The Good Life-1975-BBC

    There is an interconnected strand of often comic, gentle and uncynical work within British television which variously revolves around the landscape, self-sufficiency and recycling.

    The Good Life is one thread of such things.

    This was a BBC sitcom broadcast from 1975-1978; a chap who lives in suburbia decides he has had enough of the rat race, quits his job and along with his wife tries to live self-sufficiently via growing their own food, keeping livestock etc.

    However this is not self-sufficiency on a smallholding out in the countryside.

    Rather this is self-sufficiency attempted in a normal house in middle class suburbia, next to their more conventional affluent neighbours.

    Although some of the ideas presented within the series are quite radical and much of the comedy is derived from the conflict between the self-sufficient lifestyles of Tom and Barbara and their attempts at this way of life next door to conventional ways of life, this is still gentle uncynical comedy – a form of bucolia in suburbia.

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

    Initially slightly preceding The Good Life, an interconnected strand of television is The Wombles, an animated series originally broadcast in the UK in 1973-1975.

    The series features fictional pointy-nosed furry creatures that were created by author Elisabeth Beresford and appeared in a series of children’s novels by her which began to be published in 1968.

    The Wombles lived in burrows and could be found internationally, although the series focuses on those who live below Wimbledon Common in London.

    As with The Good Life it was ahead of its time in the way that it dealt with themes of recycling, waste and helping the environment, which were the main activities of The Wombles.

    There were also a number of hit records by The Wombles, which were sung, written and produced by Mike Batt, who in 1975 would go on to produce folk rock band Steeleye Span’s top 5 single ‘All Around My Hat’.

    Bagpuss intro-1a

    1970s British television seemed to be notably populated by such gentle, whimsical programmes with one particular highlight being the also animated series Bagpuss, first broadcast on the BBC in 1974.

    Bagpuss-Small Films-Oliver Postgate-BBC-A Year In The Country 5

    “Set around the end of the 19th century in the Victorian era, it featured the goings on of a set of normally inanimate toy creatures in a shop for found things. They come to life when the shop’s owner, a young girl called Emily, brings in a new object and they debate and explore what the new thing can possibly be…

    Made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate through their company Smallfilms it contains a sweetness, a uniqueness and gentle melancholia that arguably has never been repeated or equalled.”

    ACF941 Clangers moving house children's television programmeIvor the Engine-Smallfilms

    Firmin and Postgate also created such other exemplary and distinctive work as the softly psychedelic and just a touch pop-art space age animation The Clangers (1969-74) and Ivor the Engine (1975-77)…

    Theirs was work that did not feel that it had been created as part of an assembly line and targeted at a well-defined cultural demographic and marketplace. It was more personal and precious feeling and seems nearer to examples of a form of folk art.

    Clangers-Trunk Records-soundtrack album-Vernon Elliot Ivor the Engine-Trunk Records-Soundtrack

    “Which makes it somewhat appropriate that Trunk Records archival record label head Jonny Trunk was responsible for the retrospective The Art of Smallfilms book published in 2014 and via his label he has released the soundtrack albums to The Clangers and Ivor the Engine.

    Julian House of Ghost Box Records has said that rather than being an archivist record label proprietor that “Jonny’s more like a folk art scholar.

    The Female Frolic-Frankie Armstrong-Sandra Kerr-Peggy Seeger-album cover 0002-A Year In The Country-Electric Eden-Rob YoungBagpuss intro-6

    Some of the voices and all the music in Bagpuss were played and in part written by Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner who, according to Rob Young’s Electric Eden book from 2011, had been former alumni and apprentices with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s The Critics Group.

    This was a kind of master class for young singers performing traditional songs or who were writing songs using traditional and folk music structures…

    Bagpuss-the millers song-sandra kerr-peter faulkner

    The soundtrack for Bagpuss is rather lovely, taking in various strands of folk and traditional music and is able to stand on its own merits aside from the connections to the series.

    A favourite is still “The Miller’s Song”, which is a lilting, life affirming and yet also curiously quietly melancholic song about the cyclical nature of farming and rural life, the growing of crops and the passage of those crops to the mill and eventually via the baker to become loaves of bread…

    The sequence goes on to include what seems like a curiously out-of-place and anachronistic modern combine harvester alongside a combustion engine tractor and delivery truck, while also showing more traditional milling methods.

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-2

    A more recent series which could be placed amongst these strands of gentle uncynical television is Detectorists.

    First broadcast in 2014 by the BBC it revolves around the lives of a pair of metal detectorists and their passion for their hobby of exploring the landscape with metal detectors and hoping to find lost artifacts.”

    Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-3 Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-9

    The series is written and directed by Mackenzie Crook, who also appears as one of the main detectorists, alongside sometime By Our Selves straw bear companion and Berberian Sound Studio engineer Toby Jones.

    Fawlty Towers-introduction image

    Detectorists is part of a lineage, which stretches back to the likes of Fawlty Towers; one of those times when mainstream entertainment and comedy somehow manages to escape into the world without being neutered. It undertakes astute observations of the ways and wiles of people, a love of the land and country and there is a sadness portrayed in its characters’ lives.

    Johnny Flynn-Detectorists-single artwork cover

    That main title song, also called ‘Detectorists’, is by Johnny Flynn and in its lyrics and modern-day take on traditional folk music reflects the gentle roaming of the series somewhat perfectly.

    As with “The Miller’s Song” from Bagpuss, lilting would seem to be a somewhat apposite word and it also contains within it a sense of yearning and loss, themes which seem to recur throughout much of these particular strands of television.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 46 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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  • The Corn Mother – Preorder

    Preorder today 13th November. Released 4th December 2018. Price £12.95.
    Preorder available at our Artifacts Shop and at Bandcamp.

    Dawn Rising edition – factory pressed CD in matt 4-panel gatefold sleeve.

    Features music by Gavino Morretti, Pulselovers, The Heartwood Institute, United Bible Studies (David Colohan, Dominic Cooper of The Owl Service, Alison O’Donnell of Mellow Candle), A Year In The Country, Widow’s Weeds (featuring former members of/collaborators with The Hare And The Moon), Depatterning, Sproatly Smith and Field Lines Cartographer.

    dividing-line-just-black-a-year-in-the-country-620px

    Reflections on an Imaginary Film:

    In the early 1970s a folk horror-esque screenplay made the rounds of the film industry but remained unmade until 1982.

    The story is set in the late 19th century in a rural British village and revolves around the folklore of the “corn mother” – where the last row of the corn harvest is beaten to the ground by the reapers as they shout “There she is! Knock her into the ground, don’t let her get away!”, in an attempt to drive the spirit of the corn mother back into the earth for next year’s sowing.

    The small closely-knit farming community’s worries about coming modernisation and the possible repeat of a blighted harvest that had occured earlier in the village’s history, lead to burgeoning irrational fears and a search for a scapegoat to salve those fears.

    A local woman is seen wandering amongst the crops alone late at night and word spreads that she was attempting to curse the harvest and to unseat and take the place of the corn mother, thereby controlling the village and its sustenance.

    These anxieties and rumours result in her persecution – although the plot does not make it clear if they merely drive her from the village or undertake more sinister measures that result in her literally residing within the land.

    Suffering from guilt and remorse at their actions, the villagers become plagued by dreams and nightmares in which this woman returns to them to exact her revenge, and this becomes known as “the visiting of the corn mother”.

    As the community’s psyche becomes ever more fractured by the corn mother’s nocturnal visits, the elders and leaders of the village attempt to both calm the local populace and to discover the cause of these visiting night wraiths; the plot descends into a maelstrom where reality and unreality merge and the village becomes the kingdom of the corn mother.

    The film was completed but was never released due to financial problems with the production company which resulted in legal wrangles, unpaid fees and recriminations, during which knowledge of the whereabouts of the footage became lost, though subsequent rumours suggest that it may even have been deliberately destroyed.

    Those involved in its making have seemed reticent to talk about the film, appearing often to have an aversion to resurrecting the whole affair and claiming that they would rather put it all behind them. But it is also suggested that there are legal binds – which arose as a result of the disagreements surrounding the film after its completion and non-release – which restrict those involved from discussing the production in public.

    Various versions of the screenplay do still exist, many of which are reportedly so radically different in tone and approach to the themes of the eventual film, that there is ongoing debate and conjecture as to just which version of it went into production. It is also reported that a handful of preview copies of the film were made available on the now defunct formats of the time and these have become something of a mythical grail for film collectors.

    As the years have passed a Chinese whispers aspect to the film has evolved, with stories springing into existence that tell of somebody meeting somebody who knew a collector who had met someone else who had seen or owned a copy of the film – although such reports have never been verified or the rumoured copies proven to exist.

    Through related second, third and more-hand reports and interpretations of the different versions of the screenplay, it has been suggested on the one hand that The Corn Mother was a typical direct-to-video piece of exploitation fare designed to take advantage of a rapidly-expanding home video market, and on the other that while the film does indeed contain elements of such things, it is actually nearer to a folkloric fever dream and closer in spirit to arthouse experimentalism than B-movie schlock.

    This album is an exploration and reflection of the whispers that tumble forth from the corn mother’s kingdom, whisperings that have seemed to gain a life of their own, multiplying and growing louder with each passing year.

    Tracklisting:

    1. Ritual And Unearthly Fire – Gavino Morretti
    2. Beat Her Down – Pulselovers
    3. Corn Dolly – The Heartwood Institute
    4. From Thee Last Sheaf On The Braes – United Bible Studies
    5. The Night Harvest – A Year In The Country
    6. The Keeper’s Dilemma – Depatterning
    7. The Corn Mother – Widow’s Weeds
    8. Caught In Thee Coppice – Sproatly Smith
    9. Procession At Dusk – Field Lines Cartographer

    Original artwork: A Year In The Country
    Design and layout: Ian Lowey

    Artifact #10a
    Dawn Rising Edition
    Library Reference Number: A015TCMDR

     

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  • Plant a Tree in ’73 – Artifact and Archival Scarcity / Historical Contrasts: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 46/52

    Plant a tree in 73-campaign-leaflet-bowaters guide to Britains most common trees-1

    From what I know the Plant a Tree in ’73 campaign, which encouraged people, organisations etc in Britain to plant trees in 1973, was a well-known campaign and resounding success.

    Plant a tree in 73-campaign-leaflet-bowaters guide to Britains most common trees-4

    In line with that and a modern-day plethora of merchandise that tends to be available for campaigns, projects etc, I thought there would be all kinds of related promotional items both online and at “a certain well-known online auction and commerce site”.

    Stamp-1973-Royal Mail-Plant a Tree in 73-first day cover-2Stamp-1973-Royal Mail-Plant a Tree in 73-first day cover-1

    But no, apart from some Royal Mail postage stamps releases to commemorate the campaign I found very little.

    There are not even all that many photographs archived online of activities surrounding the campaign, which was also rather surprising considering the high-profile success of the campaign – and also in these days when you expect nearly everything ever to have a substantial repository of archival recordings, photographs etc scattered around the web.

    Plant a tree in 73-campaign-leaflet-bowaters guide to Britains most common trees-6

    The booklet featured on this page is one of the few physical items relating to the ’73 campaign other than Royal Mail stamps which I found; it features information on popular tree types in Britain and an encouragement exhortation to help enrich the environment and living conditions by planting a tree.

    It was published by a paper company and doubled as promotional literature for their paper stock and has quite high production values, with the various parts folding out to be multiple page information sheets etc.

    The only other item I’ve seen at that “well-known online auction and commerce site” was a badge for the campaign.

    Plant a tree in 73-campaign-leaflet-bowaters guide to Britains most common trees-3

    There is an interesting dichotomy between the positive, encouraging, wholesome, communally minded nature of the Plant a Tree in ’73 campaign and the background of strife and conflict in the UK at the time, where clashes between the government and unions had led to the introduction of a 3 day working week and electricity restrictions/blackouts.

    In a wider international sense in 1973 there was a politically motivated oil embargo placed on a number of countries including the UK and USA, leading to fuel shortages while domestically America was embroiled in the Watergate political scandal and conspiracy.

    1973 Nervous Breakdown- Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America-book cover-Andreas Killen1973-uk-power cut-blackout-the three day week-A Year In The Country-2State of Emergency-The Way We Were-Britain 1970-1974-Dominic Sandbrook-book coverStrange-Days-Indeed-Francis Wheen-A Year In The Country

    Three notable books which look back on this historical and cultural period are Andreas Killen’s 1973 Nervous Breakdown: Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America, Dominik Sandbrook’s State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974 and Francis Wheen’s Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia, the titles of which reflect the wider turmoil that the Plant a Tree in ’73 campaign was backgrounded by.

    Plant a tree in 73-campaign-leaflet-bowaters guide to Britains most common trees-2

    Elsewhere:
    The Tree Council (founded in 1974, in the wake of the ’73 campaign)
    Andreas Killen’s 1973 Nervous Breakdown
    Dominic Sandbrook’s State of Emergency
    Francis Wheen’s Strange Days Indeed

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #253/365: One For Sorrow; Helter skelter, hang sorrow, public minded urgings from times when the lights may well go out of an evening and heading towards Rocket Cottage-isms…
    2) Week #52/52: An Arboreal Collection Or Two And Hello And Goodbye…
    3) Chapter 7 Book Images: 1973 – A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures
    4) Fractures – Night and Dawn Editions Released

     

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  • Image AA/45

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • The Quietened Mechanisms – Reviews Part 2

    Further reviews of The Quietened Mechanisms album:

    First up is Kim Harten’s review at Bliss Aquamarine:

    “An evocative album that effectively combines dark and strange electronics and field recordings. Held together by a common theme both topically and musically, the album makes for a complete, cohesive listening experience.”

    Next up is Raffaello Russo’s review at Music Won’t Save You:

    “…la raccolta offre un nuovo spaccato di un immaginario creativo condiviso da un cenacolo di artisti sempre più ampio, inesauribile come gli spunti narrativi, sonori ed emozionali che possono scaturire da ogni singolo miglio quadrato della periferia post-industriale britannica.”

    You can also visit an online (approximate) translation here.

    Thirdly the album was revisited by Terrascope and included at Terrascope’s November 2018 Rumbles roundup:

    “Listening Center ‘Clarion of the Collapsed Complex’ is next, full of long dead factory machinery, echoes of once thriving industry, all rendered on analogue synths… Pulselovers give us ‘Fuggles’ which is the name of a variety of hop, visiting an abandoned brewery in the north of England, where ghostly bottles are delivered via Shire horse and cart to the surrounding alehouses… The record ends with A Year In The Country’s ‘The Structure/Respite’ a song referencing an old decommissioned railway track, slowly being reclaimed by the land, ghostly reminders encountered along the way, left to slowly rust and decay.”

    Fourthly and finally Finlay Milligan reviewed the album in issue 46 of Electronic Sound magazine.

    Links to previous reviews, broadcasts etc of The Quietened Mechanisms by John Coulthart, The Sunday Experience, We Are Cult, an earlier review at Terrascope, Goldmine, Shindig!, Flatland Frequencies, Sunrise Ocean Bender, Pull the Plug, Evening of Light and The Unquiet Meadow can be found here.

    Thanks and a tip of the hat to all concerned.

    The Quietened Mechanisms is an exploration of abandoned and derelict industry, infrastructure, technology and equipment that once upon a time helped to create, connect and sustain society.

    It features music and accompanying text on the tracks by Howlround, Grey Frequency, Listening Center, Sproatly Smith, Embertides, Keith Seatman, Time Attendant, A Year In The Country, Dom Cooper, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Depatterning, Pulselovers, Quaker’s Stang, The Heartwood Institute and Spaceship.

    More details on the album can be viewed here.

     

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  • Jane Weaver Septième Soeur and The Fallen by Watch Bird – Non-Populist Pop and Cosmic Aquatic Folklore: Chapter 45 Book Images

    Day 6-The Fallen By Watch Bird Jane Weaver 1-A Year In The Country

    The Fallen by Watch Bird is a conceptual pop album/project by Jane Weaver released on her own label Bird Records in conjunction with Finders Keepers Records, the theme of which is:

    “…a floating storyline based around missing seamen, telekinesis, avian messengers, white witchkraft and death & re-birth…”

    The Fallen By Watchbird-Jane Weaver Septieme Soeur-CDs-book-poster-bagDay 6-The Fallen By Watch Bird Jane Weaver 2-A Year In The Country

    “The project includes the main album The Fallen by Watch Bird, a sort of sequel or companion record called The Watchbird Alluminate that revisits and reinterprets the main album, an illustrated fictional book, video work, poster and an accompanying compilation mix called Europium Alluminate.

    The project takes inspiration from a number of areas of inspiration including Eastern European children’s cinema, Germanic kunstmärchen (fairy tales or one online service literally translated it as “art fairy”), 70s television music and traces of 80s synth pop to create what is described as cosmic aquatic folklore; the resulting work creates a fable like atmosphere that creates a sense of it connecting or belonging to some of its source material but is far from homage, with any such aspects being via a reimagined dreamscape.

     Susan Christie-Wendy & Bonnie-9Bach-Lisa Jen-Misty Dixon-Jane Weaver Septieme Soeur

    The Fallen by Watch Bird is credited to Jane Weaver Septième Soeur and features seven other female musicians alongside Jane Weaver, including Susan Christie whose lost 1960s acoustic pop recordings were released by Finders Keepers, 1960s soft psych pop rock musicians Wendy & Bonnie, Lisa Jen who is a member of Welsh language folk band 9Bach and members of Jane Weaver’s former band Misty Dixon.

    The Watchbird Alluminate-Jane Weaver Septieme SoeurDemdike Stare-The Focus Group-Emma Tricca-Wendy Flower Anworth Kirk-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-Susan Christie

    The Watchbird Alluminate adds to that cast and includes collaborations, extensions, revisitings and reinterpretations of the The Fallen By Watch Bird also by Jane Weaver Septième Soeur, alongside Demdike Stare, The Focus Group, Emma Tricca, Wendy Flower, Anworth Kirk, Magpahi, Samandtheplants and Susan Christie.

    This album adds to the loose conceptual theme and is said to be about ‘telepathy, technology, lost-love, wiccan, war and watchbirds’.

    It is more overtly experimental than purely conceptual pop-orientated and adds a certain spectral, hauntological aspect…

    Europium Alluminate-Jane Weaver-Andy Votel-Septieme Soeur-The Fallen by Watch Bird

    The Europium Alluminate mix CD was compiled by Jane Weaver alongside Finders Keepers Records co-founder Andy Votel and it is described as:

    A 70 minute transmission of cosmic aquatic folklore, flickering luminescent lullabies & hand-plucked pop.’

    It is an explorative and intriguing musical journey which serves as an accompaniment and musical backgrounding for The Fallen by Watch Bird, one that hints at some of the possible influences and inspirations for the project but leaves these as hints as there is no tracklisting.

    daisies-1966-sedmikrásky-1Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders seven inch-Finders Keepers Records-Record Store Day 2017-2THE LITTLE MERMAID (MALÁ MORSKÁ VÍLA)-A Year In The Country-collage 3

    The project’s influences led me down a path to discover or rediscover a strand of cinematic history known as the Czech New Wave…

    The genre was also known as the Czechoslovak film miracle, which considering the otherworldly nature of some of the films seems quite appropriate, in particular the variously playful, surreal, fairy tale-esque and sometimes anarchic or darker hued likes of Daisies (1966), Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970) and Malá Morská Víla (1976).”

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

    “Jane Weaver quotes an unsubtitled copy of Malá Morská Víla (also known as The Little Mermaid but something of a world away from the more well-known mainstream 1989 Disney film) as having been the starting point for this album and some of the stylings from it have found their way into photography associated with The Fallen by Watch Bird and the title track’s accompanying video by klunklick.

    Jane Weaver-The Fallen By Watchbird-video-press shotJane Weaver Septieme Soeur-The Fallen by Watchbird-video stills-klunklick

    (The video) mixes photography of Jane Weaver dressed as a fallen-through-a-portal sister of one of the characters of Malá Morská Víla, found illustrations from children’s fairy stories (which also accompany the albums’ artwork), live action mixed with animation, cosmic symbolism, fantasia like pastoral and at sea scenes, the appearance and reappearance of black feathered birds and documentary war photography all of which interweave with the left-of-centre pop of the song to create a phantasmagorical, darkly hued and yet also whimsically entrancing fairy tale fable.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 45 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

     

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  • Judy Dyble and Andy Lewis’ Summer Dancing – Parallel World Left-Field Avant Pop: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 45/52

    Judy Dyble-Andy Lewis-Summer Dancing-Acid Jazz-album-CD

    The album Summer Dancing by Judy Dyble and Andy Lewis was released in 2017 and is something of a fine cuckoo in pop’s nest which has a cultural background and set of connections that make it seem that as though it should only really exist in some alternate left-field pop universe.

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

    Judy Dyble was the original vocalist in the 1960s with folk rock stalwarts Fairport Convention, after which she worked with a group of musicians who would go on to form the progressive rock band King Crimson and later went on to make the album Morning Way as Trader Horne with ex-Them member Jackie McAuley, a record which could loosely be classified as acid or psych folk.

    Judy Dyble-The Lost Women Of Folk-Mojo magazine-Andrew Male

    In 1973 she stopped performing and ran a tape duplication business, later  going on to work as a librarian and became known as one of the lost women of folk, alongside the likes of Vashti Bunyan and Shelagh Macdonald.

    She made a few guest appearances with Fairport Convention in the 1980s and 1990s but did not begin recording her own music again until 2003, since when she has released a number of albums.

    5-classic-clubs-of-our-time-blow-up-blitz-vox-Andy Lewis

    Andy Lewis was the original DJ at Blow Up, a club in London which was part of a mod revival connected to Brit Pop around the mid-1990s, released a number of number of records on Acid Jazz, in 2007 collaborated with Paul Weller on the Top 40 single “Are You Trying To Be Lonely”, after which until 2016 he performed in Paul Weller’s band.

    (Acid Jazz was a record label founded in 1987 by Eddie Piller, who was active in the late 1970s/early 1980s mod revival, and Gilles Peterson. It is known for releasing a number of records which incorporated amongst other influences elements of jazz funk, jazz fusion, soul and pop, with some of the label’s earlier releases being by James Taylor Quartet, Corduroy, Brand New Heavies, Mother Earth, Galliano and Jamiroquai. In more recent times they have also put out the sometimes pastoral/folkloric/prog/psych whimsy, sometimes largely instrumental synth based and sometimes television theme tune reimaginings of Matt Berry, including the albums Witchazel, Music for Insomniacs and Television Themes.)

    So, Summer Dancing – acid folk meets acid jazz?

    The above cultural reference points aren’t ones which you would naturally think of as coming together but in the parallel pop universe of Summer Dancing that would appear to be the case and they have combined and melded rather well and cohesively to produce an album which while it subtly reflects some of the above background, has an individual and charming character all of its own.

    broadcast-mother-is-the-milky-way-a-year-in-the-country-1Emperor Tomato Ketchup-Stereolab-Duophonic-album cover art

    Summer Dancing has been described as being:

    “…made of the very stuff of British psychedelia, an obsession with childhood, the country and the city. It emerges from a place somewhere between Broadcast, the soundtrack to The Wicker Man and Stereolab.”

    And text on the back of the album says of the album’s collaborators:

    “Born either side of the 60s, it’s the same culture, history and open attitude that unites the two, as well as rural-urban backgrounds. Church bells, red kites and the stories of E. Nesbit swirl gently in the imagination beside lost loves, London lives and an evergreen… otherness.”

    That mention of Broadcast and “an evergreen… otherness” offer a sense of some of the territory in which the album travels; accessible left-field avant pop might be an appropriate genre title, a sort of more pop accidental counterpart to the milling around the village of Broadcast’s Mother is the Milkway album.

    There is a very English, subtle and charming (that word again, which seems rather apt in connection to the album) eccentricity to the album for reasons that I can’t quite describe or put my finger on, although it seems to possibly be connected to Judy Dyble’s almost clipped, received pronunciation singing on the record – a description which makes her singing style sound cold or detached but it is in fact anything but.

    An Accidental Musician-The Autobiography of Judy Dyble-with Dave Thompson

    That subtle, charming eccentricity is also present in An Accidental Musician, a biography that Judy Dyble co-wrote with Dave Thompson, which along with the retrospective collection Gathering the Threads or its offshoot Judy Dyble – Anthology: Part One, would make a fine companion for Summer Dancing.

    Judy Dyble-Andy Lewis-Summer Dancing-Acid Jazz-album-CD-insert booklet

    Alongside the music on Summer Dancing, the Broadcast connection could also be made in terms of the album’s cover art by Liz Lewis, which in its cut up geometric forms shares some similar territory with Julian House of Intro and Ghost Box Records design work for Broadcast.

    In connection to the “lost loves” mentioned on the album sleeve, there is a sadness and even melancholia present on the album, particularly on A Message but this is not a maudlin song or record, rather a joyous remembering and yearning for those who have departed.

    The song The Day They Took The Music Away appears to be a brief biographical account of Judy Dyble’s earlier not always so great experiences in the music business and people she met’s lack of dependability, which seems to be a setting the record straight and settling of scores to a degree and is a little surprisingly vituperative amongst an otherwise largely positive, if as just mentioned at times melancholic, album.

    A Net Of Memories (London) is a psychogeographic wandering in song form around the capital city and connections to it, which tails off into a radio travel report about swans who have mistaken the road for a river (!), accompanied by a montage of music, its isolated tones and reversed recordings.

    Judy Dyble-Andy Lewis-Summer Dancing-Acid Jazz-album-He Said-I Said CD promo single

    As a final note, above is the CD promo single for the album, which feels like something of a stepping back in time in these digital days and took me back to when second-hand record shops seemed to be full of racks of them for 50p and a time when they were something a good, pot-luck, almost lucky bag, affordable way of discovering music.

    I shall end this post with a quote from Andy Lewis on the promo single’s cover sticker:

    “In a parallel universe, you (Judy) could have ended up making records for Deram and been a sensational pop siren.”

     

    Elsewhere:

    1. Summer Dancing at Acid Jazz
    2. Judy Dyble’s site
    3. Andy Lewis’ site (something of an older archive)

     

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

    1. Day #3/365: Gather In The Mushrooms: something of a starting point via an accidental stumbling into the British acid folk underground
    2. Week #43/52: Broadcast – Mother Is The Milky Way and gently milling around avant-garde, non-populist pop
    3. Ether Signposts #16/52a: Vashti Bunyan: From Here To Before and Whispering Fairy Stories Until They Are Real
    4. Ether Signposts #29/52a: Judy Dyble And The Lost (And Thankfully Found) Women Of Folk
    5. Chapter 8 Book Images: Broadcast – Recalibration, Constellation and Exploratory Pop

     

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