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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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    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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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Noah’s Castle – A Slightly Overlooked Artifact and Teatime Dystopias: Chapter 44 Book Images

    Noahs Castle-1979 TV series-John Rowe Townsend-A Year In The Country-6

    There is an almost canon of late 1960s and 1970s British television dramas and series that have come to be seen as hauntological touchstones and which have resonated through the years and come to represent an otherly spectral folklore.

    Alan Garner's The Owl Service-DVD cover-NetworkThe Children Of The Stones series-introThe Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country-8Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 5Day 23-The Stone Tape Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country

    That grouping includes The Owl Service (1968), Children of the Stones (1978), The Changes (1975), Sky (1975) and The Stone Tape (1972)… One series which often seems to be slightly overlooked amongst such things is 1979’s Noah’s Castle, based on John Rowe’s 1975 novel.

    Many of the above series were intended as children’s/younger persons entertainment; their oddness and possibly advanced or unsettling themes for their target audience is now part of their appeal.

    Noahs Castle-1979 TV series-John Rowe Townsend-A Year In The Country-7

    However, the ideas and plot of Noah’s Castle quite possibly trumps them all in such terms; it is a series that has at its core hyperinflation, food shortages, societal collapse and a patriarch’s attempt to hole up and bunker away with his family in their middle class home (the “Castle” of the title). Cue troops on the streets, food riots and looting.

    ZPG-Silent Running-Soylent Green-1970s science fiction film postersLogans Run-film posterNo Blade Of Grass 24-A Year In The Country

    Noah’s Castle could also be linked to a mini-genre of 1970s largely cinematic science fiction that dealt with societal, ecological and resource collapse, overpopulation and the resulting attempts at control, a mini-genre which includes Z.P.G. (1972), Soylent Green (1973), Logan’s Run (1976), Silent Running (1972) and No Blade of Grass (1970).

    Noahs Castle-television series-1979-1980-John Rowe-A Year in The Country-5  Noahs Castle-television series-1979-1980-John Rowe-A Year in The Country-3Noahs Castle-television series-1979-1980-John Rowe-A Year in The Country-2Noahs Castle-television series-1979-1980-John Rowe-A Year in The Country-6

    The end titles are particularly striking: as the sun sets on a hill overlooking a classic British industrial town or cityscape, armed and riot helmeted soldiers stand watch and gather around their vehicle.

    They are framed by the sunset and there is something decidedly Eden askew about the juxtaposition of them and a bare branched tree that appears to be almost growing from their transport.

    As a synthesised soundtrack by Jugg plays in the background, a news reporter tells of the looting of food trains, the collapse of British society, its economy and currency, silent protests by the nation’s youth, international resource restrictions and political game playing.

    The Hunger Games-film poster artwork

    You could say that tales of economic division, social unrest, shortages and repression have become mainstream fodder in more recent times for a younger audience via the likes of the film and book series The Hunger Games (2012-2015 and 2008-2010 respectively). However, that series is all flash and fantasy… The Hunger Games presents a story and world that are a safe remove from the one in which its viewers live.

    Noahs Castle-1979 TV series-A Year In The Country

    While the strifes of Noah’s Castle are set today, possibly tomorrow but on recognisable streets; yours, mine, the street next door and the conflicts shown in it were a direct product, reflection of and extrapolation from societal strife and conflict around the time it was made.

    Quatermass-1979-The Conclusion-Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country 19

    “In this sense, Noah’s Castle could be seen as the lower budget, more youth-orientated flipside to the final series of Quatermass (1979) and its consideration of societal collapse and norms.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 44 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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  • Wandering the Roads Part 2 – Forgotten Time Capsules: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 44/52

    On Roads-A Hidden History-Joe Moran-book coverAutophoto-book-Editions Xavier Barral-Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporainMotorway-abandoned road photographs

    In Part 1 of this post I wrote about the books On Roads: A Hidden History by Joe Moran, which is a multi-layered, interconnected wandering along sometimes semi-hidden or semi-forgotten history in relation to roads and Autophoto by Editions Xavier Barral and Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, which is a collection of car and road orientated photography, often with a more fine art/expressive slant.

    Theo Van Vliet-abandoned car in forest

    Some of the photographs in Autophoto document cars abandoned amongst nature and plantlife; online there is a considerable amount of similar photography alongside that of abandoned roads, which is a subsection of imagery that focuses on recording  abandoned and derelict buildings, infrastructure etc.

    Dieter Klein-photographs of abandoned cars-1

    Photographs of cars abandoned in natural settings can often appear quite stylised and arranged but this “styling” has happened naturally with the passing of time, something such photographs record via the decay of the vehicles and the spread, growth and reclaiming nature of the plants.

    Both the photographs and the cars/locations themselves also are often a form of time capsule in the way that they can provide fading but resilient snapshot of previous eras’ design and aesthetics and the cars themselves can be seen to become a form of three dimensional recording of echoes from the past.

    Soft Estate-Edward Chell-Langdon Clay Cars-Martin Parr-Abandoned Morris Minors-book covers

    The books, images and web pages in Part 1 and 2 of this post could be filed alongside previous wanderings at A Year In The Country amongst the dust, history and spectres of cars and roads:

    1) Edward Chell’s Soft Estates which is an artistic and text-based exploration of the edgeland areas that surround roads.

    2) Landgdon Clay’s Cars New York City, 1974-1976 which is a beautifully photographed and produced book of cars parked in almost peopleless streets at night which have a subtly eerie quality.

    3) Martin Parr’s Abandoned Morris Minors of the West of Ireland which is a very specific documentary recording that as with some of the above photography at times reflects the contradictory beauty that can be found in images of abandoned examples of people’s industry against a backdrop of nature.

    Edward-Chell-Soft-Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-3 artworksCars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-5Martin Parr — Abandoned Morris Minors of the West of Ireland

    Elsewhere:
    Joe Moran: On Roads and Asphalt Memories
    Autophoto
    Stub Streets & Ghost Ramps: The Abandoned Motorways of Britain

    A Brief Compendium of Abandoned Roads to Nowhere
    NH4939 : Abandoned van, in Boblainy forest
    Theo Van Vliet’s photographs of a forest full of abandoned cars
    Dieter Klein’s “250 cars in a wood”
    Edward Chell’s Soft Estate
    Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974 – 1976
    Martin Parr’s Abandoned Morris Minors of the West of Ireland 

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #115/365: Edward Chell’s Soft Estates – documents of autobahn edgelands
    2) Wanderings #7/52a: Brutalist Breakfasts
    3) Ether Signposts #19/52a: Martin Parr’s Abandoned Morris Minors of the West of Ireland via the Café Royal Books Archive
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 33/52: Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 -Part 1 – Post-Populuxe Ghosts That Brood While the City Sleeps
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 34/52: Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Part 2 – Totemic Spectres and Signifiers
    6) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 43/52: Wandering the Roads Part 1 – On Roads a Hidden History and Ballardian Close-Ups

     

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  • Image AA/43

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • Field Trip-England – Jean Ritchie, George Pickow and Recordings from the End of an Era: Chapter 43 Book Images

    A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country

    Field Trip-England is 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. It includes stories of seafarers who squander their money and life wandering with “flesh-girls” (ladies of the night) and a grand old gardener 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 Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country-5Haxey Hood Games-photograph-folk

    Alongside this are children’s rhymes with instructions for chopping off of heads in “Oranges and Lemons”, 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…

    A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country 3b A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country 2

    The Folkways records releases from that time had lovely packaging and a very solid physical presence; all matt printing on textured stock and they feel built to stand the tests of time. The copy of the album I bought has indeed stood the test of time; it is one of the original 1960 issues, as far as I know it has not been reissued on vinyl and it was one of those rare occasions where even via the ease of access and seeking out of secondhand records afforded by the internet, it was actually quite hard to find a copy.

    Although it is available as a print on demand CD, to 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.

    A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country 4 A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country-7

    These recordings seem to document a sense of an end of an era, which possibly parallels (Jean Ritchie’s) own family/cultural history, with them capturing some kind of final golden age of pre-technological transmission of songs and stories.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 43 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 and Release Dates

    Preorder 13th November 2018. Released 4th December 2018. Price £12.95.
    Available to preorder on 13th November 2018 at our Artifacts Shop and at Bandcamp.

    dividing-line-just-black-a-year-in-the-country-620pxFormats: factory pressed glass mastered CD in gatefold matt card sleeve / downloaddividing-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.

     

    Featuring music by:
    Gavino Morretti
    Pulselovers
    The Heartwood Institute
    United Bible Studies (David Colohan, Dom Cooper of The Owl Service / Rif Mountain and 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
    Field Lines Cartographer

    Original Artwork: A Year In The Country
    Design and Layout: Ian Lowey

     

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  • Wandering the Roads Part 1 – The Hidden Histories of On Roads, “Spotting” with I-Spy and Autophoto’s Ballardian Close-Ups: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 43/52

    Joe Moran-On Roads-A Hidden History-book-I-Spy-On The Motorway-booklet-2

    Something of a gathering of the flipsides of automobiles and roads…

    The book On Roads: A Hidden History by Joe Moran was published in 2009 and is a written (rather than say walked) psychogeographic wandering amongst, well, the hidden history of roads.

    The opening of the M6-convoy

    There is a slight hauntological like mourning for the shape of the future’s past to the book here and there, particularly in the title of the chapter “The motoring we used to dream about” and when the book focuses on the events surrounding the birth of the British motorway system and related modernist intentions.

    I Spy book-I Spy on the motorway-2

    That is highlighted by Joe Moran mentioning on his blog the I-Spy On The Motorway book from his childhood which viewed now, even though some similar scenes and motorways exist today, seems in some subtle, indefinable manner to belong to an almost impossibly distant other modernist, if slightly utilitarian and possibly worn seeming, world.

    (The I-Spy books were a form of children’s “spotter” books that were particularly successful in the 1950s and 1960s –  each book focused on a particular subject and as children spotted the items listed in the book they recorded the event in the book and gained points based around how unusual the sight.)

    I Spy book-I Spy on the motorway-1

    I could well be writing for the rest of the year and then some about On Roads, as it is so full of and strewn with observations, history, facts and connections; it seems to represent the summation of a monumental amount of research.

    There are a few pieces of information in particular that have stuck with me from the book; the way that in a time of a major emergency/impending apocalyptic conflict, major roads would be reserved for the use of official and “important” persons – nice to know that many of the people who would have potentially been part of the process of getting us into such a situation wouldn’t be stuck behind a lorry on their way to work/refuge.

    Also that when the first motorway was being built-in Britain the concrete spreaders used were left over from laying instant airstrips during the war, while amongst the standard bulldozers were also some recycled Sherman tanks, which while I applaud the make-do-and-mend nature, the appearance of these tanks in that situation was probably also somewhat surreal and almost film-set comedy like.

    And so onto more automobile, autobahn and related wanderings…

    Autophoto-book-Editions Xavier Barral-Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporainAutophoto-book-Éditions Xavier Barral and Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain-2

    Autophoto is a handsomely produced book published by Éditions Xavier Barral and Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2017 to accompany an exhibition of the same name and which collects a wide range of car related and often more expressive/fine art photography.

    Autophoto-book-Éditions Xavier Barral and Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain

    This takes in frontier like edgeland car racing, Ballardian close-ups of damaged cars, almost folk art-like temporary automobile home repairs, cars left in the middle of forests that have been largely overgrown, documentary images of people and their cars, the almost abstract patterns of huge stores of used car parts, images which blur the line between forensic recording and expressive intentions within photography etc.

    There is often a form of framing and/or guiding of the eye in many of the photographs in the book; the windows and body work of cars create a natural, inherent form of framing of their subjects, whether of the occupants of the cars or looking from the inside out to the landscape and other subjects.

    Also straight-ish roads leading off to the horizon, which feature in a number of the photographs in the book, naturally draw the eye and create a central focus point to the images.

    Connected to which, although cars and roads are often associated with urban areas, much of the photography in Autophoto is rurally located, often being documents of isolated areas and/or say photographs of roads in wide open prairies with just a distant dust cloud to mark the movement of a car.

    To be continued in Part 2…

    Elsewhere:
    Joe Moran: On Roads and Asphalt Memories
    Autophoto
    The I-Spy books

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

    1. Wanderings #22/52a: George Shiras – In The Heart Of The Dark Night (also published by Éditions Xavier Barral)
    2. Ether Signposts #19/52a: Martin Parr’s Abandoned Morris Minors of the West of Ireland via the Café Royal Books Archive
    3. Day #115/365: Edward Chell’s Soft Estates – documents of autobahn edgelands
    4. From The Unofficial Countryside to Soft Estate – Edgeland Documents, Memories and Explorations: Chapter 18 Book Images
    5. Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Part 1 – Post-Populuxe Ghosts That Brood While the City Sleeps: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 33/52
    6. Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Part 2 – Totemic Spectres and Signifiers: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 34/52

     

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  • Image AA/42

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • Skeletons – Pastoral Preternatural Fiction and a World, Time and Place of its Own Imagining: Chapter 42 Book Images

    Skeletons-Nick Whitfield-Soda Films-A Year In The CountrySkeletons is a film by Nick Whitfield. It is something of a gem in amongst British film, one which in part deals with the sense of loss associated with unrecapturable moments and people in our lives and the way in which we may wish to try and revisit the gossamer strands of those now gone times.

    However, it is not a heavy or dark view, but rather it is humorous, touching, fantastical and intriguing.

    The plot involves two suited, slightly shabby (or even seedy in one case), privately-contracted investigators who walk through the British countryside to visit couples and others who want to exhume and clear out the secrets and skeletons in one another’s closets before for example getting married.

    This is done via visiting a form of portals to the couples’ histories, that are accessed through the cupboards in their houses and which allow the investigators to view and experience the hidden parts of their customers lives.

    The Wall-Die Wand-Roman Posler-Martina Gedeck-film poster 2012

    It is a curious item amongst British film; one which at first glance has some visual similarities with realist film but which is actually a journey through a fantastical world, one that is set alongside but slightly apart from the real world.

    In this sense it could be linked to a film such as 2012’s The Wall/Die Wand where a lone inhabitant is trapped by an invisible barrier in a rural location, while all of the outside world has been frozen in time; both that film and Skeletons are pastoral science fiction as a genre, set in a landscape where the fantastic happens/has happened but where the reasons, whys and wherefores are not fully explained.

    Ghostbusters-1984-landscape film poster

    “It has also been described as a very British Ghostbusters (1984), which is rather apt; if you were to put the comedic paranormal investigators story of Ghostbusters through a British pastoral and independent film filter, it might just come out a little like this.

    Skeletons-2010-Nick Whitfield-British film-A Year In The Country-3

    Provisionally Skeletons appears to be set in contemporary times but there are a number of pointers and signifiers which also set it aside from today: the instruments the investigators use could be post war, the suits they wear are contemporary-ish, while the aprons and goggles they don for protection when carrying out their viewing seem to hark back to some earlier possibly mid-twentieth century industrial Britain.

    Skeletons-2010-Nick Whitfield-British film-A Year In The Country-8

    Further reflecting this mixing of the styles and artifacts of different time periods their boss could have tumbled from the parade ground of a 1960s comedy (and is a standout turn with his clipped parade ground manner) but there are no mobile phones or computers and we hardly see a car. It is now, but not.

    Skeletons-2010-Nick Whitfield-British film-A Year In The Country-6

    “One of the only references to modernity are the power station cooling towers that background one of the investigator’s homes but even then what decade are we in?

    sapphire-steel-action-tv-magazine-fanzine-11-autumn-2005-a-year-in-the-country

    Skeletons shares some common ground with the 1979-1982 British television series Sapphire & Steel. This does not appear to be a deliberate connection or point of reference and when director Nick Whitfield was asked about it at a post screening Q&A he said that he was aware of the series but could not remember it particularly.

    Both Sapphire & Steel and Skeletons deal with a pairing of investigators who in some ways could be said to be working with problems based around a modern updating of supernatural concerns and stories…

    …both seem to exist in relatively isolated worlds of their own imagining, ones where the outside or wider world rarely intrudes. Connected to this, geographically Sapphire & Steel and Skeletons tend to take place in isolated spaces or those that are removed from the wider world.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 42 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 Quietened Mechanisms – Reviews and Broadcasts / Scribings and Transmissions

    A selection of reviews, broadcasts etc of The Quietened Mechanisms album:

    “The theme of the new collection is the end of Britain’s industrial revolution, a period of social and geological turmoil whose ruins still litter the landscape, especially in the Midlands and North of England. This isn’t industrial nostalgia… but an often poignant commemoration. Another impressive installment in this ongoing series.” John Coulthart, Feuilleton

    “As ever impeccably packaged… . As with previous editions, these as were, epitaphs or nostalgia notations, uncover in the main, forgotten histories, whether forgotten through sheer neglect, conspiracy or misremembered, these moments or passages in time are locked in our fading subconscious much like fleeting apparitions or images disappearing over time whether by design or by way of a past rewritten. The quietened Mechanisms turns its scholarly gaze on forgotten technologies and with it hosts of gathering of 17 intrepid travelers along for the journey.” Mark Losing, The Sunday Experience

    “A soaring soundbite of seismic and sensory sounds, this is one of the most arresting A Year In The Country releases yet – and one of the best!… Through sounds of aural and dystopic unease, tape loops and keyboards introduce listeners to the buzzing and humming an industrial factory makes. Drum patterns pedal over growls and loops tick time through the waves of weary wordless wages.” Eoghan Lyng, We Are Cult

    “This volume explores abandoned, mostly derelict and long forgotten mills, factories and other infrastructure and paraphernalia of our industrial past, much of it slowly reclaimed by nature… Listening Centre’s Clarion Of The Collapsed Complex is really quite beautiful… a synthesized folk valediction to the rise and fall of industrialisation and all its human and structural collateral damage.” Ian Fraser, Terrascope

    “Seventeen artists place themselves in the shadow of what remains, choosing sites that may not lay on the tourist maps, but await the explorer regardless… It’s an incredibly evocative experience, listening to this album.” Dave Thompson, Goldmine

    “A Year In The Country and a selection of their regular musical contributors here turn their attention to abandoned factories and technology, spending an enraptured hour or so wandering among their ghosts… each track reflects a specific location, combining field recordings, musique concrete and spooked electronica into a strangely transporting whole.” Ben Graham, Shindig! magazine, issue 84

    And then on to a selection of the radio etc broadcasts:

    Tracks from the album including Listening Center’s Clarion of the Collapsed Complex were featured on Flatland Frequencies. Originally broadcast on Future Radio FM, the episode is archived at Mixcloud.

    Keith Seatman’s Rural Flight was on Sunrise Ocean Bender. Originally broadcast on WRIR, the show is archived here.

    And another broadcast of Listening Center’s Clarion of the Collapsed Complex on Pull the Plug. Originally broadcast on Resonance FM, the show is archived here.

    Howlround’s A Closed Circuit was featured on Evening of Light’s Ἀρέθουσα’s Elysian Dreams #02 podcast (alongside David Colohan’s How We’ll Go Out from The Shildam Hall Tapes). Visit that here.

    Vic Mars’ Watchtower and Engine and Field Line Cartographer’s The Mill in the Forest were featured on The Unquiet Meadow. Visit The Unquiet Meadow at Ashville FM here and playlists for the episodes here and here.

     

    A tip of the hat to all concerned. Much appreciated.

     

    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 can be viewed here.

     

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  • Peter Haars, New Worlds and the Slipstream of the Future’s Past: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 42/52

    Peter Haars-Norwegian science fiction-Lanterne-psych-1960s-1970s-CS Lewis-Kurt Vonnegut-Ursula K L Guin-Reidar Jensen-Nazar

    In 1960s and 1970s science fiction novel covers seemed to often allow space or free rein for quite out there, slipstream like illustration and design.

    Peter Haars-Norwegian science fiction-Lanterne-psych-1960s-1970s

    Along which lines a while ago I came across these covers for science fiction novels published in Norway by Lanterne, with illustrations by Peter Haars.

    Some appear to be books by local authors and others are (I assume) translations of the likes of Stanislaw Lem, Ursula K. Le Guin, Brian W. Aldiss, C.S. Lewis and Kurt Vonnegut.

    Peter Haars-Norwegian science fiction-Lanterne-psych-1960s-1970s-Ursula K Le Guin-Brian Aldiss

    (Somewhere in an alternate universe the promotional art for Sapphire & Steel looked like this – as did the series.)

    Peter Haars-Norwegian science fiction-Lanterne-psych-1960s-1970s-CS Lewis-Kurt Vonnegut-Ursula K L Guin

    Looked at now they seem to combine and collide some kind of parallel-to-the parallel world of a hauntological record label and a point in time when the likes of “speculative fiction” magazine New Worlds and Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius captured and expressed a moment where science fiction and related writing was hiply, exploratively psych like.

    New Worlds magazine covers-1960s-Michael Moorcock-Thomas M Disch-Brian Aldiss-Samuel R Delaney

    The Final Programme-1973-still-pinball-pop art

    There is space in the world for a vast variety of takes on particular areas of culture and purely escapist and/or demographically targetted fan pleasing science fiction and fantasy orientated work has a place in that world.

    However, at the moment it seems to be almost all of its particular world, which is a shame and a little too much of one shade when there are many available/possible.

    Accompanying which, despite, potentially, digital technology could be a way of opening up channels of creativity to a multitude of shades, when I look at many independently produced and/or micro-budget science fiction etc films they seem often to be more, well, low-budget shadows of more mainstream fare.

    Which again, there is a place for in the world but it seems to be much or nearly all of its particular world.

    The Atrocity Exhibition-Jonathan Weiss-2000-JG Ballard fax

    It seems a fair old while since I have seen the likes of Jonathan Weiss’ 2000 film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition or even the new worlds and visions jarring shock of say the earlier work by David Cronenberg.

    Reel 23-DVD

    Along which lines, illustrator, designer and writer John Coulthart has written this:

    “New Worlds was one of the most important magazines of the 1960s, mutating under Moorcock’s editorship from a regular science fiction title to a hothouse of literary daring and experiment. As with so many things in that decade, the peak period was from about 1966–1970 when the magazine showcased outstanding work from Moorcock himself, JG Ballard, Brian Aldiss, Harlan Ellison, Samuel Delany, M John Harrison, Norman Spinrad and a host of others. For a time it seemed that a despised genre might be turning away from rockets and robots to follow paths laid down by William Burroughs, Salvador Dalí, Jorge Luis Borges and other visionaries. We know now that Star Wars, Larry Niven and the rest swept away those hopes but you can at least go and see covers that pointed to a future (and futures) the world rejected.”

    Elsewhere:
    Slipstream source 1 / Slipstream source 2
    An archive of New Worlds covers at Multiverse
    John Coulthart: Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others
    Whatever happened to Reel 23 ?

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Week #11/52: The Modern Poets, otherly pastoralism and brief visits to flickering worlds…
    Chapter 7 Book Images: 1973 – A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

     

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