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Day #251/365: Broadcast; constellators and artifacts

Broadcast-Tender Buttons-Warp-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-6
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #32/52.

I’ve been (pleasantly) slightly surprised and intrigued during this year in the country by just how much I’ve returned to the work and interconnections of Broadcast.

A fair few years ago now I bought their first full album when it first arrived on these shores and the shelves of bricks and mortar music encasement emporiums… I think I was given/sent the second album as part of previous days of spinning (and occasionally writing about) the platters that matter…

…and I’d always been aware of their work but hadn’t overly closely observed it all those years ago.

However, looking back, the first time I consciously sat down (and spent the wee hours into the morning sifting and selecting) and broke open my zeros and ones coin collection to purchase a small number of cultural artifacts that related to this year… well, one of those was the  Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witchcults of the Radio Age album. One of its few other companions was The Owl Service View From The Hill, alongside a touch of literature via Mr Jonny Trunk…

And in way those three items I expect bring together some of the strands that have had me intrigued and returning to the work of Broadcast over the years…

…which would be in part the hauntological re-imaginings and yearnings for lost pasts and futures (The Focus Group/Mr Julian House/Ghost Box Records), delving into folk/folklore/the old stories and using the resulting findings as source material for new journeys, alongside returning to hazy memories of cathode ray transmissions that have gained over the years/possessed a certain otherlyness (The Owl Service, in songsmith and visual/textual story forms)…

Broadcast-Wire Magazine-Joseph Stanndard-Outer Church-Eva Vermandel-A Year In The Country-4…and further delving, rummaging, connecting, sending out into the world small hordes of overlooked cultural treasure (Jonny Trunk/Trunk Records).

If I was to go back and write down all the cultural connections, touchstones and references from/to that have occurred around Broadcast during this journey, well this page would probably grow way past A Year In The Country’s allotted sustenance and repast time.

As a first example of such connections, the extract to the left (from an interview with Broadcast, which is in the below mentioned issue of Wire), seems to be a possible antecedent/seedling/fellow traveller for Rob Young’s idea of “imaginative time travel”, that he uses to describe certain strands in music/culture in the pages his Electric Eden; see Day #4/365

Broadcast and The Focus Group video still-A Year In The Country 2Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country-9Jonny Trunk-The OST Show-Broadcast-A Year In The CountryShindig Magazine-Broadcast-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Emerald Web-A Year In The Country

...and the to go on to a few more: the recalibrations required in order to adjust to the different pacing of those aforementioned hazy cathode ray transmissions (see Day #33/365), along the lines of The Owl Service, Sky, The Children Of The Stones etc…

Broadcast-Wire Magazine-Joseph Stanndard-Outer Church-Eva Vermandel-A Year In The Country-4…the “modernist, retro-futurological, hauntological psychedelia” issue of Shinding magazine that took in Broadcast’s past, present and future, Ghost Box Records, Italian giallo film and its referencing/reimagining via Berberian Sound Studio, flickering stories from childhood’s past courtesy of the Childrens Film Foundation (see Day #178/365)…

(As a second aside, considering the often lysergic themes of Shinding magazine, it would seem a fitting home or at least an inn for the night for Broadcast.)

…or indeed audiological and visual accompaniments for Berberian Sound Studio itself; see Day #153/365.)

Shindig-Broadcast-The Children Of Alice-Julian House-Ghost Box-A Year In The Country

…and then flipping the pages backwards and forwards, it is but a hop, step and jump to return to the design work of Mr Julian House in those aforementioned oft lysergic pages (see above and Day #59/365)

…the wonderful, sometimes gloriously shambolic OST show and its musicological delvings – hosted by Mr Jonny Trunk and ably assisted by soundscape locative tape wrangler and splicer Robin The Fog, in particular their tribute re-transmitting of the Broadcast guested edition of the program (see also see Day #33/365)…

Barbara Steele-Curse Of The Crimson Altar-A Year In The Country 19

…the other imagined version of Curse Of The Crimson Altar, with a soundtrack presented and co-ordinated by Broadcast and their laying down of “sonic laws that break through the corrective systems of timing and keys” (see Day #184/365).

Which is but a few of the points of reference to the work of Broadcast and interconnected cohorts around these parts…

And while I’m on the subject, on this page are a selection of photographs of/from four of my favourite Broadcast/related cultural artifacts:

Broadcast-Wire Magazine-Joseph Stanndard-Outer Church-Eva Vermandel-A Year In The Country-1.jpg1) Magazine: Joseph Stannard’s interview with Broadcast from when they were on the front of Wire magazine in 2009. This is a just lovely interview, I daren’t even pick it up again right now as there are too many points of reference and pathways it sends me off on. Good stuff indeed.

(As an aside, I often find myself particularly drawn to Wire magazine when it is covering what could be considered non-populist or explorative pop music. As Trish Keenan considered, the avant-garde without the popular can be rubbish, popular without avant-garde can be rubbish – see Day #167/365, which could well be some kind of manifesto for Broadcast, one of our most avant-garde-ist pop(ular) music combos.)

And as an aside to the aside… even within a page on the reference points and pathways that Broadcast have appeared amongst/on during this year in the country, they are cropping up as further reference points.)

Broadcast-Wire Magazine-Joseph Stanndard-Outer Church-Eva Vermandel-A Year In The Country-3Broadcast-Wire Magazine-Joseph Stanndard-Outer Church-Eva Vermandel-A Year In The Country-2


Broadcast-Sampler2 book-art pop and contemporary graphics-Intro-Julian House-A Year In The Country-22) Book: sampler2 – art, pop and contemporary music graphics; I recently re-stumbled upon this on the shelves of a slightly tumbling/tumble-down bibliotheque almost corner shop… It made me wistful for a particular point in culture and years gone by, being a snapshot of the graphic work that accompanied audio releases just at the slightly abitarily selected point when a duo of a thousand years had passed in our collective history. It was a point just before the zeros and ones cable/airwave transmission of music began to fully take hold and the work contained within tends to veer towards designs to accompany abstract(ish) electronica and is often kind of lovely, slightly arch, slightly distant, deeply philosophic and also thoroughly surface orientated… all descriptions could well also describe much of the music as well as its visual accompaniments.

Broadcast-Sampler2 book-art pop and contemporary graphics-Intro-Julian House-A Year In The Country-3

The book was put together by Intro, the “day job” graphical Imagineering company in which Mr Julian House of Ghost Box Records/The Focus Group is a partner and indeed he is one of the co-creators of this particular publication… and sat there, nestled away in amongst the pages is Broadcast and some of his early work for/with them.

They feel like the cuckoo in the nest in a way. A sneaking in and back through time.


Broadcast-Tender Buttons-Warp-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country3) Recording: Tender Buttons. Well, what can I say? If I should be talking about non-populist, exploratory pop music, this is that.

It is resolutely pop music but… It is catchy, fractured, danceable to, heartbreaking, full of what could well be Burroughsian textual cut ups via the Black Country.

And it does features the “Michael, Michael, Michael… come on, your father was a teddy boy”. Which just makes me shake my head and chuckle. It seems to sum up so, so much of the experience, nature, character and culture of these lands and lives. Probably one of the finest lines or two in English music.

Broadcast-Tender Buttons-Warp-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-2 Broadcast-Tender Buttons-Warp-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-3 Broadcast-Tender Buttons-Warp-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-5

(As another aside and in an interconnected manner, I thoroughly treasure Bob Stanley’s line on Trish Keenan, in relation to appreciation of her/her work meaning that she was presented with a “wardrobe of fineries” by swanky fashion design folk; “…she might have had beans on toast for tea, but she was the best dressed girl in Birmingham” (discovered in his touching tribute, via the streams, brooks and tributaries of Caught By The River).


Broadcast-Tender Buttons-Warp-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-7
4) Visual document: And finally, this particular promotional photograph. Thoroughly modernist (not in the three button suit manner, the other kind of vaguely connected modernist) and makes me think of Alphaville (no, not the pop band, the other Alphaville). This is pop(ular) music and its accompanying imagery at some kind of peak of exploratory sharpness, playfulness and elswhereness (although I do tend to find the Tommy Boy logo a little perturbing).


Mark Fisher in Ghost Of My Life (see Day #163/365) talks about how it is the culture that surrounds and constellates around music that has been as important as the music itself in conjuring seductively unfamiliar worlds; that during the 20th century these gatherings of culture acted as a probe for such explorations and alternatives to existing ways of living and thinking.

I suppose that is much of the semi-conscious impetus for this page; Broadcast were/are a fine, brightly shining example of such constellations and constellators.


And so, with that, I shall leave such patterns and twinkling points of light (though I expect I shall turn my gaze towards and upwards in their direction again at some point).

So, a tip of the hat to Broadcast and all who have travelled with/alongside them.


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Day #248/365: John Barleycorn Reborn: definitions/explorations of a particular otherlyness and wandering off elsewhere via the old stories of source material…

John Barleycorn Reborn-Dark Britannica-Cold Spring-A Year In The CountryFile under: Trails and Influences. Recent Explorations. Case #31/52.

This is a series of albums which has grown into, indeed started as, a somewhat massive collecting/collating project which considers music that has sprung forth from (but is not hidebound by) old stories/traditions; something of a gathering of the patterns under the plough.

Thus far it takes in four volumes: beginning with John Barleycorn Reborn and growing to include John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth, We Bring You A King With A Head Of Gold and Hail Be You Sovereigns, Lief and Dear.

Mark Coyle, who collated the volumes and who has something of a history of such work, says that his intention was to include music by those “working in the broad area of folk music and folklore who were doing something unconventional with the form” and that “there’s a wealth of musicians who fuse experimentation with the inherently conservative musical form; that’s a tension which produces interesting results.

John Barleycorn Reborn Rebirth-Dark Britannica-Cold Spring-A Year In The CountryThe music herein is a result of those tensions. As what has become known as traditional folk may well once have changed, grown and adapted over the years as it was passed down via oral transmission, so the spirit of these compilations is to find and send out into the world work which doesn’t treat its source material as impermeable handed down relics and styles but rather a starting point and inspiration.

The collections subtitle is Dark Britannica but it’s not all doom and gloom in this particular cultural corner. The series collator Mark Coyle says that the use of the phrase dark folk was more a useful initial tag:

‘Dark folk’ doesn’t particularly mean anything to me, certainly not anything religious or political.  I chose to use the term like the ‘dark ages’: a time of cultural development that was assumed not to have happened because nobody wrote about it. It’s exactly what has happened with this music. The media assumes because they aren’t covering the music, it doesn’t exist or grow.  There are those who fuse psychedelic music, paganism, folklore, rock and other aspects with folk that makes it sound unconventional, strange or experimental. This may be seen as curious in comparison with traditional folk performed using the authentic instruments. I think folk music can possibly be traced back in some way to our lives on these Islands tens of thousands of years ago through the song motifs, symbology, simplicity and communal basis. The past is dark, unknown and strange to us so ‘dark folk’ is I suppose on this release, me trying to trace these threads back to our past via the songs.

John Barleycorn Reborn Rebirth-Dark Britannica-Cold Spring-A Year In The Country-collage

We Bring You A King With A Head Of Gold-Dark Britannica-Cold Spring-A Year In The Country(As an aside I also recently noticed – renoticed? –  that the first album is included in the Musical/Discographic Timeline in Rob Young’s Electric Eden, alongside a fair few fine companions. Those companions include some of those who were just aforementioned alongside other travellers towards “the unknown region” (such as Ghost Box village parishioners Belbury Poly and The Focus Group) and other investigators and renewers of old stories such as Alisdair Roberts and Vashti Bunyan.)

Hail Be You Soverigns, Lief and Dear-Dark Britannica-Cold Spring-A Year In The CountryA few other pathways:

If you should wish to explore further, there is an extensive interview with Mark Coyle (from which the quotes on this page were taken) and a somewhat indepth overview on the first volume from over the seas at Terrascope here.

Weirdlore: A fellow collating traveller.

Visit the albums at Coldspring here, here, here, and here.

More from Mark Coyle on definitions/intentions and explorations here.

Sharron Kraus-Plinth-Novemthree-Sproatly Smith-Ruby Throat-John Barleycorn Reborn-Cold Spring-A Year In The Country
The albums feature a fair scattering of work by those I have visited around these parts, including The Owl ServiceSharron KrausEnglish HereticThe Straw Bear BandMichael TannerNovemthreeSproatly Smith and Ruby Throat… but that is just a brief scattering of the many hours of recordings and explorations that the series now contains…


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Day #243/365: Travelling For A Living; tea served in the interval at nine o’clock and a return to populous stories and wald tales

Travelling For A Living-Derek Knight-The Watersons-A Year In The CountryFile under: Trails and Influences. Recent Explorations. Case #30/52.

And while I’m thinking of fleeting glances and Anne Briggs (see Day #242/365)…

Travelling For A Living.

This is a mid 1960s documentary by Derrick Knight on The Watersons. It was originally sent out into the nations living rooms via a venerable public broadcasting body but now it rarely seems to have an outing or outlet; it was available on the pre-digital ferrous reels of video cassettes and quietly nestles away in an out of print boxset. Not an all that easy cultural artefact to track down and peruse.

I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to the film is that it provides a glimpse or two of a culture which, though it existed in what is now looked back upon as a time of swinging Britannia and heading towards the psychedelia of the late 1960s summer of love, appears to be very separate from the more often considered views and aesthetics of the time.

Travelling For A Living-Derek Knight-The Watersons-A Year In The Country-2This is a much more grassroots, kitchen sink, gritty culture/counter-culture and to my eye makes me think more of the 1950s than the 1960s; all monochrome steaming breath and black wearing beat style.

In a way it reminds me of images of the 1980s Medway garage punk scene, such as those taken by Eugene Doyen; it shares that sense of a culture that is occurring separate to the mainstream stories and histories of the time and shares a similar kitchen sink, no frills and fripperies aesthetic.

Or possibly even a touch of minimal beat-ness of The Velvet Underground, though without the more arch self-consciousness. The two groups were separated by a somewhat large body of water and different musical aesthetics but they could be considered counter-cultural historical contemporaries, although one has come to exemplify a particular kind of “cool” or “hipness” somewhat more than the other. Along which lines…

Travelling For A Living-Derek Knight-The Watersons-A Year In The Country-8I find the film curious in part because I find it hard to connect the images on the screen with the music that comes from the speakers; on the screen are young, proto/post-beat hipsters in black turtle necks and with swishingly angular bobs – cool if you like.

The music is a particular strand of traditional folk that now seems at odds with the sometimes hip images and styles it accompanies in the film.

Over the years the music of this once underground/counter-culture has become tarred with the “uncool” brush. This documentary serves as an interesting insight into a time when that wasn’t the case.

Possibly this sense of hip-ness is in part a side effect of just being young and cutting a dash at a particular age.

Travelling For A Living-Derek Knight-The Watersons-A Year In The Country-4Alongside which, as part mentioned but a moment ago, the accepted stories/history of coolness of the time tends to be predicated towards pop culture rather than folk culture or populous stories vs wald tales. So the once counter-cultural stories of say The Velvet Underground have been allowed and even welcomed into the tomes of canonised cool. Their then folk singing contemporaries have been anything but.

Which I suppose in part highlights one of the pathways of this particular A Year In The Country; exploring and discovering such sometimes more widely overlooked tales from/via the fields and pastures and taking a sometimes step aside from more well paved cultural municipalities.

Not necessarily in an either/or, good/bad, zero/one manner. More just casting a gaze and curiousity elsewhere.

As an (almost) final aside: the tale in the film of setting up a club without ever having been to one and serving a cup of cha at the nine o’clock interval. Fine stuff.


Day 11-Teach Me To Be A Summer Morning b-Lal Waterson-A Year In The CountryA few pathways:

Day #11/365: a previous document of indie-mod-folk-beatnik stylings.

A few fleeting glances and edits from the back of the van, an appreciation of a good cup o’cha and down in the basements.

Cold war dread (and hope) somewhat before hauntology.

Flat Pack Cinema’s 7 inches.

Days #40/365 and #190/365: From the wild woods to broadcasts from the pylons; previous considerations of pop(ulous) and wald/volk/folk culture.


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Day #234/365: Scherenschnitte: nocturnal strigiformes, fields in England & otherly folkloric tales and signifiers via patience and a neatness of hand…

Amy Flurry-Nikki Salk-Paper-Cut-Project-A Year In The Country-2File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #29/52.

I tend to find myself somewhat drawn to paper cut work/artwork/scherenschnitte. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s the level of dedication, patience and well, neatness that it seems to require.

It can be very pretty in a decorative, craft orientated manner, which is all good and fine but occasionally I’ll come across work that seems to step over and towards somewhere else, nearer to art I suppose and somewhere a little more otherly if you like.

Recently I was a-browsing in one of the few remaining bookshops that exist in bricks and mortar form (one with a doorway that you can step over the threshold of in a corporeal rather than a stream of zeros and ones manner, something of a rarity today) and I came across the book Paper Cutting…

…which lead me to the work below…

Talking of corporeality, below is the work of Elsa Mora… there is a visceral, unsettling quality to her work that brings to mind Frida Kahlo or the harsher origin tellings of fairy tales and took me to thoughts of what became known as lowbrow art via the pages of Juxtapoz magazine and the like…

Elsa Mora-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country 2 Elsa Mora-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country 4
Elsa Mora-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country-7
Elsa Mora-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country-6Elsa Mora-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country 3
Elsa Mora-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country

…and then onto the work of Emma Van Leest, who has a nice take on project titles (which put me in mind of Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure and it’s quietly unsettling take on corners of the land which will forever be England – A barn for a goddess and other talesVillage MurmursA homage to a private placeWayfaringThe dowsed heartTo dream in waking lifeBefore the first rainAs to a nestBucolica)…

…or indeed a touch of a certain field in England to the first piece of work below…

Emma Van Leest-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country-Come-by-chance


Emma Van Leest-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country-dowsed heartEmma Van Leest-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country

…with the amount of work that needs to be invested in paper cut work and it’s often irreproducibility, it’s not a huge surprise to see such things in the fine art corner of the cultural world… and so when I went a-wandering, I came across Emma Flurry and Nikki Salk’s Paper-Cut-Project in such places and positionings…

Amy Flurry-Nikki Salk-Paper-Cut-Project-A Year In The Country-1 Amy Flurry-Nikki Salk-Paper-Cut-Project-A Year In The Country-2
…and I was also drawn to the above two items through a longstanding interest and attraction in otherly pastoralism/folklore to the myths, tales and signifiers of nocturnal strigiformes and the like…

…and also quite possibly the parades and maskery of a certain flickering, semi-demi-lost piece of celluloid

Cindy Ferguson-Paper Cutting-A Year In The Country.jpg
…and I think it would be rude to leave such things without wandering by and under the exotic pylons and (sometimes) bad wires of an electric eden courtesy of Cindy Ferguson.

A recent starting point:
Papercutting book-Laura Heyengs-Rob Ryan-Natalie Avelia-A Year In The Country

Somewhere else to wander.

…and here and here.


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Day #229/365: A Bear’s Ghosts…

File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #28/52.

I recently wandered amongst former structures of/connected to conflict which were now being recovered by nature and/or in part semi-forgotten (see Day #228/365)… which lead me indirectly to the below images.

They are part of a series/book project by Jan Kempenaers called Spomenik; the structures themselves were created behind the once Iron Curtain as memorials. Now apparently they are largely abandoned.

There is a (brutalist) beauty and fascination to them, they seem to have tumbled from both the future and the past; despite the all too real history which inspired them, they now seem almost like impossible fictions or props from a filmic story.

In a way they remind me of Charles Frégers photographs of folkloric ritual costumes (see Day #69/365), in that they seem to be a version of something which has been taken to an almost unreal or surreal other/further degree.

Beyond that I think I shall let them speak for themselves…

Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-5 (2)

Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country (2) Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country (3) Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country (4) Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country (5) Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country (6) Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-3 Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-4  Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-5 Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-6 Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-7 Jan Kempenaers-Spomenik-A Year In The Country-8



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Day #225/365: A return to the returning footsteps of a Berberian Straw Bear and companions

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-A Year In The CountryFile under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #27/52.

Not so long ago I went for a wander in the footsteps of By Our Selves (see Day #221/365) and had something of a curiousity piqued visual gander at Andrew Kotting, Iain Sinclair and Toby Jones filmic journey, which follows in the footsteps of the troubled poet John Clare and heads off to meet Mr Alan Moore (who apparently went to school next to where Mr Clare was incarcerated; see more on such things below)…

…during and since then I’ve had some more of a wander around this project and wanted to return to it to peruse some more of the associated imagery…

…in particular the Straw Bear figure. As English folkloric characters go, I find this one of the most intriguing. I think in part it reminds me of Charles Fréger’s photographs of European folklore figures, Wilder Mann (see Day #69/365); it has a similar surreal uncanniness and so when investigating its origins, history and story, I wasn’t surprised to see that it is a character which also appears in European folklore.

Anyway, below is a Bakers Dozen of Berberian Straw Bears, companions and one owl-ic interloper…

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-11

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-10 Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-9
(Above: shades of Electric Eden’s cover…)

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-7
(Above: such Wickerman-esque masks seem to be a somewhat frequent signifier of a certain kind of otherly folklore, its tales and atmosphere. See also pathways from and via Sproatly Smith around these parts here, here and elsewhere here.)

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-5 Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-4
(…amongst the towns and town folk…)

(Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-16

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-3
(The above photograph reminds me of The Eccentronic Research Council for some reason…)

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-16b
(Amongst the corn rigs and barley rigs… I expect it’s actually wheat but I couldn’t say for sure, the not knowing of which may well in part be a side effect of not all that long ago nearly half the population on this particular island worked in agriculture, a figure which apparently now barely wanders into single figures per hundred of us good folk…)

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-2 Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-18

Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-6Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-14

(Above right: The interloper.)

What’s this (once was a Berberian) Straw Bear journey and film all about you may ask? Who was this John Clare chap whose footsteps it is following in?

Well, a wander round the ether may well tell you more. I’m wary of writing in-depth about another’s troubles but I would point the interested reader in the direction of a somewhat masterful, lyrical exposition on Mr Clare, his journey, life, work, class position/change/conflict and “sharp eye for detail in the wood, the trees, the bark” by Mr Alan Moore.

That can be visited here and in the ether here (page 98 to be precise, though you will need to delve into the old pennies a touch, though if you do you may also then be able to peruse about Mr Alasdair Roberts via the writing of Mr Rob Young and well, a fair bit more).

A Straw Bear went a-wandering; By Our Selves in the ether here and here (where you may well also discover the history of why this particular character is being lead along).

Straw Bear records and documentation: on these shores / on other shores.


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Day #221/365: A Straw Bear went a-wandering; a once Berberian sound engineer follows past footsteps, other boot filling and less than but two penn’orth worth on a roll of music

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The CountryBy Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-1
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #26/52.

I seem to have a curious ability to come across a certain kind of time-limited electronic ether funding appeal to the general public for creative projects (or crowd funding, to use the modern terminology) just after they’ve ended…

By Our Selves was one of those, a film by Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair (who formerly collaborated on another filmic journey which involved waterways, a pedal driven swan-boat and journeys to the once games of the gods)…

…at which point I step onto another interconnected pathway for a moment or two…

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-2

I might be wrong but I expect the period we’re currently living in will be looked back upon as a time of transition as concerns the way that creative projects are funded and their creators try to keep the cupboards, if not full, at least not heading towards empty. Such forms of funding as the one used in this instance are a useful tool but also possibly one of the signs of a system that is out of balance, as the machinery/systems associated with the transmission and replication of such work has changed but the associated forms of cupboard filling have not kept pace.

This has lead to a patchwork of ways of going about such things, none of which quite address the central issue that in the current system there is access to culture via cheap (if sometimes unlicensed) forms through this new machinery but at the same time there has been a lack of building equitable, viable structures to pay for the actual core of things; the story contained in the film, album etc.

(I say cheap rather than free and mention equitable as pockets are routinely delved into/it is expected that they will be for transmission systems and machinery.)

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-3

Advance funding appeals to an audience/the general or niche public aren’t necessarily a new idea (I first came across a similar payment in advance funding system for an album a fair few spins round the sun ago and the longstanding cultural institution of Einstürzende Neubauten used a similar idea a while or so ago – as documented by Ms Danielle de Picciotto) it’s just that the technology has changed and now allows for such things to be carried out more easily…

…though ironically, in part the technology that has required the use of such systems by changing/making nolonger as viable previous models of funding, is the same as that which such systems use: the world has become heavily populated with easily accessible digital copying machines and transmission systems, which both giveth and taketh away. Or to semi-quote Mr Luke Haines, the old saying which used to be pram in the hall, art out the door has become electronic ether in the corner, art out the door…

…well, at least as applies in part to people being paid for/funding their creative work.

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-6

It would seem that the providers of said digital copying machines and their associated transmission systems/forums are filling their boots as it were, while curiously managing to avoid paying up very much at all for all the cultural input their systems receive and are made appealing and useful by (see Day #218/365 for more on such things)

Accompanying which, there is a curious contemporary and historical avoidance by institutional governing bodies in properly dealing with all this at anything like a quick-step pace (at this point I should probably say that this is not a call for draconian stamping out of particular kinds of behaviour, even if that was especially likely/practical/wished for; see putting genies back in the bottle in but a moment).

Once upon a time music could be replicated in an unlicensed manner via the whirring of ferrous reels and magnets – what was such technology for? All those millions upon millions of such things and their apparatus possibly weren’t for sending audio letter messages to aunties in far-flung climes or making “backup” copies of music you’d bought.

Although apart from the occasional largely ineffective complaint, slogan and rather fine logo, they were accepted as a legitimate part of business practise/personal use (though there was a nominal levy applied on them, which was intended for but I expect didn’t arrive at the doors of, creative working folk). Their zero and ones replacements, despite occasional equally ineffective hand-wringing calls to arms, seem thus far to have slipped through some kind of similar legislative/cultural/societal loophole but without any even nominal attempt at balancing things out.

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-8

This is also not a new story but part of an ongoing, seesawing, to-ing and fro-ing

If you look back at one of the earliest examples of when song-smithery/creative work was represented and replicated via zeros and ones, pianolas (mechanical pianos that played music recorded on hole-punched rolls of paper), you can see that initially there was little or no recompense to those who created the music. So the ruling bodies of the day imposed a levy on each roll produced that was meant to alleviate this problem and, in intention at least, meant to recompense those who created the culture which made the systems/machinery work and worthwhile.

Isn’t this part of what ruling bodies are meant to do? Mediate when systems go out of kilter/become unbalanced.

To quote a Mr Nika Aldrich:

Technology is continuing to expand the number and quality of copies people can make, and when it gets to the point that it limits the incentive to create, Congress steps in and adjusts the balance. As they do that, it shifts the balance intellectual property laws are always trying to strike between incentives to create new content and the ability to use existing content in new ways.

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-15

It’s pretty hard to put the genie back in the bottle, even if that should be something that the majority of people would like (which it is not I expect in this case) but you can maybe check that the benefits of the granted wishes are dealt with and passed out in an equitable manner.

(As an aside and loosely connected, the introduction of safety, pollution, working, health etc regulations/provisions/statutes after the earlier untrammelled developments of the industrial revolution in the UK meant that the population – ie those who worked in the aforementioned industries – was not all that fit to be just that, a working population. It wasn’t purely motivated via altruism – it’s hard to be a grasping capitalist when you’re drinking water polluted by your own output and your workers are too sick/injured/disgruntled to work. So governing bodies stepped in to mediate and re-balance the system, which actually meant a generally overall smoother working system for most concerned. A little common sense can hopefully go a long way.)

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-4

This page isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom mind nor is it a call for stasis or reversal. Rather it is some kind of consideration of ways in which cupboard filling can be undertaken when dreaming, story telling and pondering amongst new systems (that as said earlier, giveth and taketh) takes places. Cupboard filling that doesn’t have to hope for/is overly predicated towards the luck of a private income, the knack for grant form filling or finding a good wind of charity courtesy of its audience etc.

To roughly semi-quote myself quoting William Gibson, culture is a place where society goes to dream and so plumping up the pillows and providing a decent bed for such repose might not go amiss.

The wandering of this particular tale of footstep following is one of such routes through the currently somewhat uncleared pathways and one of the ways in which stories find a way… and so back onto that path…

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-9

So with all the above out of the way (or at least brushed to one side for the moment), By Our Selves looks like a rather fine and intriguing project and something I’m particularly looking forward to seeing once it is completed and sent out into the world.

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-10

It’s basically a film of a once Berberian sound engineer (Mr Toby Jones and also his father as his own ghost) retracing the steps of troubled poet John Clare from Epping Forest to Northamptonshire, accompanied at points by the earlier mentioned renowned scribe and wanderer (Mr Iain Sinclair) and will at its destination meet up with another renowned scribe and possible magus (Mr Alan Moore) to consider said steps.

Oh and as a companion on the journey, the wanderers will be accompanied by the folkloric character of a straw bear.

What more do I need to say? I expect that’s curiosity around these parts thoroughly piqued…

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-11

View the (now gone) appeal for journeys By Our Selves here. View some associated visual appeal-ery here and here.

Mr Andrew Kotting, the man underneath the mask indeed, here.

Another journey by some similar personages (teasingly not-available here).

Other pathways amongst A Year In The Country:
Other considerations of art out the door, unbalanced boot filling and connections to/tales by Mr Alan Moore of Northamptonshire.
Mr Luke Haines.
Other dried pasture ursidaes (and another).
Other dream awakenings and enclosures.

By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-16By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-18By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-20

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Day #216/365: Old Joy; “This is a very special place, if you can’t see the little arrows at night you can’t get in”

Old Joy-2006-Kelly Reichardt-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country-3
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #25/52.

This is a film which feels like the end of something. What that ending is I’m not quite sure… friendship, youthful irresponsibilities/a particular way of life, bricks and mortar music stores, American hegemony?

Possibly all those and more.

Old Joy-2006-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country-3Essentially it’s the story of two longstanding friends who reunite to set off on a road trip to visit a natural hotspring in the forest. One of the two is about to become a father and seems to be stepping into a more adult world, in contrast to the other who still lives a responsibility free life as he has always done. There is a sense that there are (more or less) unspoken issues between them, that something has become frayed and is irreparable…

Their journey largely takes place in amongst the rural communities of Oregon in the US; just as there is a sense of something otherly in some of the pastoral pathways and landscapes I’ve travelled down leading up to and during this year in the country, the landscape of this foreign land seems to have a mythological quality, a natural but largely tamed/travelled idyll, which also carries with it an undertow of its own layered, hidden history (see more of such things at Day #198/365)

In many ways the landscape that the film journeys through reminded me of some depictions, culture and stories of America’s south; when they pass through more settled areas, there is a similar sense of edgeland communities, the decay of infrastructure and neglect.

General orders no 9-a year in the countryThe film is in many ways gentle and soporific; I use that word in a positive manner. This is ambient film making, nearer to say the ambling pace of Straight Story than the often rollercoaster ride plotting of many modern flickering pieces of story telling. In some ways it felt like a counterpart to General Orders No.9 (see Day #51/365), though Old Joy is a story which concerns itself more directly with the narratives of people and characters than that of the land.

(As an aside, it also made me think of Refueled magazine and it’s sense of heritage inspired but independent/modern culture and craftsmanship)

Also, in these days where making such filmic rollercoast rides seems to cost, oh I don’t know the health budget of small countries, this is pleasantly minimalist film making, in both fiscal and crew terms; I’m wary of being all grump and killjoy but not allowing for inflation, you could probably make over 7,000 Old Joys for the cost of one of the recent groupings of spandex clad ubermen and the credits don’t seem to involve close typed, multiple-columned armies of people. Both are but stories…

It’s a strange old world we live in.

Justine Kurland-Jonathan Raymond-Old Joy-2006-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country-5The film was loosely based on/inspired by a now rather rare and out of print photography/fiction book by Justine Kurland and Jonathan Raymond, which you can peruse here (caution, this is a piece of work which is quite free with its depictions of non-clothed personages). The soundtrack is a rather lovely piece of almost ambient guitar work by Yo La Tengo and can be found on the soundtrack collection album They Shoot, We Score (great title I thought… ah and having a peruse in the world they also provided musical accompaniment for Junebug, wherein urban culturites meet Southern roots and outsider art, which is somewhat appreciated around these parts).

Justine Kurland-Jonathan Raymond-Old Joy-2006-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country-4

The hot springs that they visit in the film is an actual working version of such things. In its celluloid depiction it looks almost impossibly created and positioned, a small spot of roughly hewn beauty and escape in the forest but it is perfectly visitable by the general public.

Old Joy-2006-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country-5

Old Joy-2006-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country

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The film’s three main characters are played by Daniel London, Lucy the dog and wandering “Appalachian post-punk solipsistBonnie Prince Billy/Will Oldham.

And returning to a slight theme of late of alternative film posters, here are a couple of such things.

Old Joy-2006-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country 4 Old Joy-2006-alternative poster-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country

Old Joy-2006-alternative poster-Will Oldham-Bagby Hot Springs-A Year In The Country-3Visit those here and here.

Visit “otherworldly peacefulness” here. Visit it’s home on digital disc here and it’s once-would-have-been a hard to see physical artifact outside of industry circles here. Listen to a dash of the rather lovely soundtrack here.


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Day #192/365: When Do We Dream? Cold Geometries and Grey Frequencies

Grey Frequency-dark ambient-A Year In The Country 5File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
Case #24/52.

For a while now I’ve been finding myself drawn to certain areas of what could be called ambient music and/or tonal drone instrumental music.

I didn’t expect it, nor has it been a conscious decision but sometimes you look up and something has crept up on you.

This isn’t necessarily ambient music in the more new age sense of relaxing background music… in the racks of (hardly now existing) record shops, this is more likely to be filed under dark ambient.

In common with its lighter, brighter namesake, it is still music that you can let wash over you but at the same time it is often a much more experimental, subterranean form of this music than it’s sometimes blissful genre companions.

Grey Frequency-Cold Geometry-tape-A Year In The Country

I’ve wandered why I’ve been drawn to such things, often in the past having been quite an appreciator of the traditional song structure, melody and lyrics… possibly in these days of cultural informational input, overload and the cutting up of culture and attention into tiny, tiny bits and pieces, the less invasive, longer in time duration, contemplative pieces that can be found in such music have become a refuge, a place where I can appreciate music but also let my mind wander and dream.

And in the sense of being able to let your mind travel or absorbing music for an extended period of time, I’m reminded of what one of the originators of such things, Brian Eno, said when discussing ambient music; that he wanted to create music that you could use in the same way as you did light – it was just there and that you don’t necessarily want light to always be erratic, pulsing or strobing.

I used the word subterranean earlier for a particular reason… often the music I have been listening to conjures in my mind a sense of being literally underground, of journeys through tunnels deep below the ground.

Grey Frequency-dark ambient-A Year In The CountryOne of my favourite of such things is the work of Grey Frequency.

I first came across their work via a visual medium, while tumbl(r)ing down particular hills in the valleys of zeros and ones… I thought, ah, here is somebody that is approaching a sense of unsettled pastoralism, childhood wastelands, post-post war architectural concrete brutalism and associated patterns/textures in a manner not too dissimilar to myself.

And then I listened to the music and I was travelling and tunnelling through those aforementioned subterranean passageways, accompanied by a sense of bliss become dread, of creaking, lurking monoliths…

And what are those monoliths? What is that sense of dread? Well, this is inherently hauntological music, in that it captures a sense of the lost futures and utopias which were once promised; those creaking monoliths are the sounds of the fading half-life of the utilitarian reinforced concrete structures which were once signposts and symbols of those futures and better days. This is music as collapsed edgeland industrial estates and wastelands, where the buzz of the pylons carry electricity to elsewhere, nolonger here and transmission centres have fallen silent.

Grey Frequency-dark ambient-derelict building-A Year In The Country 3

This is music and a project which, for me (and of course I can only talk for myself, I don’t know the intentions of its creator) is imbued with a sense of the cold war dread that accompanied much of my childhood, of a country and its infrastructure in a state of crumbling and decay. And this might sound odd but for some reason when I hear Grey Frequency, it reminds me of soundtracks to big budget science fiction films… but the foreign, outer places its stories traverse aren’t those of far future worlds, those otherly lands are now our own futures past and landscapes.

Grey Frequency-dark ambient-A Year In The Country 6Grey Frequency is a multi-faceted project; music is at its core but it also takes in photography, lithographic print and video work. Its various manifestations can be found here (audio signals and physical artifacts), here (audio signals), here (static visual transmissions), here (cathode ray flickerings), here (ether connections) and here (compact communications).

If you’re of a certain age and cultural inclination, you may also enjoy Retro Reverbs, which is built by Grey Frequency personnel; a scrapbook or source library of imagery all held in a well-worn, long-lost mass publication paperback cover (adults only, as such things may well say on the cover).

You can take in the audio experience of Mr Brian Eno being interviewed by a picture book story telling, bearded, self-declared thaumaturge here, which is part of a chain reaction that was previously fed by Jon Brooks supporter and occasional appearer in these pages Stewart Lee.


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Day #185/365: The silent weavings of Angus McPhee

Angus Macphee-A Year In The Country 5

File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #23/52.

Angus Macphee-A Year In The CountryI’m not sure how I came across the work and life of Angus McPhee. It’s been a very recent discovery and I’m still learning and exploring… it’s a difficult subject matter to write about as I want to be as respectful as possible…

It’s astonishing work and a sad and astonishing life story.

Here’s a brief introduction courtesy of the Weaver Of Grass, which was a document of the development and touring of a show about his work:

Angus McPhee-A Year In The Country“Angus McPhee was from Iochdar, in South Uist, part of the Outer Hebrides, or Western Islands of Scotland. He was a crofter who as a young man went off to war in 1940. Something happened during the next few years and he was invalided home, a changed man, an elective mute. Soon he was transferred to Craig Dunain, a Victorian psychiatric hospital outside of Inverness. There he spent the next 40-odd years. During this period he created extraordinary woven grass objects. These were hardly recognized by the hospital staff, until in the late 1970s the noted art therapist Joyce Laing visited the hospital, looking for examples of ‘Art Brut’, Outsider Art, or ‘Art Extraordinary’. Joyce seized upon the pieces she found in the hospital grounds, and thus fortunately was able to preserve a small part of Angus’s work.” (When Angus had finished one piece he would discard it and start another).

I think I shall let those few words, his once home and the work tell it’s story and speak for itself.

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Angus Macphee-A Year In The Country 4


Angus Mcphee-waders + bags-A Year In The Country

Angus Mcphee-sower's pouch-A Year In The Country
Angus Mcphee-pony collar-A Year In The Country
Angus Mcphee-cat-A Year In The Country-croppedSome pathways you may wish to wanderdown: encyclopedic ether, history and stories, visual stories, fellow re-weaver, weaving tome, collection, Horse + Bamboo weaving strutters and players.




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Day #181/365: Queens Of Evil; “What sort of conjurers are you?” – “Persuaders, your eminence, hidden persuaders.”

Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 4
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #22/52.

There’s sometimes a curious disconnect between what you think/hope a film/piece of culture will be like and what it actually is like…

I’ve been thinking about this film for a few years now but I’ve never seen it. Periodically I would read up about it online, think about it some more and then not watch it.

It’s not just that it’s a quite hard to find film, particularly in an English language version that stopped me watching it… I think in part I imagined it as a quite magical, otherly, fairytale like piece of work and I wasn’t sure that I wanted the reality challenging the imaginary film I had created in my head. It had become its own myth without me ever seeing it…

I think I first heard about it on the venerable British Broadcast Corporations, during an episode of the Film Program.

Now, I like the Film Program. I’m also quite fond of the civilised refuge of Radio 4 on which it occurs. I wasn’t expecting to hear about an obscure Italian late 1960s European cult pop-art woodland-folkloric critique of power and psychedelic idealism on it. Left of centre mainstream classics and commercially released contemporary independent films yes. Queens Of Evil/Le Regine/Il Delitto del Diavolo, no.

Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 1

Anyway, one day I sat down and set off for a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the woods…

A film is unlikely to be able to live up to the long lead-up this one had… I’m not sure if it did. Possibly I think of the film I saw as being a different one to the one I had imagined… I think I’m still processing it as I write but here are some thoughts.

The film’s plot? Well, a handsome young freewheelin’/hippie/idealist kind of chap comes across a house in the woods after he’s been involved in a road accident where a materially wealthy gent was killed… living in this house are 3 young women who take him in, charm, nurture, seduce and confuse him… everything is rosy for a while but there’s something off-kilter about the setup and he can’t quite seem to leave…

I won’t say more in case you should ever watch the film…

Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 4c

Instead I shall try and describe it… I would have to say imagine a gently decadent grown ups version of a tea-party in the woods, a dash of Snow White (in fact somebody says “It’s just like Snow Whites house” about the cabin in the woods at one point), a bit more of a dash of Hansel and Gretel and it’s tales of leading astray, more than a touch of late 1960s kidnapping hipster gals living in a giant see-through bubble in the countryside film The Touchables, social critique and the dreamlike qualities of some of Czech New Wave films such as Daisies and Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders…

Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 9…actually, that’s quite a bit what this felt like. Though Italian, it could well have been part of that cycle of fairytale like Czech films… it has a similar playful, childlike idyll and sometimes dreamlike quality to it but if you should go into the woods today… well, let’s just say you may well be hiding behind the sofa by the end. Tread carefully is all I shall say. It is playful in parts but this is most definitely a film for grown ups and not always an easy piece of celluloid to watch…

Oh and to add in to that mix of what it’s like I would say The Wickerman. That was actually the film it was compared to on the radio broadcast where I first became aware of it… there is a similar sense of game playing, of leading a worldly innocent through a set of rituals, of levels of power and control… oh and similarly to that towering modern(ish) folklore tale, apples and symbols of temptation play a part in this game.

And as with The Wickerman, this is a tale full of it’s own and borrowed mythology and which seems to exist and be told in a world of it’s own imagining, where the outside rarely intrudes.

Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 5c

By the end you realise that this (sometimes) fairytale fable is actually a quite severe satire or critique on society, of those in higher echelons of power and also the decadence and potential corruptibility of the psychedelic/free love movement and it’s associated idealism… in many ways it is a story of a culture tottering right on the edge of when the utopian, carefree, sundrenched dream of the 1960s was about to fall into the darkness of it’s own dissolution in the following decade (something I seem to return to the idea of in the pages of A Year In The Country… Liege and Lief becomes Comus, as it were).

Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 3This is one film that I feel would greatly benefit from a careful brush, scrub up and restoration. It’s something of a visual delight, full of late 1960s ethereal high fashion (think Ossie Clark/Celia Birtwell, Psychedlic Folkloristic) which at points is mixed with chimeric fantasy, largely set in sharply stylish but indolent, tree inhabited period interiors… but you may well only be able to see it in a somewhat blurred incarnation…

View a (contemporarily created) trailer here (and look away before the end). Watch the film… well, I’m not quite sure where.

Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 8

“…late 1960s ethereal high fashion… and a certain kind of chimeric fantasy…”
Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 10


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Day #160/365: Edgelands Report Documents; Cases #1a (return), #2a-5a.

Karl Hyde-Kieran Evans-Edgeland-Outer Edges-A Year In The Country-lighter
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #21/52.
Edgelands Report Documents: Cases #1a (return) #2a-5a.

I think for much of my life I’ve been fascinated by what have become known as edgelands, way before I even knew that’s what they have come to be called.

Karl Hyde-Kieran Evans-Edgeland-Outer Edges-A Year In The Country 2Edgelands, what are they you may ask? It’s a phrase that refers to the edges of towns and cities that are neither urban nor countryside, the undeveloped or developing areas, out-of-town retail areas, the land surrounding power stations, scrublands, wastelands, semi-derelict areas, semi-industrial areas and so forth.

These are often the places where society creates, stores, repairs, discards, forgets about and disposes of the things it physically needs and they are often starkly aesthetically neglected, though in contrast can also become something of a haven for nature and wildlife.

Karl Hyde-Kieran Evans-Edgeland-Outer Edges-A Year In The Country 6I think in part my experience of the countryside was more such places for much of my childhood, something that Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts talk about in their book Edgelands. Maybe in part because they were as far as it was easy (or allowed) to travel when I didn’t have independent access to motorised transport.

Maybe also because they were/are places I was drawn to: they contain many of societies overlooked and often unsupervised nooks and crannies and so represent an ideal playground when you’re a child.

Karl Hyde-Kieran Evans-Edgeland-Outer Edges-A Year In The Country 5Even when I did (briefly) live in the actual countryside when I was young, the places I often played in, explored and was fascinated by often had more than a touch of the edgelands to them: building a dam across the river next to an old crystal deposit encrusted  railway tunnel, a concrete military pillbox sat incongruously at the edge of a field (as contemporary war planes flew low overhead, practising avoiding radar detection), an overgrown and more or less abandoned local graveyard where you could scare yourself by moving and peering inside the walls of old monuments…

…a road that had broken up and collapsed down a hillside and where the intrepid could pry the cats-eyes from the remains of the middle of the road (these were reflective glass markings that were used on UK roads)… the craters on hillsides where we would excitedly scavenge rusted machine remains, thinking they were sites where planes had crashed (they may well have been, quite a few planes had crashed around those parts and there was even a semi-mythical map in the local information centre that told you where the sites were)…

Karl Hyde-Kieran Evans-Edgeland-Outer Edges-A Year In The Country 8

And that’s before we get to playing in actual edgelands, places that could have been real life Public Information Film settings that warned children of the dangers to be found there: playing below humming electricity pylons and tumbling amongst the abandoned fridges and washing machines on a hillside that led down to a river that would change colour depending on what was being pumped into it (see Day #81/365)…

Edward Chell-Soft Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-A Year In The Country 7…or the edge of town once airforce base, now camping park complete with can, bottle and possibly spectre filled air raid shelters (see Day #94/365) or in later years wandering on grey Sundays through the local industrial estate, where a coffin factory shared space sandwiched between fields and the main road with a poultry processing establishment, all to the soundtrack of suitably upliftingly depressing music on a borrowed portable cassette player.

So, anyways, it’s been interesting of late discovering that there is a whole body of literature and creative work which has focused on these hinterlands.

This work travels from Edward Chell’s Soft Estate book/exhibition on such places when they are found at the side of motorways (see Day #115/365 and image to the above left) and his use of the dust and debris that  can be found there to create his artwork…

Edgelands book-Paul Farley and Michael Symoons Roberts-Robert Macfarlane-A Year In The Country…through to the literary, poetic exploration of such things in the aforementioned book by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts: Edgelands – Journeys Into England’s True Wilderness, wherein the authors collaborate and document their travels, personal memories and connections to these liminal landscapes, taking in along the way childhood dens, container ports, wastelands, ruins, mines and the endpoints for societies automobiles.

…and then onto the Edgeland/The Outer Edges film/music/photography project by Karl Hyde/Kieran Evans (from which most of the photographs on this page are taken) which is in many ways a psychogeographic wandering through what feel like semi-uncharted lands and lives which are overlooked, strewn with debris, a faded, battered beauty, nature and pylons…

…or the roots and origin of the word Edgeland’s via Marion Shoard’s moving, artful Edglands essay (the start of which is below, read the full essay here):

Britain’s towns and cities do not usually sit cheek by jowl with its countryside, as we often casually assume. Between urban and rural stands a kind of landscape quite different from either. Often vast in area, though hardly noticed, it is characterised by rubbish tips and warehouses, superstores and derelict industrial plant, office parks and gypsy encampments, golf courses, allotments and fragmented, frequently scruffy, farmland. All these heterogeneous elements are arranged in an unruly and often apparently chaotic fashion against a background of unkempt wasteland frequently swathed in riotous growths of colourful plants, both native and exotic. This peculiar landscape is only the latest version of an interfacial rim that has always separated settlements from the countryside to a greater or lesser extent. In our own age, however, this zone has expanded vastly in area, complexity and singularity. Huge numbers of people now spend much of their time living, working or moving within or through it. Yet for most of us, most of the time, this mysterious no man’s land passes unnoticed: in our imaginations, as opposed to our actual lives, it barely exists.

When we think of the land of Britain we think of town and village, countryside and coast. Our image of Kent is still one of towns, wealden or coastal, neatly demarcated from downs, orchards and fields. When we think of Scotland we think of Edinburgh Castle and heather-clad hills. We are, of course, also well aware of the great conurbations. But not of the edgelands.

The apparently unplanned, certainly uncelebrated and largely incomprehensible territory where town and country meet rarely forms the setting for films, books or television shows. As we flash past its seemingly meaningless contours in train, car or bus we somehow fail to register it on our retinas.

Richard Mabey-The Unofficial Countryside-Little Toller Books-A Year In The Country…or back to one of the early documents (celebrations?) of such overlooked, often unloved parts of our world, Richard Mabey’s The Unofficial Countryside book.

That has been relatively recently republished by Little Toller Books and you can view the faded introduction by him of the accompanying film here (the start of which couldn’t be more hauntological friendly if released as part of a Ghost Box Records project with title graphic design by Julian House… see image below).

That particular book was published in 1973, which considering the social/political/economic strife of the UK at that time makes its subject matter of plants and nature creeping and surving through broken concrete, covering bombsites, thriving in cities and the associated sense of neglect and collapse somehow appropriate.

Richard Mabey-The Unofficial Countryside-The World About Us-documentary-Little Toller Books


Richard Mabey-The Unofficial Countryside-The World About Us-documentary-Little Toller Books 2-lighter

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Day #150/365: Parade Of Blood Red Sorrows

Jane Weaver-Intiaani Kesä-Parade Of Blood Red Sorrows-Kiss Of The Damned-A Year In The CountryFile under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #20/52.

Parade Of Blood Red Sorrows is a piece of music by Jane Weaver. It’s a haunting, tumbling, reverberating work that for me creates and conjures a world all of its own… I’m not sure I want to write much more about it as I think it’s something that needs to be listened to in order to be fully appreciated.

And to be honest writing about it just makes me want to put down my pen and go and listen to it once more… which I seem to have just done again.

Kiss Of The Damned poster-Xan Casavetes-Jane Weaver-Demdike Stare-A Year In The CountryIt can be found on the Le Rose De Fer / Intiaani Kesä album at Finders Keepers Records and alongside Demdike Stare and Brigitte Fontaine on the soundtrack to the reverent reinterpretation of earlier eras celluloid dreams and nightmares, Kiss Of The Damned

You can listen to it here.

As recompense for the brevity of my writing, here is some background on the making and release of the Intiaani Kesä record on which it can be found, which I think in discussing its technical creation also manages to capture something of the spirit of the song/the album:

“Recorded in an old vicarage near the Peak District, housing a unique analogue experimental studio, Intiaani Kesä hears Weaver deploy a wide range of instruments including tubular bells, bowed guitars, vintage Goblinised Roland string synths, detuned pianos, church bells, Roland guitar synths, harpsichords and ex-Radiophonic Workshop custom equipment as accompaniment to wordless and onomatopoeic chorale vocals recorded on valve microphones with space echo, sonic room reverbs and bespoke experimental tape delays. Made in a disciplined and unforgiving environment without modern technological shortcuts these self-initiated creative research prototypes were not initially intended for commercial release but are thankfully gathered here as songs in there own right independent of context.”


Jane Weaver-Fallen By Watchbird-A Year In The CountryAs a postscript: If you’ve read back to near the start of A Year In The Country you may well have stumbled upon Jane Weaver’s Fallen By Watchbird album/project at Day #6/365. If not, it’s well worth a wander along to, which you can also do via here and here.

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Day #139/365: Sharron Kraus, the less well trodden paths of Heretics Folk Club and unfurling sails…

Sharron Kraus-Heretics Folk Club-A Year In The Country-1b
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #19/52.
Field Trip Report: Case #2.

I recently wandered along to the Heretics Folk Club, which is a corner of the world that serves as an enclave for “balladeers, hauntologists, audio-archaeologists, field recordists” and the like, to see Sharron Kraus live for the first time.

The performance was upstairs in a rather lovely riverside venue, which felt as though it should be or was only lit by candle light and the flickering projections that acted as a backdrop.

Live as on record Ms Kraus’ music casts a certain spell: it is beguiling in that it is both shimmering and full of light while also wandering down some of the darker and not always so easy paths of life and love. Spellbinding is a word that comes to mind and it’s interesting how just somebody’s voice and an acoustic guitar can cast such a spell over a room.

There is both a fragility and a strength to her music and performance, these are songs that make you want to just close your eyes and to travel with them. Her work connects to traditional folk but this is no simple retreading of well-worn paths; it’s a very personal cherishing and re-crafting, layered with a sense of there being considerable thought, journeying and studies which underpin and inform her music, it’s inspirations and themes.

Sharron Kraus-Heretics Folk Club-A Year In The Country-3-1200

A song which particularly intrigued me, which Ms Kraus played tonight, was Traveller Between The Worlds.

In this there is a consideration of the push, pull and testing of love when you feel you must fly free, when your “sails have unfurled” and you are drawn to set forth and explore the world, leaving your beau behind as you wander and hoping that those you travel and depart from will remember you and be able to welcome you home when the time comes.

It is a tender and at points heartbreaking song:

In my dreams your hair’s grown long
Your beard is streaked with grey
And our tiny children
Run around all day

I hope that they’ll know me
When I come home
And I’ll not be a stranger
To those I call my own

Connected to the theme of that song is how a performer such as Sharron Kraus can have an inherent ability to travel. Just a voice and a guitar being all that are needed to take these songs to where they and their creator need and wish to journey. I suppose in a way you could also connect that back to travelling musicians and entertainers from times gone by, those who wandered from village to hamlet to town, plying their trade throughout the land.

Heretics’ Folk Club is once a month and I would heartily recommend a wander along. View more about it herehere and here. It was discussed earlier in A Year In The Country, see that at Day #43/365.

Sharron Kraus can be found in the ether here and here. I visited her Pastoral Trails & Pilgrim Chants album on Day #58/365 of A Year In The Country.

Traveller Between The Worlds can be found on The Woody Nightshade album released by Strange Attractors. You can visit it here.

Related to Heretics’ Folk Club, Sharron’s post Folk Revivals and Haunted Places, written about an earlier event put on by the same people (in a deserted and abandoned department store no less) is well worth reading. It captures the spirit and excitement of an event which explored some of the concepts and concerns of those aforementioned less well worn paths of folk music and folkloric culture (and also makes you kick yourself that you weren’t there).

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DAY #128/365: Audrey Copard – English Folk Songs and dew on the corn…

English Folk Songs-Audrey Copard-Folkways Records-Scarborough Fair-A Year In The CountryFile under: Trails and Influences:
Recent Explorations. Case #18/52.

I have no idea how I came across this. Maybe I was looking up Lutine’s version of Died Of Love and stumbled across it that way as this album/10″ also features the song (see Day #50/365).

I don’t know all that much about traditional folk that was revived in the 1950s and 1960s. No particular reason, it’s just not something I’ve tended to explore all that much. This album, originally recording in 1956, is music which could probably be connected with such things though and it felt like a real find; there’s a playful, sometimes cheerful, sometimes wistfully sad delivery to the songs that just makes my hair stand on end.

The opening lines to the record are “If all the young men were like hares on the mountain, then all the pretty girls would take guns and go hunting” which makes me smile and laugh.

English Folk Songs-Audrey Copard-Folkways Records-Scarborough Fair-A Year In The Country 2 copyThe songs are presented simply, just Ms Copard’s voice and sometimes guitar accompaniment and that’s all they need and apparently it features the first recorded and commercially released version of that heading towards the toppermost of the poppermost songs Scarborough Fair, so I guess as a record it has a certain cultural historical importance.

Here a not-to-be-a-hit version of that hit record sits in amongst songs that I first discovered via more contemporary people such as The Owl Service, the aforementioned Lutine, Anne Briggs and so forth. It was interesting hearing some of their earlier incarnations and wondering how these versions may have somewhere along the line come to influence the songs future existences.

Finding the record on vinyl can be done but it’s a reasonably rare item, particularly on these shores. Time to save up the pennies and all that, though it is more easily available in shiny modern form (and even, curiously, on cassette).

English Folk Songs-Audrey Copard-Folkways Records-A Year In The Country-Hares On The MountainSee more about the record here.

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Day #127/365: Robin Redbreast…

Robin Redbreast BFI dvd-A Year In The Country-Play For TodayFile under: Trails and Influences:
Recent Explorations. Case #17/52.

A curious thing Robin Redbreast… it’s a 1970 television play but it only still existing as a black and white recording and the well spoke diction of some of the cast makes it feel like it’s from an earlier, pre-pop culture explosion era.

Sometimes when unearthing and perusing cult artifacts they can be interesting in terms of their subject matter, their style etc but not necessarily stand up as pieces of work/drama in themselves.

Robin Redbreast wasn’t one such time. It’s a piece of work which still draws you in, entertains, grips and unsettles you.

The story involves a London based television script editor who decides to stay in the country house that her and her partner owned after they separated. Her and her friends are outsiders, visitors to the countryside; city sophisticates, all cocktails and slightly groovy clothing, who consider themselves slightly above the local rural folk.

Robin Redbreast BFI dvd-A Year In The Country-Play For TodayThe main female character becomes pregnant via a local man, although she’s bored by him and his intellect, after a one night stand. There are folkloric/ritualistic shennanigans connected to her pregnancy and coupling, possibly instituted by those local rural folk, possibly as part of a tribute to the land and ensuring it’s fertility (and to a degree in this sesnse the film reminded a touch of Nicholas Roeg’s 2007 kitchen sink/realist style folk horror film Puffball).

Now, if any of that plot sounds slightly familiar, it may be because in terms of it’s themes it’s not all that dissimilar to The Wickerman. It’s easy to assume that Robin Redbreast may have influenced The Wickerman but without talking to that film’s creators that’s hard to know for definite.

It does tread similar pathways but that may have been coincidence or it may be part of the way that similar themes can appear in different people’s work around a particular time in culture, even though they are not directly connected with one another.

Robin Redbreast BFI dvd-A Year In The Country-Play For TodaySometimes it’s as though something is in the air and in that sense Robin Redbreast could be seen to be part of a cultural arc that took in folk horror films such as The Wickerman, the esoteric wanderings of folk music at the time and an interrelated interest in the otherly side of the landscape which was expressed in television flickerings which looked at such things, ie Pendas Fen, The Changes and The Owl Service.

Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-2

Robin Redbreast-1970-BFI-A Year In The CountryIt isn’t an especially visual representation of folkloric rites as say The Wickerman is (apart from one brief moment which could almost be a Benjamin Stone photograph or modern day reenactment); it doesn’t have the broad cinematic sweep or cult musical accompaniment of that film but this is a different creature. It’s a more intimiate, enclosed, television play with I expect a relatively small budget, a small cast and a quite limited number of locations but none the worse for it.

It’s intelligent television and well worth a visit. View more here.


As an aside, why did the semi-abstract Play For Today opening titles feel like coming home when I watched them? Are they somehow or other ingrained in my consciousness from a really rather young age?

Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-Play For Today


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Day #120/365: Plinth’s Wintersongs; a sometime walking companion for other landscape travellers

Plinth-Wintersongs-Michael Tanner-Kit Records-Rusted Rail-A Year In The Country-1File under: Trails and Influences:
Recent Explorations. Case #16/52.

This album was made by Michael Tanner with Steven Dacosta, accompanied by Nicholas Palmer and Julian Poidevin…

Now with somebody like Michael Tanner who has put out/collaborated on a fair few records (there are 20 releases to listen to at his ether victrola, over 50 records listed here), it can be a little hard to know where to start a-listening…

Well, near the start is probably not a bad idea. And with that…

Wintersongs. This is lovely album to drift off into. I suppose it could be loosely described as a kind of folkloric or pastorally themed ambient or even soundscape album but I don’t think it’s an easy piece of work to pigeonhole in such a way.

It wanders through a landscape not dissimilar in parts to Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure (see Day #118//365); like that album it could be seen as a soundtrack for the landscape of these isles, one that is in parts gently melancholic but also subtley magical… and on a track like Bracken it almost feels like a walking companion for the From Gardens album.

Plinth-Wintersongs-Michael Tanner-Kit Records-Rusted Rail-A Year In The Country-2Ah, Bracken, it was just playing as I typed… I could listen to that all day. Lovely stuff.

However, like From Gardens Where We Feel Secure this isn’t a twee trip through the land; while in parts it may be a journey through a certain kind of pastoral reverie there is also something else going on amongst the hills and trees. There’s heartbreak in the pathways of it’s songs at points; Hearth makes my mind wander towards losses along the byways of life…

In the sleevenotes Michael Tanner seems almost apologetic, though fond of this early work of his:

these were our first attempts at making a record. and although i say it through squinted eyes, the naivety which used to make me run for cover is now kind of endearing…”

Plinth-Wintersongs-Michael Tanner-Kit Records-Rusted Rail-A Year In The Country-3All I can say is if my first recording put out into the world felt like such a complete encapsulation of a particular world, view and journey, well, I think I would sleep easily.

The album has gone through various incarnations over the years since it was first released: as a cassette in 1999, CDrs in 2002/2006 by Dorset Paeans and then Rusted Rail and of late a limited edition vinyl record release by Kit Records, housed in a rather lovely and lovingly produced linocut sleeve.

All sold out I’m afraid but you can still listen to, purchase and peruse the album as zeros and ones at Michael Tanner’s music site here or at Kit Records here.


As an aside, the instruments listed in it’s making include glockenspiel, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, clocks, fireplace, ring modulator, birds, teapot, train, voices, piano, garden, sleigh bells, cymbals, melodica…

My first proper listening probably added a few more instruments to that mix: I was sat outside letting my mind wander over the valley in front of me as the album played.

The birds in the trees around me were singing and chirruping their hearts out, local dogs would break into barking, cars would pass, the neighbours were nattering and the wind was gently rustling. At points I couldn’t tell quite which sounds were on the album and which in the world around me; as the sound of somebody’s footsteps played I found myself turning round thinking I had a visitor coming up the steps to my side and the album became almost like a live field re-recording, which seemed kind of fitting in a way as the first time to properly appreciate it.


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Day #115/365: Edward Chell’s Soft Estates – documents of autobahn edgelands

Edward Chell-Soft Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-A Year In The Country 5File under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
Case #15/52.
Edgelands Report Document: Case #1a

The phrase Soft Estate refers to the description given by the UK Highways Agency to the natural habitat that the motorways and trunk roads it manages occupy; an often unstepped on hinterland that most of us only view as a high-speed blur from the corner of our eyes as our transport travels down these autobahn edgelands.

Soft Estate is also the name of a book/project/exhibition by Edward Chell, which interacts with and documents these verges and landscapes; literally interacting with as some of the work is printed using road dust from such places, other work uses (I assume) engine oil, features plant life illustrations from these verges laser etched onto brightly chromed exhaust pipes or uses the same materials and colours as road signs themselves.

I only really quite recently came across his work but I very much connected with it, in particular his oil on shellac on linen prints; I thought I saw an echo of my own imagery, spirit and inclinations there, although to my knowledge neither of us had seen one another’s work when embarking on making it.

Edward Chell-Soft Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-A Year In The Country 9In the paintings of the tubing which protects sapling trees (many millions of which have been planted on such lands), my eye and mind see them rather as gravestones.

Indeed there is a ghostly, spectral quality to these paintings; they are literally hauntological in that though they are created in contemporary times, there is something about them that makes them seem like documents of a modernities future and past.

They’re just a lovely capturing of the point and spirit at which nature tumbles alongside and into mankind’s march of progress.

And there is a meditative, calming sense to them. I’m not quite sure why but they ease the soul and provide a moment’s respite.

This post/page is largely concerned with Edward Chell’s own artwork, as featured prominently in the Soft Estate book.

However, the book is also a collection of essays and effectively an exhibition catalogue, albeit one which exists as a handsomely produced artifact in its own right.

It includes a piece of writing by Richard Mabey, one of the original authors on what have become known as edgelands (the overlooked landscapes at the edges of town and cities; often undeveloped or transitional/liminal areas where nature meets industry and bleeds into the ragged edges of urban development). The inclusion of his writing here can be seen as providing a continuing line from and through considerations of edgelands in their various forms. Peruse the reprint of his Unofficial Countryside book at Little Toller here.

Edward Chell-Soft Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-A Year In The Country 3As an aside, with Soft Estate it was also rather pleasant to come across a book which while often academic in tone and intent, did not neglect the visual side of the work.

I may well return to the book around these parts later in A Year In The Country. In the meantime, if you should like to peruse a more in-depth consideration of the book and it’s themes then a visit to Landscapism’s page on it here may well provide such sustenance or in more concise manner New English Landscape’s thoughtful review of the book can be visited here.

The book was published by Bluecoat, who also hosted the exhibition. Visit them here.  A review of the exhibition at corridor8 here. The book is distributed by Cornerhouse, visit them here.

View Edward Chell’s superlative oil paintings and other work at his site here.

Edward Chell-Soft Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-A Year In The Country 2Edward Chell-Soft Estate-Bluecoat-Cornerhouse-A Year In The Country 1


As a final point, some of Edward Chell’s work has been installed in Little Chef restaurants. For those of you who don’t know these places, they are British roadside family cafes/restaurants. As a child we would visit them occasionally (which was a real treat back then before the days when eating out had become more the norm) and they were one of the first places that I ever ate and tasted what I suppose could be considered more American style burger and chips. Though they were served on a plate  with knives and forks in a more traditional restaurant setting. Another transitional/liminal point I suppose.

I don’t know how many of them still exist but I rarely see them anymore and when I do I always have a momentary frisson of excitement, I’m back to being that kid looking forward to visiting them. On those rare spottings they feel like endangered species, a quaint remnant of times gone by before the ubiquity of transnational chains and the utilitarian installations of motorway service stations.

It made me smile to see his work here. A nice, humorous coming together of cultures.

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Day #111/365: Ms Jean Ritchie’s Field Trip-England and recordings from the end of an era…

A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country 2File under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #14/52.

Now along the winding ways of A Year In The Country I’ve come across all kinds of fascinating cultural projects and artifacts… right now, this is something of a favourite.

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

It’s a 1960 album released by Folkways where Jean Ritchie and George Pickow travelled around England recording literally the music of the folk of the land; from the peels of church bells to children’s rhymes via sailors laments and folk songs passed down through generations of families.

A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country 3bHere are stories of sea fairers who squander their money and life wandering with “flesh-girls” (ladies of the night shall we say), a grand old gardner singing crackedly of riding up to Widdecombe Fair with “Phil Lewer, Jan Brewer, Harry Hawkins, Hugh Davy, Philly Whitpot, George Pausley, Dick Wilson, Tom Cobley and all”…

A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country 6

…a childs instructions for chopping off of heads in Orange and Lemon, tabloid scandal mongering and sensationalism from days gone by via folk song in Death Of Queen Jane, a paper costume adorned Mummers Play and a particularly boozy version of John Barleycorn from the Haxey Hood games (He’ll make a maid dance around this room, Stark naked as ever she was born; He’ll make a parson hold his boots, With a little John Barleycorn. He’ll turn your gold into silver, Your silver into brass; He’ll make a man become a foll, And a foll become an ass”).

A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country-7I’ve said this before about different items but this is an album that feels as though it’s a long lost project that has been sent out into the world by a modern day cultural rarities curator such as Jonny Trunk: it almost feels too authentic, too real.

These Folkways records had lovely packaging and a really solid physical presence; all matt printing on textured stock, they feel built to stand the tests of time.

And this particular copy of the album has: it’s one of the original 1960 issues, as far as I know it’s not been reissued on vinyl and it was one of those rare occasions in the electronic ether where it was actually quite hard to find a copy. Though it is available as a print on demand CD I felt that for me do it justice I wanted to hear and feel how it looked and sounded at the time when it was first sent out into the world, crackles and all.

Jean Ritchie grew up in the Cumberland Mountains in Viper, Kentucky, one of 14 (!) children and was part of a generation in that area where traditional living finally began to succumb to technological, travel etc, long after much of the rest of the US had already done so.

Apparently she grew up singing traditional and more recent folk songs with her family, which in part lead her to travel the British Isles in order to trace the sources of her family songs.

And I’m glad she did as in these recordings there is a document of a sense of an end of an era which possibly parallels her own family/cultural history; a sense of some kind of final golden age of pre-technological transmission of songs and stories.

This isn’t done in a capturing and preserving things just so way but rather the recordings feel like living, breathing documents, which capture a very human spirit. The album is allowed to retain it’s raw field recordings; you can hear laughter at the end of songs and is it just me or can I hear the reels of the tapes going round?

A Field Trip England-Folkways Records-Jean Ritchie and Georg Pickow-A Year In The Country-5You can listen to clips from the album and view a digital version of the accompanying booklet at Fokways here.




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Day #97/365: Ms A. Cooper, Natural/Supernatural Lancashire and the various nestings of Magpahi…

Magpahi EP-Alison Cooper-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryFile under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #13/52.

The work of Alison Cooper has appeared in various forms in A Year In The Country before (see Folklore Tapes at Day #7/365, Wyrd Britannia at Day #32/365 and Day #9/365) but I’ve had it in mind for a while to return to her various nestings…

Her recorded work travels from her take on traditional folk on the Magpahi EP/the Bird Songs compilation, which feels like it exists in and has tumbled from a fairytale world all of its own, gathering poems from previous centuries under its wings as it fell: a set of songs that wander into the mind and well, nest there…

David Chatton Barker-Folklore Tapes-Magpahi Paper Dollhouse-A Year In The Country…via the leftfield glacial otherly folk pop and dusty, lost recording mechanisms instrumentals on Devon Folklore Tapes Vol.IV-Rituals and Practises and through to…

Day 7-Devon Folklore Tapes Vol IV-Magpahi and Paper Dollhouse-A Year In The Country 2

…well, through to the folkloric soundscapes of Natural/Supernatural Lancashire/Supernatural Lancashire Volume Two, where she worked with Sam McLoughlin (Samandtheplants/Echo Of Light).

These are largely instrumental works (though just occasionally Ms Cooper’s voice will fleetingly appear) which feel like a soundtrack or an audiological tribute to the northern landscape and it’s stories, whether pleasantly bucolic or of the friends and fiends found in the furrows and fables around those parts.

Natural Supernatural Lancashire-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-DiM-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryAlthough the first recording is split into Natural/Supernatural Lancashire and draws from folk music/folklore, neither part is a straightforward pastoral view and listening to it you can be immersed in the wheezing almost carny past world of Stream Power one second and then transported to the meadows via Edder the next. As I type I’ve realised that this juxtaposition seems to highlight a certain duality with regards to the landscape and nature that they consider (hey, I’m being quite academic for relatively early in the day here); it is something both pleasantly dreamlike and bucolic but also just around the edges – sometimes much nearer in – there is something unsettling amongst the trees, beneath the meadows, at the edgelands of towns, cities and along the canalways…

…not a million yards away from some of the intentions of A Year In The Country I suspect…

People talk sometimes of music being a soundtrack to an imaginary film. In parts Supernatural Lancashire Part Two seems like a soundtrack to an imaginary TV series, one which was probably made deep in the deepest 1970s, aimed at children but which had arrived as a curiously unsettling thing. The first time I listened to it, some of the tracks I could swear I’d heard before and my mind seemed to try and conjure the slightly smeared, grimy colours of faded spectral transmissions from another era, particularly on Hexagons Above Dovestones. Each time I listen to it I want to find and watch the series it belongs to…

This links to the previous record as by the end of Supernatural Lancashire there is a suite of Supernatural Lancashire pieces (#8, #9, #10, #11) which seem to segue into what is to come. #10 is the start of the soundtrack to that semi-forgotten television series from my youth and #11 quietly, disconcertingly wanders off into the edges of things…

Echo Of Light-Folklore Tapes-Wyrd Britannia-A Year In The Country

In the Echo Of Light live performance (featuring Alison Cooper, Sam McLoughlin and Folklore Tapes co-ordinator David Chatton Barker, see image above) the music is possibly often improvised and utilises self-created instruments; listening to the three installments of Natural/Supernatural Lancashire made me revisit that event, with many of the sounds sharing the sense of being made via arcane and lost music boxes (sometimes when listening I found myself holding my breath, not knowing if I wanted to see what popped out of the top of these jack-in-a-boxes when they were fully wound).

Natural/Supernatural Lancashire/Supernatural Lancashire Part Two are decidedly experimental pieces of music but with a melodic understanding and listenability, which is something that’s much appreciated around these parts. Music that you can drift off with and into. Lovely stuff.

The Fallen By Watch Bird Jane Weaver-Magpahi-Europium Alluminate-The Watchbird Alluminate-A Year In The CountryAnd to return to the folkways of Magpahi, a particular highlight for me of Alison Cooper’s work is on the Watchbird Alluminate, whereon songs from Jane Weaver’s Fallen By Watchbird are reimagined… her take on My Soul Was Lost, My Soul Was Lost And No-One Saved me is a piece of music which never fails to transport me… to where? I’m not quite sure but it’s a magical place.

Much of the music mentioned above was released by Bird Records, who you can find here, in conjunction with Finders Keepers Records. Visit Magpahi there here, hereherehere and here.

Bearded Ladies-Bird Records-Finders Keepers Records-Magpahi-Jane Weaver-A Year In The CountryMagpahi can also be found on the Bearded Ladies Bird Records compilation which can be visited here and the Twisted Nerve A Kind of Awe and Reverence and Wonder compilation which can be perused here (and see the tumbling cottage below).

Rather nice writeups on Devon Folklore Tapes Vol.IV and Natural/Supernatural Lancashire at Boomkat here and here.

Magpahi at Folklore tapes here (but best hurry as who knows for how long).

Samandtheplants (and some Echo Of Light) in audio form here, in visual form here.

Jane Weaver and Fallen By Watchbird can be found here and at Day #6/365 of A Year In The Country.

A Kind Of Awe Reverence And Wander-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-Twisted Nerve-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country 2

A Kind Of Awe Reverence And Wander-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-Twisted Nerve-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryBird Songs-Bird Records-Jane Weaver-Magpahi-Alison Cooper-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country