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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and the spires of a land forever England now merely act as a backdrop to the chaos…

No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 12-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 11-A Year In The Country

Although in some ways quite a mainstream, possibly even exploitation piece of cinema, throughout the film there are quite non-mainstream moments/presentation and commentary on what has led the world to this place… the action will stop and be replaced by non-narrative sequences and stills: fields full of carrion, rivers strewn with dead aquatic life, smokestacks framed by leafless nature, rows of discarded cars are pictured on riverbanks,  a luxury car is shown abandoned in the countryside, an advertising voice over saying “You can do anything in a Rolls-Royce” while the almost unnoticeable specs of citizens fleeing the rioting and looting mobs in the cities can be seen on the hill behind it…

No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 19-A Year In The Country
No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 17-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 16-A Year In The Country No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 15-A Year In The Country

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winstanley-1975-Documentary-A Year In The Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit A Field In England here.

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Day #73/365: A wander through A Field In England with Twins of Evil and other travelling companions…

A Field In England-teaser poster-twins of evil-a year in the countryFile under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
Case #8/52.

A look at and consideration of the posters and other items which accompanied Ben Wheatleys slice of psychedelic historic pastoralism, A Field In England…

When the first teaser poster for A Field In England appeared (see left) I was all a-flutter, I expect in a way that the sixteen year-old me once was when I saw similar things for my then favourite bands.

And then it would appear that a small-scale industry was marshalled into existence to produce A Field In England posters and other ephemera…

Lovely work by Twins of Evil on the main poster and it’s variations. Tip of the hat to you gents. An intriguing and fascinating behind the scenes look at the evolution of the poster can be found here (well worth a look-see, especially for the animated orb teaser).

A-FIELD-IN-ENGLAND-POSTER-Richard Wells-A Year In The CountryHaving always had something of a soft spot for screenprinting (and having spent a fair bit of time with a squeegee or two myself), this page on The Private Press production of Richard Wells woodcut style poster was quite a find.

And then there is the beyond the shores of albion subsidary of the A Field In England industry… Below is Jay Shaw’s US poster artwork, released for sale by “blink-and-you’ll miss them” poster reinvention coordinators Mondotees.

Field-In-England-Poster-Jay Shaw-A Year In The Countrya field_in_england_jay_shaw-a year in the country

Meanwhile, here is an alternative trailer for the film, coordinated by Julian House of Ghost Box Records/The Focus Group (see stills from the trailer below).

A Field In England-Intro-Julian House-film still-A Year In The Country 2A Field In England-Intro-Julian House-film still-A Year In The Country 3

A Field In England-Intro-Julian House-film still-A Year In The CountryA Field In England-Intro-Julian House-film still-A Year In The Country 4

I’d actually quite like to see a remix of the whole film done in this style. Just an idea to put out into the ether and hope that one day it may take roots…

And below is a Twins Of Evil poster for a Kill List and A Year In The Country double bill/Ben Wheatley Q&A… Nice link between the two in the design…

A field in england-kill list-double bill poster-twins of evil-a year in the country

A double bill of those two films? Well, that’s one audience that won’t sleep properly for a week or three.

Various other variations by The Twins Of Evil are below (the first one is the poster that was included with the soundtrack):

A Field In England-soundtrack poster-A Year In The Country

A Field In England-landscape poster-A Year In The Country

A Field In England-concepts-A Year In The Country

A Field In England-dvd cover-a year in the countryA Field In England-globe-A Year In The Country

 

 

A Field In England here. Twins of Evil’s graphic (design) take on folk horror here. Twin of Evil Luke Insect here. The other twin of evil Ken Goodall here. Mr and Mrs Wheatley here. Rook films and shop where you can possibly purchase posters and soundtracks but they’ve quite possibly already wandered off into the world via here.

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Day #58/365: Lullabies for the land and a pastoral magicbox by Ms Sharron Krauss

Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The CountryFile under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
Case #7/52.

Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails by Sharron Kraus, accompanied by bonus disc Night Mare.

I’ve briefly touched on the Pilgrim Chants album in A Year In The Country before (see Day #43/365) but once it’s eager arrival through the letterbox had occurred I thought it was time for a fuller visiting.

Now, where to start… well, to part borrow from the album’s title, as I listened to it I just kept thinking “this is a pastoral magicbox of an album”.

And it is that indeed.

Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 2When I was first reading Ms Kraus text that explained how she was inspired to make and the setting in which she made the album, I could connect quite a bit… there’s a sense of her discovering and rediscovering the land, as she had begun to live in (visit?) the Welsh countryside, exploring her surroundings and unlocking some kind of underlying magic or enchantment to the land.

In many ways, it seems that she was initially creating something which was for herself, which could be a soundtrack to her own experiences, early cultural pathways which had pointed to the land and to create something which could try to interpret and/or represent the secrets in the valleys, streams and pathways through which she wandered…

…and a phrase which kept wandering into my mind as I listened to these two albums was “these are lullabies for the land” and in many ways they literally feel or have a lullaby like effect: I find myself drifting off as I listen to them, they have a dreamlike quality and they transport me somewhere else that is rooted in the land but is also a journey through an otherly landscape.

This is music which also literally soundtracks the landscape where it was made, utilising field recordings captured along the way; the sound of birds, streams, waterfalls, animals, the wind and jet planes which were recorded on her explorations. A sense of wandering the land is brought to life through these found sounds and at points you can literally hear the journey being taken as leaves crunch underfoot.

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

How to describe these albums musically? Well, I’m not sure if I can do them justice but as a set of general pointers if I didn’t know who had made them and somebody had told me that these two albums were the soundtracks to a semi-lost pastoral science fiction film released by Finders Keepers Records, well I quite possibly would have believed them.

Musically they are largely instrumental pieces and for me the nearest touch points would possibly be other albums which take their own path through sometimes Arcadian, sometimes otherly arborea such as Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Magpahi’s work for Vol. IV of the Folklore Tapes and Plinth’s (who Sharron Kraus has collaborated with) Wintersongs…

But they are not all bucolic countryside pleasantness, there is also a sense of dread to some of the songs, a quiet unsettlingness, particularly on songs such as Dark Pool, Nightmare and Sleepless (where I really found myself thinking that this music seemed like a rediscovered artifact, something from a different time or place), while An Army Of Woes takes a step or two towards Ghost Box hauntological reinterpreted library music… but really, if you should like to, I think that wandering off and listening to the music is probably the best way of doing it justice.

As a further note, the Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails album is beautifully packaged, even how the disc sits in its housing feels like something I want to coo over: it was released in a very limited edition and/or to subscribers only by Second Language Music and designed by Martin Masai Andersen/Andersen M Studio. It’s one of those times when something feels like a precious artifact, one which you want to pick up carefully and gently.

Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 5The album is presented as a small hardback style book and the packaging and photography perfectly captures the beauty and grace of the landscape through which Ms Kraus travelled and in which she worked.

I’m not a Luddite about such things but it’s also one of those times when physically produced cultural artifacts knock their purely digital brethren into a cocked hat; I can’t stand an MP3 on the side and have my mind sent off a-wandering each time I walk past it…

Sharron Kraus main home in the electronic ether is here. There is an excellent piece of writing by her about the album here (where you can also listen to/download the album). That writing is also continued here.

Sharron Kraus-Night Mare-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The CountryThe Night Mare album, which accompanied Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails was only available to Second Language Music subscribers (cue frantic checking of Discogs etc to see if I could find a copy… to no avail). Fortunately it can still be found in digitised form here.

Second Language Music’s intriguing siren call of releases can be found here (maybe hide your debit card before visiting), Andersen M. Studio can be found here.

Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 3Other pathways: Plinth’s Wintersongs on vinyl via Kit Records here. Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure here. Magpahi’s contribution to Devon Folklore Tapes Vol. IV here (or if that has dissolved, possibly here).

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Day #48/365: Sky: a selection of artifacts from a library of a boy who fell to earth…

Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 6File under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
Case #6/52.

Well, sometimes you come across something which needs little explanation as to why you should want to put it out into the world…

While writing the post on The Changes, bad wires and the ghosts of transmissions I came across an archive of promotional material and screen captures etc for the 1975 HTV British childrens science fiction television series Sky, which my caught my eye… more than a touch of David Chatton-Barker’s work around Folklore Tapes to some of these cutout collages.

Sky is another of those “hmmm, what was in the water at TV commissioning meetings in the seventies to think that these were quite normal programs for childrens television” series, which over time has grown layers of exoticisim… and of all such programs it also perfectly captures a sense of 1970s grime and the anti-style of a country gone to seed via it’s parkers, flares and fake fur zip-up coat fashion.

It is a sort of rurally set The Man Who Fell To Earth (with a curiously cockney alien) with ecological overtones, the promotional information describes the series thus:

Sky-1975 British TV-A Year In The Country 7“Out of the sky falls a youth, not of this place or time, “part-angel, part-waif”, a youth with powers he can neither control or understand… nature itself rejects him and takes on the cadaverous body of Goodchild in sinister personification of the forces of opposition… He speaks of time travellers “Gods you call them” who had tried again and again to help the people of Earth… Sky must find the mysterious juganet, the cross-over point in time, that is the key to his return to his own dimension.”

In a curiously forward thinking manner, just to make sure that the program would come to be connected to all things Otherly Albion and hauntological, to quote one of the press releases, it was in part filmed on “such legend-rich locations as Glastonbury Tor, Avebury and Stonehenge”.

Plus Jack Watson (the gun holding squire looking gent below) appears to have wandered away from his path as an easily lead sinner hunter in The Changes to a world of lost alien juganet seeking teenagers…

Anyway, I shall let the images speak for themselves:Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country

Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 4

Sky-1975 TV British television series-A Year In The Country 3 in a row

Sky-1975 HTV-A Year In The Country 3 in a row 2

Sky-HTV 1975-A Year In The Country

Sky-HTV 1975 British television-A Year In The Country-trio

View more at Juganet.
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Day #43/365: Heretics Folk Club and resulting pathways / returns…

Heretics Folk Club-A Year In The CountryFile under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #5/52.

In my wanderings through the non-analogue fields of the internet, I came across a rather intriguing new event…

The Heretics Folk Club is a monthly event in the fair city of Sheffield and to quote their good selves on their site it is a place which:

Welcomes balladeers, hauntologists, super-8 soundtracks, audio-archaeologists, analogue electronics, sound artists, field recordists, ethnomusicologists, occult circuit-benders, traditional dancers, drones and free noise.”

Well, right up my strasse indeed.

The night will be feauring a fine selection of performers; thus far confirmed over the coming months include Bo’Weavilist C. Joynes, recaster and cherisher of folk traditions Sharron Kraus, Ms Kraus collaborators The Big Eyes Family Players, unearthers of transmissions from an otherly history English Heretics and spinner of wordless stories Nick Jonah Davis.

Heretics Folk Club-A Year In The Country-2As a way of lineage and background, the proceedings are presented by I Thought I Heard A Sound, who previously hosted an event as a part of the Sensoria Festival which was a wandering through and “examination of the psychedelic and visionary elements of folklore and traditional music”…

That particular gathering included Jeanette Leech (author of Seasons They Change), Trembling Bells, Arianne Churchman (Psychedelic Folkloristic – see Day #36), a broadcasting of Mr Nigel Kneales The Stone Tape and Mark Goodall (who presented the Timecode: Hauntology 20 Years On conference and is the author of Gathering Of The Tribe).

Well, all I can say is curiousity piqued around these parts. Time to find my walking and wandering shoes.

Along which lines…

Sharron Kraus-Pilgrims Chants-A Year In The CountryFollowing a set of breadcrumbs and pathways from the above gatherings, I revisited Sharron Kraus’ work and came across her relatively recent Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails album and the accompanying Nightmare collection; these are magicboxes of music, recordings literally from the fallows of personal passions and field trips; I was positively entranced and may well be returning to them in these pages…


…that lead me to Second Language Music who released those albums out into the world via some rather fine, exquisite packaging…

…which lead me to Martin Masai Andersen/Andersen M Studio who put together the artwork/packaging (and who have worked with 4AD collaborator and creator of textural delights Vaughan Oliver, who I suspect somewhere along the line has influenced some of the aesthetic of A Year In The Country)…

July Skies-A Year In The Country…which lead me interestingly back to points where I have stopped for refuge and succour along the way to A Year In The Country… creator of her own very particular world and work KatIe Jane Garside and Wayside and Woodland cohort July Skies (both of which Anderson M Studio have worked for)…

It’s interesting how, as I wander through this year in the country, I discover that so many things which have intrigued, influenced and inspired me are interconnected or only one step or so away from one another…

Some trails and Pathways: Heretics Folk ClubSharron KrausSecond Language Music, C. Joynes, Big Eyes Family Players, English Heretic, Nick Jonah Davis, Timecode #1Timecode #2July Skies, Wayside and Woodland, Andersen M Studio.

And Ms Garside? Well, I expect a fuller consideration shall be arriving forthwith…

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Day #32/365: Wyrd Britannia, Folklore Tapes, Magpahi, Tales From The Black Meadow and English Libraries

Folklore Tapes-Wyrd Britannia Festival-Echo Of Light-A Year In The CountryFile under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #4/52.
Field Trip Report: Case #1b, subsection Metropolitan Incursions.

Recently I wandered off from a small English dwelling to a larger English city and then a small English town to have a watch-see-hear-explore of various things. One of which was Tales From The Black Meadow and the collaborative Folklore Tapes Echo Of Light performance (these were part of the Wyrd Britannia Festival which I’ve mentioned earlier in A Year In The Country, see Day #9/365).

And well, blimey, I’m glad I did indeed wander off to those parts.

After sitting on the train in the dark with Saturday night revellers I stumbled blinking into the night of a strange town, accompanied by other travellers headed for the same location who I’d bumped into on the train…

Tales From The Black Meadow-Professor R Mullins-Chris Lambert-A Year In The CountryWith scarcely a moment to take in the town we were at a lovely old library building where the event was taking place (and my fellow travellers were just able to gain entrance despite the night being sold out).

First up was Mr Chris Lambert, reading from his book Tales From The Black Meadow and informing us about this multi-faceted project which takes as it’s starting point the tale of  Professor R Mullins who went missing in The Black Meadow atop the Yorkshire Moors in 1972.

Tales From The Black Meadow-A Year In The CountryAs a project The Black Meadow incorporates elements of folklore, Radiophonic Scores, semi-lost documentaries and the flickering cathode ray transmissions of a previous era; a creaking rural cabinet stuffed full of hidden and rediscovered government unsanctioned reports.

I’m curious to see where it wanders off to next as to date this growing and layered world incorporates a book of folkloric tales, an album, a documentary and archival material etc. Be careful on the moors…

Next in front of this very polite, appreciative and well behaved audience was Echo Of Light, presented by Folklore Tapes and featuring Alison Cooper (Magpahi), Sam McLouglin (Samandtheplants) and David Chatton-Barker (Folklore Tapes)…

And, well, what can I say. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. It has been described as incorporating the projectionist as pupeteer and having watched it, I think that is an apt description.

To an electronic and acoustic soundtrack of (I think) largely improvised music, two of the collaborators were only present behind a screen from which they essentially live-mixed/live-created a series of projections using a series of physical props, found natural materials and artwork, which in turn were also used to create some of the soundtrack.

Which means what? Well, at one point an old bird-cage was placed upon a wind-up gramophone turntable and then as it span it struck a series of prongs to create music… not dissimilar in its own way to the workings of a traditional music box but on a grander and more arcane scale.

Accompanying this was a traditional spinning wheel which also appeared to be creating music.

Still can’t quite get your head around it all? Well, here are some photographs from the performance:

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

Alongside such things, there were also projections created which borrowed from the tropes and imagery of Folklore Tapes releases/world:

Echo Of Light-Folklore Tapes-Wyrd Britannia-A Year In The Country 4

Echo Of Light-Folklore Tapes-Wyrd Britannia-A Year In The Country 3

As a set of work it appeared to be an exploration of the hidden in nature and folklore which surrounds it (the pattern under the plough?).

Echo Of Light-Folklore Tapes-Wyrd Britannia-A Year In The Country 6All in all, quite entrancing. I found myself lost in it all… and there was something about the glow from the grand old windows that seemed to fit with the performance.

But wait, that’s not all. As I mentioned, this was part of the Wyrd Britannia festival, which took place around a set of libraries in Northern England.

…and as I’ve also mentioned before in A Year In The Country I have a particular fondness for libraries: they seem like centres of calm, civility and culture in a rapacious landscape.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, I often get a sense that whoever is picking the stock for them has a good eye and ear for left-of-centre culture.

This is just one of those times. Organised by James Glossop who I assume also works for the libraries (?)…

The festival was actually to celebrate the relaunch of their Wyrd Britannia collection and boy-oh-boy do I wish this was my local library.

Out on display was a selection of items from the collection…

Wyrd Britannia CD collection-Calderdale libraries-A Year In The Country 4

So, surrounded by the paraphernalia of a librarians work above we have Quatermass, The Miners Hymn, lost acid folk band Forest, The Owl Service’s fine album The View From A Hill (see Day 30 of A Year In The Country), The Wickerman soundtrack, Trembling Bells, Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age and A Year In The Country starting point Gather In The Mushrooms compilation (see Day 3 of A Year In The Country).

Well, blimey again, it’s like half of my record collection has been snaffled and made available for public use.

But wait, there’s more again…

Wyrd Britannia book and DVD collection-Calderdale libraries-A Year In The Country 2And that’s before we get to the books that are part of the Wyrd Britannia section. I think those involved have been delving in the libraries dusty-storage rooms to find all kinds of long neglected tomes…

So, if you look closely you will see Bob Pegg’s (he of the-darker-shade-of-folk band Mr Fox) Rites and Riots, a whole other slew of books on folklore and song, various selections of witchery, The Pattern Under The Plough, Alan Garner once or twice and a particularly intriguing looking The Cylinder Musical Box Handbook.

(Looking inside the Bob Pegg book, it was taken out in 1989 and then once in 2012. There was something about the passage and lost-in-time-ness of that which quite appealed.)

Just to add the icing on the cake, the Wyrd Britannia book selection had a double topping of The Stone Tape DVD and the 3-disc Final Cut reissue of The Wickerman.

This just looked like a great library. Aside from the delights above, as I wandered around I kept seeing other swathes of culture that I wanted to delve into. I just wish that I’d had enough time to look around while the library was open.

Ah well, another time.

Folklore Tapes Wyrd Britannia Festival bag-A Year In The CountryAs a final note, attendees went away bearing what can only be described as a Folklore Tapes artifact/goodie bag and a Tales From The Black Meadow bookmark.

Well, you can’t say fairer than that.

A tip of the hat to all concerned. Thanks and cheers.

PS The trailer below was on the railway platform, which seemed kind of appropriate to the night in some way:

Todmorden platform-Wyrd Britannia Festival-A Year In The Country

Various pathways and cultural breadcrumb trails:

Folklore Tapes, Tales From The Black Meadow, Wyrd Britannia Festival, Wyrd Britannia Festival in the social ether, Wyrd Britannia Festival library site, Magpahi, Samandthepplants.

 

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Day #29/365: Alison Goldfrapp – Performer As Curator and a wander through crumbling textures

File under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #3/52.
Field Trip Report: Case #1a, subsection Metropolitan Incursions.

0029-Alison Goldfrapp Performer As Curator The The Lowry-A Year In The Country

Well, although A Year In The Country is set in and around a personal vision of rurality, occasionally needs must and I’m drawn to venture forth into the Big City.

Now here was quite a treat; I was drawn to this in part by the mention of the darker side of fairy tales* and folklore when looking it up in the electronic ether. And also maybe in part because I think for myself part of creating work is the studying, collecting and curating of work that inspires and influences me… hence Trails & Influences.

The exhibition didn’t disappoint. It does indeed draw from the darker side of fairy tales and folklore, also taking in outsider art and even a dash of fashion photography.

Standouts?

0029-Deborah Turbeville Woman In The Woods-Alison Goldfrapp The Performer As Curator-A Year In The Country
Well there are a couple of photographs by Deborah Turbeville, who for quite a while I’ve found interesting as I  think she represents one of the times that fashion photography wanders off into other areas and becomes closer to art. Her work often feels ghostly, from some other ethereal world and there is a lovely aged texture to many of her photographs. Not dissimilar in a way to photographer Sarah Moon and I think both of those ladies have influenced me one way or another over the years and I can see traces and vestiges of both in my own work. Here is one of Ms Turbeville’s images from the exhibition…

Below is a photograph of some of the interior pages to her Past Imperfect book from when I (briefly) owned it. Something of a masterclass in book design…

0029-Deborah Turbeville Past Imperfect Book-Alison Goldfrapp The Performer As Curator-A Year In The Country

0029-Little Red Ridiing Hood-Henry Liverseege-Alison Goldfrapp The Performer As Curator-A Year In The CountryHenry Liverseege’s Little Red Riding Hood: it’s quite a beautiful painting, rich, vivacious, entrancing and more than a little disturbing. A classical take on A Company of Wolves?

0029-Kay Nielsen Grimm Hansel Gretel-Alison Goldfrapp The Performer As Curator-A Year In The CountryKay Nielsen’s illustration of The Brothers Grimm Hansel & Gretel (on the right)… which to my eye looked like the cover to a semi-lost French acid folk record from the 1970s. Why do I say that? Well, it made me stop and think of Emmanuelle Parrenin’s 1977 Maison Rose album (a pathway you may want to wander down).

I particularly liked Alison Goldfrapps collection of personal objects; generally tiny ornaments, bears in a variety of poses, figurines in matchboxes and the like…

0029-Emmanuelle Parrenin Maison Rose-A Year In The CountryActually, most of the exhibition is worth a look-see, even if you do have to trek through tumble weed late capitalism ghost town quays to get there.

Also, there was a pleasant lack of ego present in the collection… it didn’t feel like “I am a STAR, look at me and my things”, more a gentle wandering around somebody’s personal and creative psyche.

0029-Simon Periton Alison Goldfrapp The Performer As Curator-A Year In The CountryIf you should go-see then you can also discover the temptations of The Wickerman, Simon Periton’s Owl Doily for Philip Otto Runge and his owl-ish shopping bag mask, Anna Fox’s nature-glam-noir Country Girls, Lotte Reiniger’s cutout animation Hansel & Gretel and the “well, one really must questions the gent’s sanity but they’re rather impressive at the same time” outsider art of Henry Darger.

All good food for thought on my voyage through A Year In The Country…

I think the one disappointing thing was the lack of a book to accompany the exhibition as it would make a sumptious momento and would bring together Ms Goldfrapp’s aesthetic to cut out and keep as it were.

Ah well, I shall have to tide myself over with my collection of fliers/posters featuring the artwork from Goldfrapp’s first single Lovely Head (see top of this post); there’s something of a softspot for multiple sizes of similar things here at A Year In The Country.

Alison Goldfrap – Performer As Curator can be found at The Lowry in Manchester

Emmanuelle Parrenin’s Maison Rose album at Light In The Attic Records
*Mind you, if you stop and think about fairy tales in general as I did during visiting this exhibtion, they are at the least quite odd and dark. Princess trapped in a tower with the only way of enabling her lover to visit her being if she drops her extraordinarily long hair? Princess falling asleep for a hundred years after eating a poisoned apple? Children intended as lunch by a witch in the woods? Etc. Hmmm…

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Day #13/365. The Wall / Die Wand… a vision from behind the walls of pastoral science fiction…

Day 13-The Wall Die Sind 2012-A Year In The CountryFile under:
Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #2/52.

I’d been somewhat looking forward to watching this since I’d first heard about it… the premise intrigued me (a solitary woman is effectively imprisoned in a section of the countryside by an invisible wall) and there aren’t really all that many films which take and use the countryside as a setting and backdrop, particularly in what is effectively pastoral science fiction.

Anyway, it didn’t disappoint. For various reasons my viewing was in three different stages and alternated between a surreally mis-subtitled version and the dubbed English version but that didn’t seem to matter as I’ve seemed to come away thinking… stately, elegaic, calming, intriguing.

Little or no explanation is given to the reason for the appearance of the barrier or to why she is not rescued (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here) but it doesn’t feel necessary to have such expositions.

I seemed to spend quite a bit of the film wandering what the lady in question would do when say her shoes wore out (she proves suprisingly resourceful and adaptable to most tasks but I’m not sure what she would do about that)…

Day 13-The Wall Die Wand-Haushofer-A Year In The CountryIn a way, it reminded me of some of the science fiction I read, watched and imbibed in my childhood: the often non-city based post-disaster/invasion and sometimes depopulated fiction of say John Wyndham’s The Triffids or John Christopher’s Tripods but mostly I just appreciated watching a film that gave your mind space to think, wander and soak in the work and the landscapes rather than the sometimes endless fizzy sweet overload of much of contemporary cinema (bah humbug, in my day it was all fields around here etc).

Ah, looking online I see there’s an English translation of the book by Marlen Haushofer. I may have to peruse that.

 

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Day #9/365: Wyrd Britannia Festival

Wyrd Britannia Festival-A Year In The CountryFile under:
A Year In The Country: Recent Explorations. Case #1/52.

Well, on my electronic ether wanderings I stumbled upon this festival around and about the environs of Halifax and Hebden Bridge… one of those times where I suddenly find myself counting my pennies and wandering if I can afford to go to all of it if I stay at a rather (ahem) budgetly priced hostelry and eat chips for six days.

It seems like one of those times and events where somebody who works for the council/public services has had some particularly interesting get-up-and-go and has started to put something they’re genuinely passionate out into the world… the festival is actually to mark the relaunch of the Calderdale libraries Wyrd Britannia collection of films, books etc… and judging by the lineup and the photograph of the collection below it’s a collection below it includes areas of culture that you probably wouldn’t expect to see gathered together in a public library. To quote from the council’s site the collection “reflect(s) the dark and complex underbelly of English rural tradition and beliefs”. Blimey, see what I mean? It’s not three shelves or more full of some supermarket friendly blockbusters by the same author as you sometimes see in such places.

I’m not knocking libraries though. They’re some of my favourite places and I seem to visit them in the same way IWyrd Britannia Festival book collection-A Year In The Country used to track down record shops and to tell the truth I often get the sense that whoever is organising/buying the stock has an eye and ear for the left-of-centre (double Swans live albums? Check. Book of lost New Orleans Juke Joints? Check. Etc). Tip of the hat to them.

Anyway, this festival features some of the core films of what could be called English hauntological* folklore (The Wickerman, Robin Redbreast and the superb, intriguing and rather rare Penda’s Fen) alongside performances (installations?), readings and the like by Magpahi, Folklore Tapes, author Chris Lamber (Tales Of The Black Meadow… more on that I expect in a later post), author Andy Roberts on his Albion Dreaming book etc.

Well, it’s good to know that there are corners of the world where the public coffers can still be spent on such things.

Thankyou to those involved.

Wyrd Britannia Festival site

Wyrd Brittania at Calderdale Council

Wyrd Britannia on dear old social media

 

*Hauntological? Is this the first time I used this phrase in A Year In The Country? Something of a catchall in a way but it does seem to have come to represent a particular cultural sensibility and atmosphere…