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She Rocola – Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town: Audio Visual Archive 25/52

Artwork from She Rocola’s Burn the Witch / Molly Leigh of the Mother Town.


“The song Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town draws from She Rocola’s own personal folklore and that of her home town; childhood experiences of chasing her playmates around Molly Leigh’s grave and the rhymes which accompanied such games. It is an audiological conjuring of hazy, sleepy small-hours memories and dreams from those times. Burn The Witch’s story is interconnected with those childhood memories and is in part inspired by formative viewings of late-night folk-horror films from in front of and behind the sofa.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country.)


“Few 45s of the last couple of years can catch up with this one… ‘Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town’ is the kind of nursery rhyme you never learned at your mother’s knee but which buried itself in your memory regardless, to peer out of the soil while you’re hopscotching past and wrap bony fingers round your ankle; ‘Burn the Witch’ is freakish fiddles (by Andrea Fiorito) that scratch behind She’s icy vocal and spectral harmonies, a Hammer film condensed to two minutes of sound and effects.” (Quoted from a review by Dave Thompson at Goldmine)




Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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Brick High-Rise – A Rather Curious Lego Simulacra of Ballardian Transgression: Wanderings 25/52

A while ago I came across a Lego toy construction brick recreation of posters for Ben Wheatley’s film adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s High-Rise novel.

When I first stumbled upon them I thought they had been created in a one-off manner not dissimilar to the way in which the internet now seems to be fairly full of alternative movie posters and there are Lego recreations of nearly everything under the sun.

Further investigation revealed that they are part of a large project where at the request of the High Rise film’s Twitter account somebody working under the title Lego Loki created 1188 images using Lego to illustrate every scene from the novel.

(Actor Tom Hiddleston plays the main character in High-Rise and also the part of “evil” God Loki in the Marvel Universe films. The Lego figure of Loki is used as a recurring alter-ego by Lego Loki, hence the name.)

The shape of the tower block in the above masthead from the project’s website brings to mind both the aforementioned previous era’s surreal/left-of-centre science fiction and fantasy cover art and some of the more outré Brutalist architecture designs which can be found in Peter Chadwick’s This Brutal World.

The project can be viewed on the Brick High-Rise site and the resulting work is a startling labour of love that on viewing due to the use of Lego seems to introduce both a humorous element and also to add an extra layer of unsettling and possibly inappropriate transgression due to this ordinarily rather transgressive tale being told via the use of what, despite its increasing cult and adult users, is still at heart a child’s toy. As a viewing experience it is difficult to tell whether to be intrigued and/or at least a little repulsed.

Which I suppose could equally be applied to both the original novel of High-Rise and Ben Wheatley’s film adaptation.

Apparently the eventual budget for Brick High-Rise was £192.56 but that only included items specifically bought for the project and Lego Loki says on the site that he/she already owned many of the necessary bricks. Even allowing for that, it is still considerably cheaper than the over six million pounds which Ben Wheatley’s film adaptation cost.

You could say that the use of pre-owned Lego items tips the balance in Brick High-Rise’s favour but Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise made use of actual buildings and Brutalist architecture, so swings and roundabouts really.

Still I suppose Brick High-Rise contains only 1188 stills as opposed to with a run time of 1 hour an 59 minutes, at 24 frames per second Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise has around 171,360 frames.

However worked out per frame Brick High-Rise was still cheaper as it cost around £0.16 per frame, while Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise cost around £3.50 per frame (!).

The Brick High-Rise site is well worth a wander around as alongside the Lego recreations of scenes from the book it also includes posts on, amongst other topics, Lego Loki’s visits to Ballard Day at the British Library, an exhibition of costumes from the High-Rise film and some of the architecture which is said to have inspired the novel (all of which include photographs with Lego Loki’s figures in situ) and “How to Create Your Own Custom High-Rise Lego Set”.

Lego Loki created custom High-Rise Lego kits for the DVD release of the film, which were included in promotional hampers. Also included in promotional packages was a bottle of champagne, which is a reference to the consumption of the drink in the film and also possibly to the architect Erno Goldfinger whose Brutalist architecture buildings, including the 24 storey Balfron Tower, is said to have inspired the original novel.

For around two months Goldfinger and his wife lived in Balfron Tower, which he has written was so that he could “experience, at first hand, the size of the rooms, the amenities provided, the time it takes to obtain a lift, the amount of wind whirling around the tower and any problems which might arise from my designs so that I can correct them in the future”. It was but a brief experiment however as after that they moved back to their home in a considerably more conventional modernist 3 storey home in Hampstead, which is a leafy affluent area of London.

Curiously while living at Balfron Tower Goldfinger held champagne soirees which he invited the residents to floor-by-floor, echoes of which can be found in the hierarchical and socialising aspects of High-Rise.

Choosing to live in his tower block creation reflects similar actions by Anthony Royal, the architect of the tower in High-Rise, who is described rather appositely by Oliver Wainwright in a piece for The Guardian newspaper’s website as:

“…the perfect symbol of the megalomaniac modernist architect. The villainous protagonist of JG Ballard’s 1975 novel High-Rise presides like a puppet-master over his ‘crucible for change’, a brave experiment in vertical living that quickly unravels into a concrete dystopia, driving its residents to madness in the floors beneath his feet.”

The High-Rise custom Lego kits have a legitimate “small parts” safety hazard notice on them and also a more humorous “Ages 4-7” recommendation for its intended audience, as an actual Lego kit would have. Maybe “Age 47” would be more appropriate? As referred to earlier, this is a further aspect of a project that leaves the viewer potentially both intrigued and a little unsettled.

Since the Brick High-Rise project was completed there has been a limited edition steel book Blu-ray of High-Rise which used Lego in its cover art; an interesting additional offshoot could be a printed book of the Brick High-Rise photographs, although I expect that would require a considerable amount of wrangling with and leeway from J.G. Ballard’s estate.

As a project it could be filed alongside the likes of Zupagrafika’s construction kits of Brutalist architecture buildings, HeyKidsRocknRoll’s dioramas and Press Pop figures of electronic music pioneers Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Bob Moog and Raymond Scott.

In terms of their form and construction those dioramas/figures and Brick High-Rise all have their roots in children’s toys but also the Zupagrafika, HeyKidsRocknRoll and Press Pop items seem to focus on and embody aspects of culture which have become totemic signifiers:

“Part of what all such things seem to represent, whether the electronic music innovations of The Radiophonic Workshop… or brutalist architecture, is a sense of them containing some form of loss, of lost progressive futures or arcadic rural dreams and ways of life, of being spectrally imprinted with such loss and a layering of related tales.”
(Quoted from a previous post at A Year In The Country.)

So, aside from just being kind of fun, these are effectively ornamental totems for a certain kind of hauntological viewpoint.


  1. Brick High-Rise
  2. The High-Rise novel at Wikipedia
  3. The High-Rise novel
  4. The High-Rise trailer
  5. The High Rise home release
  6. Oliver Wainwright’s “A long way down: the nightmare of JG Ballard’s towering vision” article at The Guardian website


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Ether Signposts #4/52a: Brutal London – Construct Your Own Concrete Capital
  2. Ether Signposts #8/52a: Build Your Own Brutalist Eastern Bloc
  3. Ether Signposts #2/52a: Delia Derbyshire Handmade Diorama
  4. Ether Signposts #36/52a: Bob Moog Press Pop Figures And Synthesizer Discoveries
  5. Ether Signposts #37/52a: The Raymond Scott Figure, Something Of A Growing Family Of Electronic Music Innovators And A Dream Center Where The Excitement Of Tomorrow Is Made Available Today
  6. Ether Signposts #38/52a: Raymond Scott Diorama And Further Additions To The Electronic Innovators Family
  7. Ether Signposts #39/52a: Daphne Oram Diorama, A Further Addition To A Family Of Electronic Innovators And Pastoral Confluences
  8. Ether Signposts #40/52a: Zupagrafika and Lost Future Intertwinings with a Family of Electronic Innovators
  9. Reflections on Brutalism Part 3 – J. G. Ballard and Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise and All Mod Con Dystopias: Wanderings 16/52


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Michael Tanner – Nine of Swords: Audio Visual Archive 24/52

Booklet artwork from Michael Tanner’s Nine Of Swords album.


“Nine of Swords was created by using nine tarot cards allocated to nine sonorous, percussive instruments which were played in the order of their drawing from the deck… Its method of creation recalls the random cut-up literary techniques of William Burroughs or automatic writing and the resulting work is a 68 minute journey which is a balm to contemporary intensity of input… No plug-ins or FX were used in the making of Nine of Swords; the music in the album was guided purely using the (non)choices of the turns of the cards.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country.)


“Through this primordial essence of the drone, Tanner gives voice to a chorus of ghosts in which, in the narrative-conceptual part of the work, the subjects and themes evoked by the symbolic meaning of the playing card that gives the title to the album take part.” (Quoted from a digital translation of a review by Music Won’t Save You.)



  • Visit Michael Tanner’s work here.


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country


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Stand By Me – The Undercurrents of an Unsupervised Journey Away from the White Picket Fences: Wanderings 24/52

Stand by Me is a 1986 film directed by Rob Reiner and based on Stephen King’s 1982 novella The Body.

Set in 1959 it tells the story of four young mostly teenage boys who live in a small town in Oregon, USA who set off on a hike to find the dead body of a missing child.

It could be loosely connected with other films made in the 1980s which looked back on the 1950s and on some levels is quite a non-threatening coming-of-age family film and a sweetly nostalgic look back on a previous era but it also operates on other levels, not least that these young boys are essentially on a rather macabre mission to not so much just find but also view the dead body of somebody who has been murdered. The town’s bullies are also shown to be particularly out of control, with their leader shown as carrying and being prepared to murderously use a switchblade, while in its voiceover conclusion we are told that two of the boys’ lives have had far from happy futures.

In this sense while it is set in a small rural town and its surrounding areas it is not an overly sweet picture perfect, white picket fence view of such areas of America and the 1950s. Rather to a degree it portrays a underbelly which, while a much gentler portrayal of such things, brings to mind David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), a film that is set in the then contemporary era but through its use of music and style seems to at points hark back to the 1950s and a time that has been described as “a safe, quiet moment in history”. Lynch’s film explores a vision of small town America which on the surface initially appears normal but that is actually rife and even corrupted by darker undercurrents, something that he would go on to further explore in the television series Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and which is part of a form of weird Americana aesthetic which developed during the 1980s.

As often seems to be the case with teen and youth orientated film, parents and supervisory adults in Stand by Me are often curiously absent and/or they are a source of problems rather than mature supportive figures; in the film one father is in what is described as a “loony” bin (i.e. a mental hospital), another set of parents are numbed and made dysfunctional by grief and so forth. The children also do not seem to ask their parents’ permission to stay out over night and despite this nobody in the adult world is shown as considering them missing.

With the film’s rural location there is a sense of this almost being an overlooked and an only semi-developed place, where nature may at any times just re-encroach and take over the town. When the children leave its environs, very quickly it seems as though they have stepped into a near wilderness, which is marked as being part of civilisation by the presence of the railway track that they follow but the rural areas seem otherwise curiously unregulated and near frontier like, while a scrapyard the group of boys hang out in is shown as a dangerous or also unregulated edgeland like place.

In some ways Stand By Me could be seen as the John Hughes film he never wrote/made (Hughes is well known for a cycle of 1980s teen orientated films including Pretty in Pink and the Breakfast Club from 1986 and 1985 respectively, which often dealt with class, outsider status and coming of age issues).

As with that cycle of Hughes’ films Stand By Me is in part about class and the way it and also family background can restrict choices and effectively preset pathways through life; in the voiceover conclusion to Reiner’s film the viewer is told that the normal child goes on to have a normal job and family life and the child from an unsettled family ends up wayward. Another child from a family of drunks and criminals takes college courses, escapes from the binds of his earlier life and becomes a lawyer but is murdered when breaking up a fight in a fast-food restaurant. The narrator, whose parents were the ones numbed by grief and who neglected him, is from a middle class family and despite the more dysfunctional aspects of his background he has gone on to be a successful, published writer and at the end of the film is shown living a normal family life as he walks outside and drives away with his son and his son’s friend to take them swimming.

Indeed Stand by Me seems to represent a turning point towards these preset pathways, as the voiceover also tells of how once they return from the voyage the friends largely drifted apart.

While largely a fairly realist film, albeit in a Hollywood manner, there is a curious and disjunctive section where the boy who will go on to be a successful writer tells the others a story about a pie eating competition which results in a mass outbreak of prodigious vomiting in the audience – all of which is portrayed in vivid detail. As mentioned earlier the film was based on a novella by Stephen King and the surreal fantasy like aspect of this section could be seen to be a point of connection to other areas of his fictional output such as the fantasy and horror work for which he is probably best known.




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The Watchers – Released

Released today 7th June 2019.

Available in two CD editions: Dawn Light edition £11.95. Nightfall edition £21.95. Also available as a download.
Order via our Artifacts Shop and at Bandcamp.

Both CD editions are hand-finished and custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink by A Year In The Country.

Features music and accompanying text on the tracks by Grey Frequency, Field Lines Cartographer, Widow’s Weeds ft Kitchen Cynics, Depatterning, A Year In The Country, Phonofiction, Pulselovers, Sproatly Smith, Vic Mars, The Heartwood Institute and Howlround.


Amongst Britain’s trees there are thought to be over 3,000 ancient oaks – those which date back 400 years or more – and of those trees more than 115 are 800 to 1,000 years old or more. They are part of a tree population that also includes ash trees that have lived for hundreds of years and a yew that is estimated to be between 2000-3000 years old or possibly many thousands of years older and that some consider to be the oldest living thing in Europe.

These are living organisms which could be seen to be undertaking a very stately, still form of time travel, to be watchers and observers over the passing of the years, centuries and even millennia.

Some of them have lived through invasions of their island home undertaken by wooden ships, sword and arrow, the final days and passing of the old ways and the times of magic and witchcraft, the coming of the industrial revolution and the dawning of the digital era.

Throughout it all they have stood by and watched the endeavours of humans and the encroaching of their lands as the tales passed through traditional folklore evolved into the sometimes dizzying swathes of today’s cultural landscape, with these “mighty oaks” and their companions now coming to be living amongst the invisible hubbub of modern day wirelessly transmitted communications.

The numbers of these longstanding inhabitants of this once largely green and unpaved land have dwindled due to the march of progress but a few stalwartly continue their journeys through time. The Watchers reflects on those journeys and these ancient trees’ residing over growing layers of history.


Dawn Light Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £11.95.
Hand-finished white/black CD album in textured recycled fold out sleeve with fold-out insert and badge.

Top of CD and underneath of CD.

Further packaging details:
1) Custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
2) Includes 2.5 cm badge, secured with removable glue on string bound tag.
3) 1 x folded sheet of accompanying notes, hand numbered on back.


Nightfall Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £21.95
Hand-finished box-set contains: album on all black CD, 2 x sheets of accompanying notes, 2 x prints, 3 x stickers and 3 x badges.

Top of CD and underneath of CD.

Further packaging details:
1) Cover, notes and prints custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
2) Contained in a matchbox style sliding two-part rigid matt card box with cover print.
3) Fully black CD (black on top, black on playable side).
4) 2 x folded sheets of accompanying notes, printed on textured laid paper – one sheet hand numbered on back.
5) 2 x prints on textured fine art cotton rag paper.
6) 2 x 2.5 cm badge, 1 x 4.5 cm badge.
7) 1 x 5.6 cm sticker, 1 x 3.5 cm sticker, 1 x 12cm sticker.


1) Grey Frequency – In A Clearing
2) Field Lines Cartographer – A Thousand Autumns
3) Widow’s Weeds ft Kitchen Cynics – The Brave Old Oak
4) Depatterning – Ook/Dair
5) A Year In The Country – Radicle Ether
6) Phonofiction – Xylem Flow
7) Pulselovers – Circles Within Circles
8) Sproatly Smith – Watching You
9) Vic Mars – The Test Of Time
10) The Heartwood Institute – The Trees That Watch The Stones
11) Howlround – The Winter Dream Of Novel’s Oak

“A Year In The Country continue to release their sumptuous CDs… ‘A Thousand Autumns’ by Field Lines Cartographer celebrates an ancient oak, its cyclical shedding of thousands of leaves providing nutrients for next year’s leaves. The twinkling synth sounds like the falling leaves in the shafts of Autumnal sunlight… Sproatly Smith arrive with ‘Watching You’ another song from the point of view of these ancient trees, bird song, female voice, synth and acoustic guitar. Tracing the journey from acorn to mighty hollowed oak, a bucolic folk tune… Vic Mars is next with ‘The Test Of Time’ this song takes its inspiration from the great Eardisley oak tree, one of the oldest in Britain. A purely electronic piece of music which is both cathartic and gentle in nature, it’s stately and develops into a bucolic pastoral piece… This could be the label’s finest release yet.” Andrew Young, Terrascope

“The music portrays a gentle patience, from the field recordings sprinkled throughout the album to delicate chimes and folksong.” Richard Allen, A Closer Listen

“A Year in the Country’s latest uncanny release is The Watchers, a celebration of Britain’s trees that mixes electronica with eerie folk…” Jude Rogers, The Guardian


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No More Unto The Dance: Audio Visual Archive 23/52

Print artwork from the No More Unto The Dance album.


“No More Unto The Dance is a reflection of nightlife memories and the search for the perfect transportative electronic beat, a collection of reverberations that have fragmented with the passing of time; a mixtape that envisions echoes of times lost in the once seemingly endless dreams of a club… the world in which this recording was made does still come alive at night but it is more likely to be the nocturnal foraging and wanderings of wildlife rather than in a low-ceilinged basement lit by a strobe light…”|
(Quoted from text which accompanied the album.)


“Such imaginings are haunting, layering one another with emotional imagery that cannot help but lead the ghosts onto the floor, a disco queen here, a rave scene there, the scent of northern soul, the smell of teen spirit.  By the time it’s over, you feel as though you’ve been dancing all night; by the time you’ve recovered, you want to do it again.”
(Dave Thompson writing about the album at his Spincycle section at Goldmine Magazine.)


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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The Fountain in the Forest – Further Explorations of Hidden History, Timeslip, the Ending of Arcadian Idylls and Pulp Fiction Subversion: Wanderings 23/52

Tony White’s The Fountain in the Forest could be considered part of a genre where noir-esque, genre and crime fiction is used as a way of exploring hidden or semi-forgotten/unearthed history, in a similar manner to say David Peace’s GB84 (2004), Clare Carson’s Orkney Twilight (2015) and Adrian McKinty’s In the Morning I’ll Be Gone, which are set amongst the turbulence within British politics around approximately 1984-1985 and to varying degrees the 1984-1985 UK Miner’s Strike.

These novels all could also be seen as related explorations of “the at times murky, ambiguous actions, participants and organisations of those involved”. (From a previous post at A Year In The Country.)

In The Fountain in the Forest a detective called Rex King investigates a murder committed in a central London theatre and time/location at points shifts from modern-day London to an abandoned and squatted village in rural 1980s France, from which the novel takes its name and the Battle of the Beanfield at Stonehenge.

At its core it hinges on a 90 day period of 1985 between the just mentioned Miner’s Strike and The Battle of the Beanfield, which is described as an interregnum – i.e. a period when normal government is suspended – and the book’s blurb says this was a “moment when Thatcher’s militia fatally wounded the British political counterculture”. This was a period which could be to seen to be a moment of:

“…change and upheaval within British society, turning points when there were conflicts between different belief systems/power structures, battles between the old ways and the new.” (From a previous post at A Year In The Country.)

(As an aside the UK Miner’s Strike was a bitterly fought conflict between miner’s and the Coal Board/government of the day over pit closures, while the Battle of the Beanfield saw over 1000 police officers preventing a new age – and others – convoy of vehicles from setting up a free festival at Stonehenge. Both saw actions by the authorities that have been viewed as controversial and at times particularly heavy-handed/violent.)

In a previous post at A Year In The Country I talked about the settings of GB84, Orkney Twilight and In The Morning I’ll Be Gone:

“Although not exclusively set within rural areas, the above three novels often focus on actions that are away from large-scale cities and capitals, with there being an at times underlying sense that these are areas which are a step or two away from the norms of civilisation; they are shown as being unobserved frontiers or edgelands where the rule of law is suspended, where conflicts can be settled in a more brutal, basic manner and crimes or what are considered transgressions against the powers that be’s intentions are dealt with and punished in an almost medieval way.”

The Fountain in the Forest has a similar take on rural areas; the squatted rural village is in a remote, hard to get to area and run as a non-hierarchical commune away from “normal” societies rules and strictures, while the new age and others convoy is also a loose, non-hierarchical gathering where people choose to live alternative lifestyles. Both are physically destroyed, with the authorities actions against the convoy in particular – vehicles were smashed and set on fire, members beaten etc – bringing to mind more the putting down of a rebellion in a far-flung century than actions that would be expected in a supposedly modern twentieth century western democracy.

As mentioned at the start of this post, all these novels utilise crime fiction and can be considered readable, accessible – if not always light reading – fictional works. However as mentioned previously at A Year In The Country, GB84 is “stylistically left of centre or even possibly borderline experimental”. While its use of language and atmosphere is generally more conventional than GB84, The Fountain in the Forest is more overtly formally avant-garde in a number of senses; these include its use of techniques associated with Oulipo, who were a group of mathematicians and writers who produced work according to set rules and constraints (for example George Perecs’ novel A Void featured no words with the letter “e”).

The author forces himself to use a mandated vocabulary and includes the words that make up the answers to the Guardian newspaper’s Quick Crossword from the central 90 day period in which the novel is set. These words are bolded throughout the text and effectively mean it is imbued and layered with a spectral sense of a past era – in the Author’s Notes Tony White mentions how he completed these crosswords at the time and that writing these words out activated a kind of linguistic “muscle memory” as well as offering a linguistic and historical time capsule of the period, alongside a pantheon of historical figures.

Adding to this formal experimentalism, each chapter name is taken from the French revolutionary rural calendar. This was created post-1789 and utilised a radical new form of timekeeping that utilised a 10 day week named after different items from rural life, such as  herbs, foodstuff, livestock, tools etc. In comparison with the more traditional calendar these names were intended to have a secular, non-royal and non-hierachical basis and they include the likes of Mandragore (Mandrake), Sylvie (Anemone), Vélar (Hedge Mustard) and Cordeau (Twine).

Although The Fountain in the Forest is in large part set in contemporary London, these sections seem to almost belong to or harken to a past age or be a snapshot of a lost London; a time when it was possible/affordable for “ordinary” people to live and buy homes in very central London. Perhaps also because many of the locations described are ones I was once very familiar with and indeed regularly visited I also brought to it a sense of my own past and related loss.

There is also a sense of wider loss, of the freedom in a pre-digital age to start your life over again truly free of the baggage and constraints of your previous life, when the central character creates a new semi-forged identity for himself:

“As soon as the new passport had come through, Rex… had got up under the cover of darkness and hitched a ride to London. Started over, in the days when you could still do that.”

Throughout the book there is an ongoing sense of timeslip; the description of the last free Stonehenge free festival in  1984 in terms of its cultural reference points, seems more like a late 1960s/early-to-mid 1970s hippie drugfest – although as I have mentioned at A Year In The Country before, there is at points something of a crossover between 1960s hippie culture and 1980s new age travellers and anarcho/crusty punks. The hairstyles may have been different but their rejection of mainstream societal norms shared a number of similarities in its expression.

The book is also initially divided into distinctive parts, with each one generally taking place in a particular location and timezone and there not an obvious connection between them. Towards the end these sections begin to merge into one in an almost maelstrom manner that reflects the conflict and dismemberment of a way of life that happened at the Battle of the Beanfield and which is depicted in the text.

(May Day Song from the Janet Heatley Blunt collection, via the English Folk Dance and Song Society Full English archive.)

The only indication that the text has moved from one to another is that they are divided by the lyrics to the folk song May Day Carol:

“I’ve been a-rambling all the night,
And the best part of the day;
And now I am returning back again,
I have brought you a branch of May.”

The central character recalls this song as he waits with the convoy to try and travel to Stonehenge and setup the free festival. It brings back memories of warm May Day celebrations of his youth, when a school-teacher had possibly sought to:

“…soften the lines of the new-build 1960s school building she found herself in charge of, by aligning it with these more archaic and traditional forms of folk art.”

There is a sense at this point of some kind of rural, arcadian, alternative lifestyle that is enjoying a moment of freedom, autonomy and confidence but which will soon have that literally beaten out of it.

I discovered The Fountain in the Forest via a review by Sukhdev Sandhu, in which it is described as:

“An avant-garde take on the pulp crime genre becomes a paean to liberty and a secret history of the 1980s.”

In an interconnected manner to secret histories, Sandhu is one of the key figures behind the publisher Texte und Töne, which has published books/booklets that have included The Stink Still Here, wherein GB84 author David Peace discusses his “occult” (or hidden) history of the UK Miner’s Strike.

The publications are beautifully produced and designed and often explore work that could be seen to sit at the confluence of the undercurrents of folkloric culture and where it meets the spectres of hauntology, including studies of David Rudkin and Alan Clarke’s Penda’s Fen, Nigel Kneales work and the cultural and historical background of the television series The Changes.

As a final aside Tony White has something of a history in subversions/explorations of genre and pulp literature, being the editor of Britpulp! New Fast and Furious Stories from the Literary Underground published in 1999 and which was described as:

“Bursting out of the literary underground, all the writers in this ground-breaking anthology put the emphasis firmly back on gratuitous story-telling and brutal, break-neck plots. Scorching hardcore prose of Stewart Home’s Sex Kick collides with the bitterly romantic confessions of Billy Childish. Nicholas Blincoe’s cool and stylish thriller writing meets the street realism of Victor Headley’s Retropolitan Police, while well-dressed London gangsters fight for page space with the old school skinheads of Richard Allen. Other confirmed authors include Donald Gorgan, Steve Aylett, along with untapped talent from the literary underground.”

He also wrote one of a set of books published in the late 1990s by Attack! Books, alongside the likes of Mark Manning (aka musician Zodiac Mindwarp) and the just mentioned Stewart Home, which in part could be seen to be a then contemporary, transgressive and self-awarely hip updating of the likes of the also just mentioned pulp author Richard Allen, who wrote over 290 novels, including a number of books which focused on late 1960s and 1970s youth subcultures such as skinheads, hippies and bikers.



  1. The Fountain in the Forest at publisher Faber & Faber’s site (including, appropriately enough a crossword competition)
  2. The Fountain in the Forest novel
  3. Britpulp! New Fast and Furious Stories from the Literary Underground
  4. James Moffat / Richard Allen at Wikipedia
  5. GB84
  6. In the Morning I’ll be Gone
  7. Orkney Twilight
  8. Orkney Twilight at publisher Head of Zeus
  9. Sukhdev Sandhu’s review of The Fountain in the Forest at The Guardian’s website


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. The Fountain in the Forest – Further Explorations of Hidden History – Part 1: Wanderings 22/52
  2. In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 7/52:
  3. In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 8/52
  4. David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 16/52
  5. David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 17/52
  6. Memory of a Free Festival and Other Arcadian Dreams – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 14/52
  7. Memory of a Free Festival and Other Arcadian Dreams – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 15/52


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Hand of Stabs – Black-Veined White: Audio Visual Archive 22/52

Artwork from Hand of Stab’s Black-Veined White album.

“Black-Veined White takes as its starting point the eponymous butterfly which was last seen in the UK in Rochester, the area in which Hand of Stabs work and explore, in the 1920s…” (Quoted from A Year In The Country.)

“Sharing a love of the history and sacred past of Medway Towns and surrounding countryside, and inspired by regular, often night-time walks through these spaces, they are creating a series of soundworks evoking and celebrating their essence.” (Text by Hand of Stabs.)



Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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A Midsummer Night’s Happening, Weirdshire and The Delaware Road: Ritual & Resistance – A Spectral Summer is a-Coming in: Wanderings 22/52

It seems like there’s something of a spectral summer a-coming in (or “is icumen in“)…

First up in this gathering of such things is the A Midsummer Night’s Happening on 21st June 2019 at The state51 Factory in London, an event which is described as “a solstice celebration hosted by state51, Ghost Box and Trunk Records”, that will take place across three themed interiors called Pan’s Garden, The Youth Club and The TV Chamber. It features the likes of:

1) Justin Hopper and Sharron Kraus performing their album Chanctonbury Rings, which is based around Hopper’s book The Old Weird Albion. (The album also features Belbury Poly and will be released on 21st June by Ghost Box Records.)

2) The Kirchin Tape Lab, which will include Trunk Records’ Jonny Trunk and his OST radio show co-host Robin The Fog (aka Radiophonic-esque tape manipulator Howlround), who will be playing live tape reels from the unheard archive of composer and music experimenter/boundary pusher Basil Kirchin.

(As an aside when Basil Kirchin experimented with slowing down recordings he described it as revealing “Little boulders of sound” – which is a rather lovely turn of phrase.)

3) Soundcarriers performing an instrumental live soundtrack to a film by Ghost Box Records’ Julian House.

4) An exhibition by Frances Castle of Clay Pipe Music.

5) Wisbey, who will be asking the audience to request their favourite soundtracks, which apparently he will then perform on a home organ, in what sounds like something of a human jukebox manner.

And a fair bit more from DJ sets to The Mangle’s “print your own event tshirt” facilities, a state51 shop, food etc. Blimey.

I’m not sure but I think the event may take its name from Sally and Mike “Tubular Bells” Oldfield’s track “Midsummer Night’s Happening” on their acid/psych folk 1968 album Children of the Sun (it also brings to mind the rare 1971 acid/psych folk album A Midsummer’s Night Dream album by Oberon). The “happening” is sold out already I’m afraid though.

(Left-right: upcoming 2019 Weirdshire events, the cover to the Weirdshire album, Weirdshire events in 2018.)

Next up is a series of events from Weirdshire at Babar Cafe in Herefordshire and which take place between June and August. These feature performers who often work amongst the flipside and undercurrents of folk and include Sharron Kraus and Kitchen Cynics, United Bible Studies, C. Joynes, Sproatly Smith and Burd Ellen, alongside vinyl selections from jus’jay and Sproatly Smith (the events are also curated/hosted by Sproatly Smith).

(Left-right: the cover of the Weirdlore album, Weirdshire Weekend poster from 2015, Sproatly Smith poster from 2016.)

The Weirdshire events connect with the cancelled Weirdlore festival from 2012 (and the accompanying album which was released by the sadly missed Folk Police Recordings); after that event was cancelled the first Weirdshire event took place at The Barrels in Hereford and was intended as an alternative to Weirdlore, with the resulting one day festival including some of the performers who were going to play at Weirdlore, alongside other invitees.

There have been a series of other Weirdshire events since then, including in 2018  the “International Psych Folk Festival”, which featured  B’ee (In Gowan Ring), David Colohan, Sproatly Smith, Moongazing Hare, Kitchen Cynics, Trappist Afterland, David Ian Robers, Alula Down, OORT (Trans Neptunian Objects), Jacken Elswyth and Cath & Phil Tyler, alongside jus’jay DJ-ing again.

Weirdshire has also released the Beating the Bounds compilation, which features what is described as “weird/alt/psych folk from Herefordshire” and features a number of the performers from the Weirdshire events.

(As a further aside, reading about the Weirdshire events and line-ups conjures almost a sense of timeslip. They’re contemporary but seem to have a direct line – or should that be portal? – back to acid and psych folk explorations of the earlier 1970s…)

And then there is The Delaware Road: Ritual & Resistance festival on August 17th and 18th, which is hosted/curated by Buried Treasure Records and takes place in the far from conventional venue of “an austere military complex at New Zealand Farm near West Lavington”. It is an event which I have mentioned around these parts before and as I said then the line-up for the festival draws from what could be called the confluence or intertwining between otherly pastoral and hauntological work.

It features something of a smorgasboard of artists, DJs, video producers, film makers, sound designers, record labels, guest speakers, writers and illustrators:


The Delaware Road: Ritual & Resistance event has offered a number of tempting extras to those who buy tickets, including the Nearest Neighbour graphic novel and cassette by audio video duo Sculpture, France’s Castle of Clay Pipe Music’s graphic novel and flexidisc Stagdale and Buried Treasure promo packs featuring CDs, vinyl and badges from the label.

(As a final and further aside the performances etc at the event are said to be “inspired by The Delaware Road narrative, landscape, myth, broadcast propaganda and the transformative nature of sound”. The Delaware Road story appears to have as it’s starting point The Delaware Road “illusory motion picture soundtrack” album, which is described as being an “occult thriller conspiracy” that will appeal to those who appreciate “archived electronica, far out jazz and haunted folk grooves”. It has a theme based around; “London. 1968. Two pioneering electronic musicians discover a set of unusual recordings which leads to a revelation about their employer. Fascinated by the seemingly occult nature of the tapes they conduct a ritual that will alter their lives forever.”)

Well, a busy old summer indeed.




Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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Grey Frequency – Immersion: Audio Visual Archive 21/52

Print artwork from Grey Frequency’s Immersion album.

“Ethereal ambient transmissions… Through the manipulation of found sounds and field recordings Grey Frequency explores themes of memory, folklore, and the world of audio disintegration. Soundscapes are crafted using audio cassettes, tape players and effects pedals, creating an atmospheric blend of lo-fi ambient textures, dense drones and abstract musical passages.” (Text written by Grey Frequency.)



Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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Broken Folk, Is it Clearer? and Akiha Den Den – Audio Undercurrents Part 2: Wanderings 21/52

Part 2 of a round-up of some of the flipside and undercurrents of music released in the last year or so that has caught my ear and eye (visit Part 1 here).

First up is Seatman and Powell’s (featuring Belbury Poly) Broken Folk EP, which contains tracks from Keith Seatman’s last two albums and vocals by Douglas E. Powell, alongside a Belbury Poly remix of the title track.

It includes Boxes with Rhythms In, which features the following lyrics:

I’ve been messaging to send more oxygen… And all your sending is… Boxes with rhythms in.

The track is something of a favourite around these parts and previously at A Year In The Country I wrote the following about it:

This is a Space Oddity for contemporary times. In a very few words set to a buzzing, whooshing, flittering in and out synth background it conjures up a whole world and scenario of its own particular Major Tom… However, whereas Space Oddity seemed quite grounded in a recognisable reality, here, as with the album as a whole, the atmosphere it creates is something more otherly, one that while connected to our own reality also runs along its own separate path… And although this is quite experimental, far from mainstream music, boxes with rhythms in has an underlying pop sensibility, accessibility and an ear for a catchy refrain/chorus.

And is it just me or is there something about the inflection on the vocals on the EP, alongside the gently woozy synthesized instrumentation and a sense that the songs also hint at some other hidden cultural meaning that bring to mind here and there the later recordings of Coil such as The Ape of Naples album?

Vocalist Douglas E. Powell normally works in the folk music genre but the Broken Folk EP, although not overly retro, is reminiscent in part of futurist pop:

This five song 10 inch EP combines the plaintive English voice of Powell placed amongst Germanic analogue organ, synths and sequencers creating the type of dark Cold War soundscapes favoured by the Radiophonic Workshop to the Human League. Floydian incidental music for a late 70s post nuclear meltdown drama.” (Quoted from a review of the EP in Shindig! magazine.)

And there is also something of a melancholic air to the music on the EP, a sense of loss or yearning, which is referred to in accompanying text, alongside the low-key spectral undercurrents of the music:

“Melancholic and subtly psychedelic, these songs are redolent of supernatural short stories and winter afternoons out on English landscapes. They are dark rustic reveries, occupying the overlapping territory between haunted electronica and wyrd folk.

The EP was released by Keith Seatman’s KS Audio label in conjunction with Jim Jupp of Belbury Poly’s Belbury Music label – which he launched in 2018 and that he runs alongside Ghost Box Records. It is rather beautifully packaged, with cover art also by Jim Jupp that recalls the hardback cover of a pastorally inflected novel from maybe the 1940s or 1950s that you might discover quietly nestled away in a second-hand bookshop.

In terms of format it could be considered a 12″ single (or maybe somewhere between that, an EP and a mini-album). Out of the various formats I have bought music on over the years I think 12″ singles have been one of my favourites; more substantial seeming than a 7″, space for a few tracks, remixes and experimentation while avoiding that dreaded 8 or so track album spread over two vinyl discs syndrome that made some vinyl albums back when seem like, well, rather a faff to play and not really like an album.

12″ singles seem to have become fairly infrequently released nowadays, I suppose in part because they don’t actually cost anything less to manufacture than a full length album and so can’t be sold for as temptingly cheap prices as they once were (although I expect a fair few of the £2.99 or so 12″s I bought back in the day were in part released as loss-leader promotional items for forthcoming albums etc).

Visit the Broken Folk EP at Belbury Music here and the digital version at Keith Seatman’s Bandcamp page here.

Next up is Reet Maff’l’s Is it Clearer? on the album That’ll Be.

This is an at times rather unnerving piece of music which consists of ambient electronica accompanied by surreal spoken word vocals and brings to mind satirist Chris Morris’ Blue Jam album released in 2000.

The vocals initially and for quite an extended period appear to be a fairly straightforward recording of an optician carrying out an eye test.

However, after a while the standard “Is it clearer in one or two? How about now?” etc becomes “Are you happier in one or two? Are you happier now? Happier? Does the sadness seem sharper in one or two? One or two? Do you feel any sadder now? Okay, how about now? Any sadder? How about now?” and eventually just becomes a looping and quietly threatening “Now, now, now, now and now, okay and now, now, now and now”.

In the final few seconds the optician returns to a quite normal and perky “And now read the top line”, which breaks the spell somewhat in a way that I’m never sure if I should feel relieved about or not.

That’ll Be is released by Bloxham Tapes, a cassette and digital label which has a rather nice and eye-catching cohesive visual aesthetic:

Visit Is it Clearer? at Bloxham Tapes here.

And then we come to Akiha Den Den which:

“…collects electronic music created for an abandoned space: Akiha Den Den, the crumbling amusement park at the centre of a surreal radio drama.”

This is part of a multilayered, interwoven project that includes darkly ambient, Radiophonic and at times John Carpenter-esque ominous haunted electronica, dilapidated ghost train rides, the musings of a talking thought-mining cockroach and a radio ham picking up the transmissions from Akiha Den Den and has been described as:

“...a fever dream of radio waves and half heard transmissions…” (Quoted from text which accompanies the album.)

Akiha Den Den is what could be described an enigma wrapped in a riddle, one that you can only try and solve as you tumble down the darkening rabbit hole of the world it creates…

The project’s vinyl album, CD, booklet and 7″ have been released by Castles in Space, with artwork by Nick Taylor. I would say it’s a lovely package and set of artifacts, which it is, but lovely does not seem quite appropriate for the unsettled dreamscape of Akiha Den Den.

The music for the project was created by Simon James, who has previously worked as The Simonsound (with Matt Ford) and released the dark-pop and sometimes explorations-of-the-preternatural-in-suburbia Black Channels (with Becky Randall).

Visit Akiha Den Den at Castles in Space’s website here, at Simon James’ Bandcamp page here, more details on the project and the radio drama written and directed by Neil Cargill at the Akiha Den Den site here and the Akiha Den Den theme here.


Part 1 of this post focused on releases by Howlround, Woodford Halse, Rowan : Morrison and Grey Frequency. It can be visited here.


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The Corn Mother – Audio Visual Archive 20/52

Cover art variation for The Corn Mother album.

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

The story is set in the late 19th century in a rural British village and revolves around the folklore of the “corn mother” – where the last row of the corn harvest is beaten to the ground by the reapers in an attempt to drive the spirit of the corn mother back into the earth for next year’s sowing.

The small closely-knit farming community’s worries about coming modernisation and the possible repeat of a blighted harvest that had occurred earlier in the village’s history, lead to burgeoning irrational fears and a search for a scapegoat who they persecute in order to salve those fears. Suffering from guilt and remorse at their actions, the villagers become plagued by nightmares in which their selected scapegoat returns to them to exact her revenge, and this becomes known as “the visiting of the corn mother”. The plot descends into a maelstrom where reality and unreality merge and the village becomes the kingdom of the corn mother.

The film was completed but was never released due to financial problems with the production company which resulted in legal wrangles, unpaid fees and recriminations, during which knowledge of the whereabouts of the footage became lost, with rumours suggesting that it may have been deliberately destroyed. It has been reported that a handful of preview copies of the film were made available on the now defunct formats of the time and these have become something of a mythical grail for film collectors.

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


The album features music by Gavino Morretti, Pulselovers, The Heartwood Institute, United Bible Studies, Dominic Cooper, A Year In The Country, Widow’s Weeds, Depatterning, Sproatly Smith and Field Lines Cartographer.


“The sense of dark electronic menace continues through offerings (the term is used advisedly) by The Heartwood Institute, Sproatly Smith and Field Lines Cartographer, while Widow’s Weeds contribute bad trip acid-folk and ‘The Night Harvest’ by A Year In The Country themselves moves into Coil territory. This remarkably cohesive collection is shaping new nightmares from yesterday’s broken dreams.” Ben Graham, Shindig! magazine, issue 86.


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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Michael Radford’s 1984 Part 2 – Pop Music Controversies and Pastoral Escape/Non-Escape: Wanderings 20/52

Part 2 of a post Michael Radford’s film adaptation of George Orwell’s novel 1984 (visit Part 1 here).

There is a curious musical aesthetic and controversy to Michael Radford’s version of 1984 which has been most widely seen; Virgin Films who financed its production commissioned the at that time commercially successful British rock/pop duo Eurythmics to produce music for the soundtrack. The film’s director objected to Virgin’s insistence on using the Eurythmics more pop-oriented electronic music and rather wanted the traditional orchestral score that was originally intended for the film to be used, which had been composed entirely by Dominic Muldowney a few months earlier.

Virgin Films exercised their right of final cut and replaced much of Muldowney’s music with that of the Eurythmics. Its director subsequently disowned the Virgin Films edit and withdrew the film from consideration at the BAFTA awards in protest at the change in the score. The Eurythmics responded with a statement saying that they had no prior knowledge of agreements between the director, Muldowney and Virgin and they had accepted to compose music for the film in good faith.

The film with the orchestral score as intended by the director were relatively difficult to see until recently; home releases of the film have generally included the combined Eurythmics/Muldowney soundtrack. A limited edition and now sold out Blu-ray release from 2015 by Twilight Time in North America offered the option of listening to either the orchestral score or the combined one, while a North American MGM DVD from 2003 had just the orchestral score (albeit it the desaturated colours were returned to normal) and some of the non-English language releases have contained the original orchestral score.

However in July 2019 The Criterion Collection are releasing new Blu-rays and DVDs which will have two scores that are listed as being “one by Eurythmics and one by composer Dominic Muldowney”, although at the time of writing I’m not sure if they will be Region A/1 discs which are only playable on Canadian/US or multi-region players.

The elements of Dominic Muldowney’s score which remain in the combined version of the soundtrack in part has a quality that brings to mind pastorally inflected classical music and also brings to mind the soundtrack a totalitarian state may have had created in order to glorify the state, raise up the spirits of its subjects and create a disingenuous smokescreen that obscured the realities of their lives.

Virgin Films was part of the Virgin Group which included the Virgin Records record label and they produced a number of films where there was an attempt to create a marketing synchronicity by including pop music in films and sometimes the performers themselves and also releasing the featured music as singles and albums.

Alongside 1984 these films included the computer/human love triangle film Electric Dreams (1984) directed by Steve Barron and Absolute Beginners (1986) which was a musical adaptation of Colin Macinnes 1958 novel set amongst the youth culture and fringes of 1950s London and directed by Julian Temple.

In comparison with 1984 both Electric Dreams and Absolute Beginners are geared towards being more escapist cinema, although there are serious elements to their stories (the nature of sentience and interactions with digital technology and class and race relations respectively).

To a degree sections of them are nearer to being pop music videos than purely cinematic work, something which may have been heightened as their directors had extensive previous experience in creating pop videos.

Because of the above the use of pop music in Electric Dreams and Absolute Beginners seems relatively fitting. However in 1984 it seems a little out-of-place and adds a certain air of escapist levity to a film which deals with serious issues; it is difficult to listen to the music of a band as well-known as the Eurythmics in this context without to a degree its use in the soundtrack connecting it to the atmosphere of pop music promotional videos.

Which is not to denigrate the work of the Eurythmics in this instance; their music for the film has in part a mid-1980s cut-up experimentalism while also retaining its pop sensibilities while their song Julia which plays in its entirety over the closing credits has a beautifully haunting and lamentful quality.

That song has a distinctly pastoral air to it and its lyrics talk of leaves turning from green to brown, autumn shades that come tumbling down, winter leaving branches bare and also of spring rejoicing down the lane. It is effectively a reflection of an imagined call by Winston to his lover Julia and whether their illicit love and indeed themselves will survive amongst the Party’s oppression. It ends with a multiply repeated chorus that plaintively repeats and varies that question in just a few words.

The autumn leaves and shades that come tumbling down in the song also leave behind a carpet where the lovers have laid; this connects to Julia and Winston’s first intimate meeting in the countryside, away from the all-seeing surveillance eye of the telescreens, the Party and Big Brother.

In the film there is a sense in these scenes that the countryside and nature are a still relatively untouched and pure part of the world and they provide an almost brutal contrast with the downbeat nature of life in the city.

However, with a pre-knowledge of the story these sequences have a notably dual and unsettling quality as the door that opens is marked 101; this is the room where the Party utilises and inflicts its detainee’s worse fears on them as part of their brainwashing.

Returning to the lyrics of Julia, in that song after the lyrics talk of a rejoiceful spring arriving there is a mention of a time when everything will be new again. This could be seen as a reference to the cycle of natural renewal, of Winston’s hope for a better future and also a reference to the worn out, make-do nature of the material goods that are available in Airstrip One.

(Three of the principal actors on set during filming.)

The Party’s society is depicted as somewhere woefully short of even basic day-to-day supplies, with Winston and his colleagues constantly looking for and running out of razor blades, while the items and food that are available to all but the highest Party officials are of a low quality.

This is given expression in the film as the shop proprietor that Winston rents the room from runs a second-hand junk shop, the meagre selection of which Winston is shown as browsing and we learn that it is from here that he bought the diary in which he writes his secret rebellious thoughts and there is an implication that such things are not widely available or even prohibited. The shop also sells a number of decorative objects, which Winston does not recognise or appear to have a memory of as the Party’s state appears devoid of such ornamental and beautifying items.

This background to the society in which they live sets the scene for when Julia arrives at their rented room with a few basic good quality foodstuffs such as jam, real coffee and bread; Winston’s surprise and pleasure are palpable as is the sense of shared joy and intimacy which they will provide.



  1. The trailer for Michael Radford’s adaptation of 1984
  2. The 1984 DVD
  3. The 1984 Premium Collection Blu-ray
  4. George Orwell’s 1984
  5. Eurythmics Julia (in digital audio visual form)
  6. Eurythmics Julia (in “found on latter day shellac at the online second hand shop” form)
  7. Eurythmics 1984: For the Love of Big Brother album (in shiny new(ish) fangled compact disc form)
  8. Electric Dreams trailer (appropriately the “VHS” trailer)
  9. Absolute Beginners trailer (“from the fabulous fifties, the musical for the eighties… from the book that brought the streets to life… Absolute Beginners is an absolute must… the music, the movement, the romance, the passion…”, well that’s me watching it again tonight. Sigh.)
  10. Absolute Beginners: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray
  11. Electric Dreams Blu-ray
  12. The Criterion Collection release of 1984


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Michael Radford’s 1984 Part 1 – The Privations of an Alternative Past, Present and Future, V for Vendetta and the Last Inch: Wanderings 19/52


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The Quietened Mechanisms – Audio Visual Archive 19/52

Print artwork from The Quietened Mechanisms album.

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

It wanders amongst deserted factories, discarded machinery, closed mines, mills and kilns and their echoes and remains; taking a moment or two to reflect on these once busy, functioning centres of activity and the sometimes sheer scale or amount of effort and human endeavour that was required to create and operate such structures and machines, many of which are now just left to fade away.


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


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


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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The Quietened Village – Writing, Broadcasts and Traces of Ghosts

A selection of broadcasts, reviews etc of The Quietened Village reissue…

Pulselovers “The Coast In Flux” and Polypores “Playground Ritual” were included in the “You Will Improve Or Disappear” and “Anything, Anyone” episodes of Sunrise Ocean Bender, alongside their other eclectic and intriguing wanderings.

(As an aside the first of those episodes takes its title from Grey Frequency’s Ufology album, which I have written about previously. If “lo-fi drones, dark ambient textures, and cassette-looped field recordings” and an album themed around 20th century UFO folklore pique your interest then the album can be found here.)

The Heartwood Institute’s “Armboth & Wythburn” was on the playlist for episode 400 of Pull The Plug where it can be found in amongst the likes of tracks by Art Of The Memory Palace and sometimes fellow A Year In The Country travellers Listening Centre.

You, the Night & the Music played The Soulless Party’s “Damnatorum”, Cosmic Neighbourhood’s “Bunk Beds”, A Year In The Country’s “47 Days And Fathoms Deep” and The Rowan Amber Mill’s “Separations” on two separate shows originally broadcast on Sine FM, which can be visited here and here.

(As a further aside the gent who hosts that show also works as Pulselovers and has created the Woodford Halse released Undululating Waters compilations which I have also mentioned at A Year In The Country before and which are well worth a visit.)

Cosmic Neighbourhood’s “Bunk Beds” and Sproatly Smith’s “Lost Villages Of Holderness” were included in two episodes of the flipside of folk and spectral hauntological selections of The Unquiet Meadow. Visit the playlists for those here and here and the show’s page at Asheville FM here.

Verity Sharp played A Year In The Country’s “47 Days And Fathoms Deep” on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction – a show which is rather aptly described as involving “Journeys in music, ancient to future. The home for adventurous listeners.”

Visit the episode of the show here.

Cosmic Neighbourhood’s “Bunk Beds” and Sproatly Smith’s “The Lost Villages Of Holderness” were also played on episode 84 of Mind De-Coder:

“Sproatly Smith’s contribution addresses the strange lands lying east of Hull to the North Sea known as Holderness. This area has the fastest eroding coastline in Europe, losing 2 metres every year. The soft cliffs had supported villages and communities that have been swallowed by the tides. Elegiac, but never less than lovely, the track inhabits the slightly mournful quality of the shipping forecast alongside the wyrdfolk otherlysness of all their music.”

Visit the episode’s blog page here and its Mixcloud here, where you are likely to find “the sort of music that has slipped away into the cracks between reality”. Sounds good to me.

Dave Thompson reviewed the album at his Spincycle column, which can be found at Goldmine magazine’s site:

“The collection conjures its own memories – a landlocked version of Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titanic, perhaps.  Each track unfolds like a snatch of soundtrack to a documentary that ought to be made; each one conveys a sense of the desolation it honors, whether at the moment of its destruction, or at some point on either side.  Even those tracks that reach more for the feel of the theme, as opposed to the mood of a specific place, cannot help but touch the walls, or trace the ghosts, of these forgotten places.  And remind us that maybe they’re not as quiet as people think.”

The Quietened Village is a study of and reflection on lost, disappeared and once were villages and hamlets that have wandered off the maps or that have become shells of their former lives and times.

The album features music and accompanying text on the tracks by The Straw Bear Band, Field Lines Cartographer, The Heartwood Institute, Howlround, The Rowan Amber Mill, Polypores, Pulselovers, The Soulless Party, Time Attendant, A Year In The Country, Sproatly Smith and Cosmic Neighbourhood.

More details on it can be found here.


As always a tip of the hat and thanks to all concerned.


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Michael Radford’s 1984 Part 1 – The Privations of an Alternative Past, Present and Future, V for Vendetta and the Last Inch: Wanderings 19/52

From what I remember George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 was big news in the year 1984 and was featured in the press etc a fair bit. I think I read it for the first time then – and while I was probably reading it as part of a way of feeling grown up and sophisticated I expect I took it more as a grim piece of science fiction/fantasy rather than as a work of political and social comment.

Originally published in 1949 and set in 1984 it features protagonist Winston Smith who lives in Great Britain, now renamed Airstrip One and which has become a province of a superstate called Oceania. This state is ruled in a totalitarian manner by the “Party”, headed by its possibly imaginary figurehead Big Brother. The Party has created a highly stratified society in which individualism and independent thinking are persecuted, sex may only be used for reproduction, historical revisionism is rife and institutionalised and many of its “citizens” are kept in a state of austere poverty and subject to constant surveillance. Smith appears to be a diligent and skillful worker but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion again Big Brother, which he carries out through writing subversive thoughts in a secret diary hidden out of view of the telescreens and entering into a forbidden intimate relationship with a fellow employee Julia.

The book has become iconic and a number of its terms and phrases such as Big Brother (the oppressive all-seeing leader), Room 101 (the place where your worst fears are realised) and Newspeak (a restricted form of language created by the Party in order to limit freedom of thought) have become part of common usage.

Part of the focus on the novel in the year 1984 included the release of a cinema adaptation written and directed by Michael Radford, which is said to have been filmed in and around London at the time in which Orwell imagined the story to be set.

It creates an atemporal parallel world vision of Britain which is in parts a pre-steampunk retro-future and although set in 1984 stylistically it seems to hark back more to an alternate take on the 1930s, possibly the 1940s and also combines elements of the imagery, grandiosity and self-regard of German and Russian design from that period.

In this version of the world society and people’s homes are observed by two-way telescreens, while at Winston’s place of work information is accessed from and written to data systems which are operated via traditional rotary dial phones and delivered by both screen and physically via a pneumatic tube system. There are further elements which show a mixing of different levels of technological development; floating fortresses are mentioned, the state utilises rickety and old-fashioned looking helicopters in its surveillance, rockets are used in conflicts but steam trains are also still in use.

The palette of the film has a desaturated look due to the use by cinematographer Roger Deakin’s use of a film processing technique called bleach bypass, which creates a worn and browbeaten atmosphere to the film. Accompanying which the city in which Winston lives is shown as a crumbling, rubble strewn landscape, which now seems so cinematically familiar that despite the totalitarian strictures of life as a setting it is, at least initially, almost comforting. It is only when he is arrested for subversive activities and thoughts (the “sexcrime” of his relationship with Julia, his “thoughtcrime” via his diary and reading of banned political literature) that the true horror of the society which the Party has created becomes apparent.

(The rubble strewn and run down cityscapes of 1984 could also be connected to contemporary British at the time of the films making in that they could be seen as a reflection of industrial decline and what some have considered to be the Conservative government’s attack on or even destruction of more traditional industries, coal mining etc and their connected communities; something which is also reflected in a possible interpretation of nuclear apocalypse television drama Threads which was released in the same year as 1984.)

Once captured Winston is tortured and brainwashed in a manner which is vividly, brutally and grimly, albeit not exploitatively, realised and which is physically hard to watch and that can stay with and haunts the viewer for weeks afterwards. While earlier in the film it could be watched on a more purely entertainment orientated level, at this point it is apparent that this is film and story which is a far remove from merely escapist cinema. It becomes a depiction of the potential realities of the methods of totalitarian dictatorships and man’s ability to behave inhumanely in pursuit of belief systems.

In the film (and the novel) Winston rents a room above a shop from its seemingly open-minded proprietor and meets his lover Julia there. They have a brief few months of secret liaisons, freedom and physical intimacy before their arrest, torture and brainwashing. The style and utilitarian nature of the room in the film brings to mind austere historical images of 1930s-1950s working class Britain and in this sense along with it being the setting for a love and intimacy which society has deemed forbidden it could be seen as connected to fictional period depictions of hidden and persecuted same-sex lovers such as in Neil Bartlett’s novel Mr Clive and Mr Page (1996) in which a couple must meet behind closed doors due to society’s disapproval and even criminalisation of their actions and feelings.

It could also be connected to the heartbreaking and evocative “Valerie’s Letter” section of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta comic book series (1982-1989) in which, as in 1984, a totalitarian government rules a bleak and austere future Britain which seems to contain elements of both the present, past and future.

(Above: a cover from the DC Comics’ releases which republished/completed V for Vendetta and a merchandise page from it’s original publication in Quality’s Warrior comic anthology – including David J of Bauhaus’ soundtrack, which in 2019 has been rereleased in a new expanded vinyl edition by Glass Modern.)

“Valerie’s Letter” is an autobiographical note which is found by a prisoner of the state in her cell and which tells of an actresses experiences and struggles and the happiness she finds with her same-sex lover Ruth. It goes on to tell about how “after the war” they began to round-up various minority groups, with Ruth being taken and tortured into giving Valerie’s name and signing a statement saying she had seduced Ruth.

In the note Valerie talks of how integrity is the very last inch of us but “within that inch we are free”, that her lover took her own life as she couldn’t live with betraying her and “giving up that last inch”. She goes on to say that she knows she will die during her imprisonment and that every inch of her will perish except this final inch – i.e. her integrity, belief and love.

While Valerie’s letter is fatalistic, its belief in the strength of this last inch leaves the reader with a sense of hope and resistance in the face of oppression. However 1984’s system of control is ultimately shown as bleakly omnipotent in this sense; prior to their capture WInston and Julia talk of how the Party cannot take away their love for one another but when Winston is subjected to a psychological torture based around his worst fear (rats in his case) he betrays her and that final inch is taken away.

In the film’s final scenes Winston is shown sat on his own in a cafe reserved for condemned traitors, where they sit out their final days in a form of aimless leisure time. Behind him on a telescreen plays footage of him denouncing himself and his crimes; he is at a sort of subdued or even sedated peace but he has had his spirit broken by the Party and there is a sense now that he truly loves and supports Big Brother.

Michael Radford’s version of 1984 has a convincing cinematic quality which can sometimes be lacking in British produced non-realist film and television which, as I have mentioned at A Year In The Country before, can sometimes retain a certain clunky Children’s Film Foundation-esque almost amateurism to it, particularly in comparison to other countries’ output (although admittedly that aspect can also be part of its appeal).

1984 is not necessarily an easy viewing experience, although it has in part a certain almost ravishingly beautiful aspect to its imagery and design, which at times curiously seems to reflect and connect to the aesthetics of 1980’s pop music promotional videos…

…more on which in Part 2 (which, depending on when you’re reading this, may still be in “Coming Soon” status).



  1. The trailer for Michael Radford’s adaptation of 1984
  2. The 1984 DVD
  3. The 1984 Premium Collection Blu-ray
  4. George Orwell’s 1984
  5. Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta
  6. Neil Bartlett’s Mr Clive and Mr Page
  7. David J’s V for Vendetta Grande Edition reissue by Glass Modern

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Michael Radford’s 1984 Part 2 – Pop Music Controversies and Pastoral Escape/Non-Escape: Wanderings 20/52 (which as just mentioned, depending on when you’re reading this, may still be in “Coming Soon” status)


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The Shildam Hall Tapes – Audio Visual Archive 18/52

Features work by Gavino Morretti, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Circle/Temple, A Year In The Country, The Heartwood Institute, David Colohan, Listening Centre and Pulselovers.

“Reflections on an imaginary film.”

In the late 1960s a film crew began work on a well-funded feature film in a country mansion, having been granted permission by the young heir of the estate.

Amidst rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults.

Few of the cast or crew have spoken about events since and any reports from then seem to contradict one another and vary wildly in terms of what actually happened on the set.

A large number of those involved, including a number of industry figures who at the time were considered to have bright futures, simply seemed to disappear or step aside from the film industry following the film’s collapse, their careers seemingly derailed or cast adrift by their experiences.

Little is known of the film’s plot but several unedited sections of the film and its soundtrack have surfaced, found amongst old filmstock sold as a job lot at auction – although how they came to be there is unknown.

The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld.

The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was.

(Quoted from text which accompanies the album.)


“Vic Mars contributes a woozy neoclassical dream sequence interspersed with snippets of vintage-style electronica; very lovely and totally in keeping with the album’s theme… The Heartwood Institute provide a foreboding piece of cinematic incidental music, its chilling and haunting atmosphere perfectly illustrating a seance taking part on the grounds of Shildam Hall… an engaging collection of dark, ethereal and psychedelic experimental sounds.” Kim Harten writing at Bliss Aquamarine


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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Reflections on Brutalism Part 5 – A Curious Collector’s Piece and a Return to Acts of Enclosure: Wanderings 18/52

Part 5 of a set of posts which explore various aspects and offshoots of Brutalist architecture. (Visit Part 1 herePart 2 herePart 3 here and Part 4 here.)

One of the starting points of this set of posts was Peter Chadwick’s book This Brutal World, which is a collection of the photographs he has taken of Brutalist architecture, with some of the structures it features having an abstract, experimental and otherworldly quality.

The copy of This Brutal World which I read had a clipping from a newspaper in it, that reported on how the Victoria and Albert Museum (a prestigious cultural museum in London) had acquired the interior and exterior of a maisonette from the Brutalist designed Robin Hood Gardens council estate, which was due for demolition. In the article representatives of the Museum speak of both the acquisition’s place in highly experimental British architectural and urban history and also that they would not airbrush out the controversies and problems with the estate, which was notorious for being poorly maintained and ravaged by crime.

The article ends with:

An attempt to have the estate listed in 2009 was knocked back when English Heritage said it ‘fails as a place for human beings to live’”.

While such a view may to some degree be considered subjective, it is also something of a damning indictment on this particular architectural “experiment” and also possibly similar failed social housing projects elsewhere. As referred to in earlier posts, whether that failure is due to poor maintenance, social dysfunction and/or inherent faults with the buildings is debatable but ultimately if they have not functioned correctly and provided its inhabitants with a reasonable quality of life then that debate becomes a moot point.

In the clipping it is also observed how once derided Brutalist housing such as Trellick Tower in London has now become highly desirable and expensive. It is questionable whether their now sought-after nature is due to their design and/or as a result of a shortage of available real estate, alongside the increasing perceived fashionable desirability and interlinked market value of such properties. With societal and property value changes buildings such as Trellick Tower have come to occupy locations which today would be considered too expensive for social housing

Such previously outrightly socially owned housing originated in a time when city centres were not as socially delineated in terms of who could live there and also from a period in time when many of the areas in which it was built were not as appealing to those who were more financially affluent. Indeed at times such areas were considered rough, down-at-heel or lower-class enclaves.

Due to right-to-buy scheme which gained pace in the 1980s, whereby social housing tenants in the UK could buy their homes at discounted rates, a considerable percentage of housing which was created with socially progressive intentions utilising public money has become private property. Which is one aspect of governmental policy which has led to a shortage of housing, particularly social housing, ever-increasing housing costs and the exclusion of certain social and economic strata from city centres.

It has also resulted in the slightly absurd spectacle of people paying £400,000+ for a one bedroom flat in Trellick Tower and formerly social housing being made available on the private rental market for highly inflated rents.

Brutalist architecture has been associated with a hauntological sense of lost progressive futures; the transfer of affordable social housing stock to the private sector within city areas is  a very physical representation of such loss.

Which brings me to modern day acts of enclosure/exclusion from the land and also an earlier starting point for this set of posts – Rob Young’s book Electric Eden:

“(In terms of what Rob Young presents as music and culture of a utopian or visionary nature that draws from the land and folk culture) he has discussed the connection between such areas of work and culture and how there is a connection to historic acts of land enclosure and clearance; the way in which from around 1760 onwards common land was put into private ownership by government Inclosure Acts, forcing agricultural workers towards the newly expanding cities and factories and how this displacement could be one of the roots of the British empathy with the countryside, with relics such as songs or texts from the world before this change having come to be revered as they seem to represent or connect to a pre-industrial “Fall” golden age.

“It could be said that Inclosure Acts are not a purely historical practice. In recent years a proportion of the population have found themselves increasingly priced out of certain areas of the country; the cost of putting a roof over your head (in terms of the ever upward path of rental and property prices), of keeping the lights on and the wolves from the door seems to quietly, gradually be removing a certain less material wealth funded or directed way of life out of the cities and in particular the city centres and the capital city of Britain.

“This could be considered to be a form of enclosure: a more subtly enacted mirror image of the earlier 18th century version.

“In recent times this has happened in part through decisions to not take particular actions as well as the ending of acts of Parliamentary regulation (removing or refusing to implement statutory rent control or regulation for example), as opposed to creating new legislation, with the result that the “common people” are being removed from the inner cities rather than forced into them.” (Quoted from the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.)

As mentioned in Part 1 of these posts, Brutalist architecture often had utopian, socially progressive roots and This Brutal World includes the following quote from journalist Owen Hatherley:

Brutalist architecture was a political aesthetic, an attitude, a weapon, dedicated to the precept that nothing was too good for ordinary people.

Perhaps rather than a sense of “nothing was too good for ordinary people” being focused on purely architectural design, in previous less monetaristic times it also involved more equal and less financial/social strictures in terms of geographical access and the actual physical locations of social and other housing.



  1. This Brutal World
  2. This Brutal World at Phaidon publishers
  3. Peter Chadwick’s This Brutal House site
  4. Paul Virilio’s Bunker Archaeology
  5. The Electric Eden website
  6. The Electric Eden book


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Reflections on Brutalism Part 1 – This Brutal World and a Study of The Shape of the Futures Past: Wanderings 14/52
  2. Reflections on Brutalism Part 2 – This Brutal World, Industrial Inspirations for Blade Runner, Memories of the Space Age and the Future Takes a Tumble: Wanderings 15/52
  3. Reflections on Brutalism Part 3 – J. G. Ballard and Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise and All Mod Con Dystopias: Wanderings 16/52
  4. Reflections on Brutalism Part 3 – J. G. Ballard and Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise and All Mod Con Dystopias: Wanderings 16/52
  5. Reflections on Brutalism Part 4 – A Return to the Experimentations and Aesthetics of This Brutal World and Paul Virilio’s Bunker Archaeology: Wanderings 17/52
  6. The A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book
  7. Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New: Chapter 1 Book Images
  8. Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music



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Audio Albion – Audio Visual Archive 17/52

Features work by Bare Bones, David Colohan, Grey Frequency, Field Lines Cartographer, Howlround, A Year In The Country, Keith Seatman, Magpahi, Sproatly Smith, Widow’s Weeds, Time Attendant, Spaceship, Pulselovers, The Heartwood Institute and Vic Mars.

Audio Albion is a music and field recording map of Britain, which focuses on rural and edgeland areas.

Each track contains field recordings from locations throughout the land and is accompanied by notes on the recordings by the contributors.

The tracks record the sounds found and heard when wandering down pathways, over fields, through marshes, alongside rivers, down into caves and caverns, climbing hills, along coastlands, through remote mountain forestland, amongst the faded signs of industry and infrastructure and its discarded debris.

Intertwined with the literal recording of locations, the album explores the history, myths and beliefs of the places, their atmospheres and undercurrents, personal and cultural connections – the layered stories that lie amongst, alongside and beneath the earth, plants and wildlife.

(Quoted from text which accompanies the album.)

“…’music and field recording map of Britain’ featuring 15 tracks that incorporate found sounds from rural walks, semi-industrial ‘edgeland’ and liminal spaces between this world and the next… The compositions often suggest unseen images and unrevealed narrative…” Ben Graham in Shindig! magazine, issue 79


Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


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The Watchers – Album Preorder and Release Dates

Preorder 14th May 2019. Released 7th June 2019.

Amongst Britain’s trees there are thought to be over 3,000 ancient oaks – those which date back 400 years or more – and of those trees more than 115 are 800 to 1,000 years old or more. They are part of a tree population that also includes ash trees that have lived for hundreds of years and a yew that is estimated to be between 2000-3000 years old or possibly many thousands of years older and that some consider to be the oldest living thing in Europe.

These are living organisms which could be seen to be undertaking a very stately, still form of time travel, to be watchers and observers over the passing of the years, centuries and even millennia.

Some of them have lived through invasions of their island home undertaken by wooden ships, sword and arrow, the final days and passing of the old ways and the times of magic and witchcraft, the coming of the industrial revolution and the dawning of the digital era.

Throughout it all they have stood by and watched the endeavours of humans and the encroaching of their lands as the tales passed through traditional folklore evolved into the sometimes dizzying swathes of today’s cultural landscape, with these “mighty oaks” and their companions now coming to be living amongst the invisible hubbub of modern day wirelessly transmitted communications.

The numbers of these longstanding inhabitants of this once largely green and unpaved land have dwindled due to the march of progress but a few stalwartly continue their journeys through time. The Watchers reflects on those journeys and these ancient trees’ residing over growing layers of history.


Features music and accompanying text on the tracks by:
Grey Frequency
Field Lines Cartographer
Widow’s Weeds ft Kitchen Cynics (The Hare And The Moon)
A Year In The Country
Phonofiction (Dom Cooper / The Straw Bear Band / David Hood)
Sproatly Smith
Vic Mars
The Heartwood Institute


Will be available at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp page.