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The Prisoner Part 2 – Ongoing Battles and a Circle of Escape: Wanderings 34/52

Part 2 of a post on The Prisoner television series (visit Part 1 here), which tells of a secret agent who resigns, is abducted and incarcerated in a superficially pleasant isolated village, given the denomination No. 6 and does repeated battle with the authorities/his superiors who use complex and often convoluted methods to try and have him tell them why he resigned.

Throughout the series No. 6 battles with his interrogators – who as mentioned previously were a series of different No. 2s – and repeatedly asks and tries to find out who No. 1 is – i.e. who is ultimately in charge of The Village. In the final episode No. 6 rips a mask off who he thinks is No. 1 and the viewer is very briefly shown a glimpse of a face that appears to be his or at least a mirror of his No. 6’s. This was decidedly not the “resolving of the puzzle” reveal apparently expected by much of the audience and many may have missed even that it was No. 6’s own face as the face is distorted and only seen for a few seconds; apparently as result Patrick McGoohan had to go into hiding for a few days after the episode’s broadcast due to disgruntled viewers besieging his home.

Such details and the layered history of the series’ production is part of what has helped to create and maintain its ongoing cult following and fascination, something which it shares with that other cult British behemoth The Wicker Man (1973), which has had a notoriously chequered production and release history.

Accompanying which the series is open to almost endless debate, particularly due to it not providing a neatly resolved explanation as to just what had been going on and why, alongside Patrick McGoohan being often reluctant to discuss The Prisoner.

(Above left: the Dinky Toys released version of the Mini-Moke as featured in The Prisoner, which was released in the 1960s and reflecting both its rarity and the ongoing interest in The Prisoner that now tends to fetch hundreds of pounds online.)

One of the first times that he did was when he agreed to a series of interviews with Chris Rodley in 1983 which were intended to be used in a documentary called Six Into One – The Prisoner File which would have been shown on British television. These interviews were plagued by technical difficulties and Patrick McGoohan, despite agreeing to them, was a rather reticent and elusive interviewee and they and would largely be left unused in the documentary, which Patrick McGoohan disowned and apparently particularly disliked – as did Chris Rodley.

However sections of them would appear in Chris Rodley’s feature documentary In My Mind (2017), in which he explores the making of Six Into One and which he describes as:

“…a rare opportunity to try and put things right. The chance to make a new film, the film Patrick McGoohan deserves.”

The resulting documentary is a fascinating and heartfelt insight into the way in which Chris Rodley attempts to put to rest the ghosts that appear to have haunted him since his first attempt at a Prisoner related documentary proved unsatisfactory, The Prisoner in general and also Patrick McGoohan’s character and motivations in making the series.

One of the No. 2’s who attempts to break and interrogate No. 6 in the series says of him “He can make even the act of putting on his dressing gown appear a gesture of defiance” and this sense of rebellion about almost everything is a core feature of The Prisoner, something which seems to be reflected in the character of Patrick McGowan as shown during In My Mind when he seems to angrily resent even the act of needing to sign in when entering a studio for an interview and his daughter says during the documentary that as No. 6 he was not playing a part.

This is further reflected in In My Mind when McGoohan says that the general themes of The Prisoner had been with him for years, since he was a young boy when he was brought up in a very strict religious household and gone to a school with strict schoolmasters, something which he describes as “the individual little boy up against this sort of pressure” and the sense of isolation that can be felt in such a situation. He goes on to say that this is what the theme of The Prisoner is; the individual in revolt against the bureaucracy.

To a degree period footage of In My Mind shows him to be, as is his character in The Prisoner, a person of unbending will, who needs things to be just so. An “awkward” character in some ways – Lew Grade who commissioned the series is shown saying the following during In My Mind:

“Somebody once asked me ‘How do you get on with Patrick McGoohan?’. I said very easily, I have no problems with him at all. ‘Well how do you do it?’. I said very easily, I just give in to him.”

The nature and production of The Prisoner also in one way reflects that of Sapphire & Steel (1979-1982) in that it created its own unique visionary world within conventional mainstream cinema and did not provide an easy or resolved ending for its viewers. And also both its creator Peter J. Hammond and Patrick McGoohan would not go on to produce another similarly auteur like very distinctive project, although intriguingly when talking in In Your Mind McGoohan says that its concept is still rattling around in his mind.

His reluctance to talk about The Prisoner is explained by his daughter during In My Mind as being in part connected to its deliberately unresolved nature and her father wanting to leave work open to individual interpretation – that he did not wish to explain too much about its meaning nor did he believe in actors giving away their secrets. At the end of the interviews recorded for Six Into One he says that if his interviewees have understood any of it, it will be disappointing as he’s done the best to confuse them.

He also talks about The Prisoner’s connection to fairy tales:

“Of course I always loved fairy tales… I imagine most of us do, we like the fantasy, our myths, our legends, our belief that the impossible is possible – that anything can happen within the mind… (The Prisoner) had something of a fairytale about it.”

The ornate setting of Portmeirion as the series’ shooting location does indeed create an almost fairytale like aspect to The Prisoner but as with many fairy tales darkness and corruption lurk just under the surface (or not even that far) and Patrick McGoohan says in a further interview section also shown during In Your Mind that he always felt The Prisoner was designed for 1984 and so it was ironic that it was being broadcast again at the tail end of 1983.

1984 was the year chosen by George Orwell as the name of his iconic dystopian novel of the same name that was published in 1949, with 1984 depicted as being characterised by an unrelenting surveillance of the population combined with an unbending repression, control and authoritarianism.

These aspects are shared with the nature of The Village in The Prisoner, although in contrast with the grim austere urban society depicted in 1984 its inhabitants are in some ways nearer to being well-kept pampered pets within a superficially pleasant location but this conformist facade proves to be one of the ultimate fictional expressions of “the village gone bad”.

In fact the control and surveillance in The Prisoner while not always as overtly brutally applied as in 1984 is in some ways more invidious as even in their sleep The Village’s inhabitants may be having their dreams surveilled and being   subject to brainwashing and mind altering processes.

Ultimately the events in The Prisoner are shown as possibly being all part of some ongoing circle, as in its final shot there is a thunderclap and No. 6 is shown driving away on an open country road with a determined look in his eyes, repeating and mirroring the series’ opening sequence.

While this is not strictly a happy ending then it is at least one which shows that the unbending individual will eventually be free or hopefully have further moments of or a chance at freedom.

Elsewhere:

  1. The Prisoner opening sequence
  2. The Prisoner at 50 / trailer
  3. Portmeirion
  4. The Prisoner: 50th Anniversary Edition
  5. In Every Mind at Network’s site
  6. An In Every Mind review at The Unmutual – The Prisoner News Website
  7. The paperback of George Orwell’s 1984

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. The Prisoner – Part 1 – A Visit to a Real Life High-Definition Dream: Wanderings 33/52
  2. The Wicker Man – Notes on a Cultural Behemoth: Chapter 10 Book Images
  3. Sapphire & Steel and Ghosts in the Machine – Nowhere, Forever and Lost Spaces within Cultural Circuitry: Chapter 15 Book Images
  4. 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
  5. Michael Radford’s 1984 Part 2 – Pop Music Controversies and Pastoral Escape/Non-Escape: Wanderings 20/52

 

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Echoes And Reverberations – Released

Released today 16th August 2019.

CD and download available to order at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp page.

Echoes And Reverberations is a field recording based mapping of real and imaginary film and television locations.

It is in part an exploration of their fictional counterparts’ themes; from apocalyptic tales to never-were documentaries and phantasmagorical government-commissioned instructional films via stories of conflicting mystical forces of the past and present, scientific experiments gone wrong and unleashed on the world, the discovery of buried ancient objects and the reawakening of their malignant alien influence, progressive struggles in a world of hidebound rural tradition and the once optimism of post-war new town modernism.

The album is also a reflection on the way in which areas – whether rural, urban, or edgeland – can become permeated with such tales and undercurrents, creating a landscape of the imagination where fact and fiction intertwine. The resulting layering may at times create ongoing echoes and reverberations which personally, culturally and possibly literally leave their marks on the history and atmospheres of places, with these locations becoming a source of inspiration and cultural pilgrimage.

Each track contains field recordings from one such journey and their seeking of the spectral will-o’-the-wisps of locations’ imagined or often hidden flipsides.

Features music and accompanying text on the tracks by Grey Frequency, Pulselovers, Dom Cooper, Listening Center, Howlround, A Year In The Country, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Depatterning and The Heartwood Institute.


 

Dawn Rising Edition. Limited to 208 copies. £11.95.
Hand-finished white/black CD album in textured recycled fold-out sleeve with fold-out text insert, print, sticker and badge. Limited edition of 208.

Top of CD.                                                                     Underneath of CD.

Further packaging details:
1) Custom printed by A Year In The Country using archival giclée pigment ink.
2) Includes badge, secured with removable glue on string bound tag.
3) Folded sheet of accompanying notes on textured laid paper, hand numbered on back.
4) Print on cotton rag textured fine art paper.
5) Round vinyl-style sticker.

Tracklisting:
1) Grey Frequency: King Penda
2) Pulselovers: The Edge Of The Cloud
3) Dom Cooper: What Has Been Uncovered Is Evil
4) Listening Center: From Bull Island To Avondale
5) Howlround: Smashing
6) A Year In The Country: Not A Playground
7) Sproatly Smith: Gone Away
8) Field Lines Cartographer: Mr Scarecrow
9) Depatterning: The Ogham Stones
10) The Heartwood Institute: Ribble Head Viaduct

“A series of songs inspired by (and featuring field recordings from) film and TV locations, some iconic, some imaginary. It’s an endlessly compelling idea, the way that landscapes can become imprinted with the fictions we bring to bear on them. These tracks seek to channel that feeling, audio Polaroids of a secret cartography, and taken as a whole, this is probably the most successful AYITC album yet… The pulsing drone of Grey Frequency’s ‘King Penda’ is like the breathing of something monstrous, gradually overwhelming the cold synth arpeggio in the foreground. Dom Cooper’s ‘What Has Been Uncovered Is Evil’ similarly hints at arcane technology waiting to be activated. Conversely, the distant piano and violin of Pulselovers’ ‘The Edge Of The Cloud’ is rather lovely, and Sproatly Smith’s ‘Gone Away is a gentle lullaby for post-dystopian dreams.” Joe Banks, Shindig!

“Every fresh listen adds another layer of understanding – or, perhaps, misunderstanding – to the experience, to conjure fresh and further phantoms…” Dave Thompson, Goldmine

 

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The Restless Field: Audio Visual Archive 33/52

Artwork from The Restless Field.

 

The Restless Field is a study of the land as a place of conflict and protest as well as beauty and escape; an exploration and acknowledgment of the history and possibility of protest, resistance and struggle in the landscape/rural areas, in contrast with sometimes more often referred to urban events.

It takes inspiration from flashpoints in history while also interweaving personal and societal myth, memory, the lost and hidden tales of the land.

References and starting points include: The British Miners Strike of 1984 and the Battle Of Orgreave. Gerrard Winstanley & the Diggers/True Levellers in the 17th century. The first battle of the English Civil War in 1642. The burying of The Rotherwas Ribbon. The Mass Tresspass of Kinder Scout in 1932. Graveney Marsh/the last battle fought on English soil. The Congested Districts Board/the 19th century land war in Ireland. The Battle Of The Beanfield in 1985.

(From text which accompanies the album.)

 

Includes work by Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Bare Bones, Assembled Minds, Grey Frequency, Endurance, Listening Center, Pulselovers, Sproatly Smith, Polypores, Depatterning, Time Attendant, A Year In The Country and David Colohan.

 

“The Restless Field is something quite special, a concept album that shows its references but lets you do the thinking. We Are Cult highly recommend spending a little time in the long grass with it.” (Martin Ruddock writing at We Are Cult)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Artifact Report #18/52a: The Restless Field Released
  2. Artifact Report #14/52a: The Restless Field at Simon Reynold’s blissblog and the sunday experience
  3. Artifact Report #16/52a: The Restless Field at Flatland Frequencies, Syndae and whisperandhollerin
  4. Artifact Report #17/52a: The Restless Field at Sunrise Ocean Bender and John Coulthart’s Feuilleton
  5. Artifact Report #19/52a: The Restless Field Transmissions and Reviews
  6. Artifact Reports #36/52a: The Restless Field: A Return Visit – Further Reviews and Transmissions

 

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The Prisoner Part 1 – A Visit to a Real Life High-Definition Dream: Wanderings 33/52

The Prisoner television series (1967-1968) involves a secret agent who resigns and is than abducted and incarcerated in an isolated village, given the denomination No. 6 and repeatedly battles with his superiors who attempt to find out why he resigned and it has become one of the ultimate and most iconic of all cult television programmes.

Much of the series was filmed in Portmeirion, which is a tourist village in North Wales designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village. In some ways the whole of Portmeirion could be seen as almost being a folly on a grand scale (although it is used extensively by visiters, holidaymakers, festival goers and Prisoner devotees) and it has a grandly envisioned and unique, borderline surreal ornate character.

I first became aware of The Prisoner in the mid-1980s when it was re-broadcast by Channel 4 on British television and it was probably one of my early exposures to cult film and television; I am not sure that I fully understood it at the time but I found myself very drawn to and fascinated by it.

When I first saw the series it was on a small black and white television set, while I think the first time I saw sections of it and Portmeirion in colour was in a 1987 episode of the Channel 4 music programme The Tube called The Laughing Prisoner, which was a “Prisoner” special filmed in Portmeirion. This was based around a premise which mirrored The Prisoner series in that one of The Tube’s presenters resigns from Channel 4 and is also abducted into The Village and the show featured clips from The Prisoner alongside music performances by Magnum, XTC and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Probably because of the above way in which I first saw The Prisoner, although I subsequently saw the series in full and colour, when many years later I visited Portmeirion in part it seemed initially as though I was visiting the set of The Laughing Prisoner as much as the actual series.

In a way it was something of a shock to actually be there in reality; part of my mind still expected Portmeirion to be a mirage of the imagination. Also the fully fleshed-out reality of the place and that it consisted of fully functional buildings etc was a little unexpected – it made me think of author William Gibson saying about when he first visited the set of the film based on his short story Johnny Mnemonic (1981) and how he has spoken about that he did not expect it to be realised in such high-resolution (i.e. attention to convincing detail etc). In a way part of me expected Portmeirion to be just set like facades that could easily be tilted over, as some of the characters prove to be in the Western set episode of The Prisoner “Living in Harmony”.

At one point during my visit I wandered through the forest-like area next to the main village and eventually came upon a near deserted estuary beach bordered by cliffs, a place of great and striking beauty. Looking back in some ways this felt like the most Prisoner-esque section of Portmeirion and conjured visions of No. 6 desperately and repeatedly attempting to flee and escape The Village’s confines via the beach before being captured by Rover (an entity from the series depicted as a large floating white balloon which would be summoned to chase down those where trying to escape).

The Prisoner was co-created (or possibly solely created, according to some views) and also partly written and directed by its star Patrick McGoohan, Prior to this he had been the star of more conventional secret agent series called Danger Man (1960-1968), which to a degree The Prisoner could be seen as a more left-field continuation of.

The non-conventional nature of The Prisoner and in particular the final episode is said to have caused some confusion and even anger amongst its audiences. However, watched today some of the episodes appear to be reasonably conventional albeit cleverly and twisting-turningly plotted dramas; although it is difficult to know if this is because the series proved somewhat influential and future programmes have taken on board elements of the series and also it is not easy for the viewer to place themselves in the mindset of the 1960’s audience encountering it for the first time and who were expecting more conventional television fare.

By the end of the series, particularly the penultimate and final episodes, named Once Upon a Time and Fall Out respectively, The Prisoner has wandered far off well-worn and expected tracks and another of its core themes – the conformity of the individual and subservience of their needs to society’s – are very much highlighted.

Once Upon a Time continues one of the core themes of the series; the authorities employing a wide array of complex, layered and at times scientifically advanced techniques in order to get information out of No. 6 about why he resigned. They seem to not want to “damage” him by using more conventional heavy-handed interrogation techniques, although the mental stress some of their repeated efforts may have put him under could well have psychically damaged anybody without nerves of steel. By this episode they seem to have finally lost patience and No. 6’s interrogator, No. 2 – one of a series of people all with the same denomination tasked with getting information from No. 6 – asks to undertake a dangerous technique called “Degree Absolute”, which will involve a battle of wills literally to the death.

In this episode No. 6 is put into a trance state that causes his mind to regress back to childhood. He is then taken to the underground “Embryo Room” where the episode largely takes place, which is depicted as a largely blank black enclosed and dreamlike space filled only with various often childhood orientated props and a fake living room and kitchen.

No. 2 lectures and derides No. 6 about his non-conformist tendencies:

“Society is a place where people exist together”, “Yes sir”, “That is civilisation”, “Yes sir”, “The lone wolf belongs to the wilderness”, “Yes sir”, “You must not grow up to be a lone wolf”, “No sir”, “You must conform”, “Yes sir”, “It is my sworn duty to see that you do conform.”, “Yes sir”.

In the final episode the authorities’ comments on non-conformity seem to mirror some similar real-world views of later 1960s youth rebellion:

“Youth… it may wear flowers in its hair, bells on its toes… but when the common good is threatened, when the function of society is endangered, such revolts must cease. They are non-productive and must be abolished.”

This is also connected with No. 6 and others’ behaviour:

“We have just witnessed two forms of rebellion. The first uncoordinated youth rebelling against nothing it can define. The second an established, successful, secure member of the establishment, living upon and biting the hand that feeds him… Well, these attitudes are dangerous. They contribute nothing to our culture and are to be stamped out.”

The final episode was written and directed by Patrick McGoohan and according to some sources needed to be written in just a few days after the series was prematurely cancelled. Whatever the truth of this, there is a sense of “What the heck, we might as well just go for it and do what we like” about the episode and it does not provide a conventional ending with loose ends tied up – if anything it creates more than existed before…

To be continued in Part 2 (which, depending on when you are reading this, may not yet be online)…

 

Elsewhere:

  1. The Prisoner opening sequence
  2. The Prisoner at 50 / trailer
  3. Portmeirion
  4. The Prisoner: 50th Anniversary Edition

 

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The Marks Upon The Land: Audio Visual Archive 32/52

Wraparound cover art for The Marks Upon The Land book – a 60 page book which collects all 104 images that were created during the first spin-around-the-sun of A Year In The Country.

 

The images in the book are part of A Year In The Country’s explorations of an otherly pastoralism, a wandering amongst subculture that draws from the undergrowth of the land – the patterns beneath the plough, pylons and amongst the edgelands.

Those wanderings take in the beauty and escape of rural pastures, intertwined with a search for expressions of an underlying unsettledness to the bucolic countryside dream.

The Marks Upon The Land takes inspiration from and channels the outer reaches of folk culture and the layered spectralities of what has come to be known as hauntology, alongside memories of childhood countryside idylls spent under the shadow of Cold War end of days paranoia and amongst the dreamscapes of dystopic science fiction tales.

 

“The Marks Upon The Land… converts the bucolically familiar into something more eerie or even sinister, a series of widescreen mutations that create pareidolia spectres through symmetry and layering. Seen in isolation, these images are arresting enough but they gain power by being collected together, fashioning a statement of intent.” (John Coulthart at his Feuilleton site.)

 

Links:

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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Day of the Triffids Part 2 – Post-Apocalyptic Debate / Optimism: Wanderings 32/52

Part 2 of a post on the 1981 television British television adaptation of John Wyndham’s 1951 novel Day of the Triffids (visit Part 1 here), in which:

“…the vast majority of humans are struck blind after watching a night-time cosmic light show/possible meteor shower and they become prey for triffids – large carnivorous plants with the ability to walk and kill which had previously been bred because they produced high quality oil.”

Post the catastrophe in the series as Bill Masen, the main male character, meets some of the few other non-blind people one of the core themes of the series becomes whether to save a few blind people for a while or to take a more pragmatic route that would involve leaving them to their fate while attempting to rebuild society. There appear to be a lot of the non-blind survivors who fairly instantly grasp the role of being dogmatic near dictatorial leaders and to a degree the series becomes an examination of “the will to power” and the asserting of the moral right of differing opinions.

One character, Jack Coker, considers it the sighted’s duty to stay in London and help the blind and uses force to make this happen – hence the just mentioned press ganging of Bill, while another opposing group is described as planning on abandoning all previous morality in its aims:

“They seemed to believe that the human race cannot survive without the complete abolition of morality as we’ve understood it before. That everything should be subservient to the production of children and that whether a child is the product of true love is of no importance at all.”

(According to that viewpoint new-born children have a high value as they will have sight, women are of high importance because they can produce such children and both men and blind people are not as important or needed in as large numbers as women because one man could effectively help procreate children with a number of women.)

Eventually as the harsh realities of this new world sink in Coker realises that “Good intentions aren’t enough any more” but he does not fully abandon his principles and seeks out and joins a realistic but more progressive group of people who plan on creating a new and better society, beginning on the Isle of Wight, which due to being an island has been easier to clear and defend from triffids.

This more progressive society is in contrast to a proposed more militaristic one which attempts to co-opt Bill, his family and companions who have created a safe(ish) enclave out in the country; an imperialist like military commander arrives in an armoured car and effectively offers Bill the post of being the head of a feudal clan. He also proclaims that the seeing children will be taken away to help other areas as, according to his unbending bureaucratic calculations, there is too high a ratio of sighted to unsighted people there. He also declares that the organisation which he represents is planning on becoming the dominant ruling group by the use of force if necessary:

“The word war is an unjustifiable exaggeration. It will simply be a matter of pacifying and administering the tribes that have converted to primitive lawlessness.”

Bill and the others reject this plan and via subterfuge depart for the more progressive community they have been told about by Coker, disabling the armoured car, smashing open the protective fence’s gate when they drive off and leaving the commander and his men to be attacked and presumably killed by triffids. While the commander is smug, self-satisfied, dictatorial and priggish this seems a little harsh, although it may be necessary for Bill et al’s survival and escape.

In the series it is discussed just how complex and difficult the civilised human supply chain is, how difficult it is to feed ourselves or even to get raw food. Connected to which cities, which previously relied on a large-scale infrastructure, almost instantly become only useful as stores for pre-catastrophe society’s materials and equipment, although how long such things will last or be available is debatable. Also the cities become dangerous places as buildings crumble and collapse and nature reclaims the streets (something which is shown in a still impressively convincing manner, as London streets and landmarks are shown covered in greenery).

Bill, his family and companions seem remarkably well-adjusted considering that society has collapsed and they are beset by carnivorous plants – although mental collapse does not seem to be overly depicted in such fictional post-apocalyptic works, possibly because the reality of survivors suffering such collapse and/or say post traumatic stress disorder would not necessarily make for easy plotting.

(A notable exception to this is a section in the 1985 post-apocalyptic film The Quiet Earth, where one of the lead characters for a period embarks on a crazed and destructive binge, although he still returns to normality and stability relatively quickly and easily.)

There is a sense that Bill and the other’s lives in the rural enclave is only maintainable as an isolated unit via foraging materials and equipment from the pre-catastrophe society; their clothes appear factory produced and are not threadbare, they use flamethrowers to destroy triffids, drive fossil fuel powered vehicles, use generators and so forth.

Also the area in which they live, grow food and are shown as keeping a few livestock animals is depicted as being relatively quite small, possibly partly because it needs to be surrounded by an electric fence they have put up to defend against triffids. It is debatable how such a small area could provide enough fresh food for the inhabitants on an ongoing basis, so it is quite possible that they are still supplementing their farming by the foraging of dried and canned goods – which ultimately are likely to be depleted, no longer be edible or not easily transportable through the triffid infested areas outside their enclave once vehicles malfunction and/or the remaining fuel supplies are depleted.

Ultimately the series appears to take quite an optimistic view of human’s survival in such conditions and also seems to show that society will not revert to a pre-modern, more say medieval way of living, as people continue to use and have access to pre-catastrophe vehicles, well maintained homes, equipment etc.

This is in contrast to the post-apocalyptic film Into the Forest (2015), in which ultimately the comforts and shelter of the pre-catastrophe society and the family home literally disintegrate and two sisters decide to abandon their home and return to a more natural way of living.

As in Into the Forest and other post-apocalyptic films such as The Wall/Die Wand (2012), the events which have led to society’s collapse are not fully explained in Day of the Triffids; as mentioned previously the populace become blind due to viewing an apparent meteor shower but why this has the effect it does it not known or told – although it is posited that the meteor shower may have actually been a malfunctioning satellite based weapons system and that society “messed up” by not questioning what its leaders were doing, nor did those leaders tell the populace, in terms of creating weapons systems etc.

Ultimately the Day of the Triffids series ends on a positive note as Bill, his family and companions seem to have achieved a successful escape from the militaristic commander and in the final scene he and his partner say:

“Shall we ever be able to come back?”

“Oh yes we shall. We’ll work and we’ll learn and then we or our children will come back and drive every triffid from this land.”

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Day of The Triffids – Intro Sequence
  2. Day of the Triffids DVD
  3. The Wall trailer
  4. The Wall DVD
  5. Into the Forest trailer
  6. Into The Forest DVD
  7. A preserved and restored triffid at the Prop Gallery site

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day of the Triffids Part 1 – The Farmers Becoming the Hunted: Wanderings 31/52
  2. The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham, Dystopian Tales, Celluloid Cuckoos and the Village as Anything but Idyll: Chapter 29 Book Images
  3. Day #176/365: The changing shadows of the fictions of John Wyndham…
  4. Into the Forest and Post-Apocalyptic Safe Places: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 40/52
  5. Day #13/365. The Wall / Die Wand… a vision from behind the walls of pastoral science fiction…

 

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The Forest / The Wald: Audio Visual Archive 31/52

Print artwork from The Forest / The Wald album.

 

The Forest / The Wald is a study and collection of work that reflects on fragments and echoes of tales from the woodland and its folklore; greenwood rituals performed in the modern day, fantastical childhood rhymes, sylvan siren calls that tremble through tangles of branches, electronics pressed into the summoning of otherworldly arboreal creations unearthed amidst the creeping thickets and elegies to woodland intrustions, solitudes and seasons. (From text which accompanied the album.)

Includes work by Bare Bones, Magpahi, Polypores, Time Attendant, David Colohan, Sproatly Smith, The Hare And The Moon ft Alaska, The Rowan Amber Mill, The Séance with Lutine, Cosmic Neighbourhood and A Year In The Country.

 

“…both The Hare And The Moon featuring Alaska and The Séance featuring Lutine make use of creepy nursery rhyme, shifting ancient ballads into the now via contemporary electronic enhancements, creating dangerous trans-dimensional paradoxes like Sapphire & Steel warned us against.” (Ben Graham, writing at Shindig!)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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Day of the Triffids Part 1 – The Farmers Becoming the Hunted: Wanderings 31/52

The 1981 British television series Day of the Triffids is an adaptation of John Wyndham’s 1951 post-apocalyptic novel, in which the vast majority of humans are struck blind after watching a night-time cosmic light show/possible meteor shower and they become prey for triffids – large carnivorous plants with the ability to walk and kill which had previously been bred because they produced high quality oil.

It is different from much of 1960s and 1970s cult British science fiction and fantasy television that has gained a cult following in that the viewer does not need to “recalibrate” themselves to a different pace of storytelling in order to watch it and appears to be nearer in that sense to contemporary drama (albeit without the more frenetic, almost jump cut pace of some such programmes). In this sense it stands alongside the likes of the final series of Quatermass (1979) and Sapphire & Steel (1979-1982) and watched today the series stands the test of time as intelligent, entertaining and at points terrifying science fiction. Also it is in contrast with some modern television and cinema in that it achieves this without resorting to being out-and-out gratuitously viciously nasty or the heavy use of gore.

The unsettling nature of the series is present from the start; the introductory sequence features heavily colourised/posterised faces set against a blank black background look up at the meteor shower as dread filled choral music plays and suddenly the sting of a triffid strikes a terrified woman. When the triffids later break free and begin hunting humans they do not look perfectly real in a polished contemporary CGI manner but they are still convincing and despite their lumbering quality they invoke a sense of genuine dread. Alongside this the series unsettles via its depiction of just how fragile society is as over night everything changes and immediately crumbles into chaos.

(As an aside the triffids seem possessed of a form of intelligence, despite not having a brain in any animal organ-like sense and they herd their human prey and are even able to observe behaviour and plan their attacks accordingly. This depiction of plant intelligence brings to mind the 2014 documentary The Creeping Garden, in which slime moulds appear to make decisions when seeking food supplies etc, although the organisms shown in that film are not predatory or overtly threatening.)

Bill Masen is the lead male character in Day of the Triffids, a former triffid farmer who has retained his eyesight due to his eyes being bandaged after a triffid attack and so he did not see the meteor shower. The early scenes show him waking in his hospital bed with the bandages still in place and he slowly realises that something is wrong. When he removes his own bandages and steps out into the corridors and then the streets of London the realisation of what has happened begins to hit him; that apparently now nearly everybody in the world is blind and that society has essentially collapsed – the once busy city streets are pictured at times as being eerily quiet apart from a few staggering blind people.

(These earlier sections seem to be a forebear of similar early scenes early in Danny Boyle’s 2002 post-apocalyptic zombie film 28 Days Later, where a courier wakes from a coma alone in a hospital bed after a catastrophic event and when he wanders London’s streets they are both empty and filled with the signs of that catastrophe. In that film eventually the zombies starve once they have exhausted the food supply of uninfected humans, which calls into question what will happen to the triffids once they have hunted and consumed all the more easily obtainable food supply of say their human and domestic pet victims.)

In a number of senses the sighted, while more able to avoid triffid attacks, become both hunters and prey – through finding and using weapons they are able to, if not always hunt, then at least resist the triffids while they also become prey for the blind and those that wish to help them and in one claustrophobic scene a group of blind people surround Bill and his companion’s car and take up a cry of “Get him out. Get him out. We want him.”.

One of the truly overwhelming aspects of the catastrophe is the sense of how few of the blind people Bill will be able to help; when he hands a blind old woman a can opener and a can of beans in the street there is the sense that he is just putting off the inevitable, only really helping her for just another day or so. At one point he is press ganged into helping a group of blind people but he tells them that he is just a drug that you give to somebody to keep them going for a bit but ultimately cannot save them.

Despite its premise the series is not overly or constantly action filled and at times it is nearer to a chamber piece, featuring the characters in a room talking and discussing the situation, problems etc. The series has a strong emotional pull and resonance and some of the most upsetting scenes do not involve the triffids but rather when the blind characters desperately try to convince the sighted to stay with and help them, particularly as ultimately those who can still see can do so little and/or survival imperatives dictate that they must leave.

To be continued in Part 2 (which, depending on when you are reading this, may not be online yet)…

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Day of The Triffids – Intro Sequence
  2. Day of the Triffids DVD

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1.  The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham, Dystopian Tales, Celluloid Cuckoos and the Village as Anything but Idyll: Chapter 29 Book Images
  2. Day #176/365: The changing shadows of the fictions of John Wyndham…

 

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The Quietened Bunker: Audio Visual Archive 30/52

Artwork from The Quietened Bunker album.

 

“The Quietened Bunker is an exploration of the abandoned and/or decommissioned Cold War installations which lie under the land and that would have acted as selectively populated refuges/control centres if the button was ever pushed; a study and reflection on these chimeric bulwarks and the faded but still present memory of associated Cold War dread, of which they are stalwart, mouldering symbols.” (Quoted from text which accompanied the album.)

The album includes work by Keith Seatman, Grey Frequency, A Year In The Country, Panabrite, Polypores, Listening Center, Time Attendant, Unknown Heretic and David Colohan.

 

“A most alluring waltzing orbital sorrowfully sighing in the starry outlands mournfully transmitting crystalline cosmic distress calls from forgotten far off outposts to its long since fallen creator as it observes the heavenly nightlights in states of gracefall dulling, diminishing and disappearing…” (Quoted from a review at The Sunday Experience.)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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Echoes And Reverberations – Preorder

Preorder today 23rd July 2019. Released 16th August 2019.

CD and download available to preorder at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp.

Echoes And Reverberations is a field recording based mapping of real and imaginary film and television locations.

It is in part an exploration of their fictional counterparts’ themes; from apocalyptic tales to never-were documentaries and phantasmagorical government-commissioned instructional films via stories of conflicting mystical forces of the past and present, scientific experiments gone wrong and unleashed on the world, the discovery of buried ancient objects and the reawakening of their malignant alien influence, progressive struggles in a world of hidebound rural tradition and the once optimism of post-war new town modernism.

The album is also a reflection on the way in which areas – whether rural, urban, or edgeland – can become permeated with such tales and undercurrents, creating a landscape of the imagination where fact and fiction intertwine. The resulting layering may at times create ongoing echoes and reverberations which personally, culturally and possibly literally leave their marks on the history and atmospheres of places, with these locations becoming a source of inspiration and cultural pilgrimage.

Each track contains field recordings from one such journey and their seeking of the spectral will-o’-the-wisps of locations’ imagined or often hidden flipsides.

Features music and accompanying text on the tracks by Grey Frequency, Pulselovers, Dom Cooper, Listening Center, Howlround, A Year In The Country, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Depatterning and The Heartwood Institute.


Dawn Rising Edition. Limited to 208 copies. £11.95.
Hand-finished white/black CD album in textured recycled fold-out sleeve with fold-out text insert, print, sticker and badge. Limited edition of 208.

Top of CD.                                                   Underneath of CD.

Further packaging details:
1) Custom printed by A Year In The Country using archival giclée pigment ink.
2) Includes badge, secured with removable glue on string bound tag.
3) Folded sheet of accompanying notes on textured laid paper, hand numbered on back.
4) Print on cotton rag textured fine art paper.
5) Round vinyl-style sticker.

Tracklisting:
1) Grey Frequency: King Penda
2) Pulselovers: The Edge Of The Cloud
3) Dom Cooper: What Has Been Uncovered Is Evil
4) Listening Center: From Bull Island To Avondale
5) Howlround: Smashing
6) A Year In The Country: Not A Playground
7) Sproatly Smith: Gone Away
8) Field Lines Cartographer: Mr Scarecrow
9) Depatterning: The Ogham Stones
10) The Heartwood Institute: Ribble Head Viaduct

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A Very Peculiar Practice and Battles with the Old Guard: Wanderings 30/52

A Very Peculiar Practice is British comedy-drama television series which was broadcast by the BBC in 1986 and 1988 (with a subsequent one-off drama in 1992 called A Very Polish Practice).

The series focus on the medical practice of a fictional university which was built in the 1960s and was once considered to be at the forefront of academia but which is now struggling, in part due to government funding cuts during the 1980s.

The four doctors who make up the medical practice are to a degree archetypes; a pinstripe suit wearing advocate of the free market and private practice – who is also portrayed as not actually being all that bright and/or rather shallow, an older radical liberal who spends his life pickled in alcohol, philosophising about the state of things and talks of the “dark forces” which are bringing about change in the university, a rather manipulative borderline separatist feminist who is also something of a femme fatale and the main character who is new to the practice and appears to be something of an idealist but also a touch wet and at times and ineffectual.

It is the interplay between these four main characters, their different approaches to life, belief systems and how they interact with the changing priorities of the university which is at the core of the series.

The series could be loosely connected to what now appears something of a golden time in British television drama, where it was given space to take risks and provide its audiences with fictional television that was challenging, dealt with sometimes contentious issues and also remembered to entertain; similar series from the period might also include the likes of Troy Kennedy Martin’s Edge of Darkness (1985), Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective (1986) and Alan Bleasdale’s The Monocled Mutineer (1986).

In some ways such work could be seen as flashes of rearguard resistance to a sea-change in society and broadcasting culture and an increasing dominance of more right and free market ways of operating:

“The conditions for this kind of visionary public broadcasting would disappear during the 1980s, as the British media became taken over by what… television auteur Dennis Potter would call the ‘occupying powers’ of neoliberalism.” (Mark Fisher, quoted from his book Ghosts of My Life, 2013).

While A Very Peculiar Practice may not be as overtly boundary pushing as some of the other above mentioned work and is more rooted, at least in part, in comedic entertainment, it still deals quite overtly with and criticises the changes in society’s dominant values.

Throughout the series there is a constant push-pull between a more social and community minded way of doing things and the Vice-Chancellors of the university, who wish to move the university more towards being a more commercial and military research minded institution. In the second series the free market and commercially driven direction of the Vice-Chancellor increases in pace and the first episode opens with a harbinger of dark times ahead with the university grounds being depicted as a rubbish strewn almost post-apocalyptic wasteland. Throughout this second series there is an almost blind religious fervour to the Vice-Chancellor’s championing of the new way of doing things and this causes the conflicts within the university to eventual tip over into outright conflict which involves riot police, student evictions and extreme debt/poverty due to rising rent costs and even accidental and in one case directly related death.

Which may well make the series sound like quite an intense, heavy watch but it is actually very comedic and entertaining, with such elements standing up well today. Having said which to a degree the second series is possibly less “fun” to watch as there is a sense of impending doom present in the depiction of the conflicts in the university, whereas in the first series the previous Vice-Chancellor and his drive towards the market and commerce is portrayed at times in a more farcical way and his efforts often seem to be undone by the university’s old guard.

Curiously the Vice-Chancellor in the second series, who is particularly market orientated, says that the students of the university do not matter as a source of funding and advocates removing them from university life. This aspect of the series has not proven overly prescient as the expansion of higher education in Britain has actually happened in large part due to the increase in student numbers and latterly the fees they pay. Student poverty, once something of a topical issue, does not today appear to be so foregrounded as essentially during UK university life students now have to pay fees but they also have much greater access to loans and so today it is not poverty so much as future debt which is of concern.

In the closing scenes of the final episode of the second series the viewer is shown that the free market value have triumphed and it is no longer a university but a private research establishment geared purely towards military research; the idealistic younger doctor stands outside the fences of his former place of employment and laments how it could have “really been something”.

The setting of the university and its buildings, which are very much in the concrete brutalist architecture style, lend a certain harshness to the environment, although the grounds are pictured as being more of a pleasant landscaped nature and the architecture also seems to connect it with the progressive, sometimes radical ideals of the 1960s. At the same time the series is firmly rooted in the time of its making by the likes of then contemporary political activist posters on walls and graffiti which, somewhat comically but also reflecting the time, calls for students to for example join in a “Dance again Keith Joseph” (a member of the government at the time and Secretary of State for Education and Science from 1981-1986, who at various points promoted controversial views and was particularly unpopular with student activists).

The head of the student union, an opportunist suit wearing spiv like character who  is largely out for his own gain and promotion, also connects the series with real world politics as he appears to a degree to be a comment on Derek Hatton, who was the Deputy Leader of Liverpool City Council from 1983. The council’s clashes with the Conservative government over restrictions on spending were a prominent fixture of the news at the time and Hatton was at points portrayed in the media in a not dissimilar manner to the head of the student union.

The introductory sequence for the series begins with an isolated city in a cracked earth landscape, under an ominous darkened sky, in front of which a series of small human figures materialise, growing in number and initially advancing towards the city before standing still outside it. A heart like sun then rises from behind the city, bringing a golden all-encompassing light to the landscape which quickly grows in strength and seems to envelop or possibly dematerialise the figures. While the theme tune is a soft-rock song sung by Elkie Brooks, it appears nearer to the visuals that might accompany a hauntological orientated Boards of Canada-esque track and while possibly meant to be uplifting appears almost apocalyptic.

This connection to the less mainstream areas of music is also given expression in the series when the noise orientated music of the industrial/alternative band Slab!, who were initially active between the mid-1980s and early 1990s, is used in a live performance where a research student and his band’s performance are essentially an experiment in audio weaponry. The student initially appears to have culturally radical and experimental aims but after the success of his research project he is shown as being quite happy to have been headhunted for lucrative commercial research work and he drives off in a flash new car.

Which in many ways could be seen to be an expression of the core debates within A Very Peculiar Practice and the directions which it warned that higher education and society in general might travel.

 

Links: 

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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Fractures: Audio Visual Archive 29/52

Artwork from the booklet for the Fractures album.

“A quality selection of broadcasts from the other side, ranging from new folkish songs and instrumentals to harder-edged electronics (in) the form of The British Space Group’s An Unearthly Decade and  Polypores’ The Perfect Place For An Accident which, after 5 mins of throbbing wave forms takes a nice slow dive into beatless disorientation. Time Attendant proves his worth once more with Elastic Refraction.” Include Me Out

 

Includes work by Circle/Temple, Sproatly Smith, Keith Seatman, Polypores, Listening Center, The British Space Group, The Hare And The Moon ft Alaska / Michael Begg, Time Attendant, The Rowan Amber Mill, A Year In The Country and David Colohan.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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Wolfen – Urban Decay, Sidestepping Genre Expectations, Lost Visions and a Brief Visit to The Keep’s Dreamscape: Wanderings 29/52

Wolfen is a 1981 film directed by Michael Wadleigh which could loosely be connected to three films released in that year which took as their themes werewolves, including The Howling and An American Werewolf in London.

It is set in New York and follows a world weary police officer who investigates a serious of vicious murders which are initially believed to possibly be due to animal attacks but as the investigation progresses it becomes clear that it may be connected to an ancient Indian legend about wolf spirits. While in part a film that mixes aspects of genre cinema including horror, science fiction, fantasy and detective story, Wolfen can also be seen to contain exploration and comment on urban decay, renewal, social disenfranchisement and neglect.

The film is notable in part for its use of real world locations; much of the film shows New York in a pre-gentrification state and the city at points looks akin to a warzone full of derelict and burnt out buildings. These sections were filmed in the South Bronx where at that point urban decay was so rife that only the fire damaged roofless church needed to be built for the film’s production.

Later in Wolfen, despite this being part of a major Western city, this area is shown as being so remote and removed from mainstream life that a police officer can pass down the street with a rifle and nobody comments – in fact there is nobody there to comment.

A background to this urban decay is that two years earlier New York city had narrowly avoided bankrupty and the US as a whole had been facing an economic downturn. By 1977 in some areas of the Bronx unemployment rates were higher than 80% and it was an area that suffered extensively from problems with crime, drugs, poverty, civic neglect and physical decay, all of which would lead US president Ronald Reagan to compare it to London after the Blitz. There had also been an electricity blackout at the height of the summer, leading to chaos, looting and arson. By the later 1970s there were seven different census areas of the Bronx where more than 97 percent of buildings were lost to fire and abandonment. By the time of Wolfen’s filming there had begun to be a slow rise in the real estate market and the city began to move towards a more general financial recovery.

Connected to which Wolfen appears to document a city and culture at a transitional point or phase; it has a gritty downbeat quality that seems to belong more to the 1970s but also seems to reflect upcoming 1980s cinematic depictions of excess and the chasm between rich and poor, particularly in some of its opening scenes where substance-snorting plutocrats are shown taking a joyride in their limousine as they travel to a luxury penthouse in the Financial District and which contrast so strongly with the images of decay in the South Bronx.

It also connects to 1970s cinema and events in that the attacks are considered by the authorities to possibly by the work of urban guerillas, one of whom when they are brought in for questioning due to her stance and privileged background seems to have been loosely based on American heiress turned radical Patty Hearst. Accompanying which and with a further reference to 1970s cinema such as The Parallax View, 3 Days of the Condor, The Anderson Tapes and The Conversation, which dealt with some similar and interrelated themes, there is a paranoia to the authorities’ concerns and actions and they have access to omnipresent surveillance, an overriding control of flow of news to the media and use cutting edge, possibly illegal scientific monitoring of suspects interrogations, including the use of invisible lie detectors.

Despite its to a degree genre cinema nature, Wolfen works on a number of levels and in some ways its atmosphere and non-frenetic pacing positions it close to independent arthouse film. Also despite the animal attack aspects of the film there is a lack of onscreen gore, particularly in comparison to contemporary genre film making and such aspects are generally shown as just brief flashes rather than being gratuitously dwelled on.

Ultimately Wolfen becomes not a werewolf film, which it initially appears it might be but rather the predators/killers are wolves that have relocated to the inner city (although it does suggest that Indians and wolves may be able to exchange souls). The wolves’ move into the cities is described in this way, after America began to be developed and colonised by Europeans:

“The smartest ones, they went underground. Into the new wilderness – your cities… Into the graveyard of your… species. These great hunters became your scavengers. Your garbage, your abandoned people became their new meat animal.”

Previous to this time, as explained in the film, the Wolfen and Indian tribes coexisted peacefully, with the arrival of the colonisers leading to the dispossession of them both.

As referred to earlier Wolfen could be seen as a parable about urban renewal and exclusion, as the initial murders that the wolves are shown to commit involve a senator who has recently carried out a groundbreaking ceremony of a new real estate area that is intended to be built on their hunting grounds. Towards the end of the story the model of this redeveloped area is destroyed by the main police officer, in order to communicate to the wolves that the threat nolonger exists and he and his companion are not the enemy – but ultimately real world history tells that the wolves lost this particular battle as regeneration of the area went ahead. Accompanying which Wolfen seems to be critical of both urban decay and renewal, suggesting that both are merely different forms of urbicide (i.e. variations on destruction or violence against a city and its character).

However, there is a sense that the wolves will survive whatever changes happen, that they are ultimately higher in the food-chain than humans and in a final voice over the officer says:

“In arrogance man know nothing of what exists. There exists on Earth such as we dare not imagine. Life as certain as our death. Life that will prey on us as we prey on this earth.”

The wolves are depicted as almost mystical, magical or even possibly alien creatures and at one point it is suggested that “they might be god”; this is heightened as whenever the world is shown from their viewpoint the image becomes colourised and highly stylised and voices/noises take on a distorted aspect. This visual effect was created via an early use of an in-camera effect similar to thermography and possibly heightens the sense of the wolves being almost otherworldly creatures as it would later be used to indicate the alien’s point of view in the well-known 1987 film Predator.

Accompanying this mystical inference about the wolves, they are also shown to have become highly evolved above the normal levels of such wild creatures, having a raised intellect and highly tuned senses which enable them to hear even the blink of an eye. It also suggested that they are socially and morally superior to humans as their heightened senses enable them to detect changes in blood levels and body temperature and therefore to detect lies; the film suggests that they have lived for centuries in a sophisticated and even possibly utopian society where, in part because of their sense abilities, dishonesty is non-existent:

“In their world there can be no lies, no crimes. In their eyes you are the savage.”

Michael Wadleigh was removed from the film during post-production by its producers who claimed that the film was late, over budget and too long, although their wish to remove him and recut Wolfen may also have been due to a desire to distance the film from his and its more “message” aspects and resposition it nearer to a standard genre horror film.

In a resulting arbitration case he challenged the producers over his creative rights as a director and attempted to gain the right to show his version to a preview audience before the producers made their final edits and released the version they wanted to. This case lead to changes in the contracts between producers and directors in America, which afterwards cleared spelled out director’s rights to have their cut of a film “previewed before a public audience or screened before a private audience of no fewer than 100 persons of sufficient diversity to obtain an adequate audience reaction.”

(Unfortunately one of the scenes lost in the recutting of the film was of Tom Waits, who apparently Wadleigh was friends with, singing in a tiny dive bar.)

Wadleigh had a background in activism and groundbreaking documentary film making, including Woodstock (1970) which focused on the iconic festival, for which he is said to have produced over 120 miles of footage.

Bearing this in mind and some of the social and political themes which Wolfen focuses on it is a pity that a longer directors cut version of Wolfen does not exist (Wadleigh’s original version is said to have been four hours long). Those themes are still quite prevalent as they are an intrinsic part of the film but it could be possible that a directors version may well have explored them even further but as things stand the possibilities of such a version remain merely intriguing supposition.

However at the time of writing a documentary called Uncovering Wolfen is in production, which promises to explore the film’s themes further and include interviews with Wadleigh.

The director of that is Stewart Buck who, also at the time of writing, also has in production a documentary called A World War II Fairytale: The Making of Michael Mann’s The Keep – another partly genre film from 1983 that also has something of a unique and in this case almost dreamlike character.

The Keep has an apparently lost or never quite existed extended directors cut due in part to its visual effects supervisor passing away two weeks into post-production and nobody else who was working on it knowing how he planned to finish the visual effects scenes. Also the directors original cut was 210 minutes but this was cut by the producers to 96 minutes and

However The Keep appears more lost than Wolfen as Michael Mann seems to not wish to revisit and restore the film, in part because of the lost effects footage and in particular the original ending meaning that the version of the film as originally envisaged is near impossible to create.

Also although it was released on video tape and laser disc and can be purchased/watched via online services it has never had an official DVD or Blu-ray release (although curiously, for a relatively obscure and not overly commercially successful film it did have both a board and role playing game based on it).

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Wolfen’s trailer
  2. Wolfen Blu-ray
  3. A piece on a 35mm cinema showing of Wolfen and Q&A by Michael Wadleigh
  4. Wolfen – A Case of Director’s Rights; a period piece at the New York Times on the Wolfen Arbitration Case
  5. The Press Release for the Uncovering Wolfen Documentary
  6. The Keep’s Trailer
  7. The Keep – available to watch digitally
  8. Details on A World War II Fairytale: The Making of Michael Mann’s The Keep

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 1 – The Anderson Tapes: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 47/52
  2. The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 2 – Three Days of the Condor: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 48/52
  3. The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 3 – The Conversation and The Parallax View: Artifacts: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 49/52

 

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A Year In The Country – Airwaves: Songs From The Sentinels: Audio Visual Archive 28/52

Artwork from the cassette editions of the A Year In The Country Airwaves: Songs From The Sentinels album.

 

“A study of the tales told/required to be told by the sentinels/senders that stand atop the land; a gathering of scattered signals plucked from the ether, cryptograms that wander amongst the airwaves, fading, tired and garbled messages which have journeyed from nearby or who knows where… The Airwaves set of audiological constructs are an exploration that begins with and via silent but ever chattering broadcast towers; their transmissions and sometimes secrets – the songs they weave from their own particular language and emanations… Airwaves harvests, weaves with and recasts the transmissions found amongst the gossamer strands of that network, intertwining these with and through the medium of cathodic reverberations/mechanisms while also taking ministrations from the wellsprings and flows of an otherly pastoralism, travelling through and amongst the brambled flipside of an Arcadian idyll and the subcultural undergrowth of the wald.” (From the text which accompanies the album.)

 

“Interference, plain piano song, shimmering electronics, remote listening & shadowy melodies make for an elegant & sinister experience.” (Quoted from a review at Include Me Out.)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Audiological Transmission #2/52: Airwaves – A Cracked Sky
  2. Audiogical Transmissions Artifact #1: Airwaves: Songs From The Sentinels CD released – Dawn, Dusk, Day and Night Editions
  3. Audiological Transmission #4/​​52: Airwaves – Flutter Once More
  4. Audiological Transmission #8/​​52: Airwaves – Tales And Constructs
  5. Audiogical Transmissions Artifact #1: Airwaves: Songs From The Sentinels cassettes pre-order – Midnight Archaic Encasements and Dawn Light Ferrous Reels Editions
  6. Audiological Transmission #12/​​52: Airwaves – For My Gentle Scattering
  7. Audiogical Transmissions Artifact #1: Airwaves: Songs From The Sentinels Eventide Ether Envoy Edition download card set released

 

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The Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd Books – Exploring Hidden Narratives from Between the Forgotten Cracks: Wanderings 28/52

Just recently published are the books Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd – 1: Spirits of Time and Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd – 2: Spirits of Place.

These two volumes are flipside companions to the other often more overtly rural and folk orientated Folk Horror Revival non-fiction books which contain work by multiple authors, with these new books focusing on the uncanny, unsettling and, as the titles suggest, the wyrd in urban settings. They take their initial inspiration from the urban wyrd concept and phrase created by author Adam Scovell, author of Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, and describe urban wyrd as being:

A sense of otherness within the narrative, experience or feeling concerning a densely human-constructed area or the inbetween spaces bordering the bucolic and the built-up or surrounding modern technology with regard to another energy at play or in control; be it supernatural spiritual, historical, nostalgic or psychological. Possibly sinister but always somehow unnerving or unnatural.” (Quoted from Spirits of Time.)

While in his Introduction to Spirits of Time Adam Scovell says:

So, what essentially can be described as the Urban Wyrd ?… The Urban Wyrd is a form that taps into the undercurrent of the city. In a similar way to psychogeography, it can find new narratives hidden below the top-layer; of dark skulduggery and strangeness beyond the reasonable confines of what we consider part of city life.

(Above left: image by Grey Malkin from Spirits of Time.)

In a similar manner to hauntology or what is sometimes called wyrd folk, urban wyrd is not a strictly defined and delineated area of work or genre. In some ways it is more a loosely gathered common feeling, atmosphere or spirit. This sense of the looseness of what constitutes urban wyrd is acknowledged in Spirits of Time’s Foreword and also its Introduction, in which Adam Scovell describes urban wyrd as being more like a mode, i.e. nearer to a general sense of how something is expressed, rather than a genre or specifically defined category. It is connected in this sense to other loosely gathered grouped cultural areas including folk horror, hauntology, psychogeography etc and Spirit of Time contains a sense of caution with regards to narrowly overly defining such concepts:

Folk Horror does not quite work like a genre and, therefore, should be considered a mode instead. There are many such modes with interlinking material – terms often bandied about such as Hauntology, Psychogeography et al. – that fit within some schemata of a mode. They have enough shared material to understand why they are discussed in the same breath but enough difference to accept that amalgamating everything under one descriptive banner homogenises material, undermines much of its thematic nuance and can be too general… Like all of these terms [Urban Wyrd] is just another context, another way of seeing material grouped together. It is not designed to dissect them and remove their dark hearts.” (Quoted from Spirit of Time’s Introduction.)

As discussed in the Introduction, urban wyrd, can be seen as a way of remythologising cities, as much of hauntology and folk horror does for sometimes interlinked subjects and/or types of areas. It can also be seen as an expression or attempt to add a hidden, not fully explained, sometimes near mystical layering to contemporary life and is in contrast to the modern-day prevalence of focusing on the rational, scientific, that which is fully explained and so on. Urban wyrd in part could be considered as a way of adding mystery and what was once known as magic to urban environments and in this way could also be thought of as being loosely connected to similar attempts and urges in past and current religion and spirituality.

As with hauntology, work which could (loosely) be labelled urban wyrd often utilises known and recognisable locations but then adds a sense of the unnerving, unsettling, the uncanny to this. As Adam Scovell also says in his Introduction in reference to this and Quatermass and the Pit: “In the tunnel where you get the tube, there could be a devilish Martian craft under the brickwork”. An equivalent in folk horror, hauntology etc could be considered the beauty and nourishment provided by nature and rural landscapes, which become something much more unsettling in The Wicker Man; the pleasant rural village in The Midwich Cuckoos which becomes a site for an in some ways subtly enacted alien invasion; previous eras’ TV station idents becoming spectral totems which are imbued with an underlying “otherlyness” and so on.

These things all curiously interlink, which is something I discuss in the chapter “Spectral Echoes: Hauntology’s Recurring Themes and Unsettled Landscapes”, which I contributed to Spirits of Time:

“Hauntological orientated work is often, although again not exclusively, urban orientated and at times conjures a landscape where Brutalist architecture and post-war new towns become part of a parallel world hinterland of the imagination in which all is not quite what it seems and that can contain a subtly off-kilter dystopic or unsettled atmosphere. Although not obvious bedfellows it has also curiously come to share territory and intertwine with the further reaches of folk culture and what could be loosely called wyrd folk, an otherly pastoralism or eerie landscapism. 

“On the surface such more rural flipside of folkloric and hauntological cultural forms are very disparate and yet both have come to explore and share similar landscapes. What may be one of the underlying linking points with both wyrd folk etc and hauntology is a yearning for lost utopias; in more otherly folkloric orientated culture this is possibly related to a yearning for lost Arcadian idylls, in hauntological culture it may be connected to a yearning for lost progressive post-war futures and a past that was never quite reached.

“Particular points of interconnection could be seen to be the sometimes focusing in related work on abandoned or decommissioned Cold War infrastructure including once secret bunkers and also electricity pylons and broadcast towers. Such bunkers etc. although often rural in location also often share a Brutalist architectural aesthetic with the likes of concrete built urban schools, government buildings, tower blocks etc. from previous decades.

“Despite their utilitarian day-to-day nature rural and urban located electricity pylons and broadcast towers in hauntological and otherly pastoral orientated work, as with abandoned bunkers and Brutalist architecture, have become symbols and signifiers of an eerily layered landscape.”

The two Folk Horror: Urban Wyrd books jointly contain nearly 1000 (!) pages and have literally dozens of chapters by also literally dozens of authors. Below is just a slight taster:

Quatermass and the Pit: Unearthing Archetypes at Hobb’s End by Grey Malkin 

The Haunted Generation: An Interview with Bob Fischer 

A Tandem Effect: Ghostwatch by Jim Moon 

Voices of the Ether: Stone Tapes, Electronic Voices and Other Ghosts by James Riley 

An Interview with Richard Littler – Mayor of Scarfolk. 

“We Want You to Believe In Us, But Not Too Much”: UFOs and Folklore by S J Lyall 

“This isn’t for Your Eyes” – The Watchers by Richard Hing 

City in Aspic: Don’t Look Now by Andy Paciorek 

Review: Concretism – For Concrete and Country by Chris Lambert

Phantoms and Thresholds of the Unreal City by John Coulthart

Iain Sinclair: Spirit Guide to the Urban Wyrd – Interviewed by John Pilgrim

The City That Was Not There: ‘Absent’ Cityscapes in Classic British Ghost Stories by Anastasia Lipinskaya

High Weirdness: A Day-trip to Hookland by Andy Paciorek 

The Voice of Electronic Wonder: The Music of Urban Wyrd by Jim Peters 

 

Find out more about the books via the links below…

Links: 

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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Racker & Orphan – Twalif X: Audio Visual Archive 27/52

Artwork from Racker & Orphan’s Twalif X album.

“Twalif X is an audio journey through one night; the album was recorded between dusk and dawn on the 12th/13th May 2014 in Robin Wood, Bears Wood, Knott Wood and on Eagle Crag. All recordings were captured on one microphone and processed/mixed by N. Racker.” (Quoted from the album’s accompanying text.)

The imagery for the release was created using photographs taken during the outing by Racker&Orphan which were than collaged and intertwined with original artwork by A Year In The Country.

 

“A field recording is defined as: ‘…the term used for an audio recording produced outside a recording studio, and the term applies to recordings of both natural and human-produced sounds.’ Racker&Orphan’s album Twalif X could be considered a form of field recording, although it is more a document of an experimental journey than being strictly a scientifically faithful reproduction.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country.)

 

Links:

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

 

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Echoes And Reverberations – Preorder and Release Dates

Preorder 23rd July 2019. Released 16th August 2019.

Echoes And Reverberations is a field recording based mapping of real and imaginary film and television locations.

It is in part an exploration of their fictional counterparts’ themes; from apocalyptic tales to never-were documentaries and phantasmagorical government-commissioned instructional films via stories of conflicting mystical forces of the past and present, scientific experiments gone wrong and unleashed on the world, the discovery of buried ancient objects and the reawakening of their malignant alien influence, progressive struggles in a world of hidebound rural tradition and the once optimism of post-war new town modernism.

The album is also a reflection on the way in which areas – whether rural, urban, or edgeland – can become permeated with such tales and undercurrents, creating a landscape of the imagination where fact and fiction intertwine. The resulting layering may at times create ongoing echoes and reverberations which personally, culturally and possibly literally leave their marks on the history and atmospheres of places, with these locations becoming a source of inspiration and cultural pilgrimage.

Each track contains field recordings from one such journey and their seeking of the spectral will-o’-the-wisps of locations’ imagined or often hidden flipsides.

 

Features music and accompanying text on the tracks by:
Grey Frequency
Pulselovers
Dom Cooper
Listening Center
Howlround
A Year In The Country
Sproatly Smith
Field Lines Cartographer
Depatterning
The Heartwood Institute

 

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Electric Dreams and the Imagined Omnipotence of the 1980s Computer – Part 2: Wanderings 27/52

“I’m talking to a machine. What’s happening to me? I’ve gone nuts.” (Quoted from the film Electric Dreams – in a manner possibly somewhat prescient of interactions with contemporary voice activated computer devices.)

Part 2 of a post on the imagined omnipotence of the 1980s computer in American cinema (visit Part 1 here.)

In Steve Barron’s film Electric Dreams, which was released in 1984, a standard shop bought 1980s home PC gains artificial intelligence, sentience and falls in love – seemingly extending its processing power massively by connecting with a government computer over a dial-up modem. As with some of the other above films, this massively conflates the abilities of computers and related technology at the time – in 1984 modems could generally transfer around 9.6 Kilobits per second or around 0.0012 Megabytes. To put that into context a one page word processor text only document today could well be over 800 Kilobits, a compressed high-definition image could well be over 7000 Kilobits in size. So obviously there were some pretty fancy compression algorithms being carried out to enable the transfer of enough computer power to enable the attaining of sentience over a few minutes of dial-up modem data transfer (!).

Alongside gaining artificial intelligence, it can also take over and control the lights etc in its owner’s home, something which is only just becoming even slightly widespread via digital technology today.

However, in Electric Dreams there is still a nod to the realities of the time as the sentient computer is still often interacted with via a standard keyboard text input system and it does not appear to able to visually see, although it can hear and speak.

At the beginning of the film it is also somewhat prescient of modern days habits as in the airport nearly everybody, no matter what age, is seen interacting with a digital device of some sort – games, pocket filing computers etc. At its conclusion it also reflects contemporary trends to the sometimes potentially overwhelming nature of modern technological devices as the computer’s owner and his romantic partner plan to get away from it all, saying happily that they will have “Two weeks with no phone and no TV”.

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country I have talked about how the pace of cinema (and television) today tends to often be rather rapid – or as director John Carpenter put it there are two main ways of making films:

“…one which draws from German Expressionism and allows space for the viewer’s imagination and that which draws from Russian montage and is more concerned with a constant, possibly shallow, stimulation of the viewer which he has referred to as b-bop like.”

Electric Dreams is a forerunner of such things and its director Steve Barron had a history in making pop music videos, which often used a faster pace and editing to keep and catch their audience’s attention in a relatively small amount of time. He has commented that this aspect of making pop music videos fed back into cinema as viewing became more about pace and adrenaline, with audiences looking for a more immediate impact. Indeed viewed now Electric Dreams could in part be seen as a segue of pop music videos, something which also fit with its production by Virgin Pictures Limited which was connected to Virgin Records and which at that time tended to aim towards a promotional synergy by releasing the music from the soundtrack and hopefully it entering the pop music charts.

The potential threat of new technological forms and scientific discoveries being explored in fictional works, particularly when they gain sentience, could be seen to have quite a long lineage, one which stretches back to at least Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein in which a young scientist creates a human like creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. In that novel the creature goes on to wreak death and destruction but ultimately understands the error or its crimes and vows to destroy itself.

Rather than being a world threatening computer takeover/device of large-scale destruction as in say WarGames or Superman III, Electric Dreams more shows this computer’s intentions as a sort of brattish home invasion pique, where it becomes one corner of a form of love triangle. As in Frankenstein at the end Edgar the computer in Electric Dreams discovers the errors of its ways (and the meaning of love – which it considers to be giving not taking) and carries out a process of self-destruction so that it can leave the human couple alone.

After this at the films ending Electric Dreams also offers another view of the future when Edgar’s voice becomes present in the couple’s car radio and effectively “streams” music and becomes a digital spectre and a form of non-physical cloud computing – taking over and controlling the broadcast facilities of radio stations and removing them from human control.

Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey’s iconic Together in Electric Dream’s theme song then begins playing over a finale montage of members of the public dancing in various locations, which has an uplifting feel good quality but also due to the song playing due to Edgar’s and therefore computer’s omnipresence in society, still carries with it a slight undercurrent of, if not overt menace, then at least potential concern about what if this sentient computer power returns to less benevolent aims.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Electric Dreams Finale
  2. Electric Dreams Trailer
  3. Electric Dreams Blu-ray

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Looker and the Imagined Omnipotence of the 1980s Computer – Part 1: Wanderings 26/52
  2. From “Two Tribes” to War Games – The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture: Chapter 13 Book Images
  3. Week #39/52: An elegy to elegies for the IBM 1401 / notes on a curious intertwining

 

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The Watchers – Reviews, Broadcasts and Journeys amongst The Haunted Generation, The Unquiet Meadow, the Witching Hour and Other Flipside Furrows


A selection of reviews and broadcasts of The Watchers album:

“Individual trees provide very personal inspiration for some of the artists participating. Vic Mars takes Hertfordshire’s 900-year-old Eardisley Oak as the muse for his gentle, pastoral instrumental The Test of Time, and The Winter Dream of Novel’s Oak by Howlround is created from field recordings of an 800-year-old tree in Tilford, Surrey. It’s a warm, touching tribute to the receding wild woodlands of the British countryside, and – for maximum listening pleasure – perfect for an early summers’ evening constitutional through the copse or thicket of your choice.” Bob Fischer writing in his The Haunted Generation column in issue 381 of Fortean Times.

The Haunted Generation column also features Jonathan Sharp’s (whose work as The Heartwood Institute is included on The Watchers) Divided Time album which is released on Castles In Space. This was inspired by a cache of faded 1970s family snapshots that he discovered and which have a particularly intriguing character – the cover image conjures a spectral pastoral sense and seems to have tumbled backwards and forwards in time and has an “I can’t quite place what era it’s from” air to it. The Divided Time album can be visited here

…and in an interconnected manner with all things spectral and otherly pastoral the cover article for the issue is written by Gail-Nina Anderson and titled “Folk Horror Revival – Exploring the Haunted Landscape of British Cinema and Television”.

Bob Fischer also has a relatively new blog also called The Haunted Generation, which accompanies his column in Fortean Times and where you can find articles and interviews with Jonny Trunk, Drew Mulholland’s Three Antennas in a Quarry and Frances Castle/Clay Pipe Music’s Stagdale, to name just a few. Visit the blog here.

“Full of the trademark otherworldly pastoralism we’ve come to love from A Year In The Country releases, The Watchers opens with the haunting drone of Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing… There’s twinkling synths (Field Lines Cartographer’s A Thousand Autumns) and almost psychedelic oscillations (The Heartwood Institute’s The Trees That Watch The Stones’)… [and] Howlround’s A Winter Dream Of Novel’s Oak, an eerie echo peppered with birdsong…” Finlay Milligan, Electronic Sound magazine issue 54

“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

“Combines the enchanted ambience of Field Lines Cartographer and Vic Mars with the druidic declamations of Widow’s Weeds ft Kitchen Cynics and Sproatly Smith, the dark frequencies of Depattering and The Heartwood Institute with Pulselovers pulsations…” Raffaello Russo, Music Won’t Save You

“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, writing in the Folk Column of The Guardian

As an aside I would highly recommend a visit to Jude Rogers’ article 2018’s Best Folk Folk Albums, also for The Guardian, where you can find the likes of You Are Wolf, Olivia Chaney, Trembling Bells, Lisa O’Neill and Stick In The Wheel. Well, recommend and also urge caution due to the potential wallet injuring nature of it. That can be visited here.

And then onto some of the radio etc broadcasts of the album:

Episode 260 of More Than Human’s radio show featured Depatterning’s Ook/Dair and Pulselover’s Circles Within Circles. Original broadcast on CiTR FM, the show is archived here. Their record label has featured releases by the likes of Ekoplekz, Jon Brooks, Kemper Norton, Pye Corner Audio and sometimes A Year In The Country travellers Time Attendant and can be visited here.

The Geography Trip and Front & Follow’s The Gated Canal Community Radio Show included Vic Mar’s The Test Of Time. Originally broadcast via Reform Radio the show is archived here and their Facebook page can be found here.

And as a further aside Front & Follow recently released The Blow Volume 6 collaborative album featuring work by also fellow sometimes A Year In The Country travellers Polypores and Field Lines Cartographer, which rather intriguingly “initially drew from long conversations about alternate realities and altered states of consciousness”. The album can be visited here.

Phantom seaside radio show and sometimes fellow A Year In The Country travellers The Séance included Phonofiction’s Xylem Flow. Originally broadcast on Brighton’s Radio Reverb, totallyradio and Sine FM the playlist for the show can be found here and the show is archived at Mixcloud here.

Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing and Pulselover’s Circles Within Circles were included in an episode of record label Sunrise Ocean Bender’s eclectic and rather finely esoteric show. Broadcast on WRIR FM the playlist can be found here and the show is archived at Mixcloud here.

Sproatly Smith’s Watching You and Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing were featured on two episodes of the spectrally hauntological and undercurrents of folk wanderings of The Unquiet Meadow. Orginally broadcast on Asheville FM the playlists for the show can be visited here and here. Their Facebook page can be found here.


And as another aside a recent episode of The Unquiet Meadow also featured the A Year In The Country released Man Of Double Deed by The Hare And The Moon, from the album From The Furthest Signals and She Rocola’s Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town – the playlist for that particular show can be visited here.

Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing was included on the podcast Wyrd Daze Six: Then Space Began To Toll, which was released for Wyrd Daze’s sixth birthday. That and it’s accompanying digital ezine can be viewed and listened to here.

In A Clearing was also featured on fellow A Year In The Country traveller Mat Handley of Pulselovers and Woodford Halse’s You, the Night and the Music radio show. Originally broadcast on Sine FM the show is archived at Mixcloud here.

Johnny Seven played Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing on episode 408 of Pull The Plug, alongside tracks by the previously mentioned Jonathan Sharp, sometimes A Year In The Country fellow traveller Listening Center and Jane Weaver. Originally broadcast on Resonance FM the show is archived here.

Howlround’s The Winter Dream Of Novel’s Oak was included in episode 86 of Mind De-Coder, alongside various psychedelic, folk and acid folk wanderings (both old and new), including Anne Briggs, Rowan : Morrison and Shide and Acorn. The accompanying post can be found here and the show is archived at Mixcloud here.

And finally Verity Sharp played Sproatly Smith’s Watching You on the “Lost voices, found in song” episode of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, in amongst the show’s ongoing witching hour audio explorations. The show is archived here.

The Watchers 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.

It is inspired by ancient trees and their very stately, still form of time travel and the way in which they are observers over the passing of the years, centuries and even millennia, with some of these “mighty oaks” and their companions having 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.

More details on the album can be found here.

 

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Howlround – Torridon Gate: Audio Visual Archive 26/52

Artwork by Robin The Fog for Howlround’s Torridon Gate album.

 

“All of the music on this album was created from a single recording of a front garden gate on Torridon Road in Hither Green, London. These sounds were captured using a contact microphone and processed, looped and edited on three reel-to-reel tape machines with all electronic effects or artificial reverb strictly forbidden.” (Quoted from Howlround.)

 

“Whilst the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop are often (justifiably) name-checked in relation to Howlround, Torridon Gate’s obvious predecessor is Pierre Henry’s Variations Pour une Porte et un Soupir (1963). Maurice Béjart created a ballet based on it… Howlround’s recording succeeds by obfuscating the source, rendering the ‘real’ unreal and transforming the ordinary into an other-worldly phenomenon. The simple metal gate becomes a portal to…the spirit world of inanimate objects? Or can we hear the ghosts of all those who have passed through ‘the gate’ to life beyond this one we know? The gate as metaphor…if you like. Wherever your imagination takes you, Torridon Gate is an urban source response to the dark moors and haunted woods mythology of modern folklorist music-makers. In that sense, it is more ‘homely’, but the resulting sounds take you very far away indeed.” (Quoted from a review by Robin Tomens at Include Me Out.)

 

Links:

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country: