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The Restless Field: Audio Visual Archive 12/52

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.

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.

 

“… another exquisitely packaged affair… murky and ominous as befits the guiding thematic: places that are spectrally imprinted with past conflicts and struggles.” (Simon Reynolds writing at blissblog)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Artifact Report #18/52a: The Restless Field
  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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Hot Fuzz aka Rural Weapon Part 1 – Flash and Spectacle Amongst the Bucolia: Wanderings 12/52

Hot Fuzz is a British made buddy cop action comedy film released in 2007, directed by Edgar Wright and co-written by him and its lead actor Simon Pegg.

In the film over achieving London police officer Nicholas Angel, played by Pegg, who takes his work very seriously, is relocated to Sandford, a place which initially appears to be a typical sleepy quaint British village.

However things are not as they seem and Angel and his colleagues are soon embroiled in a murderous conspiracy by prominent members of the village who are intent that no matter what Sandford will continue to win Village of the Year; cue fellow villagers and visitors who may get in the way of that being sent to their demise via the likes of large-scale explosions, tumbling masonry, and decapitation in a car accident.

In Sandford Angel is presented as somebody who is somewhat out-of-place after the hustle and grittier experiences of city policing, something which is heightened by his wearing of modern protective police wear and equipment despite him being likely to need it in the general peace and calm of his new surroundings. This is also in contrast to his new police duty partner Danny Butterworth, played by Nick Frost, who at least until the later action sequences, is more likely to be seen wearing a woolen policeman’s jumper and in both character and appearance is possibly nearer to the idealised image of the classic friendly British country policeman.

Butterworth is portrayed as a quite sweet, gentle, good-hearted soul but also as somebody who, in a similar manner to the film itself, is enthralled to the classic American buddy cop action film, the glamour of the shoot out and the chase etc and also more than slightly in awe of this “big city” newcomer and his metropolitan experiences.

Edgar Wright has said that he wanted to make a cop action film because unlike much of the rest of the world at the time Britain did not particularly have a tradition of such cinema – although to a degree it did on television via the likes of gritty police drama The Sweeney (1975-1978).

(As an aside in Hot Fuzz the two police detectives, both of whom are called Andy Wainwright and are played by Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall, seem to be channelling similar characters from some earlier decade in terms of their belligerent swaggering attitude, top lip moustaches and vaguely period clothing – sort of The Sweeney via 1980s police timeslip series Ashes to Ashes which was broadcast in 2009 to 2010.)

There have been a long line of American buddy cop action films such as Point Break, the Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon series of films etc (the first two of which are explicitly referenced in Wright’s film and he has said that he originally pitched the film as Rural Weapon) and as with many of such films at the heart of Hot Fuzz is the relationship between the contrasting characters of two “buddy” police officers, in this Angel and Butterworth.

Hot Fuzz transfers Hollywood action and cop movie aesthetics to a British rural setting and makes direct and indirect references to such American films in an often humorous manner but it is not so much a parody, spoof or satire of them but rather an affectionate homage and seems to hold its source material in high esteem.

Despite the relatively high production values, special effects and so forth, in some indefinable manner that is separate to its setting and characters Hot Fuzz retains a sense of being British drama – there is a subtle awkwardness to it that seems to reflect a film industry that has never fully embraced the flash and spectacle of Hollywood style cinema.

Connected to which there is a curious disconnect when watching an at times all out action film of this type set in a British village, its local supermarket etc and on seeing American style action, heroics and gunplay undertaken by British policemen, with much of the film’s humour and character being derived from the appearance and use of the trappings of wider cinema’s action cop films, such as chases, fight scenes, automatic weapons and explosions etc in the unexpected setting of a rural British village.

In this sense it shares some territory with Malcolm Pryce’s book Aberystwyth Mon Amour, which depicts a modern-day parallel world version of the Welsh seaside town Aberystwyth but which is run by druids who are essentially to all intents and purposes actually “gangsters in mistletoe”.

Alongside referencing American buddy cop action comedy films Hot Fuzz also makes a more than cursory nod towards other genres including Westerns and previous British horror and folk horror films, in particular The Wicker Man, The Omen, gothic Hammer Horror and even giant monsters on the rampage in the city films.

More on which in Part 2…

(Exploring similar territory to the current trend for alternative movie poster reinterpreting of films; the finding an old mine and arms cache scene in Hot Fuzz depicted in Lego construction bricks.)

 

Elsewhere:

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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The Forest / The Wald: Audio Visual Archive 11/52

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.

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.

 

“…a response to British folk traditions that acknowledges the history without seeming beholden to it…” (John Coulthart at Feuilleton)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. The Forest / The Wald – Night and Dawn Editions
  2. Audiological Transmission #42​/​​​​52​​: Hawthorn Heart – The Forest / The Wald
  3. Audiological Transmission #43/​​​​52​​: Deep Undergrowth – The Forest / The Wald
  4. Audiological Transmission #44​/​​​​​52​​: A Whisper In The Woods – The Forest / The Wald
  5. Audiological Transmission #45/​​​​​52​​: Trees Grew All Around Her – The Forest / The Wald
  6. Audiological Transmission #46/52: Fantastic Mass – The Forest / The Wald
  7. Audiological Transmission #52/52: The Forest / The Wald – The Abney Ritual / Revisitation #6a
  8. The Forest / The Wald – A Gathering Of Transmissions

 

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John Carpenter’s Christine Part 2 – Autonomous Zones, Night Time Edgelands and the Restoration of the Natural Order: Wanderings 11/52

Part 2 of a post about John Carpenter’s Christine. Visit Part 1 here.

Although set in the late 1970s Christine in many ways appears to be nearer to what Graham Williamson on the website Geek Show has called “a kind of debased version of the sugar-sweet nostalgic sitcom Happy Days” (a popular television series set in the 1950s and broadcast from 1974-1984) particularly when two of the main teenage leads go to school and have to deal with flick knife wielding bullies.

While not as overtly camp nor comedic, in this sense it could be seen as treading not all that dissimilar territory to John Water’s 1950s/early 1960s set films Cry-Baby (1990) and Hairspray (1988), which took some of the themes, tropes and aesthetics of earlier eras/rock’n’roll and filtered them through a period almost cartoon-ish and at times degenerate teenager and/or status quo baiting lens.

However in Hairspray although the teenage lead Tracy Turnblad horrifies and rebels against her parents and some of her schoolmates when she begins an interracial romance, overall she is shown to be a good citizen who is working towards social good and integration.

In Christine Arnie develops a more classic “Yeh, what y’gonna do about it?” defiant teenage stance in response to his parents’ wishes and attempts to control him; while more of a loner, this attitude along with his new 1950s-esque bad-boy style and swagger has him heading towards the outsider rebel rock’n’roll-isms of Johnny Depp’s gang of “drapes” in Cry-Baby.

As part of this youthful rebellion in Christine cars are shown as being autonomous zones away from parental and societal influence, something which was effectively enabled by America’s affluence at the time. These are mobile spaces in which to strut your stuff, make your mark on the world and make out with your partner.

The sense of being at a remove from authority figures and 1950s period aspect of the film are also further shown by one of the key scenes in the film taking place at a drive-in cinema, a location which seems to inherently invoke a sense of a previous era.

And although the film’s location takes place in an anonymous suburb there is a sense of it containing unregulated fringe areas and characters from the edge of society; Christine is bought from an older man who’s shack-like home in an overgrown patch of waste strewn scrubland and general grizzled demeanour could well have tumbled out of some mythological Southern State of America, while the garage in which Arnie repairs Christine seems to be an unregulated edgeland which is often only shown at night and ruled over by its owner who is played as a tobacco chewing, foul mouthed and unkempt, borderline grotesque character.

One aspect of Christine which seems in marked contrast to early 1980s trends within cinema is that Christine is almost the antithesis to the slasher movie; for the first hour or so of its running time the film is nearer to a coming of age film, with murder and mayhem, along with the supernatural aspects, taking a decided “backseat” and throughout the film there is very little gore or overtly graphic onscreen violence.

In this sense it sits alongside some of John Carpenter’s other earlier films such as The Fog (1980), which had a distinctly chilling atmosphere but created and sustained this without more obvious graphic visual scares and special effects.

The pace, plotting and action in both films and also in the likes of his Prince of Darkness (1987) when compared to much of modern cinema tends to be relatively more slowly paced (although notedly without feeling like a “slow” viewing experience) allowing the viewer’s mind and imagination time to breathe and look around rather than bombarding them with endless action and a montage of edits/cuts in an attempt to keep the audience in a state of heightened stimulation and excitement.

Although marketed as a horror film, Christine is not all that horrifying or full of scares and has a warmth and a human quality to it which John Carpenter at his best has brought to his work. Rather than being purely a shock or spectacle orientated genre film it is at least equally an observation of the development and co-dependency of a relationship, one which takes the American love affair with the automobile to a heightened and ultimately destructive level:

“In a sense the picture is not a horror picture. It does not have a lot of gore. It doesn’t have a lot of scenes of obvious terror. It’s a little bit different. For a long time in the film nothing really happens to anybody. It’s a development of the relationship between Arnie and the car, Stockwell and so forth.” (John Carpenter talking about the film in Christine: Ignition, Fast and Furious & Finish Line, a three-part making of documentary from 2003.)

The character John Stockwell in the film is Arnie’s closest friend who initially attempts to protect his outsider/uncool schoolmate. Their relationship is a little unusual in the sense that it does not fit with American film tradition; John is a popular, good looking athlete, a “jock”, complete with an iconic letterman jacket. Arnie is the boy who has his lunch stolen by the bullies.

However, in a reversing of their normal social roles, for much of the film John is effectively neutered as he is bed bound in hospital due to a sporting iinjury, his football playing days over. As he recuperates Arnie’s power appears to grow, he becomes the (slightly unconvincing) cool one of the friends and begins to date the attractive new girl at school.

In this sense for a while Christine is almost a classic American teen film; the geek becomes the cool kid and gets the girl as the cool kid goes out of favour – although in contrast to much of such genre cinema the cool kid is portrayed as a good guy and more the victim of misfortune, rather than being the arrogant popular member of school society who gets his comeuppance.

Ultimately though the normal balance of power is restored; the uncool kid who has risen up through being corrupted by the supernatural powers of his car has become arrogant and swollen by his power. He looses his sense of normalcy and decency and this in part leads to his demise, while the neutered “jock” cool kid eventually rises again; his actions are aimed at stopping the car’s murderous impulses and its sway on his friend. However although he does not know how complicit Arnie is in the car’s violence, he is ultimately implicit in his friend’s demise as he and Arnie’s former girlfriend band together to bring down Christine in an almost climactic showdown in the garage where she was restored.

Although not made overly implicit there is a sense towards the end of the film that the naturally good looking and popular athletic friend is the one who will be left as the romantic partner with the good looking popular girl (i.e. Arnie’s once girlfriend). And so the natural order is finally restored.

While the film has a slight workmanlike quality to it (John Carpenter took it on as a job of work after the commercially and critically negative reaction his previous film The Thing received on its release in 1982), as with the 1950s cars that feature so heavily in it Christine stands the test of time rather well. This may in part be due to the way in which it deals with universal themes such as love, jealousy, ugliness, beauty, rites of passage and so forth.

Accompanying which the special effects are still impressive today; when Christine restores herself and literally pushes back out her dented bodywork this was done in a real world manner using pneumatics and so forth and the end result are visuals that more than hold their own with modern-day CGI. That the effects were carried out by apparently just ten people, as shown in the credits, makes them all the more impressive, particularly as today similar computer generated effects would probably require multi-columned credits of dozens of people.

 

Elsewhere:

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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The Quietened Village – Released

Released today 8th March 2019.

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

It is inspired in part by images of sections of abandoned, submerged villages and the spires of their places of worship reappearing from the surfaces of reservoirs and lakes, alongside explorations of places that have succumbed to the natural erosion of the coastline and have slowly tumbled into the sea or been buried by encroaching sands.

Some of the lost places which inspired The Quietened Village still exist but only as stripped down shadowlike settlements; their inhabitants have long since left as those who lived there were evicted at short notice so that their homes and hearths could be used as training grounds to prepare for operations during times of large scale conflict.

These points of reference have been intertwined with the spectres of fictional tales; thoughts of Midwich Cuckoo-esque fictions or dystopic tales told and transmitted in times gone by and reimagined in amongst the strands of The Quietened Village.

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

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Available in two CD editions: Dawn Light edition £11.95. Nightfall edition £21.95.
CDs available via our Artifacts Shop and at Bandcamp.

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

Downloads available at Bandcamp,  iTunes, Amazon etc.

Reissue of the 2016 album with new accompanying notes by the contributors, a revised tracklisting, three previously unreleased tracks and a selection of new badge, sticker and print designs.

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



Top of CD.                                                          Bottom of CD.

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

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


Top of CD.                                                             Bottom of CD.

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

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Tracklisting:

1) The Drowning Of Mardale Green – The Straw Bear Band
2) Drowned In Sand – Field Lines Cartographer
3) Armboth & Wythburn – The Heartwood Institute
4) Flying Over A Glassed Wedge – Howlround
5) Separations – The Rowan Amber Mill
6) Playground Ritual – Polypores
7) The Coast In Flux – Pulselovers
8) Damnatorum – The Soulless Party
9) Day Blink – Time Attendant
10) 47 Days And Fathoms Deep – A Year In The Country
11) Lost Villages Of Holderness – Sproatly Smith
12) Bunk Beds – Cosmic Neighbourhood

On the original 2016 release of The Quietened Village:

“This evocative album offers a score for crumbled communities, abandoned villages and sunken spires, honouring history with quiet grace befitting its title. The Quietened Village joins recent releases on Folklore Tapes and Wist Records as loving, tasteful tributes to a nearly-forgotten past.” A Closer Listen

“Ghostly, beautifully conveying a sense of loneliness and the passing of time.” Terrascope

“A really impressive album, packed full of original and exciting experimental music with a strong underground spirit.” Bliss Aquamarine

“The music contained within here perfectly conveys the sense that a place once inhabited can never be truly empty again. Echoes of long finished conversations and the thoughts and feelings of past inhabitants haunt these carefully curated pieces. There’s plenty more to love here too but the beauty of this release is that even though the constituent parts are all very strong indeed and all worthy of mention, it’s as a whole that The Quietened Village impresses most, and it’s not just down to the music. AYITC’s releases are all meticulously packaged, with The Quietened Village proving to be no exception, its two editions boasting all sorts of goodies, not to mention carefully orchestrated visuals that perfectly accompany the music contained within.” The Active Listener

“The album evokes a beautifully atmospheric pastoral reverie, and a ghostly sense of loss.” Jim Jupp, Ghost Box Records

“I hear a headlong collision between haunted summer days and the decay of man-made things. It seems to be all over this album from the cyclopean Radiophonics of Howlround to the mournful folk of The Straw Bear Band to the haunting work of Sproatly Smith.” Was Ist Das?

“For lovers of the sounds of nature, both violent and serene.” Joe Banks, Shindig!

“A delicate and entrancing, at times disconcerting, weave of absorbing instrumentation, electronica and tape manipulation, velvety vocals and half-recalled echoes. The music conjures roofless walls holding spirits not populations, skeletal spires pointing accusative fingers skywards, submerged shadows reflecting in water, crumbled remains wreathing a cliff’s base.” Folk Words

 

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No More Unto the Dance: Audio Visual Archive 10/52

No More Unto The Dance is a reflection of nightlife memories and the search for the perfect transportative electronic beat; a collection of reverberations that have fragmented with the passing of time. It is a document of life once lived in the very heart of metropolises, immersed in their subcultures: a time that was predicated in part by a passion for club culture, dancing, dressing up and related explorations carried out with the obsession, enjoyment and energy of youth.

Much of that gradually (or sometimes not so gradually) faded away or took other pathways.

The world in which this recording was made does still come alive at night but it is more likely to be the nocturnal foraging and wanderings of wildlife rather than in a low-ceilinged basement lit by a strobe light.

The music presented here is the soundtrack to those basements, filtered through the looking glass of a life far removed from the bright lights and big city, the dressing up and dancing but a memory – a world far, far apart, almost that seems to belong only to the worn and aged pages of a faded, forgotten magazine.

The journey it takes envisions a mixtape of memories and echoes of those pages, of 12”s bought because of the primal rush their electronics would bring on when listened to in a record shop, the lucky dip of unknown records bought hopefully from the racks of bargain basements, the more abstract/triphop beats to be found in intriguingly designed/obscure sleeves and to times lost in the seemingly endless dreams of a club; a time when the future burned with the brightness, optimism and idealism of youth.

(Quoted from text which accompanied the album.)

 

“…never loses sight of the beat, the heartbeat that every great club has (or had), that gave every one its own sense of purpose and desire, be it a prohibition speakeasy or a chill-out room in a rural barn. Such imaginings are haunting, layering one another with emotional imagery that cannot help but lead the ghosts onto the floor, a disco queen here, a rave scene there, the scent of northern soul, the smell of teen spirit.  By the time it’s over, you feel as though you’ve been dancing all night; by the time you’ve recovered, you want to do it again.” (Dave Thompson writing at Spin Cycle/Goldmine.)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 3 and the “What is hauntology? And why is it all around us?” BBC Archive Film

A couple of intriguing things that directly or in part take their inspiration from the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book have recently been sent my way…

First up is Chris Lambert’s A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 3, which is an hour and a half or so mix of music and film etc samples that explores the themes of the Wandering Through Spectral Fields book. It is the third in a series of mixes with this one focusing on Chapters 27-39 of the book.

The mix can be listened to at Mixcloud here and details can be found at the Wyrd Kalendar site.

It segues Roger Whittaker’s theme song for the apocalyptic film No Blade of Grass (which if you just read the lyrics should be terrifying but it’s easy listening delivery makes it, possibly accidentally, almost humorous)… into the actually terrifying unsettling choral music by Christopher Gunning produced for the 1981 British television adaptation of John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids… and then onto samples from the 1960 film adaptation of his Midwich Cuckoos renamed Village of the Damned… into a traditional style instrumental folk song which accompanies Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane discussing there Folk Archive work, which collected contemporary folk art from everyday life… and then into Johnny Hawksworth’s Industria-Go-Go, an uptempo library music track from 1970 released by library music label De Wolfe which I think at the time, in order to help potential users, was given the descriptive tag “Energetic, movement”… and well, that’s just for starters.

The mix also takes in work by MacGillivray, Vashti Bunyan, Anne Briggs, The Owl Service, Audrey Copard, Watersons, David Cain, Howlround, Classroom Projects, Kate Bush, Jonathan Hodge, Pierre Arvay, John Williams, COI, Magpahi, Jane Weaver, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council.

The music etc is accompanied by the voice of a helpful guide (and others) and some rather fine punning at points that made me laugh out loud and which is based around the Wandering Through Spectral Field’s book’s text,

A fine piece of work – humorous, unsettling, inventive, exploratory.

The chapters of the book the mix explores are:

27. General Orders No. 9 and By Our Selves: Cinematic Pastoral Experimentalism

28. No Blade of Grass and Z.P.G.: A Curious Dystopian Mini-Genre

29. The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids: John Wyndham, Dystopian Tales, Celluloid Cuckoos and the Village as Anything But Idyll

A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-Symptoms film-Images film-hauntological begetters-the uneasy landscape-gothic bucolia

30. Folk Archive and Unsophisticated Arts: Documenting the Overlooked and Unregulated

31. Folkloric Photography: A Lineage of Wanderings, Documentings and Imaginings

32. Poles and Pylons and The Telegraph Appreciation Society: A Continuum of Accidental Art

33. Symptoms and Images: Hauntological Begetters, the Uneasy Landscape and Gothic Bucolia

34. The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water: Public Information Films and Lost Municipal Paternalisms

35. Magpahi, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council: Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and Considerations of Modern Day Magic

36. Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before: Whispering Fairy Stories until They are Real

37. The Owl Service, Anne Briggs, The Watersons, Lutine and Audrey Copard: Folk Revisiters, Revivalists and Reinterpreters

38. The Seasons, Jonny Trunk, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Howlround: A Yearning for Library Music, Experiments in Educational Music and Tape Loop Tributes

39. An Old Soul Returns: The Worlds and Interweavings of Kate Bush

As with previous Spectral Fields Wyrd Kalendar mixes in an I-Spy manner see if you can match the music to the chapters…

Chris Lambert is an author who has worked on/written various books including Tales from the Black Meadow and Wyrd Kalendar, which included illustrations by Andy Paciorek (who also works on Folk Horror Revival and Urban Wyrd) and which was accompanied by a CD that included music by amongst others Widow’s Weeds, Keith Seatman, Emily Jones, Beautify Junkyards, Concretism, The Soulless Party and The Rowan Amber Mill.

Which brings me to the “What is hauntology? And why is it all around us?”, a short film/documentary made by the BBC Archive which serves as a concise overview of some of the recurring themes of hauntological work, its background, some of those whose work has been labelled as hauntology etc and in part takes it inspiration from some of the topics discussed in the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and related text.

With a brief description that describes it as considering “From TV to art to design – why a ‘nostalgia for lost futures’ seems to be everywhere” and an appropriately 1970s and sometimes degraded television transmission aesthetic the film interweaves archival television footage with explanatory text and appearances from philosopher Jacques Derrida who coined the phrase hauntology, the darkly humorous artwork of Scarfolk, public information films, The Changes, Look Around You’s askew take on television science programmes, Ghost Box Records, the Play for Today drama Robin Redbreast, Clay Pipe Music, hypnagogic pop and a fair bit more.

It’s appearance/broadcast via the BBC also seems appropriate in a way due to the Broadcasting Corporation’s historical connections with a particular kind of progressive modernity and related idealist intentions…

Well worth a visit and look-see… What is Hauntology? can be viewed here.

 

Elsewhere:

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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John Carpenter’s Christine Part 1 – Anthropomorphisation, Magical Realism and Rock’n’Roll Dream Lovers: Wanderings 10/52

Around the early to mid 1980s there was a trend in American television for the vehicle to be the “star” and/or central premise of the show, including the series Street Hawk (1985), Knight Rider (1982-86), Airwolf (1984-1987) and Blue Thunder (1984).

Generally the star vehicles, which included a motorbike, a car and two helicopters, were technologically advanced and used by the forces of good against the bad guys to variously uphold law, order and justice.

Although to a degree they are fetishised – in the sense of being objects which while technology orientated have an almost magical ability to protect and aid their owners/users – only the car in Knight Rider is overtly anthropomorphised. However while possessing a form of artificial intelligence and appearing quite human through its use and understanding of spoken language and its almost gentle persona, at heart it is still only a machine, a piece of advanced technology.

In marked contrast is John Carpenter’s 1983 cinema adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Christine, also originally published in 1983.

Set in 1978 it tells the story of Arnie, a teenage misfit/school outsider, who buys and restores a 1958 Plymouth Fury car named Christine, which while essentially technically just another assembly line car turns out to be unexplainedly possessed and have a will and mind of its own and is bent on destruction, revenge and the complete unquestioning devotion and corruption of its owner.

(King chose this particular car as he considered it a “forgotten car” and because at that point it did not have a legend attached to it – i.e. it had not been used in iconic film, music, literature etc; it was a relatively rare care as less than 5,500 of the 1958 model were made. After an extensive search and advertising campaign 23 were found for use in the film, although only 16 were used for filming, with the others being used for parts. Other makes and models of car were also customised to make them look more like Christine.)

Here the vehicle is thoroughly anthropomorphised and becomes another individual with human like dark desires and intentions, with the film essentially revolving around this aspect and its new owner’s increasingly destructive attachment to and connection with it:

“At its core, Christine taps into our fundamental curiosity and need to explore the realms of anthropomorphism, once traditionally ascribed only to other living creatures, but more recently accredited to non-animate objects in our modern and post-modern world.” (Nick Zegarac, Nixpix website.)

The first time Arnie sees and “meets” the car he immediately anthropomorphises it;

“Stop the car, I want to look at herShe could be fixed up. She could. She could be real tough.”

The car is filmed in such an aesthetically appreciative manner that it could well be taking notes from Kenneth Anger’s fetishistic (in both the attributing magical powers and sexual sense) Kustom Kar Kommandos short film from 1965, in which a young man gently and lovingly buffs an already gleaming customised hot rod. That film is soundtracked by the Paris Sisters’ version of Bobby Darrin’s late 1950’s love song “Dream Lover” – which provides a further aesthetic connection between the films as Christine’s radio only plays 1950s rock’n’roll.

As Arnie restores the car to its former head turning, chromed and red painted glory, it also acts in a manner which reflects both the above meanings of fetish; the car becomes Arnie’s one true sweetheart, trumping and competing for his feelings over his actual girlfriend.

Also as he transforms the car it seems to transform him into a black wearing, 1950s Johnny Cash or Rebel Without A Cause James Dean-esque style bad boy. Accompanying this transformation Christine appears to take revenge on those who threaten the car and by exension him – there is a symbiotic melding of them and they effectively become an interdependent couple, with at one point Arnie saying to Christine:

“We’ll make it better, huh. They can’t hurt us any more. Not if we work together.”

Until very nearly the end of the film it is not clear whether Christine is acting independently when she drives and hunts down her tormentors or whether Arnie is at the wheel as one half of a murderous couple; he is not seen entering or leaving the car before such actions, has an alibi to show he was elsewhere, each time she undertakes such an act her windows are blacked out so the viewer cannot see if there is a driver at the wheel and to further confuse matters at one point Christine is shown to autonomously attempt to deal with her competition and do away with her Arnie’s girlfriend.

It is only once Arnie truly commits emotionally to Christine that the car appears to also fully reciprocate and its super/preternatural abilities become more overt, which happens after the school bullies have smashed her almost beyond repair. Arnie is shown facing her and in highly sexual/emotional manner says “Okay. Show me.” At which point there is a classic John Carpenter soundtrack synth stab and the car literally flexes her muscles and miraculously restores her bodywork and “sensuous” curves back to normal.

(As an aside as he did on a number of his films John Carpenter created the original score for Christine alongside repeat collaborator Alan Howarth.)

Although an inanimate object rather than conventionally alive Christine appears to have a brooding malevolent and evil presence and her apparently autonomous actions are generally predatory.

As there is no backstory in the film which explains the car’s possession (there was in the original book but it was removed for the script), its sentience and autonomous abilities appear to be nearer to a form of unexplained magical realism than to be rooted in the supernatural. At the start of the film the car is shown on the assembly line, just another car, albeit more vibrantly painted in striking red next to the other car’s beige. That the car was “born” a bad seed is depicted as she assaults one factory worker, trapping his fingers in her bonnet and most probably murders another who does not treat her interior with respect and that is as far as any source of her possession is explained.

As previously mentioned Christine’s radio only plays a previous era’s status quo worrying devil’s music via its radio (i.e. 1950s rock’n’roll).

This association between the car’s malevolence and a particular era’s music reflects a difference from contemporary cultural nostalgia for the 1980s, which often tends to look back with a certain rose-tinted, selective starry-eyed affection. Christine’s look towards the 1950s seems to take a considerably more darkly refracted view of an earlier period and to ultimately reject related nostalgia; after going on a murderous spree Christine is eventually crushed and apparently defeated, although she appears to have one last breath and statement in her as “Rock and roll is here to stay” keeps playing even when the radio technically must have been destroyed.

The final line in the film after the car’s apparent destruction is “God, I hate rock’n’roll” but at the very end there is a slight movement from Christine, possibly indicating life and perhaps suggesting that the sins and sinfulness of rock’n’roll is indeed “here to stay” – although a sequel was not forthcoming, so this has been left open ended.

(Postscript: in 2017 John Carpenter directed a kind of sequel or at least revisiting in the music video he directed in 2017 for the re-recorded Christine theme which featured as part of his Anthology Movie Themes 1974-1998, for which he created new versions of various of the tracks he had previously created for his film work.)

To be continued in Part 2…

 

Elsewhere:

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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The Quietened Bunker: Audio Visual Archive 9/52

“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.)

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

“…the drifting drones of ‘Drakelow Tunnels’ is music for ghosts. Created by Grey Frequency the track is stark and beautiful, you can almost see the figures that endlessly walk the abandoned corridors, lost souls frozen in time.” (Quoted from a review at Terrascope.)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. The Quietened Bunker – Night and Dawn editions released
  2. Week #30/52: The Quietened Bunker Archives #1; A Lovely Day Out / Not Your Average Des Res
  3. Week #31/52: The Quietened Bunker Archives #2; Songs For The Bunker – The Once Was Ascendance Of Apocalyptic Pop
  4. Week #32/52: Bunker Archives #3: Wargames, Hollywood phantoms and phantasms and the only winning move is not to play
  5. Week #33/52: Bunker Archives #4; Paul Virilio’s Bunker Archaeology and accidental utilitarian art
  6. Audiological Transmission #29/​​​​52​​: The Quietened Bunker – Lower Level Clock Room
  7. Audiological Transmission #30​/​​​​​52​​: The Quietened Bunker – Drakelow Tunnels
  8. Audiological Transmission #31/​​​​52​​: The Quietened Bunker – Aggregates II
  9. Audiological Transmission #32/​​​​​52​​: The Quietened Bunker – Crafty Mechanics
  10. Audiological Transmission #33​/​​​​​​52​​: The Quietened Bunker – Waiting For The Blazing Skies
  11. Audiological Transmission #50​/​52: The Quietened Bunker – Comms: Seen Through The Grey / Revisitation #4a
  12. The Quietened Bunker – A Gathering Of Transmissions
  13. The Quietened Bunker – A Timely Gathering Of Transmissions
  14. The Quietened Bunker, Waiting for the End of the World, Subterranea Britannica, Bunker Archaeology and The Delaware Road – Ghosts, Havens and Curious Repurposings Beneath our Feet: Chapter 17 Book Images

 

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The Delaware Road, Mo’Wax, UNKLE, DJ Shadow, Tricky, Portishead, Massive Attack, Boards of Canada, Moon Wiring Club, DJ Food, Belbury Poly, The Memory Band, Grantby, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Andrea Parker – Universe Creation and Spectral Lines in the Cultural Landscape: Wanderings 9/52

Well, this post may initially seem like something of a “cuckoo in the nest” at A Year In The Country but there are  lines and points of connection with the likes of Mo’Wax, UNKLE, Tricky, Massive Attack and the spectral hauntological, otherly interests that are generally found around these parts, including The Delaware Road events.

James Lavelle, the founder of record label Mo’Wax and the band UNKLE has talked about “creating your own universe”, something which he has often done in his own work with say UNKLE’s Psyence Fiction album from 1998 seeming to belong to and spring from a wide-ranging and almost epically cinematic created and self-contained world of distinctive illustrations, multiple variations of bespoke packaging, physical artifacts such as toys and conceptual underpinning.

That sense of creating your own universe is essentially what often happens within hauntological and the further reaches of folk work; whether that be the parallel world created by Ghost Box Records or the form of “imaginative time travel” (to quote Rob Young from his book Electric Eden) that was carried out by folk music and culture explorers in the 1970s when they appeared to be attempting to create and/or drawing from an imagined historical and cultural folkloric landscape that never existed in the “real” world.

As I have referred to at A Year In The Country before, the distance from the abstract instrumental hip hop/electronica or “trip hop” for which Mo’Wax is particularly known is not all that far removed from and has various lines of connection with some hauntological orientated music.

(And as an aside I would highly recommend the documentary The Man From Mo’Wax that focuses on the work of James Lavelle, which even if you are not directly interested in the likes of Mo’Wax, UNKLE, DJ Shadow etc is still a fascinating piece of film making in the way that it captures the story of a particular slice of culture/creating your own universe and one of its main instigators.)

Hauntology forebears Boards of Canada often utilise instrumental electronic breaks and beats that are not that dissimilar in terms of their downbeat, more abstract nature from those that may have been found on a Mo’Wax release in the 1990s and Ghost Box Records artist Belbury Poly collaborated on the 10″ Further Navigations, an “exploration of the ancient Harrow Way, the ‘lost’ road of Southern England”, with The Memory Band and Grantby aka Dan Grigson, the latter of which had a track on Mo’Wax compilation Headz 2 released in 1996.

(Further interconnecting such things Stephen Cracknell of The Memory Band also worked with Dan Grigson in a similar period in the 1990s, including collaborating as Barcode on the track Love Anybody, which was included on the 1996 album Cup of Tea Records – A Compilation, a release by a label which at times explored not dissimilar trip hop-esque areas of music as Mo’Wax and which was described as releasing “slo-mo beat excursions and weirdelic sound collages”.)

Alongside which if looked at in a more purely musical/audio basis rather than as part of a hauntological cultural landscape then the whimsical spectral work of Moon Wiring Club and its use of downbeat electronica, beats and samples could well have been found on a label such as Mo’Wax contemporary and also trip hop-esque/abstract electronica label Wall of Sound in the 1990s.

If you were to replace the 1970s British children’s television and archival broadcast footage used in Moon Wiring Club’s samples and videos with say the underground hip hop sampling and reference points of some Mo’Wax and Wall of Sound related work then they share a fair amount of musical similarities, as Moon Wiring Club’s work also does with Boards of Canada:

“It’s brutalist sampling, downtempo drums and bobbing phantom voices place it firmly in Boards of Canada’s wake.” (Rob Young writing in a review of Moon Wiring Club’s Shoes Off And Chairs Away album in Uncut magazine.)

While former Mo’Wax released artist Andrea Parker, alongside Daz Quayle, has gone on to produce the Private Dreams and Public Nightmares album (2011) which reinterpreted the work of electronic music pioneer, BBC Radiophonic Workshop member and hauntological point of reference and inspiration Daphne Oram.

Lines of connection could be drawn from the likes of Oram’s pioneering explorations in electronic music and much of the electronic based music mentioned in this post – without her work and that by the likes of Delia Derbyshire (and possibly the futurist electronic pop of Kraftwerk) this post and some of the music and culture it discusses may well be rather different.

To further draw lines of connection between this (rather) loose cultural landscape, in 2019 Andrea Parker is also to be one of the performers at The Delware Road: Ritual and Resistance two-day festival organised by the Buried Treasure record label, which takes place inside a military base near Stonehenge, an event at which “artists will perform work inspired by landscape, myth, broadcast propaganda and the transformative nature of sound”.

The line-up for the festival draws from what could be called the confluence between otherly pastoral/hauntological work and also includes a number of performers etc who work in such areas including Paul Watson, Front & Follow, Kemper Norton, Sarah Angliss, Simon James, Revbjelde, Castles in Space, The Twelve Hour Foundation, Concretism, Polypores, Alison Cotton, Ian Helliwell and Radionics Radio.

And again further interconnecting such things The Delaware Road draws its name from an actual road in London where the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop was originally situated…

DJ Food (aka Strictly Kev) is also in the event’s line up, which provides further lines of interconnection with some of the themes and work mentioned in this post as some of the music released as DJ Food at times explores not dissimilar territory as DJ Shadow did on his Mo’Wax released records in the 1990s

(Which to loosely describe it could be called “left-field beats, breaks and crate digging sample based, abstract often instrumental hip hop cut-n-paste soundscaping” and in DJ Food’s case on the likes of the Kaleidoscope album released in 2000 this is sometimes spliced with a playful, humorous aspect that samples and/or recreates period Beat era and noir themes and styles.)

The DJ Food records have generally been released on the label Ninja Tune, which was founded in 1990 by some of the collaborators who have worked on the DJ Food releases and in terms of aesthetic and musical styles – abstract instrumental hip hop etc – it has released music which has at times explored some similar cultural territory as Mo’Wax releases did in the 1990s.

Alongside appearing at a previous Delware Road event, in recent years Strictly Kev, working as DJ Food, has also co-created the Further events in London, which have featured performances and audio-visual DJ sets from some of those who work in similar hauntological cultural territories as The Delaware Road: Ritual and Resistance event and/or are appearing at it, including Howlround, Ghost Box Records and Simon James of Black Channels. Further interconnecting things as DJ Food he has also organised and performed at the O is for Orange events, the second of which was a Boards of Canada influenced live event featuring a montage of music, found audio and psychedelic imagery.

All of which brings me back to “trip hop”…

Trip hop has become something of a dirty or uncool genre description that is often used fairly narrowly to refer to music that came after Portishead’s first album Dummy in 1994 and as a description it sometimes refers to music which possibly overly narrowly utilised Portishead’s template of downbeat hip hop drum beats and smoky female vocals. Here I use it as a shorthand to indicate a wider and loose cultural grouping and set of atmospheres that included the likes of the instrumental abstract hip hop beats of for example some Mo’Wax 1990s releases (possibly DJ Shadow – although I would say his Endtroducing album released in 1996 and his related work from that period exists more in a world unto itself, more on such things in a moment), the haunted noir of Portishead, the at times claustrophobic intensity and tinges of darkness of Massive Attack and the fractured paranoid wordscape introspections of Tricky.

If revisited now the 1990s work of Massive Attack and Tricky sound in part like spectral British reinterpretations and reinventions of hip hop and rap culture; not so much a hauntological-esque misremembering but possibly work created as though it could only access its source material via a distant, out of tune, fading in and out shortwave radio or via darkened dreamscapes.

In terms of existing in and creating your own universe, Tricky’s more recent albums such as False Idols and Ununiform also seem like something of a homecoming for him – he appears to have become more accepting of the possibility that his work exists in its own cultural space and the albums have a focus that in part draws from and references his own legacy and its self-contained nature, with some tracks directly referencing his earlier music in a self-sampling or almost Part 2 of an ongoing story manner.

To a degree in the 1990s Tricky was marketed as a pop-star and had Top 20 hits in the UK etc but his appearance as a guest of pop mega-star Beyonce at the large-scale music festival Glastonbury in 2011 provides a striking example of just how far removed he is from the mainstream pop pantheon; he seems like a very alien or “other” presence in amongst the twirling backing dancers and Beyonce’s pop-grinding.

Portishead’s work in the 1990s also to a degree draws from a distant view of hip hop musically but then combined it with an atmosphere that seemed to conjure an imaginary smoky late night noirish world, further echoing American source material (i.e. noir film, literature etc culture) but rather than being a retro retreading it created a new world all of its own – something of a recurring theme in this post it would appear.

Aesthetically connecting such work to hauntology, the use of spectral aesthetics can also be found in Massive Attack’s more recent Fantom / Fantom 2 apps, whereby their music can be remixed by moving the device and its camera in order to cause the source audio to be manipulated into its own fractured spectres and creating quietly unsettling, shadowed and trail filled imagery of the app’s user.

Further points of connection could be made due to both some hauntological work and tracks by Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack and DJ Shadow that were produced in the 1990s noticeably utilising the sound of vinyl crackle, which connects with what writer and academic Mark Fisher described in his book Ghosts of My Life as being “perhaps the principal sonic signature of hauntology”:

“William Basinki, the Ghost Box label, The Caretaker, Burial Mordant Music, Philip Jeck, amongst others… (These) artists that came to be labelled hauntological were suffused with an overwhelming melancholy; and they were preoccupied with the way in which technology materialised memory – hence a fascination with television, vinyl records, audiotape, and with the sounds of these technologies breaking down.”

While some of the music produced in the 1990s by DJ Shadow, Tricky, Portishead and Massive Attack may have a melancholic air and as previously mentioned at times be accompanied by a form of paranoid introspection, this appeared to draw more from a consideration of personal feelings and/or in Portishead’s case an associated noirish almost fatalistic seeming atmosphere, whereas often in hauntological labelled work the sense of melancholia can be seen in part as taking inspiration from and being an expression of a personal-societal sense of lost progressive futures.

Rather than having such an overt philosophical underpinning, Tricky, Massive Attack and Portishead’s use of vinyl crackling may be considered more as a result of aesthetic choices in order to create particular atmospheres and effects and it is not clear whether it was present in the vinyl records which they sampled or added afterwards. In DJ Shadow’s work the use of crackle in his recordings from a similar period is possibly more likely to have been both an inherent part of the way his records were created as soundscape collages built from old “found” records rather than, as in Tricky, Massive Attack and Portishead’s case, vocal lead songs which utilised samples and also serves as a reminder of this recording process, an acknowledgment and homage to the layers of recording history from which his tracks were built and its reconfigured spectral echoes.

As with some hauntological work this use of vinyl crackle and referencing of the physicality of older analogue recording methods, as also commented on in Ghosts of My Life in reference to hauntologically labelled music, can often appear to “make us aware that we are listening to a time that is out of joint”. It instills a sense of the music belonging to a time the listener cannot quite place; one that was both contemporary in style and its production techniques but which also seemed to exist in an atemporal timeline of its own.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Private Dreams And Public Nightmares – Daphne Oram Reworked and Re-Interpreted by Andrea Parker and Daz Quayle
  2. The Delaware Road – main website
  3. The Delaware Road: Ritual & Resistance – tickets at fixr
  4. The Delaware Road: Ritual & Resistance – tickets at Bandcamp
  5. Moon Wiring Club / Blank Workshop
  6. Massive Attack’s Fantom
  7. Mo’Wax Urban Archaeology: 21 Years of Mo’Wax Recordings – a rather beautiful book and highly recommended…
  8. …as is The Man From Mo’Wax documentary
  9. Ghost Box Records
  10. Mordant Music
  11. Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life at Zero Books
  12. Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life
  13. DJ Food’s “online scrapbook” site…
  14. …and more specifically, the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book at DJ Food’s site here…
  15. …and here.
  16. The Further Navigations 10″ at Static Caravan Recordings

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Ether Signposts #15/52a: The Delaware Road at Kelvedon Hatch
  2. The Quietened Bunker, Waiting for the End of the World, Subterranea Britannica, Bunker Archaeology and The Delaware Road – Ghosts, Havens and Curious Repurposings Beneath our Feet: Chapter 17 Book Images
  3. Wanderings #8/52a: Dropping Science: From Endtroducing to The Electronique Void Via Haunted Tea Rooms And Pans People
  4. Day #99/365: 14 tracks – “Hauntology: A peculiar sonic fiction”
  5. Day #143/365: Central Office Of Information + Mordant Music = MisinforMation
  6. Day #163/365: Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life and a very particular mourning and melancholia for a future’s past…
  7. Week #4/52: The Following Of Ghosts – File Under Psychogeographic / Hauntological Stocking Fillers
  8. Day #260/365: A return to OST… from teacake time to sacred relics…
  9. Day #199/365: The ether ephemera of Mr Ian Hodgson and wandering from village green preservation to confusing English electronic music…
  10. Ether Signposts #14/52a: Further – A Temporary Audio Visual Space
  11. Wanderings #45/52a: Further and Audio Visual Explorations

 

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Fractures: Audio Visual Archive 8/52

“Fractures is a gathering of studies and explorations that take as their starting point the year 1973; a time when there appeared to be a schism in the fabric of things, a period of political, social, economic and industrial turmoil, when 1960s utopian ideals seemed to corrupt and turn inwards… The album is themed around the notion that the year 1973 was a cultural and psychic tipping point.” (Quoted from the album’s text and writing at The Ghost Box Records Guest Shop.)

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.

 

“A skillfully weighted blend of dark folklore and synthesised experimentation, Fractures is a bit special.” Electronic Sound

 

Tracks from the album were also broadcast amongst the traditional and digital radio airwaves at:
Evening Of Light / The Golden Apples Of The Sun #1 / The Golden Apples Of The Sun #2The Séance / Radio: More Than Human / You, The Night And The Music #1 / You, The Night And The Music #2 / fRoots Radio / Free Form Freakout,  Project Moonbase and in a circular manner at the Test Transmission Archive.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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The Debatable Lands, Undulating Waters, In The Sunshine We Rode The Horses and Ufology – Audio Undercurrents Part 1: Wanderings 8/52

Something of a round-up of some of the flipside and undercurrents of music released in the last year or so that has caught my ear and eye…

First up is The Debatable Lands, the sixth studio album from tape-wranglers Howlround… well, strictly speaking I suppose it was recorded in a form of improvised home studio:

“In December 2017, Howlround (Robin the Fog) was invited to perform at “The Winter Solstice Soundscapes” event for the recently opened record store “Vinyl Café” in his home town of Carlisle, Cumbria. Inspired by the reception to his first ever performance in the great border city, he covered his parent’s dining room table with the same equipment, stretched loops of tape around his mum’s seasonal candlesticks when she wasn’t looking… and this LP is the result. The only equipment used on the album is two 1/4” reel-to-reel tape machines and one microphone. The sounds created are entirely at the discretion of the machines (much of them derived from ‘closed-input’ recordings) and all tracks were produced in a single take. There are no edits, no overdubs and no additional effects.”

The method of recording brings to mind tales of Delia Derbyshire running tape loops round the corridors of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop after most people had gone home, which seems a rather appropriate line of connection considering that Howlround’s first album The Ghosts of Bush was in part a tribute to Bush House, the now closed previous home for the BBC’s World Service and also the way in which Howlround’s recording techniques could be considered part of a lineage that connects back to the experiments of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

In comparison with some earlier work The Debatable Lands features quite a heavy take on the Howlround sound, which at times brings to mind a form of accidental hazy pulsating and almost gabba-like techno (or “tapeloop techno” to use a phrase from the Howlround site). That sense of gabba-like tapeloop techno is particularly present on the track Black Path which with its crunching distorted industrial-esque beats could well have been found on an unmarked white label 12″ bought from the “Fringe & Experimental” section of an independent dance music record shop in London’s Soho a decade or two ago and which has mysteriously resurfaced via Howlround’s tape wrangling and channeling of recordings’ lost and hidden echoes on this album.

Details on the album can be found at Howlround’s site and at the Touch Shop.

Next up are the compilations Undulating Waters 1 and 2, released by Woodford Halse, which is a project created by Mat Handley who broadcasts the radio show You, the Night & the Music and releases music as Pulselovers.

The two cassette and digital album releases could be considered a physical embodiment of the eclectic selections in the radio show and includes the flipside, undercurrents and sometimes hauntologically spectral sides of electronic, psychedelic, experimental and folk music.

The albums are beautifully packaged and there is a sense of them being a particular labour of love; the slip cases are individually screen printed, die cut and indented, while the inner j-card is also indented and has a die cut “window” through which you can see the included collector’s card.

Pulselovers have had a number of tracks on the A Year In The Country music releases and there is a further crossover with the Undulating Waters albums as they also feature various other contributors to the AYITC albums, including the likes of Spaceship, The Heartwood Institute, Polypores, Grey Frequency, Time Attendant and Field Lines Cartographer. These are joined by amongst others Revbjelde, Pictogram, House of Daggers, Floodlights, 62 Miles From Space, Boll Foreman, Panamint Manse and Midwich Youth Club, with design by Nick Taylor of Spectral Studio.

The collector’s cards also feature text by Paul Bareham, which are short pieces of intriguing and enigmatic fiction that bring to mind the imaginary landscapes of Hookland and Rob Young’s swirling dreamscape fictional writing which was included in Belbury Poly’s album The Belbury Tales.

Trading under the name Woodford Halse, this new adventure into sound perfectly compliments the shows musical ethic / remit in so much as casting a deserving searchlight upon the secretive crooks and crannies of the expansive labyrinth of so sounds stationed on the outer edges of the various electronic / kosmische / psychedelic spectrums. As to the sounds, well pretty much keeping in with the retro / futuro vibe so in common with the likes of ghost box, café kaput, a year in the country, castles in space and of course, polytechnic youth, to name but a few. One for late night attention methinks, ‘Undulating Waters I’ features twelve tracks gathered here for your discerning listening ear, a few names familiar a few not so, guaranteed a little something for all…” (Quoted from a review by Mark Barton, writing at The Sunday Experience).

If you should appreciate the releases by the likes of Ghost Box Records, Castles In Space, Polytechnic Youth etc which are mentioned in the above text by Mark Barton then I expect you will find much to enjoy in these Woodford Halse releases. Or just if you enjoy wandering through the undercurrents and “crooks and crannies” of contemporary music while also appreciating creative album packaging and design as you explore.

Visit Undulating Waters 1 and 2 at the Woodford Halse Bandcamp page here. Visit the You, the Night & the Music radio show’s archive here, Pulselovers Bandcamp page here and The Sunday Experience reviews of the albums here and here.

Then we have Rowan : Morrison’s album In The Sunshine We Rode The Horses.

This is an album of rather lovely what could loosely be called acid or psych folk. It is not purely a retro retreading but brings to mind in part a sense of being a recently unearthed privately pressed folk album from some undefined point possibly in the very late 1960s or during the 1970s, tracks from which might be featured on the compilation album Early Morning Hush: Notes From the Folk Underground 1969-76, which collected such things or filed alongside the likes of the privately pressed 1970s folk albums Shide & Acorn’s Under The Tree and Oberon’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

…this is a beautifully packaged yet somehow understated album destined, it seems, for ‘lost classic’ status, to be rediscovered and cherished by generations of pilgrims on the old straight track. Somehow we think they would approve.” (Quoted from a review of In The Sunshine We Rode The Horses at Terrascope).

Released by Miller Sounds the album is a themed concept album, the narrative of which:

“…takes a snapshot of an imagined history of the land. It explores the conflict taking place at the same area (The Ridgeway) through time periods between the land and man with their developing technologies. These events take place throughout time, from pre-history through to the near-future. In a very 1970s ‘Play for Today’ sort of way, they start to bleed into each other as over time, the earth begins to enter a period of hibernation to heal itself from the destruction wrought upon it.” (Quoted from the album’s accompanying notes.)

The mention of A Play For Today in the album’s notes provides a line of connection with The Book of the Lost that was co-created by Rowan, working as Rowan Amber Mill with Emily Jones, which is also a themed concept album, taking as its inspiration an imagined set of lost folk horror movies and which was an early reference point for A Year In The Country’s own wanderings.

Visit Rowan : Morrison hereThe Rowan Amber Mill hereThe Book of the Lost hereMiller Sounds here and the Terrascope review here.

And finally there is Grey Frequency’s fourth full length album release Ufology.

It is described as “an audio exploration of British UFO sightings from the second half of the twentieth century” and each piece “focuses on a specific encounter from UFO folklore and reinterprets it as an excursion in unsettling sound and atmosphere”.

The album’s focusing on UFO encounters from previous decades, the use of the phrase “UFO folklore” and the images of period suburbia and UFO sightings on vintage film stock/slide mounts that accompany Ufology seem to connect it with a hazy hauntological long-ago and now semi-forgotten sense of previous decade’s interest in such phenomena.

In part the album could be seen to connect with a heightened interest in unexplained, super and preternatural phenomena during the 1970s in sections of society and accompanying coverage in the mainstream media, press, book publishing etc. This is a period Ufology at times draws from as one track mentions 1977 in its title, while The Dechmont Woods Encounter appears to refer to a UFO incident in 1979, although the album also takes its inspiration from events ranging from the 1950s until at least the 1980s.

The album can serve as something of an intriguing semi-obscured signposting to events which have become part of British UFO folklore, as searching for events that inspired it such as the track “You Will Improve Or Disappear” leads to the likes of a “British Roswell” where a small metal disc was discovered on Silpho Moor in 1957 and which some thought was of extra-terrestrial origin. It was alleged to have contained copper sheets with hieroglyphic markings, part of which was translated as meaning “You Will Improve Or Disappear” – hence  I assume the track title on the Ufology album.

Those who believed in its extra-terrestrial origins included Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, who apparently had an on ongoing belief that the object was extra-terrestrial and said he had personally examined it in 1959 and found it to be a “miniature flying saucer”.

Thought by the UFO community to have been lost or deliberately scrapped, in 2018 sections of the disc were found to have been stored at the British Museum.

The tracks on Ufology are built from “lo-fi drones, dark ambient textures, and cassette-looped field recordings” and as with much of Grey Frequency’s work they have both an experimental and accessible quality.

I was particularly taken by The Dechmont Woods Encounter, in which undefined mechanical creakings and vaguely Forbidden Planet-esque noises link into subtly ominous pulsing sounds which seem to imply the approach of extra-terrestrial abductors, which are said by the man who reported it to have been part of the UFO event that inspired the track, before it segues into an “after the event” almost restful or drifting end section.

Available on cassette and digitally, Grey Frequency’s Ufology can be found at their Bandcamp page here.

 

As something of a postscript, the above gathering of albums reminds me of something Kim Harten wrote at Bliss Aquamarine when reviewing the A Year In The Country released album The Corn Mother, of which she said:

“(On the album) the apparently disparate genres of folk music and experimental electronica sit perfectly well together as different expressions of the same basic idea.”

 

Further “Audio Undercurrents” will be explored in in Part 2 of this post…

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #142/365: Fog Signals/Ghost signals from lost transmission centres
  2. The Seasons, Jonny Trunk, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Howlround – A Yearning for Library Music, Experiments in Educational Music and Tape Loop Tributes: Chapter 38 Book Images
  3. Day #167/365: Wandering back through the darkening fields and flickerings to imaginary soundtracks…
  4. Tales from the Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost and The Equestrian Vortex – The Imagined Spaces of Imaginary Soundtracks: Chapter 9 Book Images
  5. Day #192/365: When Do We Dream? Cold Geometries and Grey Frequencies
  6. Cuckoos in the Same Nest – Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings: Chapter 4 Book Images

 

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A Year In The Country – Airwaves: Songs From The Sentinels: Audio Visual Archive 7/52

Artwork from one of the prints included with the Night edition 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.)

 

“‘They Have Departed Once More’ shimmers and glistens like an electronic requiem or mass. ‘To Be Sheltered’s chiming piano motif adds a subtle warmth, banks of synth accentuating the rise and swell of the recurrent harmony before ending with the sound of a solitary radio transmission being sent out into the darkness. ‘A Measuring’s percussive jitteriness leads to the finale of ‘For My Gentle Scattering’, a heart-rending and epic symphony of strings, chilly drones and wintry beauty. And then there is silence, the transmission has ended; yet this album leaves behind a sense of wonder and mood that lasts for long afterwards.” (Quoted from a review by Grey Malkin at The Active Listener.)

 

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 Quietened Village – Preorder

Preorder today 12th February 2019. Released 8th March 2019.

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

It is inspired in part by images of sections of abandoned, submerged villages and the spires of their places of worship reappearing from the surfaces of reservoirs and lakes, alongside explorations of places that have succumbed to the natural erosion of the coastline and have slowly tumbled into the sea or been buried by encroaching sands.

Some of the lost places which inspired The Quietened Village still exist but only as stripped down shadowlike settlements; their inhabitants have long since left as those who lived there were evicted at short notice so that their homes and hearths could be used as training grounds to prepare for operations during times of large scale conflict.

These points of reference have been intertwined with the spectres of fictional tales; thoughts of Midwich Cuckoo-esque fictions or dystopic tales told and transmitted in times gone by and reimagined in amongst the strands of The Quietened Village.

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

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Available in two CD editions: Dawn Light edition £11.95. Nightfall edition £21.95.
CDs available via our Artifacts Shop and at Bandcamp.

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

Downloads will be available at Bandcamp,  iTunes, Amazon etc.

Reissue of the 2016 album with new accompanying notes by the contributors, a revised tracklisting, three previously unreleased tracks and a selection of new badge, sticker and print designs.

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



Top of CD.                                                          Bottom of CD.

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

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


Top of CD.                                                             Bottom of CD.

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

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Tracklisting:

1) The Drowning Of Mardale Green – The Straw Bear Band
2) Drowned In Sand – Field Lines Cartographer
3) Armboth & Wythburn – The Heartwood Institute
4) Flying Over A Glassed Wedge – Howlround
5) Separations – The Rowan Amber Mill
6) Playground Ritual – Polypores
7) The Coast In Flux – Pulselovers
8) Damnatorum – The Soulless Party
9) Day Blink – Time Attendant
10) 47 Days And Fathoms Deep – A Year In The Country
11) Lost Villages Of Holderness – Sproatly Smith
12) Bunk Beds – Cosmic Neighbourhood

On the original 2016 release of The Quietened Village:

“This evocative album offers a score for crumbled communities, abandoned villages and sunken spires, honouring history with quiet grace befitting its title. The Quietened Village joins recent releases on Folklore Tapes and Wist Records as loving, tasteful tributes to a nearly-forgotten past.” A Closer Listen

“Ghostly, beautifully conveying a sense of loneliness and the passing of time.” Terrascope

“A really impressive album, packed full of original and exciting experimental music with a strong underground spirit.” Bliss Aquamarine

“The music contained within here perfectly conveys the sense that a place once inhabited can never be truly empty again. Echoes of long finished conversations and the thoughts and feelings of past inhabitants haunt these carefully curated pieces. There’s plenty more to love here too but the beauty of this release is that even though the constituent parts are all very strong indeed and all worthy of mention, it’s as a whole that The Quietened Village impresses most, and it’s not just down to the music. AYITC’s releases are all meticulously packaged, with The Quietened Village proving to be no exception, its two editions boasting all sorts of goodies, not to mention carefully orchestrated visuals that perfectly accompany the music contained within.” The Active Listener

“The album evokes a beautifully atmospheric pastoral reverie, and a ghostly sense of loss.” Jim Jupp, Ghost Box Records

“I hear a headlong collision between haunted summer days and the decay of man-made things. It seems to be all over this album from the cyclopean Radiophonics of Howlround to the mournful folk of The Straw Bear Band to the haunting work of Sproatly Smith.” Was Ist Das?

“For lovers of the sounds of nature, both violent and serene.” Joe Banks, Shindig!

“A delicate and entrancing, at times disconcerting, weave of absorbing instrumentation, electronica and tape manipulation, velvety vocals and half-recalled echoes. The music conjures roofless walls holding spirits not populations, skeletal spires pointing accusative fingers skywards, submerged shadows reflecting in water, crumbled remains wreathing a cliff’s base.” Folk Words

 

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Night of the Comet Part 2 – Post-Apocalyptic Positivity in “Empty Cities” at the End of the World: Wanderings 7/52

This is Part 2 of a post on Thom Eberhardt’s 1984 cult film favourite Night of The Comet (Part 1 can be viewed here).

Although made to a background of the real world worries of heightened tensions in the Cold War, in Night of the Comet there is a certain matter-of-factness to how the main female protagonists respond to civilisation having suddenly ended; it does not seem to overly throw or even concern them all that much, although they are not without emotion about people and potential romantic partners they have lost.

Without being shown as overly ditsy they often seem more concerned with whether or not they will be able to get a “cute” guy and their outfits than that the world is now nearly empty of humans other than a few zombies.

This aspect was inspired in part by Thom Eberhardt asking real-life teenage girls who he met while filming PBS Specials how they would react to an apocalyptic event, something which one online source is quoted as saying that apparently they saw as an exciting adventure which they only saw a downside to when the subject of dating was brought up; post-apocalypse = a dearth of cute guys (!).

Although in the Arrow Blu-ray notes this aspect is mentioned more in terms of the respondents’ fears when Eberhardt had listened to “two ordinary teenage girls as they struggled to confront the sheer, terrifying enormity of what nuclear holocaust actually meant.”

At the time of its making the communist bloc was being depicted in the US as “the evil empire” and this may find expression in the film, as James Oliver also mentions in the Blu-ray notes that the scientists who Regina and Samantha battle are:

“Dressed in drab, conformist grey jumpsuits and guided by a bland utilitarian philosophy that makes no regard for freedom or individuality… they represent the sort of hive mind mentality that was so often associated with communism during those years.”

An alternative take on this as a contemporary viewer in a world that has been exposed to the conspiracy theories and public mistrust of the motives and behaviour of governments and large institutions in for example the television series The X-Files (1993-) and via widely publicised examples of real world corruption etc, is that the main human villains – the parasitic conformist scientists who come forth from the underground bunker of some undefined think tank – appear to be nearer to the malign forces of the sisters’ own supposedly friendly government than to represent some foreign “other” threat.

Adding to the sense of layered reference points and a grounding in the real world in the film other contemporary and contentious political events are also mentioned; the sisters have been left alone to live with their stepmother by a father who has gone off to fight the Sandinistas in South America in an actual historical campaign which has since been criticised for having questionable legality and utilising brutal methods.

Overall the apocalypse in Night of the Comet seems to be curiously pleasant, in particular as it does not address basic supply problems such as how will the survivors find food, water and supplies on a long term basis? They also almost always appear well-groomed and dressed.

Without mention of the oddness of this being the case tap water is still available and the electricity supply remains constant, which allows for the setting of the final scenes of the film; when we first see Regina she is shown as a teenage slacker working at a cinema who is only really interested in playing an arcade game (cue classic 1980s eyes-lit-by-the-glow-of the screen shots) and in discovering who is the mystery player listed amongst her high scores, the presence of which vexes her.

She has to be asked repeatedly by her boss to undertake the duties of her job who in an expression of the older generation not being impressed by the younger tells her “Don’t be an over achiever, you’ll fit in better with your age group.”

By the end of the film she has taken on the mantle of a settled and responsible parent and she along with her partner Hector and their essentially adopted children are shown as being part of a typical all-American family (although one which is inclusively representative of different backgrounds and ethnicities – which is merely shown rather than overtly signposted or commented on).

They stand waiting for a road crossing light to change and Hector, Regina and her sister have the following exchange:

“What are you waiting for?

“We’re waiting for the light to change.”

“We do not cross against the light.”

“Are you nuts, Auntie Regina?”

“You may as well face the fact Samantha, the whole burden of civilisation has fallen on us.”

And there is no need to worry, Samantha also finds a partner as another lone survivor drives into view and the film again references classic 1980s teenage film tropes; he is fashionably dressed, nicely turned out and as Samantha  comments he has a “nice car” (actually he has 38 of them, finance now no longer being a problem), all of which within film genre language show him to be a “cute” guy, i.e. eligible and more than acceptable as potential boyfriend material.

After Samantha and him raise their sunglasses to greet and appraise one another they soon make their decisions and drive off on a date with the otherwise doomed to singleton sister as her now surrogate adult older sister shouts after her “Just be back by midnight”.

As a humorous linking to the start of the film as they are shown driving away the initial of his personalised number plate reveals that he may well be the mystery arcade game high scorer who had vexed Regina.

In the final shot of the film Regina and her new family unit are shown undertaking day-to-day family activities –  playing ball and taking Polaroid snapshots – on a deserted post-apocalyptic city highway, which leaves the viewer with an optimistic and hopeful view of the future.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Night of the Comet blog site.
  2. Night of the Comet at Arrow Films. Order here.
  3. Night of the Comet at Shout! Factory. Order here.
  4. Night of the Comet trailer.

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Night of the Comet – Shopping and Respect in “Empty Cities” at the End of the World – Part 1: Wanderings 4/52

 

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Twalif X – Racker & Orphan: Audio Visual Archive 6/52

“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.)

 

“…sometimes it is as though when listening to Twalif X that you are almost next to these explorers and you find that you have travelled with them to the otherly darker corners of the woodlands and landscape. A work that is both calm and quietly unsettling, experimental with bursts of folkloric melody that appears with the coming of the dawn…” (Quoted from A Year In The Country).

 

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.

N. Racker is also known as Samuel McLoughlin, who has worked as samandtheplants and with Alision Cooper (Magpahi) on the Natural / Supernatural Lancashire releases on Finders Keepers Records.

D. Orphan is also known as David Chatton-Barker, who created the Folklore Tapes project, which is described as:

“…an ongoing research and heritage project exploring the folkloric arcana of the farthest-flung recesses of Great Britain and beyond. Traversing the mysteries, myths, nature, magic, topography and strange phenomena of the old counties through abstracted musical reinterpretation and experimental visuals.”

They have also collaborated together alongside Dean McPhee on the label/project Hood Faire, which has has often focused on releasing work by its three instigators, both under their own names and as Racker&Orphan and also released a split cassette with Crystal Mirrors (Alison Cooper and Gwendolen Osmond).

 

Alison Cooper, Sam McLoughlin and David Chatton-Barker also collaborated as Echo of Light and performed at the Wyrd Britannia festival:

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. It has been described as incorporating the projectionist as pupeteer and having watched it, I think that is an apt description. To an electronic and acoustic soundtrack of (I think) largely improvised music, two of the collaborators were only present behind a screen from which they essentially live-mixed/live-created a series of projections using a series of physical props, found natural materials and artwork, which in turn were also used to create some of the soundtrack. Which means what? Well, at one point an old bird-cage was placed upon a wind-up gramophone turntable and then as it span it struck a series of prongs to create music… not dissimilar in its own way to the workings of a traditional music box but on a grander and more arcane scale. Accompanying this was a traditional spinning wheel which also appeared to be creating music… Alongside such things, there were also projections created which borrowed from the tropes and imagery of Folklore Tapes releases/world… As a set of work it appeared to be an exploration of the hidden in nature and folklore which surrounds it (the pattern under the plough?).” (Quoted from A Year In The Country.)

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #308/365: Artifact #44/52 released; Twalif X – Racker&Orphan limited CD album. Dusk / Dawn / Day / Night Editions.
  2. Twalif X at A Year In The Country’s Soundcloud page – Extract 1
  3. Twalif X at A Year In The Country’s Soundcloud page – Extract 2
  4. Day #7/365: Folklore Tapes; the ferrous reels of arcane research projects…
  5. Day #32/365: Wyrd Britannia, Folklore Tapes, Magpahi, Tales From The Black Meadow and English Libraries
  6. Day #97/365: Ms A. Cooper, Natural/Supernatural Lancashire and the various nestings of Magpahi…
  7. Magpahi, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council – Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and Considerations of Modern Day Magic: Chapter 35 Book Images
  8. Folklore Tapes and the Wyrd Britannia Festival – Journeying to Hidden Corners of the Land/the Ferrous Reels and Explorations of an Arcane Research Project: Chapter 41 Book Images

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Folklore Tapes
  2. The Hood Faire releases
  3. Magpahi
  4. Supernatural Lancashire Volume Two at Finders Keepers Records

 

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Luciana Haill’s Apparitions – A Modern-Day Conjuring of Phantasms and Peering Down the Corridors of Time: Wanderings 6/52

Well, this was something of a treat to arrive through the letter box… Apparitions is a set of augmented reality artworks created by Luciana Haill.

First off a description of what augmented reality or AR is may be helpful:

AR is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real-world are ‘augmented’ by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple senses including visual, audio, touch and smell. The overlaid sensory information can be constructive (i.e. additive to the natural environment) or destructive (i.e. masking of the natural environment) and is seamlessly interwoven with the physical world such that it is perceived as an immersive aspect of the real environment. In this way, augmented reality alters one’s ongoing perception of a real world environment, in contrast to virtual reality which completely replaces the user’s real world environment with a simulated one.” (Edited from text at Wikipedia.)

To view Apparitions you use an Apple iPad or iPhone (an Android version is in the process of being developed) and the Apparitions app, which is triggered by viewing with the device’s camera one of the three postcards which were produced specifically for the project.

These postcards each feature a vintage sepia tinged photograph of a lost British seaside landmark; St Leonards Pier, The Hastings Albert Memorial Clocktower and Edwardian Beach Huts in Bexhill (and appropriately they come packaged in a traditional candy striped seaside-esque paper bag).

All these places no longer exist; the Clocktower was damaged by arson and subsequently demolished in 1973, the pier suffered bomb damage in World War II and then severe gale damage and was demolished in 1951, while the beach huts were destroyed in a storm in 1905 and almost all of their contents washed out to sea.

Once the app has been triggered by one of the postcards a form of real world “apparition” appears on the device’s screen; the resulting image is a three-dimensional computer generated model of one of the lost landmarks, set on top of the postcard and combined with the real world background that the postcard is in.

An example of this is the above screenshot of one of the app’s augmented reality artworks; the Clocktower is computer generated and it appears almost as though it has been “projected” from one of the Apparitions postcards beneath it – the teacups, paving stones, plants etc are part of the “real” world. Further screenshots of the app are also shown above and below.

The images are each accompanied by their own individual soundtrack which adds an extra sense of immersive layering to the artworks; an older gent with a personal family connection to the site narrates the story of the Beach Huts washing away, holiday makers’ conversations interweave with recordings of period entertainers in the Pier section and the sounds of celebrations, day-to-day life, chiming bells and traffic can be heard while viewing the Clocktower (accompanied by the sounds of seagulls, this being the seaside).

I had first read about augmented reality and related locative digital art, where reality is augmented in a specific location/s, in William Gibson’s novel Spook Country (2007) but viewing Apparitions was the first time that I had seen such work myself; one of the things that struck me was that I had not expected it to be so “real”. The computer generated images onscreen are stylised rather than being photo realistic but they appear very present in the actual world.

The effect brings to mind a form of modern-day conjuring or seancing of ghosts or phantasms (which in turn brings to mind The Eccentronic Research Council’s talking in their lyrics of taking photographs with their iPhones, which they describe as “modern-day magic on a monthly tariff”) or alternatively a form of assisted imaginative time travel that enables you to peer through a portal and down the corridors of history:

In my new artworks Apparitions these augmented reality landmarks are like ghosts which Smartphones can allow us to see.” (Quoted from the Apparitions site.)

In this sense Apparitions explores some similar and overlapping territory with hauntological work and theories in its creation of spectral imagery and sound in relation to lost landmarks and futures. Accompanying which the use of the words ghosts and apparitions in the project is not dissimilar to the use of ghosts or spectres within some hauntological related work in the way that it infers a sense of the spectral after-images or echoes of items from previous eras.

Due to the technology in the app and sensors in the device you can literally wander around the lost landmarks and view them from different angles. I was particularly struck by the Clocktower portion of the project, with the computer generated image of the tower appearing to literally spring out of the postcard into the real world and as the soundtrack plays sections of it gently fade in and out of view, revealing a form of spectral image within a spectral image.

Adding to the sense of unreal-reality is the shadow that this spectral Clocktower apparition casts on the screen and onto the real world background that the postcard is situated in; there is something subtly unnerving about this aspect of combining the artwork with the real world (or should that be invading rather than combining?).

If you should have a chance to view Apparitions it is worth also reading the accompanying text at the website, which adds further layers to the artworks as it provides historical background on the lost landmarks and other connected information.

For example when the app is first loaded a metal plated teapot bobs gently in one corner, which you touch to launch the artwork and it is also featuring during the Beach Huts section of the augmented reality experience.

At the Apparitions’ site it is explained that the teapot was chosen in part as it represents the only surviving possession from when the Beach Huts were destroyed and their contents washed out to sea as it was rescued after being seen bobbing about in the sea on the shore the next day.

There is something particularly evocative about this item, its sole survival and prominent use in Apparitions:

Within the app, the teapot becomes an unlikely but quintessentially English symbol of survival and continuity.”  (Quoted from a piece on Apparitions in the Hastings Independent Press newspaper.)

As with Apparitions, Luciana Haill’s other work is often in areas that combine, cross over and explore the boundaries between new technology, creativity and research – with dreams, the brain and the unconscious being recurring inspirations.

Connected to which Apparitions and some of her other work could be considered to connect with surrealism, an art movement that originated in the 20th century and which is often associated with striking and unexpected juxtapositions of images and explorations of the unconscious and dreams; in Apparitions a not dissimilar juxtaposition at times occurs by the combining in the app of the digitally created Clocktower, Pier and Beach Huts and the real world, with the resulting images and their soundtrack having a dreamlike nature and her installations and illustrations are also in part dream inspired and related three-dimensional artifacts juxtapose found objects in a surreal manner.

Some of her other work could also be seen to connect with both a form of neo-psychedelia and the flickering light Dream Machine experiments of The Beat era and it at times focuses on interactive experiences controlled by monitoring participants’ brainwaves, which are sometimes combined with the use of Dream Machines or their more modern technological descendants such as the kaleidoscopic PandoraStar programmable strobe light. These are devices which produce moving and/or changing light patterns that are viewed with closed eyes and used to alter the brain’s electrical oscillations or waves and potentially aid the user enter a meditative state; in the interactive experiences resulting changes in the brain’s activity are measured and the data this produces is used to trigger changes in a soundtrack which is heard by the participant, creating an intertwining feedback loop of light, brainwave activity and sound.


(Far left and far right: Apparitions at different worldwide locations. Centre: an historical photograph of the actual Clocktower.)

The interactive and immersive elements of these previous projects combined with the use of digital technology is something which can also be found in Apparitions and the app effectively becomes a portable art installation, one where the view it creates by combining the real world with the digital “ghostly” dreamlike conjuring of a lost landmark is in part decided by the person experiencing it and where they choose to do so. Potentially also background noise from the real world location that is chosen can become combined with the immersive quality of the soundtrack, with these decisions about viewing locations and the way in which the landmark can be viewed from different angles and physically wandered around meaning that each experience of the app can have a unique character.

As referred to previously dreams are one of the recurring inspirations within Luciana Haill’s work, which at times draws from Lucid Dreaming, a phrase which relates to awareness within a dream and the ability to take control of the dreamscape and Hypnagogia, which is the state experienced just prior to sleeping or during day-dreaming, with for example illustrations being created during Lucid Dreaming or liminal/transitional states of consciousness.

Lines of connection could be drawn between the dream aspects of this other work and Apparitions as the phantasms that are digitally created could be seen as a form of waking dream.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. The Apparitions site and app
  2. The Apparitions Twitter feed
  3. An article on Apparitions at the Hastings Independent Press website
  4. Luciana Haill’s main website
  5. Luciana Haill’s work in brainwave controlled music featured in Deconstructing Dad – a documentary on electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott
  6. William Gibson’s Spook Country novel

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #207/365: The Eccentronic Research Council: Modern Day Magic on a Monthly Tariff and the Rhyming (and Non-Rhyming) Couplets of Non-Populist Pop
  2. Magpahi, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council – Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and Considerations of Modern Day Magic: Chapter 35 Book Images
  3. Ether Signposts #37/52a: The Raymond Scott Press Pop Figure, Something of a Growing Family of Electronic Music Innovators and A Dream Center Where the Excitement of Tomorrow is Made Available Today
  4. Hauntology – Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre: Chapter 3 Book Images
  5. A Lineage of Spectres Part 1 – From Hauntology to Hypnagogic Pop: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 19/52
  6. A Lineage of Spectres Part 2 – Hauntology, Hypnagogic Pop, Synthwave and the Creation of Mystical Half-Hidden Worlds: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 21/52

 

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Howlround – Torridon Gate: Audio Visual Archive 5/52

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.)

 

“23 minutes of spectral splendour made entirely out of sounds produced from a garden gate!… An amazing achievement, sort of like the missing link between Ekoplekz and On Land, or Stahlmusik gaseously expanded into Kosmische Musik.” (Quoted from a review by Simon Reynolds at Blissblog.)

 

“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.)

 

More details on Torridon Gate here and at Bandcamp here.

Visit Howlround’s site here and Robin The Fog’s site here.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #142/365: Fog Signals/Ghost signals from lost transmission centres
  2. Day #296/365: Howlround’s ether handbill… and a hop, skip and jump to curious links between mirror world reflections of our times, the work of previous audiological explorers, certain English gents and printed/bound spectral considerations…
  3. The Seasons, Jonny Trunk, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Howlround – A Yearning for Library Music, Experiments in Educational Music and Tape Loop Tributes: Chapter 38 Book Images
  4. Day #356/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #6; fading vessellings
  5. Audiological Transmission #14​​/​​​​​52: The Quietened Village – Howlround – Flying Over A Glassed Wedge
  6. Audiological Transmission #35/​​52​​: Howlround – Torridon Gate (excerpt)

 

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Night of the Comet Part 1 – Shopping and Respect in “Empty Cities” at the End of the World: Wanderings 5/52

Night of the Comet is a science fiction film released in 1984 that was written and directed by Thom Eberhardt.

It tells the tale of eighteen year old Regina “Reggie” Belmont and her sixteen year old sister Samantha “Sam”, who are some of the very few survivors from a catastrophic event that occurs when Earth passes through the tail of a comet – something which has not occurred for 65 million years and which it is implied in the film previously may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The population of the world gathers to watch the cosmic light show but some undisclosed effect from the comet reduces all who are exposed to it into either a reddish dust or turns a small number of them into zombie like mutants.

Regina and Samantha survive because they were protected within steel structures; one of the sisters was spending the night with her not-quite-boyfriend in the shielded projection room of the cinema where she worked, while the other had escaped from an argument with her stepmother which had turned nasty by spending the night in a steel shed in their backyard.

(In a classic expression of a teenage stance on events, when faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch the comet Regina’s boyfriend comments “It’s not like you can’t see it on television”.)

In the post-catastrophe world as the sisters move around stilled and quietened city roads and buildings they must deal with the zombies, a psychotic gang and members of a scientific think tank which aims to use them as mere biological livestock in order to produce a serum which they hope will save themselves from mutating or crumbling into dust.

It has been called a low-budget cult film and a B-movie, which may well cause the casual observer to bracket it with generic exploitation fare but this is something much more uniquely characterful.

And while it had a then relatively low-budget of $700,000 this was not a purely niche straight-to-video release; in America it came third at the box office in its opening weekend, stayed in cinemas for six weeks and took approximately $14.4 milion ($35 million today when adjust for inflation).

Although featuring zombies and a fair degree of action it is refreshingly, if not gore free, then at least gore light, something which if the film was made today as a low-budget genre film one can only begin to wonder how potentially gratuitous that aspect would likely be.

The film sits amongst a fairly large number of apocalypse, potential apocalypse and post-apocalypse orientated fictional cinema and television films/dramas produced in the 1980s that often took the more grimly realist route of considerations of generally Cold War related conflict such as The Day After (1983), Threads (1984) and Z for Zachariah (1984) or the “warriors fighting for survival in the post-apocalyptic desert” likes of Mad Max 2, The Aftermath (1982) and Steel Dawn (1987).

It also belongs to a subset of a wider apocalypse genre which could be called the “Empty City” film, which Thom Eberhardt has said he intended it to be a tribute to.

However in many ways it is closer to 1980s films which dealt with the trials and tribulations of teenage life such as Valley Girl (1983) and Tuff Turf (1985) and here the post-apocalyptic world is presented in a relatively light-hearted banter filled manner.

The catastrophic occurrence via a comet induced cosmic light show is a fairly overt nod towards similar events in the 1962 film adaptation of John Wyndhams’s book The Day of the Triffids (1951), while it also goes on to reference both the shopping mall set zombie film Dawn of the Dead (1978) and the “last man on Earth” and empty city aspects of The Omega Man (1971) amongst others.

However Night of the Comet is a quite unique blend of science fiction, horror, teen movie tropes and humour without dissolving into overt campness and this blend along with its inclusion of strong and respectfully portrayed female characters makes it a film all of its own rather than being purely pastiche.

Visually it is quite distinctive; a plethora of neon abounds throughout the film (one of the credits lists quite simply just Neon: Richard John Jenkins) and there is a certain beauty and calm to the empty city highways and skyline, which are filmed through the haze of coloured filters to show the after effects of the comet’s passing.

The fashion and music in the film (bouffant hair and its synth soundtrack in particular) also help to lend the film further visual style, while also marking the film as a period piece but as James Oliver mentions in his notes which accompany the 2014 Arrow Blu-ray release:

“The heart of the film still feels fresh because its two lead characters are so well drawn, so well-played and so damn likeable.”

In contrast to much of genre and exploitation film the main female protagonists are not depicted as helpless females but rather they can hold their own against the attacks and challenges that come their way. Regina in particular seems perfectly capable of physically defending herself in a manner that both preceded and has been said by Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992 and 1996-2003) creator Joss Whedon to have inspired his creation of that film/television programme’s rather combat capable and far from meek Buffy Summers. At the same time in Night of the Comet Regina and Samantha do not descend into being unassailable Amazonian warrior women cliches – they are portrayed as ordinary women with day-to-day interests who show their bravery and resilience in extraordinary circumstances.

Thom Eberhardt’s film also shares with Buffy the Vampire Slayer a certain banter between its characters, no matter how far away from conventional and threatening it may be:

“They said you were dead.” – “They were exaggerating totally.” – “Hey that’s a great outfit.” – “Thanks. Is that guy in the hallway dead?” (Dialogue from a scene in the film.)

And when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping; cue a visit to the now unstaffed shops to try on the latest fashions and a classic style movie shopping montage all to the tune of Cyndi Lauper’s 1980s hit pop single “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (albeit a cover version – this is a low-budget film after all).

This section in the film also allows for humorous comments and wishful thinking by the older generation on adolescent habits and styles alongside gently barbed observations on contemporary mores when the scientists from the think tank come to the empty city to find the sisters:

“Let’s apply a little deductive reasoning. Where would adolescents with nothing to do go?”

Cue them arriving at the obvious destination – the shops.

“This is the nearest shopping arcade but the whole area is an absolute monument to consumerism.”

While despite being on a life-or-death nefarious mission to capture the sisters and use them to create a serum to prevent the after effects of the comet on themselves (rather than as they tell the sisters a mission of mercy to save  and take them back to their base refuge), there is still time to admire a well styled coiffure as one scientist comments:

“Boy did you see her hair. What I’d give to have hair like that.”

 

To be continued in Part 2.
(Depending on when you’re reading this, Part 2 may not yet be viewable.)

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Night of the Comet blog site.
  2. Night of the Comet at Arrow Films. Order here.
  3. Night of the Comet at Shout! Factory. Order here.
  4. Night of the Comet trailer.

 

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She Rocola’s Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town: Audio Visual Archive 4/52

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

 

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

 

“She Rocola conjures one the most bewitching releases of the last few months with this EP on the fine label, A Year In The Country. Equal parts performance theatre, found sound and folksong (think Tiger Lillies meets the spookiest of Nurse With Wound) these tracks inhabit an especially cobwebbed and haunted corner of the imagination.

‘Burn The Witch’ begins with urgent stabs and wails of violin and an immediate sense of foreboding. Rocola intones the witches’ fate, vocal harmonies layering ghostlike amidst the baroque setting, her voice endlessly repeating ‘make her leave my mind…’ It is a short yet hugely effective piece, a subtle but powerful spell.

Second track ‘Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town’ is a music box filled shimmer of dread, acoustic guitars casting spectral shadows under the repeated nursery rhyme mantra of the verse… It is both utterly unique and completely hypnotic; this is gothic folk like you have never heard before. With shades of Siouxsie and a hint of Maxine Peake (from The Eccentronic Research Council’s Pendle Witch themed opus ‘1612 Overture’), this is music for when the dark falls and there is nothing but the sound of the rain and wind on the window pane.” (Quoted from a review at The Active Listener by Grey Malkin of Widow’s Weeds and formerly The Hare And The Moon.)

 

More details on Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh of the Mother Town here and at Bandcamp.

Visit She Rocola at Soundcloud here.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #39/365: Burn The Witch by Ms She Rocola, a stately repose amongst the corn rigs and Victorian light catching
  2. Audiological Transmission #34/​​52​​: She Rocola – Burn The Witch
  3. Day #353/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #5; an ether gathering of behind the sofa folk flickerings