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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. 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
  3. Dropping Science: From Endtroducing to The Electronique Void Via Haunted Tea Rooms And Pans People
  4. 14 tracks – “Hauntology: A peculiar sonic fiction”
  5. Central Office Of Information + Mordant Music = MisinforMation
  6. Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life and a very particular mourning and melancholia for a future’s past…
  7. The Following Of Ghosts – File Under Psychogeographic / Hauntological Stocking Fillers
  8. A return to OST… from teacake time to sacred relics…
  9. The ether ephemera of Mr Ian Hodgson and wandering from village green preservation to confusing English electronic music…
  10. Further – A Temporary Audio Visual Space
  11. 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 £22.95.
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. £22.95
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

 

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The Quietened Village – Preorder and Release Dates

Preorder 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.

 

A 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.

 

Features work by:
The Straw Bear Band (Rif Mountain / Dom Cooper / The Owl Service)
Field Lines Cartographer
The Heartwood Institute
Howlround
The Rowan Amber Mill (The Book of the Lost / Miller Sounds)
Polypores
The Soulless Party (Tales from the Black Meadow)
Sproatly Smith
Pulselovers
Time Attendant
A Year In The Country
Cosmic Neighbourhood

 

Will be available at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp page.

 

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When Haro Met Sally, John Hughes, Stranger Things, Twins of Evil, Hauntology and Dark Seed – Parallel World Reimaginings and Phantasms: Wanderings 4/52

Just as “traditional” hauntology often reimagines the culture and era of the 1960s and 1970s in Britain and creates its own parallel world version of them, the likes of synthwave and hypnagogic pop carries out a similar hazy misremembering and reimagining of the 1980s.

Although not strictly connected to those cultural groupings/genres, D.A.L.I.’s album and art/design project When Haro Met Sally (2018) draws from and explores some similar tropes and reference points and creates its own parallel world version of the 1980s.

The project’s title is taken from both the iconic 1980s romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally and one of the kings of BMX freestyle in the 1980s, Bob Haro.

D.A.L.I. takes its name from the initials of it creators, Luke Insect and Deadly Avenger.

Luke Insect is a renowned graphic designer, who as Twins of Evil has collaborated with illustrator Ken Goodall on artwork for Ben Wheatley’s darkly pastoral Civil War set film A Field in England (2013), the vinyl album artwork for the soundtrack of his crime/romance/sort of camping holiday horror film Sightseers (2012) and the Arrow Blu-ray release of Robert Altman’s darkly gothic bucolic Images (1972).

Deadly Avenger is Damon Baxter, who has been releasing music since the mid-1990s, when he was associated with the music/cultural groupings big beat and triphop/downbeat, including singles/EPs on Wall of Sound and D.C. Recordings.

“Traditional” hauntology’s reimagining is in part an expression of a collective mourning for lost progressive futures in a wider social, economic and political sense, while in When Haro Met Sally’s 1980s orientated project there is more a sense of a yearning for and attempting to recapture a more personal orientated day-to-day lost, carefree, colourful and vibrant time in life, history and culture.

Connected to which Luke Insect has said the following:

“We’re both kids of the 80s and When Haro Met Sally is our nostalgic love letter to that whole period of our childhood, a 1984 set BMX break up album about teenage love, endless summers and chrome!”

The project appears on an initial casual viewing to spring from an imagined cultural landscape rooted not so much in reality but rather one that takes inspiration from a mid-1980s Hollywood presentation of teenage life which has become a symbolic archetype of the time – a seamless vision of the latter days of American high school meets frat parties fun in the sun frolics that only stops to take in a visit to the video games arcade and the mall, all soundtracked by period synthesized pop.

However, as in much of writer and director John Hughes’ classic cycle of teenage films (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Some Kind of Wonderful, released 1984-1987) all is not purely rosy in When Haro Met Sally’s world; life is shot through with the angst and trouble of heartbreak and in reality this is an imagined dreamscape and accompanying promotional text shatters its bubble:

Del Mar Skate Park, California, Summer ’84. Blinding sun hits chrome sending rainbow prisms across hot asphalt. There’s a buzz in the air. Teenage dreams and dope smoke mix with the Pacific breeze. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. This summer’s never gonna end. Tricks are being pulled and moves are being made that these crowds have never seen. Even the wood-pushers are blown away. Seeds sewn a decade ago by Todd and Devin Banks on Overland Drive have come to fruition.

Dominguez is up next, he’s 15, and hitting 6 feet of air. Then it’s Gonzalez. And Vanderspek. This is going down in history. Except this isn’t the West Coast of America. And the sun’s not shining. These are the grey suburbs of Leicester and London. And our BMXs are sh*t.

When Haro Met Sally is the soundtrack to one seemingly endless summer, when teenage heartbreak ruled supreme, everything American seemed cool, and all we did from dawn ’til dusk was dream about girls and ride our bikes Spanning early 1980s VHS soundtracks, teenage electro, heartbreak synths and Italo Disco, When Haro Met Sally will transport you back to that endless sun-baked teenage summer… that none of us ever had.

That acknowledgement of the fourth wall and the unreality of this cultural landscape, alongside the hyperreal dreamlike colours of the project’s artwork, the sometimes Boards of Canada or VHS-esque oscillating/tape wobble characteristic of the synthesized audio and at points its subtle sense of yearning or melancholia keeps When Haro Met Sally at a remove from being a purely overly rose tinted or even twee exercise in 1980s nostalgia and recreation.

Connected to which, in terms of reflecting on the realities of life, an important and vital part of the above mentioned cycle of John Hughes’ films prevents them from being rote reflections on teenage life; i.e. their consideration of the impact of social class and economic privilege, or lack of, on life choices, options and relationships.

Although not overtly political and more concerned with universal rather than topical themes, the above mentioned cycle of John Hughes’ films were created during a period of heightened apocalyptic Cold War tensions, alongside economic, social and political conflict, tensions and struggles between different belief and value systems (in particular between the more individualistic and materialistic orientated new right and an older more social welfare orientated left).

While often being and intended to be more purely entertainment orientated, contemporary 1980s referencing/set film and television such as the mainstream American comedy The Goldbergs (2013-) generally overlook such aspects of the period and John Hughes’ work from the time, which they also often draw from.

Although intriguingly in The Goldbergs there is an episode which focuses on the Cold War dread and post-apocalyptic grimness of 1983 television film The Day After and one brief overt acknowledgement of social/economic status when it is mentioned that the children of the family featured in the series go to private school but these are relatively solitary mentions or acknowledgements of such topics in over 100 episodes.

To a degree the likes of J. J. Abrams film Super 8 (2011) and Netflix television series Stranger Things (2016-) show a darker tinged reimagining or recreation of the 1980s with their sense of plucky teenagers coming together to fight super/preternatural or extra terrestrial forces. Although in this sense they may be nearer, in terms of a connection to films made in the 1980s, to the more comforting family film orientated science fiction fantasy escapism of E.T. (1982) where youngsters battle to save a stranded alien than the real world Cold War orientated WarGames (1983) where they attempt to prevent a computer initiated global conflict.

Returning to Luke Insect’s work and reimagining of times past, in 2013 he collaborated as Dark Seed with Richard Norris of The Grid on an imaginary soundtrack release called Nocturnes.

In a similar way that Panos Cosmatos’ film Beyond the Black Rainbow has a sense of being a lost artifact from the shelves of a 1980s video store and creates a neo-psychedelic “Reagan era fever dream” atmosphere, the artwork for Nocturnes conjures a similar fever dream-esque sense of a 1970s science fiction film or television series.

At the start of this post I wrote about “traditional” hauntology, synthwave, hypnagogic pop and When Haro Met Sally creating reimagined parallel world versions of their source material’s eras – a description which could equally apply to Nocturnes and Beyond the Black Rainbow.

It could possibly be the soundtrack and artwork for the pilot of a further flung cousin of Space 1999 that was never broadcast because it was considered too out-there for mainstream audiences. Having said which Space 1999 did often have quite odd psychedelic and dreamlike atmosphere, plots and imagery.

Connected to neo-psychedelic aesethetics, Luke Insect’s design work often utilises psychedelic-like imagery, filtered through a contemporary lens to create work which is not purely a retro retreading but again more a reimagining – some of examples of which are above.

Which again brings me back to “traditional” hauntology and its parallel worlds, in particular some of Julian House’s work for Ghost Box Records which often have more than a tinge of reimagined psychedelia to them, something which is referred to at Ghost Box’s website, which describes it as:

“…a record label for a group of artists exploring the misremembered musical history of a parallel world. A world of TV soundtracks, vintage electronics, folk song, psychedelia, ghostly pop, supernatural stories and folklore.”

The use of the word “ghostly” in the above description seems somewhat appropriate for much of the cultural reimagining mentioned in this post; another word often used in conjunction with hauntology is spectres or spectral.

In various ways the likes of When Haro Met Sally, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Nocturnes and the work of Ghost Box Records could be seen as spectral cultural will o’the wisp versions of their source material – parallel world reimagined phantasms.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. When Haro Met Sally at Rough Trade
  2. D.A.L.I. / When Haro Met Sally
  3. Stranger Things soundtrack
  4. Mr John Hughes
  5. WarGames
  6. Dark Seed’s Nocturnes at DJ Food’s Online Scrapbook (where the above photographs of the release came from)
  7. Dark Seed’s Nocturnes at Discogs
  8. Luke Insect’s Site
  9. Twins of Evil at Kenn Goodall’s Site
  10. Ghost Box Records

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. A Lineage of Spectres Part 1 – From Hauntology to Hypnagogic Pop: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 19/52
  2. A Lineage of Spectres Part 2 – Hauntology, Hypnagogic Pop, Synthwave and the Creation of Mystical Half-Hidden Worlds: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 21/52
  3. From “Two Tribes” to War Games – The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture: Chapter 13 Book Images
  4. Day #73/365: A wander through A Field In England with Twins of Evil and other travelling companions…
  5. Ether Signposts #28/52a: Zardoz, Space 1999 And Psychedelic Strands In 1970s Science Fiction
  6. Zardoz, Phase IV and Beyond the Black Rainbow – Seeking the Future in Secret Rooms from the Past and Psychedelic Cinematic Corners: Chapter 51 Book Images
  7. Day #149/365: Phase IV – lost celluloid flickering (return to), through to Beyond The Black Rainbow and journeys Under The Skin
  8. Day #255/365: Beyond The Black Rainbow; Reagan era fever dreams, award winning gardens and a trio of approaches to soundtrack disseminations… let the new age of enlightenment begin…

 

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Michael Tanner’s Nine of Swords: Audio Visual Archive 3/52

Artwork from Michael Tanner’s Nine of Swords album.

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

 

“This is an album to focus on and to pay attention to, perhaps an album for late nights or early mornings; there is something contemplative at heart here, this music invites reflection. The glistening of the water bowls merges into the gentle waves of temple bells, at times creating a solid, reverberating mass whilst at others a more distant echo. There is great beauty in this recording, nothing is rushed and the sound is crystalline and pure. The world outside seems to grow quieter around the music, as if in step. This is not easy listening however, but a demanding and focused album which commands your complete attention. It deserves and repays this attention a hundred times over however with truly beautiful sounds, atmospheres and textures; consult the cards and sink into the shimmer of Nine of Swords – you will not be disappointed.” (Quoted from a review by Grey Malkin at The Active Listener.)

 

More details on Nine of Swords here and at Bandcamp.

Visit Michael Tanner’s work here.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country

  1. Day #120/365: Plinth’s Wintersongs; a sometime walking companion for other landscape travellers
  2. From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Wintersongs, Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails – Lullabies for the Land and Gently Darkened Undercurrents: Chapter 49 Book Images
  3. Audiological Transmission #27/​​52 ​​- Nine of Swords (Excerpt #1) – Michael Tanner
  4. Day #350/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #3; A balm to contemporary intensity of input…

 

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Robert Macfarlane, Benjamin Myers, The Eerie Landscape and Unravelling of Dizzying Mazes: Wanderings 3/52

It’s a curious and intriguing thing the current interest in, flowering and harvesting of the “eerie” in the landscape, a kind of hauntological landscapism – or to semi-quote myself, expressions and explorations of an “otherly pastoralism”, a literal wandering through spectral fields.

In his article in the Guardian “The Eeriness of the English Countryside” (a section of which I recently quoted in a post on Texte und Töne’s publication The Disruption, which focuses on the 1975 television series The Changes and its anti-pastoral territory”) writer and academic Robert Macfarlane proposes that such interest and cultural expression is:

“…an attempt to account for the turbulence of England in the era of late capitalism. The supernatural and paranormal have always been means of figuring powers that cannot otherwise find visible expression. Contemporary anxieties and dissents are here being reassembled and re-presented as spectres, shadows or monsters: our noun monster, indeed, shares an etymology with our verb to demonstrate, meaning to show or reveal (with a largely lost sense of omen or portent).

Such more overtly political explanations of the rise of such culture may well be one of the reasons for the rise in interest and activity in such areas and it could be linked to a related hauntological sense of a yearning or mourning for lost progressive futures.

However, although I say overt, it is often anything but overtly political; rather as Robert Macfarlane states, these “anxieties and dissents” are being reassembled as spectres in the landscape – contemporary bogey men or vague feelings of dread on the edges of consciousness.

As I discuss in the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, for myself part of the need for related exploring comes from a sense of the cultural landscape having now been thoroughly harvested and colonised. Once shadowy undisturbed cultural niches, nooks, crannies and overlooked corners are now routinely explored and displayed for all to see, often both within their own niches and also via more mainstream channels.

I have nothing against the mainstream per se. It is more just that if you are drawn to those overlooked corners of culture in the sense of being both an explorer and somebody who at times appreciates the less well harvested then there is hopefully a little more space for such things at the moment in the “otherly pastoral / hauntological landscapism” than within traditional pop/urban orientated fringe culture.

This cultural landscape may  create a space for cultural pursuits and interests which are not so focused on youth; anecdotally and based on the first hand referencing of culture from 1960s-1980s (i.e. by those that experienced it in their own youth, rather than as an interest in work from a time prior to your own birth) that can often be found within such work it could be surmised that much of the audience for it is now quite far from the hurly burly of the first flush of youth.

An interconnected viewpoint on the reasons for the current interest in the confluence of wyrd folk, otherly pastoralism, hauntology etc could be that it is part of the creation of an imagined parallel world or plane of existence – one which variously allows for a break from the above mentioned “contemporary anxieties and dissents” or just because humans as a species seem to possibly uniquely be fascinated by and have a need to tell stories, spin yarns and create waking dreamscapes.

Accompanying which historically cities and urban areas have often been seen as the primary and main cultural incubators which while it may to a degree may still be true, the increasing costs of living in cities in the UK may also mean that only those from certain social and economic groups are more able to have the time to required sit on and incubate their cultural ideas, scenes etc until they are able to fully hatch. That time requires a certain and not inconsiderable access to monetary wealth and/or a youthful ability and energy to live in what may be trying circumstances.

Such considerations are eloquently and evocatively discussed in writer Benjamin Myers’ non-fiction book Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place (as an aside his fictional work in recent years has been called rural or Dales noir and explores interconnected territory to the above sense of otherly or hidden undercurrents in the landscape):

“We leave London early one June morning, Della and I. It is a decade ago and all our combined possessions have been crammed into a removal van that left the night before. What remains is shoved into the back of my car…

We hit the morning traffic and an hour later are still edging along Vauxhall Bridge Road into Victoria. Our mood is strained, conversation terse. The stress of a house move is underpinned by the knowledge that once you leave the city it is very difficult to return; one only moves to London when either young or wealthy, and now we were neither.

Twelve years earlier… I had tracked a similar journey in reverse, driving a borrowed car full of clothes, books, records and treacle down from the north-east of England to find myself circling Piccadilly Circus at five o’clock on a Saturday evening, Eros looking down at me as I attempted a U-turn much to the chagrin of the dozen black cabs caught in my slipstream…

Eventually I edged my way south of the river over the same bridge I crossed now, to move into a dilapidated transpontine squat in a labyrinthine Victorian building… Here I lived rent-free for four years.

But now it was the height of a recession and London was no city in which to be poor. Where once it was a dizzying maze to be navigated one day at a time, a playground for constant reinvention, now it was a place owned by the property developers, the oligarchs. The old one-bedroomed flat, with its bath on breeze blocks in the kitchen and infestation of mice, abandoned by the local council for thirty years, had recently sold for £800,000.

Perhaps the sometimes cheaper living costs of rural areas, accompanied by the relatively low entry points for digital technology and virtual rents for online territories (the new-ish nooks and crannies?) are combining to become some of the spaces that allow more easily for the aforementioned cultural incubation.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. The Eeriness of the English Countryside article at The Guardian
  2. Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
  3. Ben Myers’ website
  4. Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. The Changes / The Disruption – Notes on a Flipside of the Pastoral Conversation – Part 1: Wanderings 1/52 (And the Start of a New Yearly Cycle)
  2. Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New: Chapter 1 Book Images
  3. Day #190/365: Electric Eden Ether Reprise (#2): Acts Of Enclosure, the utopian impulse and why folk music and culture?

 

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Hand of Stabs – Black-Veined White: Audio Visual Archive 2/52

Artwork from Hand of Stabs’ Black-Veined White album.

“Black-Veined White takes as its starting point the eponymous butterfly which was last seen in the UK in Rochester, the area in which HoS work and explore, in the 1920s…

…it utilises precise textual descriptions of the Black-Veined White by L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz alongside poetry that considers these ‘air wraiths’ by Giles Watson, to create a journey whereby Hand of Stab’s hidden drones and textures create a form of (non-electronic) electronica played on and summoned from the land and soil, a journey which captures and summons the spirit of these winged creatures that have now departed from our shores.

Black-Veined White and the work of Hand of Stabs is a very particular, otherly form of cultural exploration and inquiry whereby the aggressive transgression of the likes of COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle and early Einstürzende Neubauten has evolved and spread deeply foraging roots to create work that is more pastoral in its themes but still very far from the centre of things.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country.)

“Hand of Stabs, from the South East of England, are a three-man collective who’s work draws inspiration from their exploration of local, often forbidden, landmarks. They create improvised sound pieces which can be simultaneously uplifting, difficult and intense using both traditional and homebuilt instruments.

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

Hand of Stabs are currently having something of a hiatus. The poster for their final performance before that began is above.

As an image it seems to capture a sense of melancholy, reflection and the dock history of the Medway Towns particularly well, which rather suits Hand of Stabs background/inspirations and the nature of a “valedictory aktion”.

 

More details on Black-Veined White here and at Bandcamp.

Visit Hand of Stabs here.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #155/365: Hand of Stabs… delving amongst the soil and roots for the hidden stories of the land…
  2. Day #349/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #2; the semi-random placing of England’s hidden reverse…
  3. Audiological Transmission #26/​​52​​: Black-Veined White (Excerpt #1) – Hand of Stabs