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The Quietened Journey – Reviews, Broadcasts and Dreams of Overgrown Sidings and Crumbling Platforms

A selection of some of the reviews and broadcasts of The Quietened Journey album:

“The Quietened Journey reflects with both mourn and celebration on these derelict and decaying memorials to a lost age… The assembled cast provide a perfect sonic journey documenting these empty spaces and decaying echoes of what once was, between the haunting and the nostalgic, all aspects, shadows and memories are uncovered, discovered and recalled anew…” Mark Barton, The Sunday Experience

“The likes of Field Lines Cartographer and Grey Frequency evoke heartbraking radiophonic dreams of overgrown sidings and crumbling platforms, and Pulselovers’ Woodford Halse To Fenny Compton In Five Minutes contrives to make a hypnotic, krautrock synth anthem the perfect celebration of pre-Beeching steam travel. Joyous.” Bob Fischer, Electronic Sound

“Exploring what’s left behind, the rusted and overgrown lines that vanish into the distance, the abandoned stations and buildings that pop up out of nowhere, the ghostly commuters who wait on empty platforms, they’re all here, across ten tracks that occasionally namecheck the relics they are visiting, but are just as likely to close their eyes and not even think of checking the map reference… As always, a wealth of contributors ensure that each journey is very different to the last…” Dave Thompson, Goldmine

Dave Thompson also included The Quietened Journey in his Spin Cycle best of 2019 column at Goldmine magazine’s site. Visit that here.

“A charming new album… invites contributors including The Heartwood Institute and Howlround to create music inspired by memories of abandoned railway lines, stations and roads. Anyone looking for a dose of bucolic calm amidst the frenzy of the festive season would be well advised to use it as the soundtrack for an icy ramble in their favourite overgrown sidings.” Bob Fischer, The Haunted Generation column in Fortean Times, issue 387 (and it can also be found at The Haunted Generation website here).

“A fine meditation on Britain’s abandoned railways and (in two cases) roads, with the usual balance of eerie electronica and atmospheric, acoustic folk here tilted very much towards the former. Woodford Halse To Fanny Compton In Five Minutes by Pulselovers is a rustic, steam-powered Kraftwerk and, at the other end of the line, ‘Along The Valley Sidings’ by Keith Seatman a Hampshire Tangerine Dream. There are moments when the pastoral breaks through however, such as the spectral harpsichord and wordless chanting on Sproatly Smith’s The 19:48 From Farley and the elegiac viola of Bruce White closing The Séance’s Elm Grove Portal. Phantom engines shunt through the night, but the brutal noise bursts of Howlround’s Thrown Open Wide sound like a derailment. We’re left with Grey Frequency’s melancholy An Empty Platform: the last station standing in an age that has long since passed it by.” Ben Graham, Shindig!

“The last release of the year in the series of excellent albums from A Year In The Country… For this latest themed album the subject is abandoned and former railways, railway stations and roads…. Field Line Cartographer deliver a superb ‘Ghosts Of The Wires’ about a pioneering test line for overhead electrification. Dom Cooper and Zosia Sztkowski investigate an old Roman road close to devil’s bridge. Keith Seatman creeps us out with ‘Along The Valley Sidings’ set in the Meon Valley, a terrific atmospheric piece that includes the sounds of ghostly trains, of rotted sleepers and derelict rusty signs. The record finishes with Grey Frequency’s ‘An Empty Platform’ about Tumby Woodside an abandoned station in Lincolnshire, with added field recordings made at the site to record birds, crumbling masonry and rust!” Andrew Young, Terrascope

James Mann included the album amongst his “finds of 2019” at the Ink 19 website. Visit that here.

“The train theme is rendered immediately apparent by the opening piece from Pulselovers, a chugging electronic rhythm which suggests a network still full of life and energy. After this the mood quickly darkens, and we’re left on the platform of a station like the haunted one in Sapphire and Steel, with the sun going down and only the ghosts for company. This is another impressively strong collection, ranging from the wistful memorialising of The Ghosts of Salzcraggie by Widow’s Weeds, and A Year In The Country’s hissing roadway, to Howlaround’s Thrown Open Wide, an eruption of noise prompted, he says, by the rebellion of his machines. The machinery of the railway returns to life on Keith Seatman’s Along The Valley Sidings, another synthesised train journey, before we find ourselves on Grey Frequency’s empty platform. The Quietened Journey is a welcome exploration of a feature of the British landscape which has been given surprisingly little attention, and which is now disappearing altogether. The last train will be departing soon.” John Coulthart, feuilleton

Next up are some of the broadcasts of music from the album:

Pulselover’s Woodford Halse To Fenny Compton In Five Minutes and The Séance’s Elm Grove Portal were featured amongst the esoteric audio wanderings of Pull the Plug, in two separate episodes. Originally broadcast on Resonance FM, the shows are archived at Mixcloud here and here.

In a rounding the circle manner, The Séance’s Elm Grove Portal and Keith Seatman’s Along The Valley Sidings were included on two separate episodes of The Séance’s phantom seaside radio show. Originally broadcast on Radio Reverb, totallyradio and Sine FM, the episode’s tracklistings can be found at the show’s site here and here, and the show’s are archived at Mixcloud here and here.

Sunrise Ocean Bender included The Séance’s Elm Grove Portal, Sproatly Smiths The 19.48 from Fawley and
Pulselovers Woodford Halse To Fenny Compton In Five Minutes on the Everybody Must Get Throned episode of their show (a title which seems both somewhat elegant and also made me chuckle and think of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Stoned & Dethroned album, alongside the more obvious Bob Dylan reference). Originally broadcast on WRIR FM, the tracklisting can be found here and the show is archived at Mixcloud here.

The Stillness and the Dancing included Widow’s Weed’s The Ghosts of Salzcraggie amongst their shows exploration of, amongst other things, “ambient, drone, post-rock and neoclassical”. Originally broadcast on 15th January 2020 at CRFU, the programme’s archive can be found here and the tracklisting can be found at their tumblr page here.

Mind De-Coder included The Séance’s Elm Grove Portal amongst the psychedelic and hauntological wanderings of their show. The episode is archived at Mixcloud here and the accompanying blog post can be found here.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to everbody involved for the above…

The Quietened Journey is an exploration of abandoned and former railways, railway stations and roads, a reflection on them as locations filled with the history, ghosts and spectres of once busy vibrant times – the journeys taken via them, the stories of the lives of those who travelled, built and worked on them.

Nature is slowly reclaiming, or has already reclaimed, much of this infrastructure, with these testaments to industry and “the age of the train” being often left to quietly crumble and decay.

The Quietened Journey is both a celebration and a lament for these now faded links across the land, of the grand dreams and determination which created them and their layered histories that – as these asphalt ribbons, steel lines and stone built roads once prominently were – are threaded throughout the twentieth century and even back to Roman times.

It features music and accompanying text on the tracks by Pulselovers, Sproatly Smith, The Séance, Widow’s Weeds, The Heartwood Institute, Depatterning, Howlround, A Year In The Country, Field Lines Cartographer, Dom Cooper & Zosia Sztykowski, Keith Seatman and Grey Frequency.

More details can be found here.

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Phase IV: Cathode Ray Library 3/52

Finally, the original ending of Phase IV, Saul Bass’ intelligent and thought provoking take on the science fiction genre, is legitimately available to watch. Only as an extra on the 45th anniversary digital edition but still, it gives me hope that one day the complete original film will receive a wider release.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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Rob Young’s Electric Eden: Revisiting 2/52

Rob Young’s Electric Eden has been something of an ongoing reference point for A Year In The Country. It’s a monumentally comprehensive exploration of what he describes as “visionary music”, and related culture, which wanders from pastoral literary utopias to acid folk via hauntology, Kate Bush and beyond.

 

The original post published during the first year of A Year In The Country:

 

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Lisa Bond’s Landscape Phantasms: Wanderings 2/26

A while ago I came across Lisa Bond’s photographic art and initially on a first guick glance, without reading anything about it and having seen only a few pieces of her work, I thought they were a form of illustration, when in fact they are created in part through, I think, collaging photographs, in camera techniques and possibly also some illustration.

There is an interesting layering and interweaving of atmospheres in the images; they capture the beauty of rural areas but are not merely traditional images of it, rather they create an often haunted landscape that is both entrancing and at times subtly, quietly unsettling.

There is also a textural quality to them which, while they have their own character, puts me in mind here and there of some of the work that graphic designer Vaughan Oliver and photographer/filmmaker Nigel Grierson did between 1983-1988, often for the 4AD record label.

Many of the images are available as very reasonably priced gicleé prints (i.e. they are printed with archival and fade resistant inks), fine art cards, tea cups (yes please!) and, in a manner that seems wonderfully incongruous and a coming together of different worlds, phone and tablet cases.

The text below is taken from her website, where she talks about her inspirations, intentions, processes and so on:

Inspired by witchiness, folklore and the darker side of nature, [my work] encompasses deep-inked illustrative captures of ever changing, resilient weather beaten landscapes. I have emphasised extreme emotions ranging from negative space to elements of claustrophobia.

My inspiration did not just come from spending time in the landscapes I feature; intertwined is my internal soundtrack, and how a place makes me feel and sets my imagination free. I wanted to heighten the mood and take you to the place of my inner soundtrack rather than just portray a 2D version of the landscape in front of me. Although I appreciate the technical brilliance of the more traditional landscape photography, it doesn’t make my heart sing or require a second glance.

I want people to ‘peer’ curiously at my work and hopefully invoke an emotional response or attachment to a place from their own memories or imaginations… As a… lover of the ‘other’, I explore our relationship with nature and our sense of place. My emphasis is on intimacy; creating multi-layered visual stories to evoke memories of place…

I want my work to reflect my interactions with the world – the ethereal, and the bewitching. My tendency is to sway to the dark side, whilst loving the light.

For [The Spellbound] collection of prints, framed prints, cards and enamel mugs, I was inspired by the enigmatic and ever changing landscapes, especially the windswept, wild Yorkshire moors. All black and white, with a finish like an inked illustration.

For me, these are bewitching visions and bring to my mind the work of Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Emily Bronte, Edgar Allan Poe, The Unthanks, along with myths and legends. An eclectic mix of artists and folk story, but all share a touch of the dark in their own ways.”

 

Links:

 

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Gather in the Mushrooms: Revisiting 1/52

Due to the ever-expanding nature of the internet and the way that search engine results often seem to focus on more recent posts etc, a lot of older online content can be, if not lost, then at least a little lost-to-view. A bit like a book in an overcrowded second-hand bookshop that’s hidden away near the bottom of a pile of books. Still worth a look-see but you’ve got to forage a bit to find it.

I’ve had something of a hankering to return to and have a wander through the first year of A Year In The Country, to revisit some old cultural “friends” and inspirations. Maybe it will be a bit like picking up an old magazine that you’ve had on the shelves for years but haven’t browsed through for a fair old while.

I find myself enjoying that, appreciating the way that the contents can be like time capsules or snapshots of a particular point in time, and also how sometimes things that you missed the first time around or didn’t fully take in can now catch your eye and interest.

(As an aside, I also appreciate, particuarly in older music magazines, the prices of things back then – adverts for gigs by bands who now play stadiums and that it might cost you £80 or more to see playing a small venue with an entry fee of £2.50 and so on.)

Sometimes as well, when you pick up older magazines you spot cultural trends or themes that weren’t apparent at the time. Picking up an older magazine can also sometimes give you a moment to stop, pause and reflect, which is somewhat precious in these times of such a vast array of access to culture in various forms.

It’s also a form of digital scrapbooking, in a not dissimilar way that once upon a time people may have created actual scrapbooks of things in magazines etc that caught their eye.

These posts are in part inspired by all that and this is the first of a series of posts which will revisit previous posts at A Year In The Country throughout the year. Following the cycle and number of weeks in the year, as the title suggests, there will be 52 of them, and after this initial introductory post, each one will contain no more 52 words.

And so, without further ado, the first of these “revisitings” jumps all the way back to one of the very first posts at A Year In The Country:

The collection of acid folk etc on the Gather in the Mushrooms compilation album was a notable inspiration for A Year In The Country. Particularly Trader Horne’s Morning Way, that begins with “Dreaming strands of nightmare, Are sticking to my feet”, which seemed to open something up in my mind.

 

The original post published during the first year of A Year In The Country:

 

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Quatermass: Cathode Ray Library 1/52

I’ve long had a fondness for movie and television novelisations and tie-in editions from previous decades. Often, when I was young, they were the only access I had to particular films and television shows, particularly in the days before home video releases of things became more ubiquitous, if the films etc were “too grown up” for me to watch (!), I’d missed them at the cinema and so on. Viewed nowadays they can also have a particular period charm to them and can sometimes be almost like mini time capsules of particular eras.

These “Movie and TV Novels” posts will be in part a form of online scrapbooking, and they will let me revisit some old favourite books, films and TV, related books and so on (and if I don’t already/still own them, then try not to buy too many of them and add to the strain of my already groaning shelves!)

Following the cycle and number of weeks in the year, as the title suggests, there will be 52 of these cathode ray library posts, and after this initial introductory post, each one will contain no more 52 words.

So, without further ado, the tie-in edition for the final series of Quatermass… Huffity, puffity, Ringstone Round…

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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Build Your Own Stonehenge Model Kits (and Other Sacred, Profane and Playful Simulacra): Wanderings 1/26

Now, I know that Stonehenge holds a unique place in people’s imaginations, and there are endless and ongoing debates about why  and how it was built etc.

Alongside more traditional heritage and archaeological interest in them, the sense of mystery, the ancient past and so on that stone circle’s often contain also interconnects with a “wyrd” or “otherly” sense of history, folk culture and so on, which has added to the interest in them.

I also knew that there have been an awful lot of books published on Stonehenge and stone circles in general. However, even allowing for all that I was still somewhat pleasantly surprised to see just how many Stonehenge model and construction kits of one form or another have been released commercially. In this post are just a few of those that I’ve come across.

English Heritage’s online shop stocks some of them along with all kind of Stonehenge ornaments, including two different “Stonehenges in a tin” (!)

English Heritage also used to sell a Stonehenge fridge magnet cross stitch kit, which I rather liked the idea and look of, as it seems to interweave so many things in a sort of slightly wrong but also interesting way; a certain Wicker Man-esque aesthetic, ancient history, traditional crafts, the commercialisation of religious or sacred souvenirs etc. Other related cross stitch items which I don’t think are still available from them include a bookmark and a keyring. For some reason the bookmark seems a bit more “acceptable” than a fridge magnet or a keyring, perhaps because books are often held in higher esteem than such things.

I like the figures of the visiters in the pop-out kit above, who seem to variously be questioning or bemused by Stonehenge, or in one case imagining an elaborate possibly worship orientated wooden structure over the top of it.

(Above: Stonehenge model kit with Arthurian extras, completed by zoidpinhead – link below.)

These various model kits seem to be a mixture, and possibly inspired by, an interest in the sacred, profane and at times just sheer playfulness. In that sense, they could well be filed alongside some of HeyKidsRocknRoll pop-up diorama sets of the likes of Delia Derbyshire, The Stone Tape, Quatermass and the Pit, The Wicker Man etc. Those dioramas could be considered examples of when contemporary secular cultural work, which for some people has gained an almost sacred-like aspect, is the inspiration for playful or child-like build at home ornaments.

Actually, surprisingly, I don’t think HeyKidsRocknRoll have made a Stonehenge or stone circle related diorama. A Halloween III: Season of the Witch set might well work, one which incorporated the film’s nefarious company scientists’ lab and their use of chippings from Stonehenge, the ancient power of which is used in novelty Halloween masks sold to the public, that are intended to bring about the destruction of their wearers.

Another reference point might also be Zupagrika’s various build your own Brutalist architecture kits, particularly those based on Soviet-era Eastern Bloc architecture, as that was built during and as symbols of a regime which attempted to do away with traditional religion and replace it with a belief or faith system based around the political system and its figureheads.

The above model isn’t a Stonehenge LEGO kit as it first may appear, but rather a LEGO compatible nanoblock kit, which in its utilising of the grey areas of copyright law could well be considered a form of profanity in terms of the corporate world’s belief systems.

I was rather taken by the above adapted kit, the photograph of which is included in an article on building your own miniature stonehenge garden – link below.

When I was searching for Stonehenge model kits I came across a blog called Clonehenge which contains a searchable set of posts, lists etc of Stonhenge replicas “from the megalithic follies of the 1800s to the present”. It includes amongst other things posts on retail bought and custom kit builds, large permanent replicas and laptophenge which, of course, does what it say on the can. And a whole lot, lot, lot more. Blimey, there’s been a fair old bit of Stonehenge clonehenging that’s gone on in the world.

And talking of mixing the sacred, profane and playful, last but not least, there’s Jeremy Deller’s inflatable bouncy castle replica which has travelled around Britain and the world. Funded in part by Creative Scotland and Arts Council England it is called, appropriately enough, and in a way that I expect both undercut and annoyed its critics, Sacrilege.

 

Links:

 

Elsewhere at A Year in the Country:

 

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The Corn Mother Novella and The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths Album – Released March 2020

The Corn Mother novella, written by Stephen Prince, is a further exploration of the world, stories and dreamscapes of an imaginary near-mythical film, which first began on an album released with the same name in 2018.

The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths album, also by Stephen Prince, is both a soundtrack to accompany The Corn Mother novella and a standalone piece of work.

The novella and albums are explorations and relections “of the whispers that tumble forth from the corn mother’s kingdom”. A place and story where fact, fiction, reality and dreams blur into one:

1878: A villager is forced to flee from their home after rumours begin that they have cursed the crops. Their vengeful spirit, known as the corn mother, is said to visit those responsible in the night, bringing ill fortune and an all-encompassing sense of guilt.

1982: A film called The Corn Mother begins to be made. Although the plot is fictional it closely resembles the story of the fleeing villager. The film is completed but never released, with all known copies disappearing after its production company collapses.

1984: A lifelong quest begins to find the near-mythical film.

2020: All mentions of The Corn Mother begin to disappear from the world, calling into question if the film ever existed.

“After the first The Corn Mother album was released I would find myself still thinking about the story of this ‘imaginary film’, wandering what had happened to particular characters connected to it and so on. It felt like a story that was unfinished and which continues to echo off into the dreamscapes of imagination. Those ongoing echoes resulted in The Corn Mother novella and The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths album.” Stephen Prince

The novella and album will be released in March 2020.

The Corn Mother album released in 2018 includes music by Gavino Morretti, Pulselovers, The Heartwood Institute, United Bible Studies, A Year In The Country, Widow’s Weeds, Depatterning, Sproatly Smith and Field Lines Cartographer. It is available at the A Year In The Country Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp site.