Posted on Leave a comment

Rounding the Circle

Well, the end of the year is upon us, as is this particular yearly cycle of A Year In The Country

So, just to say thanks to anybody who has “tuned in” to the A Year In The Country site, who has supported the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Field book and the A Year In The Country albums and to Suzy Prince and Ian Lowey for their help in putting together the book.

And a thank you to everybody who has written about, broadcast and in other ways supported the various A Year In The Country releases. To mention just a few: We Are Cult, John Coulthart, Shindig!, The Sunday Experience, Bliss Aquamarine, Verity Sharp and Rebecca Gaskell of Late Junction, Norman Records, DJ Food, Fortean Times, Terrascope, Gideon Coe, Flatland Frequencies, state51, Dave Thompson / Goldmine, Gated Canal Community Radio, Wyrd Daze, More Than Human, Electronic Sound, Chris Lambert, Mind De-coder, Sunrise Ocean Bender, The Unquiet Meadow, Folk Horror Revival, Music Won’t Save You, Simon Reynolds, Johnny Seven / Pull the Plug, On The Wire, Graham Dunning, Jude Rogers, The Séance, Starburst and You, the Night & the Music.

It being the end of the year, now would seem like a good time to gather together a few more recent broadcasts and appropriately, appearances in end of year lists of this year’s A Year In The Country releases:

The A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book was included in Electronic Sound magazine’s end of year book round up, in some rather fine company including Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music, Tangerine Dream: Force Majeure and All Gates Open: The Story of Can.

“A written word accompaniment to the prolific hauntological label of the same name… A 340 page offering spread across 52 chapters, each one representing a week of the year. Bewitching stuff.”

The book was also including in Dave Thompson’s “Spin Cycle’s Best of 2018” list at Goldmine magazine’s site, where it can be found amongst a smorgasbord that includes the likes of Beautify Junkyards, Rowan: Morrison, Comus, Curved Air, The Upsetters, Alison O’Donnell, Soft Cell, Tangerine Dream and Roxy Music just for starters…

Visit that here.

The Audio Albion album was also in Electronic Sound’s round up of compilations of the year, alongside amongst other albums Minimal Wave’s The Bedroom Tapes and Prophecy + Progress: UK Electronics 1978-1990:

“Found sounds and electronic discovery from out in the wild… delightful rolling project, commissioning musicians to make field recordings around Britain’s ‘edgelands’…”

Visit issue 48 of Electronic Sound here.

Psychogeographic Review has included two of the A Year In The Country albums in it’s monthly reviews:

“Blending music and field recordings Audio Albion maps out the countryside and edgelands of this island and immerses us in the myths and legends that inhabit even the most mundane landscapes. The album comprises the work of fifteen different artists. But this is not a collection of tracks: it is a carefully constructed aural journey.” Psychogeographic Review

“Shildam Hall Tapes is an imagined soundtrack for the film and includes tracks by several artists who have featured on other A Year in the Country releases… steadily building up a body of work that presents an alternative view of rural Britain. A Year in the Country’s lens both distorts and illuminates its subject matter… the project’s output is consistently fascinating.” Psychogeographic Review

Gavino Morretti’s Dawn Of A New Generation from The Shildam Hall Tapes was on the Golden Apples of the Sun radio show. Always worth a visit, this particular episode also includes the likes of Death and Vanilla, Lee Hazelwood, Jonny Trunk and Seefeel. The show is archived here.

Grey Frequency’s Nottingham Canal and Time Attendant’s Hidden Parameters from The Quietened Mechanisms was on the 4th November 2018 episode of the You, the Night & the Music radio show, alongside Mat Handley of Pulselovers other rather fine eclectic selections. Originally broadcast on Sine FM, the show is archived here.

Which just leaves me to say thank you to all who have contributed music to this year’s A Year In The Country albums; Howlround, Grey Frequency, Listening Center, David Colohan, Sproatly Smith, Embertides, United Bible Studies, Magpahi, Keith Seatman, Time Attendant, Circle/Temple, The Straw Bear Band, Dom Cooper, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Depatterning, Pulselovers, The Soulless Party, Quaker’s Stang, The Heartwood Institute and Spaceship.

It is all much appreciated. A tip of the hat to you all.



Posted on Leave a comment

Winstanley, A Field in England and The English Civil War Part II – Reflections on Turning Points and Moments When Anything Could Happen: Chapter 52 Book Images

Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 8

“Winstanley is the 1975 Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo film biography and tribute to Gerrard Winstanley, who was a religious reformer and political activist in the 17th century.

Gerrard Winstanley was one of the founders of an English group known as the True Levellers or Diggers, who occupied previously public common lands which had been privatised, living in what could be considered some of the first examples of or experiments in socialist communal living.

The community he helped to create was quickly suppressed but left a legacy of ideas which inspired later generations.”

Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 11

“Winstanley is a curiosity which lingers in the mind, one which ploughed its own furrow and created its own very particular corner of British filmmaking.”

A Field In England-soundtrack poster-A Year In The Country

“In many ways Winstanley could be seen as a companion piece to Ben Wheatley’s also low-budget fictional historic fantasy film A Field in England (2013), possibly the more erudite, learned, historical brother to its rambunctious more recently released sibling.

There are a number of similarities to the films; both are set around a similar time period of the English Civil War, have similar costumes, are set in the rural landscape, shot in crisp black and white and show a flipside and/or the undercurrents of English history.”

Winstanley 1975-A Year In The Country

“Accompanying the BFI DVD/Blu-ray release of Winstanley is the “making of ” documentary, It Happened Here Again in which there is a curious mixture of centuries and styles.

In the documentary the costumed cast are pictured in amongst contemporary families, the rickety cars and vans of the 1970s and folk who aesthetically could have tumbled from 1970s Open University broadcasts.

There is a sense of it capturing a very specific time and place in English history during the mid 1970s; possibly the last days of the utopian sixties dream and aesthetics before punk and the Thatcherite 1980s arrived and made much which immediately preceded them seem almost to belong to a separate parallel world: one far distant from our own.”

Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 5

“The period during which Winstanley was made could also be seen as a link to the time when it and A Field in England were set as there are similarities to both points in history; periods of unrest and historical points of battle and change in society.”

Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 10

“In the 17th century it was the battle between magic, religion, science, the old ruling order/economic models and the new; in the 1970s during Winstanley’s production Britain was wracked by internal unrest, economic strife and the battle which would lead to the turning of elements of society towards the right and the adoption or possibly ascendancy of a related new economic/political model.

That particular change also led to another battle, sometimes fought amongst the fields of England and its neighbours; the bitterly fought Miners Strike of 1984-1985 where the government of the day clashed with miners over pit closures.”

This was a defining conflict at the time between those who believed in more collectively-organised labour and a post-war progressive consensus (with regards to the state intervening in the welfare of the nation) and a political, economic and philosophical grouping which wished to move towards a more monetarist, consumer and individual-orientated society.”

A Field In England-landscape poster-A Year In The Country

“With regards to A Field in England, Ben Wheatley has talked about being interested in making a film about a period when Britain was in “free fall and chaos… a moment when anything could happen”, which could apply equally to Britain at either of the above times in the 17th or 20th centuries.”

The English Civil War Part II-book-Cornerhouse-Stuktur-Jeremy Deller

“These were times when history could have gone various ways and which could be seen as the start of turning points in the world and society. Connecting back to the period in which Winstanley is set, the Miners Strike of 1984-1985 has been called the The English Civil War Part II by artist Jeremy Deller, who used the phrase as the title of a book released in 2002, which documented and reflected on the strike and a re-enactment of a defining conflict during it which has come to be known as ‘The Battle of Orgreave’.”

That re-enactment, also called The Battle of Orgreave, was initiated by Jeremy Deller and was a partial re-enactment of what has come to be thought of as one the turning point conflicts of the strike that originally took place on 18 June 1984 and involved violent clashes between striking miners and the police.

The events or “battle” took place at a British Steel Corporation coking plant in Orgreave, Yorkshire, which processed fuel made from coal, that the miners wished to stop the collection of supplies from and a large number of striking miners converged on this one point on that date.

The re-enactment featured both miners and policemen who had been involved in the strike alongside members of re-enactment societies and a documentary of the event filmed by Mike Figgis was televised by mainstream broadcaster Channel 4.”

Jeremy-Deller-The-English-Civil-War-Boyes-Georgina-A Year In The Country“The English Civil War Part II book is a companion piece to the re-enactment and contains personal accounts by those who were involved in the strike and the re-enactment, alongside memorabilia from the strike including pamphlets, news clippings, photographs from personal scrapbooks, song texts, a CD containing interviews with former miners and some of their wives and also photographs of the re-enactment.

While being to a degree documentary or archival in nature, the book combines these elements to create a moving and evocative tribute to the conflict and those whose lives it affected.”


Online images to accompany Chapter 52 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page.


Posted on Leave a comment

The 12 Blogs of Christmas – A Gathering of Semi-Lost and Hidden Away Televisual Drama: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 52/52


I thought that over the years I had come across most of a particular kind of spectral/hauntological unavailable, semi-lost and lost British television but then I discovered novelist, comic and screenwriter Paul Cornell’s post The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Five. Telefantasy for DVD: the BBC (1954-1990) and realised that there are a fair few I had never even heard of.

In that post he lists and discusses BBC television shows of a science fiction and fantasy nature which have never been available on DVD but which aren’t completely missing from the BBC archives, so effectively also something of an “actionable” wish list.

1970s television set

In order to provide a “backup” version of the list for posterity, below I list every series etc he mentions (alongside a few notes on some of the programmes that I’ve written).

A Small Problem (1987).

Aliens in the Family (1987).

Captain Zep – Space Detective (1983-1984).

Come Back Mrs. Noah (1977-1978)

Mrs Noah

Counterstrike (1969).

Debut on Two: Kingdom Come (1990):

The Incredible Robert Baldick-Never Come Night-BBC

Drama Playhouse: The Incredible Robert Baldick: ‘Never Come Night’ (1972):
Apparently features Robert Hardy as a Victorian supernatural investigator, one who apparently has his own special train (!).

Galloping Galaxies! (1985-1986).

Kenneth Williams.

Ghost in the Water (1982)

Hands Across the Sky (1960).

Late Night Horror: The Corpse Can’t Play (1968).

Leap in the Dark-series-BBC

Leap in the Dark (1973-1980).
The first series was a “magazine programme for mystics”, series 2-4 were docudramas featuring allegedly real paranormal events. It sounds as though it may have been part of a wider mainstream interest in the supernatural and even the occult in the 1970s.

Some episodes were written by The Owl Service writer Alan Garner and Penda’s Fen writer David Rudkin.

Episodes of this were viewable online once upon a time but the last time I looked they had gone.

Man Dog (1972).
The plot involves rebels from the future, whose leaders mind is beamed into the brain of a pet dog. Written by Peter Dickinson, author of The Changes.

1984 (1954).
George Orwell’s book adapted by Nigel Kneale and starring Peter Cushing.

Orion (1977).

Outta Space. (1973).

Out of the Trees (1976).

Play For Today- Angels are so Few-Dennis Potter-1970-BBC

Play For Today: Angels are so Few (1970).
Dennis Potter drama about a man who is possibly an angel who invades a suburban home. Never released on DVD but apparently it was in the online video streaming BBC Store – which only lasted a brief while and is now gone.

Play For Today: London is Drowning (1981).

Play For Today: Stronger Than The Sun (1977).
Directed by former Bond director Michael Apted and written by Stephen Poliakoff. Its plot about the nuclear industry and protest seems to share some similar territory with Edge of Darkness.

Play For Today: Vampires (1979).

Z For Zachariah-1984 BBC Play For Today-3

Play For Today: Z for Zachariah (1984).
Which I have written about before at A Year In The Country and which in more recent times has been remade featuring A-list Hollywood stars.

Play For Tomorrow (1982).

Playhouse: The Breakthrough and Mrs. Acland’s Ghosts (both 1975).

Playhouse: The Mind Beyond (1976).

Play of the Month: I Have Been Here Before (1982).

Play of the Month: The Devil’s Eggshell (1966).

Play of the Week-Stargazy on Zummerdown-1978

Play of the Week: Stargazy on Zummerdown (1978).
Now this sounds intriguing: peaceful agrarian workers of Albion in the 23rd century hold a festival where they meet with the industrial Toonies:

“…a slice of town and country ritual rivalry set in the 23rd century, in a society where urban and rural communities live uneasily side by side under the benign auspices of a retro-pagan church, and trade relations between the two are agreed at an annual festival wherein village fete meets wrestling smackdown. Oh, and an onion eating contest…”
(From You Can’t Do That on T.V. Anymore)

Rentaghost (1976-1984).

The Black and Blue Lamp-1988-BBC

Screenplay: The Black and Blue Lamp (1988).
A time travel black comedy with a police/crime element , which sounds like something of a forebear to Life on Mars.

Screen Two: The Lorelei (1990).

Second City Firsts: Thwum (1975).

Spine Chillers (1980).

Tarry-Dan, Tarry-Dan, Scary Old Spooky Man-1978-BBC

Tarry-Dan, Tarry-Dan, Scary Old Spooky Man (1978).

The Bells of Astercote (1980).

The Enchanted Castle (1979).

The First Picture Show: Dracula is Not Dead (1976).
A showcase in which new director’s student films were broadcast. Ian Cassie’s contribution was an interview with Dracula, who still lived in his London basement flat.

The Galactic Garden (1985).

The Ghost Downstairs (1982).

The Gift (1990).
A series about a telepathic youngster, which, as with The Changes, was based on a book by Peter Dickinson.

The Moon Stallion-BBC-1978

The Moon Stallion (1978).
A drama in which a blind girl meets mystical forces. It was released on DVD in Germany, although last time I looked that was out of print and not so cheap to buy used.

The Old Men at the Zoo (1983).
An adaptation by Troy Kennedy-Martin – who wrote Edge of Darkness – of Angus Wilson’s novel, which features a group of zoo managers living in a dystopia and their actions in preparation for the onset of apocalyptic war.

The Phoenix and the Carpet (1977).

The Play on One: Yellowbacks (1990).

The Song and the Story (1981).
In which Isla St Clair, the one time co-host of the Generation Game gameshow, and Steeleye Span collaborated on dramatisations of folk songs.

The Watch House (1988).

Theatre 625: The World of George Orwell: 1984. (1965).
A slightly edited remake of Nigel Kneal’s 1954 script.

The Moon Stallion-BBC-1978-2

It’s strange really how a lot of period BBC drama is essentially locked away in the Corporation’s vaults.

A number of these hidden away and/or semi-lost shows do occasionally appear in the public domain on streaming sites and via websites which offer DVDrs of hard to find series and films but often they are low quality transfers from faded domestically recorded videos, multiple generation copies etc.

(Although to a degree, with the more spectral/hauntological orientated work the aesthetics this lends them can be quite fitting, as can the inclusion of timecodes in some such recordings.)

For a while the BBC had an online store which was not a subscription service but rather one where you could pay to “own” series etc which would then be streamable, including, as mentioned above, some which have never been released on DVD. As a service it apparently did not enjoy a huge amount of success and lasted only for around 18 months.

In these days of potentially there being a wide range of ease of distribution options online, if the BBC’s own dedicated purchase and streaming service was not commercially viable and/or popular with the public, then possibly teaming up with an existing streaming and/or download service might be an option? Some programmes already are available digitally on the likes of Netflix and Amazon but largely it seems to be programmes which are already previously available on DVD.

Maybe time to throw open the gates? Not in an everything all at once manner which could overwhelm people and cause things to be overlooked but possibly putting a steady, measured stream of these already publicly paid for hidden away treasures out into the world via some avenue or other?

Philips1970BW1-1970s television set

The full post at Paul Cornell’s site; which features an extensive amount of writing, images etc. Well worth a visit and peruse
John Coulthart on Alan Garner’s To Kill a King and Colin Wilson’s In The Mind’s Eye from Leap in the Dark.
You Can’t Do That on T.V. Anymore: Stargazy on Zummerdown


Posted on Leave a comment

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

Laserdisc-Zardoz-A Year In The Country-4Phase IV-soundtrack-Saul Bellow-A Year In The CountryBeyond The Black Rainbow-still-1b

Zardoz (1974), Phase IV (1974) and Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) could be gathered in a left-of-centre, science fiction and fantasy orientated corner of more exploratory cinematic culture that to varying degrees incorporates and/or draws from psychedelic culture and imagery and associated dreamlike or altered reality states, often in pastoral or nature orientated/connected settings.”

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country-11

“Zardoz was written, produced and directed by John Boorman.

The plot involves a future Earth ruled by immortal Eternals, an advanced sect of humans who live a luxurious but aimless life in an area known as the Vortex, protected by an invisible barrier from the wasteland of the outside world which is inhabited by Brutals who carry out forced labour farming.

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country-12b

The Eternals have created a false god known as Zardoz, which is represented by a huge flying stone head and is used to control and intimidate the Exterminators, who in turn control the Brutals through the use of force.”

Zardoz-still 1

“The secluded paradise of the Eternals is a curious mix of advanced technology, new age-isms and a kind of indulgently folkloric ritualised way of life set in what appears to be an almost village like insular idyll; the Eternals partake in a liberal, democratically decided and also underlyingly conformistly oppressive way of life, with its functioning and continuation only enabled because of the forced labour farming carried out by the Brutals.”

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country 9

“Watching Zardoz is a dreamlike, at points hallucinatory or psychedelic, stepping through the looking-glass experience, notably so when Zed crosses over into the crystal based Tabernacle which controls the Vortex and when he is absorbing all the Eternals’ knowledge outside of time and the real world.”

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country 2

“…while undergoing the absorption of knowledge process a projected lightshow of collaged and drifting images representing this knowledge plays over and completely covers his and the Eternals’ faces and unclothed bodies as they float disembodiedly across the frame in what becomes a swirling, speeding up carousel of faces.”

“It is an exploratory, dissonant, challenging blockbuster or spectacle film, one which questions society’s actions, accompanied by references to 20th century cinematic fantastical fairy tales and philosophy, while also being full of ‘I can’t actually believe that this was allowed to come to the big screen’ moments.”

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country 6Zardoz-1973-Cinefantastique-John Boorman-A Year In The Country

“All of which is complemented by a former James Bond wearing what can only be described as revealing futuristic Mexican fetish-bandit wear. To use a phrase from the film itself, this is one of those times when popular culture goes ‘renegade’.”

Phase IV-Saul Bellow-A Year In The Country

“Phase IV is the only film made by renowned designer Saul Bass and as with Zardoz it is a cultural oddity, and Paramount Pictures were probably more than a little surprised when they saw what they had financed.”

Phase IV-Saul Bellow-A Year In The Country 3

“In the film two scientists and one younger woman they rescue are held hostage in a desert research facility by ants which they are meant to be studying but who seem to have gained some form of collective consciousness and higher intelligence due to some unknown cosmic event.”

Phase IV ending-collage-bw

“…it literally explodes in a psychedelic coming of a new age and order collage of imagery sequence at the end. Well,sort of… There was full-length journey into and through the new world fantasy sequence filmed as an ending but it was not used for the general release. The film that most people have seen ends with a glimpse of this new world but it is merely a brief view.

The full sequence had a limited public cinematic outing when a version of it was found in 2012 at the Academy Film Archive in Hollywood, USA but it has never been included as part of an official release for home viewing.”

Phase IV-Saul Bellow-A Year In The Country 2

“It is… a film that though not all that well-known (and the semi-lost ending hardly at all), seems to have somehow or other reverberated through and influenced culture since its inception.

Beyond The Black Rainbow-A Year In The Country 3

“In particular, lines of connection can be drawn from Phase IV to Beyond the Black Rainbow which was written and directed by Panos Cosmatos.

The plot of that film centres around the Aboria Institute, a new age research facility founded in the 1960s by Dr Arboria which is set in “award winning gardens” and dedicated to finding a reconciliation between science and spirituality, allowing humans to move into a new age of perpetual happiness.

In the 1980s his work was taken over by his protégé Dr Barry Nyle who despite outward appearances of charm and normality is actually mentally unstable and has thoroughly corrupted the Institute and its aims.”

Beyond The Black Rainbow-still-2b copy

“The lines of connection and inspiration between Phase IV and Beyond the Black Rainbow are not a direct transference and replication, rather, as also said by the director it is in an ‘abstracted, vaguely recognisable way’…

This sense of non-replication can be linked to the representations of the 1980s when Beyond the Black Rainbow is set, which do not create a detail-perfect simulacra but rather a reflection of that time which in text that accompanies the film’s DVD/Blu-ray release has somewhat aptly and evocatively been described as “a Reagan-era fever dream”.

Although referring to a different time period than the late 1960s to 1970s, which much of hauntological-leaning work tends to, Beyond the Black Rainbow shares with that area of culture a sense of the reimagining or fragmented recall of cultural memories which are explored and used in order to create a parallel world view of previous eras…

Watching it can instill the sense that you are viewing an overlooked David Cronenberg film from that time.”

Beyond The Black Rainbow-Jay Shaw video design-Mondotees-A Year In The Country Beyond The Black Rainbow-Jay Shaw video and poster design-Mondotees-A Year In The Country

“Also, in a similar manner to sections of hauntologically-labelled work, Beyond the Black Rainbow has a strong sense of being a rediscovered lost artifact; this is a film which could have tumbled from the further reaches of an early 1980s video shop’s shelves but one from that “fever dream” rather than being passed down directly via historical reality…

…Somewhat appropriately considering the above and despite such things being more or less obsolete and no longer widely manufactured, alongside the DVD and Blu-ray editions it was also released on limited edition VHS videocassette by Mondo, who alongside such things specialise in limited edition posters featuring commissioned artwork reinterpretations of films.”

 Beyond The Black Rainbow-Jagjaguwar-Panos Cosmatos-A Year In The Country-gatefold

“If the film could be a rediscovered and refracted Cronenberg project from a parallel world, then its soundtrack could well be a Tangerine Dream-esque soundtrack from that world.

The soundtrack is by Jeremy Schmidt (working as Sinoia Caves), and utilises mellotron choirs, analogue synthesizers and arpeggiators to create a period aesthetic and atmosphere.”

I Am The Center-Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990-Light In The Attic-A Year In The Country

It puts me in mind of the further reaches and undercurrents of what has been loosely labelled new age music, including some of the work that can be found on the compilation I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age in America – 1950-1990 (released in 2013 by Light in the Attic) such as Wilburn Burchette’s “Witch’s Will” which, as with the soundtrack to Beyond the Black Rainbow, creates an atmosphere that is restful, draws you in and yet is also portentous and unsettling.”

Beyond The Black Rainbow-still-3b

“…Beyond the Black Rainbow is not always an easy and often an unsettling film, so if you should seek it out then tread gently but it has a visual beauty, entrancing atmosphere and sense of cinematic and cultural exploration that makes it a somewhat unique film experience.”


Online images to accompany Chapter 51 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.


Posted on Leave a comment

Margaret Elliot’s The Corn Dolly and an Otherly Layering as the Years Pass: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 51/52

The Corn Dolly-Margaret Elliot-Colin Dunbar-book-1976-folklore

The Corn Dolly is a book by Margaret Elliot, which was originally published in 1976.

If it was published today it would probably be called a Young Adult novel – i.e. aimed at a younger teenage audience.

There is very little information about the book online and not all that many copies for sale but it could be loosely connected to folk horror or the spectral, preter/supernatural likes of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen in its themes.

The story of the book involves a form of sympathetic magic and the mystical powers and actions of a corn dolly, which is found by a young brother and sister, in protecting the harvest:

“Susie retrieved the Corn dolly from the river-bank where she was being attacked by a group of crows. With the help of her brother, Jack, she fished the doll out and took her back to Granny Cuddon’s house. Their Gran told them that the doll had been a good luck charm who ensured a successful harvest for her owner – and she mentioned that farmer Barham had once had a very similar doll. Farmer Barham had employed the children’s father but bad luck had struck his farm and he was almost bankrupt now.

“It seemed to Susie, and even to Jack, that ever since they had found the doll they had been followed by the attacking crows. And both children felt obscurely threatening forces closing in on them. In fact, finding the Corn dolly was to catapult them into a sinister adventure, connected with the evil powers that were trying to destroy Farmer Barham’s Highfield. But they discovered the Corn dolly, too, had powers – powers for good, which were tested to the utmost when the enemy struck.

“Margaret Elliot has written an unusual adventure story based on the folk lore of the English countryside.”

(From the inside cover text of the book.)

The Corn Dolly-Margaret Elliot-Colin Dunbar-book-1976-folklore-3 copy

Margaret Elliot wrote four books between 1976-1981 – The Corn Dolly, When the Night Crow Flies, Witch’s Gold and To Trick a Witch, all of which seem to be aimed at a similar audience and feature not dissimilar battles between mystical powers of good and evil (or white and black witches and their covens).

All four of the books feature illustrations by Colin Dunbar, on whom information also seems scarce.

If published today they might well be filed alongside the vast array of other, not dissimilarly themed Young Adult orientated books.

However with the passing of time older, previously fairly normal or mainstream culture can gain extra layers of interest/a patina of intrigue and character and that is the case with The Corn Dolly.

Viewed now and with the current interest in flipside Albion-esque and “wyrd” culture it seems like a curious, intriguing, semi-lost cultural artifact and also a signifier of some of the interests and background of its time of publication; post The Wicker Man and the canonic trio of folk horror films from the early 1970s, a relatively mainstream interest in the supernatural and the occult back then and a related yearning for and interest in rural and folkloric escape and culture at the time.

The Corn Dolly-Margaret Elliot-Colin Dunbar-book-1976-folklore-2

The book also connects further with The Wicker Man in that its focus is around the rituals and faith involved in protecting and hoping for a bountiful harvest and when viewed with an awareness of the above mentioned contemporary interest in the “wyrd” and eerie aspects of folklore etc the traditional verse below, which is included at the start of the book, seems to have gained a subtle “otherly” aspect:

“Corn Dolly:
“‘Tis but a thing of straw,” they say,
Yet even straw can sturdy be
Plainted into doll like me.
And in the days of long ago
To help the seeds once more to grow
I was an offering to the gods.
A very simple way indeed
Of asking them to intercede
That barn and granary o’erflow
At Harvest time, with fruit and corn
To fill again Amalthea’s horn.”

(Almathea’s Horn refers to Greek mythology, where a goat called Almathea’s broken horn was blessed by the god Zeus so that its owner would find everything they desired in it and which became a symbol of cornucopia and eternal abundance.)


Margaret Elliot at Good Reads

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
1) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 1/52: Hazel’s Kaboodles Corn Husk Doll Kit – Opening a Time Capsule from Back When and Faceless Folkloric Precedents
2) Chapter 7 Book Images: 1973 – A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures


Posted on Leave a comment

Strawberry Fields and Wreckers – The Countryside and Coastal Hinterland as Emotional Edgeland: Chapter 50 Book Images

Strawberry Fields-2012-A Year In The Country 3

“The plot of Frances Lea’s 2012 film Strawberry Fields involves a young-ish postwoman who is possibly running away from the loss of her mother and her over demanding, somewhat unsettled sister. She seeks escape in seasonal strawberry picking work in a rural coastal area and within this temporary community the film becomes a compressed microcosm of lives, loves, family and friendships, all of which seem to fracture, stumble and tumble in a brief moment of time.”

Strawberry Fields-2012-A Year In The Country

“The setting feels like an isolated, separate world unto itself; it comprises mostly of just the picking fields, ramshackle semi-derelict buildings, temporary accommodation, deserted beaches, neglected barns and equipment, the concrete brutalism and shabby infrastructure of the local railway station and monolithic overhead roadways (a spaghetti junction relocated amongst the fields and flatlands).”

Strawberry Fields-2012-A Year In The Country-2

“This is a world curiously free of controlling older adult influences and there is possibly only one such person whose face is seen.

The result of these circumstances seems to have created an unregulated temporary autonomous zone, one that allows for unfettered and sometimes-destructive human actions, behaviour and responses; the inhabitants are adults but their behaviour appears nearer to that of rampaging unsupervised children.”

Troubadour Rose-Bryony Afferson-Strawberry Fields 2012-A Year In The Country-higher contrast

“As an aside, there is a lovely soundtrack to Strawberry Fields, largely by Bryony Afferson and her band Troubadour Rose, which is all slightly dusty Americana tinged folk songs, drones and snatches of ghostly vocals that lodge in the mind for days.”

Wreckers-2011-film-A Year In The Country

“Wreckers (2011), directed by D. R. Hood, focuses on a young couple who have moved from the city to a small rural community.

Their lives are unsettled when one of their siblings, who is a combat veteran on whom his experiences in conflict have taken a considerable toll, unexpectedly arrives and brings with him an unearthing of hidden, painful secrets from the family’s past.

In contrast to times when the British village is depicted in cinema as an orderly country idyll, here this is gently flipped on its side; at one point in the film a tour around the locale leads not to “Oh, that’s a pretty church” comments and the like but rather to a cataloguing of who did what traumatic thing where and the emotional relationships and rules depicted in the film feel like they have reverted back to some earlier unregulated medieval time.”

Wreckers-2011-film-A Year In The Country 2

“(These two films are) visions of the countryside and rural coastal hinterland as a form of literal and emotional edgeland, with their structures, physical and personal, being thrown together, tumbledown, temporary and in a state of unsettled flux.”


Online images to accompany Chapter 50 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.


Posted on Leave a comment

A Small Archive of the Oddly Pastoral and an Experience Centre Time Machine by Way of the Museum of Obsolete Media: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 50/52

sight-and-sound-magzine-bfi-spring-1971sight-and-sound-magzine-bfi-summer-1978Sight and Sound-film magazine-BFI-Winter 1978-1979

This post would appear to be part of A Year In The Country which, to quote author, artist, musician and curator Kristen Gallerneaux is:

“…planted permanently somewhere between the history of the first transistor, the paranormal, and nature-driven worlds of the folkloric…” 

Things I found when I went a-wandering:

Above is a small selection of oddly pastoral 1970s covers for the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine…

I have looked up which film the images were from but I prefer to let my imagine wander and create its own narratives…

Cartrivision-1972-1973-video recorder and rental catalogue

A while ago I stumbled upon the Museum of Obsolete Media and I was surprised to see just how many formats have come and gone over the years, one of which was the Cartrivision video cassette system, which in 1972-1973 was the first consumer video-recorder available in the US:

“I offer you and your family immediate access to TV programs, your choice of feature-length films, educational and cultural materials, and your own home movies. You can see and hear them in the privacy of your living room any time you desire, without driving anywhere, without fighting crowds, without commercials or other interruptions. I can do this because I’m a time machine, a very special sort of time machine.”
(Promotional text for the Cartrivision system.)


Cartrivision were pioneers not only in terms of the video-recorders but also because, considerably in advance of other such services, it offered rental by post of films on its cassettes.

The system employed its own version of rights management – rental tapes could only be rewound using special equipment at retailers (pictured above), meaning tapes could only be watched once.

This brings to mind other now quite bizarre seeming rights management systems, such as the DIVX/Digital Video Express system from 1998-1999, whereby you could pay to watch a DVD-like disc but only via a dedicated player and which 48 hours after playing the disc would nolonger be watchable and needed discarding unless you paid again (the system “phoned home” to a central server system to check the disc’s status).

Or the even more bizarre and wasteful Flexplay DVD-compatible discs that were available from 2003-2009; this was intended as a means for the rental of films without the need to return the discs.

Well, there wasn’t really any use in returning them as they were supplied in a vacuum-sealed package; after opening the bonding resin holding the inner and outer layers together reacted to oxygen and turned black, making the discs unplayable.

Catrivision-a unique way of looking at things-logo

Catrivision failed for a number of reasons: the recorders were often sold as part of units which also contained a colour television and cost the modern-day equivalent of $9000 (approximately £6450 at the time of writing).

Plus being built into television units meant that for example on the shop floor it was not all that visible and separate from standard televisions.

Also apparently it was complicated to use and, in a further forebearing of digital storage techniques, it had its own form of analogue compression as it only recorded every third frame, which meant that the picture was fuzzy.

By 1975 Sony began shipping the less expensive Betamax video-recorders and the following year JVC began shipping VHS units and the rest, as they say, was history (one which had its own epic format war but that’s another story).

Cartrivision-cassette rear and On The Waterfront

A brief history of Cartrivision
Exhibits at the Museum of Obsolete Media: CartrivisionDigital Video ExpressFlexplay.
Catrivision at LabGuy’s World
The VHS vs Betamax format war

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 13/52: Jeffrey Siedler’s Logic Formations – Hybrid Spectres of the Spectron Video Synthesizer


Posted on Leave a comment

From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Wintersongs, Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails – Lullabies for the Land and Gently Darkened Undercurrents: Chapter 49 Book Images

Virgina-Astley-From-Gardens-Where-We-Feel-Secure-vinyl-Rough-Trade-A-Year-In-The-Country-2b-CD front and back

“Virginia Astley’s 1983 album From Gardens Where We Feel Secure is the very definition of bucolic and is an album which summates England’s pastoral, Edenic dreams, albeit with subtly melancholic and unsettled undercurrents.

It is a largely piano and woodwind-led melodic record, which is accompanied throughout by the sounds of the countryside and blissful repose: birdsong, lambs, church bells and rowing on the river.”

Rob Young-Electric Eden-book covers-1st edition-2nd edition-US edition

“It features in Rob Young’s Electric Eden, the final “Poly Albion” section, in the chapter “Towards the Unknown Region”, where he considers the more outerlying areas of the music and culture which has sprung forth from the likes of hauntology and an otherly, spectral take on pastoralism.

In this section when describing From Gardens Where We Feel Secure he begins by saying that it “does not go anywhere”, in presumably an attempt to show the album’s ambient, non-formal song structure.”

Virgina Astley-From Gardens Where We Feel Secure-vinyl-Rough Trade-A Year In The Country 4

“It is an interesting choice of phrase as it also suggests how the English can sometimes hanker after unchanged, unending idylls where the gates can be locked, allowing rest, slumber and dreaming, with the rambunctious march of progress safely held at bay even if just for a moment. Although the album is largely a suite of music which invokes such an Albionic Arcadia, conjuring up lives spent in timeless English villages, it is not merely a chocolate box or twee reverie, as it also contains a sense that there is a flipside to those dreams: that the nightmare may well intrude on the secure Eden.”

Virgina Astley-From Gardens Where We Feel Secure-vinyl-Rough Trade-A Year In The Country

“The record distantly wanders some of the same fields as the outer regions of an alternative landscape which can be found in say the film The Wicker Man (1973) or some psych/acid folk music but here while the sense of an idyllic rural Eden has an otherly quality it is not overt: more it is a form of wistful nostalgia or reverie, even where such aspects are most present on When the Fields Were on Fire.”


“Such views of the landscape which are both bucolic but also quietly, subtly travel through its flipside can be found on the 1999 album Wintersongs by Plinth, which was made by Michael Tanner with Steven Dacosta, accompanied by Nicholas Palmer and Julian Poidevin…

In a similar manner to From Gardens Where We Feel Secure it creates a soundtrack for the landscape: one that is in parts gently melancholic but also gently magical and on a track like “Bracken” it almost feels like a walking companion for Virginia Astley’s album in its melodic, looping and minimal exploration of a bucolic atmosphere.

However, as with From Gardens Where We Feel Secure this is not a twee trip through the land; while at times it may be a journey amongst a certain kind of pastoral reverie there is also something else going on amongst the hills and trees.

There is heartbreak in the pathways of its songs at points and the quiet melody and refrain of “Hearth” makes the mind wander towards losses along the byways of life.”

Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 4

“Walking and exploring amongst similar territories is Sharron Kraus’ 2013 album Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails.

In the text that she wrote to accompany it there is a sense of her discovering and rediscovering the land as she had begun to live in or visit the Welsh countryside, exploring her surroundings and unlocking some kind of underlying magic or enchantment to the landscape…”

Sharron Kraus-Night Mare-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 2

“A phrase which springs to mind when listening to Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Tales and its bonus disc Night Mare was “these are lullabies for the land” and in many ways they do literally feel similar to or have a lullaby-like effect, as they contain a dreamlike quality that is rooted in the land but is also a journey through its hidden undercurrents and tales.

This is music which also literally soundtracks the landscape where it was made, utilising field recordings captured along the way; the sound of birds, streams, waterfalls, animals, the wind and jet planes which were recorded on Sharron Kraus’ explorations.”

His Name Is Alive-Livonia-album artwork-4AD

“Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails is beautifully packaged; it was released in a very limited edition by Second Language Music and designed by Martin Masai Andersen/Andersen M Studio and it feels like a precious artifact: one which you want to pick up carefully and gently.

The album was presented as a small book-sized gatefold, with the packaging and the gently transformed nature and landscape photography (which in its textural qualities recalls the 23 Envelope work of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson for 4AD records), capturing the beauty and grace of the land through which Sharron Kraus travelled and in which she worked.”


Online images to accompany Chapter 49 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.


Posted on Leave a comment

The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 3 – Artifacts and Curios from The Conversation, The Parallax View, 3 Days of the Condor and The Anderson Tapes: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 49/52


Reel to reel tape-The Anderson Tapes-1971

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this post I wrote about a number of 1970s American films which are variously imbued with a sense of paranoia, unease and surveillance and which reflected the domestic turbulence of the background in which they were made.

Part 1 focused on The Anderson Tapes (1971), Part 2 on Three Days of the Condor (1975) and I also mentioned The Parallax View (1974) and The Conversation (1974) as being two of the other notable examples of such films.

3 Days of the Condor-16mm trailer-1

3 Days of the Condor-16mm trailer-2

There have been a huge variety of physical artifacts created which are connected to these films: posters, other promotional literature, different editions and formats of home releases of the these films etc, both period and contemporary items, some of which I collect in this post.

Above and at the top of this post is the 16mm trailer for Three Days of the Condor.

Such trailers I have something of a softspot for, partly for their compact physicality and also because as they were only produced in small quantities and intended for use within the industry, they tend to be particularly rare and so have a sense of being quite precious cinema artifacts.

The Parallax View-1974-16mm trailer

Along which lines, above is the 16mm trailer for the Parallax View.

The Anderson Tapes-Super 8-covers and film reel

I’m also rather taken by the above left Super 8 for-home-projection version of The Anderson Tapes and its simplified illustrated artwork, which sort of looks like Sean Connery.

Was it cheaper to have the artwork redrawn than license the original or is this from an alternate original cinema poster?

Before home video recorders and laser disc players were affordable and/or widely used/available, these condensed, heavily edited versions were one of the only ways in which films could be watched at home and often featured for example a 2 hour film condensed into an eight minute running time, sometimes without sound.

(Connected to which, the one on the left mentions that it is part of the “Columbia Pictures The Condensed Features Collection”.)

The 17 minute Super 8 version of The Anderson Tapes is also included as an extra on the Powehouse Films Indicator Series Blu-ray release of the film – which could be watched as both a curio and y’kno’, for when you’ve only got just over quarter of an hour in which to watch the film (!).

The Anderson Tapes-The Conversation-3 Days of the Condor-The Parallax View-Polish-Soviet-Eastern European film cinema posters

The above Polish and former Soviet Union posters travel from (left-right) an almost playful illustrated take on The Anderson Tapes, a frankly deranged and more than a little unsettling interpretation of The Conversation, a quite surreal and also in parts very literal take on Three Days of the Condor and an almost boozy illustration for The Parallax View.

2626ecja.tif, 3/14/02, 12:00 PM, 8C, 3750x5000 (0+0), 62%, Curve0321, 1/8, R252, G184, B420,

I’m particularly taken by this poster for The Parallax View which seems to be channelling the further reaches of psych-like 1970s science fiction novel covers and could well be, for example, a poster for a contemporary cinematic conjuring and reimagining of a previous era along the lines of the manner in which Panos Cosmatos Beyond the Black Rainbow created a “Reagan era fever dream” of the 1980s.

The Conversation-Three Days of the Condor-The Parallax View-The Anderson Tapes-Blu-ray and DVD covers

I shall (almost) end with some of the recent Blu-ray and DVD covers of the The Conversation, Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View and The Anderson Tapes; the Region A only version of The Conversation has a nice polish to it and a design that puts me in mind of Berberian Sound Studio and its use of the physicality of period recording equipment.

Klute-All The Presidents Men-The Parallax View-film posters-Alan J Pakula

As a final note and in a “should you wish to read more”: Adam Scovell, the author of Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, wrote an article called The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (a phrase used for a memoir by Henry Miller) for the November 2017 issue of the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine, which focused on some similar areas of cinema as the three parts of this post and more specifically what has become known as director Alan J. Pakula’s “paranoia trilogy” – Klute, The Parallax View and All the President’s Men.

At the time of writing that article can only be read in the magazine itself and is not online, the link for which is below.


Adam Scovell on Alan J. Pakula’s “paranoia trilogy”
The Anderson Tapes limited edition reissue at Powerhouse/Indicator
The Anderson Tapes trailer
Three Days of the Condor at Eureka!/Masters of CInema
Three Days of the Condor trailer
The Parallax View trailer and that scene
The Conversation trailer

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
Audio Visual Transmission Guide #9/52a: Beyond The Black Rainbow and Phase IV
Audio Visual Transmission Guide #10/52a: Beyond The Black Rainbow Soundtrack Clips
1) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 47/52: The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 1 – The Anderson Tapes
2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 48/52: The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 2 – Three Days of the Condor


Posted on Leave a comment

The Moon and the Sledgehammer and Sleep Furiously – Visions Of Parallel and Fading Lives: Chapter 48 Book Images

The Moon And The Sledgehammer-A Year In The Country-10

“The Moon and the Sledgehammer is a 1971 documentary film directed by Philip Trevelayn that shows a snapshot of a family (a father, two sons and two daughters) who live in an isolated woodland English house.”

The Moon And The Sledgehammer-A Year In The Country-6 The Moon And The Sledgehammer-A Year In The Country-13

“Their lives and ways of living have a sense of drawing from the past while living in the present; water is drawn by bucket from a well, if there is any mains electricity it is not to be seen, they run and hand build old steam engines, the men dress like working class labourers from earlier in the 20th century (all suit jackets and hats for hard manual and engineering work) and the family play hand-pumped organs and pianos out in the open.

This way of life does not appear to have come about in any modern dropping off the grid, overly conscious manner but rather to have happened or continued to happen naturally over the years.”

The Moon And The Sledgehammer-A Year In The Country-1

“The only time the film shows them leaving their own land and home is during a police-escorted trip down country lanes on a black-smoke puffing steam engine amongst the Morris Minor etc. cars of the period.”

Akenfield film 1974

“In part, it is a fitting travelling companion with the 1974 film Akenfield, which is more a recreated/partially dramatised but based on the stories of rural living example of filmmaking (it draws from Ronald Blythe’s oral history 1969 book Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village) than documentary representation but which also seems to represent some kind of earlier 1970s interest in, and attempt to, capture or recapture a disappearing world and pastoral idyll.”

Two Years At Sea-Ben Rivers-A Year In The Country 14

“However, The Moon and the Sledgehammer is possibly nearer to Ben Rivers’ Two Years at Sea film from 2011, which focuses on the life of a man who lives alone in an isolated rural environment, in that it is a picturesque but also unadorned document of lives that have stepped to one side of normal life, with both being filmmaking which records and presents its subjects lives largely without narration.”

Two Years At Sea-sleep furiously-The Moon & The Sledgehammer-Akenfield-A Year In The Countrysleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-New Wave Films-DVD cover-A Year In The Country

“The Moon and the Sledgehammer, along with Two Years at Sea is connected to a small genre of British filmmaking that is in part landscape/pastoral based documentary but which to varying degrees is non-conventional and/or may include elements of art or expressive film.”

sleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-A Year In The Country

“Along with which, we could include Gideon Koppel’s 2008 film Sleep Furiously.

This film is a view of a small village community that is slowly fading away as the population and local amenities decline. Parts of it are nearer to stills than film; contemplative views of the landscape, sometimes time-lapsed, sometimes with just one tiny figure or vehicle traversing the land.”

General orders no 9-a year in the countryGeneral orders no 9dPaul Hill-White Peak Dark Peak book cover-Dewi Lewis Publishing-A Year In The CountryMinninglow, Looking North-Paul Hill-White Peak Dark Peak-Dewi Lewis Publishing-A Year In The Country

“It shares a sense of an almost painterly or photographer’s eye for such things with the 2009 film General Orders No. 9 and reminds me of art-photography views of the landscape such as Paul Hill’s Dark Peak, White Peak photography book from 1990; work which combines that just-mentioned expressive view alongside a documentary recording of the landscape.”

sleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-A Year In The Country-2 copy

“In contrast to General Orders No. 9, Sleep Furiously is not an overtly otherly view of the countryside and pastoralism but it is more than just a straight documentary in some manner which is hard to define; there is an understated gentle magic to it.

And gentle is an apposite word as in many ways this is a gentle film; gently soporific and largely gently soundtracked, a gentle possibly muted visual colour palette and gently visualised.”


Online images to accompany Chapter 48 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.


Posted on Leave a comment

The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 2 – Three Days of the Condor: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 48/52

3 Days of the Condor-Sydney Pollack-1975-film poster

In Part 1 of this post I began to write about a section of 1970s American film that is variously imbued with a sense of paranoia, unease and surveillance and which reflected the domestic turbulence of the background in which they were made, commenting that along these lines could be included, amongst others, the films The Anderson Tapes (1971), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Parallax View (1974) and The Conversation (1974).

Three Days of the Condor was directed by Sydney Pollack and based on the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady.

In it a desk bound American intelligence agent, code named Condor, works in a research department whose job it is to read books, newspapers and magazines from around the world looking for hidden meanings, possible connections to real world plots and also to draw from fiction possible new techniques for use by the intelligence services.

While he is out at lunch one day his entire department is assassinated and when he realises that he does not know who he can trust in the intelligence services he goes on the run and attempts to work out the reasons for the assassinations, hiding out in the city with an at first unwilling female accomplice.

The film presents a sense of a vast, heavily funded and technologically advanced intelligence agency infrastructure and headquarters, accompanied by an almost workmanlike efficiency and procedures which seems a cold remove from the reality of lives being lost and people getting their hands dirty in the field.

3 Days of the Condor-Sydney Pollack-1975-film still-title computer font

Both The Anderson Tapes and Three Days of the Condor use credit card/cheque fonts in their title sequences, which at the time suggested computerisation and an associated sense of the use of new technology.

Connected to which both films are in part a reflection of advances in surveillance and related technology – whether equipment used and adapted to observe and record subjects or period computers.

3 Days of the Condor-Sydney Pollack-1975-film still-computer

An inherent part of the films mentioned in this post is their use of then modern recording equipment and sometimes computer based technology, something which at the time of their making had a bulky, often imposing physical presence.

As with the typefaces used in the credits, the flashing lights, teletype printer and constantly moving reel-to-reel data tapes of the computers featured are prominent signifiers of a particular period and stage of development in digital technology.

3 Days of the Condor-Sydney Pollack-1975-film still 4

Sydney Pollack’s film shares not having a “happy” ending with The Anderson Tapes; in Three Days of the Condor the plot is left particularly ambiguous as the Condor turns his back on the intelligence agency and goes to the press with details of the conspiracy he has uncovered.

However, the film ends with him not knowing if his story will be printed and having been told by an intelligence agent that he is “about to become a very lonely man”.

In many ways the story is one of an individual who is initially just going to work and doing his job in a day-to-day manner, without possessing or being driven by a great need to serve his country etc, nor seeming to even particularly be aware of the wider, real world ramifications of the research he is doing.

(This attitude shares some territory with the just mentioned efficient, workmanlike infrastructure of the wider intelligence agency and the sense in the film of it being in part at a remove from the realities of field work.)

3 Days of the Condor-1975-film still

As the film progresses he becomes not dissimilar to a lone noir-ish knight in shining armour private detective as he attempts to understand and later expose the conspiracy he has uncovered and in common with say author Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, he displays a variously resourceful, determined, stubborn and almost pig-headed determination in doing what he considers right.

Although with Marlowe there is a sense that his morality is an inherent part of him and ever present, while within the Condor it is portrayed as possibly always having been a part of his character but it was subsumed under a wish for an easy, routine life, with him only being morally radicalised by his experiences.

Three Days of the Condor has had numerous DVD and Blu-ray releases, most recently in the UK by Eureka!/Masters of Cinema, in an edition which, as with Powerhouse’s release of The Anderson Tapes, has a high-level of attention to detail, extended booklet, extras etc.

James Grady’s novel on which the film is based is also worth seeking out – it is a short first novel that has stood up well to the passing of time and is a gripping, quick and easy read which also reflects the author’s extensive research into the intelligence agencies, communities and methods of operation.

Pressbook-3 Days of the Condor-1975

Three Days of the Condor at Eureka!/Masters of CInema
Three Days of the Condor trailer

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
Week #39/52: An elegy to elegies for the IBM 1401 / notes on a curious intertwining
Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 47/52: The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 1 – The Anderson Tapes


Posted on Leave a comment

Weirdlore, Folk Police Recordings, Sproatly Smith and Seasons They Change – Notes from the Folk Underground, Legendary Lost Focal Points and Privately Pressed Folk: Chapter 47 Book Images

Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 3Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 2

“Once Upon a Time in 2012 there was an event called Weirdlore, which could well in future years have come to be known and referred to as a focal point for a new wave of what has variously been called acid, psych, underground or wyrd folk.”

froots magazine covers-andy Irvine-show of hands-mekons-the rheingans sisters

“The phrase weirdlore was coined by Ian Anderson of fRoots magazine,

who organised this event, as a name for the one-day gathering and also as a possible genre title for such things.

There have been quite a few different genre titles attached to this area of music but none has ever really fully stuck or come to fully define or delineate a loose grouping of music that draws from various strands of folk music, culture and traditions, while also often being exploratory and/or underground in nature and audience.

Unfortunately said event was cancelled. Apparently there was a lot of enthusiasm for it but this did not translate into actual ticket sales.”

-Folk Police Recordings logo-A Year In The Country

“However, an accompanying compilation album called Weirdlore was still released in 2012 by the no longer-operating Folk Police Recordings. Folk Police Recordings was a Manchester-based record label that was active from 2010-2013 and was a home for work that took folk music as its starting point but which wandered off down its own paths (while still generally keeping an eye cast towards its roots).”

Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The Country 3The Woodbine & Ivy Band-Folk Police Recordings-A Year In The Country Harp and a Monkey-Folk Police Recordings-A Year In The Country

“Their releases included work by amongst others Sproatly Smith, The Woodbine & Ivy Band, The Owl Service, Harp and a Monkey and Lisa Knapp as well as an album by Frugal Puritan which was alleged to have been a recording of lost Christian acid folk (please note the “allegedly” as this may in fact have been a project created and imagined in contemporary times).”

Folklore-Tapes-front & follow-Clay pipe-was ist das?-rif mountian-hood faire-stone tape

“Folk Police Records could be seen to be one of a number of record labels and music orientated projects which to various degrees have worked in and released left-of-centre, exploratory folk and related work and/or work related to the flipsides and undercurrents of pastoralism and the land.

Along which lines are included amongst others Deserted Village, Was Ist Das?, Hood Faire, Patterned Air Recordings, Front & Follow, Caught By The River’s Rivertones, Stone Tape Records, Clay Pipe Music, The Geography Trip, Folklore Tapes, Rif Mountain and A Year In The Country itself.”

Weirdlore-Folk Police Records-Jeanette Leach-Ian Anderson-fRoots-Sproatly Smith-A Year In The Country 1

“The Weirdlore album is, as was the intended event, a snapshot of things musically weirdloric and includes tracks by performers whose work was released separately by Folk Police Recordings and others and included songs by Telling The Bees, Emily Portman, Rapunzel & Sedayne, Nancy Wallace, Pamela Wyn Shannon, Katie Rose, The False Beards, Foxpockets, Boxcar Aldous Huxley, The Straw Bear Band, Starless & Bible Black, Alasdair Roberts, Corncrow, Rosalind Brady, The Witches with Kate Denny, Harp and a Monkey and Wyrdstone.

Aside from the music the album is also well worth a peruse in part for the accompanying text by Ian Anderson, written with Weirdlore still a month away and not yet cancelled. In it he rather presciently describes the album as “celebrating a day which has yet to happen and a genre that quite conceivably doesn’t exist.”

A particular standout track is Sproatly Smith’s version of traditional folk song “Rosebud in June”, which was described by website The Gaping Silence as being:

‘…like something from The Wicker Man, if The Wicker Man had been a 1960s children’s TV series about time travel.’

Which sums up the song and the atmosphere it creates rather well; otherworldly, transportative, dreamscape acid or psych folk.”

Sproatly Smith-Minstrels Grave-Folk Police Recordings-Reverb Worship-A Year In The Country 2

“Sproatly Smith were described by fRoots magazine as “the mystery flagship band of the new wave of weirdlore” and in keeping with that sense of mystery, for a while there did not seem to be any photographs of them online.

On the Folk Police Recordings released Minstrels Grave album from 2012 by Sproatly Smith two songs in particular stand out: “Blackthorn Winter” which manages to be shimmeringly stark, dark and beautiful all at once and “The Blue Flame”, which while gentler conjures visions of a land rolling away just out of sight of the mind’s eye.”

Gently Johnny-Sproatly Smith-The Woodbine & Ivy Band-Static Caravan-The Wicker Man-Magnet-A Year In The CountryThe-Wicker-Man-poster-1973-Anthony Shaffer-Peter Snell-Robin Hardy

“Another recording of Sproatly Smith’s which is particularly appealing is a split seven-inch single with fellow Folk Police Recordings released performers The Woodbine & Ivy band on Static Caravan, released in 2012. On this release they both covered the traditional and evocatively erotic and unblushing song “Gently Johnny” which was reinterpreted by Paul Giovanni for The Wicker Man’s soundtrack in 1973…

Sproatly Smith’s version has a lilting gentleness to it that does not belie its salaciousness, while The Woodbine & Ivy Band’s has a graceful delicateness that is all English Rose and soft wantonness with just a hint and twang of dustbowls across the sea here and there.

Music such as this builds visions of pastoral otherliness, taking the roots of folk and late 1960s and early 1970s acid or psych folk music and quietly wandering somewhere new.”

Jeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The CountryJeanette Leech-Seasons They Change-The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk-A Year In The Country-2

“Within Weirdlore’s album packaging there is an extended piece of writing by Jeanette Leech who is the author of the book Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk (2010), which to quote the back cover “tells the story of the birth, death, and resurrection of acid and psychedelic folk”. Which it does indeed do, dropping a trail of breadcrumbs largely chronologically through that particular story…”

Witches hats & painted chariots-shindig-psych folk-electric muse-folk rock-seance at syds-dave thompson-electric eden-rob young

“Seasons They Change is one of only a small handful of books that focus on such or interconnected areas, which includes Rob Young’s Electric Eden (2011), Shindig magazine’s Witches Hats and Painted Chariots (2013), The Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock (1975) and Dave Thompson’s Seance at Syd’s (2015) which loosely groups contemporary acid folk with, amongst other areas of music, psych and space rock.”


“Seasons They Change draws connecting lines of history between everything from 1960s psychedelic folk to the 2000s arrival of freak folk such as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom via the apocalyptic underground folk of Current 93 and the world of privately pressed folk music.”

Early Morning Hush-Folk Underground-Bob Stanley-album-A Year In The CountryEarly Morning Hush-Notes from the UK Folk Underground-album-inner sleeve artworkEarly Morning Hush-Notes from the UK Folk Underground-album-tracklisting

“Some of those featured appear on the compilation Early Morning Hush: Notes From the Folk Underground 1969-76, released in 2006 and compiled by musician and writer Bob Stanley, which included privately pressed folk amongst its tracks.

Along with its companion album Gather in the Mushrooms from 20042 it presented folk music that was a far sweeter and stranger set of concoctions than anything that springs to mind under the label of folk before, which is a description that could well be applied to much of privately pressed folk from the later 1960s and 1970s.”

stone angel-folk-album covershide and acorn-album coverMidwinter-The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow-acid folk psych folk-Early Morning Hush-A Year In The Country 2

“The Early Morning Hush album features songs that were originally released via private pressing by Stone Angel on their eponymous album from 1975 and Shide & Acorn from their 1971 album Under the Tree, of which just 99 copies were pressed.

The album also includes a track by Midwinter (who later evolved into Stone Angel) that was part of a set of recordings from 1973 that were not released until 1994.”

Caedmon-acid folk psych folk-Seasons They Change-A Year In The CountryOberon-A-Midsummers-Night-Dream-folk-private-press-A-Year-In-The-Country-cropped

“Other privately pressed folk from the time includes the eponymously titled Caedmon album from 1978 and the album A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1971 by Oberon, which as with Under the Tree was originally pressed in an edition of just 99 copies.

There is a mixture of the lost and found, the strange and familiar to such music which is possibly a result of it springing from earlier traditional music while progressing and exploring elsewhere.”


“When John Coulthart was discussing at his Feuilleton website the A Year In The Country-released themed compilation album The Forest/The Wald from 2016, which in part contained music that could be seen as a continuum of the experimentations of the acid or psych folk found on such private pressings, he said that it is:

“…a response to British folk traditions that acknowledges the history without seeming beholden to it.”

Which could also be a way to describe both the likes of Midwinter and Shide & Acorn or the contemporary visitings and revisitings of traditional folksongs and acid or psych folk by Sproatly Smith (whose work is featured on The Forest/The Wald).”


Online images to accompany Chapter 47 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.


Posted on Leave a comment

The Dawning of a New Cinematic Age of Surveillance Part 1 – The Anderson Tapes: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 47/52

2626ecja.tif, 3/14/02, 12:00 PM, 8C, 3750x5000 (0+0), 62%, Curve0321, 1/8, R252, G184, B420,

There is a section of 1970s American film that is variously imbued with a sense of paranoia, unease and surveillance which reflects the domestic turbulence of the background in which they were made.

Amongst others, of particular note along these lines could be included the films The Anderson Tapes (1971), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Parallax View (1974) and The Conversation (1975).

The Anderson Tapes-Lawrence Sanders-3 different version of book cover

The Anderson Tapes is based on a 1970 book by Lawrence Sanders, which was written in an unusual style, being made up of surveillance, police reports etc rather than being written in a conventional manner.

The film adaptation by Sidney Lumet is narratively fairly conventional and depicts the planning and carrying out of a burgarly of on entire upscale New York apartment building by a gang of ex-convicts, who are unaware that from the start they are under surveillance by various agencies and individuals, including government taxation investigation and law enforcement agencies and a private detective.

Re-examining the plot again, what in part it reveals is a form of intensive, multi-layered and almost total surveillance, which mirrors and forebears elements of contemporary society and technology.

However, possibly due to way that in a pre-digital age there was a lack of ease in which information could be exchanged and pooled, all of these groups and individuals are working separately and are unable to “connect the dots” and anticipate the robbery.

Despite this, In keeping with much of 1970s cinema, the film does not have a happy, wander off into the sunset ending for the gang of robbers, who are in part foiled by an amateur radio enthusiast in the building who manages to alert fellow radio enthusiasts to what is happening, in a manner that suggests both plucky publicly spirited resourcefulness and also seems to suggest and possibly even anticipate forms of technological submission, use, reliance, snitchery and self-surveillance.

The Anderson Tapes-VHS cover

The Anderson Tapes also could be seen as dry-run or earlier experiment in some of its themes and atmospheres of conspiracy, paranoia and new uses of technology that would be later explored in Network, which Sidney Lumet directed in 1976.

Accompanying The Anderson Tapes is a soundtrack by Quincy Jones, which features striking, jarring, synthesized stabs of music and noise which both reflect the use and introduction of new technological surveillance techniques and equipment and also are an intriguing contrast with this otherwise in some ways quite traditionally presented film.

In 2017 The Anderson Tapes had a reissue on limited edition Blu-ray by Powerhouse/Indicator, whose release catalogue is shaping up rather well.

Their releases generally have a high level of attention to detail and extensive accompanying booklets and extras, which often, as in the case of The Anderson Tapes, appear to give or return a certain level of respect and appreciation for sometimes slightly overlooked or underrated examples of cinema.

The Anderson Tapes-CED videodisc cover

The Anderson Tapes limited edition reissue at Powerhouse/Indicator
The Anderson Tapes trailer