File under: Trails and Influences. Other Pathways. Case #47/52. Field Trip Report: Case #3.
Talking of departed friends and Folk Police Recordings (see Day #288/365)…
Not so long ago I was walking past my local library and I know not why, as such things don’t often appear there, but there was a poster for Harp And A Monkey playing almost locally but the next night… leaving my local environs via public transport can sometimes seem like trying to leave the village of the damned… well I suppose more of semi-inverted village of the damned that stops you leaving rather than incapacitating those inside or trying to enter… anyway I braved myself and wandered off to see them. Lovely stuff and I also briefly managed to inquire of the reasons for the departing of Folk Police Recordings… for some reason I don’t want to go into it all here but I think its possibly fair to say that day-to-day life got in the way… oh and that leaving the village of the damned? Well, I could either arrive rather too early for the opening of the doors or… well, I arrived slightly after the band had taken to the stage… I only got lost once and then had a wander up possibly the steepest paved hill I’ve ever wandered up, while enjoying a brief discover of a part of town I’d never been to… and then a step into a room above one of those hostelries that seem stunningly local and independent, the kind of place that makes you have a think and wander about how they survive in amongst the joys and days of “fun pub” chains and cheap unfrozen meal deals… and then wandering back into the aforementioned village of the damned seemed to involve watching the tumbleweed begin to furl down the local high street, broken only by the occasional last stragglers, revellers and those hobbled by high heels as you debate just how long you wait for the last automobile carriage service before you have to pay for a taxi home… answer: quite a while it would seem and so the late night charabang wended its way home, punctuated by stopping down country roads to pick up the imbibed wanderers who had given up the ghost and decided to make their way home on foot… ah well. Well worth it to hear tails of tupperware, tinfoil and paper wrapped round chips from these chaps.
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #19/52. Field Trip Report: Case #2.
I recently wandered along to the Heretics Folk Club, which is a corner of the world that serves as an enclave for “balladeers, hauntologists, audio-archaeologists, field recordists” and the like, to see Sharron Kraus live for the first time.
The performance was upstairs in a rather lovely riverside venue, which felt as though it should be or was only lit by candle light and the flickering projections that acted as a backdrop.
Live as on record Ms Kraus’ music casts a certain spell: it is beguiling in that it is both shimmering and full of light while also wandering down some of the darker and not always so easy paths of life and love. Spellbinding is a word that comes to mind and it’s interesting how just somebody’s voice and an acoustic guitar can cast such a spell over a room.
There is both a fragility and a strength to her music and performance, these are songs that make you want to just close your eyes and to travel with them. Her work connects to traditional folk but this is no simple retreading of well-worn paths; it’s a very personal cherishing and re-crafting, layered with a sense of there being considerable thought, journeying and studies which underpin and inform her music, it’s inspirations and themes.
A song which particularly intrigued me, which Ms Kraus played tonight, was Traveller Between The Worlds.
In this there is a consideration of the push, pull and testing of love when you feel you must fly free, when your “sails have unfurled” and you are drawn to set forth and explore the world, leaving your beau behind as you wander and hoping that those you travel and depart from will remember you and be able to welcome you home when the time comes.
It is a tender and at points heartbreaking song:
“In my dreams your hair’s grown long Your beard is streaked with grey And our tiny children Run around all day
I hope that they’ll know me When I come home And I’ll not be a stranger To those I call my own”
Connected to the theme of that song is how a performer such as Sharron Kraus can have an inherent ability to travel. Just a voice and a guitar being all that are needed to take these songs to where they and their creator need and wish to journey. I suppose in a way you could also connect that back to travelling musicians and entertainers from times gone by, those who wandered from village to hamlet to town, plying their trade throughout the land.
Heretics’ Folk Club is once a month and I would heartily recommend a wander along. View more about it here, here and here. It was discussed earlier in A Year In The Country, see that at Day #43/365.
Sharron Kraus can be found in the ether here and here. I visited her Pastoral Trails & Pilgrim Chants album on Day #58/365 of A Year In The Country.
Traveller Between The Worlds can be found on The Woody Nightshade album released by Strange Attractors. You can visit it here.
Related to Heretics’ Folk Club, Sharron’s post Folk Revivals and Haunted Places, written about an earlier event put on by the same people (in a deserted and abandoned department store no less) is well worth reading. It captures the spirit and excitement of an event which explored some of the concepts and concerns of those aforementioned less well worn paths of folk music and folkloric culture (and also makes you kick yourself that you weren’t there).
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #4/52.
Field Trip Report: Case #1b, subsection Metropolitan Incursions.
Recently I wandered off from a small English dwelling to a larger English city and then a small English town to have a watch-see-hear-explore of various things. One of which was Tales From The Black Meadow and the collaborative Folklore Tapes Echo Of Light performance (these were part of the Wyrd Britannia Festival which I’ve mentioned earlier in A Year In The Country, see Day #9/365).
And well, blimey, I’m glad I did indeed wander off to those parts.
After sitting on the train in the dark with Saturday night revellers I stumbled blinking into the night of a strange town, accompanied by other travellers headed for the same location who I’d bumped into on the train…
With scarcely a moment to take in the town we were at a lovely old library building where the event was taking place (and my fellow travellers were just able to gain entrance despite the night being sold out).
First up was Mr Chris Lambert, reading from his book Tales From The Black Meadow and informing us about this multi-faceted project which takes as it’s starting point the tale of Professor R Mullins who went missing in The Black Meadow atop the Yorkshire Moors in 1972.
As a project The Black Meadow incorporates elements of folklore, Radiophonic Scores, semi-lost documentaries and the flickering cathode ray transmissions of a previous era; a creaking rural cabinet stuffed full of hidden and rediscovered government unsanctioned reports.
I’m curious to see where it wanders off to next as to date this growing and layered world incorporates a book of folkloric tales, an album, a documentary and archival material etc. Be careful on the moors…
Next in front of this very polite, appreciative and well behaved audience was Echo Of Light, presented by Folklore Tapes and featuring Alison Cooper (Magpahi), Sam McLouglin (Samandtheplants) and David Chatton-Barker (Folklore Tapes)…
And, well, what can I say. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. It has been described as incorporating the projectionist as pupeteer and having watched it, I think that is an apt description.
To an electronic and acoustic soundtrack of (I think) largely improvised music, two of the collaborators were only present behind a screen from which they essentially live-mixed/live-created a series of projections using a series of physical props, found natural materials and artwork, which in turn were also used to create some of the soundtrack.
Which means what? Well, at one point an old bird-cage was placed upon a wind-up gramophone turntable and then as it span it struck a series of prongs to create music… not dissimilar in its own way to the workings of a traditional music box but on a grander and more arcane scale.
Accompanying this was a traditional spinning wheel which also appeared to be creating music.
Still can’t quite get your head around it all? Well, here are some photographs from the performance:
Alongside such things, there were also projections created which borrowed from the tropes and imagery of Folklore Tapes releases/world:
As a set of work it appeared to be an exploration of the hidden in nature and folklore which surrounds it (the pattern under the plough?).
All in all, quite entrancing. I found myself lost in it all… and there was something about the glow from the grand old windows that seemed to fit with the performance.
But wait, that’s not all. As I mentioned, this was part of the Wyrd Britannia festival, which took place around a set of libraries in Northern England.
…and as I’ve also mentioned before in A Year In The Country I have a particular fondness for libraries: they seem like centres of calm, civility and culture in a rapacious landscape.
And, as I’ve mentioned before, I often get a sense that whoever is picking the stock for them has a good eye and ear for left-of-centre culture.
This is just one of those times. Organised by James Glossop who I assume also works for the libraries (?)…
The festival was actually to celebrate the relaunch of their Wyrd Britannia collection and boy-oh-boy do I wish this was my local library.
Out on display was a selection of items from the collection…
So, surrounded by the paraphernalia of a librarians work above we have Quatermass, The Miners Hymn, lost acid folk band Forest, The Owl Service’s fine album The View From A Hill (see Day 30 of A Year In The Country), The Wickerman soundtrack, Trembling Bells, Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age and A Year In The Country starting point Gather In The Mushrooms compilation (see Day 3 of A Year In The Country).
Well, blimey again, it’s like half of my record collection has been snaffled and made available for public use.
But wait, there’s more again…
And that’s before we get to the books that are part of the Wyrd Britannia section. I think those involved have been delving in the libraries dusty-storage rooms to find all kinds of long neglected tomes…
So, if you look closely you will see Bob Pegg’s (he of the-darker-shade-of-folk band Mr Fox) Rites and Riots, a whole other slew of books on folklore and song, various selections of witchery, The Pattern Under The Plough, Alan Garner once or twice and a particularly intriguing looking The Cylinder Musical Box Handbook.
(Looking inside the Bob Pegg book, it was taken out in 1989 and then once in 2012. There was something about the passage and lost-in-time-ness of that which quite appealed.)
Just to add the icing on the cake, the Wyrd Britannia book selection had a double topping of The Stone Tape DVD and the 3-disc Final Cut reissue of The Wickerman.
This just looked like a great library. Aside from the delights above, as I wandered around I kept seeing other swathes of culture that I wanted to delve into. I just wish that I’d had enough time to look around while the library was open.
Ah well, another time.
As a final note, attendees went away bearing what can only be described as a Folklore Tapes artifact/goodie bag and a Tales From The Black Meadow bookmark.
Well, you can’t say fairer than that.
A tip of the hat to all concerned. Thanks and cheers.
PS The trailer below was on the railway platform, which seemed kind of appropriate to the night in some way:
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #3/52.
Field Trip Report: Case #1a, subsection Metropolitan Incursions.
Well, although A Year In The Country is set in and around a personal vision of rurality, occasionally needs must and I’m drawn to venture forth into the Big City.
Now here was quite a treat; I was drawn to this in part by the mention of the darker side of fairy tales* and folklore when looking it up in the electronic ether. And also maybe in part because I think for myself part of creating work is the studying, collecting and curating of work that inspires and influences me… hence Trails & Influences.
The exhibition didn’t disappoint. It does indeed draw from the darker side of fairy tales and folklore, also taking in outsider art and even a dash of fashion photography.
Well there are a couple of photographs by Deborah Turbeville, who for quite a while I’ve found interesting as I think she represents one of the times that fashion photography wanders off into other areas and becomes closer to art. Her work often feels ghostly, from some other ethereal world and there is a lovely aged texture to many of her photographs. Not dissimilar in a way to photographer Sarah Moon and I think both of those ladies have influenced me one way or another over the years and I can see traces and vestiges of both in my own work. Here is one of Ms Turbeville’s images from the exhibition…
Below is a photograph of some of the interior pages to her Past Imperfect book from when I (briefly) owned it. Something of a masterclass in book design…
Henry Liverseege’s Little Red Riding Hood: it’s quite a beautiful painting, rich, vivacious, entrancing and more than a little disturbing. A classical take on A Company of Wolves?
Kay Nielsen’s illustration of The Brothers Grimm Hansel & Gretel (on the right)… which to my eye looked like the cover to a semi-lost French acid folk record from the 1970s. Why do I say that? Well, it made me stop and think of Emmanuelle Parrenin’s 1977 Maison Rose album (a pathway you may want to wander down).
I particularly liked Alison Goldfrapps collection of personal objects; generally tiny ornaments, bears in a variety of poses, figurines in matchboxes and the like…
Actually, most of the exhibition is worth a look-see, even if you do have to trek through tumble weed late capitalism ghost town quays to get there.
Also, there was a pleasant lack of ego present in the collection… it didn’t feel like “I am a STAR, look at me and my things”, more a gentle wandering around somebody’s personal and creative psyche.
If you should go-see then you can also discover the temptations of The Wickerman, Simon Periton’s Owl Doily for Philip Otto Runge and his owl-ish shopping bag mask, Anna Fox’s nature-glam-noir Country Girls, Lotte Reiniger’s cutout animation Hansel & Gretel and the “well, one really must questions the gent’s sanity but they’re rather impressive at the same time” outsider art of Henry Darger.
All good food for thought on my voyage through A Year In The Country…
I think the one disappointing thing was the lack of a book to accompany the exhibition as it would make a sumptious momento and would bring together Ms Goldfrapp’s aesthetic to cut out and keep as it were.
Ah well, I shall have to tide myself over with my collection of fliers/posters featuring the artwork from Goldfrapp’s first single Lovely Head (see top of this post); there’s something of a softspot for multiple sizes of similar things here at A Year In The Country.
Emmanuelle Parrenin’s Maison Rose album at Light In The Attic Records
*Mind you, if you stop and think about fairy tales in general as I did during visiting this exhibtion, they are at the least quite odd and dark. Princess trapped in a tower with the only way of enabling her lover to visit her being if she drops her extraordinarily long hair? Princess falling asleep for a hundred years after eating a poisoned apple? Children intended as lunch by a witch in the woods? Etc. Hmmm…