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Week #33/52: Bunker Archives #4; Paul Virilio’s Bunker Archaeology and accidental utilitarian art

Paul Virilio-Bunker Archaeology-Princeton Architectural Press-A Year In The Country-2b
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

I relatively recently came across Paul Virilio’s Bunker Archaeology work/book, which collects his photography and writing on the abandoned German bunkers and related installations that lie along the coast of France.

These could well be filed as a form of brutalist architecture, they share more than a few similarities in terms of the materials used and their aesthetics – although if this is a form modernism it is the one you don’t want to come around for tea, thankyou very much.

Strangely though, considering their once aggressive/defensive intentions, there seems to be a beauty or even poetry to these structures – some kind of unifying flow or even philosophy behind them.

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(Which I suppose, unfortunately, in a way there was – although I was more referring to a cultural/artistic aspect than their political underpinning. However I suppose such things were more than a little intertwined.)

Now, I am wary of making light of such things, considering their history but they seem to almost be a form of accidental utilitarian art, something they share with say the likes of similarly appreciated pragmatic constructions such as telegraph poles, pylons, Soviet era bus stops or even library music…

Although they were created with a very practical intent, looking at them now they seem nearer to monuments or tributes and remind me of the Cold War era Spomenik memorials that Jan Kempenaers photographed.

With both sets of structures, whatever their original intents, viewing them today they could be artifacts from an almost science fiction-esque future that never was, a form of hauntology possibly.

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That science fiction-esque quality seems particularly present in some of the structures that have been partly covered by/sunk into the sand – there is something about them that makes me think of sentient or anthropomorphic crashed spaceships, alongside their actuality as bunkers and defensive outposts.

(The original Planet Of The Apes film comes to mind with its mingling of crashed future/past visitors and part buried monuments to mans’ folly.)

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As a final point, the photograph I find the most chilling is the one that shows an observation tower which was disguised as a church.

As mentioned recently around these parts, John Coulthart described The Cold War Bunker as “a source of contemporary horror that doesn’t require any supernatural component to chill the blood.

In an interconnected, antecedent manner, this particular structure does that and has a sense of belonging to almost folk-horror-like tropes and imagery.


The reissue of the book can be found here and here.

A few intertwined pathways around these parts:

Day #229/365: A Bear’s Ghosts…

Day #279/365: The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society

Day #282/365: Further appreciations of accidental art; Poles and Pylons

Week #9/52: Christopher Herwig’s Soviet Bus Stops, echoes of reaching for the cosmos, folkloric breakfast adornment and other artfully pragmatic curio collectings, encasings and bindings…


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Week #32/52: Bunker Archives #3: Wargames, Hollywood phantoms and phantasms and the only winning move is not to play

Wargames-1983 film-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Continuing on from a theme of Cold War / apocalypse dread gone pop (see here), I recently sat down and rewatched Wargames, a 1983 mainstream Hollywood film, which alongside a tendency in the early to mid-eighties for pop music that was themed around such things to do well commercially, this film was placed fifth in that years highest grossing films in the US.

It is a film that I guess was largely aimed at a young adult / teenage audience and it shares some aspects / tropes / archetypes with classic John Hughes teen comedies from around that time but, well, this isn’t so much about being just a geek and an outsider and maybe getting the girl, this is about being a geek and an outsider and getting the girl but to a background of computer hacking and apocalyptic mutually assured destruction superpower conflict.

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(Spot the mildly parent worrying, goof-about doppleganger…)

Actually, it doesn’t just share some aspects / tropes with those comedies –  it shares a main actor in Matthew Broderick, who was also the loveable goof-about seize-the-day-er Ferris Bueller.

Both share the same resourceful grown-ups system manipulation skills with computers (one changes his number of absent days on the school computer, the other his grades and almost instigates worldwide destruction and conflict. Comme ci comme ça and more of such things in but a moment).

Is this a game or is it real?

Wargames is based around a defence computer which is in charge of launching a US attack playing a, well, wargame after the film’s main character hacks into it when looking for a new range of more harmless computer games and asks to play a game with it. The computer can’t distinguish between games or reality and thinks that to win it must literally carry out an attack.

One period curio aspect of the film is the seeming omnipotence of the young hacker, his ability to do more or less anything, to break into anywhere; which ties in with a back then media obsession with such things and the hacker as another example of youthful possible folk devil.

There seems to be an ongoing theme of young adult fiction / films dealing with dystopian and/or apocalyptic scenarios – in contemporary times The Hunger Games does just that, Nicholas Fisk’s books/series such as The Tripods did similar back when.

What is different with Wargames is that this isn’t set against some harmless future fantasy despotism or alien invasion brought down by resourceful teenagers but rather the threat here was very real and present in the world and popular consciousness.

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(A certain internationalism…)

What you see on those screens up there is a fantasy, a computer enhanced hallucination. Those blips are not real missiles. They’re phantoms.

In line with those other fictions, Wargames also seems to have as its core a sort of wish fulfilment or empowerment of the teenager as the one who will save the day, who will beat the evil power or who has the right-headed way of looking at things rather than the pigheaded (or sometimes more or less absent) adults.

I’ve seen Wargames described as “popcorn friviolity”, which would seem to imply that it’s just escapist, throwaway fun that sat alongside other such escapist, throwaway fun.

While this is undoubtably a thoroughly enjoyable and yes, fun, film, even now it’s also rather underlyingly tense, in part due to its presentation and plotting but in large part because of the just mentoned reality of the threat it deals with.

Even now, that is the case but back in 1983 when the Cold War was at one of its peaks?

(As an aside, fun and seriousness don’t have to preclude one another. Entertainment and message/debate are not necessarily mutually exclusive states. Such ways of seeing things are probably part of a cultural reviewing and consideration whereby it can be hard to admit to “worthy” work as also being the f(un) word.)

Wargames-1983 film-A Year In The Country-2

Talking of games… One thing I thought when watching the film is that it is strange to think that many of the instruments, mechanisms and associated infrastructure from the Cold War are still out there.

Or rather that should probably be under there as they are often placed below ground for protective / stealth purposes (as indeed is much of the technology / equipment of War Games – several of its big set pieces and locations are in underground bunkers and control centres).

It is as though the game has been put to one side of the collective consciousness but the pieces haven’t been cleared from the chess board, more the whole thing has been swept under a literal and figurative subterranean covering. Semi-forgotten but not gone.


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Week #31/52: The Quietened Bunker Archives #2; Songs For The Bunker – The Once Was Ascendance Of Apocalyptic Pop

Frankie Goes To Hollywood-Two Tribes-OMD-Two Tribes-Jona Lewie-Stop The Cavalry-Trailblazers-Sky Arts-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Now, I’m wary of sounding like an old curmudgeon, waving my stick around and saying “It was all once fields around these parts and you could tell what they were singing about and that about wasn’t just always boys, girls and going out” but casting my mind back there seems to be a very particular corner of pop music that once dealt quite specifically with Cold War apocalypse / dread.

This wasn’t niche music – these were records that would reach at least the top twenty of the UK pop charts, maybe even become the toppermost of the poppermost and be the number one selling records of their time (generally around 1980-ish to the mid-eighties).

Also, this was at a time when doing so meant they were a large part of the national conversation / consciousness and may well mean selling hundreds of thousands or more of physical singles.

There are more but to mention just a few:

Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, The Pirahnas Tom Hark and spoiler alert for if you think it’s a nice, slightly melancholic pop song (as did I until I found out differently relatively recently) – Strawberry Switchblade’s Since Yesterday.

Then there’s Ultravox’s Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (essentially a song based on a book about deciding how you will live through the end via wind carried fallout in a country that has avoided the main attack), OMD’s Enola Gay and something of a surprise for a pop poppet – Nik Kershaw’s I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.

I could well also include Jona Lewie’s Stop The Cavalry – which while it is more a general anti-war song, also seems to imply some kind of time schism in its mixing of references to early twentieth century and Cold War conflicts…

Kate Bush-Breathing-Never For Ever-Nik Kershaw-I Wont Let The Sun Go Down On Me-Trailblazers-Sky Arts-A Year In The Country

…and possibly even Blondie’s Atomic, which although its lyrics are minimal and almost abstract, with its sense of dramatic dread (and glamour) and the accompanying post-apocalyptic-disco video / mushroom cloud single cover, I think it may well belong amongst this corner of pop music.

And possibly the chart success daddy of them all (in the UK at least) Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes.

Now, as I say these were hardly niche pop songs. Here are a few UK peak chart positions:

99 Red Ballons – No.1. Tom Hark – No.6. Since Yesterday – No.5. Dancing With Tears In My Eyes – No.3. Enola Gay – No.8. I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – No.2. Stop The Cavalry – No.3. Atomic – No. 1. Two Tribes – No.1 (for nine weeks indeed).

Even something like Kate Bush’s Breathing, which I think of as a hit but it didn’t reach the then all important Top 40, peaking at No. 48, seems to linger in pop memory and the album it was on went to number 1.

The background to all this was one of the heightened points of the Cold War and international defence policy that seemed to “subscribe to the point of view that the more dangerous we make the world, the safer we are“.

That quote is from a fascinating documentary which is part of a series called Trailblazers:

Narrated by Noddy Holder, this eye-opening series examines the key moments that have shaped musical history, starting with a look at the origins of disco music.”

Blondie-Atomic-The Smiths-Ask-Nena-99 Red Balloons-Trailblazers-Sky Arts-A Year In The Country

There is one episode that focuses on the above loose gathering of chart topping protest pop, something of a surprising cuckoo in the nest amongst the more obvious looks at say disco, funk, punk and goth (the last worth watching in part to hear Mr Noddy Holder say in his inimitable manner “Goth, not me guv” and describing Madchester related bands when signalling the end of mainstream goth popularity as “Baggy panted vampire hunters”).

Although the description of the episode talks about the evolution of such protest songs “from western swing and country to gospel, jazz and rockabilly“, actually it largely focuses on the early to mid-eighties of chart pop.

One of the most fascinating sections is where Frankie Goes To Hollywood producer Trevor Horn talks about the Protect And Survive public defence instruction voiceover parts on that just mentioned daddy of them all, Two Tribes.

Apparently it went something like this:

Paul Morley – sort of the philosophiser/organiser/provocateur behind ZTT, who were FGTH’s label, which was co-owned by Trevor Horn –  had a bootleg of Protect And Survive information films, which at the time were classified (before they were, you know, freely available on popular commercial internet video channels or to buy on DVD).

Rather than steal / sample the voiceovers from them, they hired Patrick Allen who had done them for the actual government broadcasts (at the time his was a nationally known, possibly intended to be reassuring voice, as he also did well known television commercials such as for Barratt Homes).

It cost them about £1000 (which seems cheap now) but when they showed him what he was to read, he said “I don’t think I can do this. Where have you got this from? You know I had to sign the Official Secrets Act before I did this?

And then apparently he went “F*** it, I’m going to do it. You know you missed a few bits out. There was one bit that particularly upset me…

(That bit, if you should wish to know, concerned disposals. I shall say no more.)

The Pirahnas-Tom Hark-Dancing With Tears In My Eyes-Ultravox-Strawberry Switchblade-Since Yesterday-Trailblazers-Sky Arts-A Year In The Country

It’s strange to think and write about all this as it seems such a million miles away from popular music entertainment and its concerns today and although in a way all such things could really say was…

When two tribes go to war, a point is all you can score“…

…well, at least it was being said – and was part of a wider sense of the then alive and well functioning of the “circuit between the experimental, the avant-garde and the popular” (to quote myself quoting Mr Mark Fisher).

I think I shall leave the last word to program participant Billy Bragg: he says about when in recent times he was listening to The Smiths Ask single (more a large scale cult rock band release but it still peaked at No.14) in the car with his teenage son and when the lyric went “Because if it’s not love, then it’s the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb that will bring us together“, his teenage son asked “What bomb?“.

Mr Braggs response was he thought “plus ça change“.

More information on the episode of Trailblazers here. Peruse “The Official Charts” (I feel that should be in bold with stars) here. The more now-an-archiving-than-chart-topping home of ZTT in the ether here. A considerable number of other such related popsongs and not-so-popsongs can be found here.


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Week #30/52: The Quietened Bunker Archives #1; A Lovely Day Out / Not Your Average Des Res

The Quietened Bunker-secret bunker tourist road signs-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Talking of decommissioned bunkers that “…are as likely to be signposted tourist attractions as operative defences” (see here)…

Sometimes you see something and your mind literally stops in its tracks trying to process it.

The first time I saw a photograph of a road sign for a decommissioned “secret” bunker was just one of those.

(It was actually in B*llocks To Alton Towers – Uncommonly British Days Out.)

I know that these signposts are for tourist attractions that are trading on the once confidential nature of these installations but still…

The Quietened Bunker-secret bunker tourist road signs-A Year In The Country-2

…I just find that I have some kind of disconnect when I see them – a sort of mixture of disbelief, humour, relief that we are nolonger living in a political situation where they are considered necessary and maybe a touch of sadness/anger/grief for us having once done so.

In part I think that disconnect is due to the terribly, terribly Britishness of names like Chipping Ongar and Chigwell, their often positioning in amongst day-to-day normal housing or the gentle grey-green of the land but juxtaposed with these signposts to once-end-of-days refuges.

Should I laugh or shake a fist? I’m not quite sure.

The Quietened Bunker-secret bunker tourist road signs-A Year In The Country-3 copy

(As an aside, for some reason the signpost above is one of my favourites – if that is an appropriate word to use at this point. I don’t think that it’s an official roadside sign, more probably one that’s been privately errected but there’s something about its quiet neglect, the hand done repair / change.

In one photograph I have seen of it, nature is encroaching and the sign is covered with a layering of green algae and somehow there’s some kind of poignancy, beauty and a touch of melancholy to it.)

The Quietened Bunker-For Sale-A Year In The Country

Accompanying and interconnected with such road signs are the estate agent signs for when one such place is up for sale.

Now I first heard of such a thing on the radio a while ago but it never occurred to me that there would be literal, actual hoardings advertising them.

I find it hard to not stop at this point and start making up sketches for a sitcom called Whoops Apocalypse – except that’s already been done.

When I saw this particular sign, once my mind had stopped being stopped in its tracks, I kind of jokily but seriously started to wander about the practicalities of such things.

Is it a buyer or a sellers market? There is scarcity value to the property but I expect only a very limited number of potential buyers and allowable uses (data storage seems to be one such usage that is mentioned on these boards – so no A3 planning permission for a spacious and yet still bijou and intimate diner then?).

Are such things listed on general property / commercial property sites, so that your search results would bring up say a warehouse for rent, listed as having plenty of onsite parking and then a former secret bunker listed as razor wire and  catastrophic occurrence / emergency air filtration system included?

My already more than slightly confused and bemused mind boggles.

Well, I feel I should end this post on a further note of I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.


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Week #29/52: Hauntology and the genre that dare not speak its name

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File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Something interesting has happened in the world of culture since the first spin-around-the-sun of A Year In The Country.

Back then, what had come to be labelled as hauntology seemed to be something of a critical / cultural / theoretical darling, something that people and sections of the media seemed genuinely intrigued, fascinated and inspired by.

Since that time, it seems to have changed from critical darling to cultural whipping boy and indeed become a (loose) genre of which people dare not or want to not speak its name.

I mean this literally as I have seen it written as say h**ntological, sometimes just the letter H or more generally referred to with a slightly (or more than slightly) dismissive tone.

(As an aside I am referring more explicitly, though not exclusively, about areas of music which have been labelled hauntology, rather than the wider philosophical use of the term. As a futher aside, I am not trying to join a possible chorus of naysayers, I still find myself rather fond / intrigued by hauntology as a cultural form / set of ideas and think it still has a leg or two – I am more merely commenting on and acknowledging related cultural changes, interests, perceptions and its possible stasis and / or evolution.)

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I think what has probably happened is (A): a lot of cultural things which are critically revered often seem to end up being reviled, almost as part of a knee jerk, automatic cultural cycle and circle and (B): there has come to be too much of a reliance on a set number of tropes and cultural reference points.

I think Claude Mono of the rather fine The Golden Apples Of The Sun site / radio show puts this rather well as an introduction to his recent Exploration Series No.1 – Hauntology episode:

…By way of a brief introduction let me just say I think Hauntology is a rich and rewarding musical and visual aesthetic but one that can be done really badly – you know a bus-ride of nostalgia and electronics – full of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, British public information films of the 1970s, eerie soundtracks, concretism, and brutalist architectural imagery – well there certainly is some of that but hopefully a little bit more such as some crucial reference points and an incredible live track from Broadcast, some drum and bass, and 80s band Japan…

I think “…there certainly is some of that but hopefully a little bit more…” is a particularly important point around all such goings on.

A-Pylons-A Hankering After The Past?-A Year In The Country-1

When a cultural movement / gathering / style / genre becomes too codified, too set in its ways (too pipe and slippers?) then often apart from to its die hard followers and/or those that appreciate an endless self-referential looping it can begin to loose its way as a vital and/or exploratory force.

Saying such isn’t a call for endless stylistic novelty, more just a note that adding a few new ingredients to a well worn and tested recipe is often not a bad thing.

Or maybe using the spirit of say hauntology as a starting point rather than seeing its codified elements and references as unwaverable guidelines.

And that spirit?

Well aside from the aesthetics of such things, which I do appreciate, so I’m not dismissing them but to get to the core of things I think I may well need to quote myself back when I was considering hauntology’s unmaking as a genre:

Music and culture that draws from and examines a sense of loss of some kind of utopian, progressive, modern(ist?) future that was never quite reached…

A-Pylons-A Hankering After The Past?-A Year In The Country-3

Essentially a reaction against a certain shall we say starboard leaning totality of thought that seems to abound today.

Inherently political work in a way. If not overtly, then at least in spirit. Port leaning shall we say, in a further “dare not speak its name” manner.

As an almost finishing note, cultural forms and wellsprings are generally hardy things.

They rarely disappear from the landscape completely; they may become un or less fashionable, wander off into niches to quietly continue their journeys, maybe to periodically be revived, revisited or provide inspiration at future points in time.

And as a finishing note, I am put in mind of Jeanette Leech’s thoughts and writings in her notes to the Weirdlore compilation, where she discusses the use of genre names and the brief shining of media and general cultural interest spotlights on a particular niche of exploratory folk music:

When light is not on a garden, many plants will wither. But others won’t. They will grow in crazy, warped, hardy new strains. It’s time to feed from the soil instead of the sunlight.

And talking of hardy cultural forms, considerations of previous “…deletion of spectres and the unmaking of a genre…” can be found around these parts here.


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Week #28/52: Symptoms and gothic bucolia

Symptoms-1974-BFI-A Year In The Country-3
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

For a while the BFI’s Flipside release of Symptoms kept catching my eye.

Nothing too unusual there, I seem to have been following the releases since way back when the series started and usually check in every now and again to see what subterranean / mondo / forgotten / exotica / odd b-movie / occasional slight strand of otherly pastoralism they’ve given a good old brush and scrub up to.

Aside from that usual level of interest, something kept nagging away quietly at the back of my mind about Symptoms, although I think that I knew nothing or very, very little about the film, its plot, history etc.

Then I came across a review wherein it was described as “…gothic-bucolic…” and “…the sort of thing that begat hauntology and Peter Strickland…”.

This short piece ended “…it’s a revelation“.

Well, that was me hooked. Actually, that was me hooked at the phrase gothic-bucolic, which seemed to strike a certain note and resonance with and well, just intrigued me.

As a quick precis of the film’s history and story it was made in 1973, came out in 1974, received a fair amount of critical attention / praise and then largely disappeared for the best part of forty years.

It is the tale of two young women who go for a break in a large countryside located house, wherein one of their mental states begins to splinter and fracture.

Now, where to start about the film? I feel as though I could easily write a short(ish) book about it…

I don’t seem to remember Peter Strickland mentioning the film in any interviews, nor listing it as one of the films that fed into / influenced / were an inspiration for The Duke Of Burgundy but the first time I watched it, in many ways Symptoms very much reminded me of that film – to the point where I almost want to watch them side-by-side, in a split screen manner.

Symptoms-1974-BFI-A Year In The Country-4

It could almost be seen as a companion or sister piece to The Duke Of Burgundy, although one that is more overly troubled and troubling. Not so much a forerunner, more that somehow it has tumbled back (or should that be forward?) in time from that film.

That sense of connection and even sisterhood is possibly increased by Angela Pleasance in Symptoms bearing some kind of physiognomic similarity to Chiara D’Anna in The Duke Of Burgundy.

Both have a slightly unworldly, almost childlike air to them, although Angela Pleasance’s character is more otherworldly than just unwordly, as compared to Chiara D’Anna’s character’s slightly brattish pique; Ms Pleasance’s character feels nearer to The Woman Who Fell To Earth.

The setting and setup is not all that dissimilar from The Duke Of Burgundy – two women living in a relatively isolated rurally set grand house that is decorated in a slightly faded, slightly aristocratic, gilt framed manner.

(As an aside, Symptoms slightly put me in mind of the work of Deborah Turbeville and the use in her photographs of crumbling textures, decaying glamour and grandeur, a certain langour to its characters and the edge-of-rural isolation setting.)

The Duke Of Burgundy seems to exist more in its own self-contained, quietly fantastical world, one where any possible external world or infrastructure are not seen or acknowledged – indeed only a visiting creator of “esoteric” furniture and an academy for the study of insects and the occasional brief reference to a neighbour are ever made.

Symptoms acknowledges the outside world – London and visitors from there are mentioned or indeed visit, the women visit the local village for supplies but their world still has the intensity of a couple alone, one which increasingly collapses and intensifies into itself; anything outside of the house and/or their relationship is seen as and indeed feels like an intrusion.


However, there is a distinct difference to the two films and their general tone / atmosphere: despite its main characters sometimes troubles, The Duke Of Burgundy’s pastoral idyll seems richly honey toned – mellifluous is a word that comes to mind. It is a world that you may well want to step into and not mind spending time there.

Symptoms is probably almost the exact opposite. Despite a certain entrancing beauty, this is most definitely a gothic bucolia. There is a calm here, row boating on leaf filled water and even Duke Of Burgundy-esque carefree bike rides but also some kind of almost unbearable build up of pressure and tension.

It has a subtly fractured dreamlike quality and although I can find myself relaxing, sinking into and enjoying Symptoms views of nature and escape, at the same time this is very much part of the film’s enclosed, self-contained, even possibly claustrophobic world, all overhanging branches and wooded enclosure rather than wide open spaces.

At points light breaks through the trees but it seems to only just be breaking through, to be almost battling or momentary.

Apart from a few initial incongruous seeming Carnaby-Street-become-tourist-attraction, latter-period-hippie garments, it is a film that is difficult to quite place in a particular era and to a degree it seems to exist in its own time and space, almost a never never land separate from a particular decade. This is despite its muted, grey-green atmosphere that seems rather prevalent in film/television from the point of its making and which possibly reflects the fractured nature of the times and culture in which it was made.

I can’t quite tell if this not being able to precisely pinpoint a decade is in part due to a certain sharpness, a certain glamour and style to the imagery that doesn’t quite seem to belong to the early 1970s and/or in part and interconnectedly due to the contemporary high definition restoration of the film.

This is something I often seem to feel with high-end brush and scrub ups to films and other flickering tales from the past; a certain sense of dissociation with regards to the world I am watching, possibly due to the push and pull of the aesthetics of technological processes from different eras.


Anyways, back to Symptoms.

That sense of dread: suffice to say that although not overly stuffed time-wise with such things, this is a film that does, well, not so much wander as lunge, spark and darkly shatter into intense, particularly unsettling physical violence.

In a way, for myself, although in an inherent part of the film, this is when it is at its weakest – when it veers towards more obvious genre tropes and I think it is much more interesting when its (deeply) unsettled atmosphere is held at bay and its mystery is left intact rather than being given full unflinchingly brutish expression.

Associated posters and promotion from when it was released seem to often have focused on those genre tropes but this isn’t really that kind of film. It is odder and more of its own than such standard exploitative fare.

There is a layering, intelligence and unspokeness here, that seems to battle with and against its genre expectations.

So, Symptoms.

A revelation indeed.

One that leaves me drawn to it and also slightly on edge just casting back to it – something it shares for myself with that other unsettling pastoral film work Kill List – although there the genre transgressive and visceralness is much closer to the surface.

(I feel an involuntary shiver would be appropriate here and maybe a nice cup of tea and a wander around a not-so-unsettling garden or two.)

Symptoms has been sent forth into the world around this part of the world by the BFI and over the water by Mondo Macarbro.

Trailers can be viewed here and here. Take a walk in the woods here.

Other wanderings and sisterhood mesmerisations can be found around these parts here.


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Week #27/52: Sapphire & Steel, various ghosts in the machine and a revisiting of broken circuits…

Sapphire and Steel-ghosts in the machine-A Year In The Country-1
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Loss or non-loss within past/future media seems to be something that I return to around these parts…

Along which lines…

I’ve recently(ish) been watching/rewatching Sapphire & Steel (while fairly constantly thinking “What a fine program this is”)…

One of the things that struck me was that despite it being on shiny modern(ish) day discs full of zeros and ones, it is particularly not brushed, scrubbed up and remastered – there are glitches, banding, small transmission-breaking-through crackles of interference at the edges of the screen, light trails and so on.

Often I appreciate a good brush and scrub up on say certain opulent celluloid delights but I think with Sapphire & Steel it would be particularly inappropriate; these marks and infractions feel like an inherent part of the series, its spirit and aesthetic. In these days of exact duplicatory ease, there is something intriguing about these particular “faults” (?), particularly in the context of the never-never world of Ms Sapphire and Mr Steel and a commercial, official release.

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They are the ghosts in the machine, as it were…

Which brings me to Ghosts In The Machine.

This was a mid-to-later 1980s late night program on the UK’s Channel 4 television station (one of but four at the time indeed) that was dedicated to showing experimental/avant-garde video work; things you would be more likely to see in a gallery setting than via the mainstream television broadcast infrastructure.

Non-populist television within a populist framework.

Sapphire and Steel-ghosts in the machine-A Year In The Country-3

I (hazily) remember that at times there would be advert breaks with no adverts.

I assume this was because of a mixture of the late hour, Channel 4’s still then minority output remit and well, quite frankly people probably couldn’t see the marketing potential for say fizzy sugared water after a 10 minute almost still framed broadcast of a pond which showed reflections of people who weren’t there diving in.

(I’m having to, I expect, loosely paraphrase or guestimate there as such things are but fractions and fractures of memory today).

It was all quite thrilling seeming at the time, a glimpse into obscured culture that I just can’t imagine being seen in amongst the transmissions of one of the big broadcasters today, no matter how late the hour.

Sapphire and Steel-ghosts in the machine-A Year In The Country-4

It puts me in mind of (that gent who is mentioned around these parts from time to time – or more) Mark Fisher’s comments about about “the breaking of the circuit between the avant-garde, the experimental and the popular” (to quote myself quoting him) – this was a brief moment when there was a spark generated by a few hair thin strands of connection in that circuit.

Ah, we can but dream…

Non-transuranic escapades around these parts here. Other consideration of loss and ghosts in other mechanisms here. Broken cultural circuits at the cliff edge here and amongst unearthly gardens of delight here.

Elsewhere in the ether: the pleasantly dated introductory passages for Ghosts In The Machine
(I and II) at the ever reliable TV Ark here.


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Week #26/52: Shirley Collins and further considerations of pastoral noir

Shirley Collins-No Roses-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

I can’t remember what order I came upon things in… did Pastoral Noir lead me to The Alchemical Landscape or did The Alchemical Landscape lead me to Pastoral Noir?


Anyways, I was recently(ish) reading about the work by the curator of the Pastoral Noir exhibition, Justin Hopper with and on folk singer Shirley Collins and his associated talk at The Alchemical Landscape…

..which made certain things fall into place.

Shirley Collins-No Roses-A Year In The Country-2

Pastoral noir is an intriguing phrase. The landscape doesn’t tend to make one think of noir related things…


It depends how you consider or define the word noir; in some ways it is a very city bound, often cinematic/fictional crime related, particular style and aesthetic…

Or you could take Otto Penzler’s view that noir works…

““…whether films, novels or short stories, are existential, pessimistic tales about people, including (or especially) protagonists who are seriously flawed and morally questionable. The tone is generally bleak and nihilistic, with characters who greed, lust, jealousy and alienation lead them into a downward spiral as their plans and schemes inevitably go awry… the likelihood of a happy ending in a noir story is remote… It will end badly, because the characters are inherently corrupt and that is the fate that inevitably awaits them.

I expect over the years, the use and meaning of noir has become something of a confluence of the two.

Which brings me back to Shirley Collins.

0001-A Year In The Country-Early Morning HushAn early point of reference for A Year In The Country were the acid/psych/underground folk compilation albums Gather In The Mushrooms and Early Morning Hush.

On Early Morning Hush is Shirley Collins version of the traditional folk song Poor Murdered Woman.

I never found this an easy song. Not the music or Ms Collins’ delivery – rather the lyrics and the story they told.

Considering Mr Penzler’s view of noir, this is as much a contextually disjunctured noir tale as say that folk tale from over the seas – Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues – is a contextually disjunctured noir-ish tale.

Along which lines, I think I should (almost) end on what could be considered another pastoral noir, traditional folk song re-interpretation: The Owl Service’s Cruel Mother and its end line;


I think I shall now go away and say have a nice cup of tea and maybe watch Bagpuss or some such thing to clear my mind and spirit (!).

Intertwined considerations and pathways around these parts:
Day #30/365: The Owl Service – A View From A Hill
Day #3/365: Gather In The Mushrooms: something of a starting point via an accidental stumbling into the British acid folk undeground

Elsewhere in the ether: Mr Hopper / Ms Collins.


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Week #25/52: Fractures Signals #4; A Behemoth Comes Once More A Knocking…

The Wickerman-Unstoppable Trading Cards-Binder-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

The Wicker Man-Christopher Lee-Miss Rose-Unstoppable Trading Cards-autographed-printing plate-full set-reverse-300Back on Day #90/365 of A Year In The Country (which seems like a long time ago now) I wrote:

I suppose there was a certain inevitability that The Wicker Man would come knocking at the door of A Year In The Country one morning…

And when wandering various pathways that began with Fractures there was just such a further morning.

The Wickerman has become such a “cultural behemoth (monolith? megalith?)”  that it can be a little difficult to know how to approach it.

I think possibly one of the reasons for it gaining such stature is that it is probably one of the only examples of otherly pastoralism/folklore inspired culture that is both a rather quality product and which has genuinely crossed over/become a part of wider pop/popular culture.

Something of a unique beacon then (in more ways than one).

Back during that previously mentioned early morning visitation, I considered how all the various encasements, formats, reissues etc of such story telling would one day potentially become lost, or at least the ability to have them tell their tales may well, as the machines that play such things slowly expire and disappear from view/use.

Such considerations were intertwined with the film’s own myth as being partly lost/incomplete/buried beneath motorways…

…all of which brings me to a more recent stilled encasement.

Back when, a paticular note of childhood was the collecting of themed stickers in especially produced albums.

These would be say of a particular television series and for example five would be bought unseen in sealed packs.

Each sticker had its own place in the album and as these came to be filled, by the unseen/sealed nature of the packs, you may well buy a pack and find that there were none in it which you still needed.

Hence a “swapsies” eco system would develop in the schools of the land.

The Wicker Man-Christopher Lee-Miss Rose-Unstoppable Trading Cards-autographed-printing plate-full set-reverse-300Such things are now as likely to be collected by “grown ups” as children.

Which leads me to The Wickerman trading cards that were released a while ago.

With these you can at least buy the full set outright but…

…that is just the “base” set. There are a dizzying number of other collectible items including rarer chase cards, promotional cards, autographed cards, rarer autograph cards, film  cells, sketch cards, boxed collections, binders, plates used to print the cards, autographed print plates, master sets, mini master sets and so forth.

If you flip them over, they also join together to form a particular image – further grist to the collectors mill.

Where to start and end would be something of a problem.

The binder for collecting the cards put me in mind of the film/television photo novel tie-ins that used to be released and which I am rather fond of.

Essentially comic books that used stills rather than drawings. Popular on the continent where they were also known as fumées or ciné-romans.

I often find myself hankering after a book collection of stills from a film if I’m particularly drawn to it but it is something that rarely seems to be done (I expect it would be a little costly), particularly for more cult/independent films – these Wickerman trading cards when placed in a binder being about the closest I have found myself perusing of late.

An exception could well be the book version of Chris Marker’s La Jetée – which has parallels with The Wickerman in that it takes a nominally genre fiction and wanders somewhere else altogether with it – although in a way as that film was made up of a story created from still frames (rather than seamlessly flickering ones), it was already a form of photo novel / fumée / ciné-roman.

The source of said trading cards (although there may well be something else there now). A dizzying array via the pecuniarised modern day version of swapsies. Stilled gathering and collecting from around these parts: Day #345/365: Photo romans and a lightness of touch.

The Wickerman-Unstoppable Trading Cards-Binder-A Year In The Country

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Week #24/52: Fractures Signals #3; A Dybukk’s Dozen Gathering (/Looping?) From Around These Parts

1973-A Gathering-A Year In The Country-4
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

So, out of curiousity and leading on from Fractures, I thought I would have a wander around the various wanderings and pathways of A Year In The Country, to peruse and investigate how many visitings to the very particular year of 1973 there have been…

Quite a few it would seem.

Along which lines, below is a dybukk’s dozen gathering of such things from around these parts.

1973-A Gathering-A Year In The Country-1

1) Day #87/365: Faded foundlings and Tender Vessels…
…still something of a favourite… home made craft-isms that are just a touch or two unsettling.

2) Week #2/52: The Tomorrow People in The Visitor, a Woolworths-esque filter and travels taken…
…ah, that theme tune and intro still seems to quietly disquiet me…

3) Day #343/365: Veils and Mirrors – forebearing, chanellings, rendings, listing of names…
I have something of a soft-spot for Glynis Jones Veils and Mirrors… It’s a gentle, unsettling (that word again) piece of music that seems as though it has pierced/rended a very particular veil and is quietly, allowing other shadows to come through…

4) Day #290/365: The first three minutes of Psychomania…
How to describe Psychomania? A sort of British carrier bag zombie version of a biker film? That’s somehow or other getting there. Soon(ish) to have a brush and scrub up via the BFI/Flipside, which is nice.

5) Day #271/365: The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water and a hop and skip to lost municipal paternalisms…
Well, I don’t think it would be right to gather such things and times without wandering towards this. Terrifying a generation for generations. One of Fractures “conspicuous junctures and signifiers” indeed.

1973-A Gathering-Morning-Way-Trader-Horne-Judy-Dyble-A-Year-In-The-Country-2

6) Day #267/365: Morning Way. Trader Horne.
Ah and there was me thinking “After The Spirit Of… it will be nice to enjoy a touch of early 1970s explorative acid/psych folk” but… “Dreaming strands of nightmare, Are sticking to my feet“. Very lovely work nonetheless.

7) Day #239/365: The jump cuts of hauntological antecedents…
As accidental, hauntological, otherly graphic design goes, this is pretty much there…

8) Day #160/365: Edgelands Report Documents; Cases #1a (return), #2a-5a.
Wanderings amongst the indomatibilities of nature via The Unofficial Countryside. Further Fractures “conspicuous junctures and signifiers“…

9) Day #195/365: World On A Wire; a curiously prescient Simulacron
Ah, nothing like a touch of glamour amongst the grit. Admittedly, it’s all zeros and ones smoke and mirrors…

10) Day #90/365: The Wickerman – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore
Well, another “I don’t think it would be right to gather such things and times without wandering towards this” moments. Something of a cultural behemoth (monolith? megalith?). Considerations and gatherings of future departed encasements… Fractures “conspicuous juncture and signifiers” number 3 around these parts it would seem.

1973-A Gathering-Peter-Reich-A-Book-Of-Dreams-Picador-1974-Kate-Bush-Cloudbusting-A-Year-In-The-Country-3

11) Week #3/52: I Still Dream Of Orgonon; A Book Of Dreams, the rarity of argent chains and moments of discovery…
And still dreaming of such things. May well also include Ms (Mrs?) Kate Bush’s fond farewell when she stepped upon the boards once again. Pop(ular) music as cinema indeed.

12) Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…
Light-catchery from a “Paradise Enclosed” (to quote Mr Rob Young / Electric Eden).

13) Day #303/365: Towards Tomorrow; a selection of cuttings from The Delian Mode, sonic maps, the corporation’s cubby holes and the life of an audiological explorer…
Wellsprings inspired from and via banshee howls… To end on Fractures “conspicuous juncture and signifiers” number 4.


A loop begins to form?

“Sorry sir, your name’s not on the list, you’re not getting in.”

“But I’m a plus one.”

“Hmmm.”: Day #278/365: Dybukk’s Dozen of 1973; A Gathering, Conflagration and Surveying…


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Week #23/52: Fractures Signals #2; An Intertwining Of Rather Fine Simulacras / The Work Of Ms Delia Derbyshire / A world out of tune / The Duke Of Burgundy / The Berberian Sound Studio / The Work Of Mr Julian House … And Music And Maths Of The Past But Also Very Much Of The Future

Delia Derbyshire-Hook Films-Test Shoot-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Well, it’s a while since we have considered the work of Ms Delia Derbyshire around these parts…

Recently(ish) I stumbled upon the image above at one of Rook Films homes in the ether. It was labelled with just:

“Delia test shoot… watch this space”

Rook Films, if you should not know, are a film company who have been iinvolved in the production of the likes of The Wickerman’s spiritual social realism/transgression progeny Kill List, the civil war revisitations of A Field In England and the dreamlike states of The Duke Of Burgundy.

Well, I must say, interest piqued indeed.

At the point of writing, I know nothing more about the image or any associated production but I must say it’s a rather fine simulacra/channelling of the spirit of Ms Derbyshire and her work and, well, I have something of a softspot for rather fine simulacras/channellings.

Julian House-Intro-Peter Strickland-The Berberian Sound Studio-A Year In The Country

It put me in mind of Mr Julian House’s creation of period recording tape packaging, studio schedules and the like from The Berberian Sound Studio; a particularly rather fine simulacra/channelling (which is something that could be said of the entire film indeed).

Delia Derbyshire-Delia Derbyshire Day-Cargo Collective-Rook Films-Julian House-Berberian Sound Studio-A Year In The Country
(Not a simulacra but still rather fine and evocative.)

Which brings me to Fractures, the recent(ish) audiological exploration sent forth into the world from around these parts.

In the Notes and Scribings for said work, Ms Derbyshire is quoted as saying “Something serious happened around ’72, ’73, ’74: the world went out of tune with itself” (1973 being the year she left The BBC and the now rather iconic Radiophonic Workshop).

Which would seem to be a particularly succinct summing up of “…a time when there appeared to be a schism in the fabric of things, a period of political, social, economic and industrial turmoil, when 1960s utopian ideals seemed to corrupt and turn inwards…” (to quote Fractures).


Various pathways and wanderings: The source of the rather fine simulacra/channelling of Ms Delia Derbyshire and her work. The source of interrelated rather fine simulacra/channelling elsewhere in the ether courtesy of Mr Julian House and to be found around these parts. The source of related music, maths and selective light-catchery.

Ms Delia Derbyshire’s home in the ether / source of the Fractures related observation and her home in the ether all year round and but once a year.

…and finally, the source of very much indeed:

Delia Derbyshire-Delia Derbyshire Day-Cargo Collective-Rook Films-Julian House-Berberian Sound Studio-A Year In The Country-2


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Week #22/52: Fractures Signals #1; Flickerings From Days Of Darkness

1973-Blackout-power cut-A Year In The CountryFile Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

In the Notes and Scribings that accompany A Year In The Country’s recent audiological exploration Fractures – which focuses on the unsettled times of 1973, it is noted that television broadcasts and the like from then:

“…now can seem to belong to a time far removed and distant from our own; the past not just as a foreign country but almost as a parallel universe that is difficult to imagine as once being our own lands and world…”

Along which lines, (candle lit) light-catchery from back then.

At the time due to a number of factors (energy shortages/industrial disputes/related attempts to conserve power etc), the UK underwent a number of power blackouts.

My favourite image of such occurrences that I have come across is the one above: it seems to combine a mixture of noir-ish or planning on taking over the world villain-ishness 1960s Watersons-esque beatnik styling, all filtered through day-to-day life (in extraordinary times) and a good cup of tea…

…and that’s before we get to the smoking cooling stacks in the background, which are structures that seem to be both particularly evocative of 1970s grit’n’grime and curiously ubiquitous back when…

I’m curious as well, are these electricity plant cooling stacks? If so, it must have been irksome to have to make and pour your cuppa via candlelight, knowing that just a hundred yards away megawatts were being generated.

I tend to think the lady in question is wearing sunglasses but maybe it is just how the photograph has caught her lenses. If they are sunglasses, they are a curious thing to wear when also spending the evening via candlelight.

Either way, it adds to that just mentioned villain-ishness and beatnik cool.

During such times and blackouts, work had to go on, along which lines…

1973-uk-power cut-blackout-the three day week-A Year In The Country-2

Why does the above photograph make me think of Broadcast? Maybe it’s something about the striped top styling…

1973-uk-power cut-blackout-the three day week-A Year In The Country-3

Were two candles atop your typewriter the height of luxury? Cutting edge technology? Considered decadence? Necessary? Show your position in the general hierarchy of things?

1973-uk-power cut-blackout-the three day week-A Year In The Country-4

…and talking of cutting edge technology; keeping the phone lines running courtesy of gas powered lighting.

Health and safety would have conniptions etc etc.

In these heavily connected, silently crackling power dependent times, these are images that genuinely seem not just from history but as mentioned earlier, rather it as though they belong to a whole other existence/universe.


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Week #21/52: Be•One / Where Have They All Gone? (Subtitled Not With A Bang Or Whimper But Without A Buzz)

Wolfgang Buttress-TheHive-Be-One-Caught By The River-A Year In The Country-3File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

One of the underlying themes of A Year In The Country is/has been in part an “underlying unsettledness to the English bucolic countryside dream“.

If you should read the About page around these parts you may well find that unsettledness is due to fears of the end of days, announced via Two Brown Bakelite Boxes.

Such cataclysms/depictions of tend to be particularly dramatic and devastating – wrought by man’s own hand and the conflict based departure of silver darts in the air.

All rather heebie jeebie inducing.

However, a while ago I came across the consideration that what if such cataclysms weren’t to arrive announced by banshee siren wails

(Or possibly/apparently in the modern conveyance manner of text messaging amongst other such things: “Are you coming out tonight?” / “James Liked your photo” / “You have three minutes until the end of things – best look up old Protect And Survive instruction videos in the ether and build your inner sanctum rather quickly”. It would be funny if it wasn’t rather true.)

…what if it was the quiet departure and demise of the bumble bees through a mixture of lack of biodiversity and the capital-induced-efficiencies of pesticides that made them lose their memories?

Wolfgang Buttress-TheHive-Be-One-Caught By The River-A Year In The Country

It’s an idea/worry that’s been wandering around the world for a while, I think one of the first times I saw it expressed creatively was in Douglas Coupland’s novel Generation A

…and talking of creative expressions of such things, in a less overt manner is the Be•One album, wherein 40,000 bees accompanied various musicians in the creation of an album (or is it various musicians accompanied 40,000 bees in the creation of an album?).

(How do you split the royalties between approximately 40,000 + 5 members of a band? Who gets the publishing?)

Milan Expo 2015-Wolfgang Buttress-TheHive-Be-One-Caught By The River-A Year In The Country-2

An intriguing, rather beautifully realised project that also involved a hive like installation that may well be wandering around the land (and which, along with accompanying ephemera, put me in mind in some manner of the structures of Phase IV here and there or possibly even the encasements of Howlround’s Ghosts of Bush).

UK-pavilion-Milan-Expo-Wolfgang Buttress-TheHive-Be-One-Caught By The River-A Year In The CountryThe encasement of said musical element of the project is sent forth into the world via Caught By The River. Visit it/them here.

Various other pathways: Be•One and its vibrations in the air here. Pulped paper printed reporting but actually in the ether here. Various visual representations here.

If you should like to do things such as, well, eating and existing in the future, a consideration of the stopping of the use of rather bee-unfriendly pesticides may well be worth a moment or two. Such things can be found here and here.

These rather busy chaps and lasses are somewhat important it would appear:

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” From a certain gent who is not known as being anything of a dunderhead.

Also consider: where are all the hedgehogs? (Also here.)


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Week #20/52: Pastoral Noir, if onlys, a seeking of names / the ether giveth and the ether taketh away

Ghost Box Records-Wood St Galleries-Pittsburgh-Justin Hopper-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

It’s a curious thing this ether of zeros and ones; a repository and index for/of all and also a source of “if only”s.

A while ago I came across the Pastoral Noir exhibition.

Ghost Box Records-Wood St Galleries-Pittsburgh-Justin Hopper-A Year In The Country-2

It features work by Tessa Farmer, Jem Finer, Ghost Box Records, Tony Heywood & Alison Condie, Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton and Semiconductor and is guest curated by sometimes English Heretic explorer and inquirer Justin Hopper.

It is is described thus:

Through their visual, sonic and sculptural investigations into the English landscape, the artists in Pastoral Noir have discovered a dark and eerie place. Using science and language, memory and myth, these works immerse the viewer in uncanny landscapes both real and imagined.

Interest piqued indeed.

As a concept it provides for all kinds of foods for thought and sets the mind wandering and exploring in all kinds of directions.

One in particular is the title of the exhibition itself: Pastoral Noir. There is such a disjunction between those two words, inferences, history and cultural reference points. Its use is part of a seemingly wider, ongoing process of experimenting with and searching for names that could possibly define such things, culture and explorations.

(See also Day #85/365: Weirdlore: Notes From The Folk Underground and legendary lost focal points.)

…talking of disjunctures and trails/wanderings/signposts from pastoral noir, two of the contributors released this musical encasement memory stick made from, well, the source of sticks:

USB Memory Stick-Music-Corbel Stone Press-Richard Skelton-Autumn Richardson-srl10th-A Year In The Country

It is both quite lovely and also seems to be a literal, physical representation of disjuncture.

And those “if only”s in this particular instance? Well the exhibition was at Wood St Galleries in… Pittsburgh, which is a little away from the shores where I’m a-scribing.

The ether giveth and the ether taketh away.

Ghost Box Records-Wood St Galleries-Pittsburgh-Justin Hopper-A Year In The Country-4Scatterings/wanderings of/from Pastoral Noir:
The buds are on the trees from Mr Hopper.
A shadow filled Belbury transmission.
Further if only.
Zeros and ones disjuncture.
Pastoral Noir: The primary source of if onlys.



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Week #19/52: The Quietened Village’s Library Of Loss; Volume #4/4a – Ocular Encasment And New Arrivals…

Lost Villages-DVD-Henry Buckton-1st Take-The Quietened Village-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings
Subsection: The Quietened Village’s Library Of Loss; Volume #4/4a.
Subcategory #1: Ocular Encasement And Envoyment Recordings
Subcategory #2: Flickering Celluloid Tales Of Parish Tribulations

“Ah, good to see this particular disc wandering off the shelves. Something of a rarity in amongst the books and bindings on the subject.

“While you’re in the non-book encasement section of The Quietened Village’s venerable
Library Of Loss, you may well want to peruse the re-interpretations of Mr Wyndham’s work.

“I would recommend wandering back to 1960 indeed…

The Village Of The Damned poster-French-A Year In The Country-Martin Stephens

“If you wander over to the archival shelves, you may also find an interconnected intertwining. I would consider looking here:
Day #173/365: “Douglas I’m scared”; celluloid cuckoos and the village as anything but idyll…

“By the way, looking at your records, I see that the items you’ve borrowed are almost overdue. Would you like me to renew them?


“Oh, I didn’t realise the time, almost the hour of closing.

“Yes, yes, must hurry, this evening the library shall be receiving a new set of explorations.

Village-Of-The-Damned-Martin-Stephens-A-Year-In-The-Country copy-2b

“We will need to catalogue and shelve them before public display but I must say we are rather looking forward to seeing what arrives.

“We should be posting advance details in the library window rather soon…

“In the meantime, The Quietened Village audiological explorations can be found here.”


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Week #18/52: The Quietened Village’s Library Of Loss; Volume #3/4a – Light Catching Traces

Imber village-The Quietened Village-A Year In The Country-2
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings
Subsection: The Quietened Village’s Library Of Loss; Volume #3/7a
Additional Subsection: Light-Catchery Traces and Recordings

Something of a wandering amongst light-catchery from/of lost homesteads…

Along with Tyneham, Imber is a deserted village that was requisitioned for conflict training.

In the 1960s and 1970s houses were built there, intended for use during such preparations.

These houses have a very simplistic appearance and design and they have been described rather aptly by the authors of Uncommonly British Days Out as being like childrens’ drawings of a house.

Connected to that, what they also make me think of is the forbidding and rather unsettling child’s-drawing-come-to-life house featured in the 1988 film Paperhouse (see here around these parts and here elsewhere in the ether).

As a nice contrast to their utilitarianism, apparently there are still the remains of a bell ringing chart to be found on the walls of a local church.

Holderness-The Quietened Village-A Year In The Country-2

In the area of Holderness, a number of villages and homes have tumbled into the sea due to coastal erosion.

This is a very literal representation of the power of such things and how they can affect day-to-day life.

Having said which, the photograph above seems nearer to something you might find in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian science-fiction film than real life and put me in mind of say a defence agencies headquarters felled by marauding other worldly invaders or perhaps, in a Planet Of The Apes-esque manner, by our own hand.

It seems too solid, too substantial to have just, well, tumbled into the waves.

Ladybower-The Quietened Village-A Year In The Country-3

There is something particularly evocative about the reappearance of submerged buildings from villages that were flooded in the building of say a reservoir when the water level falls…

…something almost mythical about the brief resurgence of these gently wraith like reminders of times, places and homes gone by, accompanied by a form of quiet resilience in the face of events.


…and returning to Tyneham, above is a public telephone box from the village.

That this still exists beggars belief.

Also, its design seems to be from some impossible previous age – to conjure up images and thoughts of previous eras’ imagined bucolic countryside bliss.

…and in a belt and braces manner, considering what happened to the village, it has a “Closed” sign hanging inside.

I feel that a question mark or two in amongst an exclamation mark could well be appropriate around now.

A few pathways and signposts:
Imber village in the ether here.
Chimes once sounded here.
Holderness light-catchery here in the ether.
The departed returns
Public telephony of Tyneham from here in the ether.

The Quietened Village audiological explorations can be found here.


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Week #17/52: The Quietened Village’s Library Of Loss; Volume #2/4a – Further Encasements And Bindings

The Quietened Village-A Year In The Country-Leigh Driver-Stephen Whitehome-Henry Buckton-Trevor Rowley-John Wood-Maurice Beresford-Lost Villages-v2
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings
Subsection: The Quietened Village’s Library Of Loss; Volume #2/4a
Additional Subsection #1: Light-Catchery Traces and Recordings
Additional Subsection #2:  Aerial Archaeology / Eidolonic Trace Recordings

Something about this particular corner of The Library Of Loss that I find intriguing are the covers of a number of the volumes that stand on the shelves there: they often present images of the village as a rural idyll, tilting towards past times through the use of paintings or illustrations.

Such representations could be taken to reflect a possible hankering after or wishing to restore this set of homesteads to their former standing and their inhabitants to hearth and home.

(It may well also in part be from their being no photographs of the villages when they were lived in (or indeed photography as a technique may not yet have existed or been in widespread use).

With the photographic covers, if only glanced at rather than closely inspected they might well be living, breathing villages or possibly merely isolated rural buildings.

The Quietened Village-A Year In The Country-Hugh Lucas-Harry Gill-Dick Dawson-Hilda-Edmund Perry-Lost Villages

Even the upturned (I assume) conflict training vehicle pictured in one of the Tyneham related covers – see here – could be discarded farming equipment, such as wouldn’t look all that out of place in many rural parts, where many of such things are left to slowly fade away in the landscape and amongst the rolling hills…


Another image of such volumes that I find intriguing is the one below.

I think this could well be filed under Aerial Archeology and it shows the remains of a once gathering of homesteads now as literally but lines in the land:

Deserted Villages-Trevor Rowley-John Wood-Shire Archaeology-The Quietened Village-A Year In The Country-v2b

The Quietened Village audiological explorations can be found here.


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Week #16/52: The Quietened Village’s Library Of Loss; Volume #1/4a – (One corner of) A further library of loss…

Tyneham Ghost Village-Rodney Legg-A Year In The Country Tyneham village-Rodney Legg-A Year In The Country-4
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings
Subsection: The Quietened Village’s Library Of Loss; Volume #1/4a

Well, as you may well have seen or noticed, around these parts we were recently(ish) involved in undertaking a project that took the name The Quietened Village which is …a study of and reflection on the lost, disappeared and once were homes and hamlets that have wandered off the maps or that have become shells of their former lives and times…

Or to (re)quote Folk Words, work that “…conjures roofless walls holding spirits not populations, skeletal spires pointing accusative fingers skywards, submerged shadows reflecting in water, crumbled remains wreathing a cliff’s base…”

All of which put me in mind of a collected library of loss which was previously gathered together around these parts in relation to the endeavours of Grey Frequency, whose work I said at the time tends to cause my mind to wander towards “…abandoned structures in the liminal areas where the edgelands meet rural landscapes…

Tyneham village-Rodney Legg-A Year In The CountryAll of which brings me to 50°37′23″N 2°10′08″W / 50.623°N 2.169°W / 50.623; -2.169 or to be precise the abandoned / ghost villageTyneham village.

Just before Christmas of 1943 Tyneham was commandeered by the military as it was to be used as part of firing range for training troops in the then near all-consuming conflagration.

The villagers of Tyneham were given 28 days to leave and were to never return, despite promises that they would one day be able to.

Apparently the last person to leave left this note on the church door:

“Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”

Tyneham-A Tribute-Dr Andrew Norman-A Year In The CountryWhich I find just heartbreaking.

A respectful tip of the hat to those who lived there across the generations.

On which note, I feel there is but little more to say, apart from to position a signpost or two:

Tyneham’s not-so-bricks-and-mortar home in the ether today here and amongst the not-so-ink-and-paper pages of an encyclopedia here. Mr Keith Seatman’s wanderings around those parts at Found Objects here.

The Quietened Village audiological explorations can be found here.


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Week #15/52: Phase IV / a revisiting / the arrival of artifacts lost and found and curious contrasts

Phase IV-soundtrack-Saul Bellow-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

(As an aside it’s curious how often the word lost, its variations and related themes arise and appear around these parts…)

It’s a (further) curious thing the (relatively) recent arrival of the modern day shellac encasement of the soundtrack to Phase IV.

It takes one of the iconic images from the film and stamps it in a yet further indelible manner on the memory; this particular image tends to lead one to think of the film as a more overtly star-visitor traditionally fantastical sci-fi tale.


Phase IV, although in many ways fantastical in premise, as a cinematic piece of work and in its officially released form is actually quite a low key, almost downbeat, piece of near realism (well, as near to realism as you can get with its premise). Slightly documentary-esque in a way.

(As a further-further aside and to quote myself, the premise is “Two scientists and one young lady they rescue are held hostage in a desert research facility by ants who seem to have gained some form of collective consciousness and higher intelligence.“)


But then this is a particular exercise in celluloid story telling that is full of such contrasts in imagery and tone; the day-to-day struggle of the scientists and companion against an intermittent backdrop of almost cosmic science fiction imagery and structures.

Well, until it’s lost-found-now-quite-around ending, wherein all such strands dissolve into one of out there, out where imagery.


On a happy note, the film has had a recent(ish) brush and scrub-up courtesy of Olive Films.

Though to keep the general balance of things, while the soundtrack has been encased and sent out into the world, the film’s long once-lost ending still avoids a widely available official envoying. Darned and tish.

Earlier phases around these parts here.


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Week #14/52: The Stone Tape and a number of layerings…

The Stone Tape-Radio 4-Nigel Kneale-Peter Strickland-James Cargill-Broadcast-Life On Mars-Andrew Liles-The Dark-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Well, that got me thinking about The Stone Tape again and in particular the (relatively) recent radio broadcast and adaptation of it.

This was a production where the layering and backstory were at least as intriguing as the broadcast play itself.

As a play, it was almost as if somebody had sat down with a very particular hauntological-esque wish list and created it as a piece of culture that didn’t need to actually exist in broadcast form, it just needed this layering, to be thought about and anticipated.

The Stone Tape-Radio 4-Nigel Kneale-Peter Strickland-James Cargill-Broadcast-Life On Mars-Andrew Liles-The Dark-A Year In The Country-2

Six layerings:

1) Place: I was particularly taken by the images of the location it was shot – the textures and contemporarily chic almost gothic horror of it all.

2) Person: Peter Strickland as it’s director. Well, what more do I need to say? Spinner of very particular cinematic worlds and re-imaginings courtesy of the stepping through and never were of giallo sound recordists and imagined Jess Franco-esque/once-upon-a-never-was very particularly European fairytales/mesmerisations.

3) Music: James Cargill of non-pop pop music-ers Broadcast, sometime Children Of Alice-r and previous Mr Strickland world creation collaborator and layer-er.

4) Soundscape: Andrew Liles, England’s hidden reverse co-creator and aural sculptor.

5) Script: Matthew Graham, one time creator of sort-of-mainstream-hauntology series Life On Mars.

6) Listening: The Dark provide a communal listening experience for above layerings and to add another layering.

The Stone Tape-Radio 4-Nigel Kneale-Peter Strickland-James Cargill-Broadcast-Life On Mars-Andrew Liles-The Dark-A Year In The Country-2b

A further six layerings courtesy of a venerable auntie: Nigel Kneale’s Stone Tape in six facts.

“Read all about it” (said in a 1920s New York paper sellers voice) here.

Mr Dorans and “old hand” Mr Augood consider contemporary and past layerings and transmissions here.

The Stone Tape-Radio 4-Nigel Kneale-Peter Strickland-James Cargill-Broadcast-Life On Mars-Andrew Liles-The Dark-A Year In The Country-4

An interwoven study of future haunted media around these parts here.