Posted on Leave a comment

The Delaware Road – A Surreal Post-War Albion and Quatermass Meets Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

If you don’t know about The Delaware Road, it’s a multi-media project created by Alan Gubby, who also runs the Buried Treasure record label which released The Delaware Road conceptual compilation album in 2015 alongside releases of “rare soundtracks, electronic, experimental and library music from around the globe” which has included a collection of John Baker’s work from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (more on  that in a moment).

Alongside the compilation album The Delware Road project (investigation?) has also included a book, festival etc, all of which are based around and explore what Alan Gubby described in an interview in issue 134 of Shindig! magazine with one of its editors Jon “Mojo” Mills as being:

“A very alternative history of British radio and television broadcasting, centred around the evolution and application of electronic sound from WW2 until the early ’70s. If I had to simplify it into a snappy soundbite, I guess it’s a mix of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Quatermass, a kind of psychedelic dystopia with nods to military history, government propaganda, British folklore and esoteric beliefs. It has been described by others as a surreal, post-war Albion, which I quite like.”

Well, I don’t know about you but he had me at “a mix of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Quatermass” (!)

In both the above interview and his Preface to The Delaware Road book published in 2022, which collected together a “6 part graphic zine released between 2017 and 2019, Gubby explains the “genesis” and inspiration for The Delaware Road project:

“In the mid 2000s, John Baker and Delia Derbyshire [both of whom worked at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop] were still relatively underground names in the world of electronic music… One evening I stumbled on a post by John Baker’s brother Richard, mentioning he had a box of John’s recordings, and if no one was interested he was going to put them in a skip. I sent an excited email and Richard replied saying there’d been no takers, but he just couldn’t bring himself to throw the tapes away. Soon after I was invited to his home in Leigh-On-Sea, where we made plans to digitise the material. By 2008 Jonny Trunk was onboard to help release The John Baker Tapes, which, to date, remains the only radiophonic retrospective of an individual composer’s work inside or out of the BBC… I spoke to Richard often at this time. He shared fond memories of his brother and their careers in broadcasting, but there was tragedy and intrigue also. Particularly when John’s addictions worsened and his mentahealth deteriorated in the early ’70s. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that a bigger story [which became The Delaware Road] was unfolding about the impact of electronic sound, radio and television on British society since World War Two.”

There have been a fair few hauntology etc orientated soundtracks for imaginary films released in recent years; The Delaware Road book could be considered to be a script for an imaginary film, one which utilises and explores what Gubby describes in the book’s Preface as “historiographic metafiction”, i.e. an interpretation, analysis etc of an area of history by past historians and so on which draws overt attention to the fact that it is a work of fiction.

But is The Delaware Road a work of fiction? Well, yes and no…

The Preface is fascinating as it reveals the (semi) hidden history of the project both concisely but also in considerable depth; there has been a lot of it going back almost two decades and it could be considered, particularly through the related live events, that The Delaware Road is both an “historiographic metafiction” and has also become a part of its source history itself.

The book itself is multi-stranded: it has three different introductory sections, by Mark Pilkington of the fringe and esoteric culture publishers Strange Attractor, Gubby himself and longstanding Delaware Road collaborator Dolly Dolly aka “artist, illustrator, poet and surrealist” David Yates; a text based story in film script form accompanied by illustrations (in some of which the “real world” intrudes or intertwines such as when a photograph of the iconic central London located BT Tower appears); a Delaware Road scrapbook of photographs and maps from The Delaware Road events, fliers, older artwork etc.

There is also an extensive non-fiction bibliography of books which were reference points and inspirations after each section of the “script”, which both indicates Gubby’s dedication and in depth research which underpins The Delaware Road project and also adds to the “historiographic metafictional” aspects of the book through its highlighting of both that underpinning and also by the way in which it further intertwines the book and its story with real world history.

While The Delaware Road was created and is directed by Gubby, much of the related work that has been produced is collaborative and this is particularly so in the case of the book, which alongside the script that was written by him, also includes poetry-like prose verses by Dolly Dolly; features work by multiple illustrators, including Jarrod Gosling, Nick Taylor, M. Wayne Miller, Enzo Trioli, Luke Insect, David Yates and Rob Halhead-Baker; and design by Nick Taylor, who also works as Spectral Studio and has become something of a go-to for the artwork and design of hauntology and related music, including releases by Castles in Space and Woodford Halse.

Before the story starts there are a couple of pages which feature illustrations of characters in the script with a brief background/overview of their story.

What these and the maps in the book bring to mind and seem to be are a (accidental/coincidental?) reimagining or direct line back to the “Knockouts” editions of books produced back when, which I have written about before, that were abridged versions created for “reluctant adolescent readers” and that included, in the example of the 1976 Knockouts’ edition of John Wyhdham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, an illustrated “Characters in the story” pages, which share a similar aesthetic with similar sections in The Delaware Road book.

The Delaware Road book is beautifully produced and presented, arriving wrapped in its own distinctive wrapping paper and even the “Standard Edition”  is far from standard as it arrives gift-wrapped in distinctive custom printed “British Radio Television” wrapping paper that recalls vintage BBC design viewed through a subtly occult/esoteric beliefs lens and also includes a “definitive festival document”, while the “Special Edition” for just a few or so pounds more also includes various other ephemera, artefacts etc from the world of The Delaware Road, including wax sealed postcards, prints, a BRT staff card and a “bunker sachet of DELAtab ‘anti-radiation’ sweets”, which if memory serves correctly were handed out at a Delaware Road event that took place in the Kelvedon Hatch decommissioned secret nuclear bunker.

The sold out “Deluxe Edition” added a limited edition 4″ clear vinyl “audiograph… of WW2 black propaganda”; I love the above photograph of a vintage portable record player and one of the audiographs – there’s something very vintage espionage film-esque about it that wouldn’t make it look out of place in amongst the gadgetry of a less James Bond glamour and more almost kitchen sink-like but still distinctively stylish older British espionage film, say The Ipcress File.

There is talk in the book of perhaps one more final live Delaware Road event but even if that is also the final chapter in The Delaware Road’s story I don’t think it will ever truly end as it has sent its own “transmissions” out into the world and the cosmos which now, in their own way, travel alongside those broadcast by the BBC back when that were accompanied by work by The BBC Radiophonic Workshop which in turn and as discussed above, were some of the central roots and inspirations for The Delaware Road… and so the circle continues…

Links at A Year In The Country:


Links elsewhere:


Posted on Leave a comment

The A Year In The Country: Wyrd Explorations book

A Decade Of Wandering Through Spectral Fields

Released 29th June 2024.
Author, artwork and design: Stephen Prince. 551 pages. Paperback and ebook.

Paperback and ebook available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and their various other worldwide sites and also from Lulu.

The paperback is also available to order from other online and bricks and mortar shops; please contact them directly for more information.

A Year In The Country: Wyrd Explorations collects writing from the first decade of the A Year In The Country project, which has explored and documented the interconnected rise of interest in the wyrd, eerie and re-enchanted landscape, folk horror, the further reaches of folk music and the parallel worlds of hauntology.

The book includes a selection of revised and at times extended writing from the first five A Year In The Country non-fiction books and the first ten years of posts on the project’s website alongside previously unpublished work from the A Year In The Country archives.

It reflects a personal journey through hidden pathways in the cultural undergrowth, a “wandering through spectral fields” that across 52 chapters includes writing on amongst many others the films, television series, directors, writers, books, musicians, record labels etc:

The Wicker Man, Ghost Box Records, Vashti Bunyan, Broadcast, The Changes, The Radiophonic Workshop, Quatermass, Castles In Space, The Hare And The Moon, Excalibur, The Black Meadow, Penda’s Fen, Howlround, Rob Young’s Electric Eden…

The Day Of The Triffids, The Delaware Road, Mark Fisher, Kill List, Jonny Trunk, Gone To Earth, Weird Walk, The Watcher In The Woods, The Heartwood Institute, Detectorists, The Stone Tape, Sapphire & Steel, Peter Strickland, The Book Of The Lost, Wolfen, Benjamin Myers Tam Lin…

Raven, Folklore Tapes, Sproatly Smith, Delia Derbyshire, The White Reindeer, John Carpenter, Curse Of The Crimson Altar, Boards Of Canada, Robert Macfarlane, The Company Of Wolves, Burial, Finders Keepers Records and The Owl Service.

The chapters and topics in the book are listed below:

Preface: A Definition of Hauntology, its Recurring Themes and Intertwining with Otherly Folk and the Exploration of a Rural and Urban Wyrd Cultural Landscape

The Wicker Man: Casting Aside Convention on Summerisle

Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music: Folk vs Pop, the Harvesting of Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure Old and New

Ghost Box Records, Paul Weller and Broadcast: Parallel Worlds, Conjuring Spectral Memories and Journeys Through Exploratory Avant-Pop Landscapes

Weirdlore, Folk Police Recordings, Seasons They Change, Sproatly Smith, Rowan :  Morrison and The Hare And The Moon: Notes from the Acid Folk Underground and a Trio of Wyrd Folk Travellers

Bagpuss: Portal Views into a Magical Never-Never Land

Texte und Töne, Benjamin Myers and Robert Macfarlane: Explorations of an Eerie Landscape

Curse of the Crimson Altar, Witchfinder General, The Blood on Satan’s Claw and Tony Tenser: Folk Horror Roots and From but a Few Seedlings Did a Great Forest Grow

Benjamin Stone, Sarah Hannant, Homer Sykes, Charles Fréger and Axel Hoedt: Folkloric Photography and a Lineage of Documentings and Imaginings

Hot Fuzz: A Rural Idyll Gone Rogue

Jane Weaver, Magpahi, Andy Votel, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council: Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and the Deep Running Roots of Wyrd Cut and Pasting

John Carpenter, Prince of Darkness, Halloween III and Village of the Damned: Fractured Dream Transmissions and a Collapsing into Ghosts and Shadows

Excalibur: John Boorman’s Creation of an Otherworldly Arthurian Dream

Gone to Earth and The Wild Heart: Stories from the Haunted Borderlands

Jeffrey Siedler’s Logic Formations, The Spectron Video Synthesizer and Kevin Foakes’ Wheels of Light: Spectres of Video’s Past and Far Off Lightshows

Kill List, Puffball, In the Dark Half and Butter on the Latch: Folk Horror Descendants by Way of the Kitchen Sink

Judy Dyble and Andy Lewis’ Summer Dancing: Acid folk Meets Acid Jazz via a Left-Field Pop Parallel Universe

Katalin Varga, Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy: Arthouse Evolution and Crossing the Thresholds of the Hinterland Worlds of Peter Strickland

Marion Adnams, Paul Nash and Unsettling Landscapes: Wyrd Art Forebears and Pathways Through Time

Oss Oss Wee Oss: Joining the Dance Far Away from the City

The Stone Tape, Quatermass and The Road: Nigel Kneale’s Unearthing of Tales from Buried Ancient Pasts

See Blue Audio, Fragile X and Lyli J: Soundscapes of Discovery and Escape

Shadows: Josephine Poole, Susan Cooper and the Layering of Time, Folklore and Myth

The Pale Horse and Endless Night: Lost Amongst Spells and Urban Wyrd Nightmares

The Mind Beyond and Stones: Activating Ancient Preter-natural Defence Mechanisms and a Sidestep into the Pioneering Work of Irene Shubik, Verity Lambert and Delia Derbyshire

Sapphire & Steel, Mark Fisher and Ghosts in the Machine: Nowhere, Forever and Faded Spaces within Cultural Circuitry

Requiem, The Living and the Dead, Britannia and Detectorists: Albion in the Overgrowth and Timeslip Echoes

Raven: Unearthing Hidden Buried Power and Battles to Safe-guard the Future

Folklore Tapes and the Wyrd Britannia Festival: Journeying to Hidden Corners of the Land and the Explorations of an Arcane Research Project

Delia Derbyshire, Caroline Katz, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Hannah Peel, Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society, The Radiophonic Workshop and Drew Mulholland: Forging Bridges Across Time

Boards of Canada: The Past Inside the Present

Play for Today and Rainy Day Women: Village Mob Rule and the Spectres of Archival Television

The Delaware Road, Bunker Archaeology, Waiting for the End of the World, Subterranea Britannica, The Quietened Bunker and Disinformation: Ghosts, Havens and Curious Repurposings Beneath our Feet

Queens of Evil, Tam Lin and The Touchables: High Fashion Transitional Psych Folk Horror, Pastoral Fantasy and Dreamlike Isolation

Burial: Spectres of Spectres Awash in a Landscape of Static

“Savage Party”, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and E4’s Wicker Man Ident: Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth

Resistance and Tank 432: Conflict in the Landscape and Interconnected Pathways to the Outer Edges of Genre Film

Richard Mabey’s The Unofficial Countryside and Edward Chell’s Soft Estate: Edgeland Documents and Memories

Tales from the Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost and The Equestrian Vortex: The Imagined Spaces of Imaginary Soundtracks

The Company of Wolves, Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel: Witchhunters, Wolfen and The Keep: Dark Fairy Tales, Lycanthropes and the Dangers of Wandering off the Path

The Heartwood Institute, Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People and Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s Winstanley: Exploring Far Off Utopian Flipsides

José Ramón Larraz’s Symptoms and Robert Altman’s Images: Hauntological Begetters and Gothic Bucolia

Castles In Space, Nick Taylor’s Spectral Studio, Pulselovers, Keith Seatman and Dave Clarkson: Otherly Geometries and Ghosts of the Seaside

Takashi Doscher’s Still: Southern Gothic, Wyrd Americana and Eternal Cycles

The Seasons, Jonny Trunk, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Howlround: A Yearning for Library Music, Experiments in Educational Music and Tape Loop Tributes

Robin Redbreast, Children of the Stones, The Ash Tree, The Changes, Penda’s Fen, Red Shift, Sky and The Owl Service: Otherly Television Landscapes

David Rudkin’s White Lady: Darker Hued Mainstream Transmissions from a Far Away World

The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids: John Wyndham, Celluloid Cuckoos and Survival in the Aftermath

The Owl Service, Anne Briggs, The Watersons, Lutine and Audrey Copard: Folk Revisiters, Revivalists and Reinterpreters

The Watcher in the Woods and Something Wicked This Way Comes: Disney Darkness and Curiously Shadowed Side Paths of the House of Mouse (and an Intriguing Sidestep to Urban Wyrd amongst British Housing Estates)

Vashti Bunyan: From Here to Before: Whispering Fairy  Stories until They are Real

Without Name: Stepping Over the Threshold of a Liminal Landscape

The White Reindeer: Folk Horror Far Away from the Darkened Woods


Posted on Leave a comment

Revisiting Bridge and Tunnel – Dystopic (Almost) Pop Songs and Further Hauntological Precursors

In a recent post I wrote about Andy Votel’s Styles of the Unexpected album and how it could be seen to be in “some ways it seems like both a precursor and a bridge between, say, later 1990s downbeat melodic instrumental trip hop that was often found sound/sample based, or at least seemed as though it was (think DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, Nightmares On Wax’s Carboot Soul etc) and more recent hauntological-orientated electronica”…

For a while now I’ve had various other bands, TV series, film etc bouncing around in my head that could also be considered to be precursors to hauntology, including Boards of Canada and the TV series Look Around You, both of which I’ve written about before at A Year In The Country and I would include the duo/band Bridge and Tunnel in a possible list of such things.

Bridge and Tunnel were active between 2000-2004 and for most of that time were a duo made up of Nathan Bennett and Mark Bihler and released three albums and four singles on CD and vinyl, mostly on the Harmsonic label, which I think they founded/co-founded.

They created excellent melodic, glitchy, at times crackle and found radio signal filled spectral electronica/electronic rock that, as with Andy Votel’s “Return of the Spooky Driver” on Styles of the Unexpected, also interlinks with downbeat/trip hop in its use of, at times, slow, crunchy atmospheric beats. Their music also had a certain left field pop nowse that in a more just parallel universe would have had them appearing on Top of the Pops back when.

The haunting, elegaic single “Faces In The Crowd” from their eponymous first album brings to mind the “hidden reverse” otherworldly siren call remembrance of those who have been lost in the tenderly sad but also playful “Going Up” from Coil’s The Ape Of Naples album:

“[Faces In The Crowd] paints a picture of gentle suffocation and paranoia: ‘Ghosts are scratching at my door… Who am I today?’ The romanticism of hindsight never sounded so scary – this siren is definitely calling your ship to the rocks.” (Quoted from a press release which accompanied its release.)

Single “Nothing Is Sacred” is the most wonderfully catchy, unsettling, dystopic, borderline apocalyptic concept of a love song I think I’ve ever heard.

That single was included on their second album Without Ghosts, which as the title suggests heightens their “spectral aspect” and includes “As They Appear” which subtly glitches and drones as some kind of unexplained figures from the past begin to appear and asks us to “Imagine this life without ghosts”, while “Phantom Semaphore” from the same album is threaded through with a melancholic guitar line that accompanies a tick-tock metronome-like click as an almost John Carpenter-esque synth pad and an indefinably ominous distant wind weave in and out.

The artwork for their first album and the “Faces in the Crowd” single were created by Horst Klöver, although the credits do not make it clear if he also took the photographs used for it.

The images have a textural quality that reminds me, in part, of classic 1980s 4AD record cover art by 23 Envelope (aka graphic designer Vaughan Oliver and photographer filmmaker Nigel Grierson) filtered through the lens of urbex/abandoned places photography and city edgelands and creates an intriguing, entrancing world that finds beauty in decay and the forgotten.

There’s actually a six degrees of separation link or two between the A Year In The Country themed compilation releases and Bridge and Tunnel, as Bridge and Tunnel remixed Saint Etienne’s “Heart Failed In The Back of a Taxi” and Nathan Bennett was a guest vocalist on Saint Etienne’s cover of the Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra song “Got It Together Again” which was originally released on the 2002 tribute album Total Lee! The Songs Of Lee Hazlewood…

…and in turn The Séance, who have released tracks on the AYITC compilations feature as its members James Papademetrie and Pete Wiggs, the latter of whom is a member of Saint Etienne… there are other links but I may go into them another time.

Bridge and Tunnel’s releases are now long out of print and to my knowledge haven’t been released officially digitally, although some of their tracks can be found on YouTube. Their CDs and vinyl can be found used on Discogs etc, often for literally only a few pence.


Links at A Year In The Country:


Links elsewhere:


Posted on Leave a comment

Dark Tower – Otherworldy Dysfunction

Sometimes, in films, cities are shown as places for fun, pleasure and glamour, but fairly often, they’re more likely to be locations where dysfunction occurs and/or are shown as being the causes or even enablers of dysfunction. To a degree, the loosely interconnected and defined cultural mode of “urban wyrd” (which I discuss further in the Preface) explores or represents a variation on such things, generally focusing on the “weird”, “eerie”, etc aspects of cities. Tower blocks, in particular, seem to get a particularly bad rap in films, and related depictions of dysfunction etc, have taken a considerably varied number of forms, including, amongst others, a tower block’s architecture being designed to focus and intensify occult and paranormal energies and facilitate Armageddon in the much-loved comedy horror hit Ghostbusters (1984); cost-cutting and focusing on profit by developers leading to disaster in the star-studded blockbuster The Towering Inferno (1974); the self-contained isolation that tower blocks can allow for and create leading to social dissolution, decadence, chaos and violent conflict in Ben Wheatley’s 2015 adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s iconic 1974 novel High-Rise; and last but not least in this (short) list, although much less well-known than the just mentioned films, is the 1987 supernatural horror film Dark Tower. This was co-directed pseudonymously by Freddie Francis and Ken Wiederhorn, the latter of whom, alongside Robert J. Avrech and Ken Blackwell, also co-wrote the film and who, apart from Blackwell, have a variedly extensive history in horror-related film and television work.

In Dark Tower, a successful female architect and other members of the staff of the tower block which she is both designing and working from experience strange phenomena and/or die in mysterious and often gruesome ways. A security consultant who works for the firm which owns the building and who has a form of undeveloped and previously unknown to him psychic ability investigates the deaths, and it becomes apparent that they were caused by a malevolent supernatural entity or spirit of some sort, which leads him to enlist the help of a parapsychologist and a psychic in order to defeat it. The entity is eventually revealed to be the revenge-seeking spirit of the apparently “evil” former husband of the architect whose malicious control she escaped from by burying and drowning him in the concrete of the tower.

One of the original illustrated poster designs for the film has a distinctive period aesthetic that could have tumbled straight from the pages of a fever dream about 1980s video rental tape cover art: against a darkened purple sky, a set of shadowed modernist/ Brutalist office blocks are gathered around a melodramatically ominous central tower that as it reaches to the sky fades into a depiction of an open coffin; dramatic lightning strikes the tower/ coffin as office workers en masse appear to be drawn like moths to a deadly flame towards the entrance of the tower, which in turn seems to be bathing them in its eerie glow; and across the bottom of the poster in a sensationalist manner the tagline says “It reaches Heaven… and touches Hell!”.

This tagline seems in part to suggest man’s sometimes Icarus like overreaching ideas and designs, as reflected in this instance by the grand scale of tower blocks, which in reality have often been sites for social dysfunction etc, only to be brought back down with a tumble, thud and worse by variously hubris, practical realities and so forth.

While Dark Tower is in some ways something a B-movie, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it also subtly brings a little more to the party than might be expected from other such genre fare from the time of its production that once lined the shelves of video rental shops. This is in part due to the presence of renowned British actress Jenny Agutter, who plays the architect and who, over a number of decades, has appeared in a wide variety of critically and commercially successful film and television productions, including, amongst many others, the much-loved family classic The Railway Children (1970), the fairytale-like deluxe dystopia Logan’s Run (1976), the iconic comedy horror An American Werewolf in London (1981), the alternate history World War II set The Eagle Has Landed (1976), Stephen Poliakoff’s hidden history conspiracy thriller Glorious 39 (2009)3 and the hugely popular period television drama series Call the Midwife (2012-).

Also, the psychic in Dark Tower is played by Kevin McCarthy, who had previously played the lead in the iconic hidden alien invasion science fiction horror cult classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), alongside having a small but notable cameo in its unsettling and heavily paranoia imbued 1978 remake, which in turn seems to thread and interlink Dark Tower with a lineage and history of hidden cinematic threats and horrors.

Alongside which, in Dark Tower, there is an almost art filmlike repetition of similar shots filmed inside elevator shafts as an elevator descends. In the horror film genre, such shots rarely bode well for anybody travelling in the elevators, which is, perhaps not unsurprisingly, often the case in Dark Tower and within such genre work, such scenes and images could be placed alongside the appearance of unclothed mannequins in, say, a shadow filled warehouse as signifiers and harbingers of doom. Accompanying these repeated and returning shots in Dark Tower, there are also striking repeated low-angle and almost still-like shots of the tower block and its modernist design, which have a threatening, minimal, ominous menace to them.

A number of the scenes are filmed amongst still active construction sites within the tower block, which through these locations often not having finished clad or painted etc walls and ceilings, being strewn with construction materials and occasionally also home to rats seem to reveal the hidden “skeleton” of the building and effectively turn it into an almost frontier-like edgeland that is at a remove from outside help and civilisation. This is further compounded by a number of the scenes being shot not in the corporately presentable, more public face of the building, such as the lobby and office suites, which the construction of is complete, but instead are set in largely featureless, utilitarian service corridors etc, down which the unseen malevolent spirit seems to roam unimpeded as it hunts its prey.

Also, curiously and unexplainedly, the film is set in Barcelona, which is the capital city of the Spanish community of Catalonia. Yes, it’s understandable that an apparently multi-national company such as the one which owns the tower would have different sites around the world, but the film, its characters and the depiction of the tower feel very non-Spanish, and the central characters are largely English and/or American and English speaking and this adds a certain subtle disjunction to Dark Tower, almost as if it is set in and a recording of a dreamscape where the tower and the main characters are both in Barcelona and yet in some unknown way at a remove from it or are transplanted strangers or interlopers. This is added to by the way that the modernist style tower, which is all gridded glass and concrete and its corporate, almost sterile seeming design, culture and general ambience contrasts with some of the older locations of Barcelona that are shown. These include streets of older, more worn and lived-in seeming multistorey apartment blocks which feature openly visible displays of unmediated day-to-day life such as being strung with hung out to dry washing and city walls that look like they have overseen the passing of many centuries and possibly even millennia of history. A visually distinctive Barcelonan cemetery is also shown, which appears to contain multi-storey above-ground graves arranged in cubed grids with glass fronts which have tributes to the dead behind them, and that could almost be a more organic community or folk art-like reflection, mirror or even rebuke of the “dark tower’s” design.

Alongside which, the security consultant, who, as mentioned previously, is shown to have a form of undeveloped psychic ability, has a curious emotional distance and possibly even otherworldly quality to him, almost as though he is not fully present in the day-to-day corporeal world.

He seems very determinedly and doggedly to try to solve the mystery of the deaths in the tower block and also to contact the malevolent spirit of the architect’s former husband, whatever the consequences, but once the spirit has carried out its mission to revenge itself on her, the consultant then seems curiously nonchalant and even jokily flippant about what has happened to her.

In an Edgar Allan Poe-esque manner, the husband’s spirit entraps and buries the architect with its decomposed physical body inside the concrete walls of the tower and covers its tracks by using its supernatural powers to re-render it.

Although the security consultant does not actually see this take place, he had seen the architect just before in a scene where she, him, the parapsychologist and the psychic are attacked in a poltergeist-like manner by the husband’s spirit, which leads to the latter two’s violent deaths. That this was the case, alongside how he previously variously determinedly wanted to solve the mystery of events in the tower and also him seeming at points to be attracted to or even quietly obsessed by the architect, it could be expected that he would want to fully solve the mystery and know what had happened to her.

However, in a somewhat curious final scene, he is shown walking alongside and through the above-mentioned Barcelona cemetery with his wife, and when she asks if it was discovered what happened to the architect, he tells her just to forget about it and not let it further spoil their vacation.

As they wander off towards the horizon, this leaves a lingering sense that perhaps in some way, the consultant’s psychic ability has enabled the architect’s husband’s spirit to enter and influence his mind and thoughts in order to further cover its tracks and perhaps even to escape from the confines of the tower block and its body’s hidden tomb and to continue its existence unfettered and with impunity.


Posted on Leave a comment

Quiet Glitchy Melancholia – Andy Votel’s Styles of the Unexpected and Hauntology Precursors

It’s been curious how a number of times as I’ve wandered through the “spectral” cultural fields that make up A Year In The Country how I’ve realised that work I’ve been exploring, writing about etc was created by people whose work I’d come across long before.

For example, as I write in A Year In The Country: Straying In The Pathways, a number of the people who have gone on to create music of a hauntological-esque nature, had previously created trip hop-esque music that I’d come across back in the 1990s; or how I’d actually first explored Julian House of Ghost Box Records work also in the 1990s/early 2000s work via the graphic design work he created for the likes of Primal Scream’s Exterminator album, some of Depeche Mode’s hits compilation albums, a book cover design he did for a George Orwell reissue etc.

Which brings me to Andy Votel’s Style of the Unexpected album; this was originally released in 2000, I think collaboratively, by Twisted Nerve, a label which Andy Votel co-founded prior to Finders Keepers Records, and XL Recordings.

Andy Votel was one of the founders of the largely archival record label Finders Keepers Records, which released a number of albums that I’ve written about at A Year In The Country before, including Willow’s Songs that collected music that inspired the soundtrack to The Wicker Man and Jane Weaver Septième Soeur’s The Fallen by Watch Bird conceptual pop album/project of “cosmic aquatic folklore”.

I’d first discovered tracks from Styles of the Unexpected via the now defunct music magazine Select in the later 1990s/early 2000s, which I had something of a fondness for, and that, if memory serves correctly, seemed to, in part, focus on/offer a slightly more, hmmm, refined or even populist-ly thoughtful, intelligent and eclectic take on indie, electronic etc music than some other mainstream music magazines of the time, a focus that was often reflected on the magazine’s free cover mount CD.

Revisiting the music on Style of the Unexpected decades later was, yep, a curious thing as in some ways it seems like both a precursor and a bridge between, say, later 1990s downbeat melodic instrumental trip hop that was often found sound/sample based, or at least seemed as though it was (think DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, Nightmares On Wax’s Carboot Soul etc) and more recent hauntological-orientated electronica.

In particular the track “Return of the Spooky Driver” has a spectral, quietly glitchy melancholia that wouldn’t seem all that out of place amongst contemporary hauntology, which in this instance is spliced/intertwined with driving upbeat interludes that wanders towards but stays shy of the sometimes almost cartoon-like character of late 1990s/early 2000s big beat music, which often incorporated and could be considered a catchier, more populist and dance-floor friendly flipside to that period’s instrumental trip hop.

Styles of the Unexpected is long out of print but is available digitally and can be found fairly cheaply on CD and is also available digitally… and it turns out it was a sequel to some of Andy Votel’s earlier records which sampled Blood On Satan’s Claw, The Wicker Man and Twin Peaks… hmmm, I expect a wander over to Discogs may be on the cards soon.


Links at A Year In The Country:


Links elsewhere:


Posted on Leave a comment

The Likely Lads – Time Capsule Snapshots of Faded History

A while ago I wrote about the photozine From the Archives: Progress that was published by The Modernist and which collected archival images of building demolition in Northern British city Manchester.

The images in it brought to mind early scenes of demolition in the 1976 film The Likely Lads which is a spin-off of the television sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads (1973-1974), with both having been written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. These scenes, as with much of the film and series, are set in the Northern city of Newcastle and they show the terraced streets in which lead characters Terry and Bob, who have been friends since childhood and are now middle-aged, grew up and which are now being demolished. Bob, who has moved away and is attempting to live a more middle class lifestyle mourns and laments the loss of the streets and his roots, while until recently Terry still lived there and is just glad of being able to move to a modern block of flats with all mod cons rather than having to head out in the middle of the night to a freezing outdoor toilet. He lambasts Bob’s romanticising of a life that he was quick to leave behind and which Bob somewhat revealingly doesn’t want his own children to live:

Bob: “Worse for you than for me. I only spent my childhood here. You’ve lived here all your life.”

Terry: “It’s taken that long to pull the bugger down. It was condemned the year I was born. Me dad used to say, we’ll not be in here long. Only temporary, he said. That’s why we never re-papered the front room.”

Bob: “You must feel some nostalgia though. These streets are ugly but they have a kind of beauty.”

Terry: “Working class sentiment is an indulgence of working class people who have cracked it through football or rock and roll. Or people like you who moved out to the Elm Lodge housing estate at the earliest opportunity.”

Bob: “Well, I didn’t want my kids brought up in these streets.”

(Terry and Bob enter the pub set amongst the terraced streets, which was previously their local and is serving its final drinks before also being demolished.)

Joe (the pub landlord): “You’ll come and see us in the new one, won’t you?”

Terry: “Of course we will. What’s it like?”

Joe: “Bloody sight better than this one.”

Bob: “I mean, nobody cares! Nobody really cares. Nobody’s moved by the occasion.”

Terry: “Well those residents are. Moved to a high-rise.”

Bob: “Soulless concrete blocks.”

Terry: “What do you mean? It’s got a modern kitchen, a lovely view and an inside lavatory.”

Bob: “These streets had poetry.”

Terry: “Well there’s not much poetry at four in the morning, padding down the yard to a freezing outside bog.”

Bob: “You missed my point Terry, you missed my point.”

Filmed during what appears to be a real world demolition operation they are humorous and also achingly nostalgic scenes deeply imbued with pathos and their conflicting views of urban regeneration and the resulting banter between Terry and Bob are something of a concise summation of the push and pull, pros and cons related to architectural demolition, regeneration, tradition and modernity.

Both the film and the original two series of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads offer snapshots of a changing urban landscape and the contrasts between older terraced housing and new modernist / Brutalist architecture.

This is particularly so in Episode 4 of Series 1, in which Bob drives Terry, who has recently been demobbed after spending five years travelling the world as a member of the army, around the city to visit the haunts of their youth, the coffee bars and clubs they used to go to. None of these places still exist as they have all been knocked down and replaced with various examples of Brutalist architecture.

At one point they stand atop the Brutalist designed Trinity Square multi-storey car park:

Bob: “Know where we are now?”

Terry: “Well, vaguely. I just can’t place it.”

Bob: “Beneath this great pile of concrete is what used to be the Go-Go Rock Club. Members only, licensed till three, closed on Sundays, the North’s premier music Mecca.”

Bob: “The Go-Go? Gone?!”

Terry: “Gone, but not forgotten. At 3am under a full moon, you may see a headless guitarist, drifting through empty parking lots, playing ‘Roll Over, Beethoven’.”

Terry despairs at the loss of his youthful hangouts due to urban regeneration, which somewhat conflicts with his later appreciation of modern housing’s conveniences in the series’ film spin-off. As mentioned previously, in The Likely Lads film he considers his new multi-storey home to be very much an improvement on the older terraced houses he used to live in. However this notably positive view of them could now be tempered by historical hindsight, as in the mid-1970s such developments had necessarily yet begun to be as affected by the social dysfunction, issues with maintenance and so on which would afflict some similar developments in later decades.

There are a number of layered intertwinings between the real world, history, film and television in relation to the car park Terry and Bob visit. It was somewhat controversial, with some considering it iconic and others viewing it as an eyesore, and reflecting the changing cycles of trends and urban regeneration it was demolished in 2010 in order to make way for a new version of the ideal town centre which were intended to include a retail and student village. The car park had a glass and concrete rooftop box built 124 foot above ground level that was intended to be a nightclub and which was used in the classic 1971 British gangster film Get Carter. Somewhat ironically in context of Bob and Terry’s mourning the loss of the imaginary Go-Go Rock Club that was once on the site the rooftop box was never actually used as a club.

Some of the sites Terry and Bob visit seem to be somewhat desolate or desolated industrial areas and it is difficult to tell if they have been cleared for intended regeneration and new developments or if they are a harbinger of the closing down of industry in the North which would gain pace in the 1980s.

There are some holdouts against regeneration, such as the chip shop above, but when the camera pans out it becomes clear that it is merely a forlorn and isolated remnant and it stands alone amongst the electricity pylons, with the buildings that once adjoined it having been demolished. Elsewhere a local river they once fished at is now a polluted edgeland site since “they pulled down the flower mill and built a chemical factory” and the fish are long gone.

As an aside, the above right image of the chip shop is reminiscent of the above cover photograph from Peter Mitchell’s Strangely Familiar book, which documents sections of Northern city Leeds in the 1970s – the photograph was also used as the cover for the Bob Stanley and Pete Wigg’s curated English Weather compilation album which centres around the time when British music transitioned from psychedelia to prog. The below quote from text which accompanied English Weather seems somewhat apposite in relation to The Likely Lads and some of the topics discussed in this post:

“The autumnal sound of Britain at the turn of the 70s, looking out through wet window panes to a new decade with a mixture of melancholy and optimism for what might come next.”

Elsewhere at times there is an almost dystopian air to some of the very utilitarian looking high-rise redeveloped areas shown in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads and any signs of greenery and nature are few and far between, bringing to mind 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green where the last few plants in a densely over populated city are kept in special enclosures. However despite these sometimes bleak images, it should be remembered that the series is a comedy and while it sometimes contains a certain melancholia the next set of (often deadpan) laughs are not far away.

The intertwining of the old and the new and also a related sense of how Bob’s upwardly mobile lifestyle has diverged from Terry’s is particularly present in the series’ opening sequence and credits.

In one section of the opening sequence the screen is split into four images, one of which show Bob wearing a three-piece suit standing proudly and somewhat smugly in front of his house on the new estate and the other images feature examples of Brutalist / modernist architecture. In another split screen image Terry is shown vainly trying to hail a bus on older terraced streets while another image, which is also featured in the credits, shows part of a demolished older house, the empty windows of which frame newer tower blocks off in the distance.

The Likely Lads film is full of period details and contains a number of time capsule snapshots of a world that is only a few decades away but seems very far removed from contemporary times. This is particularly noticeable in the scenes set in a supermarket, in which 1970s food looks to almost purely be processed, contained in cans and there appears to be little fresh or chilled produce.

It also contains a notable historic snapshot of a Northern British seaside town and fun fair in later sequences when Terry and Bob attempt to escape from their day-to-day troubles and life’s restrictions by going on holiday. The fair’s attractions are hand painted and nearer to outsider or folk art than the glossy hyper realist artwork which often features at fairgrounds today.

Shot during winter at Northern seaside town Whitley Bay, these scenes wonderfully capture the bleakness of such places during their off-season but rather than being purely grim, for some viewers (myself included), they also contain a nostalgically evocative character and they are lightened by the deadpan humour of Terry and Bob’s dialogue:

Terry: “I have the feeling that we’re the last two men on Earth. Shall we go on the beach?

Bob: “It’s too cold.”

Terry: “We’ll go to the pictures?

Bob: “Cinema’s closed. They’re twinning it.”

Terry: “How about the ice rink?”

Bob: “Doesn’t open till Easter.”

Terry: “I noticed a church hall back there. The senior citizens are having a bring and buy.”

Terry: “Something to keep up our sleeve.”

Elsewhere the film decamps to the countryside, where Terry and Bob have jointly gone on holiday with their partners (although only under duress and at the insistence of their beaus). As in the Carry On comedy franchise films Carry on Camping (1969) and Carry on Behind (1975) and the slightly bizarre comedy romp The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones (1976), the latter of which I have written about previously at AYITC, the British countryside subsequently becomes the setting for various period sitcom tropes of fish out of water, restrictive spouses and roaming eyes. However, while thoroughly entertaining The Likely Lads film is deeply imbued with a certain kitchen sink-like realism and an ongoing philosophical debate and pathos about missed opportunities and life’s pathways which add a certain depth to it and prevent it from rarely becoming purely knock about comic farce.

Links at A Year In The Country:


Links elsewhere:


Posted on Leave a comment

Tales of Unease: Calculated Nightmare – Orders from a Computer Empowered Bogeyman

Calculated Nightmare, part of the 1970 television anthology horror series Tales of Unease, is set in a corporation’s office block which is controlled by automated computer systems.

It largely centres around two executives who are working late at night as they, in a self-congratulatory manner, finalise details of redundancy plans for the company’s employees. They have drawn up the list of who is to be let go using the company’s computer system, which they are full of praises for and proclaim that via using this that the list has been objectively and rationally created, while also being dismissive of the effect that redundancy will have on people’s lives.

However, they are soon hoisted by their own petard as one of the employees on the list sets into motion an elaborate scheme that remotely utilises the building’s computerised systems to trap the executives in their office and freeze them if they do not send instructions to rescind the redundancy plans.

After their initial belligerent resistance to their captor’s plans, they give in to them when he threatens to use the same computer systems to kill them but even once they are let free there is a sense that the axe will soon fall on them.

Initially it’s implied that this may be via the lift they take to the carpark, which is viewed from within the elevator shaft, as such shots in horror orientated film and television rarely bode well for the characters. But no, in the end it’s the computerised security gates for the building’s car park which are used to act as a deadly portcullis and permanently puts paid to their redundancy plans.

It is difficult to have sympathy for the executives due to the way they are portrayed as smugly and indifferently playing with people’s lives and livelihoods and because they also seem thoroughly pleased with themselves for supposedly rationally discarding committed and longstanding employees in the pursuit of profit.

It’s a curious programme that is tense and unsettling and which feels like a horror film, perhaps one that might come to contain supernatural elements but ultimately it doesn’t and the terror proves to be man made but is no less creepy for that.

Posted on Leave a comment

From David Rudkin’s The White Lady to Kate Bush’s “Breathing” – Darker Hued Transmissions


The British TV drama Penda’s Fen, written by David Rudkin and directed by Alan Clarke, has become one of the more prominent touchstones for “wyrd related culture.

While Penda’s Fen is very multi-layered in terms of the themes and subjects it explores, it does at one point quite specifically focus on the exploitation and possible misuse of natural resources and landscapes when a character launches into a paranoid conspiracy-like rant:

“What is it, hidden beneath this shell of lovely earth? Some hideous angel of technocratic death? Some alternative city for government from beneath? Motorways there, offices, control suites. Silent there, empty, waiting for the day… those lonely places our technocrats chose for their extreme experiments… Sick laboratories built on or beneath these haunted sites…”

Which brings me to White Lady which was also written by David Rudkin (and he also directed it) which is much more overtly specifically concerned with ecological issues and on his website he describes it as being “A parable on the agro-chemical destruction of nature”.It was originally broadcast as part of the ScreenPlay drama anthology series in a primetime evening slot on BBC Two in 1987 and has not had an official home release on either physical media or digitally – although again degraded quality unofficial discs and online streamable versions have been distributed.

Its plot involves a divorced father who is trying to begin farming while also looking after his two young daughters; in the fields surrounding the farm pesticides are being used, which through the use of intercut actual laboratory images are shown to cause destructive side effects on animals. The titular White Lady is intended to embody the deadly effects of the pesticide and she is portrayed as a white robed spectral presence who masks her true nature under a beatific air.

Her manner and enticements are reminiscent of the White Witch in C.S. Lewis’ popular children’s fantasy novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), who attempts to lure a child to her parallel world and to do her bidding by plying him with Turkish Delight sweets. These “white witches” are not be trusted; the White Witch is a despotic ruler who has kept all of her kingdom frozen in winter, while the White Lady’s true colours are revealed as her beatific mask repeatedly slips.

At one point the White Lady apparently benevolently watches over the daughters as they sleep but is revealed as some form of predatory grim reaper when suddenly the silhouetted arc of a scythe she holds appears over their heads. Later she sits serenely and ethereal Earth Mother-like next to bountiful harvested produce displayed on incongruous tables and white tablecloths in the woods and attempts to entice the daughters to take their fill, accept her (and therefore pesticides) as a bountiful nurturing provider and to leave with her for another world:

“Yes, yes, take… eat… When I am queen, it is strawberries and asparagus all year… I am queen on the planet of light… you shall never be sick there… never die…”

She goes on to gently, slowly and hypnotically begins to say that their father has lost the Earth, that he cannot escape with them and then describe her side effects and how once they have accepted and left with her, she will leave behind changeling replacements to fool their father but that these will carry her “marks” (i.e., genetic mutations).

Eventually she says “All children are mine now… say goodbye to the earth” before fully revealing her true self again, but this time openly in front of their awakened eyes, as she once again appears holding a scythe overhead and looks down at the daughters with a sinister sense of possession. Her bountiful produce is then revealed to be the result of poisonous pesticides, the symbols for which are now shown to be on the white tablecloths as the camera pans across them.

The White Lady’s proclamations to the daughters that: “Each time you have eaten, I have kissed you. Each time you have breathed…” as the pesticide’s symbols are revealed is reminiscent of Kate Bush’s song “Breathing”. Originally released as a single which reached number 16 on UK the charts in 1980 during a period of heightened tensions in the Cold War (and later in the same year featured on the number one album Never for Ever), it takes the viewpoint of an unborn child which has to breathe in deadly fall-out and its mother’s nicotine after an apocalyptic nuclear event. Although initially the song utilises a conventional verse and “catchy” repetitive chorus format, as noted in A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields (2018) it:

“[breaks] from the conventions of what may be expected in a commercially successful pop song, it features an extended unsettling, drifting spoken word passage that describes in a scientific or documentary manner the characteristics of a flash from a nuclear explosion.”

Revisited today the subject matter and at times form of both “Breathing” and White Lady can be considered surprisingly challenging and darkly hued for what were mainstream television broadcasts and music releases, and can be considered as indicators of the vastly changed mainstream popular cultural landscape.

It is difficult to imagine such work as “Breathing” and The White Lady receiving high profile mainstream orientated releases today; there is often a darkness to, for example, contemporary television drama but this is generally utilised for the creation of atmosphere or to create graphic shocks and visual stimulus but it is rarely as explicitly challenging in terms of focusing on the darkness of real-world issues as “Breathing” and “The White Lady” are.

Posted on Leave a comment

Further Investigations of Pixelvision, Nadja, Howlround and Ashley Blewer’s Delve Through the History of Video Formats

I’ve had a longstanding fascination with Pixelvision cameras since I first saw Michael Almereyda’s 1994 film Nadja, which is a noirish black and white arthouse take on the vampire genre (think left of centre 1990s American indie film along the lines of Hal Hartley’s work, with which it shares a number of central actors, with dashes of David Lynch, who both produced and appears in Nadja) which at times utilised Pixelvision cameras.

Pixelvision video cameras were curious things; as noted in Ashley Blewer’s The Illustrated Guide to Video Formats, they were released in the US in 1987 by toy company Fisher-Price, were only available for around a year and approximately 400,000 were made.

It was relatively expensive for a child’s toy, which it was marketed to, as it cost $179 USD (which was the equivalent of roughly $430 or £300 in 2021) and had a number of distinctive features which make them something of a curio: it produced a distinctive minimal very low resolution 120 x 90 pixel monochrome only video and recorded onto conventional audio cassettes. However, it’s price and the style of video it produced attracted artists, music videomakers, filmmakers etc, including the above mentioned Michael Almereyda and the cameras are now collector’s items with working models often fetching fairly high prices.

Ashley Blewer’s The Illustrated Guide to Video Formats is also something of a curio; it contains hand drawn illustrations of dozens of different video tape formats, related equipment etc and the book acts as an informative, playful, easily accessible curator of a wide range of them. And boy were there a lot over the years.

Apparently Blewer is working on a similar guide that focuses on audio formats, which I’m looking forward to seeing.

Older and sometimes obsolete media formats, particularly analogue ones, seem to have gained something of a romantic evocative appreciation and use over the years, with their characteristics often being  utilised in hauntology orientated work, where, as I wrote in A Year in the Country: Cathode Ray and Celluloid Hinterlands:

“The use and foregrounding of recording medium noise and imperfections, such as the crackle and hiss of vinyl, tape wobble and so on that calls attention to the decaying nature of older analogue mediums and which can be used to create a sense of time out of joint and edge memories of previous eras.”

All of which brings me to the photograph below, which is one of musician Robin The Fog’s live setups (aka Howlround), who extensively utilises analogue tape in his work; the photo makes me smile every time I see it and shows a notable dedication to his cause (!)

Links at A Year In The Country:


Links elsewhere:

Posted on Leave a comment

Tales of Unease: Ride, Ride and Taking a Trip With a Supernatural Guardian of Time

Tales of Unease (1970) was a British anthology drama series adapted from stories originally published in three anthology horror-story books edited by John Burke and published between 1960 and 1969.

The series currently has a limited distribution and availability: it was released as double-bill episodes on video cassette back when, hasn’t had an official digital release and only a couple of episodes seem to have been unofficially distributed online. In 2022 it was released on a now fairly rare on the used market DVD by Network Distributing Ltd, which specialised in the DVD and Blu-ray of older (generally) British film and television, much of which has never had an official home release in any other form and so the company’s closing in 2023 has left a big gap in the cultural landscape.

Ride, Ride is the first episode in the series which is set at the turning point of 1960s hippy aesthetics and it’s a great period piece that features a number of distinctive period signifiers including hippie-esque 1960s fashion, wonderfully self-indulgent art school projects and a psychedelic oil light show at a student dance.

Its main character is a young male art school student who is drawn to a strangely distant seeming young woman at the student dance, who harangues him into giving him a lift home on his motorbike. However, the next week his fellow students tell him that the dance hasn’t happened yet and it’s actually on next weekend, after which he subsequently finds out that the young woman had died in a motor crash three weeks before.

He has an impending sense of doom and the next week at the dance when the young woman appears again, he tries to avoid her but also seems somehow aware that there is no avoiding fate and when he gives her a lift home again, they crash and die.

It had already been indicated that there was something preternatural about the young woman when she had previously mysteriously suddenly appeared on his motorbike as she waited expectantly for a lift home and, though not explained, she appears to possibly be an almost Sapphire and Steele-esque supernatural guardian tasked with ensuring the correct flowing of time and events.