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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • Magpahi, Paper Dollhouse and The Eccentronic Research Council – Finders Keepers/Bird Records Nestings and Considerations of Modern Day Magic: Chapter 35 Book Images

    Magpahi EP-Alison Cooper-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryThe Watchbird Alluminate-Jane Weaver Septieme Soeur-Magapahi-Finders Keeepers Bird Records-album cover art

    “Alison Cooper, who often records under the name Magpahi, creates work which feels as though it exists in and has tumbled from an indefinable fabled time and place of its own creation, work which at times seems to have been created by or also tumbled from arcane and lost music boxes.

    Her recorded work includes the tremulously vocalled acid or psych-esque folk on the Magpahi EP compilation, released by Jane Weaver’s Bird Records in collaboration with Finders Keepers Records in 2008, which is a gathering of imagined poems and tales told in folk music refracted through a filter of woodland fantasia.

    The creation and transporting of its listener to an unknown or unknowable place can also be found in her more folk-orientated work as Magpahi on the album Watchbird Alluminate from 2011 where songs from Jane Weaver’s Fallen by Watchbird album released in 2010 are reimagined or reinterpreted, on which Magpahi reinterprets “My Soul Was Lost, My Soul Was Lost and No-One Saved Me”, imparting an otherworldly fabled atmosphere to the song.”

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    “On Devon Folklore Tapes Vol. IV – Rituals and Practices, released by Folklore Tapes in 20122 Magpahi’s contribution includes leftfield glacial otherly and exploratory folk pop, instrumentals and wordless singing as though captured by far away dusty recording mechanisms; in spirit it may not be a million miles away from work that say Broadcast or Cat’s Eyes might have created for the insular dreamscapes of Peter Strickland’s films.”

     Natural Supernatural Lancashire-Magpahi-Samandtheplants-DiM-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The CountryHood Faire record label-logo

    “As Alison or A. Cooper and collaborating with fellow sometimes Folklore Tapes collaborator and co-founder of the Hood Faire record label Sam McLoughlin, she has released two volumes of folkloric soundscapes called Natural/Supernatural Lancashire and Supernatural Lancashire Volume Two, released in 2009 and 2013 respectively by Finders Keepers Records.

    These are largely instrumental works (though just occasionally her voice will fleetingly appear) which create a soundtrack or an audiological tribute to the northern British Lancashire landscape and its stories…

    However, neither part is a straightforward pastoral view and on the Natural Lancashire side you can be immersed in the wheezing almost carny previous era world of “Stream Power” one second and then transported to the meadows via “Edder” the next.”

    Alison Cooper-Gwendolen Osmond-Crystal Mirrors-Folklore Tapes-Hood Faire

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    “Alison Cooper has also released work in collaboration with Gwendolen Osmond as Crystal Mirrors on a joint Folklore Tapes/Hood Faire released cassette in 2014, alongside contributing tracks as Magpahi to the compilation Mistletoe & Cold Winter Skies released by Was Ist Das? in 2014 and several A Year In The Country released themed compilations including The Forest/The Wald in 2016 and All The Merry Year Round and The Quietened Cosmologists in 2017.”

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    “The Magpahi EP, Natural/Supernatural Lancashire, Supernatural Lancashire Part Two and Watchbird Alluminate were all released by Finders Keepers Records or its collaborative sister label Bird Records, which is run by musician Jane Weaver.

    Both labels have proved to be a home for various often female-led or sung explorations of music that could very loosely be connected to folk but which wander amongst their own particular landscape of such things.

    This has taken in both modern, newly created work and also the release of archival material such as “O Willow Waly” by George Auric taken from 1961 film The Innocents which was released on 7” by Finders Keepers in 2013.

    Sung by Isla Cameron, it could be considered a precursor to the folk horror and soundtrack of the likes of The Wicker Man film from 1973 in the way that it draws from traditional music tropes to create beguilingly entrancing music which also summons a sense of the “other” out amongst rural climes.”

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    “Devon Folklore Tapes Vol. 4 – Rituals and Practices, as mentioned earlier was a split release by Magpahi and fellow Bird Records-released Paper Dollhouse, whose 2012 album A Box Painted Black is an experimental piece of music but as with much of Magpahi’s work it also contains an accessibility and/or a left field folk-pop sensibility.

    This album was made by Astrud Steehouder working as solo artist; it has been described as “dark gothic minimal folk” and at the time she listed her influences as:

    “…bewildering post nuclear landscapes, bleak fields, forests, thunderstorms and archaic industrial objects in the middle of nowhere…”

    As with Magpahi’s work, the album seems to belong to a time, place and landscape of its own. It comes across as having been recorded in some semi-lost wooden cottage, in an indefinable place and time and the noises and creaks of its habitat have seeped in and become part of the very fabric of the music.”

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    “Paper Dollhouse in part take their name from the intriguing rurally-set 1988 film Paperhouse and its themes of childhood dreams and nightmares of drawings come to life, which was previously made as a television series in 1972 called Escape into the Night, with both being based on Catherine Storr’s 1958 novel Marianne Dreams.”

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    “Bird Records also released the 2012 album 1612 Underture by The Eccentronic Research Council. This was a collaborative work by Adrian Flanagan and Dean Horner, who had previously worked in the fringes and left-of-centre areas of electronica and electronic pop via the likes of Kings Have Long Arms, Add N To (X) and I Monster, alongside renowned actress Maxine Peake.”

    Eccentronic Research Council-1612 Underture-Maxine Peake-Andy Votel-Bird Records-Jane Weaver-Finders Keepers Records-A Year In The Country 4

    “1612 Underture is a concept album which takes the form of a spoken word, soundtracked travelogue play, one that sometimes moves into more overtly song based moments; it is said to be “one part political commentary and feminist manifesto and two parts theatrical fakeloric sound poem”.

    The album’s subject matter is the historical persecution of the Pendle Witches in the early 17th century and as suggested by the word “fakeloric” in the album’s description, throughout its observations on a contemporary voyage of discovery and pilgrimage it also interweaves historical events, folklore and imaginings and reimaginings of past events.

    During the telling of its stories the album draws more than a few analogies with modern-day times: moral panics, folk devils and economic/ political goings on and shenanigans then and now. All of which are wrapped up in a warm, woozy, acoustic and synthesized analogue take on hauntological folk music, primarily voiced by Maxine Peake.”

     The Eccentronic Research Council-klunkclick video still-2 The Eccentronic Research Council-klunkclick video still-1

    “The album was accompanied by an extended accompanying video/ film by kluncklick (who also worked with Jane Weaver on her The Fallen by Watch Bird album from 20105).

    This is rather slickly done on a (presumably) shoestring and handful of pennies budget.

    Although using footage of actual people, it is not dissimilar in a way to a semi-animated children’s programme from years gone by, while also reminding us somewhat of Chris Marker’s film La Jetée (1962) in that it is built up largely from still images rather than traditional movement.

    You could call it a fumée: the comic strips that are put together using actors or the book adaptations of films that were made up of stills that in previous decades were published fairly regularly.

    While the album’s themes are quite serious and it is experimental in spirit, this is also a record which is deeply rooted in electronic pop and has been called non-populist pop.

    “Another Witch Is Dead” is pop music, unabashedly so, including ear worm-like choruses, in particular the rhyming couplet “It’s a middle class vendetta, on women who are better”, which is a fine piece of class-related lyricism.

    Today, often even within more leftfield music, it is relatively unusual to hear overt comment on class politics and relations and so in this sense 1612 Underture is somewhat refreshing. It also considers analogies with previous era’s magic and belief systems and that of today, describing mobile phones as being “modern-day magic on a monthly tariff ”.


    Online images to accompany Chapter 35 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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


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  • A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 2; Chapters 14-26

    The second of Chris Lambert’s Wyrd Kalendar mixes is now online – visit it here.

    This mix is one of a set of four, in each of which he explores/plans on exploring 13 chapters of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    They’re rather lovely and create an “otherly” soundscape world to travel with and drift off into.

    This episode includes music by Broadcast, Cat’s Eyes, Virginia Astley, Brian Eno, Kate Bush, Jim Williams, David Colohan, Howlround, Keith Seatman, Loose Capacitor, The Twelve Hour Foundation, Shirley Collins, Stealing Sheep, Leyland Kirby, David Sylvian, Fairport Convention, Roy Redmond, Nirvana (no, the other one), Luke Haines, Tim Hart and Maddy Prior – alongside soundtracks, clips and a narration which is both humorously entertaining and subtly eerie.

    Below are the chapters Mix 2 explores.

    An I-Spy game for all the family; if you hop over the Ghost Box stile and wander off on this second part of the journey, see if you can match the above musicians/groups with their appropriate chapters.

    Here’s a clue to start you off – David Colohan and Keith Seatman’s tracks from the Mix were included on the A Year In The Country released album The Quietened Bunker.

    14. Christopher Priest’s A Dream of Wessex: Twentieth Century Slipstream Echoes

    15. Sapphire & Steel and Ghosts in the Machine: Nowhere, Forever and Lost Spaces within Cultural Circuitry

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

    17. The Quietened Bunker, Waiting For The End of the World, Subterranea Britannica, Bunker Archaeology and The Delaware Road: Ghosts, Havens and Curious Repurposings Beneath Our Feet

    18. From The Unofficial Countryside to Soft Estate: Edgeland Documents, Memories and Explorations

    19. The Ballad of Shirley Collins and Pastoral Noir: Tales and Intertwinings from Hidden Furrows

    20. “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased): Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth

    21. Uncommonly British Days Out and the Following of Ghosts: File under Psychogeographic/Hauntological Stocking Fillers

    22. Gone to Earth: Earlier Traces of an Otherly Albion

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

    24. Luke Haines: Our Most Non-Hauntological Hauntologist

    25. Tim Hart, Maddy Prior and “The Dalesman’s Litany”: A Yearning for Imaginative Idylls and a Counterpart to Tales of Hellish Mills

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


    Chris Lambert is the author of Tales from the Black Meadow and co-author with Andy Paciorek of Wyrd Kalendar – details at the links below.

    “When Professor R. Mullins of the University of York went missing in 1972 on the site of the area known as Black Meadow atop of the North Yorkshire Moors, he left behind him an extensive body of work that provided a great insight into the folklore of this mysterious place.

    “Writer Chris Lambert has been rooting through Mullins’ files for over ten years and now presents the Tales from the Black Meadow collection of weird and macabre tales.”



    1. Tales From The Black Meadow – the book (or few), the CD (or few), the project
    2. The Wyrd Kalendar book by Chris Lambert and Andy Paciorek (published by Wyrd Harvest Press / Folk Horror)
    3. A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1; Chapters 1-13 at Mixcloud
    4. Mix 1 at the Wyrd Kalendar website
    5. A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 2; Chapters 14-26 at Mixcloud
    6. Mix 2 at the Wyrd Kalendar website
    7. Tales from the Black Meadow – the book by Chris Lambert
    8. Chris Lambert’s own writing website

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

    1. A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1; Chapters 1-13
    2. The Quietened Bunker
    3. The A Year In The Country Wandering Through Spectral Fields book


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  • Peter Mitchell’s Memento Mori and Bugs in Utopia: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 35/52

    Memento Mori-Peter Mitchell-RRB Photobooks

    Peter Mitchell’s book Memento Mori, originally published in 1990 and reissued in 2016 by RRB PhotoBooks, is a documenting of the demolition Quarry Hill Flats, which was a large housing estate in Leeds (a Northern city in the UK), that was built in the 1930s and which was built using advanced, then revolutionary construction techniques and  the estate had a distinctive modern continental design.

    The flats were built as part of a “great social experiment” and intended to house an entire urban community. However soon after being built the flats were shown to have a number of serious infrastructure problems and this “daring vision for the future” began to crumble, literally.

    Memento Mori-Peter Mitchell-RRB Photobooks-2

    Peter Mitchell arrived in Leeds just in time to record that demolition, with the resulting book not just being a photographic record but also effectively a tribute to those who engineered and built the Flats and those who lived there. It includes extensive archive material and reflects on the ideas behind the Flats, their construction, eventual demise and the reasons why they failed.

    In connection to reflections on the demise of such building projects, in the Preface Bernard Crick says:

    “Nobody welcomes decay, in the contrary; but contemplating such sights sets off a slow burning mixture of nostalgia and hope for a better future. These are somewhat conflicting emotions but if one is honest, it is useless to deny that many of us live with them both.”

    Which is a conflicting set of emotions which could well be applied to much of, for example, a contemporary appreciation of brutalist architecture and hauntological orientated work and interests, particularly in relation to lost progressive futures.

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    The practical problems that caused the flats to fail include that the automatic waste disposal gummed up and was very costly and difficult to clean, the prefabricated steel and concrete blocks used in the Flats’ construction were either defective or poorly welded, leading to water seepage and rust and by the early 1960s repairs were going to cost more than building an entire new estate.

    Alongside which due to the outbreak of the war many of the intended communal facilities were never completed.

    These practical problems were accompanied by (and possibly in part were some of the causes of) vandalism and antisocial behaviour which plagued the Flats.

    By the 1950s the flats were infamous and in the 1970s the decision was made to demolish this “stone jungle”.

    Memento Mori-Peter Mitchell-RRB Photobooks-4

    Memento Mori is a curious book: Peter Mitchell’s evocative photographs of the demolition and dereliction of the estate are interwoven with period photographs, blueprints, historical details, quotes, news clippings etc – all of which tell a tale of both the initial optimism in regards to the estate and its subsequent decline.

    Viewed now these various elements from different periods and their related optimism and sense of failure, defeat and sometimes anger seem to almost not connect with one another nor be records of the same place.

    In one spread, which is fairly indicative of much of the book, children are pictured on a slide and swings next to news reports of the playground’s vandalising, while on the opposite page is one of Peter Mitchell’s photographs which shows a semi-demolished mass of concrete and steel that was once one of entrance’s to the Flats.

    Adding pathos to that photograph, there is a small illustrated sign which contains an illustration of children playing with a ball and which appears to indicate that this was once an exit which lead to a play area.

    The way in which different elements from different time periods and levels of optimism are placed in close proximity to one another in the book create a sense of disjuncture, a fracturing of the traditional photographic book narrative, which may well be appropriate to and a reflection on the fate of the Estate itself.

    However, as Bernard Crick also says in the Preface, the book is:

    “…no easy polemic against utopianism or modernism in architecture and planning, even though Quarry Hill failed: it is only, if a polemic at all, a polemic against utopias that fail.”

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    When viewed now the aesthetics and grand intentions of creating an entire urban community in such mass housing projects appear to be nearer in spirit to a top-down imposed Soviet/Eastern Europe attempt at social engineering.

    As discussed in part by Bernard Click in the Preface, such projects in the UK may have had high and well minded ideals and initial intentions but they also seemed to ignore some of the often basic human needs or wishes for decent autonomous family units, home and hearth.

    They appeared in part to neglect or overlook the possibility that say more traditional individual houses may have been more wished for or appreciated by residents and that an accompanying sense of a “home of your own”, which such traditional housing may instill, could be more important to the people who actually lived in such homes than a romantic outsiders’ intellectual sense of the importance of building communities within and via large scale, flat orientated modernist social housing projects.


    Sample pages of Memento Mori at propagandaphotos
    Memento Mori at RRB PhotoBooks
    Peter Mitchell’s Strangely Familiar site

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    Ether Signposts #1/52a: Peter Mitchell’s Some Thing means Everything to Somebody


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  • Image AA/34

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • The Shildam Hall Tapes – Broadcasts and Reviews from an Imaginary Film

    A selection of links and excerpts from reviews etc of The Shildam Hall Tapes album:

    “Vic Mars contributes a woozy neoclassical dream sequence interspersed with snippets of vintage-style electronica; very lovely and totally in keeping with the album’s theme… The Heartwood Institute provide a foreboding piece of cinematic incidental music, its chilling and haunting atmosphere perfectly illustrating a seance taking part on the grounds of Shildam Hall… an engaging collection of dark, ethereal and psychedelic experimental sounds.”

    Kim Harten, Bliss Aquamarine

    “Morretti provides a marvellous piece in the Goblin/Fabio Frizzi manner that effortlessly conjures a title sequence of mists, coloured filters and Art Nouveau typefaces… (The Shildam Hall Tapes is) sinister, perfectly-pitched and leaving enough gaps in the scenario for the imagination to operate.”

    John Coulthart, feuilleton

    “Suggestioni ispiratrici e caratteri del contenuto della raccolta corrispondono appieno con l’idea di colonna sonora per un film che non è possibile vedere, ma certamente immaginare, attraverso la sensibilità di artisti in grado di creare mondi immaginari, distanti nello spazio e nel tempo, ma originati ancora una volta da presenze immanenti tra i campi della Britannia rurale di questi anni.”

    Raffaello Russo, Music Won’t Save You

    (Read a fractured English translation here.)

    “‘Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden’ is all knotweed and nettle, tendrils of melody and petals of expectation… Circle/Temple’s ‘Maze Sequence’ leads you through the silent hedges, and leaves you in the middle.  You’ll find your own way out eventually.  Probably… The Shildham Hall Tapes leaves you convinced that you remember the show; can picture certain scenes; might even recall the unease you felt when you went up to bed when it finished.  Which is an startling achievement in itself.  The fact that you now have proof that it happened is even more amazing.”

    Dave Thompson, Goldmine

    “The sounds venture into reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld… Just as film is the visceral, visual experience needed to startle and stimulate the eyes, The Shildam Hall Tapes is the appropriate aural experience needed to caress and connect the ears to everything they are listening to.”

    Eoghan Lyng, We Are Cult

    “…just as strange and accomplished as you’d expect… every track unsettles and enthralls in equal measure.”

    Ben Graham, Shindig magazine, issue 82

    “‘Day 12, Scene 2, Take 3: Hoffman’s Fall’… is a gorgeously woven twilight apparition that manages seamlessly to align itself to the outer points of the ghost box realm, amid a becoming spectral haze, these chiming serenades shimmer in and out of focus to play tic tac toe with both the enchanted and the eerie.”

    Mark Barton, The Sunday Experience

    The album can also be found in Simon Reynolds June 2018 Hauntology Parish Newsletter, in the company of the likes of Moon Wiring Club, Bloxham Tapes’ releases and Andrew Pekler’s Phantom Islands.

    Visit that here.


    And now to the radio etc broadcasts:

    Vic Mars “Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden” was featured on Eledir Seren’s Mind De-Coder show, which is described as:

    “Your weekly fix of new and classic psychedelia, acid folk, krautrock, hauntology and avant-garde going’s on, segued into a continuous mix for listening pleasure.”

    On that episode of the show you’ll find Vic Mar’s track amongst the likes of the Trunk Records release Music for Children, Lisa Knapp, Halo Maud, Folklore Tapes, Revbjelde and The Advisory Circle. Well worth taking a “trip” to visit.

    The show was originally broadcast on Waiheke Radio, is archived at Mixcloud here and accompanying notes can be found at the Mind De-Coder site.

    Verity Sharp played The Heartwood Institute’s “Shildam Hall Seance” on the 23rd August 2018 episode of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction:

    “A continuous curveball selection from the fringes of alternative music. Featuring the critically acclaimed voice of a rising star in English folk Jackie Oates, spontaneous explorations on repetition by Luke Wyland and reflections on an imaginary feature film lost to aristocratic decadence and psychedelic influences called The Shildam Hall Tapes, the latest release by A Year In The Country.”

    Produced by Rebecca Gaskell, that show will be listenable to until around the 27th of September. Visit it here.

    Pulselovers’, Listening Center’s and Gavino Moretti’s tracks from The Shildam Hall Tapes were played on Sunrise Ocean Bender (and where in a further connection to cinematic reimaginings they shared the airwaves with Sinoia Cave’s soundtrack to the “Reagan era fever dream” Beyond the Black Rainbow).

    Originally broadcast on WRIR FM, the show is archived here.

    Vic Mars’ and Listening Center’s tracks from the album were played on Flatland Frequencies:

    “Playing the finest in electronic explorations, from early electroacoustic and musique concréte, to new and upcoming ambient and drone.”

    Originally broadcast on Future Radio 107.8 FM, the show is archived here.

    Field Line Cartographer’s “The Computer” was included in the 29th July 2018 episode of the Gated Canal Community Radio, which is ably hosted by the folk responsible for the Front & Follow and The Geography Trip labels, who respectively have been “offering a firm handshake to sonic reverie since 2007” and set out to explore “the exotic beside the mundane; tin foil glinting in the magpie’s mouth.”

    Originally hosted by Reform Radio, the show is archived here.

    Gavino Morretti’s “Dawn of a New Generation”, David Colohan’s “How We’ll Go Out” and Pulselovers’ “The Green Leaves of Shildam Hall” can be found amongst the spectral electronic and otherly folk wanderings of The Unquiet Meadow radio show.

    Originally broadcast on WSFM-LP 103.3 FM, the show’s playlists are archived here, here and here.

    Further details on the show can be found here.

    Sproatly Smith’s “Galloping Backwards” was featured in a mix by The Ephemeral Man (alongside various musical accompaniments for a saggy old cloth cat created by misters Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate) which was released as part of issue 3 of the Wyrd Daze online zine/magazine.

    That mix is archived at Mixcloud. Issue 3 of Wyrd Daze can be visited here.

    And finally, in a rounding the circle manner, Vic Mars’ “Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden” was played on the You, the Night & the Music radio show, which is hosted by Mat Handley of Pulselovers.

    Originally broadcast on Sine FM, the show is archived at Mixcloud here.


    Thanks as always to everybody concerned.


    The Shildam Hall Tapes contains “reflections on an imaginary film”:

    “Little is known of the film’s plot but several unedited sections of the film and its soundtrack have surfaced, found amongst old filmstock sold as a job lot at auction – although how they came to be there is unknown.

    The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was.”

    The album features work by Gavino Morretti, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Circle/Temple, A Year In The Country, The Heartwood Institute, David Colohan, Listening Centre and Pulselovers.

    More details can be viewed here.


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  • The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water – Public Information Films and Lost Municipal Paternalisms: Chapter 34 Book Images

    Dark and Lonely Water-2-A Year In The Country

    “The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water is considered something of a “classic” public information film from 1973, some of which are renowned for having scared the heck out of a generation of youngsters through their forthright, graphic or unsettling atmospheres and depictions of potential dangers.

    Public information films were a curiously blunt tool used to educate the population, often on matters of health and safety and were issued by the government-run and funded Central Office of Information in the UK from 1945 until 2005.

    The structure, naming and concept puts me in mind of a previous era’s underfunded, unsophisticated benign paternalism, of a “we know best” tea and limp sandwiches committee which was in charge of a sub-sub-Orwellianism, though it actually seems to have sprung forth in part from that previous era’s social consensus orientated wish to help, nurture and protect its citizens.”

    Charlie-Says-Public-Information-Films-DVD covers

    Scarred For Life-Volume One-Book-1Scarred For Life-book-contents-c

    “…public information films have been collected in various commercially released DVDs, including a series by the BFI. They are also featured extensively in the Scarred For Life – Growing Up in the Dark Side of the Decade – Volume One: The 1970s book by Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence, published in 2017 and which focuses on ongoing unsettled reverberations from these films and related period culture.”

     The_wicker_man_film_1973-final sequence

    “Revisiting The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, which was intended to warn children of the dangers of playing near water, there is a striking similarity with that other cultural artifact of 1973, The Wicker Man, at the point when Lord Summerisle tells Sergeant Howie of the characteristics he had that made him ideal as their sacrifice/source of plant renewal:

    “I am the spirit of dark and lonely water, ready to trap the unwary, the show-off, the fool…”
    (from The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water).

    “A man who would come here of his own free will. A man who has come here with the power of a king by representing the law… A man who has come here as a fool…” (from The Wicker Man).””

    The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water-Public Information film still

    “(The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water) invokes a sense of the journey that UK society has gone on, from youngsters playing amongst a culture’s debris, in the muddy puddles and potential deathtraps of its discarded places and edgelands (although that word did not yet exist at the time of the film’s release) to a time of much more intensified commodification and birthday trips to softplay centres and so on…

    … it could be seen as a document produced during or transmission from one of the times when society was battling over its future shape, order and social consensus; hence the link to the themes and interests of hauntological study and work and associated yearnings for forgotten futures and municipally organised utopias.”


    Online images to accompany Chapter 34 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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


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  • The Quietened Mechanisms – Preorder and Release Dates

    Preorder 11th September 2018. Released 2nd October 2018. 

    The album is an exploration of abandoned and derelict industry, infrastructure, technology and equipment that once upon a time helped to create, connect and sustain society.

    It wanders amongst deserted factories, discarded machinery, closed mines, mills and kilns and their echoes and remains; taking a moment or two to reflect on these once busy, functioning centres of activity and the sometimes sheer scale or amount of effort and human endeavour that was required to create and operate such structures and machines, many of which are now just left to fade away.


    Featuring work by:
    The Heartwood Institute
    Quakers Stang
    Embertides (The Hare And The Moon / United Bible Studies)
    Dom Cooper (Rif Mountain / The Owl Service / Bare Bones / Circle/Temple)
    Field Lines Cartographer
    Grey Frequency
    The Soulless Party (Tales from the Black Meadow)
    Keith Seatman
    Listening Center
    Sproatly Smith
    Time Attendant
    Vic Mars
    A Year In The Country


    Preorders will be available at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp.


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  • Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Part 2 – Totemic Spectres and Signifiers: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 34/52


    In Part 1 of this post I wrote about Langdon Clay’s photography book Cars – New York City, 1974-1976, which documents cars in that location and period parked at night, with very few people present in the images and how the photographs appear to have an almost spectral, eerie quality and that they could be seen as totemic signifiers of a country struggling in a socio-economic sense with a sense of its direction, power and virility.

    At the time the photographs were taken America was indeed struggling with the fallout of 1960s progressive utopianism, which had curdled and in part turned towards a more sometimes nihilistic mindset, alongside the malaise and disenchantment caused by government scandals such as Watergate and the tail end of an unsuccessful and physically and psychically wounding conflict in Vietnam.

    In this sense, to a degree they could be seen as a parallel reflection of some of the themes of British hauntology and the way it often focuses on and draws from a not dissimilar period in time and a related sense of social, economic and political schism or fracturing and lost futures – here cars that contain echoes of populuxe aesthetics, a connected optimistic philosophy and/or an almost strutting presence and expression of virility are now often ghosts or spectres of their former selves.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-7

    The Friends of Eddie Coyle-Peter Yates-Robert Mitchum-Criterion blu-ray-cover The Friends of Eddie Coyle-Peter Yates-Robert Mitchum-Criterion blu-ray-inside

    This sense of muscle car’s representing a tired virility can also be seen in two different era’s film adaptations of George V. Higgins novels; in Peter Yate’s 1973’s film adaptation of The Friend’s of Eddie Coyle the cars are relatively contemporary but as with the not dissimilar period depicted in Langdon Clay’s book they often appear a little worn, while the background millieux and atmosphere in which they are set depicts a country or society which is in a malaise, has lost its way and its inhabitants are often having to scrabble for every few cents whenever and however they can, whatever the cost or potential threats.

    Accompanying and reflecting this, Robert Mitchum in the lead role, in contrast to the strident sense of presence and power he possessed and portrayed in films made in previous decades, has the air of a big, tired, world-weary bear of a man for whom things just don’t or won’t quite ever work out for.

    Killing Them Softly-2012 film-car 1 Killing Them Softly-2012 film-car 2

    In Andrew Dominik’s 2012 contemporarily set film adaptation of Killing Them Softly, a similar style and era of muscle car as those pictured in The Friend’s of Eddie Coyle appear. However in the later film adaptation they are often much worse for wear and/or feature patched repairs.

    In a cyclical manner in Killing Them Softly they also are part of a representation and reflection of a society suffering from a sense of disenchantment and struggling financially due to being mired in problems connected to economic and other issues, resulting, as in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, in the characters in the film also having to scrabble, barter and take ill-advised routes out of their problems.

    In the film even some of those involved in larger scale organised crime are depicted as being penny pinching and budget lead, while also being constrained and restricted by their own form of corporate bureaucratic paralysis, in a manner which appears to be a parallel with and comment on more mainstream society, government and business.

    Further reflecting the sense of societal malaise depicted in the films, in both The Friend’s of Eddie Coyle and Killing Them Softly, the 1970s muscle/post-populuxe cars seem to often be featured amongst scrubby and even abandoned seeming edgelands and post-industrial spaces – even when the locations are more overtly urban there is a sense that you are looking at a literal and metaphoric hinterland.

    Returning to Langdon Clay’s work, New York in particular during the period in which the photographs were taken was struggling socially and economically, being down at heel, financially strapped and near bankruptcy.

    (The resulting cheap rents and effectively cracks or spaces that opened up in the fabric of the city were some of the factors which allowed the flourishing of what would become punk and new wave – Blondie, The Ramones, CBGBs etc.)

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-5

    It is strange just how beguiling, alluring and beautiful these photographs of often beaten up and well-worn cars are: as writer and critic Luc Sante says in accompanying text, the cars are:

    “…arranged like mugshots but lit like Hollywood stars.”

    (Although actually they were not lit by the photographer – rather as Langdon Clay says: “The night becomes its own colour.”)

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-9

    These cars sometimes initially appear almost nattily dapper, particularly as some of them have noticeably shining, lush wax finishes but when viewed closer the viewer begins to notice the signs of lives well lived.

    Connected to that quote by Luc Sante, the photographs in the book remind me of author Peter Doyle’s curating of Australian police photographs of those in custody from the 1920s which were collected in the book Crooks Like Us – in those photographs the subjects viewed now appear nearer to say characters in a Hollywood noir rather than those residing at the authorities’ leisure.

    In Langdon Clay’s Cars there is something about these vehicles which makes them seem as though they might be ne’er do wells; brooding, just taking time out but possibly up to no good some time in the future.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-3

    The book itself, while not cheap, is something of a beautifully produced, hefty tome and the “always the same and always different” nature of the photographs lends itself well to losing oneself in its physicality and the atmosphere it conjures and builds as you turn the pages.


    Cars: New York City, 1974-1976 Langdon Clay’s own site
    Sample pages of Cars at Joseph Chadleck’s photograph book site
    And at Steidl
    The Friends of Eddie Coyle at the Criterion Collection
    The Friends of Eddie Coyle at Eureka!/The Masters of Cinema
    The Killing Them Softly trailer
    Crooks Like Us

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Week #22/52: Fractures Signals #1; Flickerings From Days Of Darkness
    2) Fractures – Night and Dawn Editions Released
    3) Week #24/52: Fractures Signals #3; A Dybukk’s Dozen Gathering (/Looping?) From Around These Parts
    4) Chapter 7 Book Images: 1973 – A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 33/52: Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Post-Populuxe Ghosts That Brood While the City Sleeps


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  • Image AA/33

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

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  • Symptoms and Images – Hauntological Begetters, the Uneasy Landscape and Gothic Bucolia: Chapter 33 Book Images


    BFI-Flipside-requiem_for_a_village-film stillBeat Girl-BFI Flipside-Christopher Lee-Gillian Hills

    “The British Film Institute’s Flipside strand of DVD/Blu-ray releases and cinema events began in 2009.
    Its intention is said to chart “the untold history of British film” and it has taken in a wide variety of the fringes of film and cinematic work which for various reasons has fallen outside the critically accepted and/ or acknowledged canon of cinema.

    The DVD/Blu-ray releases have included what could be considered subterranean, exotica or mondo cinema, forgotten or lost film, arthouse and odd b-movies and occasional strands of unsettled or otherly pastoralism.

    These cinematic outcasts have been sympathetically restored and released with extended extras and notes.”

    BFI-Symptoms-Flipside-1974-bluray and DVD cover and title image

    “In 2016 the 1974 José Ramón Larraz film Symptoms was released as part of the Flipside strand of films.

    As a brief precis of the film’s history and plot, it was produced in 1973, came out in 1974, received a fair amount of critical attention and praise and then largely disappeared for the best part of forty years, apart from via privately circulated bootleg copies.

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

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

    “In a Record Collector magazine review from 2016 it was described as “…gothic-bucolic… the sort of thing that begat hauntology and Peter Strickland…”, ending on “…it’s a revelation”.

    The phrase gothic-bucolic connects with certain aspects of A Year In The Country wanderings, particularly in terms of views of the landscape that deal with an unsettled flipside or subterranean, darker-hued bucolia.”

    Symptoms-1974-BFI-A Year In The Country-3The Duke Of Burgundy-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-1

    “Peter Strickland does not appear to mention the film in any interviews, nor lists it as one of the films that he noted as having fed into, influenced or were an inspiration for his 2014 film The Duke of Burgundy.

    However, in many ways Symptoms appears connected with that film, seeming to be in part an unintended companion or sister piece.

    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, possibly slightly aristocratic or upper class, decadent or luxuriant manner and a depiction of the increasing tensions and dysfunctions of their relationship.”

    Symptoms-1974-BFI-A Year In The Country

    The Duke Of Burgundy-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-2

    “While the sense of connection and even sisterhood is increased by Angela Pleasance, who plays the lead in Symptoms and who bears a degree of physiognomic similarity to Chiara D’Anna who plays one of the main characters in The Duke Of Burgundy.”

    0029-Deborah Turbeville Past Imperfect Book-A Year In The Country 1

    “Symptoms also brings to mind the work of fashion photographer Deborah Turbeville and the use in her photographs of crumbling textures, decaying glamour and grandeur, alongside a certain shared languor to its characters and the use in both of edge of rural isolation settings.”

    Symptoms-1974-BFI-A Year In The Country-2

    “…in Symptoms there is an underlying sense of dread, the viewer can at points or to a degree relax, sink into and enjoy its views of nature and escape. Such elements are very much part of the film’s enclosed, self-contained, claustrophobic world which is all overhanging branches and wooded enclosure rather than wide-open spaces.

    Here and there light may break through the trees but it seems to only just be breaking through, to be almost battling or momentary.

    And while the viewer can appreciate the natural beauty the film contains, it also instills a sense of “never has the British countryside been so quiet and calm and yet so unnourishing.””

     Images-1972-Robert Altman-Sussanah York-film-quarterly-winter-1972-1973

    Images-Robert Altman-Arrow bluray cover and film still

    Images-1972-Robert Altman-Sussanah York-film-3

    “Symptoms shares a number of similarities with its almost cinematic period contemporary Images, a Robert Altman film from 1972: in both films the main female protagonists undergo extreme mental disturbance with somewhat deadly results, while living in largely isolated rurally based homes.

    However, whereas Symptoms has a more subtly fractured dreamlike quality in the way it expresses such things and atmospheres, Images has a more overt, ongoing literal and graphic expression of those disturbances.”

    Images-1972-Robert Altman-Sussanah York-film-1

    “As with Symptoms it is a study of the fracturing of a mind in an isolated rural setting, amongst a landscape that should contain bucolic ease, escape and rest but that underlyingly could be seen to represent and capture a sense of 1970s psychic malaise.

    In part that may be because despite the rural setting, both films have an understated murky, subdued colour palette, which as previously mentioned, seems to have been prevalent around the time of their making.”

    Images-1972-Robert Altman-Sussanah York-film-7

    “Also, within both films the interior scenes of the country houses are claustrophobic, confined, dark spaces, seemingly worlds unto themselves, decorated in what could be described as a gothic, bohemian, Hammer Horror mansion bric-a-brac style.”


    Online images to accompany Chapter 33 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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


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  • Langdon Clay’s Cars – New York City, 1974-1976 – Part 1 – Post-Populuxe Ghosts That Brood While the City Sleeps: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 33/52

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-1

    At first glance the photography book Cars: New York City, 1974-1976 by Langdon Clay, published in 2016 by Steidl, can seem like something of a cuckoo in the often pastoral nest of A Year In The Country

    However parallel stands could be connected between it, European hauntology and lost spectres of the past…

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-2

    This book focuses exclusively on nighttime photographs of parked cars, in the city and period mentioned in the title.

    Looking through the book it is as though the population of the world has disappeared, leaving only these automobiles and as the book progresses the viewer can find themselves beginning to question if the cars are merely vehicles/vessels for transport or are they living entities themselves – they instill a sense of being ghosts, both sentient and yet not.

    However these are not the friendly, anthropomorphised “Cars” of Pixar fame.

    Eerie is a word that has been used in connection with the photographs and that would seem appropriate – there is something subtly disquieting about these brooding, alone, nighttime inhabitants.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-4

    There are very few people in the whole book and where they appear they are not captured in sharp detail: they appear as a blurred figure in a diner which stands alone and apart from the city and could be from both the 1950s and/or the 1970s.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-10

    While in another photograph the faceless person pictured in a car, although probably the result of late night lighting conditions and a related long film exposure, here seems to edge towards a sense of being trapped, a form of possession, horror films etc.

    There are occasionally signs of human habitation and activity – here and there lights are on in businesses and bars but rarely can anybody be seen inside nor entering or leaving and in a small number of photographs the lights of passing cars have been reduced to vapour like trails but these are few and far between.

    Accompanying which and returning the “eerie” atmosphere of the photographs, these images of empty streets in a teeming, heavily populated city induce a subtle sense of unease or dread, in a not dissimilar way to that in which John Carpenter has often used empty streets in his films, which although in the middle of densely built urban spaces seem to be isolated and alone.

    (And they possibly also connect to John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Christine and its central character which is a possessed, supernatural late 1950s American car.)

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-8

    Although book is page after page purely of stationery cars at night, it does not impart a sense of repetition. Rather the endlessly changing or sometimes almost morphing from one to another character of the cars and the small details in the backgrounds of the photographs keep the viewer entranced – the changing businesses that stand behind where the cars are parked, the fallout shelter sign next to a meat company and its inspection certificate and so forth.

    (It is surprising just how ubiquitous fallout shelters appear to be in these photographs, with them reappearing a number of times, in a manner which viewed today seems both surreal and a potent reminder of the threat of destruction which populations then lived under.)

    Most of the cars in the photographs are “civilians” – cars for personal use – but one image features a police car which as a symbol of power/authority seems to be something of an interloper in amongst what is otherwise the empty frontier like nighttime city depicted in the book.

    One factor which decidedly separates the photographs and the cars in the book from today is the capturing of signs of rust, advanced wear etc – something which you rarely seem to see today in cars.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-11

    The non-American made cars – the recurring Volkswagen Beatles etc – also seem like interlopers amongst what are often muscle car-esque and post-populuxe American vehicles.

    (The phase muscle car is generally used to refer to often two-doored American sports cars that feature powerful engines and which are designed for high performance driving. They generally have an aesthetic which is quite distinct and separate from European sports cars.)

    Populuxe space age advertisement-1

    Populuxe illustration

    Populuxe was a consumer culture and aesthetic in the United States popular in the 1950s and 1960s – the term comes from a combination of popular and luxury. It is associated with consumerism and overlaps with mid-century modern architecture, Streamline Moderne, Googie architecture and other futuristic and Space Age influenced design aesthetics that were optimistic in nature, futurist and technology focused.

    Populuxe-Thomas Hine book covers-original and new edition
    (Two editions of Thomas Hine’s book on populuxe style and culture.)

    Viewed now such design can look like a vision of the future’s past – a more consumer and market lead, colourful and seemingly joyous American version of British progressive modernism and various related post-war state lead attempts at “building a better future” that included new towns, high rise flats and other brutalist architecture.

    Often the style/aesthetic of the cars pictured in Langdon Clay’s book seem to hark back to that earlier 1950s-1960s era in America; a time of expanding power and influence on the world stage, optimism and excess production capacity (delineated by automobile’s extravagant design and physical size) but in this context – late at night, alone, empty, battered, worn and with temporary often rough repairs –  they seem to imply a sense of a society and/or nation that was tired, weary, past a peak.

    Cars-New York City 1974-1976-Langdon Clay-Der Steidl-photography book-6

    To be continued in Part 2…


    Cars: New York City, 1974-1976 Langdon Clay’s own site
    Sample pages of Cars at Joseph Chadleck’s photograph book site
    And at Steidl
    The Vault of the Atomic Space Age
    Thomas Hine, author of the book Populuxe

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Week #22/52: Fractures Signals #1; Flickerings From Days Of Darkness
    2) Fractures – Night and Dawn Editions Released
    3) Week #24/52: Fractures Signals #3; A Dybukk’s Dozen Gathering (/Looping?) From Around These Parts
    4) Ether Signposts #42/52a: Matthew Lyons and a Populuxe Mid-Century Modern Parallel World
    5) Wanderings #48/52a: A Few Ether Gatherings… Ghost Signs, The Vault of the Atomic Space Age and Avantgardens
    6) Chapter 7 Book Images: 1973 – A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures


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  • Image AA/32

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations


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  • Poles and Pylons and The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society – A Continuum of Accidental Art: Chapter 32 Book Images

    The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society-A Year In The Country-3The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society-A Year In The Country-2

    “The internet has given space, nooks and crannies to all kinds and manner of niche interests, and it’s safe to say The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society and its website is one of the more niche, even amongst the further flung of such crannies.

    The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society declares that its aim is to celebrate “the glorious everyday mundanitude of these simple silent sentinels the world over”, which has a rather fine poetic lyricism and intent. Amongst its pages you will find numerous photographic documentings of telegraph poles, Pole of the Month, Pole Appreciation Day and reporting on photographic recordings of poles from around the world.

    A sense of appreciation is woven tightly throughout its collecting and documenting work; though sometimes cast in jovial language, there is a genuine love for these utilitarian objects, an appreciation of their accidental art.”

     Telegraph Poles and Electric Pylons-A Year In The Country-5

    “An accompanying but not formally connected website is Poles and Pylons (or to give its full name, Telegraph Poles and Electricity Pylons). At this site, communication poles and their lines of communication can be found alongside fellow land-striding brethren and their humming power carrying cables. It is possibly a more otherly/psychogeographical study and documenting than The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society but both sites and their related activities complement one another somewhat; the flipside of one another’s coins.”

       Electric Eden-Rob Young-book and CD cover

    “The images they contain can often be a literal expression of the juxtaposition of technology, modernity and the pastoral, of the old ways and the new, when they are photographed amongst the landscape. In this manner they connect with the cover image of the first printing of Rob Young’s Electric Eden book from 2010 which depicts a farmer ploughing the land in a traditional horse-drawn manner under the gaze of electricity pylons.”

     Disused Stations-Belmont railway station-3

    Subterranea Britannica-Cold War Bunkers-Nick Catford-The Royal Observer Corps Underground Monitoring Posts-Mark Dalton-logo and books

    “Further sites which act as archival documentation hubs and expressions of an appreciation of similar structures and aspects of infrastructure include Disused Stations, which focuses on closed British railway stations and Subterranea Britannica, which documents often forgotten or decommissioned underground structures and installations such as Cold War Monitoring Posts and bunkers.

    Sites such as these can also capture a sense of a lost age, of lost futures and a related melancholia or even paranoia at points with Subterranea Britannica.”

    The Music Library-Jonny Trunk-2005 and 2016-library music books-Fuel

    “The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society and Poles and Pylons also remind us of Jonny Trunk’s book collections of library music covers, The Music Library (2005 and revised in 2016).

    While library music was produced in the more overtly creative medium of music, it was still designed to serve a particular purpose, to be stock audio that could for example soundtrack or reflect particular moods in film and due to that utilitarian intent the appreciation of it has links with that of the more accidental art of poles and pylons.”

    Jeremy Dellar-Allan Kane-Folk Archive book

    Unsophisticated-Arts-Barbara Jones-Little Toller books-A Year In The CountryBlack Eyes & Lemonade exhibition-Barbara Jones

    “Also, a line could be drawn from such things to Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane’s Folk Archive book (2005) and exhibition, Barbara Jones Unsophisticated Arts book (1951) and the associated Black Eyes and Lemonade exhibition. These focus on, document and serve as an appreciation of creative work from everyday life that may have been created for utilitarian purposes and may not be considered art by its makers or wider society such as fairground ride decorations and cafe signs.”

    Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The CountrySoviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-2

    “Further lines could also be drawn to Christopher Herwig’s Soviet Bus Stops book published in 2015, in which he creates a photographic document and appreciation of Soviet era bus stops and their designs which seems to have a reach beyond their utilitarian purpose and to reflect the visions and far-reaching striving of an empire.”


    Online images to accompany Chapter 32 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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


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  • Detectorists, Layered Timeslips, Albion in the Overgrowth, The Unthanks and Secrets Never Told: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 32/52

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-1

    Previously at A Year In The Country I have written about “glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth” – referring to times when mainstream television has explored, expressed and/or reflected a sense of the undercurrents or flipsides of rural, pastoral and folk culture, its layered, sometimes semi-hidden tales and histories (something I have also referred to as a form of “otherly pastoralism” and which has also been known as “wyrd” culture).

    Along which lines is the ending of the first episode of Series 3 of the BBC television program Detectorists.

    In this sequence the two main characters, Andy and Lance, played by series creator Mackenzie Crook alongside Toby Jones, are in a field and just about to stop their metal detecting (which is their hobby) for the day, when one of them picks up a signal on his detector, which leads him to digging up a falconry whistle.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-2

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-3

    When he blows this whistle there is a sense of a chill, unsettled wind running through the air and in the sequence the whistle’s tone acts as a carrier signal back through time.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-4

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-5

    As they begin to leave, via the use of CGI, the field in which they are in and its trees slip back through time to many centuries ago and the edges of the screen start to flicker and vignette, while the colours become subtly muted and sepia-ish.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-6

    A youngish woman in white shroud like garments blows the same falconry whistle that Andy and Lance have just found and looks around to find the returning bird.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-7Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-8Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-9

    Off slightly in the distance from her, and it is not clear if she is watching across time or not, she observes a priest overseeing a ceremony in which a woman is burying a pot of gold coins in the ground – possibly as a form of tribute to the gods and spirits – accompanied by what I assume are her children and family.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-10Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-11Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-12Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-13

    Magpies watch the group and then time slips forward, the seasons change, a couple/young lovers, who via their clothing can be identified as being from centuries later, stroll across the field.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-14Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-15Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-16Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-17

    Time moves forward again and a farmer is shown ploughing the field and unearthing the buried coins behind him, which the magpies are drawn to and fly off with.

    Then time once more advances and the images fades back into to the present, with Andy and Lance being shown walking across the field once more, while the viewers now possess the knowledge that, unbeknownst to the detectorists, there is treasure in this field.

    (It is part of folklore that magpies are drawn to shiny objects and decorate their nests with them, although apparently research shows that this is not the case – more details at the “The science vs folklore of Magpies” link below. Also, I’m not sure, particularly in light of this research, whether the magpies flying off with the coins was filmed in the real world and involved an awful lot of patience or if this was also created via CGI – I expect I don’t really want to know, as it might remove some of the magic of this sequence.)

    The ending of the episode is not overtly dark, although there is something quietly unsettling about it, which may in part be due to the magpies lending a slightly ominous presence to proceedings.

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country

    The sequence is artfully done and somewhat entrancing, being enhanced by the English folk group The Unthanks evocative performance of Daved Dodd’s song The Magpie that soundtracks it and which in itself draws its lyrics from the traditional children’s nursery rhyme One For Sorrow:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for joy,
    Three for a girl,
    Four for a boy,
    Five for silver,
    Six for gold,
    Seven for a secret,
    Never to be told.
    Eight for a wish,
    Nine for a kiss,
    Ten for a bird,
    You must not miss.

    The first known recording of this nursery rhyme dates back to John Brand’s Observations on Popular Antiquities in Lincolnshire in 1780, when it was just four lines:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for mirth,
    Three for a funeral
    And four for birth

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-4

    One of the earliest known versions to extend this was published in 1846, with variations, in Michael Aislabie Denham’s Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for mirth
    Three for a funeral,
    Four for birth
    Five for heaven
    Six for hell
    Seven for the devil, his own self

    Which adds something of an almost folk horror like aspect to the rhyme.

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-2

    Along which lines, the lyrics to Magpie as sung by The Unthanks are as follows:

    One’s for sorrow
    Two’s for joy
    Three’s for a girl and
    Four’s for a boy
    Five’s for silver
    Six for gold
    Seven’s for a secret never told
    Devil devil I defy thee
    Devil devil I defy thee
    Devil devil I defy thee

    Oh the magpie brings us tidings
    Of news both fair and fowl
    She’s more cunning than the raven
    More wise than any owl
    For she brings us news of the harvest
    Of the barley we done called
    And she knows when we’ll go to our graves

    And how we shall be born

    One’s for sorrow
    Two’s for joy
    Three’s for a girl and
    Four’s for a boy
    Five’s for silver
    Six for gold
    Seven’s for a secret never told


    In this episode of Detectorists closing sequence the version of the nursery rhyme from above which has ten “for”s is not completed, rather in the song Magpie it ends on “Seven for a secret, Never to be told”, which in this context, along with the verse where the magpie is attributed with prescience, helps to invoke a sense of a land layered and possibly even haunted by its secrets, treasures and past events.

    Johnny Flynn-Detectorists-single artwork cover

    Which connects to Johnny Flynn’s theme song for the series, which explores not dissimilar themes, alongside a related sense of modern-day seeking and searching (related to which, as I say in the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, Detectorists is in part “a portrait of people just trying to make the most of things while hopefully adding some magic to their lives”):

    Will you search through the lonely earth for me
    Climb through the briar and bramble
    I’ll be your treasure

    I felt the touch of the kings and the breath of the wind
    I knew the call of all the song birds
    They sang all the wrong words
    I’m waiting for you, I’m waiting for you
    Will you swim through the briny sea for me
    Roll along the ocean’s floor
    I’ll be your treasure
    I’m with the ghosts of the men who can never sing again
    There’s a place follow me
    Where a love lost at sea
    Is waiting for you
    Is waiting for you
    (The lyrics to Johnny Flynn’s Detectorists.)

    The sequence also sets in motion the ending of this apparently final series of Detectorists, where (and hopefully not to give too much away) Andy and Lance finally seems to find some of what they have been seeking; their treasure both literally and in the form of a more settled sense of belonging and their hopefully rightful places in the world.

    Programme Name: Detectorists series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Varde (ORION BEN), Louise (LAURA CHECKLEY), Lance (TOBY JONES), Andy (MACKENZIE CROOK), Terry (GERARD HORAN), Hugh (DIVIAN LADWA), Russell (PEARCE QUIGLEY) - (C) Channel X North/Treasure Trove/Lola Entertainment - Photographer: Chris Harris

    Detectorist Season 3, Episode 1 ending featuring The Unthanks
    Johnny Flynn’s Detectorists
    The science vs folklore of magpies

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #146/365: Glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth
    2) Day #274/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth…
    3) Day #275/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth (#2)… becometh a fumetti…
    4) Day #316/365: The Detectorists; a gentle roaming in search of the troves left by men who can never sing again
    5) Wanderings #19/52a: The Folk Roots Of Peak Time Comedians From Back When / Wandering The Layers
    6) Chapter 20 Book Images: “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth
    7) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52: Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations


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  • Image AA/31

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations


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  • Folkloric Photography – A Lineage of Wanderings, Documentings and Imaginings: Chapter 31 Book Images

    John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-5John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-4

    “There is an area of photography which concerns itself with documents of British folkloric rituals and costumes.

    A starting point for such things is Sir Benjamin Stone’s work in the late 19th and early 20th century, when he photographed British traditional customs, collected in book form in A Record of England: Sir Benjamin Stone and the National Photographic Record Association 1897 -1910, which was published in 2007.

    The people, times and places in Benjamin Stone’s photographs seem as though they belong to somewhere now impossibly distant from our own times…

    Alongside this they can also possess an air of surreality: in one photograph a stuffed figure is shown as if it is floating in the air amongst the foliage of a tree; dressed in a white flowing dress its face and hands are completely obscured or replaced by what appear to be harvest crops.”

     John Benjamin Stone-A Record of England-folk customs and traditions-A Year In The Country-1Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-2

    “Other photographs contain numerous stag’s antlers worn as part of ritual costume.

    This, along with the challenging stance and stares of their subjects, lend them a folk horror aspect, almost as though they are a glimpse forwards and backwards to the transgressive rituals of the villagers in 1970 Play for Today television drama Robin Redbreast.”

    Published by Gordon Fraser in 1977 ( Isbn 0900406704 ) OUT OF PRINT. I have a few new or nearly new copies left. I am happy to sign and dedicate copies Email me for prices.

    “Benjamin Stone’s work is an early point in a lineage that leads to more recent books which document British folkloric tradition, ritual and costume such as Homer Sykes Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs (1977), Sarah Hannant’s Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year (2011), Merry Brownfield’s Merry England – the Eccentricity of English Attire (2012) and Henry Bourne’s Arcadia Britannica: A Modern British Folklore Portrait (2015).”

     ONCE A YEAR, some Traditional British Customs. Isbn 0900406704

    “As a starting point, Homer Sykes Once a Year… is a collection of photographs from seven years of journeying around Britain and was reissued in 2016 by Dewi Lewis Publishing.

    As with sections of Benjamin Stone’s work, some of the photographs in Once a Year have a genuinely eerie or unsettlingly macabre air, particularly the cover photograph of the original edition which features the custom of burning tar barrel-carrying in Allendale, Northumberland.”

    Once a Year also acts as a document of period 1970s detail and style, while also capturing the way traditional customs existed in amongst such things…

    One of the key images in the book is of somebody completely enclosed in a Burry Man folkloric costume, which is made from sticky flower or seedheads, in a pub who is being helped to drink through a straw. It is a precise distilling and capturing of a particular moment in British life, full of subtle signifiers of a way of life which, while only being a few decades ago and not yet as inherently distant as the world captured by Benjamin Stone’s photographs, still seems to belong to a world very far apart from our own.”

     Mummers Maypoles and Milkmaids-Sarah Hannant-A Year In The Country 5

    Mummers Maypoles and Milkmaids-Sarah Hannant-A Year In The Country 3

    “In a number of ways Sarah Hannant’s Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids is similar to Once a Year in that both books are documentary photography social histories of the ongoing observance and enactment of British folk rituals…

    In Sarah Hannant’s book this positioning and juxtaposing is shown in photographs which, for example, picture somebody dressed in a straw bear folkloric costume next to a local metro supermarket and a fluorescent-clad safety officer next to carnival float queens.”

    Mummers Maypoles and Milkmaids-Sarah Hannant-A Year In The Country 6

    “Often the rituals pictured have a playful, dressing up, knockabout air but just once in a while something else seems to creep into the photographs, in particular in one photograph where the blackened faces of those engaged in and wearing the costume of folkloric rituals peer and appear through a pub window.”



    “Alongside Once a Year and Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids, Merry Brownfield’s Merry England is a book which utilises documentary photography via its photographs of its subjects in real world settings.

    At first glance and from the book’s cover, which features somebody dressed in traditional green man folk costume, it appears to be another book in this lineage, one which directly focuses on folkloric traditions and photographs of people in traditional folk costume forms the heart of the book with sections titled “Straw Bear”, “The Castleton Garland Day”, “Holly Man”, “Mummer’s Plays” and “Morris Dancers”.

    However, it also travels considerably further afield to encompass pop culture tribes and styles such as mod and people who appear to have tumbled from the page of The Chap magazine in “The Tweed Run” and “Vintage Style” sections.

    Alongside which it also documents the city-based London East End tradition of pearly kings and queens, the comic convention-esque costumes of attendees to the World Darts Championship, traditional Billingsgate fish market bobbin hats and a number of possibly more contentious hunting and aristocratic areas.”

     Henry Bourne-Arcadia Britannia-photographs-folklore-British-pearly kings and queens

    “Henry Bourne’s Arcadia Britannica takes a different approach to the above books in that, as its subtitle suggests, the book contains more formal posed portraits of those in folkloric costume.

    The photographs are described as being “shot in the wild” at various events and festivals but apart from the occasional appearance of grass beneath the feet of some of those in the photographs, due to the use of a blank white backdrop aesthetically they could be studio portraits.

    The white backdrop removes those in the photographs from the wider world and accompanied by the capturing of detail which is enabled by the formal posing and controlling of light sources it lends the project the air of an almost scientific recording of its subjects; through these choices of technique the book represents and contains a precise documenting of a particular point in folkloric time archived for future generations.

    While the book largely focuses on those wearing traditional folkloric costume, although less so than in Merry England it also branches out further to include Pearly King and Queen costumes, while also taking in practising witches and warlocks (and in an interconnected manner includes an introductory essay by Simon Costin, who is the director of the Museum of Witchcraft alongside being the founder and director of the Museum of British Folklore).

    Charles-Freger-Wilder-Mann-Dewi-Lewis-Publishing-book cover and photographs-folkore costume and ritual

    “All the above books and photography focus on the British isles but there are a number of books which carry out similar studies and documenting of folkloric rituals and costumes elsewhere in the world, one of which is Charles Fréger’s Wilder Mann: The Image of the Savage originally published in 2012. This takes as its theme:

    “The transformation of man into beast is a central aspect of traditional pagan rituals that are centuries old and which celebrate the seasonal cycle, fertility, life and death.”

    Reflecting such transformations, generally the images in the book are of costumes where the human features of their wearers are no longer visible, being much more hidden than many British folkloric costumes.”

     The abominable snowman-doctor who-A Year In The Country-1

    “In British folklore-focused photography and books the sense of unset- tling folk horror-esque undercurrents are more glimpses here and there; with Charles Fréger’s images such atmospheres are much more prevalent.

    Many of the costumes in his photographs could well be escapees or prototypes for the 1970s British BBC costume and creature effect department in terms of their design.They appear to be creatures from a forgotten Doctor Who episode from back then, possibly compatriots of the befurred yetis or abominable snowmen that had a nation’s children hiding behind the sofa.”

      Axel Hoedt-Fasnacht-Once A Year-Der Steidl-German folklore-A Year In The Country-rogues gallery collage 1

    “The images in Wilder Mann and the above books of British folkloric rituals often focus on documenting rurally-orientated or located events and customs. Axel Hoedt’s book Once a Year from 2013 shifts focus more exclusively to streets and towns, in particular the Swabian Alemannic carnival known as Fasnacht, Fastnacht or Fasnet, a custom in southwest Germany. The carnival is described in text which accompanies the book as being:

    “…when the cold and grim spirits of winter are symbolically hunted down and expelled. Every year around January and February processions of people make their way through the streets of Endingen, Sachsenheim, Kissleg, Singen, Wilfingen and Triberg dressed up lavishly as demons, witches, earthly spirits and fearful animals to enact this scene of symbolic expulsion.”

    The language used seems brutal and harsh; hunted down, expelled, expulsion, fearful.”

     Estelle Hanania-Glacial Jubile-Shelter Press-European folklore costume-1

    Estelle Hanania-Glacial Jubile-Shelter Press-European folklore costume-3Estelle Hanania-Glacial Jubile-Shelter Press-European folklore costume-8

    “In Estelle Hanania’s Glacial Jubilé book (2013), some of the European folkloric costumes and creatures from Wilder Mann seem at points to reappear and breach the rural/urban divide, but this time they can seem like alien invaders as they are shown advancing in formation across the landscape and then appearing in urban streets and shopping centres.”

    Photograph from the project Senseless

    Laura Thompson-Senseless-1

    “(In Laura Thompson’s Senseless photography series from 2016) she produced staged photographs of figures in the landscape dressed in costumes made from disposable manmade objects.

    These photographs appear to recall European folkloric or mythical costume that may have appeared in say Charles Fréger or Estelle Hanania’s work but filtered as though via a story of outer space creatures who are lost and wandering the earth.”


    Online images to accompany Chapter 31 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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


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  • The Shildam Hall Tapes – Album Released

    Released today 31st July 2018. 

    CD available via our Artifacts Shop, at Bandcamp and Norman Records.
    Dawn Light Edition £11.95. Nightfall Edition £21.95.

    Both editions are hand-finished and custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink by A Year In The Country

    Download available at Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon etc.


    Features work by Gavino Morretti, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Circle/Temple, A Year In The Country, The Heartwood Institute, David Colohan, Listening Centre and Pulselovers.

    “Reflections on an imaginary film.”

    In the late 1960s a film crew began work on a well-funded feature film in a country mansion, having been granted permission by the young heir of the estate.

    Amidst rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults.

    Few of the cast or crew have spoken about events since and any reports from then seem to contradict one another and vary wildly in terms of what actually happened on the set.

    A large number of those involved, including a number of industry figures who at the time were considered to have bright futures, simply seemed to disappear or step aside from the film industry following the film’s collapse, their careers seemingly derailed or cast adrift by their experiences.

    Little is known of the film’s plot but several unedited sections of the film and its soundtrack have surfaced, found amongst old filmstock sold as a job lot at auction – although how they came to be there is unknown.

    The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was.


    “Every track unsettles and enthrals in equal measure.” Ben Graham, Shindig! magazine

    “A gorgeously woven twilight apparition… amid a becoming spectral haze, these chiming serenades shimmer in and out of focus to play tic tac toe with both the enchanted and the eerie.” Mark Barton, The Sunday Experience

    Nightfall Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £21.95
    Hand-finished box-set contains: album on all black CD, 1 x sheet of accompanying notes, 1 print, 3 x stickers and 3 x badges.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-front of box-A Year In The Country The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-opened box-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-contents-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-accompanying notes-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-print-A Year In The Country The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-stickers and badges-A Year In The Country
    The Shildam Hall tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-all black CD-A Year In The Country
    Top of CD.                                                             Bottom of CD.

    Further packaging details:
    1) Cover, notes and print custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
    2) Contained in a matchbox style sliding two-part rigid matt card box with cover print.
    3) Fully black CD (black on top, black on playable side).
    4) 1 x folded sheets of accompanying notes, printed on textured laid paper – numbered on back.
    5) 1 x print on textured fine art cotton rag paper.
    5) 1 x 2.5 cm badge, 1 x 4.5 cm badge.
    6) 1 x 5.6 cm sticker, 1 x 3.5 cm sticker, 2 x 12cm stickers.


    Dawn Light Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £11.95.
    Hand-finished white/black CD album in textured recycled fold out sleeve with fold-out insert and badge.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-front-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-opened-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-back-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-accompanying notes-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-black white CD-A Year In The Country
    Top of CD.                                                          Bottom of CD.

    Further packaging details:
    1) Custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
    2) Includes 2.5 cm badge, secured with removable glue on string bound tag.
    3) 1 x folded sheet of accompanying notes, hand numbered on back.



    1) Gavino Morretti –  Dawn of a New Generation
    2) Sproatly Smith – Galloping Backwards
    3) Field Lines Cartographer – The Computer
    4) Vic Mars – Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden
    5) Circle/Temple – Maze Sequence
    6) A Year In The Country – Day 12, Scene 2, Take 3; Hoffman’s Fall
    7) The Heartwood Institute – Shildam Hall Seance
    8) David Colohan – How We’ll Go Out
    9) Listening Center – Cultivation I
    10) Pulselovers – The Green Leaves of Shildam Hall


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  • James Herriot, Robert Macfarlane and Parallel Spaces/Methods for Escape and Repose: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 31/52

    James Herriot-All Creatures Great And Small-2013 book reissues-Tom Cole artwork-A Year In The Country

    I have written about the semi-auto biographical memoirs of the Yorskhire based vet James Herriot’s before at A Year In The Country but I am returning to them as a while ago I finished reading the series of books and this post is something of a tip of the hat to Mr Herriot’s work both as a vet and author (and also something of a wandering down other parallel pathways.)

    (I say semi-auto biographical as apparently, contrary to popular belief, the books are only loosely based on real events and people and are actually a melding of fact and fiction. James Herriot was actually the pen name of James Alfred Wight.)

    They were originally published in seven books between 1970 and 1993 and have in more recent years been compiled into five books with a set of cover illustrations by Tom Cole which, if placed together, create a panorama that reflects both the passing of the seasons and of life in general.

    (They were also made into a popular mainstream British television series in the 1970s.)

    The books are set in the 1930s through to the 1950s, which within British life, farming and veterinary practise was a time of great change – a time when, to quote James Herriot, there was a “melting away” of the blacksmiths, the arrival of tractors on farms to replace horses and vast changes and advances in veterinary methods and techniques, which in some ways in the way it is presented in the books, particularly previously to the 1940s, seems to have not advanced all that much further from previous centuries.

    It is often the small details of the changes in life and technology that are mentioned in the books which are particularly fascinating – such as in the days before heated windows were fitted as standard (or possibly even been invented) in cars, James Herriot receiving by mailorder a small car window de-icing heater device, which when clamped to the windscreen gave a few inches wide area of visibility in windows that froze up every few miles in cold weather

    Previous to the arrival of this device the car would have to be stopped every few miles in order for the ice on the window to be scraped off, which as a then inherent part of driving is almost difficult to imagine today.

    James Herriot-book covers-Vets Might Fly-It Shouldnt Happen to a vet-Vet in a spin

    The books appeal to a sense or yearning for a rural escape and idyll but while they may have a gentleness to their tone, they do not flinch from the realities of this life.

    The life and work of a vet depicted in the books seems curiously hard, both physically and mentally: vets are shown as having been constantly on call – a recurring event in the books seems to be James Herriot being called out in the middle of the night to help deliver a newborn farm animal in the middle of all kinds of harsh weather and primitive unsheltered conditions – a job which often was physically not just demanding but exhausting and could take many hours.

    While the worry about sometimes not being able to successfully treat an animal is also a recurring theme in the books.

    Having said which, James Herriot expresses a great pride and sometimes joy in his work, in amongst its rigours, particularly when seeing the successfully delivered newborn farm animals and in being able to return a beloved pet to good health and vigour.

    That just mentioned yearning for a rural escape, of searching for a restful Arcadian idyll and repose seems to be an inherent part of the English/British character.

    The interest in the flipside and undercurrents of pastoral and folk based culture in recent years – what could loosely be called “wyrd” culture – could be seen as an alternative expression of that yearning.

    The Edge Is Where The Centre Is-books-Texte und tone-Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-Mordant Music

    As I have mentioned before, author and lecturer Robert Macfarlane is quoted in the book The Edge Is Where The Centre Is as saying that this area of cultural interest and work may be an attempt to make sense, explain, account for and possibly act as a respite, allow refuge from and act as a bulwark against the current dominant economic/political system.

    Robert Macfarlane-book covers-Landmarks-The Old Ways

    As also mentioned by Robert Macfarlane, part of the above work, acitivity and interest can involve a utilising or reconfiguring of the spectral or preternatural as a form of expression, exploration and escape from related turbulence and pressures.

    This is in contrast to say the more overtly gentle views of the rural presented in James Herriot’s books, rather in such work etc the attempt to create a space for respite and repose has often taken the form of hauntological-esque pastoral inflected work and interests, which often contain eerie or unsettling aspects,

    Details on James Herriot
    Details on Robert Macfarlane

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Wanderings #35/52a: All Creatures Great And Small And Non-Chocolate Box Chocolate Box-isms
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 2/52: Penda’s Fen and The Edge Is Where The Centre Is – Explorations of the Occult, Otherly and Hidden Landscape


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  • Image AA/30

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations


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