Talking of departed friends and Folk Police Recordings (see Day #288/365)…
Not so long ago I was walking past my local library and I know not why, as such things don’t often appear there, but there was a poster for Harp And A Monkey playing almost locally but the next night… leaving my local environs via public transport can sometimes seem like trying to leave the village of the damned… well I suppose more of semi-inverted village of the damned that stops you leaving rather than incapacitating those inside or trying to enter… anyway I braved myself and wandered off to see them. Lovely stuff and I also briefly managed to inquire of the reasons for the departing of Folk Police Recordings… for some reason I don’t want to go into it all here but I think its possibly fair to say that day-to-day life got in the way… oh and that leaving the village of the damned? Well, I could either arrive rather too early for the opening of the doors or… well, I arrived slightly after the band had taken to the stage… I only got lost once and then had a wander up possibly the steepest paved hill I’ve ever wandered up, while enjoying a brief discover of a part of town I’d never been to… and then a step into a room above one of those hostelries that seem stunningly local and independent, the kind of place that makes you have a think and wander about how they survive in amongst the joys and days of “fun pub” chains and cheap unfrozen meal deals… and then wandering back into the aforementioned village of the damned seemed to involve watching the tumbleweed begin to furl down the local high street, broken only by the occasional last stragglers, revellers and those hobbled by high heels as you debate just how long you wait for the last automobile carriage service before you have to pay for a taxi home… answer: quite a while it would seem and so the late night charabang wended its way home, punctuated by stopping down country roads to pick up the imbibed wanderers who had given up the ghost and decided to make their way home on foot… ah well. Well worth it to hear tails of tupperware, tinfoil and paper wrapped round chips from these chaps.
Psychomania has had a long standing freehold on a corner of my mind…
It is a curious film, if you actually step back and think about the plot, it’s dabblings and the aims of the self-immolations of its riders then it’s actually a somewhat dark story rather than its 1970s hunk Nick Henson starring, jokey, cult knockabout reputation.
…anyway, rently I just went to rewatch it and didn’t make it past the first three minutes.
Why the first three minutes?
Well, it’s those images of those motorcycles rumbling across a mist strewn Neolithic(?) standing stone landscape, their engines silenced, choreographed to an understated slice of psych-funk.
It’s as though the spirit of Kenneth Anger has jumped through time and place to early 1970s Britain.
It feels nearer to a slice of avant garde arthouse experimentalism than an early 1970s trash kind-of-horror film. In those three minutes it seemed to sum up and capture the spirit of something very particular from that period, the mixture, clash and interest in folk culture, the old ways and the new…
Hmmm. And yes, it’s that year 1973 again.
I shall not write much more on these young two-wheeler hoodlums as I think it’s something that’s well worth stepping away from and watching as soon as possible, if possible…
The silent rumblings can be viewed in what seems like quite appropriately muddy-greyish-green-o-vision here.
Some background on the film and the noises that replace those silent engines courtesy of Trunk Records and Jonny Trunk (yes, him again) here.
…and talking of certain places in the ether that I would find myself returning to on the way towards A Year In The Country (see Day #288/365)…
Folk Police Recordings.
This was a Manchester based record label that seemed to be a fine home for work that took folk music as its starting point but which wandered off in its directions, down its own paths (while still generally keeping an eye cast towards its roots). or to quote themselves, Folk Brut and other rough music…
Or to more fully quote themselves:
“We are purveyors of folk brut and other rough music. We like our folk skewed, raw and otherworldly. We’re basically traddies at heart, but we also like stuff that can trace its ancestry back to the Incredible String Band and the first psych-folk explosion. We like a bit of folk rock too, but not when it’s cunningly disguised pub rock, and we even like some singer songwriters, especially if they’re a little deranged. And we are always on the look out for the new Bert Jansch – all self respecting labels should have this as one of their goals. If you think we may like what you do, take a listen to some of the stuff we’ve uploaded, and if you still think we may like what you do, get in touch. Because we just-say-no to feudalism in music, we tend to license stuff off the artists we work with rather than give them dosh to go into the studio in return for ownership of their souls.”
A fine statement of intent. It saddened my soul to read that, knowing that Folk Police Recordings has departed for whatever distant field record labels depart to.
In keeping with the above, this was a label that seemed to side step the more strict tradition-gate-keeping (and maybe blandly inoffensive rather than brut) aspects of folk music and put out work that while it could be experimental, was also particularly listenable to/accessible. Not always an easy fence to stay stood upon. They seemed to have a lovely ear for such things. In a way they seemed like some kind of flipside or distant fellow travellers of Rif Mountain/Stone Tape Recordings…
To name but a few of Folk Polices sendees… They were responsible for the document of a lost focal point, Weirdlore (see Day #85/365) out into the world, alongside the entrancing contemporary but classic psych-folk wanderings of Sproatly Smith (see Day #92/365), the rather excellently named and sometimes singers of gentle Johnnies, Woodbine & Ivy Band (see Day #101/365) or the somewhat intriguing, is it a long lost artefact or a hidden modern story of Frugal Puritan, the kitchen sink, heartfelt observations of Harp And A Monkey…
As you’ve probably gathered, at some point not all that long ago Folk Police Recordings ceased their normal operations and now even their main home in the fields of zeros and ones is no more. Now there are just a few fallen leaves and scatterings throughout the ether. Well worth a wander amongst, kicking through and scooping up to see what you may find.
Here are a few of such things… An ether victrola. A Winter Mix: Folk Police Case Report No.1 (one of the few scatterings, preserved for propserity, at least for the time being by Folk Radio UK)… Another ether victrola (and still reasonably fruitful scattering).
Day #288/365: Stone Tape Recordings; connecting the dots between The Owl Service (in all its forms) and archaic industrial objects in the middle of nowhere
And talking of cohorts and companions of The Owl Service (see Day #285/365)…
On the way towards A Year In The Country there were certain places (touchstones?) in the ether that I would find myself drawn to and would return to repeatedly over the months as I think semi-consciously myself and my brain sifted, collated, collected and tried to piece together the story and themes of this particular year in the country and the interconnected strands of a certain areas of “under the plough” folk music and culture.
Stone Tape Recordings was one of those places. One of the places I suppose.
It is the zeros and ones home for a record label run by Steven Collins. Mr Collins has a longstanding history of making his own particular patterns in the field of folk; he was one of the driving forces behind the band The Owl Service, alongside prior to Stone Tape Recordings he co-ran/founded the labels Hobby Horse, Midwich Records and Rif Mountain.
All these places have been home and departing posts for a very independent, I suppose underground in a way, form of folk music.
But to use the phrase folk music seems like too narrow a marker. Though much of the music these labels have sent out into the world are rooted in folk, there seems to be some underlying story that keeps it informs it and keeps it separate from the more generic of such things.
“The music? Well, I guess it could be categorised as folk but it has it’s own take or edge to it… many of these songs are folk music mainstays and both musically and visually it uses what could be considered standard tropes of folk music, folklore and culture…
…but this is anything but a mainstream folk album. Why? Well, I can’t quite put my finger on it but there are other layers and intelligence to it all, a pattern beneath the plough as it were. As an album it feels subtley experimental but still maintains it’s listenability.”
Or to quote Stone Tape Recordings itself…
“A UK-based, independent music collective inspired by the English folk revival, Edwardian occultism, Norwegian black metal, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 1970s doom rock and the electronic landscapes of Detroit and Berlin.”
Although some of those inspirations may not always be overtly apparent in the music released by Stone Tape Recordings, they do make sense as being in the mix as it were, even if it is just a tinge here and there.
And the list reminded me of that sometimes other re-interpreter of the themes and tropes of folk music, Astrud Steehouder/Paper Dollhouse, when she says that her inspirations are “bewildering post nuclear landscapes, bleak fields, forests, thunderstorms and archaic industrial objects in the middle of nowhere…”
…or in the early days of The Owl Service it was said that it was intended as a way “…to explore…love of British cult film and television of the 1960’s and 70’s, the great outdoors and the sound of the English folk revival…”
Or even just the name Stone Tape Recordings… which connects the label and its work to Mr Nigel Kneale and even the work and wanderings of Mr Iain Sinclair.
…along which lines, such references points can serve, as well as sometimes being a direct influence on the music, as a way of sending the mind and the listener off on particular explorations and cultural journeys and along the way (hopefully) connecting up a few dots…
And along which other lines, wanderings and connecting of dots… Day #100/365: Audiological remembrances of Ms Delia Derbyshire… Day #30/365: A View From A Hil and a pattern beneath the plough … Day #76/365: Archaic industrial objects in the middle of nowhere… Day #79/365: reference of said objects… Day #202/365: Diaries of British cult television of the 1960s… Day #225/365: the wanderings of a psychogeographical Straw Bear’s companion… Day #15/365: The Twilight Language of Mr NIgel Kneale…continue reading
Day #287/365: Artifact #41/52; Howlround Torridon Gate CD released – Dawn, Day, Dusk & Night Editions
Howlround Torridon Gate CD.
Dusk Edition £10.00. Dawn Edition £12.00. Day Edition. £18.00. Night Edition £25.00.
Audiological Research and Pathways; Case #6.
Audiological contents: Torridon Gate (23.43 minutes).
“All of the music on this album was created from a single recording of a front garden gate on Torridon Road in Hither Green, London. These sounds were captured using a contact microphone and processed, looped and edited on three reel-to-reel tape machines with all electronic effects or artificial reverb strictly forbidden.”
All editions custom printed and hand-finished by A Year In The Country.
Printed using archival Giclée pigment ink.
Back of the insert is hand numbered.
Includes 25mm/1″ badge, secured with removable glue on a tag which is string bound to the sleeve.
Back of the insert is hand numbered.
1) Booklet custom printed using archival Giclée pigment ink.
2) Wrapped in wax sealed, hand stamped black tissue paper.
3) White/black CDr (white on top, black on playable side).
4) Jute string bound 14.4cm x 13.2cm booklet:
a) Hand bone creased cover.
b) 10 pages (5 sides printed);
c) Front and rear covers are printed on 310gsm textured fine art cotton rag paper.
d) Two inner sheets are printed on 245gsm paper.
e) One inner sheet is printed on semi-transparent 110gsm vellum paper.
f) Hand numbered.
5) CDr held in protective fleece-lined sleeve.
Night Edition. Limited to 52 copies. £25.00.
Hand-finished box-set contains: album on all black CDr, 12 page string bound booklet, 4 x 25mm badge pack, 1 x original Howlround tape cutting pack.
Top of CDr. Bottom of CDr.
Night edition details:
1) Booklet/cover art custom printed using archival Giclée pigment ink.
2) Contained in a matchbox style sliding two-part rigid matt card box.
3) Printed box cover print.
4) Fully black CDr (black on top, black on playable side).
5) Black string bound 12.8cm x 12.8cm booklet:
a) Hand numbered.
b) Hand bone creased cover.
c) 12 pages (6 sides printed).
d) Front and rear covers are printed on 310gsm textured fine art cotton rag paper.
e) Two inner sheets are printed on 245gsm paper.
f) Two inner sheets are printed on semi-transparent 110gsm vellum paper.
6) 4 x 25mm/1″ badge set, contained in a see-through polythene bag with a folded card header.
7) Pack containing original Howlround tape cutting.
Produced by Robin The Fog & Chris Weaver, April – June 2014.
Mastered by James Edward ‘Butterscotch’ Barker.
Presented with gratitude to Tony Alpe and Kathryn Everett.
Artwork by Robin The Fog.
Packaging design by AYITC Ocular Signals Department.
Visit the ghost signals of Howlround at Day #142/365 of A Year In The Country.
The library of A Year In The Country Audiological Research and Pathways series includes:
Case Study #1: Grey Frequency: Immersion
Case Study #2: Hand of Stabs: Black-Veined White
Case Study #3: Michael Tanner: Nine of Swords
Case Study #4: United Bible Studies: Doineann
Case Study #5: She Rocola: Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town
Case Study #6: Howlround: Torridon Gate
One of the songs that has stayed with me the most leading up to and throughout this year in the country is Nancy Wallace’s version of I Live Not Where I Love.
It’s a uplifting and yet also sadly moving traditional song, taken gently into other fields and next to hearths and hearts by Ms Wallace.
It appears on her Old Stories album, which was released by Midwich Records. I knew little or nothing about the music this record contained but had a curious urge to own it… and upon discovering this song I think I was given my reason why that was so.
The cover is by Dom Cooper, sometimes of The Owl Service and sometimes of The Straw Bear Band and features a country cottage that is billowing smoke… it could be heading towards twee Rocket Cottage-isms (see Day #252/365) but it sidesteps such things. There is just a hint of something unsettling to the image, a slight hint of the eerie to the trees that surround it but it is also curiously comforting as an image; an idyll without the sometimes twee associations and connotations of such things.
The song itself I’ve always tended to think of as a cover version of some relatively recent song, I’m not sure why, despite its traditional origins. I suppose the nearest to it being of more modern provenance is Tim Hart and Maddy Prior’s version on Summer Solstice (or later Steeleye Span’s performing of it)…
Whenever I hear Nancy Wallace’s version I always expect at some point an almost choral joining in by other voices, possibly in the style of The Owl Service’s also rather fine version of Willy O’Winsbury on View From A Hill (see Day #30/365) but the song wends its way with quiet restraint.
Listen to I Live Not Where I Love via the half-of-half-half-of a tuppence paying curiously legal often bootlegisms of a corporation here (ah, the respectability that money, convenience, lawyers and aquiescence can purchase).
Nancy Wallace’s work is also well worth a wander amongst… you will find her working independently and also alongside other reinterpreters and reimaginers of folk tradition such as The Memory Band, Sharron Kraus and The Owl Service.
Consider Ms Sharron Kraus’ lullabies for the land at Day #58/365.
Day #284/365: Sapphire and Steel; a haunting by the haunting and a denial of tales of stopping the waves of history…
Slowly, slowly I’m making my way through Sapphire and Steel.
I think I watched some of it back when it was originally broadcast but I can’t be sure. In my mind it is associated with being only able to watch every other week as in the days prior to the widespread availability of home video recorders there was an “imposed from the top” attempt at democratically alternating week by week which clashing television programs were watched… a solution which I expect left neither part particularly satisfied.
It may not have been that series, that may have been the stories of a band of Federation fighters from a similar time…
(Please skip the section below if you have not yet seen the series but intend to at some point… or in more brief language, below lurks spoilers)…
I already know how Sapphire and Steel’s story ends because Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life book opens with it; the couple are left stranded in a roadside cafe that is suspended in space. Mark Fisher says in his Ghosts Of My Life book that it seems like a sequence that is designed to haunt the adolescent mind (see Day #163/365)… and now the putting down on paper of that haunting has haunted my (not so) adolescent mind.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that ending but my mind thinks I have. I can visualise it even; the two main characters staring out of curtained window set in a building in the void… ah, looking back over A Year In The Country I’ve wandered across it before…
That sounds too precise to not be the actual thing but I’m not sure when/how I would’ve seen it.
China Miéville talks about Sapphire and Steel in The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale (a fine book, well worth seeking out, visit it at Day #15/365), in particular the first episode, commenting how “nothing happens”… I don’t think that is the case, a lot happens, there just isn’t excessively kinetic movement from one location and big-bang moment to another… compared to much of modern day transmitted stories it feels curiously almost soothing for not having that constant fast paced action. At the same time it doesn’t feel like you need to recalibrate yourself to appreciate it (once again, see Day #33/365), in contrast to say some of 1970s television, you can just sit back and let it wash over you.
Slowly, slowly making my way through its stories seems appropriate in a way.
Possibly I’ve finally wandered more directly to Sapphire and Steel because I’m currently reading John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which I maybe came to because the next chapter but two in Ghosts Of My Life concerns itself with and which is also referenced in the section on Sapphire and Steel…
…although my mind had forgotten that (and curiously the book is thus far much less 1970s grit than I thought, more almost effete Oxbridge parlour games… although ones which can result in a shot in the back as much as a snubbing by your fellow educationallife-long priveligists… perhaps that grit and anomie is reserved for the 1970s television adaptation).
Talking of 1970s grit… there’s something about the colours and special effects of Sapphire and Steel that seems like the apothesis of such things. Even with the glamour of Ms Lumley and the (slight) dash of David McCallum…
Sapphire and Steel was such a curious choice for prime time broadcasting; science fiction as seen through a pop-cultural avant garde lens. At the time that was the case but held up against much of today’s often fan pleasing rollercoaster ride of non-stop action it seems even more so… if you should watch it then I suspect you will wander and marvel over quite how it ended up on the front of the TV Times (massively mainstream in nature and circulation; one of only two television listings magazines in the UK back in the 1970s).
In the chapter “The Slow Cancellation Of The Future”, Sapphire and Steel’s casting out and possible betrayal “by their own side” is a kind of analogy or introduction to some of the themes of hauntology; its sense of futures lost and of time/cultural time leeching forwards and backwards.
In this final episode which I have possibly never seen but which I think I have, fellow cafe inhabitants tell Sapphire and Steel:
“This is the trap. This is nowhere, and it’s forever.”
Hauntology and late-stage capitalism’s myth of its own endless omnipotence? A curious denial of history and non-learning from the thoughts of King Canute.
“This is the trap. This is nowhere, and it’s forever.”
I think on that note I shall leave this page.
There’s an almost cannon of late 1960s/1970s television series/broadcasts that have come to be seen as hauntological touchstones, cathode ray flickers that have resonated through the years and come to represent an otherly spectral folklore.
In that particular more widely accepted cannon you could probably start with The Owl Service and Children Of The Stones and wander off towards The Changes, Sky, The Stone Tape… all good stuff and to varying degrees and for different reasons somewhat explored and/or appreciated around these parts…
But one series which often seems to be slightly overlooked amongst such things is 1979’s Noahs Castle.
Many of the above series were intended as children’s/younger persons entertainment; their oddness and possible inappropriateness for their target audience is now part of their appeal…
…but I suspect that the ideas and plot of Noah’s Castle quite possibly trump them all in such terms; it is a series that has at its core hyperinflation, food shortages, societal collapse and a patriarch’s attempt to hole up and bunker away with his family… cue troops on the streets and food riots/looting…
(As I type, Noah’s Castle also reminds me of the comic book version of V For Vendetta in a way; a tale of a Britain returned to the deprivations of a more austere earlier age – V For Vendetta seems set in some alternative or returned to version of the 1970s.)
Curious themes for stories intended for a particular transitional age, although enduringly popular it would seem that they may well serve some purpose during that liminal time, possibly in some way helping with a coming to terms with adult responsibilities and the removal of the protections of “grown-ups”
In terms of being a particular view of societal collapse, Noah’s Castle could be seen as the lower budget, more youth orientated flipside to the final series of Quatermass… although the final tale of Dr Quatermass is probably easier viewing material for a modern sensibility. Noah’s Castle requires more of a recalibration towards the rhythms and pacing of earlier times (see Day #33/365)…
…although in terms of subcultures, Quatermasses restless youth are more new age/traveller-ish (in the TV series at least), whereas those in Noah’s Castle are nearer to a kind of street-level punk…
And Noah’s Castle could also be linked to a mini-genre of 1970s largely cinematic science fiction that dealt with societal/ecological/resource collapse that I’ve tended to wander amongst around these parts, ie Soylent Green, Zardoz, Phase IV, Silent Running and No Blade Of Grass… although in No Blade Of Grass the particular youth subculture that is running amok are those oft-picked upon lawless bikers…
I think also I was drawn to (slightly) re-watch Noah’s Castle as on first broadcast I had only seen literally a minute or two of it but I had gleaned the general theme of food shortages which had intrigued me and my mind had wandered off with that small slice of material to create and consider a whole world and story around it…
…and so, as mentioned earlier in this particular year in the country (see Day #183/365), when I revisited it, I wasn’t necessarily rewatching the series that I remembered, the images on the screen seemed in some ways quite removed and separate from the stories in my mind, a sense that was added to by the aforementioned different calibrations in terms of stories.
…and I tend to think of it as being called Noah’s Ark rather than Noah’s Castle, the Ark title seeming more fitting in a way…
And returning to a slight overlooking… Possibly as well Noah’s Castle feels slightly separate from the earlier mentioned canon as it seems to be one of the few of such things where its wandering back out into the world hasn’t been stamped with a seal of official cultural approval by a venerated cultural institution (ie the BFI) or by the endless trawling of the nation’s cathode archives by a particular more commercial body (ie Network).
Anyways view a small slice of the series here (with a curiously punk rawk soundtrack rather than the intriguing voice over of the nation’s woes that was the original end title music). View the silver disc resending here.
Well, while I can appreciate the work of The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society (see Day #278/365), in some ways it is only half the story.
The other half would be contained within the pages of Poles and Pylons (or to give it its full name Telegraph Poles and Electricity Pylons).
Wherein alongside communication poles and their gossamer threads can be found fellow land striding brethren and their humming power carrying cables.
(This is possibly a more otherly/psychogeographical inspired study and collation than The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society but both places in the ether compliment one another somewhat; the flipside of one another’s coins. Both places remind me in a way of Jonny Trunks book collection of library music covers, having similarities of an appreciation for work which was created for utilitarian reasons but which has – at least in the eye of some beholders- become accidental art.)
Alongside Threads cold war and further consideration of how such lines bind society together and dreams of tales of aviaristic listening posts and escape (see Day #282/365), these electricity pylons also belong to another ongoing touchstone in regards to this year in the country; the image of the juxtaposition of the old ways and the new on the cover of Rob Young’s Electric Eden…
…or indeed the cautionary tales of Public Information films and childhood years playing under the aforementioned humming lines in amongst the debris of what have come to be known as edgelands.
Visit Poles And Pylons in the ether here.
Day #280/365: Artifact #40/52; She Rocola Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town; The Arising Edition – archival print and 3″ CD released
She Rocola Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town. The Arising Edition.
Archival print and 3″ CD. £28.00. Limited edition of 52.
Audiological Research and Pathways; Case #5.
Audiological contents: Burn The Witch (2.20) / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town (2.41).
Free UK shipping. Normally ships in 7-14 days.
Print size: A3; 42 x 29.7cm / 16.5 x 11.7 inches (includes 1.5cm / 0.6 inch border).
Printed on textured fine art cotton rag paper using true black archival Giclée pigment inks (museum/gallery quality inks – resistant to fading for 75+ years).
Hand numbered and signed by the AYITC Ocular Signals Department.
Shipped string bound.
3″/8cm 2-track white-topped mini CDr, includes the songs Burn The Witch and Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town.
CD insert is hand numbered and signed by She Rocola.
Insert is printed on textured fine art cotton rag paper using true black archival Giclée pigment inks.
Burn The Witch (2014)
Words: She Rocola.
Music: Andrea Fiorito.
Vocals: She Rocola.
Violin: Andrea Fiorito.
Recorded and produced by Joe Whitney and Andrea Fiorito.
Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town (2014)
Words: She Rocola.
Music: She Rocola/Joe Whitney.
Vocals & Guitar: She Rocola.
Bass & Toy Piano: Joe Whitney.
Recorded and produced by Joe Whitney.
Artwork and packaging design by AYITC Ocular Signals Department.
Ms She Rocola’s dress is inspired by a beetle wing dress made for Ellen Terry in the 19th century. The dress was originally designed and made by Mrs Nettleship…
The intention was to make the original dress “…look as much like soft chain armour as I could and yet have something that would give the appearance of the scales of a serpent… (it is) sewn all over with real green beetle wings, and a narrow border in Celtic designs, worked out in rubies and diamonds“.
The song Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town draws from Ms She Rocola’s own personal folklore and that of her home town; childhood experiences of chasing her playmates around Molly Leigh’s grave and the rhymes which accompanied such games. It is an audiological conjuring of hazy, sleepy small-hours memories and dreams from those times.
Burn The Witch’s story is interconnected with those childhood memories and is in part inspired by formative viewings of late-night folk-horror films from in front of and behind the sofa.
Here at A Year In The Country, we are proud to be able to send these stories out into the world.
The story and mythology of Molly Leigh can be investigated further here.
Price include free UK shipping. Normally ships within 7-14 days.
Preview Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town below:
Also available as a limited box set Night Edition and string bound booklet Day Edition (see above).
Visit those at Day #272/365.
Previous wandering amongst the corn rigs and Victorian light catching with Ms She Rocola at
Day #39/365 of A Year In The Country.
The full current library of the A Year In The Country Audiological Research and Pathways series:
Case Study #1: Grey Frequency: Immersion
Case Study #2: Hand of Stabs: Black-Veined White
Case Study #3: Michael Tanner: Nine of Swords
Case Study #4: United Bible Studies: Doineann
Case Study #5: She Rocola: Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town
The ether has given space, nooks and crannies to all kinds and manner of niche interests…
…although I expect the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society is one of the more niche, even amongst the further flung of such crannies…
As somebody who can be endlessly fascinated by these interconnected parts of our societies’ infrastructure, I can appreciate the sentiment of such a site (although part of me hankers after days when such a thing would have been a hard to find samizdat stapled zine)…
And such infrastructure underpins some of the core themes touchstones of A Year In The Country; the film Threads, its cold war and beyond dread takes its name from such lines and well, threads, which bind a society together, allowing it to function and communicate and how easily disrupted such gossamer strands can be.
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 Pole Of The Month and Pole Appreciation Day alongside reporting on an appreciation of poles from around the world… and it’s a sense of appreciation that is woven tightly throughout this collection and body of work; though sometimes cast in jovial language, there is a genuine love for these utilitarian objects, an appreciation of their (possibly) accidental art.
For some reason it reminds me of the fun, farce and foibles that are particularly peculiar to this particular island… it seems like but a hop, skip and step or two away from the trial and tribulations of Reggie Perrin-isms.
Visit The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society in the ether here.
Visit the creation of aviaristic refuges via listening post perching at Day #46/365.
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #35/52.
Well, around these parts I seem to often refer to and be drawn to cultural artifacts from one year in particular, 1973…
If I see that something was made in 1973 I tend to be more interested in it and there’s not a lot of leighway. It’s not an overtly conscious thing but when perusing anything past that year I tend to feel that it represents a move and tumble towards a sea change in society…
…earlier, particularly around 1970 and there still tends to be a 1960s psych/mod sharpness to it, cultural work from that time hasn’t yet become a reflection of the end of a dream and a society that wasn’t yet fully struggling with the changes and aftermath from that awakening…
And so, I was curious to cast my eye and mind back to that particular year and over the days, weeks and months of A Year In The Country and a few interconnected pathways to see what I turned up from that particular year…
1) Day #273/365: Dark and Lonely Water… a recent visiting, which in part prompted this particular wandering, surveying and gathering; probably the hauntological Public Information Film. All scattered debris and that voice…
2) Day #90/365: The Wickerman… well, need I say more. Quite possibly the touchstone for all things interconnected to A Year In The Country and particular cultural explorations of an otherly Albion… a reflection of 60s counter cultural urges and explorations gone wayward/bad?…
3) Day #37/365: Psychomania; Nicky Henson and zombie motorcyclers bothering shoppers in 1970s Britain? Well, count me in for that I think…
4) Day #266/365: Judy Dyble stepped back from making music; well, the removal of such a voice from the landscape in itself could well be seen to harken a wandering into darker times.
5) Day #195/365: World On A Wire; a rather prescient virtual reality… also curiously against the grain of 1970s grit…
6) Day #1973/365: Preliminary filming began on the final Quatermass series; ah, I only recently discovered this. It makes the series make more sense in a way as it seems like such a reflection of a society that was in dire strife/potentially collapsing, as was the way in 1973… such things were still going on by the time of its broadcast but by then the stamping heels of a certain iron lady were already marking the soul of the land.
7) Day #213/365: Soylent Green… part of the mini-genre of ecology/resources having gone to heck in a handbasket. Spoiler alert: “Soylent Green Is People”… make room, make room.
8) Day #87/365; The Asphyx… of all the Hammer films, this one seems to have stuck with my imagination from all the years back, more concept than shock’n’horror driven perhaps? ‘Tis many years since I have seen it but I was reminded and returned to it via the work of Cathy and Eric Ward…
9) The Final Programme; talking of earlier 1970s films often seeming like they belonged more to a particular kind of sharp psychedelia… something of a cuckoo in the nest. It escaped into the world in 1973 and while it showed a side of decadence gone dark it also seems to stroll equally from a dandified 1960s counter-culture.
10) Blue Blood; I once heard myself describe this as being like The Wicker Man without a plot. On a rewatching it’s not necessarily but a line could be drawn from that film to this… Mr Oliver Read and companies questionable allegiances in a country estate; probably nearer to the bubble occurring decadences of Performance (and maybe a touch of The Servant) but with a background of truth, a lord of the land with multiple wifelets, a Page 3 girl and redecorating of the stately home with DIY rather physically amative murals… not sure if this particular celluloid story would be made today. Unsettling/troubling are words that come to mind.
11) Day #10/365: England Made Me; the film but when I think of it tends to send me back to Black Box Recorder’s album of the same name… a very particular non-hauntological slice of hauntology and to semi-quote Rob Young, appears to have sprung from a mythological England of the past that has its own particular brutalities but ones which are all English stiff upper lip and quietly furious repression.
12) Day #46/365: The Changes (filmed in 1973, released in 1975); ah, the bad wires – a tale of a world that has rejected and destroyed all modern technology to return to an almost medieval/feudal way of life and in which the sound of the combustion engine has become the mark of the devil… I suspect it was considered a little too close to home to be broadcast in the year of its making to a nation huddled around candles and suffering from the effects of an oil crisis.
13) Carry On Girls; ah, Carry on films. These feel like they have become part of our modern-day folklore, the soul of England in a way. This particular part of the series seems to fairly directly reflect a Britain in crisis and a tipping point where the aforementioned 60s utopian dream curdled, as did British cinema, to descend into smutty farce and tattered screens.
As I’ve mentioned around these parts before, 1973 in Britain was a particular unsettled time politically and socially; there was an almighty battle between organised labour and the elected (but essentially oligarchically self-appointed) managers of the land, an oil shortage and power crisis, a 3 day working week and so forth…
…and one thing that has stuck in my head along the way towards and through this A Year In The Country is Rob Young’s comment that possibly people were drawn to folk/folkloric/pastoral culture and its projection of undisturbed imagined idylls as an escape from that… hence Steeleye Span in the charts and one of folk/folk rock’s high water marks in popularity and amongst the wider society.
And while I’m talking about borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth and slightly guilty pleasures (see Day #273/365)…
When I was a considerably younger personage than I am now I had a small number of book adaptations of films that used multiple photographs from their cinematic parents in order to tell their story in a live action comic strip/annotated stills manner.
You would see similar kinds of things in romance comics, where the tales of loves won, lost and fretted over were represented by posed actors…
Very occasionally since I’ll come across such a book from back when that I haven’t seen before and they always seem like quite a find, an odd little corner of culture and merchandising.
Or indeed Punk magazine’s couple of issues done in that vein that featured New York’s downtown/blank generation cognoscenti such as Debbie Harry, Richard Hell, Chris Stein, Joey Ramone, David Johansen and the like. Good stuff if you should ever find such a thing.
They’re known as fumetti apparently, somewhat popular on the continent.
The only other time I have come across such things was in the pages of the revival of Eagle comic in the early 1980s…
…and talking of revivals and revivifications… a day or so ago I had a wander through the folkloric, folk-horror, science fiction and fantasy borrowings of the remake of Randall & Hopkirk (deceased)…
…and talking of that and fumettis, I thought a bit of a mix and match of the two may well be appropriate.
…which is largely a rather sizeable amount of The Wickerman (which is… spoiler alert… postmodernly referred in the episode itself)…
…and along the way a somewhat familiar approach to a particular island state, a dash of Doctor Who-esque 1970s costume clad monsters…
…a 1970s Doctor himself, a police officer who has the physiognomy of Sergeant Howie’s brackish beliefs, a visit to the eccentric Lord of the manner…
…folkloric costumes as decoration in the lordly manor which remind me somewhat of the (car crash) of The Wicker Tree…
…the kung fu butler from The Pink Panther… hi-jinks with the locals in the very local hostelry… the hiding of the covenant in Raiders Of The Lost Ark… some more chasing by those costume clad folkloric monsters… “I would’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” Scooby Doo-esque unveliing… the transformations of Altered States courtesy of Ken Rusell…
Anyways… complete the captions below…
…and you could add to that list, although not directly represented in the fumetti above but in the episode itself…
…an island state that produces its own unique foodstuff under the direction of one particular lord and master… the ecological worries and disasters of Doomwatch (another part of the mini-genre of ecology and resources gone to heck in a handbasket that was somewhat prevalent in the 1970s).
Oh and although without an ability to take references from cultural work that hasn’t yet happened, this is unlikely to have been a reference point… but there is more than a dash of the workmanlike-took-me-a-few-goes-to-get-through-but-I-don’t-seem-to-hate-it-as-much-as-I-thought-I-would-and-its-still-better-than-The-Wicker-Tree remake of The Wicker Man in the playing with gender expectations and roles in this Fair Isle story.
A visit to that particular mini-genre in the company of No Blade Of Grass, Z.P.G., Soylent Green, Phase IV, The Omega Man, Logan’s Run at Day #88/365… artifacts from that curious mini-genre at Day #213/365… and a visual tip of the hat to both that particular mini-genre and a particular lionheart(ess) at Day #83/365.
I have a mild soft-spot for the turn of the millennium remake of Randall and Hopkirk (deceased), chaired by Charlie Higson, starring Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Emilia Fox and a gloriously white-haired Tom Baker.
It is a series which concerns itself with a still living private investigator who is visited/helped/hindered by the white-suited ghost of his former partner (the deceased of the title) and isn’t a million miles away from the likes of say Doctor Who in its mixing of fantasy and science fiction in a mainstream setting.
And yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it has that curiously dated appearance that cultural work from the 90s and around then currently has… not yet old enough to have gained a patina of retro fetishistic kitsch, not quite modern enough to fit with current tastes… yes, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s acting isn’t necessarily going to be having Sir turning in his grave but…
…it’s good knockabout fun. Nothing too challenging but it often shows a great love for a whole slew of fantasy, crime horror and science fiction films, television literature etc from years gone by.
The episode Man Of Substance in particular, which seems to predate Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz in a number of its themes, borrowings and the story of a sleepy country idyll gone bad by a year or few…
It begins somewhat noirishly with a red silk clad femme fatale giving a private eye the glad eye and purr in his office…
…before it wanders off to a classic chocolate box English idyll of a village… all tea rooms, commemorative tea towels, an avuncular British bobby on the beat (who appears to be the living incarnation of a laughing policeman you might have chuckle for 20p at the seaside); a neat, quiet and tidy piece of heritage real estate.
But… well, not so surprisingly things aren’t quite what they seem (spoiler alert about now)…
The village has a dark secret or two and quite quickly turns more than a little Belbury/Hot Fuzz like; something is not quite right in this particular chocolate box.
Essentially its population have been trapped inbetween life and death, unable to leave the village since the days that a pestilence had cleared a considerable percentage of the English population a number of centuries previously.
I guess we should have known something wasn’t quite right when we passed that monument earlier on the way into the village that looked as though it should have been on the cover of one of the John Barleycorn Reborn Dark Britannica albums (see Day #248/365).
Along the way towards the almost taking over the world shennanigans that the villagers get up to, the episodes wanders into the territory of/borrows from;
The Wickerman… petal scattering woodland nymphs dance through the churchyard… 1970-ish British horror portmanteau films such as The Monster Club and its “you’re never going to escape from the village” theme… medievalistic fetishistic pleasures by way of Curse Of The Crimson Altar… a touch of Hansel and Gretel and the fattening up of the chose calfs… the somewhat unpleasant punishments of the incarcerated via The Witchfinder General (or it’s less well-known brethren The Bloody Judge)… maybe even a touch of Penda’s Fen and its sense of the mythic/mystical in the landscape and returning kings… and back to The Wickerman, as the fool becomes the king for the day (and eternity) during a local festival in service of the communities ends and a pyre is made for a sacrifical burning…
…and just having Tom Baker, possibly still the archetypal Doctor Who, in amongst it all makes it fundamentally interconnected in the minds of watchers of a certain vintage with certain culture and tropes. Oh and that’s before we get to Gareth Thomas, one Federation fighting Blake’s 7 leader as a real ale pushing pub landlord who later turns out in his festival garb only to be revealed as a centuries old medieval lord of the manor…
At the time of its transmission the revivification of all things Wicker Man and folk-horror-ish had not yet fully gained pace and yet here are many of its themes and interests looked to for peak viewing entertainment.
(Just prior to Randall & Hopkirk’s broadcast the The Wickerman soundtrack had been first sent out into the world in 1998 on its own via the efforts and investigating of Jonny Trunk and Trunk Records, which has been thought to have been one of the sparks that reignited that particular conflagration of interest but the number of different references to fantastic fictions from before it suggest a knowledge, interest and love of such things that stretches back some way… Randall & Hopkirk isn’t as dark but thinking back this episode may have shared some ground with the similar time period’s The League Of Gentleman and its mixing of horror and comedy in a rural setting gone bad where “You bain’t be from round here” is the general refrain).
So, borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth… as a TV episode this is a guilty pleasure but a pleasure nonetheless.
A previous glimpse of Albion in the overgrowth at Day #146/365, in the good company of pop-psych-folk courtesy of Stealing Sheep.
Some background information on Randall & Hopkirk (deceased) via the electronic pages of the world’s current Encyclopedia Britannica-And-All-Else here.
The Curse Of The Crimson Altar and the majesty of Ms Steele at Day #184/365.
That from which it borrows: The Wickerman – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore at Day #90/365.