Day #322/365: Z.P.G.; a return to a curious mini-genre, bleak as an acceptable mode / a world of plastic food and simulated merriment…
Z.P.G. – Zero Population Growth – is a curious film… reasonably obscure/overlooked I guess but somewhat intriguing (not least because of the presence of Mr Oliver Reed post his peak but still full of a glowering, brooding power, the daughter of a bagged trousered celluloid tummler and the bewitching, almost otherworldly luminescence of an away from the celluloid flickers and into the corporeal Bond companion / folkloric bloom and spouse / rattler of simple men…)
It could be connected with the curious mini-genre of science fiction films from the 1970s that dealt with ecological/societal collapse, diminishing natural resources and overpopulation – No Blade Of Grass, Soylent Green, Logan’s Run, Phase IV, Silent Running (see Days #83, #88, #213/365)…
Essentially in a massively polluted, smogbound Earth natural childbirth has been banned for 30 years in order to try and preserve resources and transgressors are punished in a particular draconian manner (which involves plastic domes printed with the word insignia being used as traps and spray painted pink).
…couples are offered robot child substitutes (shades of bipedal Tamagotchi?) but not all are quite obeying the rules…
From Max Ehrlich’s novelization (The Edict):
“All citizens stand by. This is an edict from WorldGov. In the interest of balancing the population, and preserving the food supply, the birth of any baby is forbidden for the next thirty years. Any man and woman who conceive and have a child during that period will be put to death by the State. Any child conceived will be considered an outlaw child, and will also be liquidated. There will be constant surveillance by StatePol and a large reward in extra calories for any citizen who reports the presence of an outlaw child. That is all.”
I think one of the things that’s stuck with me from the film is Ollie Reed’s day job; he is an actor in a museum that lets people watch how previous generations lived in the twentieth century – the scene where he is putting in the hours at a simulated dinner party feels is a jarring moment where the film seems to have stepped back through to (almost) today… and it also seemed to connect it to other museums/repositories of previous times in such fellow mini-genre films as Soylent Green and Silent Running.
As a celluloid tale it has elements of b-movie-ism (albeit with what appears to be an at least reasonably decent budget) and elements of action movies but as a document of its time it points to an interesting difference with today’s mainstream orientated tales… it’s a particularly downbeat film, it’s not all glitz, glamour and the good guys winning…
…and although not as classy or classic, it possesses a certain intelligence within its genre tropes that put me in mind of Planet Of The Apes, particularly towards its ending…
Typing away about it makes me want to step back to watch and study it once more when I have a mo’ or two… and so with that I shall step away once I’ve sifted through and recorded a selection of its changing shadows/encasement vessels (see Days #90/365 / #176/365) and associated artifacts….
(I’m generally pretty curious to see the changes and variations that occur with such things over the years and throughout the globe… particularly when more or less completely unrelated apart from its genre artwork is used – muscle-bound hunk, beau and space capsule anybody? – though it is actually something of a favourite…)
Peruse Z.P.G.’s cinematic foreteller here.
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #45/52.
I was wandering through a country town the other day, using one of these modern-day cash procuring machines and I got to thinking about billboards and the lack of them in the countryside… and well, advertising in general.
Apart from a handful of samizdat A4 posters for local events and lost pets, possibly a local noticeboard or two, there tends not to be a whole lot of such things in amongst the country shires. Not enough of a concentrated marketable to demographic perhaps but definitely something of a noticeable difference/divide between populous and wald areas of habitation…
..and then while I was waiting for this non-appendaged robot to issue forth my days currency, I looked up and thought “there aren’t any/very few CCTV/surveillance cameras around these parts, not even one watching me interact with the aforementioned pecuniary droid”…
And it struck me by just how ubiquitous/normal the presence of such things has become and that often you don’t even tend to notice their presence/absence…
(I’m not really planning on having a rant about such things here but did I miss the election/s where part of the proposed manifestos was “We will quietly introduce robotic watchers across much of the land? That okay with you?”).
Anyway, so then I went away and took it upon myself to carry out something of a study of these watchful electronic creatures…
…and when I did have a closer gander, I was surprised by just how anthropomorphic they seem to be, in particular that they seemed to have tumbled from the dreams and fantasies of science fiction, sometimes recalling portrayals of John Wyndham’s triffids in particular… and they do seem to genuinely be watching and maybe waiting…
…there are niches in the web for perusing and collecting other often monoped street inhabitants, such as telegraph poles and pylons (again see Days #278/365 and #281/365) but not so many gathering places for images of these particular cyclopean creatures…
And so on this page I thought I’d take a moment to create a corner where one could study these particular eyes below the sky…
Day #319/365: July Skies, explorative pathways followed via Haunted Woodland and the folly of wandering too far from the path…
Now, in amongst all the wanderings down various pathways during this year in the country, I almost overlooked one of my early reference points…
(…although casting backwards, I have briefly touched upon their work once before in amongst lullabies for the land)…
If Ghost Box and other connected travellers had taken up the tools/inspiration of dreampop, shoegazery and ambient soundscapes rather than a library/educational music influenced electronica and looked towards a more personal, intimate, overtly emotionally wistful, introspective(?) revisiting of the geographies of the past then the result may well have been July Skies. Nearer audiologically to Virginia Astley I guess than say David Cain but there is an interconnection…
…to quote Ms Jude Rogers on such audiological postcards from the past…
“In quiet corners of the British Isles, a strange kind of nostalgic music is prospering.Some of it summons up disused railway tracks and endless childhood summers through guitar drones, samples and field recordings. Other examples evoke public-information films, abandoned airfields and other creepier elements of our collective history. Together, an array of musicians are making their own musical contributions to British psychogeography.”
(Interesting the phrase psychogeography – a kind of explorative wandering – being in connections with such things; I don’t tend to think of hauntological related work in connection with it/tend to associate it more with city based wanderings/work but I suppose in the sense of such wanderings being part of a process of peeling away layers and looking into hidden corners, it is connected/could be applied – in some ways it could be seen as a previous eras similarly explorative form.)
A good starting point to July Skies could well be The Weather Clock: “a nostalgic bucolic melancholia to warm the cockles” to quote another peruser of their work…
Just the titles of the tracks on their own are worth the price of admission:
Branch Line Summers Fade
See Britain By Train
Broadcasts For Autumn Term
Distant Showers Sweep Across Norfolk Schools
Waiting For The Test Card
(These could almost be titles to an Advisory Circle album that never was…).
It’s lovely stuff. Well worth a wander along to.
As an aside and interconnected pathway… I’m not sure how/why but I tend to think of Wayside and Woodland Recordings when I think of April Skies. There is a sharing of aesthetics in some of the music… and their Haunted Woodland series of puts me in mind of the research projects/volumes of some of the work sent forth by Folklore Tapes and those who work with/amongst their recordings (and maybe not a million miles away from a diffracted Coil?)…
“…an ongoing series… which sets out to chart the history, myths and atmospheres of specific woodland within the Staffordshire and Shropshire countryside…” (Haunted Woodland)
“…an ongoing research and heritage project exploring the folkloric arcana of the farthest-flung recesses of Great Britain and beyond. Traversing the mysteries, myths, nature, magic, topography and strange phenomena of the old counties through abstracted musical reinterpretation and experimental visuals…” (Folklore Tapes)
And the titles of some of the related Haunted Woodland audiological research/journeying? Well, also worth the price of admission as well…
I Suggest It Was Time To Leave
A Distant Voodoo In Those Long Forgotten Glades
Gathering Moss Like Stones In A Sack
The Folly Of Wandering Too Far From The Path
Visit Jude Rogers “sonic postcard from the past” consideration of related work here.
Visit July Skies in the ether here.
Visit Wayside and Woodland Recordings home in the ether here… or more specifically Charles Vaughan’s documenting of decay via “tape distressed instrumentals… played on ancient synths, piano, old broken vinyl and the odd detuned zither”…
Cover printed using archival giclée pigment inks.
Box size 7.6 x 7.3 x 1.8cm.
Limited edition of 52. Hand numbered.
Price includes free UK shipping.
Available at our Artifacts Shop.
Day #316/365: The Detectorists; a gentle roaming in search of the troves left by men who can never sing again
I somewhat appreciated The Detectorists series which was sent forth via the nation’s airwaves by the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation.
Its premise is the lives and study of a pair of metal detectorists and their woeful but really rather sweet passions.
In some ways it restored my faith in homegrown television or at the very least was a glint of light. I can’t quite say why but there was a subtle intelligence, an astute observing of the ways and wiles of people, a love of the land and country (but which stepped nowhere near little island-isms)…
…there’s a sadness portrayed in its characters lives but not in a maudlin or the sometimes grim and grit default setting of modern (once) cathode ray tales; again it’s shown with great love and affection – a portrait of people just trying to make the most of things, of people trying to add some magic to their lives…
…and in this instance that involves quietly, contemplatively walking the land, hoping that their modern-day divination rods will catch a reflection of treasures buried beneath the earth or maybe just the occasional scattering from those troves, echoes from the lives of men who can never sing again.
(In a way it seemed to be a part of a lineage that stretched back to the likes of Fawlty Towers; one of those times when mainstream entertainment/comedy somehow manages to escape forth into the world without being neutered.)
The series is written and directed by Mackenzie Crook, who also appears as one of the main detectorists… alongside Straw Bear companion and sometime Berberian Sound engineer Toby Jones, whose work and wanderings seem quietly (that word again) scattered here and there throughout this particular year in the country.
The main title song is by Johnny Flynn and reflects the gentle roaming of the series somewhat perfectly. Lilting would seem to be a somewhat apposite word…
Will you search through the lonely earth for me,
Climb through the biar 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
(As an aside, the song puts me in mind of Penda’s Fen and seems to connect and draw lines to/with stories that roll through and from the land and history.)
Lovely stuff. Both the series and the song. Tip of the hat to all concerned. Thanks.
Visit Mr Mackenzie Crook and his curation of an exhibition no-one visits here.continue reading
Day #314/365: A further slightly overlooked artifact; Tam Lin, a goddess abroad in the land and the end of utopian dreams?
…talking of rural places/buildings where activities/rituals can develop or take place without easy escape to or influence from the outside/normality (see Day #312/365)…
Tam Lin (aka The Devil’s Widow).
Now this is a curious thing. It is a celluloid story sent forth into the world at the end turn of the 1960s, stars a Hollywood legend, was directed by a sometime advanced simian and is a loose modern adaptation of the folkloric tale The Ballad Of Tam Lin, relocated to the country home of an almost mythologically wealthy woman, peopled by various late 60s hipsters, hunks and prepossessing gals of the time (Madeline Smith, Joanna Lumley, Jenny Hanley) and soundtracked by The Pentangle.
(The advanced simian? That would be sometime Planet Of The Apes Caesar Roddy McDowell, apparently the only time he directed – which is something of a shame as upon watching this his work in such areas holds promise.)
“What very forgettable ruins this town will make” (Ava Gardner’s character as they drive through the office blocks of a yellow tinted London).
This is one of the cultural artifacts that is set at the very tipping point of a transitional/liminal period – one where the psychedelic/hippy utopianism/free-living of the 1960s is about to turn inwards and curdle.
In that sense (and others, that I will come to in a moment), it reminds me of Queens Of Evil/Le Regine/Il Delitto del Diavolo (see Day #181/365), which it shares a birth year with – all high baroque dandyism and decadence turning towards something somewhat darker. There is a sense of playful opulence and a mod/post-mod sharpness to the style – compare and contrast that with say the murk, grime and tattyness of Psychomania (see Day #289/365) from just a few years later – but a few years but worlds apart.
(In some ways, films like Tam Lin and Queens of Evil feel not dissimilar to Psychedelic Folkloristic -see Day #36/365 – come to life; that brief point when fashionability turned towards folk/folklore.)
So to the plot; immensely rich older lady – Ava Gardner gathers up hip young things to come and live/play with/amuse her in her country mansion (it seems like a scooping up or pied piper-esque following as she leads a convoy of cars through roads walled by pylons into her country lair); cue child like games (how can a game of frisbee seem so… hmmm… odd), partying, pleasing of the senses, imbibing and living. She has a particular soft spot for one young gent named Tom Lyn – played by a then somewhat winning and dapper Ian McShane – taking him into her bed (and possibly) cold heart. However he falls for an innocent from outside their bubble world – the vicar’s daughter – and tries to escape from the clutches of Ms Gardner, which displeases her somewhat and his life and freedom become somewhat fraught…
And this is a bubble world…
“She is immensely rich. She can afford to live in her dreams and she takes us into them for company.”
…which brings me to other ways in which it reminds me of Queens Of Evil: both have an almost adult fairy tale in the woods quality and both have at their centre point a young attractive male taken in, held in that world and pampered like a well-kept pet.
In both films there is more than a touch of Hansel and Gretelism’s about the way their victims (?) are treated and kept in these remote country/woodland settings… pampered yes but also possibly fattened for the pot…
“I shall waste you and waste you and waste you…”
…and both have a sense of “Do they or they don’t they?” about the female protagonists possession or not of powers beyond the norm. Manipulative or something more (the young hipsters are referred to as “covens” in the credits)? It seems almost that she weaves a spell of possession around her playthings…
Queens Of Evil probably feels more overtly ethereal and unreal in that sense – Tam Lin seems quite rooted in the real world and is in some ways quite a “normal” film but it is a world and celluloid story that is just askew in ways that are hard to quite put your finger on – magical realism is a phrase that wouldn’t be out-of-place.
I think this normality askew is one of the things that makes this a curious tale: it is a heady mix of mainstream talent and decidedly mainstream/non-mainstream film making… and no, the film bears little relation to the tone of its various posters.
In Tam Lin that is heightened by the presence of a Hollywood goddess/legend in the main female role; Ava Gardner here has some kind of innate star/other quality that makes her seem separate, above and from beyond the mere humans that she surrounds herself with.
And they are terribly disposable, these young pretty things, they are their but at her bidding and can be sent away just as easily…
“I want a party for all your special friends. I want a whole new world.”
(As an aside, Stephanie Beecham, who plays the innocent – the vicar’s daughter – seems to be almost the same person as she will be in that other tale of beyond natural and swingers, Dracula AD 1972 but a few years after Tam Lin went forth.)
Returning to the end of an era, Tam Lin seems like a documentation of the end of its point in history’s utopian dream – this is made more implicit when the sacraments of that era, psychedelic substances, are used as a form of weapon, hounding and destruction and also when the freedom loving hipsters become a hunting mass-mind pack.
(I would suggest skipping the next paragraph or two if you should not wish to know more details of the plot.)
Oh and then there’s the high water mark of folk rock connection: the returning music refrain throughout the film is The Ballad Of Tam Lin performed by The Pentangle – which also infuses and intermingles with the more traditional music score… and if you step back and revisit the film you can see just how much the story follows that of its traditional folk song forebear; in both the film and the song a young maiden is drawn to a rake-ish rogue, nature takes its course and the ridding of the child is narrowly averted… the young man has been encaptured by a sort of queen (of wealth in one, of the fairies in the other) and he may well become a tithe to differing hells (capricious whims in one, literal in the other)… upon his escape and his lovers attempted rescue of him he will be turned into various beasts and even burning matter by his captors in order to make her leave him (via psychedelic ingestion in one, I assume magical powers in the other)… his form of transport for his escape bears the same colour – white – in both, though one is powered by a combustion engine, the other by more natural means…
And in the end in both the Queen of Fairies and of wealth are angered by but acknowledge their defeat/his escape – though to be honest in Tam Lin (the film), I wasn’t left with a sense that this particular queen had permanently stepped away from the fray and the young lover’s lives; there is something genuinely unsettling and even subtly psychopathic/unhinged in the goddess/star’s portrayal of the need for control.
And one again returning to the sense of an ending of an era/a dream, In some ways Stephanie Beacham’s innocent is a representative of the normal, decent world outside this coven-ish pack; a dissolute, amoral gathering that must be escaped from.
““Scum! You must treat them as scum!”
I’m surprised in a way that this isn’t a better known film that it is – it seems like a slightly overlooked piece of (sort of) folk-horror from the late 1960s/early 1970s. It’s not an easily classifiable film and has not been made available in a legitimate easily viewable form for home viewing on these shores, which may in part explain that…
Further tales from The Ballad Of Tam Lin here.
A trailer via Filmbar 70 here.
The Pentangle’s accompaniment here.
An official (although overseas) sending forth here.
Day #80/365: Stepping back to The Films Of Old Weird Britain… this particular issue has an article by Sam Dunn reflecting back on the experience of first coming across Tam Lin… view the related article more directly here.
Puffball. now this is a curious film.
It was made in 2006 by Nicolas Roeg, he of such all time celluloid mythology creators such as Performance…
Puffball is a sort of folk-horror film, one that is uneven in tone on various levels while also being somewhat intriguing (and in a way I think that sense of an uneven piece of work with sometimes jarring multi-layered elements has to a degree infused trying to write about it)…
Set in a remote part of the countryside, if I was pushed to describe it briefly I would say it was a television-esque kitchen sink folk-horror film that mixes Grand Designs with the music of Kate Bush and England’s Hidden Reverse.
(As an aside, Grand Designs is a British television program where people are often cheered for their “bravery” in paying huge sums of money to have contractors build them homes that often look like slightly soulless corporate research facilities, in say, the middle of swampland.)
The music to the film starts like something that you would expect a purveyor of experimental sound recordings to be, well, purveying… possibly somewhere like Boomkat or possibly Cold Spring, possibly somebody like Haxxan Cloak… all sinister portents and drones… and veers upwards and outwards, venturing into more normal climes and back again…
Alongside that, new age-ish imagery intermingles with are-they-real or not folkloric/witchery shennanigans, tales of fertility battles, fertility ending and the slick yuppie-ish outsiders gutting and rebuilding a cottage that was the site for extreme local loss in an inappropriately modern, minimalist, over-angled style.
In a way it reminded me of both Robin Redbreast (see Day #127/365), in the sense of the entrapping of an outsider in fertility rites and rituals and the use of a slightly simple man of the land to those ends and In The Dark Half (see Day #21/365) – the way that both films mix social realism with a sense of the otherly in the landscape (although In The Dark Half introduces an understated, undefinable beauty to that gritty realism)…
…Puffball adds a graphic, almost dissolute sexuality to that realism. This is not an easy film in parts, unsettled and unsettling in various ways.
…and at one move removed, it is connected back to early 1970s folk-horror by the appearance of Donald Sutherland… it is but a hop and a skip from him to The Wickerman via Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now that he was in and which was sent forth as part of a double bill with The Wickerman…
…in this he appears an almost slightly deranged happy old owl (albeit one in respectable business garb)…
…and talking of strigiformes, Puffball also features the owlish late beauty and fascination of previous kitchen sink inhabitant Rita Tushingham, all staring eyes and grasping country ways…
Throughout the film Kate Bush’s Prelude from her album Aerial appears and reappears, the angelic voice of her son and piano playing interconnecting with the themes of the film and its stories of progeny to come and those lost…
…and as I re-watched it, my mind thought of Coil and other such investigators of England’s hidden reverse… so it wasn’t a huge surprise to see that both their music and that of Nurse With Wound featured on the soundtrack…
I find this DVD cover interesting – one of those attempts to make a film appear to be what it is not and to, I assume, appeal to particular demographics and tastes…
…so it has been renamed the more exploitation-ish friendly The Devil’s Eyeball (puffballs are actually large round white fungii, also known by this other name) and the imagery makes it look nearer to a cheap b-movie, teenage friendly take on maybe The Company Of Wolves.
Hmmm. Kate Bush. Folk-horror. Nicolas Roeg. Rita Tushingham. Nurse With Wound. Miranda Richardson. Coil. Folkloric rituals and shennanigans. As I say an uneven, multi-layered, intriguing piece of celluloid.
Day #312/365: The closing of corner shop portals, island nocturnes and a revisiting of transmissions from after the flood
When I was a much, much younger personage than I am now, I had a round of/haunted a series of local shops, attempting to imbibe culture and step through the (generally) paged, occasionally recorded, portals that they contained.
This was in the setting of a small(ish), almost country town. At that time this small(ish) place was enough to support two and a bit record/video shops, a public library, an independent bookshop and I suppose for a long time the most important to me, various newsagents.
These newsagents were hubs to other cultural worlds; one in particular that seemed underlit, just a touch infused with subterfuge and in amongst more mainstream Marvel fare would nestle the likes of V for Vendetta and Quatermass comic book adaptations via the pages of Warrior/Quality comics… and in particular a rack of bargain books that I was constantly drawn to (I’ve touched on this before around these parts… see Day #15/365)…
Alongside further adaptations of Mr Kneale’s work, this time in paperback form, I came across The Nightmare Man.
This was a 1981 BBC television series, where an island landscape is turned into a fog enshrouded/divided from the outside place of death and mayhem from an unknown source.
For a long time I had the paperback of this series (maybe I still do somewhere), purchased from the aforementioned bargain book portal… I only ever saw brief glimpses of the series but its images from the blood-red viewpoint of death that stalked the island has stayed with me…
Not all that long ago, I visited the small(ish) town where this newsagent was. I wasn’t sure if I should as in my mind it had stayed a magical place but I did… and it was just a newsagents. Brightly lit and scrubbed, racks of cards and the usual newsagent fare… I suppose the portals had moved elsewhere, quite possibly into a more ubiquitous but possibly less accidentally populist ether (see Day #304/365 re a niche for everything, everything in a niche and broken pop/avant garde cultural circuits).
(Island pathways in amongst and outside this isle in the ether: as an aside, it’s interesting how often the island appears as a place of folkloric/otherly/landscape based nightmare – in part it is I suppose an easy plot device; a world where activities/rituals can develop or take place without easy escape to or influence from the outside/normality.
The village or isolated building also seems to often serve a not dissimilar purpose in such tales.
So, along those lines if I was to go otherly-island-a-hopping then I would quite possibly start with the cannonical icon of such things The Wickerman – or maybe the control and restrictions of the otherworldly cuckoos of Village Of The Damned – and I would also possibly wander along to the local rituals of Robin Redbreast, the textures, night dreams and miasmas of The Awakening, the scribbled fever dreams of Paper Dollhouse, the intriguing pastoralisms and alternate history of Resistance, mildly comedic borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth and quite possibly the more scientifically orientated entrapments of The Retreat…
As a further aside recently I thought I may well sit down and revisit The Nightmare Man in televisual form… and I made it through about 5 minutes. It wasn’t just that it’s rhythms and cadences were different to my modern attuned mind, there was something otherly lacking to it that can be found in such artifacts from but a few years earlier – see Day #183/365 for more on such things and transmissions from before the flood.)
Day #311/365: Precious Artifacts (Other); Fluid Audio and further corporeal encasements of vibrations in the air…
Well, in these days of the zeros and ones ether replication/transmission of audio work, there are corners that you come across that make you glad that such things can still find a corporeal home.
Fluid Audio is one such place that gladdens the heart. Quite simply beautiful artifacts/encasements.
The music they send out into the world is often gently experimental – ambient melodic washes to drift into and away with, music that is both balm and refuge for a hastened world.
The overall effect and aesthetic of Fluid Audio puts me in mind of 4AD and Vaughan Oliver’s v23 design work a number of decades ago (see Day #256/365)… but if such things had wandered off down further flung paths after listening to distantly played Harold Budd and Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure drifting over fields covered in the light of an approaching dusk…
With that, I shall say no more but wander off to explore futher…
Fluid Audio’s fellow travellers (from whose releases some of the above encapturings of encasements tumble) include: Squanto, Daniel W. J. Mackenzie, Margins, Orla Wren, Aaron Martin, Isnaj Dui, Talvihorros, The Seaman & The Tattered Sail, Matteo Uggeri, Bluhm, Mathew Shaw, Christoph Berg, United Bible Studies, Mathew Collings, Tape Loop Orchestra…
Visit Fluid Audio in the ether here.
Previous corporeal encasements at Day #169/365.
Day #308/365: Artifact #44/52 released; Twalif X – Racker&Orphan limited CD album. Dusk / Dawn / Day / Night Editions.
Racker&Orphan Twalif X CD.
Dusk Edition £11.00. Dawn Edition £13.00. Day Edition. £18.00. Night Edition £25.00.
Audiological Research and Pathways; Case #7.
Audiological contents: Twalif X (50.51 minutes).
Twalif X is an audiological journey through one night; the album was recorded between dusk and dawn on the 12th/13th May 2014 in Robin Wood, Bears Wood, Knott Wood and on Eagle Crag.
All recordings were captured on one microphone and processed/mixed by N. Racker (samandtheplants / Supernatural Lancashire / Finders Keepers Records) and D. Orphan (Folklore Tapes / Pre-Cert Home Entertainment).
The imagery for the release was created by N. Racker & D. Orphan using photographs taken during the outing and spliced with original artwork by A Year In The Country.
“…sometimes it is as though when listening to Twalif X that you are almost next to these explorers and you find that you have travelled with them to the otherly, darker corners of the woodlands and landscape. A work that is both calm and quietly unsettling, experimental with bursts of folkloric melody that appears with the coming of the dawn…” (AYITC).
All editions custom printed and hand-finished by A Year In The Country.
Custom printed/hand-finished by A Year In The Country using archival Giclée pigment ink.
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.
Day Edition Details:
1) Booklet custom printed/hand-finished by A Year In The Country 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) CDr held in protective fleece-lined sleeve.
5) 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.
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 unique hand-produced natural ephemera print pack.
Top of CDr. Bottom of CDr.
Night edition details:
1) Booklet/cover art custom printed/hand-finished by A Year In The Country 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) 4 x 25mm/1″ badge set, contained in a see-through polythene bag with a folded card header.
6) 1 x pack containing unique natural ephemera print; hand-produced by D. Orphan and N. Racker.
7) 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.
Twalif X packaging design by AYITC Ocular Signals Department.
Preview the album below:
The work of N. Racker and D. Orphan amongst the pathways of A Year In The Country:
Day #7/365: Folklore Tapes; the ferrous reels of arcane research projects
Day #32/365: Wyrd Britannia, Folklore Tapes, Magpahi and English Libraries
Day #57/365: A bakers dozen of Mr David Chatton Barker
Day #97/365: Ms A. Cooper, Natural/Supernatural Lancashire & the various nestings of Magpahi…
Day #226/365: Traces From A Delerium Of Forests…
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 #5: She Rocola: Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town
Case Study #6: Howlround: Torridon Gate
Case Study #7: Racker & Orphan; Twalif X
Day #307/365: A journey from a precipice to a cliff edge, via documents of preparing for the end of the world, a curious commercialism, the tonic/lampoonery of laughter, broken cultural circuits and quiet/quietening niches…
File under: Trails and Influences. Other Pathways. Case #50/52.
Or how do you wander from government advice on the end of the world to a nice bit of casual wear on an English cliff top, via the work of a once folk club organising comedian, a million plus selling hit single, borrowings from an avant-garde art movement and the thoughts of a hauntological scribe…
Well, I’ve been putting this off for a while as quite frankly even looking at/thinking of such things gives me the heebie jeebies… but I seem to be being followed around by Threads of late, even over the airwaves during my morning cereal and so there’s no time like the present…
There’s a curious cultural niche that has taken it upon itself to reproduce on a pecuniary basis the documents/films etc that present advice on British preparations for the end of the world (or at least civilisation as we know it) via a somewhat cataclysmic form of conflict.
A curious commercialism of the end of times, if you like.
Anyway, quickly moving along…
Which got me thinking of times in my younger days when I would repeatedly listen to comedy albums on tape (when that storage medium filled the racks of shops up and down the land, a fair while before its recent specialist revival as a subcultural music format)…
…one of those tapes was by Jasper Carrott. And on one of such albums he has a good old consider and rant about the government’s Protect and Survive leaflets/advice: he quotes that in one such publication it says something along the lines of a major attack would seriously disrupt the country’s banking system… and how of course the first thing on your mind as you stood among the smoking rubble, the remains of your whitewashing brush in your hand (a result of the leaflet’s advice of how to reflect a blast with the power of hundreds of suns by painting your windows white), the first thing on your mind would be “Well, where am I going to cash my giro?”.
This was a skit done by him apparently at the height of Cold War paranoia, on mainstream television and sent forth via the shelves of Woolies (a high street shop in Britain once upon a time, which amongst pick’n’mix sweets and house hold goods you might also find records released by Futurist borrowing record labels, more of that in a moment)… so hats off to that gent for such things.
Duck and cover indeed.
All of which made me think about popular culture and what’s allowed in the mainstream at different points in history: in my younger years one of the biggest singles for a fair old while, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes, took as its theme just such a conflict and its futility, using as it’s opening salvo the sound of an air raid siren that would be used to announce an attack, also incorporating the spoken words from the Protect and Survive series of information films in the recordings and sent forth into the world by a record label that took its name from an avant-garde art movement.
That single went to number one in the British popular music charts, was a mainstream cultural phenomenon and has sold in excess of 1.5 million copies.
It’s hard to imagine such a thing occurring today.
Which brings me back to niches and Mr Mark Fisher:
“Here’s one of the things that people say, “oh we don’t know if things are new yet, there might be new things, we just don’t know yet.” But that’s just a fallacy, people did know when things were new before. Even if that’s true, and in this age of hyper-visibility it would be slightly odd if there are things that we hadn’t really seen, what’s missing is a popular experience of newness. At the very least that is what has disappeared. But I think what’s also missing is this circuit between the experimental, the avant-garde and the popular. It’s that circuit that’s disappeared. Instead what we have is Experimental(TM), which is actually well established genres with their own niche markets which have no relation to a mainstream. And despite the network propaganda, the mainstream still exists, but in a more unchallenged way than previously. Why? Well, because people like me have our own niches now. In order to get some sort of audience I don’t have to be on the BBC. You know, there’s lots of space on the internet for me. And that just means that it allows the Simon Cowell’s of the world to dominate the mainstream.” (See Day #304/365 for the source of such things.)
Which is a variation in a way on a quote from that co-wrecker of civilisation Mr Genesis P. Orridge:
“I think something very smart happened a few years ago. There’s no need to make anything the enemy anymore.
If you don’t make anything the enemy then you can accept it back as activity that can feed into your powerstructure – you co-opt everything and everyone.
Not only do you not have to waste time controlling people, but you also defuse the problem and make more money. Everything could be subverted by commerce and fashion and logos.”
And so back to curious commercialisms. All grist to the mill as it were.
Earlier on in this year in the country I referred to the band Broadcast as constellators (see Day #250/365)… that was in part inspired by/a reference to a quote from Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life book:
“Music culture was central to the projection of the futures which have been lost. The term music culture is crucial here, because it is the culture constellated around music (fashion, discourse, cover art) that has been as important as the music itself in conjuring seductively unfamiliar worlds.” (See Day #163/365.)
Also, on that day I talked about how Mark Fisher’s writing helped to defog various ideas I had, to help put the jigsaw pieces of thoughts together into a coherent form… When reading an interview with him here (a piece of writing/discussion which could be considered as an extended footnote/extra chapter to the Ghosts Of My Life book) some more of such coalescing occured…
For a while now I’ve had the thought that rising rents/the cost of living, particularly for inner city areas, means that certain economic/class demographics of society are being excluded from being able to live in/amongst areas where there is a sufficient critical mass of people working within culture that allows for the viable creation of connected infrastructures etc (this is something that I/Mark Fisher touch upon during that just mentioned day).
The idea that class/economic/geographic positioning (and the three are often interlinked) might have a say in whether you “make it” in creative work is a not even denied but rather largely invisible concept.
(“Make it” is used here more in the sense of being able to do such work, live and stop the cupboards from being too Mother Hubbarded rather than necessarily in a champagne, high life and retiring to the country sense.)
The proferring of endless options/space for expression and Soviet/Stalinist style restrictions of which viewpoints are allowed genuinely fertile soil/rootholds seem to exist together quite happily in the currently dominant cultural/ideological system of totality that has been described as capitalist realism – a phrase which interestingly is a take on socialist realism, so I suppose the Soviet/Stalinist comparison is somewhat apt.
Such geographical/economic demarking is possibly part of the reason why I have found myself delving amongst subcultural work that springs forth from more pastoral geographic areas/inspirations… it is possibly semi-consciously a search for spaces where some effects/aspects of the tendrils of that totality are not quite so thickly enmeshed with day-to-day life.
So, constellations/constellators and the defogging of ideas… well, I recently came across/was pointed in the direction of an interview with Mark Fisher that summed up such thoughts rather eloquently…
Along which lines:
In a roundtable you did with Green Gartside from Scriti Politi, he used a great term: ‘critical admixture’. So, around the music bands made, particularly with punk and post-punk, there was this ‘critical admixture’, which was taking ideas from philosophy, taking ideas from social movements, and using the whole lot to mount a challenge to the mainstream. So actually, is it that ‘critical admixture’ which has been stripped away?
Yes, this is what I’m talking about in this book, and the melancholy is kind of about that. That critical admixture is what formed me. You know, my education didn’t come from school, which I hated, it came from reading NME. Which again, NME is like Channel 4 I think, if you want to look at the decline of British culture over the last 30 years look at what the NME was like then to what it’s like now. But there was that public service broadcasting via Channel 4 and the BBC, and this wider supporting culture. And art colleges were a big part of that, Green went to Leeds, and you know the re-embourgeoisement of art colleges is significant. It’s what happens with apparently banal changes in funding structures. If you make people pay for their own education, then we will see the consequences of that. One of the things we haven’t talked about is the class domination of things like popular culture and popular music. The absurd number of ex-private school kids who are now dominating the indie scene or whatever. Because only they can afford it; only they can afford to get into the networks where culture happens. The absurd myth of neoliberalism is that creativity is this infinite well-spring which is equally distributed amongst human beings and it’s only blocked by the State or socialists. But of course, it’s the exact opposite. The creativity only happens when there are the conditions for it and collective conditions of one kind or another, and it’s those collective conditions and that critical admixture which has been systematically dismantled.
Visit the full interview in the ether here.
Thanks to The Quietus for elemental cathode ray interference patterns.
Day #304/365: Artifact #43/52; She Rocola Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town CDs released – Owl Light / Dawn Editions
She Rocola Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother town CD.
Owl Light Edition £6.00. Dawn edition £8.00.
Audiological Research and Pathways; Case #5.
Audiological contents: Burn The Witch (2.20) / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town (2.41).
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.
Custom printed and hand-finished by A Year In The Country.
Printed using archival Giclée pigment ink.
Includes two card inserts in see-through plastic wallet.
Back of the credit insert is hand numbered.
Artwork custom printed by A Year In The Country using archival Giclée pigment ink.
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.
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“.
Prices include free UK shipping. Normally ships within 7-14 days.
Preview Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town below.
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 #5: She Rocola: Burn The Witch / Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town
Day #303/365: Towards Tomorrow; a selection of cuttings from The Delian Mode, sonic maps, the corporation’s cubby holes and the life of an audiological explorer…
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #38/52.
“The air raid sirens. It’s an abstract sound because you don’t know the source of it as a young child. And then the all-clear. That’s electronic music in those days.”
Well, what can I say. The Delian Mode. This is quite frankly an astonishing piece of work.
Yes, it helps that it is a film/documentary that focuses on the work/life of an astonishing audiological explorer, Ms Delia Derbyshire but even so…
“What is this fearful noise coming out to accompany these so-called arty programs?”
Even if you should not be an appreciator of Ms Derbyshire’s music/work/the mythology that surrounds The Radiophonic Workshop, I would thoroughly, heartily recommend seeking out this film.
It’s a moving, touching, respectful, informative piece of film making.
Right now, as I type this, I would go so far as to say that if you should seek out but one cultural artifact from the fair few that can be found amongst this year in the country, well, this would be a particularly noteworthy candidate.
Interestingly, Ms Derbyshire left The Radiophonic Workshop in 1973, a year that I seem to have often returned to around these parts (see Day #277/365):
“The 60s was a lovely, blooming time. But something happened in the 70s that made it not right. The world went out of time with itself.”
In a way I think you could say of Ms Derbyshire that she was an outsider artist who for a time was able to step inside, to work within one of the almost accidental spaces that seem to open/exist from time-to-time within large infrastructures, the overlooked cubby holes, nooks and crannies.
Ann Shenton (Add N To X): “I like the idea of her staying at The Radiophonic Workshop, Maida Vale, ’til very late at night, when everyone else has b’d off home, so that she could use the corridors and the hallways to put her tape all the way round, so she was using these massive tape loops that were like sonic maps.”
“I’m glad we built up towards something. That’s lovely.”
Visit The Delian Mode in the ether here.
Visit times of audiological remembrance around these parts here.