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.
File under: Trails and Influences. Other Pathways. Case #49/52.
I think this was probably one of the first/early films that I sat down to watch on the way towards/exploring towards A Year In The Country…
It is a sort of documentary view of a small village community that is slowly falling away into a gathering sleep.
Some of my favourite parts of the film are nearer to stills than film… contemplative views of the landscape, sometimes time-lapsed, sometimes with just one tiny figure/vehicle traversing the land.
I suppose in a way it shares a sense of an almost painterly/photographer’s eye for such things that General Orders No.9 does (see Day #51/365) and re-looking at the images it reminds me of art-photography views of the landscape such as Paul Hill’s work (see Day #24/365).
Although, in contrast to General Orders, this isn’t an overtly “otherly” view of the countryside/pastoralism but it is more than just a straight documentary. I’m not quite sure why, can’t quite put my finger on it but there’s a quiet, understated, gentle magic to it.
And gentle is an apposite word as in many ways this is a gentle film … gently soporific and (largely) gently soundtracked, a gentle (muted?) visual colour palette and gently visualised.
The soundtrack is (also largely) by The Aphex Twin… and apart from one brief venture into such things, is mostly subtle, quiet, keyboard refrains and motifs… nearer to classical sketches than the casual listener of his work might expect.
Throughout the film, indeed possibly the village itself, is threaded and woven together by the visits, journeys and returns of the mobile library van – a service that feels like its public service extravagance belongs to a previous, more municipally caring era and watching it wend its way amongst these few villagers I felt myself almost holding my breath for the time when it would do so no more.
Visit a place where “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” here.
Day #300/365: A slightly overlooked artifact #2; Noah’s Castle and spectacular vs participative media
Well, I touched upon Noah’s Castle once (or twice) before (see Day #282/365) but I feel like this/today is the core of things…
The end titles to Noah’s Castle. I’ve just rewatched them and quite frankly the old mind is swirling and twirling.
As the sun sets on a hill overlooking a classic British industrial town/cityscape, armed and riot helmeted soldiers stand watch and gather around their vehicle.
They are framed by the sunset and there is something decidedly Eden-askew about the juxtaposition of them and a bare branched tree that appears to be almost growing from their transport.
To a background of hyperinflation, food shortages, economic and social collapse these soldiers appear almost as lovers, there is an intimacy at points to how they stand and face one another… an intimacy that put me in mind of imagery from visual work Kate Bush might have created before the muse appears to have left her somewhere around the mid-1980s.
(It reminded me also of Terminator but I’m not quite sure why.)
And the words. The words. As classic 1970s/1980s turning point synthesizer based music (created by library music/soundtrack aficionados Jugg music, if you should wish to explore further) plays in the background, a news reporter intones words of the looting of food trains, the collapse of British society/economy/currency, silent protests by the nation’s youth and international resource restrictions/game playing…
And bear in mind that this is a program that was aimed at children/the young.
Now you could say that tales of economic division, social unrest, shortages and repression are currently mainstream fodder for that market via the likes of The Hunger Games…
Well, that story is all flash and fantasy. Mildly diverting/enjoyable maybe but it presents a story/world that is a safe remove from the one in which its viewers live…
…while the strifes of Noah’s Castle are set today, possibly tomorrow but on recognisable streets, yours, mine, the street next door…
Which made me think of fragments of a conversation between Mr Mark Fisher and Mr Julian House (see Day #296/365):
“British TV’s problem, we agreed, is that is too in thrall to film. The classic serials of the seventies produced a world you felt a part of, a sense of inclusion to which ‘wobbly sets’ somehow contributed. The professionalism and glossiness of current TV, by contrast, locks you out, subordinates you to Spectacle. (I thought, later, of McLuhan’s distinction between film – as a hot, spectacular medium – and TV – which he said was a ‘cool’, participative medium, whose picture literally has to be ‘finished off’ by the viewer.)”
This is particularly apparent in a series like Noah’s Castle, where characters talk about the effects on them of lack of food while wandering around looking like normal well-fed day-to-day folk… but it doesn’t really matter, the story involves the viewer and leave space for the imagination…
The search for perfect, believable imagery/representations of the fantastic has led to that very same fantastic imagery becoming almost banal, no matter how spectacular (in the situationist and visual sense? – see also contemporary video games for a similar diminishing effect).
Also that quest for an ever more “real” unreality doesn’t fundamentally work – somehow or other your mind “knows” that such imagery isn’t real. There is no genuine weight (spirit?) to it, no matter how real it appears on a surface level.
(As an aside, such work also locks out folk uses of associated imagery; the designs and images presented are often massively complex and require a high level of technical expertise to reproduce them. Compare and contrast say the enemy fighter spaceships from say a late 1970s galactic space opera such as Star Wars with similar objects from most modern films; one can be drawn with literally a few pencil marks and be recognisable… the other, well, where would you start?)
There are holes all over the place in the plot and the imagery of Noah’s Castle but it doesn’t matter.
You fill in the holes (I expect this works reasonably well or otherwise drama on the radiogram/talking books would not be all that feasible).
It’s funny that. As a species/target demographic of watchers we have this thing called imagination. We can fill holes pretty much as well, if not better, than the budgets, banks of computers and the huge lists of their operators that now inhabit the credits of even what can often appear to be quite a visually unspectacular film… or we could but due to the ubiquity of that aforementioned sense of thrall, the necessary overlooking of visual non-perfection can be a little bit harder to find/introduce to viewing in these days…
..and so, back to the credits to Noah’s Castle…
The ones on the final episode have no voice over. Watching them I was longing for them to start, partly to hear what wonderfully inappropriate political events they would cover, partly because them not being there sends the mind wandering and invokes a sense that it’s all over…
Day #297/365: The Department of Psychological Navigation and fragments of fragments of a conversation…
And while I’m talking about being haunted by words in the ether and spectral events at venerable cultural institutions (see Day #294/365)…
A fair while ago now I came across a consideration of another such thing; another Ghost Box related event, though at a different venerable cultural institution…
…and a number of the ideas in amongst this set of words (761 according to the faithful semi-invisible robot brains around these parts) have, if not haunted me, then definitely intersected with various strands of thoughts that have had something of an on/off extended stay around these parts…
This particular event was a display and demonstration by the “Department of Psychological Navigation”, an imaginary government body which in the words of Mark Fisher (who wrote the aformentioned 761 words)…
“…seemed less like a transparent hoax than like a fictional organization that had forgotten it was fictional and stumbled out into what we are pleased to call the ‘real world’. If Ghost Box LPs are like the incidental music for television programmes that have not yet been broadcast, or better, that have already been broadcast but in an alternative past, then the DoPN was like something that would have formed part of the fictional background in a television series, now detached from the series itself.”
…and then in an overview style he goes on to detail fragments of conversation that he had with Mr Julian House of Ghost Box Records… the part of which that has stuck with me is how modern day British fictional television fails to present a world that feels lived in… which is something of a precursor to ideas that he develops in his book Ghosts Of My Life and something which tends to send me scurrying away from such contemporary home grown produce…
I suppose what such modern programs from “over here” don’t do is allow the viewer to step into, believe in and immerse themselves in the worlds that create. Which is interesting in this context as that’s something that Ghost Box Records seems to achieve with a much smaller, though quite possibly more singular, set of resources at their disposal.
They convince/allow us to be part of/give us space to join experiments in consensual hallucination (to semi-quote Rob Young once again – see Day #294/365 once again), to step for a moment or two over the threshold.
View the fragments here.
Day #296/365: Howlround’s ether handbill… and a hop, skip and jump to curious links between mirror world reflections of our times, the work of previous audiological explorers, certain English gents and printed/bound spectral considerations…
Recently I was reading a zeros and ones handbill sent by Howlround/Robin The Fog that related to some work I was involved with sending forth into the world.
It was curious to read as although that was the case (ie my connection with it), it made me want to wander off and find out about the work. Piqued the old curiousity as it were.
So, with that in mind, I thought this particular handbill deserved another audience (slightly abridged/edited for this particular place in the ether):
“Hello you. Welcome to the very fourth in a highly irregular series of updates from the life and times of Robin The Fog and the radiophonic tape-loop wranglers Howlround…
Following The Ghosts Of Bush and Secret Songs Of Savamala, both composed entirely from acoustic recordings taken from historically-and-sonically-interesting buildings; many people have been asking us what Howlround’s next ‘sound portrait’ might be. Now, after months of working away in secret, we can finally reveal the rather surprising answer: Torridon Gate. All of the music on this new album was created from a single recording of a suburban garden gate on Torridon Road, Hither Green, London. Just that.
We attached a contact microphone to the metalwork of the gate and recorded as it opened and shut and moved in the wind. These sounds were then processed, looped and edited on three reel-to-reel tape machines with all electronic effects or artificial reverb strictly forbidden. Despite these restrictions, we like to think the results are as haunting and beguiling as anything from our previous albums, shifting from ethereal tone-patterns to demonic scrunches and back again – a long journey from the pleasant suburban street where it all began. Who would have thought a single ‘common or garden’ gate (pun intended) could offer such hidden wealth? Well, perhaps the two good folks below had an inkling…
The project started life as a prize on this years Resonance FM fundraising auction, but quickly spiralled out of control, and we’re very grateful to gate-owners Tony and Kath, not only for their generous winning bid; but also for allowing us to share the results. ‘The gate was one of the things that attracted us to the house in the first place’ says Tony.”
I suppose one of the reasons I wanted to replicate the above handbill (or have strands of electrons do that for me – see Day #294/365) is because it made me think and ponder upon the way that Howlround are often mentioned in the sense of belonging to a lineage that stretches back to The Radiophonic Workshop…
…to me they share a similar sense of audiological technology related exploring but in a way that interestingly is also a mirror of our times and a mirror world reflection of the work of The Radiophonic Workshop.
The Radiophonic Workshop existed at a time when the tools for the electronic creation and manipulation of music/sounds were quite limited and so they used what was to hand, repurposed it and literally built things from the ground up. This seemed to involve a fair old bit of the physical manipulation of recording medium and the instruments that they had imagined into the world
Howlround carry on in that tradition of the physical manipulation of recording mediums but this is carried out in a time of technological plenty… and so hence my thinking of how their work and the techniques used to create it are a mirror of our times.
In times of plenty, sometimes the difficult thing to do can be filtering out all the endless possibilities, narrowing down your palette.
Which got me to thinking of Mr Billy Childish.
Now, it’s not necessarily an obvious or easy hop, skip and jump from the tape-wrangled soundcapes of Howlround to thee kitchen sink punk of Billy Childish but in a way it is:
“…in the fifties and sixties… discipline was given to you by the limitatations of the material or the technology. But what happened next is that people decided those limitations were a problem rather than the life. Nowadays, to have any sensible life, you have to artificially impose limitations. Otherwise you have limitlessness, and limitlessness is the opposite of freedom.” Billy Childish, quoted in Simon Reynolds Retromania book.
Anyway, as I type, my thoughts wander to some of Mark Fisher’s writing in Ghosts Of My Life that I’ve visited around these parts before, where he talks about how creating new work can:
“…depend upon certain kinds of withdrawal from, for instance, sociality as much as from pre-existing cultural forms but the currently dominant form of socially networked cyberspace, with its endless opportunities for micro-contact… has made withdrawal more difficult than ever before… in recent years, everyday life has sped up but culture has slowed down…”
Hmmm. Sustenance for thought as it were.
“Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead?” seems kind of appropriate here (and yes, the irony/contradiction of that being the full title of a television program and replicated on, well, a modern-day television screen by my good self/strands of electrons is not in the lost part of the lost-and-found section around these parts).
Visit the original handbill pasted to the telegraph poles of the ether here.
For a fair while now I’ve been haunted (to use an appropriate phrase I guess) by a short description of Ghost Box Records that accompanied a retrospective music, film and Q&A night of their work at one of the nation’s venerable art institutions.
I suppose in part I use the word haunted as it makes me think of how William Gibson, when talking about creating work, he said that it doesn’t tend to fall from his brow fully formed but rather he would, say, see something spray-painted on the side of a skip and it kind of haunted him… and that would feed into and become part of his work…
I’ve always though that in a very few words (115 to precise, having just counted – or at least set a small semi-invisible robot brain with the task of counting) it summed up both Ghost Box and also captured something very particular of the tools and techniques of that sometimes elusive cultural will o’the wisp hauntology.
So, without further ado, I shall replicate the text below (or strictly speaking I suppose, set many semi-invisible strands of electrons to work at that task):
“Ghost Box is a record label founded in 2004 that unites a small roster of creative talent with a common visual and sonic aesthetic. Inspired by an imagined and misremembered past, this musical and visual world is distinctly British in its sensibilities, condensing a cultural timeline from the early sixties through to the early eighties into one simultaneous and eerily familiar moment.
Julian House’s video for the label is a peculiar mélange of children’s television, 1960s underground animation and evolving op-art mandalas. Using a combination of new digital and old analogue techniques they conjure a world where TV station indents become occult messages and films for schools are exercises in mind control and collective hallucination.”
Visit the original event and to quote Rob Young, experiments in consenusal hallucation here (which also includes questioning and spinning of discs – zeros and ones? – by gatherer in of mushrooms and scribe precursor to a precursor of Summer Isle, Mr Bob Stanley, alongside work by cultural constellators Broadcast).continue reading
One of an occasional series of experiments and variations on A Year In The Country artwork.
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 #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.