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When Haro Met Sally, John Hughes, Stranger Things, Twins of Evil, Hauntology and Dark Seed – Parallel World Reimaginings and Phantasms: Wanderings 4/52

Just as “traditional” hauntology often reimagines the culture and era of the 1960s and 1970s in Britain and creates its own parallel world version of them, the likes of synthwave and hypnagogic pop carries out a similar hazy misremembering and reimagining of the 1980s.

Although not strictly connected to those cultural groupings/genres, D.A.L.I.’s album and art/design project When Haro Met Sally (2018) draws from and explores some similar tropes and reference points and creates its own parallel world version of the 1980s.

The project’s title is taken from both the iconic 1980s romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally and one of the kings of BMX freestyle in the 1980s, Bob Haro.

D.A.L.I. takes its name from the initials of it creators, Luke Insect and Deadly Avenger.

Luke Insect is a renowned graphic designer, who as Twins of Evil has collaborated with illustrator Ken Goodall on artwork for Ben Wheatley’s darkly pastoral Civil War set film A Field in England (2013), the vinyl album artwork for the soundtrack of his crime/romance/sort of camping holiday horror film Sightseers (2012) and the Arrow Blu-ray release of Robert Altman’s darkly gothic bucolic Images (1972).

Deadly Avenger is Damon Baxter, who has been releasing music since the mid-1990s, when he was associated with the music/cultural groupings big beat and triphop/downbeat, including singles/EPs on Wall of Sound and D.C. Recordings.

“Traditional” hauntology’s reimagining is in part an expression of a collective mourning for lost progressive futures in a wider social, economic and political sense, while in When Haro Met Sally’s 1980s orientated project there is more a sense of a yearning for and attempting to recapture a more personal orientated day-to-day lost, carefree, colourful and vibrant time in life, history and culture.

Connected to which Luke Insect has said the following:

“We’re both kids of the 80s and When Haro Met Sally is our nostalgic love letter to that whole period of our childhood, a 1984 set BMX break up album about teenage love, endless summers and chrome!”

The project appears on an initial casual viewing to spring from an imagined cultural landscape rooted not so much in reality but rather one that takes inspiration from a mid-1980s Hollywood presentation of teenage life which has become a symbolic archetype of the time – a seamless vision of the latter days of American high school meets frat parties fun in the sun frolics that only stops to take in a visit to the video games arcade and the mall, all soundtracked by period synthesized pop.

However, as in much of writer and director John Hughes’ classic cycle of teenage films (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Some Kind of Wonderful, released 1984-1987) all is not purely rosy in When Haro Met Sally’s world; life is shot through with the angst and trouble of heartbreak and in reality this is an imagined dreamscape and accompanying promotional text shatters its bubble:

Del Mar Skate Park, California, Summer ’84. Blinding sun hits chrome sending rainbow prisms across hot asphalt. There’s a buzz in the air. Teenage dreams and dope smoke mix with the Pacific breeze. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. This summer’s never gonna end. Tricks are being pulled and moves are being made that these crowds have never seen. Even the wood-pushers are blown away. Seeds sewn a decade ago by Todd and Devin Banks on Overland Drive have come to fruition.

Dominguez is up next, he’s 15, and hitting 6 feet of air. Then it’s Gonzalez. And Vanderspek. This is going down in history. Except this isn’t the West Coast of America. And the sun’s not shining. These are the grey suburbs of Leicester and London. And our BMXs are sh*t.

When Haro Met Sally is the soundtrack to one seemingly endless summer, when teenage heartbreak ruled supreme, everything American seemed cool, and all we did from dawn ’til dusk was dream about girls and ride our bikes Spanning early 1980s VHS soundtracks, teenage electro, heartbreak synths and Italo Disco, When Haro Met Sally will transport you back to that endless sun-baked teenage summer… that none of us ever had.

That acknowledgement of the fourth wall and the unreality of this cultural landscape, alongside the hyperreal dreamlike colours of the project’s artwork, the sometimes Boards of Canada or VHS-esque oscillating/tape wobble characteristic of the synthesized audio and at points its subtle sense of yearning or melancholia keeps When Haro Met Sally at a remove from being a purely overly rose tinted or even twee exercise in 1980s nostalgia and recreation.

Connected to which, in terms of reflecting on the realities of life, an important and vital part of the above mentioned cycle of John Hughes’ films prevents them from being rote reflections on teenage life; i.e. their consideration of the impact of social class and economic privilege, or lack of, on life choices, options and relationships.

Although not overtly political and more concerned with universal rather than topical themes, the above mentioned cycle of John Hughes’ films were created during a period of heightened apocalyptic Cold War tensions, alongside economic, social and political conflict, tensions and struggles between different belief and value systems (in particular between the more individualistic and materialistic orientated new right and an older more social welfare orientated left).

While often being and intended to be more purely entertainment orientated, contemporary 1980s referencing/set film and television such as the mainstream American comedy The Goldbergs (2013-) generally overlook such aspects of the period and John Hughes’ work from the time, which they also often draw from.

Although intriguingly in The Goldbergs there is an episode which focuses on the Cold War dread and post-apocalyptic grimness of 1983 television film The Day After and one brief overt acknowledgement of social/economic status when it is mentioned that the children of the family featured in the series go to private school but these are relatively solitary mentions or acknowledgements of such topics in over 100 episodes.

To a degree the likes of J. J. Abrams film Super 8 (2011) and Netflix television series Stranger Things (2016-) show a darker tinged reimagining or recreation of the 1980s with their sense of plucky teenagers coming together to fight super/preternatural or extra terrestrial forces. Although in this sense they may be nearer, in terms of a connection to films made in the 1980s, to the more comforting family film orientated science fiction fantasy escapism of E.T. (1982) where youngsters battle to save a stranded alien than the real world Cold War orientated WarGames (1983) where they attempt to prevent a computer initiated global conflict.

Returning to Luke Insect’s work and reimagining of times past, in 2013 he collaborated as Dark Seed with Richard Norris of The Grid on an imaginary soundtrack release called Nocturnes.

In a similar way that Panos Cosmatos’ film Beyond the Black Rainbow has a sense of being a lost artifact from the shelves of a 1980s video store and creates a neo-psychedelic “Reagan era fever dream” atmosphere, the artwork for Nocturnes conjures a similar fever dream-esque sense of a 1970s science fiction film or television series.

At the start of this post I wrote about “traditional” hauntology, synthwave, hypnagogic pop and When Haro Met Sally creating reimagined parallel world versions of their source material’s eras – a description which could equally apply to Nocturnes and Beyond the Black Rainbow.

It could possibly be the soundtrack and artwork for the pilot of a further flung cousin of Space 1999 that was never broadcast because it was considered too out-there for mainstream audiences. Having said which Space 1999 did often have quite odd psychedelic and dreamlike atmosphere, plots and imagery.

Connected to neo-psychedelic aesethetics, Luke Insect’s design work often utilises psychedelic-like imagery, filtered through a contemporary lens to create work which is not purely a retro retreading but again more a reimagining – some of examples of which are above.

Which again brings me back to “traditional” hauntology and its parallel worlds, in particular some of Julian House’s work for Ghost Box Records which often have more than a tinge of reimagined psychedelia to them, something which is referred to at Ghost Box’s website, which describes it as:

“…a record label for a group of artists exploring the misremembered musical history of a parallel world. A world of TV soundtracks, vintage electronics, folk song, psychedelia, ghostly pop, supernatural stories and folklore.”

The use of the word “ghostly” in the above description seems somewhat appropriate for much of the cultural reimagining mentioned in this post; another word often used in conjunction with hauntology is spectres or spectral.

In various ways the likes of When Haro Met Sally, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Nocturnes and the work of Ghost Box Records could be seen as spectral cultural will o’the wisp versions of their source material – parallel world reimagined phantasms.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. When Haro Met Sally at Rough Trade
  2. D.A.L.I. / When Haro Met Sally
  3. Stranger Things soundtrack
  4. Mr John Hughes
  5. WarGames
  6. Dark Seed’s Nocturnes at DJ Food’s Online Scrapbook (where the above photographs of the release came from)
  7. Dark Seed’s Nocturnes at Discogs
  8. Luke Insect’s Site
  9. Twins of Evil at Kenn Goodall’s Site
  10. Ghost Box Records

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. A Lineage of Spectres Part 1 – From Hauntology to Hypnagogic Pop: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 19/52
  2. A Lineage of Spectres Part 2 – Hauntology, Hypnagogic Pop, Synthwave and the Creation of Mystical Half-Hidden Worlds: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 21/52
  3. From “Two Tribes” to War Games – The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture: Chapter 13 Book Images
  4. Day #73/365: A wander through A Field In England with Twins of Evil and other travelling companions…
  5. Ether Signposts #28/52a: Zardoz, Space 1999 And Psychedelic Strands In 1970s Science Fiction
  6. Zardoz, Phase IV and Beyond the Black Rainbow – Seeking the Future in Secret Rooms from the Past and Psychedelic Cinematic Corners: Chapter 51 Book Images
  7. Day #149/365: Phase IV – lost celluloid flickering (return to), through to Beyond The Black Rainbow and journeys Under The Skin
  8. Day #255/365: Beyond The Black Rainbow; Reagan era fever dreams, award winning gardens and a trio of approaches to soundtrack disseminations… let the new age of enlightenment begin…

 

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Michael Tanner’s Nine of Swords: Audio Visual Archive 3/52

Artwork from Michael Tanner’s Nine of Swords album.

“Nine of Swords was created by using nine tarot cards allocated to nine sonorous, percussive instruments which were played in the order of their drawing from the deck… Its method of creation recalls the random cut-up literary techniques of William Burroughs or automatic writing and the resulting work is a 68 minute journey which is a balm to contemporary intensity of input… No plug-ins or FX were used in the making of Nine of Swords; the music in the album was guided purely using the (non)choices of the turns of the cards.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country.)

 

“This is an album to focus on and to pay attention to, perhaps an album for late nights or early mornings; there is something contemplative at heart here, this music invites reflection. The glistening of the water bowls merges into the gentle waves of temple bells, at times creating a solid, reverberating mass whilst at others a more distant echo. There is great beauty in this recording, nothing is rushed and the sound is crystalline and pure. The world outside seems to grow quieter around the music, as if in step. This is not easy listening however, but a demanding and focused album which commands your complete attention. It deserves and repays this attention a hundred times over however with truly beautiful sounds, atmospheres and textures; consult the cards and sink into the shimmer of Nine of Swords – you will not be disappointed.” (Quoted from a review by Grey Malkin at The Active Listener.)

 

More details on Nine of Swords here and at Bandcamp.

Visit Michael Tanner’s work here.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country

  1. Day #120/365: Plinth’s Wintersongs; a sometime walking companion for other landscape travellers
  2. From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Wintersongs, Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails – Lullabies for the Land and Gently Darkened Undercurrents: Chapter 49 Book Images
  3. Audiological Transmission #27/​​52 ​​- Nine of Swords (Excerpt #1) – Michael Tanner
  4. Day #350/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #3; A balm to contemporary intensity of input…

 

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Robert Macfarlane, Benjamin Myers, The Eerie Landscape and Unravelling of Dizzying Mazes: Wanderings 3/52

It’s a curious and intriguing thing the current interest in, flowering and harvesting of the “eerie” in the landscape, a kind of hauntological landscapism – or to semi-quote myself, expressions and explorations of an “otherly pastoralism”, a literal wandering through spectral fields.

In his article in the Guardian “The Eeriness of the English Countryside” (a section of which I recently quoted in a post on Texte und Töne’s publication The Disruption, which focuses on the 1975 television series The Changes and its anti-pastoral territory”) writer and academic Robert Macfarlane proposes that such interest and cultural expression is:

“…an attempt to account for the turbulence of England in the era of late capitalism. The supernatural and paranormal have always been means of figuring powers that cannot otherwise find visible expression. Contemporary anxieties and dissents are here being reassembled and re-presented as spectres, shadows or monsters: our noun monster, indeed, shares an etymology with our verb to demonstrate, meaning to show or reveal (with a largely lost sense of omen or portent).

Such more overtly political explanations of the rise of such culture may well be one of the reasons for the rise in interest and activity in such areas and it could be linked to a related hauntological sense of a yearning or mourning for lost progressive futures.

However, although I say overt, it is often anything but overtly political; rather as Robert Macfarlane states, these “anxieties and dissents” are being reassembled as spectres in the landscape – contemporary bogey men or vague feelings of dread on the edges of consciousness.

As I discuss in the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, for myself part of the need for related exploring comes from a sense of the cultural landscape having now been thoroughly harvested and colonised. Once shadowy undisturbed cultural niches, nooks, crannies and overlooked corners are now routinely explored and displayed for all to see, often both within their own niches and also via more mainstream channels.

I have nothing against the mainstream per se. It is more just that if you are drawn to those overlooked corners of culture in the sense of being both an explorer and somebody who at times appreciates the less well harvested then there is hopefully a little more space for such things at the moment in the “otherly pastoral / hauntological landscapism” than within traditional pop/urban orientated fringe culture.

This cultural landscape may  create a space for cultural pursuits and interests which are not so focused on youth; anecdotally and based on the first hand referencing of culture from 1960s-1980s (i.e. by those that experienced it in their own youth, rather than as an interest in work from a time prior to your own birth) that can often be found within such work it could be surmised that much of the audience for it is now quite far from the hurly burly of the first flush of youth.

An interconnected viewpoint on the reasons for the current interest in the confluence of wyrd folk, otherly pastoralism, hauntology etc could be that it is part of the creation of an imagined parallel world or plane of existence – one which variously allows for a break from the above mentioned “contemporary anxieties and dissents” or just because humans as a species seem to possibly uniquely be fascinated by and have a need to tell stories, spin yarns and create waking dreamscapes.

Accompanying which historically cities and urban areas have often been seen as the primary and main cultural incubators which while it may to a degree may still be true, the increasing costs of living in cities in the UK may also mean that only those from certain social and economic groups are more able to have the time to required sit on and incubate their cultural ideas, scenes etc until they are able to fully hatch. That time requires a certain and not inconsiderable access to monetary wealth and/or a youthful ability and energy to live in what may be trying circumstances.

Such considerations are eloquently and evocatively discussed in writer Benjamin Myers’ non-fiction book Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place (as an aside his fictional work in recent years has been called rural or Dales noir and explores interconnected territory to the above sense of otherly or hidden undercurrents in the landscape):

“We leave London early one June morning, Della and I. It is a decade ago and all our combined possessions have been crammed into a removal van that left the night before. What remains is shoved into the back of my car…

We hit the morning traffic and an hour later are still edging along Vauxhall Bridge Road into Victoria. Our mood is strained, conversation terse. The stress of a house move is underpinned by the knowledge that once you leave the city it is very difficult to return; one only moves to London when either young or wealthy, and now we were neither.

Twelve years earlier… I had tracked a similar journey in reverse, driving a borrowed car full of clothes, books, records and treacle down from the north-east of England to find myself circling Piccadilly Circus at five o’clock on a Saturday evening, Eros looking down at me as I attempted a U-turn much to the chagrin of the dozen black cabs caught in my slipstream…

Eventually I edged my way south of the river over the same bridge I crossed now, to move into a dilapidated transpontine squat in a labyrinthine Victorian building… Here I lived rent-free for four years.

But now it was the height of a recession and London was no city in which to be poor. Where once it was a dizzying maze to be navigated one day at a time, a playground for constant reinvention, now it was a place owned by the property developers, the oligarchs. The old one-bedroomed flat, with its bath on breeze blocks in the kitchen and infestation of mice, abandoned by the local council for thirty years, had recently sold for £800,000.

Perhaps the sometimes cheaper living costs of rural areas, accompanied by the relatively low entry points for digital technology and virtual rents for online territories (the new-ish nooks and crannies?) are combining to become some of the spaces that allow more easily for the aforementioned cultural incubation.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. The Eeriness of the English Countryside article at The Guardian
  2. Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
  3. Ben Myers’ website
  4. Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. The Changes / The Disruption – Notes on a Flipside of the Pastoral Conversation – Part 1: Wanderings 1/52 (And the Start of a New Yearly Cycle)
  2. Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music – Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of Enclosure, Old and New: Chapter 1 Book Images
  3. Day #190/365: Electric Eden Ether Reprise (#2): Acts Of Enclosure, the utopian impulse and why folk music and culture?

 

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Hand of Stabs – Black-Veined White: Audio Visual Archive 2/52

Artwork from Hand of Stabs’ Black-Veined White album.

“Black-Veined White takes as its starting point the eponymous butterfly which was last seen in the UK in Rochester, the area in which HoS work and explore, in the 1920s…

…it utilises precise textual descriptions of the Black-Veined White by L. Watson and M.J. Dallwitz alongside poetry that considers these ‘air wraiths’ by Giles Watson, to create a journey whereby Hand of Stab’s hidden drones and textures create a form of (non-electronic) electronica played on and summoned from the land and soil, a journey which captures and summons the spirit of these winged creatures that have now departed from our shores.

Black-Veined White and the work of Hand of Stabs is a very particular, otherly form of cultural exploration and inquiry whereby the aggressive transgression of the likes of COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle and early Einstürzende Neubauten has evolved and spread deeply foraging roots to create work that is more pastoral in its themes but still very far from the centre of things.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country.)

“Hand of Stabs, from the South East of England, are a three-man collective who’s work draws inspiration from their exploration of local, often forbidden, landmarks. They create improvised sound pieces which can be simultaneously uplifting, difficult and intense using both traditional and homebuilt instruments.

Sharing a love of the history and sacred past of Medway Towns and surrounding countryside, and inspired by regular, often night-time walks through these spaces, they are creating a series of soundworks evoking and celebrating their essence.” (Quoted from Hand of Stabs.)

Hand of Stabs are currently having something of a hiatus. The poster for their final performance before that began is above.

As an image it seems to capture a sense of melancholy, reflection and the dock history of the Medway Towns particularly well, which rather suits Hand of Stabs background/inspirations and the nature of a “valedictory aktion”.

 

More details on Black-Veined White here and at Bandcamp.

Visit Hand of Stabs here.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #155/365: Hand of Stabs… delving amongst the soil and roots for the hidden stories of the land…
  2. Day #349/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #2; the semi-random placing of England’s hidden reverse…
  3. Audiological Transmission #26/​​52​​: Black-Veined White (Excerpt #1) – Hand of Stabs

 

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The Changes / The Disruption – Notes on a Flipside of the Pastoral Conversation – Part 2: Wanderings 2/52

This is Part 2 of a post on The Disruption, a booklet published by Texte und Töne that contains a conversation between the authors and academics Andy Beckett and Roger Luckhurst on the television series The Changes which was first broadcast on British television in 1975.

Part 1 of the post can be viewed here.

Below is a continuation of a selective precis of some of the main themes and topics discussed in The Disruption, alongside comments on some of their conversation on the series. Unless otherwise stated sections in italics are direct quotes from the publication:

One of the recurring themes in The Disruption is a reassessment of the history of the late 1960s through to the late 1970s and how it was an ongoing time of experimentation and liberalism to a certain extent within society and culture, rather than as is often suggested such things reaching a peak in 1968 and then there being a well-defined schism and decline afterwards.

They comment that such liberalism was present within institutions such as The BBC in terms of “permitting experiments and allowing the pushing of boundaries here and there” which resulted in the commissioning of work such as The Changes and Penda’s Fen. It could also be found to a degree and at times in the government of the day; Home Secretary Roy Jenkins approved the organisation of free festivals despite being informed by his civil servants of the substance taking and minor law-breaking that went on at such gatherings, with official documents at the time focusing more on the potentially beneficial social aspects for their young attendees, as long as “they didn’t get out of hand“.

Within The Disruption they propose that such benign, patrician “establishment liberalism” had a high water around 1974-1976 which was accompanied by a:

“…not necessarily showy avant-garde, but almost like an experimentalism of the everyday – in living, in politics, in art…”

Going on to say that:

“Thatcher casts this huge shadow and we have only remembered a certain kind of rebellion – often rather aggressive and dramatic – as if those are the only ones that counted.”

Such experimentalism in day-to-day life could be seen to be reflected within mainstream television programmes such as The Good Life (1975-1978) in which a previously conventional couple drop out of the “rat race” and attempt to live self-sufficiently in their suburban home – a quiet, gently, ongoing way of living counter to the mainstream rather than the brash confrontation of punk.

“The apocalypse is over by episode two. And you know what, it’s pretty much okay. We’ll get back to riding around on horses and black smything… We’re back to the English post-apocalyptic pastoral (and) the sort of rural loveliness a lot of counter-cultural people wanted in the 1970s and which made them leave cities… The reality was often a lot colder and muddier, a lot harder.”

In The Disruption it is noted how the journey in The Changes is towards the West of England, which was seen at the time by both some hippies and members of the ruling establishment as a form of sanctuary, while the likes of The Changes, Day of the Triffids, The Death of Grass are “post apocalyptic fictions saturated in melancholic reflection on Englishness.

Within The Disruption Beckett and Luckhurst also ask if the contemporary interest in the flipside of the pastoral within culure and related DVD etc reissues are just about nostalgia as a result of a certain generation arriving at a position where they can intervene in or commission cultural production and have thier childhood memories immortalised? Or is there more at play:

“…1970s nostalgia has some particular qualities. To a lot of people, a Seventies childhood, whether they had one or not, represents freedom: roaming around unsupervised by adults, less dominated by cars than now, not kept indoors by computers… One of the strengths of The Changes is the way it makes childhood seem both frightening and incredibly exciting, almost limitless with possibilities.”

As discussed in the booklet, Public Information Films at the time were in part a reflection of the freedom which children enjoyed at the time without adult supervision and so they needed to be warned off railway tracks and away from electricity substations, farms and factories.

And as I also discuss in the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, as with The Changes, such instructional films could be seen as being produced during a period when “society was battling over its future shape, order and social consensus”.

Which essentially is one of the main and possibly core themes of The Disruption; that The Changes is a reflection and product of such transitional, unsettled times and so as we are currently living through an in some ways not dissimilar time of turbulence, such programmes, films, themes etc have become a new mirror or lens through which to view our own contemporary time, worries, troubles and preoccupations.

The Disruption is the ninth in a series of books and booklets published by Texte und Töne. All their releases have been Risograph printed, which as I have mentioned at A Year In The Country before utilises a form of digital reproduction that exists somewhere inbetween photocopying and screenprinting. The resultant print quality has a lovely, tactile mat finish and almost handcrafted feel to it, with slight variations and blemishes here and there.

As with previous publications, the design is by Rob Carmichael of SEEN, with The Disruption including images from The Changes reconfigured in dark gold and maroon collages which in their use of abstract and strikingly abruptly placed shapes brings to mind the work of Julian House of Ghost Box Records / Intro design agency.

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Texte und Töne’s site.
  2. The Changes at the BFI.
  3. The Changes DVD release.

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #15/365. The Twilight Language Of Nigel Kneale
  2. Penda’s Fen and The Edge Is Where The Centre Is – Explorations of the Occult, Otherly and Hidden Landscape: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 2/52
  3. David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 16/52
  4. David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 17/52
  5. Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen, Red Shift and The Owl Service – Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes: Chapter 11 Book Images
  6. The Changes / The Disruption – Notes on a Flipside of the Pastoral Conversation – Part 1: Wanderings 5/52

 

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Grey Frequency – Immersion: Audio Visual Archive 1/52

Artwork from Grey Frequency’s Immersion album.

“The phrase that comes to mind when I think of Grey Frequency’s work is broken signals; a scanning or overview of the ghosts in the airwaves, transmissions discovered via edgeland explorations and forays…

…when I listen to Immersion it feels like a capturing of activity hidden deep below the surface of things, the inexorable power of nature and it’s movement/force against it’s own edifices and those of civilisation over many years; a capturing of the sound of those self-same rending and collapsing into the below. Lovely stuff.” (Quoted from A Year In The Country).

More details on the album here and at Bandcamp.

Visit Grey Frequency’s site here.

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #192/365: When Do We Dream? Cold Geometries and Grey Frequencies
  2. Grey Frequency’s Agrarian Lament Video: Artifact Report #23/52a
  3. Audiological Transmission #50​/​52: The Quietened Bunker – Comms: Seen Through The Grey / Revisitation #4a
  4. Week #49/52: The Wanderings Of Veloelectroindustrial
  5. Audiological Transmission #30​/​​​​​52​​: The Quietened Bunker – Drakelow Tunnels
  6. Audiological Transmission #25/​​52​​: Immersion – Coastline, Black Sky
  7. Day #346/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #1; a library of loss
  8. Day #362/365: Signals sent, signals received…

 

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The Changes / The Disruption – Notes on a Flipside of the Pastoral Conversation – Part 1: Wanderings 1/52 (And the Start of a New Yearly Cycle)

Well, the start of a new yearly cycle of A Year In The Country (and good cheer to you all!)…

…in order to draw a line between previously visited pastures and new harvestings, I thought to begin with The Disruption, a publication that focuses on the 1975 television series The Changes…

As I have referred to before at A Year In The Country one of the interesting things with the relatively quite small and compact area of 1970s folk horror and related otherly pastoral/hauntological television and film is that points of cultural interest in regards to them are now often not purely the actual programmes etc themselves but also includes work they have influenced and inspired people to make.

Which brings me to the just mentioned The Disruption, which is a booklet published by Texte und Töne that contains a conversation between the authors and academics Andy Beckett and Roger Luckhurst on the also just mentioned television series The Changes.

In the series a strange sound inhabits the brains of the inhabitants of Britain and drives them to destroy and fear any modern technology, leading to societal collapse and a return to medievalism. The story is told via a schoolgirl who has become separated from her parents and who sets off on a quest across the countryside to reunite with them and ultimately solve the mystery of what has caused these extreme disruptions. During the series England is shown to have become a place of authoritarian medieval hierarchy, roving gangs and witch hunts.

Along the way it takes in her finding a temporary surrogate home away from the city with a group of wandering Sikhs and she is accused of sorcery by a witch-finder. Ultimately it is discovered that The Changes are due to the awakening of a sentient lode-stone which had once given magical powers to Merlin and which is now trying to take England back to a better time, before the Industrial Revolution, when people were more at one with nature and each other.

Below are presented some of the main themes and topics discussed in The Disruption – essentially in part a selective precis, alongside comments on some of their conversation on The Changes. Unless otherwise stated sections in italics are direct quotes from the publication:

“It travels to the same dark and anti-pastoral territory as David Rudkin/Alan Clarke’s Penda’s Fen (1974) and the Nigel Kneale scripted Murrain (1975).”

While taking the series as its initial starting point, in part booklet is a discussion about the general social, cultural and political background in which the programme was made and broadcast, in particular in relation to the counter-culture in Britain from the 1960s and 1970s in terms of hippies and alternative ways of life and how that continued in some ways into the 1990s (re crusties, travellers, the Peace Convoy etc).

“The appearance of Merlin at the end of The Changes is another… older element, a return to an English mystical tradition that’s trying to find something underneath modernity.” 

Although expressed via an apocalyptic occurrence in society, in part The Changes could be seen as a reflection of an early 1970s yearning to return to the land and simpler more wholesome times and ways, of rediscovering the pastoral, folk music and culture.

In the series the characters have had to flee for their lives from the cities and they find themselves in a landscape that is in some ways a pleasant rural idyll, the apocalypse it presents seems almost gentle and society seems to largely fairly easily move back to:

“…it’s quite nice out there where they’ve taken refuge: high summer, archetypal English landscapes – the sort of rural loveliness a lot of counter-cultural people wanted in the 1970s, and which made them leave the cities, to try to find more mellow and fulfilled lives in Gloucestershire or Wales.”

In their conversation Beckett and Luckhurst consider how the attack on technology in The Changes echoes the attacks made on the new automated looms and the resultant crisis in mill labour in the 1810s and the ways in which such things connect with and reflect the turmoil of the 1970s in the West:

“…all of this evokes the end of the long postwar boom… the oil crisis and a sense of impending disaster, and it appears in popular culture in strange places… those anxieties billow out into popular culture, but it’s clearly there in children’s literature and TV too.”

They draw comparisons between the mid-1970s and the state of flux which British society is in and today where after the stability of the Major and Blair years – approximately the early 1990s until the current economic crisis began around 2007 –  it is now hard to predict the future and we are living in a time of uncertainty.

Because of this they propose that the worries, catastrophes and England on the edge of disaster of the likes of The Changes, The Survivors (1975-1977) and the final Quatermass series (1979), alongside the spectral, supernatural unearthings of The Stone Tape (1972) and also loosely related unsettled pastoral work, such as the triumvirate of folk horror films that includes Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973), fit our era much better than they might have done ten years ago:

“It feels like there has been an embrace of catastrophe across the spectrum, alarmist on the left, almost welcoming on the right. I suppose this also makes sense of us wanting to re-watch that whole strand of 1970s apocalyptic films now, and also that the culture seems compelled to remake them.”

In this sense their theories connect with author and academic Robert Macfarlane’s comment in his article “The Eeriness of the English Countryside” that the current interest in the darker, eerie side of the landscape and pastoralism in culture may well be:

“..an attempt to account for the turbulence of England in the era of late capitalism. The supernatural and paranormal have always been means of figuring powers that cannot otherwise find visible expression. Contemporary anxieties and dissents are here being reassembled and re-presented as spectres, shadows or monsters…”

The interconnected nature of such work, both the original programmes and films and more contemporary writing, publications etc which have been inspired by them, is also reflected by the above observation by Robert Macfarlane  being quoted by Texte und Töne editor Sukhdev Sandhu in his introductory text for an edition of The Edge is Where The Centre Is, a publication also released by Texte und Töne which focused on the preternatural pastoral television drama Penda’s Fen (1974.)

Continued in Part 2 of this post (which depending on when you’re reading this post may not yet be viewable).

 

Elsewhere:

  1. Texte und Töne’s site.
  2. The Changes at the BFI.
  3. The Changes DVD release.

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. Day #15/365. The Twilight Language Of Nigel Kneale
  2. Penda’s Fen and The Edge Is Where The Centre Is – Explorations of the Occult, Otherly and Hidden Landscape: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 2/52
  3. David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 1: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 16/52
  4. David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 2: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 17/52
  5. Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen, Red Shift and The Owl Service – Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes: Chapter 11 Book Images
  6. The Changes / The Disruption – Notes on a Flipside of the Pastoral Conversation – Part 2: Wanderings 5/52
    (Please note: depending on when you’re reading this post, Part 2 may not yet be viewable.)

 

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Rounding the Circle

Well, the end of the year is upon us, as is this particular yearly cycle of A Year In The Country

So, just to say thanks to anybody who has “tuned in” to the A Year In The Country site, who has supported the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Field book and the A Year In The Country albums and to Suzy Prince and Ian Lowey for their help in putting together the book.

And a thank you to everybody who has written about, broadcast and in other ways supported the various A Year In The Country releases. To mention just a few: We Are Cult, John Coulthart, Shindig!, The Sunday Experience, Bliss Aquamarine, Verity Sharp and Rebecca Gaskell of Late Junction, Norman Records, DJ Food, Fortean Times, Terrascope, Gideon Coe, Flatland Frequencies, state51, Dave Thompson / Goldmine, Gated Canal Community Radio, Wyrd Daze, More Than Human, Electronic Sound, Chris Lambert, Mind De-coder, Sunrise Ocean Bender, The Unquiet Meadow, Folk Horror Revival, Music Won’t Save You, Simon Reynolds, Johnny Seven / Pull the Plug, On The Wire, Graham Dunning, Jude Rogers, The Séance, Starburst and You, the Night & the Music.

It being the end of the year, now would seem like a good time to gather together a few more recent broadcasts and appropriately, appearances in end of year lists of this year’s A Year In The Country releases:

The A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book was included in Electronic Sound magazine’s end of year book round up, in some rather fine company including Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music, Tangerine Dream: Force Majeure and All Gates Open: The Story of Can.

“A written word accompaniment to the prolific hauntological label of the same name… A 340 page offering spread across 52 chapters, each one representing a week of the year. Bewitching stuff.”

The book was also including in Dave Thompson’s “Spin Cycle’s Best of 2018” list at Goldmine magazine’s site, where it can be found amongst a smorgasbord that includes the likes of Beautify Junkyards, Rowan: Morrison, Comus, Curved Air, The Upsetters, Alison O’Donnell, Soft Cell, Tangerine Dream and Roxy Music just for starters…

Visit that here.

The Audio Albion album was also in Electronic Sound’s round up of compilations of the year, alongside amongst other albums Minimal Wave’s The Bedroom Tapes and Prophecy + Progress: UK Electronics 1978-1990:

“Found sounds and electronic discovery from out in the wild… delightful rolling project, commissioning musicians to make field recordings around Britain’s ‘edgelands’…”

Visit issue 48 of Electronic Sound here.

Psychogeographic Review has included two of the A Year In The Country albums in it’s monthly reviews:

“Blending music and field recordings Audio Albion maps out the countryside and edgelands of this island and immerses us in the myths and legends that inhabit even the most mundane landscapes. The album comprises the work of fifteen different artists. But this is not a collection of tracks: it is a carefully constructed aural journey.” Psychogeographic Review

“Shildam Hall Tapes is an imagined soundtrack for the film and includes tracks by several artists who have featured on other A Year in the Country releases… steadily building up a body of work that presents an alternative view of rural Britain. A Year in the Country’s lens both distorts and illuminates its subject matter… the project’s output is consistently fascinating.” Psychogeographic Review

Gavino Morretti’s Dawn Of A New Generation from The Shildam Hall Tapes was on the Golden Apples of the Sun radio show. Always worth a visit, this particular episode also includes the likes of Death and Vanilla, Lee Hazelwood, Jonny Trunk and Seefeel. The show is archived here.

Grey Frequency’s Nottingham Canal and Time Attendant’s Hidden Parameters from The Quietened Mechanisms was on the 4th November 2018 episode of the You, the Night & the Music radio show, alongside Mat Handley of Pulselovers other rather fine eclectic selections. Originally broadcast on Sine FM, the show is archived here.

Which just leaves me to say thank you to all who have contributed music to this year’s A Year In The Country albums; Howlround, Grey Frequency, Listening Center, David Colohan, Sproatly Smith, Embertides, United Bible Studies, Magpahi, Keith Seatman, Time Attendant, Circle/Temple, The Straw Bear Band, Dom Cooper, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Depatterning, Pulselovers, The Soulless Party, Quaker’s Stang, The Heartwood Institute and Spaceship.

It is all much appreciated. A tip of the hat to you all.

Thanks!

 

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Winstanley, A Field in England and The English Civil War Part II – Reflections on Turning Points and Moments When Anything Could Happen: Chapter 52 Book Images

Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 8

“Winstanley is the 1975 Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo film biography and tribute to Gerrard Winstanley, who was a religious reformer and political activist in the 17th century.

Gerrard Winstanley was one of the founders of an English group known as the True Levellers or Diggers, who occupied previously public common lands which had been privatised, living in what could be considered some of the first examples of or experiments in socialist communal living.

The community he helped to create was quickly suppressed but left a legacy of ideas which inspired later generations.”

Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 11

“Winstanley is a curiosity which lingers in the mind, one which ploughed its own furrow and created its own very particular corner of British filmmaking.”

A Field In England-soundtrack poster-A Year In The Country

“In many ways Winstanley could be seen as a companion piece to Ben Wheatley’s also low-budget fictional historic fantasy film A Field in England (2013), possibly the more erudite, learned, historical brother to its rambunctious more recently released sibling.

There are a number of similarities to the films; both are set around a similar time period of the English Civil War, have similar costumes, are set in the rural landscape, shot in crisp black and white and show a flipside and/or the undercurrents of English history.”

Winstanley 1975-A Year In The Country

“Accompanying the BFI DVD/Blu-ray release of Winstanley is the “making of ” documentary, It Happened Here Again in which there is a curious mixture of centuries and styles.

In the documentary the costumed cast are pictured in amongst contemporary families, the rickety cars and vans of the 1970s and folk who aesthetically could have tumbled from 1970s Open University broadcasts.

There is a sense of it capturing a very specific time and place in English history during the mid 1970s; possibly the last days of the utopian sixties dream and aesthetics before punk and the Thatcherite 1980s arrived and made much which immediately preceded them seem almost to belong to a separate parallel world: one far distant from our own.”

Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 5

“The period during which Winstanley was made could also be seen as a link to the time when it and A Field in England were set as there are similarities to both points in history; periods of unrest and historical points of battle and change in society.”

Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 10

“In the 17th century it was the battle between magic, religion, science, the old ruling order/economic models and the new; in the 1970s during Winstanley’s production Britain was wracked by internal unrest, economic strife and the battle which would lead to the turning of elements of society towards the right and the adoption or possibly ascendancy of a related new economic/political model.

That particular change also led to another battle, sometimes fought amongst the fields of England and its neighbours; the bitterly fought Miners Strike of 1984-1985 where the government of the day clashed with miners over pit closures.”

This was a defining conflict at the time between those who believed in more collectively-organised labour and a post-war progressive consensus (with regards to the state intervening in the welfare of the nation) and a political, economic and philosophical grouping which wished to move towards a more monetarist, consumer and individual-orientated society.”

A Field In England-landscape poster-A Year In The Country

“With regards to A Field in England, Ben Wheatley has talked about being interested in making a film about a period when Britain was in “free fall and chaos… a moment when anything could happen”, which could apply equally to Britain at either of the above times in the 17th or 20th centuries.”

The English Civil War Part II-book-Cornerhouse-Stuktur-Jeremy Deller

“These were times when history could have gone various ways and which could be seen as the start of turning points in the world and society. Connecting back to the period in which Winstanley is set, the Miners Strike of 1984-1985 has been called the The English Civil War Part II by artist Jeremy Deller, who used the phrase as the title of a book released in 2002, which documented and reflected on the strike and a re-enactment of a defining conflict during it which has come to be known as ‘The Battle of Orgreave’.”

That re-enactment, also called The Battle of Orgreave, was initiated by Jeremy Deller and was a partial re-enactment of what has come to be thought of as one the turning point conflicts of the strike that originally took place on 18 June 1984 and involved violent clashes between striking miners and the police.

The events or “battle” took place at a British Steel Corporation coking plant in Orgreave, Yorkshire, which processed fuel made from coal, that the miners wished to stop the collection of supplies from and a large number of striking miners converged on this one point on that date.

The re-enactment featured both miners and policemen who had been involved in the strike alongside members of re-enactment societies and a documentary of the event filmed by Mike Figgis was televised by mainstream broadcaster Channel 4.”

Jeremy-Deller-The-English-Civil-War-Boyes-Georgina-A Year In The Country“The English Civil War Part II book is a companion piece to the re-enactment and contains personal accounts by those who were involved in the strike and the re-enactment, alongside memorabilia from the strike including pamphlets, news clippings, photographs from personal scrapbooks, song texts, a CD containing interviews with former miners and some of their wives and also photographs of the re-enactment.

While being to a degree documentary or archival in nature, the book combines these elements to create a moving and evocative tribute to the conflict and those whose lives it affected.”

 

Online images to accompany Chapter 52 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

 

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The 12 Blogs of Christmas – A Gathering of Semi-Lost and Hidden Away Televisual Drama: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 52/52

Counterstrike-1969-BBC

I thought that over the years I had come across most of a particular kind of spectral/hauntological unavailable, semi-lost and lost British television but then I discovered novelist, comic and screenwriter Paul Cornell’s post The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Five. Telefantasy for DVD: the BBC (1954-1990) and realised that there are a fair few I had never even heard of.

In that post he lists and discusses BBC television shows of a science fiction and fantasy nature which have never been available on DVD but which aren’t completely missing from the BBC archives, so effectively also something of an “actionable” wish list.

1970s television set

In order to provide a “backup” version of the list for posterity, below I list every series etc he mentions (alongside a few notes on some of the programmes that I’ve written).

A Small Problem (1987).

Aliens in the Family (1987).

Captain Zep – Space Detective (1983-1984).

Come Back Mrs. Noah (1977-1978)

Mrs Noah

Counterstrike (1969).

Debut on Two: Kingdom Come (1990):

The Incredible Robert Baldick-Never Come Night-BBC

Drama Playhouse: The Incredible Robert Baldick: ‘Never Come Night’ (1972):
Apparently features Robert Hardy as a Victorian supernatural investigator, one who apparently has his own special train (!).

Galloping Galaxies! (1985-1986).

Kenneth Williams.

Ghost in the Water (1982)

Hands Across the Sky (1960).

Late Night Horror: The Corpse Can’t Play (1968).

Leap in the Dark-series-BBC

Leap in the Dark (1973-1980).
The first series was a “magazine programme for mystics”, series 2-4 were docudramas featuring allegedly real paranormal events. It sounds as though it may have been part of a wider mainstream interest in the supernatural and even the occult in the 1970s.

Some episodes were written by The Owl Service writer Alan Garner and Penda’s Fen writer David Rudkin.

Episodes of this were viewable online once upon a time but the last time I looked they had gone.

Man Dog (1972).
The plot involves rebels from the future, whose leaders mind is beamed into the brain of a pet dog. Written by Peter Dickinson, author of The Changes.

1984 (1954).
George Orwell’s book adapted by Nigel Kneale and starring Peter Cushing.

Orion (1977).

Outta Space. (1973).

Out of the Trees (1976).

Play For Today- Angels are so Few-Dennis Potter-1970-BBC

Play For Today: Angels are so Few (1970).
Dennis Potter drama about a man who is possibly an angel who invades a suburban home. Never released on DVD but apparently it was in the online video streaming BBC Store – which only lasted a brief while and is now gone.

Play For Today: London is Drowning (1981).

Play For Today: Stronger Than The Sun (1977).
Directed by former Bond director Michael Apted and written by Stephen Poliakoff. Its plot about the nuclear industry and protest seems to share some similar territory with Edge of Darkness.

Play For Today: Vampires (1979).

Z For Zachariah-1984 BBC Play For Today-3

Play For Today: Z for Zachariah (1984).
Which I have written about before at A Year In The Country and which in more recent times has been remade featuring A-list Hollywood stars.

Play For Tomorrow (1982).

Playhouse: The Breakthrough and Mrs. Acland’s Ghosts (both 1975).

Playhouse: The Mind Beyond (1976).

Play of the Month: I Have Been Here Before (1982).

Play of the Month: The Devil’s Eggshell (1966).

Play of the Week-Stargazy on Zummerdown-1978

Play of the Week: Stargazy on Zummerdown (1978).
Now this sounds intriguing: peaceful agrarian workers of Albion in the 23rd century hold a festival where they meet with the industrial Toonies:

“…a slice of town and country ritual rivalry set in the 23rd century, in a society where urban and rural communities live uneasily side by side under the benign auspices of a retro-pagan church, and trade relations between the two are agreed at an annual festival wherein village fete meets wrestling smackdown. Oh, and an onion eating contest…”
(From You Can’t Do That on T.V. Anymore)

Rentaghost (1976-1984).
Atchoo!

The Black and Blue Lamp-1988-BBC

Screenplay: The Black and Blue Lamp (1988).
A time travel black comedy with a police/crime element , which sounds like something of a forebear to Life on Mars.

Screen Two: The Lorelei (1990).

Second City Firsts: Thwum (1975).

Spine Chillers (1980).

Tarry-Dan, Tarry-Dan, Scary Old Spooky Man-1978-BBC

Tarry-Dan, Tarry-Dan, Scary Old Spooky Man (1978).

The Bells of Astercote (1980).

The Enchanted Castle (1979).

The First Picture Show: Dracula is Not Dead (1976).
A showcase in which new director’s student films were broadcast. Ian Cassie’s contribution was an interview with Dracula, who still lived in his London basement flat.

The Galactic Garden (1985).

The Ghost Downstairs (1982).

The Gift (1990).
A series about a telepathic youngster, which, as with The Changes, was based on a book by Peter Dickinson.

The Moon Stallion-BBC-1978

The Moon Stallion (1978).
A drama in which a blind girl meets mystical forces. It was released on DVD in Germany, although last time I looked that was out of print and not so cheap to buy used.

The Old Men at the Zoo (1983).
An adaptation by Troy Kennedy-Martin – who wrote Edge of Darkness – of Angus Wilson’s novel, which features a group of zoo managers living in a dystopia and their actions in preparation for the onset of apocalyptic war.

The Phoenix and the Carpet (1977).

The Play on One: Yellowbacks (1990).

The Song and the Story (1981).
In which Isla St Clair, the one time co-host of the Generation Game gameshow, and Steeleye Span collaborated on dramatisations of folk songs.

The Watch House (1988).

Theatre 625: The World of George Orwell: 1984. (1965).
A slightly edited remake of Nigel Kneal’s 1954 script.

The Moon Stallion-BBC-1978-2

It’s strange really how a lot of period BBC drama is essentially locked away in the Corporation’s vaults.

A number of these hidden away and/or semi-lost shows do occasionally appear in the public domain on streaming sites and via websites which offer DVDrs of hard to find series and films but often they are low quality transfers from faded domestically recorded videos, multiple generation copies etc.

(Although to a degree, with the more spectral/hauntological orientated work the aesthetics this lends them can be quite fitting, as can the inclusion of timecodes in some such recordings.)

For a while the BBC had an online store which was not a subscription service but rather one where you could pay to “own” series etc which would then be streamable, including, as mentioned above, some which have never been released on DVD. As a service it apparently did not enjoy a huge amount of success and lasted only for around 18 months.

In these days of potentially there being a wide range of ease of distribution options online, if the BBC’s own dedicated purchase and streaming service was not commercially viable and/or popular with the public, then possibly teaming up with an existing streaming and/or download service might be an option? Some programmes already are available digitally on the likes of Netflix and Amazon but largely it seems to be programmes which are already previously available on DVD.

Maybe time to throw open the gates? Not in an everything all at once manner which could overwhelm people and cause things to be overlooked but possibly putting a steady, measured stream of these already publicly paid for hidden away treasures out into the world via some avenue or other?

Philips1970BW1-1970s television set

Elsewhere:
The full post at Paul Cornell’s site; which features an extensive amount of writing, images etc. Well worth a visit and peruse
John Coulthart on Alan Garner’s To Kill a King and Colin Wilson’s In The Mind’s Eye from Leap in the Dark.
You Can’t Do That on T.V. Anymore: Stargazy on Zummerdown

 

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Zardoz, Phase IV and Beyond the Black Rainbow – Seeking the Future in Secret Rooms from the Past and Psychedelic Cinematic Corners: Chapter 51 Book Images

Laserdisc-Zardoz-A Year In The Country-4Phase IV-soundtrack-Saul Bellow-A Year In The CountryBeyond The Black Rainbow-still-1b

Zardoz (1974), Phase IV (1974) and Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) could be gathered in a left-of-centre, science fiction and fantasy orientated corner of more exploratory cinematic culture that to varying degrees incorporates and/or draws from psychedelic culture and imagery and associated dreamlike or altered reality states, often in pastoral or nature orientated/connected settings.”

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country-11

“Zardoz was written, produced and directed by John Boorman.

The plot involves a future Earth ruled by immortal Eternals, an advanced sect of humans who live a luxurious but aimless life in an area known as the Vortex, protected by an invisible barrier from the wasteland of the outside world which is inhabited by Brutals who carry out forced labour farming.

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country-12b

The Eternals have created a false god known as Zardoz, which is represented by a huge flying stone head and is used to control and intimidate the Exterminators, who in turn control the Brutals through the use of force.”

Zardoz-still 1

“The secluded paradise of the Eternals is a curious mix of advanced technology, new age-isms and a kind of indulgently folkloric ritualised way of life set in what appears to be an almost village like insular idyll; the Eternals partake in a liberal, democratically decided and also underlyingly conformistly oppressive way of life, with its functioning and continuation only enabled because of the forced labour farming carried out by the Brutals.”

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country 9

“Watching Zardoz is a dreamlike, at points hallucinatory or psychedelic, stepping through the looking-glass experience, notably so when Zed crosses over into the crystal based Tabernacle which controls the Vortex and when he is absorbing all the Eternals’ knowledge outside of time and the real world.”

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country 2

“…while undergoing the absorption of knowledge process a projected lightshow of collaged and drifting images representing this knowledge plays over and completely covers his and the Eternals’ faces and unclothed bodies as they float disembodiedly across the frame in what becomes a swirling, speeding up carousel of faces.”

“It is an exploratory, dissonant, challenging blockbuster or spectacle film, one which questions society’s actions, accompanied by references to 20th century cinematic fantastical fairy tales and philosophy, while also being full of ‘I can’t actually believe that this was allowed to come to the big screen’ moments.”

Zardoz-1973-John Boorman-A Year In The Country 6Zardoz-1973-Cinefantastique-John Boorman-A Year In The Country

“All of which is complemented by a former James Bond wearing what can only be described as revealing futuristic Mexican fetish-bandit wear. To use a phrase from the film itself, this is one of those times when popular culture goes ‘renegade’.”

Phase IV-Saul Bellow-A Year In The Country

“Phase IV is the only film made by renowned designer Saul Bass and as with Zardoz it is a cultural oddity, and Paramount Pictures were probably more than a little surprised when they saw what they had financed.”

Phase IV-Saul Bellow-A Year In The Country 3

“In the film two scientists and one younger woman they rescue are held hostage in a desert research facility by ants which they are meant to be studying but who seem to have gained some form of collective consciousness and higher intelligence due to some unknown cosmic event.”

Phase IV ending-collage-bw

“…it literally explodes in a psychedelic coming of a new age and order collage of imagery sequence at the end. Well,sort of… There was full-length journey into and through the new world fantasy sequence filmed as an ending but it was not used for the general release. The film that most people have seen ends with a glimpse of this new world but it is merely a brief view.

The full sequence had a limited public cinematic outing when a version of it was found in 2012 at the Academy Film Archive in Hollywood, USA but it has never been included as part of an official release for home viewing.”

Phase IV-Saul Bellow-A Year In The Country 2

“It is… a film that though not all that well-known (and the semi-lost ending hardly at all), seems to have somehow or other reverberated through and influenced culture since its inception.

Beyond The Black Rainbow-A Year In The Country 3

“In particular, lines of connection can be drawn from Phase IV to Beyond the Black Rainbow which was written and directed by Panos Cosmatos.

The plot of that film centres around the Aboria Institute, a new age research facility founded in the 1960s by Dr Arboria which is set in “award winning gardens” and dedicated to finding a reconciliation between science and spirituality, allowing humans to move into a new age of perpetual happiness.

In the 1980s his work was taken over by his protégé Dr Barry Nyle who despite outward appearances of charm and normality is actually mentally unstable and has thoroughly corrupted the Institute and its aims.”

Beyond The Black Rainbow-still-2b copy

“The lines of connection and inspiration between Phase IV and Beyond the Black Rainbow are not a direct transference and replication, rather, as also said by the director it is in an ‘abstracted, vaguely recognisable way’…

This sense of non-replication can be linked to the representations of the 1980s when Beyond the Black Rainbow is set, which do not create a detail-perfect simulacra but rather a reflection of that time which in text that accompanies the film’s DVD/Blu-ray release has somewhat aptly and evocatively been described as “a Reagan-era fever dream”.

Although referring to a different time period than the late 1960s to 1970s, which much of hauntological-leaning work tends to, Beyond the Black Rainbow shares with that area of culture a sense of the reimagining or fragmented recall of cultural memories which are explored and used in order to create a parallel world view of previous eras…

Watching it can instill the sense that you are viewing an overlooked David Cronenberg film from that time.”

Beyond The Black Rainbow-Jay Shaw video design-Mondotees-A Year In The Country Beyond The Black Rainbow-Jay Shaw video and poster design-Mondotees-A Year In The Country

“Also, in a similar manner to sections of hauntologically-labelled work, Beyond the Black Rainbow has a strong sense of being a rediscovered lost artifact; this is a film which could have tumbled from the further reaches of an early 1980s video shop’s shelves but one from that “fever dream” rather than being passed down directly via historical reality…

…Somewhat appropriately considering the above and despite such things being more or less obsolete and no longer widely manufactured, alongside the DVD and Blu-ray editions it was also released on limited edition VHS videocassette by Mondo, who alongside such things specialise in limited edition posters featuring commissioned artwork reinterpretations of films.”

 Beyond The Black Rainbow-Jagjaguwar-Panos Cosmatos-A Year In The Country-gatefold

“If the film could be a rediscovered and refracted Cronenberg project from a parallel world, then its soundtrack could well be a Tangerine Dream-esque soundtrack from that world.

The soundtrack is by Jeremy Schmidt (working as Sinoia Caves), and utilises mellotron choirs, analogue synthesizers and arpeggiators to create a period aesthetic and atmosphere.”

I Am The Center-Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990-Light In The Attic-A Year In The Country

It puts me in mind of the further reaches and undercurrents of what has been loosely labelled new age music, including some of the work that can be found on the compilation I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age in America – 1950-1990 (released in 2013 by Light in the Attic) such as Wilburn Burchette’s “Witch’s Will” which, as with the soundtrack to Beyond the Black Rainbow, creates an atmosphere that is restful, draws you in and yet is also portentous and unsettling.”

Beyond The Black Rainbow-still-3b

“…Beyond the Black Rainbow is not always an easy and often an unsettling film, so if you should seek it out then tread gently but it has a visual beauty, entrancing atmosphere and sense of cinematic and cultural exploration that makes it a somewhat unique film experience.”

 

Online images to accompany Chapter 51 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

 

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The Corn Mother – Reviews, Broadcasts and Record Store Arrivals…

A selection of reviews, broadcasts and arrivals in records stores of The Corn Mother album:

“You want to see the film as described in the liner notes, and as conjured in the songs on the album, and that’s an incredible trick to pull off… This is hauntology – the genre, rather than the philosophical dystopic – in its finest form, where buried memories of film, TV, music, and life come to the surface, often unverifiable because the hard copy has been lost or was never properly recorded in the first instance.” Alan Boon, Starburst

“Gavino Morretti opens the creep casting ceremony courtesy of the suspense tingling ‘Ritual and Unearthly Fire’. With its slow clock tocking pensive, a sweetly sinister aura descends, dropping from its orbital station, this prowling ethereal spirals with a chill tipped kosmische flashing much recalling Carpenter’s more mellowed lunar recitals as found on ‘Lost Themes’ and with it bathing the landscape with a somewhat, calm before the storm, like lull.” Mark Barton, The Sunday Experience


“The sense of dark electronic menace continues through offerings (the term is used advisedly) by The Heartwood Institute, Sproatly Smith and Field Lines Cartographer, while Widow’s Weeds contribute bad trip acid-folk and ‘The Night Harvest’ by A Year In The Country themselves moves into Coil territory. This remarkably cohesive collection is shaping new nightmares from yesterday’s broken dreams.” Ben Graham, Shindig! magazine, issue 86.

“The Heartwood Institute arrive with the terrific wonky eerie electro of ‘Corn Dolly’… ‘The Keeper’s Dilemma’ by Depatterning (has) the feel of isolation, with a clanging bell that feels like it’s just reacting to wind… Sproatly Smith are ‘Caught in the Coppice’ (that) flutters and coo’s along to a ghostly tune… Let us hope for a good harvest next year.” Andrew Young, Terrascope

“Unsettling sonics are achieved with woozy synth pads and simple piano lines by Gavino Morretti’s ‘Ritual And Unearthly Fire”… Field Lines Cartographer end proceedings with a suitably chilling and swirling vortex of darkness.” Electronic Sound magazine, issue 48

“Halloween may be over but its spell for me always lingers… and albums such as this are especially suited to chill days, early twilights and long, dark nights.” John Coulthart, feuilleton

“United Bible Studies, who on this recording comprise band founder David Colohan alongside Dominic Cooper of The Owl Service and Alison O’Donnell of Mellow Candle and Flibbertigibbet, provide a chilling piece of incidental music in which otherworldly murmurs are interwoven with unsettling soundscaping… Depatterning combine found sounds with surreal electronics, the piece’s various sections drifting in and out in the manner of a dream… Widow’s Weeds includes former members of The Hare and the Moon; they contribute an exceptional dark folk track setting truly beautiful vocals to a chilling mix of woozy electronics and intense neoclassical film music… An engaging album in which the apparently disparate genres of folk music and experimental electronica sit perfectly well together as different expressions of the same basic idea.” Kim Harten, Bliss Aquamarine

 

And so on to some of the radio etc broadcasts…

The Keeper’s Dilemma by Depatterning was on episode 248 of More Than Human, alongside the likes of Pendulum, Leyland Kirby and Sone Institute. Originally broadcast on CiTR FM, the show is archived here.

The Heartwood Insitute’s Corn Dolly was on the There’s a Moment of Arrival episode of record label Sunrise Ocean Bender’s radio show, accompanied by amongst others Wooden Shjips, Jagjaguwar and the soundtrack to Beyond the Black Rainbow. Originally on WRIR FM, the show is archived here.

Field Lines Cartographer’s Procession at Dusk was included on Pete Wiggs’ and James Papademetrie’s phantom seaside radio show The Séance, in an episode that also included work by Michael Nyman, Sabres of Paradise, and Dave & Toni Arthur (y’kno’, from television show Play Away). Originally broadcast via Radio Reverb and Sine FM, the show is archived here.

In a rounding-the-circle manner Corn Dolly by The Heartwood Institute, Procession at Dusk by Field Lines Cartographer and Ritual And Unearthly Fire by Gavino Morretti were on the 9th December 2018 episode of the You, the Night & the Music radio show, which is hosted by Mat Handley of Pulselovers, whose track Beat Her Down appears on the album. Originally broadcast on Sine FM, the show is archived here.

Pulselovers Beat Her Down was included on Wyrd Daze/The Ephemeral Man’s Samhain Séance Seven: Aftermath, accompanied by Keith Seatman, Jean Michael Jarre, Sone Institute and Dead Can Dance. The episode is archived here.

Widow’s Weeds’ The Corn Mother was played amongst the flipside of folk and hauntological explorations of The Unquiet Meadow, on an episode which also included Goblin, Raymond Scott and John Carpenter. Originally broadcast on Asheville FM, the show’s playlist is here.

 

And then on to The Corn Mother’s appearance in online and bricks and mortar record stores:

The album is available instore and online at Manchester’s Piccadilly Records (nice to see with all the hours a certain member of A Year In The Country’s “staff” has spent in there over the years). Visit the album at Piccadilly Records here.

And The Corn Mother is available at Juno Records (and ditto the above about the number of hours a certain member of A Year In The Country’s “staff” has spent there over the years). Visit the album at Juno Records here.

The Corn Mother can also be found amongst the vastly eclectic stock and unearthings of Warp Records offshot Bleep. Visit it at Bleep here.

And finally it can also be found at Norman Records, who have given sterling support to the A Year In The Country releases over the years:

“Understated, pastorally inclined A Year in the Country release another charming collection in characteristic monochrome. Today’s folkloric ruminations concern the mysterious 1970s screenplay for a made-but-never-released horror film called The Corn Mother. Destroyed or squirrelled away somewhere, the film is, in effect, lost to the ages. It endures by its whispered reputation alone; enough to inspire eerie contributions from the likes of Gavino Moretti, Widow’s Weeds and Sproatly Smith.”

Visit the album at Norman Records here.

 

A tip of the hat to everybody concerned, much appreciated.

 

The Corn Mother: Reflections on an imaginary film;
“In the early 1970s a folk horror-esque screenplay made the rounds of the film industry but remained unmade until 1982… The film was completed but was never released and knowledge of the whereabouts of the footage became lost, though subsequent rumours suggest that it may even have been deliberately destroyed…”

The album features music by Gavino Morretti, Pulselovers, The Heartwood Institute, United Bible Studies (David Colohan, Dominic Cooper of The Owl Service, Alison O’Donnell of Mellow Candle), A Year In The Country, Widow’s Weeds (featuring former members of/collaborators with The Hare And The Moon), Depatterning, Sproatly Smith and Field Lines Cartographer. The album’s design and layout is by Ian Lowey.

The album is also available at our our Artifacts Shop, BandcampGreedbag and Amazon.

A selection of tracks can be previewed at Soundcloud and Bandcamp.

 

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Margaret Elliot’s The Corn Dolly and an Otherly Layering as the Years Pass: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 51/52

The Corn Dolly-Margaret Elliot-Colin Dunbar-book-1976-folklore

The Corn Dolly is a book by Margaret Elliot, which was originally published in 1976.

If it was published today it would probably be called a Young Adult novel – i.e. aimed at a younger teenage audience.

There is very little information about the book online and not all that many copies for sale but it could be loosely connected to folk horror or the spectral, preter/supernatural likes of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen in its themes.

The story of the book involves a form of sympathetic magic and the mystical powers and actions of a corn dolly, which is found by a young brother and sister, in protecting the harvest:

“Susie retrieved the Corn dolly from the river-bank where she was being attacked by a group of crows. With the help of her brother, Jack, she fished the doll out and took her back to Granny Cuddon’s house. Their Gran told them that the doll had been a good luck charm who ensured a successful harvest for her owner – and she mentioned that farmer Barham had once had a very similar doll. Farmer Barham had employed the children’s father but bad luck had struck his farm and he was almost bankrupt now.

“It seemed to Susie, and even to Jack, that ever since they had found the doll they had been followed by the attacking crows. And both children felt obscurely threatening forces closing in on them. In fact, finding the Corn dolly was to catapult them into a sinister adventure, connected with the evil powers that were trying to destroy Farmer Barham’s Highfield. But they discovered the Corn dolly, too, had powers – powers for good, which were tested to the utmost when the enemy struck.

“Margaret Elliot has written an unusual adventure story based on the folk lore of the English countryside.”

(From the inside cover text of the book.)

The Corn Dolly-Margaret Elliot-Colin Dunbar-book-1976-folklore-3 copy

Margaret Elliot wrote four books between 1976-1981 – The Corn Dolly, When the Night Crow Flies, Witch’s Gold and To Trick a Witch, all of which seem to be aimed at a similar audience and feature not dissimilar battles between mystical powers of good and evil (or white and black witches and their covens).

All four of the books feature illustrations by Colin Dunbar, on whom information also seems scarce.

If published today they might well be filed alongside the vast array of other, not dissimilarly themed Young Adult orientated books.

However with the passing of time older, previously fairly normal or mainstream culture can gain extra layers of interest/a patina of intrigue and character and that is the case with The Corn Dolly.

Viewed now and with the current interest in flipside Albion-esque and “wyrd” culture it seems like a curious, intriguing, semi-lost cultural artifact and also a signifier of some of the interests and background of its time of publication; post The Wicker Man and the canonic trio of folk horror films from the early 1970s, a relatively mainstream interest in the supernatural and the occult back then and a related yearning for and interest in rural and folkloric escape and culture at the time.

The Corn Dolly-Margaret Elliot-Colin Dunbar-book-1976-folklore-2

The book also connects further with The Wicker Man in that its focus is around the rituals and faith involved in protecting and hoping for a bountiful harvest and when viewed with an awareness of the above mentioned contemporary interest in the “wyrd” and eerie aspects of folklore etc the traditional verse below, which is included at the start of the book, seems to have gained a subtle “otherly” aspect:

“Corn Dolly:
“‘Tis but a thing of straw,” they say,
Yet even straw can sturdy be
Plainted into doll like me.
And in the days of long ago
To help the seeds once more to grow
I was an offering to the gods.
A very simple way indeed
Of asking them to intercede
That barn and granary o’erflow
At Harvest time, with fruit and corn
To fill again Amalthea’s horn.”

(Almathea’s Horn refers to Greek mythology, where a goat called Almathea’s broken horn was blessed by the god Zeus so that its owner would find everything they desired in it and which became a symbol of cornucopia and eternal abundance.)

 

Elsewhere:
Margaret Elliot at Good Reads

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
1) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 1/52: Hazel’s Kaboodles Corn Husk Doll Kit – Opening a Time Capsule from Back When and Faceless Folkloric Precedents
2) Chapter 7 Book Images: 1973 – A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures

 

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Strawberry Fields and Wreckers – The Countryside and Coastal Hinterland as Emotional Edgeland: Chapter 50 Book Images

Strawberry Fields-2012-A Year In The Country 3

“The plot of Frances Lea’s 2012 film Strawberry Fields involves a young-ish postwoman who is possibly running away from the loss of her mother and her over demanding, somewhat unsettled sister. She seeks escape in seasonal strawberry picking work in a rural coastal area and within this temporary community the film becomes a compressed microcosm of lives, loves, family and friendships, all of which seem to fracture, stumble and tumble in a brief moment of time.”

Strawberry Fields-2012-A Year In The Country

“The setting feels like an isolated, separate world unto itself; it comprises mostly of just the picking fields, ramshackle semi-derelict buildings, temporary accommodation, deserted beaches, neglected barns and equipment, the concrete brutalism and shabby infrastructure of the local railway station and monolithic overhead roadways (a spaghetti junction relocated amongst the fields and flatlands).”

Strawberry Fields-2012-A Year In The Country-2

“This is a world curiously free of controlling older adult influences and there is possibly only one such person whose face is seen.

The result of these circumstances seems to have created an unregulated temporary autonomous zone, one that allows for unfettered and sometimes-destructive human actions, behaviour and responses; the inhabitants are adults but their behaviour appears nearer to that of rampaging unsupervised children.”

Troubadour Rose-Bryony Afferson-Strawberry Fields 2012-A Year In The Country-higher contrast

“As an aside, there is a lovely soundtrack to Strawberry Fields, largely by Bryony Afferson and her band Troubadour Rose, which is all slightly dusty Americana tinged folk songs, drones and snatches of ghostly vocals that lodge in the mind for days.”

Wreckers-2011-film-A Year In The Country

“Wreckers (2011), directed by D. R. Hood, focuses on a young couple who have moved from the city to a small rural community.

Their lives are unsettled when one of their siblings, who is a combat veteran on whom his experiences in conflict have taken a considerable toll, unexpectedly arrives and brings with him an unearthing of hidden, painful secrets from the family’s past.

In contrast to times when the British village is depicted in cinema as an orderly country idyll, here this is gently flipped on its side; at one point in the film a tour around the locale leads not to “Oh, that’s a pretty church” comments and the like but rather to a cataloguing of who did what traumatic thing where and the emotional relationships and rules depicted in the film feel like they have reverted back to some earlier unregulated medieval time.”

Wreckers-2011-film-A Year In The Country 2

“(These two films are) visions of the countryside and rural coastal hinterland as a form of literal and emotional edgeland, with their structures, physical and personal, being thrown together, tumbledown, temporary and in a state of unsettled flux.”

 

Online images to accompany Chapter 50 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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

 

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A Small Archive of the Oddly Pastoral and an Experience Centre Time Machine by Way of the Museum of Obsolete Media: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 50/52

sight-and-sound-magzine-bfi-spring-1971sight-and-sound-magzine-bfi-summer-1978Sight and Sound-film magazine-BFI-Winter 1978-1979

This post would appear to be part of A Year In The Country which, to quote author, artist, musician and curator Kristen Gallerneaux is:

“…planted permanently somewhere between the history of the first transistor, the paranormal, and nature-driven worlds of the folkloric…” 

Things I found when I went a-wandering:

Above is a small selection of oddly pastoral 1970s covers for the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine…

I have looked up which film the images were from but I prefer to let my imagine wander and create its own narratives…

Cartrivision-1972-1973-video recorder and rental catalogue

A while ago I stumbled upon the Museum of Obsolete Media and I was surprised to see just how many formats have come and gone over the years, one of which was the Cartrivision video cassette system, which in 1972-1973 was the first consumer video-recorder available in the US:

“I offer you and your family immediate access to TV programs, your choice of feature-length films, educational and cultural materials, and your own home movies. You can see and hear them in the privacy of your living room any time you desire, without driving anywhere, without fighting crowds, without commercials or other interruptions. I can do this because I’m a time machine, a very special sort of time machine.”
(Promotional text for the Cartrivision system.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cartrivision were pioneers not only in terms of the video-recorders but also because, considerably in advance of other such services, it offered rental by post of films on its cassettes.

The system employed its own version of rights management – rental tapes could only be rewound using special equipment at retailers (pictured above), meaning tapes could only be watched once.

This brings to mind other now quite bizarre seeming rights management systems, such as the DIVX/Digital Video Express system from 1998-1999, whereby you could pay to watch a DVD-like disc but only via a dedicated player and which 48 hours after playing the disc would nolonger be watchable and needed discarding unless you paid again (the system “phoned home” to a central server system to check the disc’s status).

Or the even more bizarre and wasteful Flexplay DVD-compatible discs that were available from 2003-2009; this was intended as a means for the rental of films without the need to return the discs.

Well, there wasn’t really any use in returning them as they were supplied in a vacuum-sealed package; after opening the bonding resin holding the inner and outer layers together reacted to oxygen and turned black, making the discs unplayable.

Catrivision-a unique way of looking at things-logo

Catrivision failed for a number of reasons: the recorders were often sold as part of units which also contained a colour television and cost the modern-day equivalent of $9000 (approximately £6450 at the time of writing).

Plus being built into television units meant that for example on the shop floor it was not all that visible and separate from standard televisions.

Also apparently it was complicated to use and, in a further forebearing of digital storage techniques, it had its own form of analogue compression as it only recorded every third frame, which meant that the picture was fuzzy.

By 1975 Sony began shipping the less expensive Betamax video-recorders and the following year JVC began shipping VHS units and the rest, as they say, was history (one which had its own epic format war but that’s another story).

Cartrivision-cassette rear and On The Waterfront

Elsewhere:
A brief history of Cartrivision
Exhibits at the Museum of Obsolete Media: CartrivisionDigital Video ExpressFlexplay.
Catrivision at LabGuy’s World
The VHS vs Betamax format war

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 13/52: Jeffrey Siedler’s Logic Formations – Hybrid Spectres of the Spectron Video Synthesizer

 

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From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Wintersongs, Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails – Lullabies for the Land and Gently Darkened Undercurrents: Chapter 49 Book Images

Virgina-Astley-From-Gardens-Where-We-Feel-Secure-vinyl-Rough-Trade-A-Year-In-The-Country-2b-CD front and back

“Virginia Astley’s 1983 album From Gardens Where We Feel Secure is the very definition of bucolic and is an album which summates England’s pastoral, Edenic dreams, albeit with subtly melancholic and unsettled undercurrents.

It is a largely piano and woodwind-led melodic record, which is accompanied throughout by the sounds of the countryside and blissful repose: birdsong, lambs, church bells and rowing on the river.”

Rob Young-Electric Eden-book covers-1st edition-2nd edition-US edition

“It features in Rob Young’s Electric Eden, the final “Poly Albion” section, in the chapter “Towards the Unknown Region”, where he considers the more outerlying areas of the music and culture which has sprung forth from the likes of hauntology and an otherly, spectral take on pastoralism.

In this section when describing From Gardens Where We Feel Secure he begins by saying that it “does not go anywhere”, in presumably an attempt to show the album’s ambient, non-formal song structure.”

Virgina Astley-From Gardens Where We Feel Secure-vinyl-Rough Trade-A Year In The Country 4

“It is an interesting choice of phrase as it also suggests how the English can sometimes hanker after unchanged, unending idylls where the gates can be locked, allowing rest, slumber and dreaming, with the rambunctious march of progress safely held at bay even if just for a moment. Although the album is largely a suite of music which invokes such an Albionic Arcadia, conjuring up lives spent in timeless English villages, it is not merely a chocolate box or twee reverie, as it also contains a sense that there is a flipside to those dreams: that the nightmare may well intrude on the secure Eden.”

Virgina Astley-From Gardens Where We Feel Secure-vinyl-Rough Trade-A Year In The Country

“The record distantly wanders some of the same fields as the outer regions of an alternative landscape which can be found in say the film The Wicker Man (1973) or some psych/acid folk music but here while the sense of an idyllic rural Eden has an otherly quality it is not overt: more it is a form of wistful nostalgia or reverie, even where such aspects are most present on When the Fields Were on Fire.”

Plinth-Wintersongs

“Such views of the landscape which are both bucolic but also quietly, subtly travel through its flipside can be found on the 1999 album Wintersongs by Plinth, which was made by Michael Tanner with Steven Dacosta, accompanied by Nicholas Palmer and Julian Poidevin…

In a similar manner to From Gardens Where We Feel Secure it creates a soundtrack for the landscape: one that is in parts gently melancholic but also gently magical and on a track like “Bracken” it almost feels like a walking companion for Virginia Astley’s album in its melodic, looping and minimal exploration of a bucolic atmosphere.

However, as with From Gardens Where We Feel Secure this is not a twee trip through the land; while at times it may be a journey amongst a certain kind of pastoral reverie there is also something else going on amongst the hills and trees.

There is heartbreak in the pathways of its songs at points and the quiet melody and refrain of “Hearth” makes the mind wander towards losses along the byways of life.”

Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 4

“Walking and exploring amongst similar territories is Sharron Kraus’ 2013 album Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails.

In the text that she wrote to accompany it there is a sense of her discovering and rediscovering the land as she had begun to live in or visit the Welsh countryside, exploring her surroundings and unlocking some kind of underlying magic or enchantment to the landscape…”

Sharron Kraus-Night Mare-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country Sharron Kraus-Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails-Second Language Music-A Year In The Country 2

“A phrase which springs to mind when listening to Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Tales and its bonus disc Night Mare was “these are lullabies for the land” and in many ways they do literally feel similar to or have a lullaby-like effect, as they contain a dreamlike quality that is rooted in the land but is also a journey through its hidden undercurrents and tales.

This is music which also literally soundtracks the landscape where it was made, utilising field recordings captured along the way; the sound of birds, streams, waterfalls, animals, the wind and jet planes which were recorded on Sharron Kraus’ explorations.”

His Name Is Alive-Livonia-album artwork-4AD

“Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails is beautifully packaged; it was released in a very limited edition by Second Language Music and designed by Martin Masai Andersen/Andersen M Studio and it feels like a precious artifact: one which you want to pick up carefully and gently.

The album was presented as a small book-sized gatefold, with the packaging and the gently transformed nature and landscape photography (which in its textural qualities recalls the 23 Envelope work of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson for 4AD records), capturing the beauty and grace of the land through which Sharron Kraus travelled and in which she worked.”

 

Online images to accompany Chapter 49 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

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