File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #12/52.
And while we’re talking about astonishing things (see Lutine at Day #50), this is a quite astonishing film by Robert Persons.
I watched it again just recently and I just sat there entranced with my hair stood on end for much of the film.
What is it? Well, it’s hard to quite describe as I’m not sure I’ve seen another film like it: it’s an experimental film in some ways but eminently watchable and beautifully shot – many of the sequences are nearer to celluloid takes on fine art photography which linger over the stillness of the subjects in the frame. I think poetic could be a good adjective. Haunting would be another
As a very brief precis, the film takes the viewer on a journey through the transformation of a section of mid-Southern American America (Alabama, Missisipi and Georgia) from a wilderness into it’s modern state.
It does this via the use of original film footage, maps, vintage photographs, found objects and views of natural and manmade landscapes.
Adding to the texture and layers of the journey the film takes is an accompanying narrative by a voice which could well be announcing the end of days (it reminds me of God Speed You Black Emperors Dead Flag Blues, which in some ways could almost be a companion piece to General Orders No. 9, with its sense of lyrically beautiful apocalyptic dread).
In many ways it could be thought of as a film which explores the hauntology of the Southern states; the land is seen to be littered with the remnants and spectres of mankind’s industrial and technological endeavours – old factory installations, derelict mobile phone masts, rooms filled with detritus and hundreds of scattered old books.
But despite a sense of a brutalising of the landscape via progress and the relentless march of freeways there is a beauty to the film and much of what it portrays.
(I don’t want to post too many stills from the film as I think if you should want to explore more it would be good to appreciate the imagery of General Orders No. 9 first time as part of the film.)
And the narration? Phew, well, I could be here all day quoting it but here are but a few snippets:
“Why is the sign of the thing preferred to the thing itself? We’re lost without a map… The lord loves a broken soul, let us hope we are well broken… The city has none of the signs of the place and all of the machine… You are not a witness to the ruin, you are a ruin, you are to be witnessed… The only response is to refuse, to go to the ruins and sit amongst them…”
Alongside the film, there are some quite lovely accompanying prints by Bill Mayer, which represent elements of the films symbology (the one in the left below is referred to on the General Orders No. 9 site as “derelict microwave overlord”… I feel that needs no comment).
There are also two accompanying books: Notes For A New Map, a collection of historical sources and icons and The Black Book which contains the text of the narration:
As an almost final note, I sat watching it and my mind thought “When I pass, if I’ve done anything worthy of a memorial, I’d like this film played on a loop for twenty hours as part of it”.
Possibly an odd thing to think and I don’t know quite why my mind thought it but I think it’s just because it touched something in me…
And as a final note, at some date I’m hoping that the soundtrack by Chris Hoke, Stars Of The Lid, Grace Braun and John Taverner wlll be released as in a superlative film it is another rather fine superlative.
File under: Trails and Influences:
Electronic Ether. Case #5/52.
Sometimes when writing about folk music people will talk about the purity of a singers voice… listening to Lutine I think I know what they mean.
Quite frankly this is astonishing music. There is indeed a trembling, tremulous, purity to the singing… for some reason I am reminded of the sound of gently peeling bells in a land I know not quite where…
Their music is a haunting, minimal take on and reinterpretation of folk/tradtional folk and all I can say is my mind seems to wander off to another plain, place or indefinable time when I hear their songs, particularly on Died Of Love.
I know little about Lutine, all I know is that they kept catching my eye while I was wandering around the digital fields of the world. The small gleanings I have come across include..
They have an album coming out in 2014 on Front and Follow and have shared a stage at Joseph Stannard’s The Outer Church with Jane Weavers Bird Records/Finders Keepers/Folklore Tapes fellow travellers Paper Dollhouse (whose A Box Painted Black album is something of a recurring touchstone for A Year In The Country, more about which I expect may appear later around these parts)… and I suspect they may hail from one of England’s southern coastal towns…
But I shall let their music speak for itself:
Listen to Lutine here and here, visit them here.
Monitoring The Transmissions A4 vellum print / poster.
Limited edition of 31.
Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on clouded transparent vellum paper.
(In the photo on the right above the print is laid onto wood and the woodgrain can be seen through the transparent vellum paper).
Each print is signed and numbered.
Size A4: 29.7 x 21 cm / 11.7 x 8.3″
Shipped rolled and tied in transparent black ribbon.
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
Well, sometimes you come across something which needs little explanation as to why you should want to put it out into the world…
While writing the post on The Changes, bad wires and the ghosts of transmissions I came across an archive of promotional material and screen captures etc for the 1975 HTV British childrens science fiction television series Sky, which my caught my eye… more than a touch of David Chatton-Barker’s work around Folklore Tapes to some of these cutout collages.
Sky is another of those “hmmm, what was in the water at TV commissioning meetings in the seventies to think that these were quite normal programs for childrens television” series, which over time has grown layers of exoticisim… and of all such programs it also perfectly captures a sense of 1970s grime and the anti-style of a country gone to seed via it’s parkers, flares and fake fur zip-up coat fashion.
It is a sort of rurally set The Man Who Fell To Earth (with a curiously cockney alien) with ecological overtones, the promotional information describes the series thus:
“Out of the sky falls a youth, not of this place or time, “part-angel, part-waif”, a youth with powers he can neither control or understand… nature itself rejects him and takes on the cadaverous body of Goodchild in sinister personification of the forces of opposition… He speaks of time travellers “Gods you call them” who had tried again and again to help the people of Earth… Sky must find the mysterious juganet, the cross-over point in time, that is the key to his return to his own dimension.”
In a curiously forward thinking manner, just to make sure that the program would come to be connected to all things Otherly Albion and hauntological, to quote one of the press releases, it was in part filmed on “such legend-rich locations as Glastonbury Tor, Avebury and Stonehenge”.
Plus Jack Watson (the gun holding squire looking gent below) appears to have wandered away from his path as an easily lead sinner hunter in The Changes to a world of lost alien juganet seeking teenagers…
Anyway, I shall let the images speak for themselves:
File under: Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #5/52.
You may notice during this A Year In The Country that the wires, pylons and installations of modern communications reappear in form or another, particularly in my own work…
Why is that you may ask?
Well, I think it comes back to one of the roots of A Year In The Country – that it springs in part from the duality of my own relationship as a child to the countryside: as somewhere that was a fantastic adventure playground and also somewhere that I discovered about the end of the world via watching a program on the possible results of the so-called Cold War and nuclear conflict (see the About page for more information).
Right, deep breath before I start writing all this. It still gives me the heebie jeebies. I wasn’t sure how directly I was going to write about this stuff in A Year In The Country…
The idea of such a conflict was all quite exciting in the daylight of the playground and to young minds: war and such things seem often to be to younger male folk… but at night such an attack, the resulting devastation and consequences would be become my own particular bogeyman, possibly taking the place of more conventional scary fairy stories of times gone by; my own particular monster under the bed/in the cupboard but this was/had the potential to be real.
Around the time I discovered about the end of the world I also seemed to start discovering dystopian/disaster orientated science fiction along the lines of John Wyndham, John Christopher and other interconnected cultural items which possibly didn’t help the night time wanderings of my mind…
It’s curious how your mind remembers and mis-remembers things – I can remember discussing the1984 television film Threads about the effects of a nuclear attack on Britain in a country school playground in 1980, before it was filmed… but maybe that was actually Peter Watkins 1965 The War Game, which has a similar subject matter.
Now I come to write about it, so many scenes from Threads have stuck in and long fascinated my mind, possibly without me realising it. I use the word fascinated but that is with a sense of both attraction and utter horror. Right now though I’m not going to write and describe them… suffice to say and also to forewarn if you should watch it, it isn’t easy viewing…
The film Threads takes its name from the threads and lines of communication that connect civilisation and how they would be so heavily damaged in such an attack… these threads are literally physical items in the case of telephone lines, which I think subconsciously may be an early starting point for A Year In The Country and hence part of why they and interconnected poles and pylons reappear during it.
Another major contributor to such things was a science fiction short story I read sometime around the early to mid-eighties, wherein there is a lead up to a devastating attack/war, during which birds are noted as sitting on the telephone wires around and about… when the attack arrives, the central (human) character rushes to his fallout shelter, only to find it crammed full of birds and animals, with no space for him: the birds had actually been listening to mankind’s communications via the telephone lines and knew that the attack was coming and where to hide.
As an idea, that has always stuck with me and I find it quite unsettling writing about it even now.
I’m not sure what the story was called, I think it was possibly by Clifford Simak but I don’t think I really want to know, know too much about it or revisit it; sometimes these things hold their power more as semi-remembered cultural touchstones (something James Cargill of Broadcast touches on in an earlier post here).
This has probably all mixed in with the cover of the first edition of Rob Young’s Electric Eden and it’s almost perfect representation of the old ways of the land and the march of progress through a photograph of farm land being ploughed in a traditional horse-drawn manner, under the shadow of electric pylons.
Also tied into this recurring subject of communication wires and pylons is the BBC 1975 TV series The Changes based on Peter Dickinson’s book, which has as one of its central themes the idea of “the bad wires” (referring to overhead telegraph/electricity wires), which as a phrase seemed to be with me a lot while taking the photographs for A Year In The Country.
The Changes is part of that strange section of 1970s British children’s television which includes The Owl Service, Noah’s Castle, Sky and The Children Of The Stones, which concerns itself with subject matter and atmospheres that seem curiously strange and even unsettling choices for broadcasts aimed at younger folk; something of a preponderance of eerily presented supernatural/alien forces and/or the breakdown of normal society.
Curiously many of these programs were largely set in rural landscapes/villages etc, which in part is maybe some of what connects them with being part of a body of work that could be seen to be of an “Other” or Wyrd Britainnia. In The Changes much of modern societies technology is destroyed/rejected which could also be seen to connect with an attraction to rural, rustic, folk and ways of the land in folk music in the earlier 1970s and films such as Akenfield
As a brief precis of The Changes: it starts with a normal middle class family sitting at home, their daughter planning her homework, the weather has been strange and suddenly society is gripped by a form of madness which makes everybody destroy and fear almost all machinery and a pogrom of machine orientated violence sweeps the nation.
The program largely concerns itself with the period after this and as the modern cities become abandoned wanders into being a parable about racial harmony, life returning in the countryside to an almost medieval way of life under a sword wielding master of the village, all black and chain wearing louche beatnik robbers and brigands, wanders off into a milder version of The Witchfinder General territory where those who are suspected of using machinery or even saying there names are seen as “wicked sinners” and indeed to be witches…
I won’t spoil the plot for if you should watch it but suffice to say I was watching some of it thinking “How was this come to be made as children’s entertainment?”. In particular the first episode where the madness has gripped mankind and the machines are being smashed in the streets.
The program was originally made in 1973 and not broadcast until 1975 for reasons I know not.
Maybe it was considered too heady, depressing or possibly prescient for a society that was reeling from a large amount of political, social and economic strife, oil shortages and the unravelling of post-war political consensus.
Much of the 1970s in the UK was that way inflected but 1973 seemed to be a particular high/low point: something I had semi-consciously felt but which was confirmed when I recently read Francis Wheen’s Strange Days Indeed, a book about the paranoia and peculiar political and social behaviour which was afoot and even became commonplace during the 1970s, with the book portraying the year The Changes was made as something of a watershed for such things.
Possibly also The Changes could be seen as a reflection of some of societies fears of social breakdown at that time and the threats represented by a reliance on modern technology which needed modern fuel, which was at that time under threat due to a crisis in oil supplies… a wish for a escape from such worries could also be one reason for the aforementioned increase of interest in culture which reflected rural idylls and folklore/folk music at this time
It’s not as inherently strange as a program as say The Owl Service or possibly The Children Of The Stones but still quite odd and worth a watch as it’s an interesting document from a particular time in British history. Also programs like this, the aforementioned Sky, The Owl Service etc have somehow gained layers of otherlyness with the passing of time and they now seem almost like occult (in the sense of hidden) artefacts and transmissions from some other stranger fictional Britain.
That is possibly in part added to by the colours and nature of the images themselves; in particular with something like The Change which has never been commercially available to rent/buy and the only way of viewing it are in smudgey grey-green ghosts of the original broadcasts (again, something James Cargill also talks about, which can be read in an earlier post in A Year In The Country here).
If you should wish to investigate The Changes further, there is an extensive amount of writing and background on the program, including the author of the sites correspondence with the BBC about possibly releasing the series commercially: www.bilderberg.org/changes.htm
As a final note, I came across an interesting article from The Hauntological Society on the film Threads, the sense of dread it engendered and the way such fears have been reflected by elements of what has become known as hauntological culture: it can be read here.
File under: Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #4/52.
Now, Ms Katie Jane Garside, Where to start?
You may well know her from her work with Daisy Chainsaw and Queen Adreena but in recent years she has wandered off into her own pastures via her group Ruby Throat (with Chris Whittingham)… and those pastures have lead down a pathway that could be loosely described as a kind of ghostly folk noir, all ephemeral crumbling enchantments with just a hint of a dusty gothic Americana…
Really though, she has created a world all of it’s own. Although one of Ruby Throat’s tracks appeared on Cold Springs We Bring You a King with a Head of Gold which, was part of their dark folk Britannica series, their work is not easily categorisable, nor am I sure if it would benefit from being.
One of the things that has drawn me to her work are the physical artifacts/forms/photography/pin-hole photography via which it is presented to the world. Delicate, precious items, handmade and handfinished; they are things that you want to pick up carefully and store safely and protected.
Here are just a few:
o’doubt o’stars is a quite beautifully presented album which documents Katie Jane Garside and her partners journeys through the waterways of Britain while making the album: the cover is bone-creased, printed on flecked paper, with a tipped in photograph, the book is bound with transparent ribbon and each page is separate by vellum paper.
This release in particular was a big influence on my own A Year In The Country Artifacts…
Each copy of The Ventriloquist was individually inscribed to each owner and it’s case was antique Indian leather…
Above is the limited edition vinyl version of The Ventriloquist, released by Lovers Will and featuring photography on the right by James Sutton.
I would also recommend a perusing of Queen Adreena’s Medicine Jar video: is English gothic rural brutality glamstomp rock-folkhorror a genre? Well, it is in this.
Possibly also a wander back further to have a watch-see of Martina Hoogland-Ivanow’s videos for Adore You and Cold Fish might not be a bad idea; all surreal hummingbird textural imagery, a dash of Vaughan Oliver and a touch of Ms Deborah Turbeville but through the looking glass darkly indeed.
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #5/52.
In my wanderings through the non-analogue fields of the internet, I came across a rather intriguing new event…
The Heretics Folk Club is a monthly event in the fair city of Sheffield and to quote their good selves on their site it is a place which:
“Welcomes balladeers, hauntologists, super-8 soundtracks, audio-archaeologists, analogue electronics, sound artists, field recordists, ethnomusicologists, occult circuit-benders, traditional dancers, drones and free noise.”
Well, right up my strasse indeed.
The night will be feauring a fine selection of performers; thus far confirmed over the coming months include Bo’Weavilist C. Joynes, recaster and cherisher of folk traditions Sharron Kraus, Ms Kraus collaborators The Big Eyes Family Players, unearthers of transmissions from an otherly history English Heretics and spinner of wordless stories Nick Jonah Davis.
As a way of lineage and background, the proceedings are presented by I Thought I Heard A Sound, who previously hosted an event as a part of the Sensoria Festival which was a wandering through and “examination of the psychedelic and visionary elements of folklore and traditional music”…
That particular gathering included Jeanette Leech (author of Seasons They Change), Trembling Bells, Arianne Churchman (Psychedelic Folkloristic – see Day #36), a broadcasting of Mr Nigel Kneales The Stone Tape and Mark Goodall (who presented the Timecode: Hauntology 20 Years On conference and is the author of Gathering Of The Tribe).
Well, all I can say is curiousity piqued around these parts. Time to find my walking and wandering shoes.
Along which lines…
Following a set of breadcrumbs and pathways from the above gatherings, I revisited Sharron Kraus’ work and came across her relatively recent Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails album and the accompanying Nightmare collection; these are magicboxes of music, recordings literally from the fallows of personal passions and field trips; I was positively entranced and may well be returning to them in these pages…
…that lead me to Second Language Music who released those albums out into the world via some rather fine, exquisite packaging…
…which lead me to Martin Masai Andersen/Andersen M Studio who put together the artwork/packaging (and who have worked with 4AD collaborator and creator of textural delights Vaughan Oliver, who I suspect somewhere along the line has influenced some of the aesthetic of A Year In The Country)…
…which lead me interestingly back to points where I have stopped for refuge and succour along the way to A Year In The Country… creator of her own very particular world and work KatIe Jane Garside and Wayside and Woodland cohort July Skies (both of which Anderson M Studio have worked for)…
It’s interesting how, as I wander through this year in the country, I discover that so many things which have intrigued, influenced and inspired me are interconnected or only one step or so away from one another…
File under: Trails and Influences:
Electronic Ether. Case #4/52.
I seem to be mentioning Rob Young’s Electric Eden book a fair old bit in A Year In The Country… I knew it had seeped into my consciousness but as I work through this year I’m realising just how much some of his concepts have taken root, informed and sent me off on new exploratory pathways.
Anyway, while wandering down those pathways, particular ideas and discoveries have stayed with me…
Folk music: although I hadn’t overtly studied it as a concept, I think I had been mildly bemused by the phrase folk music – I tended to think of folk meaning from the people, ie all the folk of a land and I had wandered how music that seemed to have often (today at least) a relatively limited appeal could therefore be called folk music. How could it be of the people if it wasn’t all that popular? And it definitely wasn’t “pop” music.
Mr Young’s book helped settle this via his comments on the roots of the words/concepts of folk and pop: rather than referring to a sense of all the people of the land, folk music is the music of the ‘volk’, derived from the Germanic/teutonic wald, the wild wood whereas the word pop (ie popular music) comes from the Latin populous, which refers more to the larger populations of cities etc.
He talks of how pop culture derives from centrally controlled, regimented urban communities (Roman urban populi) which were entertained/appeased/distracted by mass spectacles; gladiatorial entertainment and comedic dramas; “pop is the culture of imperial socialization, of institutionalized religion, consensus, and commerce.”
Folk, however, is much older than pop. Coming from “the wild wood”, it is from a culture where peasants, vagrants and villagers bore song from the wood, the forest, the barbaric heath; a society which was sometimes savage, often ad hoc, pre-Christian and where rituals endured and perplexed their heirs.
As cultural forms/phrases therefore one comes from the city (and later I suppose the concrete), one from elsewhere, out in the fields and forests.
Along which lines regarding the roots of folk and how as a culture it has come to encompass a sense of an “other” or Wyrd Britain, here’s a paragraph from Tiny Mix Tapes review of the book:
“For Young, the possibilities of folk are represented by the Wald, the wild woods of Northern Europe’s interior and their fairy tales. The Romans attempted to clear away these woods during their European campaigns, but they survive in the English place names ending “-wald,” “-wold,” or “-weald.” Other fragments and echoes tantalize: Why do English sword dancers lock their swords into mystical symbols such as the pentagram or the six-sided star? Why do denizens of Whittlesey march down the street behind a straw bear every January? Folk culture represents, for Young and many of the mystics, eccentrics, hippies, and socialists of his book, a store of secret knowledge, of hidden possibilities that the past offers up to the future. Folk attempts to restore what Young calls “an Other Britain,” but as Young convincingly proves in this book, this Other Britain never really existed, because every moment of the past was really itself a present, a simultaneous looking-back and looking-forward.”
In many ways it could be said that the story of folk music/culture/folklore is in part one of the differences/separateness of culture from the city vs the wald or the populi vs volk. Or more literally folk vs pop.
There are oodles of articles and writing about Electric Eden out in the world, here are three of the ones that I’ve referred to the most:
As an aside, the subtitle to this page could also have been “From the wald to The Wombles”. What would be the reason for that you may ask? Well, it refers to what happens when folk meets or tries to become pop… And what appears to happen in the 1970s is that you arrive at a point where you have a hit single by one of folks more popular purveyors, Steeleye Span, put together by the producer of that most pop of combos The Wombles. Which as an idea and culture clash (or should that be connection?) I quite like…
If you’re curious it’s their version of All Around My Hat… although I know by this point folk has probably wandered quite a way from it’s roots but I don’t really mind; the video to the song captures a certain point in time, nuances of British and my own history. Plus it just makes me smile and cheers me up, which is not a bad thing for music to do.
Also in the ether is the episode of Jonny Mugwump’s Exotic Pylon radio show that Rob Young appeared on to talk about Electric Eden.
It’s a very enjoyable 1 hour, 38 minutes and 23 seconds, wherein he talks about his inspirations, how he wanted to try and work out how what has become known as folk music/culture all knotted together; from traditional and what is considered authentic folk music through to the latter day exoticism of contemporary folklore influenced work such as The Wickerman (to my mind and it seems to his also, all such strands could be seen as authentic; all work has to spring from somewhere and it’s the intention/effect rather age and historical traceability that implies whether it’s the “real” thing or not).
The program draws a coherent, eloquent picture of these connections and his studies, soundtracked by a selection of relevant songs (including Talk Talk, Peter Bellamy, Steeleye Span, John Ireland, Dave Cousins, Archie Fisher, Mandy Morton & Spriguns, Robin Williamson and Alasdair Roberts).
If you don’t have the time to devote to reading all of Electric Eden’s 672 pages I would thoroughly recommend the broadcast as an overview or precis; if you have or plan to read the book then it’s a fine accompaniment.
You can listen to the Exotic Pylon / Jonny Mugwump / Rob Young show here.
As a final point… I’ve mentioned it before but Mr Young’s blog is also worth a peruse, particularly if you fancy a wander off into the digital garden via his selection of links, which is nicely split into The Isle Is Full Of Noises, Music From Neverland, Poly-Albion, Turning Leaves, The Magic Box, Paradise Enclosed and (more prosaically) Blogpile.
This is a song by a good friend and sometimes creative compadre Ms She Rocola (and her compatriots in sound).
She sent me a link to it a while ago and it stuck in my mind like billy-o… it’s all glacial presentation, jade eyed jealousy and enchantment, slightly unsettling violins and a wandering off into the lost lives of the Pendle trials.
It’s also accompanied by a rather fine photograph by Zoe Lloyd; a stately repose amongst the rural landscape and corn rigs, a folkloric meandering through the textures of Sarah Moon and Deborah Turbeville (this particular entrancing of the soul was created using light catching techniques from previous eras – traditional wet plate to be more precise).
File under: Trails and Influences:
Electronic Ether. Case #2/52.
Now, I have to admit I’m actually a bit of a wuss where the horror genre is concerned: I’m too easily unsettled and gore leaves me repulsed/cold/I don’t really see the point of it.
However, I do make an exception for certain areas of what has become known as folk horror. Although it still can give me the heebie jeebies so I tread carefully and occasionally.
Folk horror? What’s that? Well, it’s generally applied to a film/tv/literary/cultural horror genre that often concerns itself with folklore and/or is set in and around rural areas/intrigues; drawing from the wald rather than the city.
To a degree, at least filmically, it could be said to largely start with a quite small set of films: there’s kind of an accepted canonic trio which takes in The Wicker Man at the top, followed by The Witchfinder General and Blood On Satans Claw (not necessarily always pleasant films, particularly the last two… though sometimes I forget that The Wicker Man isn’t a jolly folkloric singalong of a film but actually something much more, well, horrific).
Interestingly, this small group of films all sprung into existence in the early 1970s, a time when things folkloric/folk music/rustic experienced an upsurge of interest in the UK: possibly in reaction to and escape from the political, social and economic turmoil the country was experiencing at the time (industrial unrest, ineffectual government, high inflation, the final fading of empire dreams, internal insurrection and so on).
Anyway, a place I periodically return to in the electronic ether is Folk Horror Review, a site which concerns itself with goings on in the, well, folk horror genre. It’s not updated all that often, which I quite like as it gives it a more curated sense than some of the internet and it feels like a treat when there is a new post on it.
(There are loads of films which could be deemed folk horror which are often just quite nasty exploitation numbers – a group of tourists/outsiders move into/visit a rural setting, they don’t understand the old ways they come across and meet a grisly end via various supernatural/pagan forces seems to be the plot of most of them – but this blog doesn’t really overly concern itself with such things. It’s more interested in the odd and the otherly albion… hauntological, eldritch, intriguing and a touch cerebral rather than blood splattered I guess.)
So, at Folk Horror Review there are posts on The Wicker Man (of course) and it’s possible forebear Robin Redbreast, ghostly scribe Arthur Machen, the contemporary psychedelia (?) of A Field In England, Strange Attractor/Texte und Töne’s lovely The Twilight Language Of Nigel Kneale book, The Stone Tape, various BBC Ghost Stories For Christmas, Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising, Children Of The Stones, Psychomania (Nicky Henson in a 1970s UK zombie-motorbike-riding film… sign me up), Alistair Siddon’s In The Dark Half and interconnected items such as the compilation album that accompanies Rob Young’s Electric Eden, Hail Be You Sovereigns, Lief and Dear from Cold Springs dark folk britannica album series, the BFIs DVD release of film recordings of folk customs and ancient rural games Here’s A Health To The Barley Mow and A Fiend In The Furrows – an academic conference which explored folk horror in it’s various forms.
…well, I expect that will give you an idea of where the blog wanders and explores.
Basically, in part it’s not too dissimilar to some of the paths that A Year In The Country follows and as a site it creeps through the briars and undergrowth of a not always so idyllic rural landscape.
File under: Trails and Influences: Electronic Ether.
The internet is full of all kinds of corners and niches… but this is one of my favourites.
What is it? Well, it’s a visual collection of a very specific stylish take on folk and folklore culture; if Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up had taken it’s starting point to be the wald rather than Swinging London, with art direction by Kenneth Anger if he had grown up in a secret garden corner of England rather than California and hung out with Judy Dyble rather than The Rolling Stones… and if the resulting film had been shot on location in a secluded green grove rather than the Kings Road…
…and if this imaginary celluloid dream had a soundtrack where the pastoral-playland-bubble living hipsters of The Touchables (an intriguing film which is also featured in Psychedelic Folkloristic), Miss Jean Shrimpton and her companions etc had been serenaded by late ’60s/early ’70s folk rock rather than Herbie Hancock and psychedelic pop minstrels Nirvana (no, not the well known Nirvana)…
Well, if most of those numerous ifs had happened then the vision and aesthetic that was presented to the world might well have been similar to the one found in Psychedelic Folkloristic.
The site explores what in many ways are familiar tropes of the other albion side of folk culture but how it is selected and put together creates a much more pleasing on the eye, suave, (fashionable?) take on such things… ’60s high fashion glamour having a cup of tea out in the fields amongst the old monuments indeed. Suprisingly refreshing to view as a take on a culture that is often thought of more in terms of anti-glamour and a rejection of style.
I suppose many of the photographs were drawn from a brief flicker of time when the beautiful people were interested in/adopted some of the aspects of folk culture and music… a time since which there have only been the occasional brief moments when the spotlight of more pop-culture/populist attention has shone on such things
(One of the only such times is probably in the mid-2000s when the largely American, loosely connected likes of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsome, Coco Rosie etc were a flavour of the moment… or “the popular kids” as Jeanette Leech, author of Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk, wrote”).
Some of the inhabitants of Psychedelic Folkloristic? Well… Mellow Candle, Dando Shaft, Celia Birtwell, The Owl Service, Sandy Denny, Ossie Clark, Penelope Tree, The Stone Tape, Pattie Boyd, the aforementioned Jean Shrimpton and her sister Chrissie (Mick Jagger’s one time beau), Homer Sykes, Anita Pallenberg via Performance, alongside an intriguing set of semi-lost book covers. That small list of those who dwell in the gently lysergic meadows of Psychedelic Folkloristic and the photographs from the site on this A Year In The Country page will probably give you an idea of what I mean by ’60s high fashion glamour meeting folk culture.
Interestingly, it all fits together surprisingly well.
…I’m not sure if the world and aesthetic that Psychedelic Folkloristic presents existed in as coherent form as the site presents it but I don’t think that’s the point; as much as anything it is creating it’s own world from essentially found and collaged imagery and to be honest it’s a world that I could just lose myself in for hours.
Arianne Churchman who puts it together says on the site that she “suffers from slight decade displacement”, which leads me back round (again) to Rob Young’s idea of “imaginative time travel” and “experiments in consensual hallucination”… this site, if anywhere, is a good expression of such things.
Always a treat to visit and have a look-see at and wander through this particular electronic field, this is a lovely and lovingly curated set of images.
“They Come Unbidden ” string bound book.
Limited edition of 31.
Contains 12 images from A Year In The Country:
Images A, B (variation), C, D, E, F, G (variation), I, J plus 3 others.
Printed using archival Giclée black/grey pigment inks.
Each book is handstamped, hand signed and numbered on the rear outside cover.
Book page size: 29.7 x 10.5 cm / 11.7 x 4.1 inches.
Book page count: 24 pages (12 printed).
Front and rear cover printed on 300gsm textured fine art 100% cotton rag paper.
Inside pages printed on 245gsm paper.
File under: Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #3/52.
Phew, well, yesterday’s post was something of a mammoth one. I think I shall try and keep this one shorter indeed as the old brainbox is a touch tired today.
This album was something of an early research/reference point for A Year In The Country. I was drawn to it for reasons I couldn’t quite put into words at the time but returning to it and looking back I can see all kinds of touchstones and reference points that have come to be a part of or influence A Year In The Country; from mis and half-remembered/half-seen television of my youth to something odd lurking beneath the plough in the English countryside, it’s all here to see indeed.
Essentially it’s a collaboration between Broadcast and their often almost member Julian House (of Ghost Box) in his Focus Group guise. I don’t intend to overly review the album, that has been done extensively elsewhere in the printed and electronic ether but suffice to say it’s a music box collage of the “classic” Broadcast dream-like pop sound and woozy, disorientating loops and samples (and as I wander around the cultural world I sometimes come across its source material… exploitation witchcraft orientated pseudo-documentaries for example)…
Something/s I really love about the album are the videos #1 : Witch Cults and #2: I See, So I See So that they co-created with Julian House to accompany it. Consciously or not I think they seeped into my mind to quite a degree…
You can watch the videos on the official Warp Records Youtube channel here or at Warp’s main site here and here.
Exploring connections to the album lead me to a particularly fine interview with James Cargill of Broadcast by XLR8R wherein he talks of drawing from witchcraft references but not taking it too seriously, more as a pulp cultural reference point by way of old horror films such as Curse Of The Crimson Altar…
…and he goes on to talk about how British kids TV of the late 1960s/1970s such as Children Of The Stones, Sky, The Owl Service (see left) etc were also quite a reference point for the album and the odd/disturbing/why were they like that? atmosphere of them.
He comments that he only half-remembers the programs, that they’re just fragments of memory and that he quite likes that, he doesn’t want to know everything about them and the having watched them on breaking up TV receptions or an old faded video added something to what made the memory of them interesting…
(When I did finally watch The Owl Service a while ago, I quite liked that the version I watched was a blurry, fuzzy, miscoloured version rather than a pristine digital copy… contrary of me maybe but I came to know of it as The Hidden Vision version).
Which as an idea tied in quite a lot with A Year In The Country; there are TV programs which I only saw snatches of as a child around the time of discovering the Two Brown Bakelite Boxes which in part lead to all this (see About) that have stayed with me and intrigued me forever more.
Over the years their sometimes odd subject matter for children’s television (for example one particular drama I saw just a glimpse of about hyper inflation and food shortages in contemporary Britain held a strong sway on my imagination for a long time) has gained other layers of interest and mystique and if I try and watch them now that is dispelled or it’s like watching a completely different program to my misremembered cultural memory of them.
Also, to add to that, as Mr Cargill says in the interviews, to watch these programs you need to recalibrate yourself as entertainment from that time had a different, slower pace. The modern mind/viewer isn’t geared up to handle them; so when watching them now, what is maybe remembered or misremembered as quite magical, well the mind used to modern cultural rhythms may just be bored or unable to take them in correctly.
PS If would heartily recommend watching the introduction to The Owl Service TV series (view it here). It feels like an almost magical communique from another time and a trail of breadcrumbs which leads to the Broadcast And The Focus Group album and videos.
I shall leave the final word on the album to a few others:
“It really is quite fabulous… (Broadcast) crowned themselves dark monarchs of hauntology’s expanding kingdom” The Wire
“As with all the best mysteries, Witch Cults resists summary. It’s difficult to shake the impression that you’ve been subjected to some brand of home magic: tuned into a paranormal frequency via shortwave radio, or seen something that you can’t quite shake conjured up using only a children’s chemistry or magic set. At the end, you’re still not quite sure what happened — but you know that it did. You’ll begin, trip and fall again.” The Quietus
“Like a strange mirage glimpsed in the depths of the English countryside…” The BBC
And well, you can’t say fairer than that (and ah well, this has turned into quite a long post again).
Special postscript: I never knew Trish Keenan but I was sorry to hear of her passing. I think a fitting and moving tribute was Jonny Trunk’s rebroadcasting of his OST radio show which featured Broadcast. His introduction to the rebroadcast is rather moving.
The archive for the show is here at Resonance FM or you can listen to the original broadcast/see the tracklisting on Soundcloud.
“I’d like people to enjoy the album as a Hammer horror dream collage where Broadcast play the role of the guest band at the mansion drug party by night, and a science worshipping Eloi possessed by 3/4 rhythms by day, all headed by the Focus Group leader who lays down sonic laws that break through the corrective systems of timing and keys.” Trish Keenan on the album from an unedited transcript of an interview by Joseph Stannard of The Outer Church (view the full article at The Wire.)
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations. Case #4/52.
Field Trip Report: Case #1b, subsection Metropolitan Incursions.
Recently I wandered off from a small English dwelling to a larger English city and then a small English town to have a watch-see-hear-explore of various things. One of which was Tales From The Black Meadow and the collaborative Folklore Tapes Echo Of Light performance (these were part of the Wyrd Britannia Festival which I’ve mentioned earlier in A Year In The Country, see Day #9/365).
And well, blimey, I’m glad I did indeed wander off to those parts.
After sitting on the train in the dark with Saturday night revellers I stumbled blinking into the night of a strange town, accompanied by other travellers headed for the same location who I’d bumped into on the train…
With scarcely a moment to take in the town we were at a lovely old library building where the event was taking place (and my fellow travellers were just able to gain entrance despite the night being sold out).
First up was Mr Chris Lambert, reading from his book Tales From The Black Meadow and informing us about this multi-faceted project which takes as it’s starting point the tale of Professor R Mullins who went missing in The Black Meadow atop the Yorkshire Moors in 1972.
As a project The Black Meadow incorporates elements of folklore, Radiophonic Scores, semi-lost documentaries and the flickering cathode ray transmissions of a previous era; a creaking rural cabinet stuffed full of hidden and rediscovered government unsanctioned reports.
I’m curious to see where it wanders off to next as to date this growing and layered world incorporates a book of folkloric tales, an album, a documentary and archival material etc. Be careful on the moors…
Next in front of this very polite, appreciative and well behaved audience was Echo Of Light, presented by Folklore Tapes and featuring Alison Cooper (Magpahi), Sam McLouglin (Samandtheplants) and David Chatton-Barker (Folklore Tapes)…
And, well, what can I say. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. It has been described as incorporating the projectionist as pupeteer and having watched it, I think that is an apt description.
To an electronic and acoustic soundtrack of (I think) largely improvised music, two of the collaborators were only present behind a screen from which they essentially live-mixed/live-created a series of projections using a series of physical props, found natural materials and artwork, which in turn were also used to create some of the soundtrack.
Which means what? Well, at one point an old bird-cage was placed upon a wind-up gramophone turntable and then as it span it struck a series of prongs to create music… not dissimilar in its own way to the workings of a traditional music box but on a grander and more arcane scale.
Accompanying this was a traditional spinning wheel which also appeared to be creating music.
Still can’t quite get your head around it all? Well, here are some photographs from the performance:
Alongside such things, there were also projections created which borrowed from the tropes and imagery of Folklore Tapes releases/world:
As a set of work it appeared to be an exploration of the hidden in nature and folklore which surrounds it (the pattern under the plough?).
All in all, quite entrancing. I found myself lost in it all… and there was something about the glow from the grand old windows that seemed to fit with the performance.
But wait, that’s not all. As I mentioned, this was part of the Wyrd Britannia festival, which took place around a set of libraries in Northern England.
…and as I’ve also mentioned before in A Year In The Country I have a particular fondness for libraries: they seem like centres of calm, civility and culture in a rapacious landscape.
And, as I’ve mentioned before, I often get a sense that whoever is picking the stock for them has a good eye and ear for left-of-centre culture.
This is just one of those times. Organised by James Glossop who I assume also works for the libraries (?)…
The festival was actually to celebrate the relaunch of their Wyrd Britannia collection and boy-oh-boy do I wish this was my local library.
Out on display was a selection of items from the collection…
So, surrounded by the paraphernalia of a librarians work above we have Quatermass, The Miners Hymn, lost acid folk band Forest, The Owl Service’s fine album The View From A Hill (see Day 30 of A Year In The Country), The Wickerman soundtrack, Trembling Bells, Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age and A Year In The Country starting point Gather In The Mushrooms compilation (see Day 3 of A Year In The Country).
Well, blimey again, it’s like half of my record collection has been snaffled and made available for public use.
But wait, there’s more again…
And that’s before we get to the books that are part of the Wyrd Britannia section. I think those involved have been delving in the libraries dusty-storage rooms to find all kinds of long neglected tomes…
So, if you look closely you will see Bob Pegg’s (he of the-darker-shade-of-folk band Mr Fox) Rites and Riots, a whole other slew of books on folklore and song, various selections of witchery, The Pattern Under The Plough, Alan Garner once or twice and a particularly intriguing looking The Cylinder Musical Box Handbook.
(Looking inside the Bob Pegg book, it was taken out in 1989 and then once in 2012. There was something about the passage and lost-in-time-ness of that which quite appealed.)
Just to add the icing on the cake, the Wyrd Britannia book selection had a double topping of The Stone Tape DVD and the 3-disc Final Cut reissue of The Wickerman.
This just looked like a great library. Aside from the delights above, as I wandered around I kept seeing other swathes of culture that I wanted to delve into. I just wish that I’d had enough time to look around while the library was open.
Ah well, another time.
As a final note, attendees went away bearing what can only be described as a Folklore Tapes artifact/goodie bag and a Tales From The Black Meadow bookmark.
Well, you can’t say fairer than that.
A tip of the hat to all concerned. Thanks and cheers.
PS The trailer below was on the railway platform, which seemed kind of appropriate to the night in some way: