• The Wicker Man, Edge of Darkness and Village of the Damned – The “Tricky” Cult Remake: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 29/52

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 5

    Remaking a much-loved and cult classic seems like a tricky path to choose in cinema and to a degree television drama: the film/programme you are making will often have a certain pre-existing recognition factor but that is also a double-edged sword as you are essentially pitting yourself against, well, the love of and for a cult classic.

    Along which lines it is also a potentially odd and tricky thing for a director to do to attempt to make a semi “in the spirit of” sequel to his own much-loved cult classic (see The Wicker Tree).

    Along which lines, three such films and programmes which have been remade that I have previously written about at A Year In The Country are The Wicker Man, The Village of the Damned and Edge of Darkness.

    Now, although I thought it was an odd thing to do, to attempt to remake The Wicker Man, I tried to go into watching the 2006 version with an open mind and without being overly prejudiced against it – as a cultural behemoth the original version of The Wicker Man casts a long and imposing shadow.

    It’s a fair while ago since I watched the remake and despite my trepidation in watching it, one of the main things that struck me was rather than thinking it was inherently bad, that it was essentially just another film, almost workmanlike, in contrast to the fantastical/fantasia like multi-layered cultural and aesthetic aspects of the original.

    (The original film version of The Wicker Man’s troubled and intriguing production and release history has also come to be fairly inherently intertwined with those cultural aspects – adding a further layering which makes it shadow all the longer and more imposing on any remake.)

    All of which brings me to the 2010 film adaptation/remake of Edge of Darkness.

    It seems like both a tricky and odd path for a director to remake his own much-loved, not so much cult but widely and critically acclaimed classic but that is what Martin Campbell did (he also directed the 1985 television original).

    For myself the original of Edge of Darkness is so rooted in my psyche and also the time, place and historical context of when it was made that I think I am too wary to watch the remake removed from that context and to possibly dispel my appreciation of the original, even out of curiousity about what the remake is like.

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still

    Which brings me to John Carpenter’s 1995 adaptation of The Village of the Damned (originally adapted from John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos), here remade as Village of the Damned.

    (There was also a British made sequel to The Village of the Damned made in 1964 called Children of the Damned.)

    John Carpenter is known for holding British science fiction/fantasy writer Nigel Kneale in high regard (as I have mentioned before, in homage to Nigel Kneales’s Work, his Prince of Darkness film is credited to Martin Quatermass and he commissioned Kneale to work on the script for Halloween III which John Carpenter co-produced and co-scored) and it’s not much of a jump from Nigel Kneale’s intelligent take on British science fiction etc to John Wyndham’s.

    Halloween III-John Carpenter-Tommy Lee Wallace-Alan Howarth-Nigel Kneale-1982-5
    (Although not directed by the same person, the above still from Village of the Damned shares something of a similarity or two with the below still from Halloween III and both have a somewhat classic John Carpenter-esque “empty/isolated streets” dread.)

    The 1995 remake of Village of the Damned is an odd film texturally: it has the look and feel of a made-for-television movie, although it had a budget of $22 million (approximately $36 million today allowing for inflation), which is hardly small change.

    That look and feel may be in part due to the period aesthetics of when it was made, related film stock and/or the DVD transfer process.

    It could also possibly be a side effect of the way in which when viewed now 1990s and turn of the millennium film and television can have a sense of not yet being old enough to have gained a retro fetishistic aspect, more just still rooted to the period of its production and a little out of step with modern tastes and expectations.

    In this remake the story is moved from the English countryside to a smallish Northern Californian American town.

    While the village in the 1960 version is peopled largely by the middle classes with terrribly good diction, alongside working class and labourer types, in John Carpenter’s version at the start the town seems to be largely populated by male hunks and styled female blondes.

    The film also features a number of lead actors who previously starred in various well-known and market-leading science fiction/fantasy franchises (Mark Hamill – Star Wars, Christopher Reeves – Superman, Kirstie Alley – Star Trek).

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 2

    The government/authorities’ response to essentially the town’s women being impregnated by a possibly alien race seems curiously unofficial/ramshackle – particularly viewed today in an era of heightened security measures.

    Here the problem seems to be tackled by say the kind of grungey, underfunded, self-directed groups or organisations that would perhaps be found in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.

    As I have mentioned before sections of John Carpenter’s work, particularly his earlier films in the 1970s and during parts of the 1980s, contained a kind of ragged, tight, almost street energy to them, a possibly more fun, less arthouse parallel to David Cronenberg’s earlier films.

    There is still some kind of left-of-centre cinema feel to this version of Village of the Damned and elements of that tighness or energy but it feels less focused or to not have quite the same energy of some of his other work:

    “I’m really not passionate about Village of the Damned. I was getting rid of a contractual assignment, although I will say that it has a very good performance from Christopher Reeve, so there’s some value in it.” (John Carpenter in an interview at Vulture website.)

    Possibly that lack of a sense of lean example of cinema could also be a result of the translation and remaking of an earlier piece of work and the way in which during that process some of the original energy or “magic”, that indefinable something can sometimes be lost along the way.

    However, as I say, it’s a tricky proposition attempting to remake a much loved cult classic and the creators of the new version may well find themselves treading on what some may consider culturally hallowed ground. Taking on such a task could be considered something of a double edged sword in many ways; you have the pre-existing recognition factor and possibly proven appeal of the story etc of the earlier version but then there are also a whole host of expectations and comparing with its forebear to contend with.

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 4

    Elsewhere:
    The Wicker Man 1973 / The Wicker Man 2006
    Edge of Darkness 1985Edge of Darkness 2010
    The Village of the Damned 1960 / Village of the Damned 1995
    John Carpenter at the Vulture website

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #173/365: “Douglas I’m scared”; celluloid cuckoos and the village as anything but idyll…
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 4/52a: Halloween III: Season of the Witch – A Curious Slice of Culture and Collisions with the Past
    3) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 22/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 1 – The Sleeper Awakens
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 23/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 2 – “This is not a dream”
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 24/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 3 – Quatermass-esque Non Bebop Filmmaking
    6) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 8/52: In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories Part 2
    7) The Wicker Man: well, that would be in a fair few “Elsewhere at A Year In The Country”

     

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    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • No Blade of Grass and Z.P.G. – A Curious Dystopian Mini-Genre: Chapter 28 Book Images

    ZPG-Silent Running-Soylent Green-1970s science fiction film posters

    The Omega Man-Logans Run-Noahs Castle-1970s science fiction film and television posters-DVD cover

    “In the 1970s there was a curious mini-genre or gathering of doom laden apocalyptic, dystopian science fiction films, which warned of the dangers of ecological collapse, the depletion and battle for vital resources, out of control population growth and related ways citizens might be controlled and manipulated.

    You could include Z.P.G. (1972), Soylent Green (1973), Silent Running (1972) and The Omega Man (1971) in amongst these, possibly in a more crowd and eye-pleasing way Logan’s Run (1976) and you could draw a line from them to later British television series along similar lines such as Noah’s Castle (1979), which also dealt with the effects of dwindling resources and the resulting societal breakdown.”

    No-Blade-Of-Grass-The Death of Grass-John Christopher-book covers and film poster

    “No Blade of Grass (1970), based on John Christopher’s The Death of Grass novel from 1956, was another such film.

    This is a surprisingly bleak, brutal film (admittedly with some inappropriate almost sitcom-like music here and there and longstanding UK sitcom and soap opera actress Wendy Richards as a slightly out-of-place comic female character) about what happens when a new strain of virus kills the world’s grass, related plants and crops.”

    No Blade Of Grass 1-A Year In The Country

    “The title frames show a lone group of figures armed and on the run on a parched, cracked landscape, set against images of pollution and decay, which are soon followed by scenes of abundant food and conventional affluent middle class ways of life.”

    No Blade Of Grass 2-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass 8-A Year In The Country

    “In the 1970s it often seemed to be wild gangs of bikers who were the recurring societal bogeymen that would take over when civilisation collapsed (John Christopher’s 1968 novel Pendulum novel takes a similar line, while the 1973 film Psychomania sees the bikers become undead countryside hoodlums).”

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 11-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass 11-A Year In The Country

    “Meanwhile those sometime symbols of bucolic English pastoralism, the good old tweed clad country farmer and the stone farmhouse become almost Deliverance (1972) style hijackers and scenes of troop insurrections.”

    No Blade Of Grass-3b-A Year In The Country

    “While in the cities the dependable British bobby has become an altogether different gas mask wearing, gun-toting symbol of authority.

    The spires of a land forever England now merely act as a backdrop to the chaos.”

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 17-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 16-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 19-A Year In The Country

    “Although in some ways quite a mainstream, possibly even exploitation piece of cinema, throughout the film there are quite non-mainstream moments, presentation and commentary on what has led the world to this place: the action will stop and be replaced by non-narrative sequences and stills that show fields full of carrion, rivers strewn with dead aquatic life, smokestacks framed by leafless nature, rows of discarded cars are pictured on riverbanks, a luxury car is shown abandoned in the countryside as an advertising voice over says “You can do anything in a Rolls-Royce” while the almost unnoticeable specs of citizens fleeing the rioting and looting mobs in the cities can be seen on the hill behind it.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-4Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-The Edict-Max Ehrlich-A Year In The Country

    “Z.P.G. (which stands for Zero Population Growth)  is not as overtly apocalyptic, more being a depiction of a dystopian-regulated future. It was inspired by Paul Ehrlich’s factual 1968 book The Population Bomb which warned of the potentially disastrous effects of mass resource depletion due to overpopulation, with a screenplay by Frank De Felitta and Max Ehrlich (the second of whom also published a novel based on the screenplay called The Edict in 1971 prior to the film’s release).”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-11

    “The film seems reasonably obscure and overlooked but is somewhat intriguing, not least because of the cast which includes Oliver Reed, past his peak but still full of a glowering, brooding power, Geraldine Chaplin who is the daughter of bagged trousered celluloid tumbler and sometimes dictator botherer Charlie Chaplin and the bewitching, almost otherworldly luminescence of sometime The Wicker Man (1973)/Summerisle inhabitant Diane Cilento.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-10

    “The setting is a massively polluted, smogbound Earth where natural childbirth has been banned for 30 years in order to try and preserve resources, with those who stray from these rules being punished in a particularly draconian manner as it results in execution, which slightly surreally and unsettlingly involves plastic domes printed with the word “Transgressor” being used as traps which are spray painted pink to hide the inhabitants who are then left to run out of air.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-12

    “Couples are offered robot child substitutes, in a way that seems prescient of Japanese electronic Tamagotchi toys where the users had to nurture a digital pet but without giving away too much, not all citizens are obeying the “no children” edict.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-still

    Planet of the Apes-1968-ending

    “As a film, it is a good representation of a point in time when downbeat bleakness was often presented as part of mainstream entertainment, possibly reflecting the troubled times of the 1970s and the collapse of post-1960s utopian dreams…

    It contains elements of B-movies and action movies but also possesses a certain intelligence and investigation within its genre tropes that put the viewer in mind of Planet of the Apes (1968) and the sense of “What have we as a species done?”.” 

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 28 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside 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 Shildam Hall Tapes – Preorder

    Preorder today 10th July 2018. Released 31st July 2018. 

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall and Dawn Light Editions-CD albums-fronts-A Year In The Country

    CD preorder available via our Artifacts Shop and at Bandcamp.
    Dawn Light Edition £11.95. Nightfall Edition £21.95.

    Both editions are hand-finished and custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink by A Year In The Country

    Download preorder available at Bandcamp now and available on release date at iTunes, Amazon etc.

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    Features work by Gavino Morretti, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Circle/Temple, A Year In The Country, The Heartwood Institute, David Colohan, Listening Centre and Pulselovers.

    “Reflections on an imaginary film.”

    In the late 1960s a film crew began work on a well-funded feature film in a country mansion, having been granted permission by the young heir of the estate.

    Amidst rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults.

    Few of the cast or crew have spoken about events since and any reports from then seem to contradict one another and vary wildly in terms of what actually happened on the set.

    A large number of those involved, including a number of industry figures who at the time were considered to have bright futures, simply seemed to disappear or step aside from the film industry following the film’s collapse, their careers seemingly derailed or cast adrift by their experiences.

    Little is known of the film’s plot but several unedited sections of the film and its soundtrack have surfaced, found amongst old filmstock sold as a job lot at auction – although how they came to be there is unknown.

    The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was.

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    Nightfall Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £21.95
    Hand-finished box-set contains: album on all black CD, 1 x sheet of accompanying notes, 1 print, 3 x stickers and 3 x badges.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-front of box-A Year In The Country The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-opened box-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-contents-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-accompanying notes-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-print-A Year In The Country The Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-stickers and badges-A Year In The Country
    The Shildam Hall tapes-Nightfall Edition-CD album-all black CD-A Year In The Country
    Top of CD.                                                             Bottom of CD.

    Further packaging details:
    1) Cover, notes and print custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
    2) Contained in a matchbox style sliding two-part rigid matt card box with cover print.
    3) Fully black CD (black on top, black on playable side).
    4) 1 x folded sheets of accompanying notes, printed on textured laid paper – numbered on back.
    5) 1 x print on textured fine art cotton rag paper.
    5) 1 x 2.5 cm badge, 1 x 4.5 cm badge.
    6) 1 x 5.6 cm sticker, 1 x 3.5 cm sticker, 2 x 12cm stickers.

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    Dawn Light Edition. Limited to 104 copies. £11.95.
    Hand-finished white/black CD album in textured recycled fold out sleeve with fold-out insert and badge.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-front-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-opened-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-back-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-accompanying notes-A Year In The CountryThe Shildam Hall Tapes-Dawn Light Edition-CD album-black white CD-A Year In The Country
    Top of CD.                                                          Bottom of CD.

    Further packaging details:
    1) Custom printed using archival giclée pigment ink.
    2) Includes 2.5 cm badge, secured with removable glue on string bound tag.
    3) 1 x folded sheet of accompanying notes, hand numbered on back.

     

    Shildam Hall Tapes-Nightfall edition-sticker rectangular-1

    Tracklisting:

    1) Gavino Morretti –  Dawn of a New Generation
    2) Sproatly Smith – Galloping Backwards
    3) Field Lines Cartographer – The Computer
    4) Vic Mars – Ext – Day – Overgrown Garden
    5) Circle/Temple – Maze Sequence
    6) A Year In The Country – Day 12, Scene 2, Take 3; Hoffman’s Fall
    7) The Heartwood Institute – Shildam Hall Seance
    8) David Colohan – How We’ll Go Out
    9) Listening Center – Cultivation I
    10) Pulselovers – The Green Leaves of Shildam Hall

     

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  • Requiem Part 3 – Whisperings of Otherworldly Pastoralism, Hidden Layers and Intertwinings: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 28/52

    Requiem soundtrack-Dominik Scherrer-Natasha Khan-Dubois Music

    In Part 3 of this post on the television series Requiem, created by Kris Mrska and first broadcast in the UK by the BBC, I wander back towards the soundtrack.

    As I mention in Part 1 this was created by Dominik Scherrer with Natasha Khan, who is known for her work as Bat For Lashes and could be filed alongside The Living and the Dead’s soundtrack in that it explores/accompanies a sense of otherly pastoralism (and in The Living and the Dead’s case folk music and culture) and the super or preternatural in a rural  within a mainstream television setting.

    Natasha Khan’s wordless vocals accompany the instrumentation and the resulting work is rather fine and lovely, entrancing even and while the music at times contains a subtly unsettling, darker tinged and sometimes dread filled or ominous atmosphere, it has a sense of warmth or even intimacy to it.

    Accompanying the themes in the series, the music soundtracks a sense of visitations by spectres, spirits and possibly demons that are near by, whispering in your ear or just at the edge of vision in a room you have stumbled into. Otherworldly or conjurings are words that also come to mind.

    The Duke of Burgundy-Cats EyesValerie And Her Week Of Wonders seven inch-Finders Keepers Records-Record Store Day 2017-2Jane Weaver-Intiaani Kesä-Parade Of Blood Red Sorrows-Kiss Of The Damned-A Year In The CountryKelli Ali-rocking horse-cover art-the kiss

    Reference points for the soundtrack?

    Well, they may include the likes of Cat’s Eyes pastoral fantasia soundtrack for The Duke of Burgundy or the also fantasia like soundtrack to Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, the melodic conjurings of Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows and maybe the soundtrack for some semi-forgotten supernatural tinged Italian giallo (along which lines, I could also mention Kelli Ali’s The Kiss, which has not dissimilar semi-forgotten soundtrack qualities).

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

    Other possible references points?

    The also pastoral wanderings and wordless vocalisations of Sharron Kraus’ Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails, which connects back to Part 1 of this post as in that I mentioned how Peter Anderson Studio created the intro sequence for Requiem and also designed the artwork for this particular Sharron Kraus album.

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

    In Part 1 of this post I also mention how the Peter Anderson Studio work for requiem has:

    “…a certain classy texturality, the lineage of which could be traced back to the likes of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson’s work for 4AD in the 1980s”.

    Which for myself brings me to some other possible reference points for The Requiem soundtrack: it puts me in mind of something pleasingly leftfield that you might have found on say 4AD or Mute in the 1980s.

    Holger Hiller-Waltz-Whippets-Oben Im Eck-Mute-album and twelve inch covers

    Possibly in some way the accessible, melodic experimentalism of Holger Hiller on the album Obem im Eck/the track Waltz or the more experimentally arthouse, atmospheric side of gothic tinged (but not actually goth) work such as some of Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard’s work, in particular The Host of Seraphim from 1988’s The Serpent’s Egg.

    Dead Can Dance-The Serpents Egg-4AD-album and insert artwork

    As with some of Dead Can Dance’s work, the soundtrack for Requiem also here and there brings to mind a sense of reimagined medieval aesthetics – although less overtly and with a more contemporary edge than Dead Can Dance’s work, which also often has a more epic, almost glacial quality or distance to it, in contrast to the Requiem soundtrack which as mentioned earlier has a warmer more intimate character.

    The title’s to Requiem’s soundtrack’s tracks are composed of generally short non-words including Aigra, Naaa, Rgoan, Lsraph and Omsia. I can’t bring a particular album to mind but these titles also seem to remind me of some similarly titled left-of-centre work that travels in not too dissimilar terrain from the 1980s.

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

    Or moving slightly further along in time on 4AD, His Name is Alive’s Livonia album from 1990 could also be a reference point for the Requiem soundtrack, particularly the opening track As We Could Ever, which shares with Requiem’s soundtrack a sense of otherworldly, female vocaled conjuring.

    (As an aside, although all possessing their own character, a number of the track’s/music mentioned in this post – Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows, Kelli Ali’s The Kiss and Sharron Kraus’ Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails, Dead Can Dance’s Host of Seraphim and the Requiem Soundtrack itself –  share a similarity in featuring female wordless vocals.)

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-5

    And talking of otherworldy, as with the Peter Andersen Studio work for Requiem, the album cover art for Livonia and the insert for The Serpent’s Egg contain otherworldly, almost spectral aesthetics and a certain texturality in regards to pastoral inflected work – all of which reflects the rural setting and super or preternatural themes of the episodes of Requiem.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-3

    As a further reference point, in some way the soundtrack to Requiem also put me in mind of the loose cultural/musical grouping that David Keenan has called England’s Hidden Reverse – the post-industrial likes of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound.

    Requiem-BBC television series-still 2

    In Requiem the music is a soundtrack to, rather than a hidden reverse, more a layered, super or preternatural world and related conspiracies/machinations.

    As with Requiem, sections of Coil’s work and the neo-folk aspects of Current 93 also bring to mind and/or explore a flipside or unsettled undercurrents of rurality/the pastoral.

    The Ballad Of Shirley Collins-1

    With regards to Current 93, that aspect is also highlighted due to founder David Tibet’s championing and releasing of Shirley Collins’ music, who in recent years appears to have been situated/to have come to situate herself amongst and work alongside a sense of “wyrd” Albion and has been called “The High Queene of English Folk” in promotional material for the documentary The Ballad of Shirley Collins.

    Her connection to England’s Hidden reverse is also made more implicit due to her recording with Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown of Cyclobe, who have also worked with Coil.

    Requiem-BBC television series-still 3

    Anyways, returning more directly to Requiem:

    Music is also an inherent part of the plot of Requiem as the main character is a famous, stylish young cellist and her partner in her attempts to uncover the truth behind the machinations she discovers is her onstage musical partner and accompanying pianist.

    As part of their investigations they discover in a hidden basement recordings of haunting music, which appears to have been created and used for ritualistic purposes – something that, albeit for somewhat different reasons than those presented in Reqiuem, sections of England’s Hidden Reverse and Coil in particular have been known to do or state that their music is intended for.

    Requiem-BBC television series-still 5

    Day 23-The Stone Tape Nigel Kneale-A Year In The Country 2

    Partly because of the time in which they were created these recordings which are discovered in Requiem were made on reel-to-reel cassettes.

    In the supernatural context of the series, the media on which they are recorded seems to have an inherently more spooked or spectral nature to it than say a digital recording might have, although my view of such things is possibly partly influenced by the hauntological inflections which have come to be attached to physical and period analogue media and also their use and intrinsic presence in the likes of The Stone Tape and Berberian Sound Studio.

    Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country-12

    As an aside, returning to listen to sections of the soundtrack to Berberian Sound Studio, the melodic, spectral, entrancing, female vocaled otherworldly nature of some of Requiem’s Soundtrack shares some similar territory with Broadcast’s soundtrack for Peter Strickland’s film.

    While in a further intertwined manner Andrew Liles who has worked with both Current 93 and Nurse With Wound reworked the sound design of Berberian Sound Studio for a record release titled The Equestrian Vortex, which is the name of the film-within-a-film in Berberian Sound Studio.

    Peter Strickland-Berberian Sound Studio-tape cassette recorder-reel to reel

    And talking of physical and digital releases of music and other culture, as mentioned in Part 1 of this post, the Requiem soundtrack is only available digitally to download or stream but I chose to purchase the album as a download.

    The Ghost In The MP3-Takahiro Suzuki-Ryan Maguire-Ghosts Of My Life-Mark Fisher-hauntology-A Year In The Country-4

    (The series itself is also only available in high-definition online/as a download, something which I discuss further in Part 1 of this post. Also, as far as I know, it is only available as a 192 kbps download, which is essentially a compressed, lossy file format and so although consciously I can’t hear the parts that have been trimmed away, semi-consciously I wander what parts of the music is missing – see “The Ghost In The MP3 and considerations of past/future loss” below.)

    Despite the convenience and instant access to millions upon millions of songs that streaming can offer, in terms of just sitting down to appreciate and experience an album, in an almost modern-day sacramental manner, downloads possibly offer a more distilled and undisturbed experience in the way that a physical CD or record can – there isn’t the hurried, slightly harried sense of “What’s next? What else can I listen to?” that the almost unlimited nature of streaming offers.

    (Not too dissimilar could also be said of the streaming of films and television and the sometimes overwhelming selection of available titles, in contrast to say just downloading one particular title and that being the one which you focus on and watch.)

    Having just one album to listen to, in a self-curated manner, seems to offer a moment of repose in a rather busy contemporary cultural and digital landscape.

    Requiem-BBC television series-still 1

    Elsewhere:
    Aigra – Requiem’s main title theme
    The Requiem trailer
    The Requiem title sequence by Peter Anderson Studio
    More on Dominik Scherrer and Natasha Khan’s score
    The Stone Tape and the Capturing of Resonances
    Berberian Sound Studio / Requiem musical intertwining
    Jane Weaver’s Parade of Blood Red Sorrows
    Kelli Ali’s The Kiss

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #23/365: Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape – a study of future haunted media
    2) Day #153/365: Stepping through into… Berberian Sound Studio
    3) Day #327/365: A fever dream of Haunted Air…
    4) Day #349/365: Audiological Reflections and Pathways #2; the semi-random placing of England’s hidden reverse…
    5) Week #12/52: The Ghost In The MP3 and considerations of past/future loss
    6) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #19/52a: The Ballad Of Shirley Collins Trailer and Wandering Amongst Shadowed Furrows/The Hidden Reverse
    7) Day #58/365: Lullabies for the land and a pastoral magicbox by Ms Sharron Kraus
    8) Day #150/365: Parade Of Blood Red Sorrows
    9) Week #1/52: The Duke Of Burgundy and Mesmerisation…
    10) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #28/52a: Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders – Unreleased Variations Away From Bricks And Mortar
    11) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #48/52a: Kelli Ali’s The Kiss and Cinematic Conjurings
    12) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 26/52: Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations
    13) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52: Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations
    14) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 26/52: Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations

     

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  • Image AA/27

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

    (…something of a return, aesthetically…)

     

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  • General Orders No. 9 and By Our Selves – Cinematic Pastoral Experimentalism: Chapter 27 Book Images

    General orders no 9-a year in the countrygeneral orders no 9f

    “General Orders No. 9 is a 2009 film by Robert Persons. As a very brief precis, the film takes the viewer on a journey through the transformation of a section of mid-Southern America (Alabama, Mississipi and Georgia) from a wilderness into its modern state and although not overtly stated or didactic it seems to be in part a mourning of the loss of wilderness areas and a connection to nature due to the encroachment of civilisation and urbanisation.

    It is a non-narrative film, a form of expressive documentary with elements of experimentalism but it is eminently watchable and makes use of original location film footage, maps, vintage photographs, found objects and views of natural and manmade landscapes.”

    General orders no 9d

    “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 discarded detritus and hundreds of scattered old books.”

    F# A# ∞-God Speed You Black Emperor-album artwork and booklet

    “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 is reminiscent of God Speed You Black Emperors song “Dead Flag Blues” from their 1997 album F# A# ∞, which in some ways could almost be a companion piece to General Orders No. 9, with its sense of lyrically beautiful apocalyptic dread).”

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    By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-2

    “(General Orders No. 9) could be placed very loosely amongst a strand of films that may be described as cinematic pastoral experimentalism. Along which lines is Andrew Kötting’s film By Our Selves from 2015, which involves a retreading of the wanderings which Northamptonshire nature poet John Clare undertook in 1841, as he went on a pilgrimage from a mental asylum to find Mary Joyce, the woman with whom he thought himself to be in love.”

    By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Ian Sinclair-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-8Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-A Year In The Country

    “John Clare is played by Toby Jones, who is accompanied by a straw bear (a character from folklore, the costume of which involves its wearer being covered head to toe in straw), with director Andrew Kötting playing this part.”

    Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-11Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-10

    “Alongside the film’s depiction of John Clare’s journey through the land are a number of separate sections where, for example, writer Iain Sinclair interviews Northamptonshire resident comic book writer Alan Moore (who describes Northampton as being so imbued with literary and poetic associations that it is “a kind of vision sump”) and Toby Jones’ own father appears and revisits his performance from a 1970 Omnibus documentary in which he played John Clare.”

    Straw Bear-By Our Selves-Andrew Kotting-Iain Sinclair-Toby Jones-Alan Moore-John Clare-A Year In The Country-9

    “Possibly more appealing than the film’s specific dealings with John Clare’s story is its “folkloric in the modern-day” imagery (for example Toby Jones in ramshackle period costume leading the straw bear through a field of crops under the gaze of pylons) and its exploration of the hidden, underlying layers and roots of the land’s tales, people and history.

    It seems to be very much an expression of those who are involved’s love of and enthusiasm for exploring and delving amongst the interconnectedness of such things and by its nature is a literal psychogeographic wandering.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 27 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside 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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  • Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 27/52

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-still 3

    Continuing on from Part 1 of this post, a few further points about the television series Requiem:

    1) As has been a recurring trope in cinema and television, it presents rurally based communities in contrast with urban ones as insular or “other”, to have their own ways and beliefs that connect back to previous eras, in a not dissimilar manner to say Hot Fuzz and The Wicker Man.

    2) Talking of The Wicker Man, without wishing to give too much of the ending of Requiem away, as in The Wicker Man, here the outsider victim is essentially lead on a misleading merry dance by the rural folk in pursuance of their beliefs and practices and for the correct completion of their ritual the chosen one must come willingly.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-2

    3) As is often the case with modern drama, Requiem sidesteps or ignores some of the realities of modern life, communications, the dissemination of news, images etc: here a strikingly stylish famous musician whose mother has died in bizarre circumstances is able to go and raise merry heck in a community and rake up all kinds of semi-buried truths in a very public manner, with only one apparent instance of a reporter and a traditional newspaper headline and little or no recordings of her actions digitally by the public nor social media postings.

    The truth is likely that in such an instance today her actions would be recorded and/or posted about and spread widely online within minutes of them happening.

    It must be difficult as a scriptwriter to get around the “well, the characters are trapped and threatened by forces x, y and z but with just one mobile phone call they could summon help” aspect of modern life.

    Possibly hence a fair bit of character’s in modern dramas holding up mobile phones and saying “No, no signal”, having left them at home, dropping them etc.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-still 1 copy

    4) Largely in Requiem supernatural elements are seen in only very fleeting glimpses or represented via audio but at one point a form of spirit or demonic possession is shown as having not dissimilar characteristics as electrical charges and discharges.

    Which caused me to wander how do you represent the supernatural on film and in television? What is the possible literal physical manifestation of such things? Are they/should they be all otherworldly spectral or ectoplasmic apparitions? Do they have a connection to and/or have the characteristics of other real world, natural and/or scientific phenomenon?

    (See John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness for a further consideration of the commingling of science and the supernatural, also for sharing with Requiem a depiction of mirrors as portals through which the super or preternatural can attempt to enter the day-to-day world.)

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-7

    5) Aside from the above electric like possession, there is only one other overt special effects orientated visual expression of the supernatural, which leaves space for the viewer’s imagination.

    That other overt expression is when one of the character’s has been possessed and in order to show this her eyes flip to opaque black for just a moment.

    Such elements are tricky as once you have overtly shown the supernatural it can normalise it or seem a little obvious or too signposted as “this person is now bad”.

    6) In Requiem the “good”, respectable people of the rural community who are actually up to no good appear to be largely the relatively affluent middle class and above; the local “coven” is made up in part by a doctor/psychiatrist, a solicitor, a mildly bohemian antiques dealer and an owner of large rural estate. They appear to have their more working class or lower in class footsoldiers but they are more the lead than the leading.

    Programme Name: Requiem - TX: n/a - Episode: Requiem - Ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Matilda (LYDIA WILSON) - (C) New Pictures - Photographer: Adrian Rogers

    7) A pivotal character in the plot, although one without a large amount of screen time, is that mildly bohemian antiques dealer, who is played by Tara Fitzgerald and seems to have an almost smugly evil aspect to her character.

    That character puts me in mind in part as a form of occult middle manager with a sense of self-satisifying expectation.

    (This put me in mind of Sean Hogan’s 2011 film The Devil’s Business, which explores some similar themes as Ben Wheatley’s Kill List; two assassins or mercenaries find themselves embroiled in occult activities, the carrying out of which in both have a curiously banal infrastructure and management aspect.)

    Symptoms-1974-BFI-A Year In The Country

    8) The main character Matilda Gray in the series is played by Lydia Wilson, who here has a very striking and almost otherworldly “Woman Who Fell to Earth” aspect to her appearance, which looking back over the series could be seen as a reflection of the hidden, preternatural forces which are present  around and also even contained within her.

    Although in a more overtly fashionable, almost hipster way in Reqiuem, that otherworldly aspect of the appearance of a disturbed individual can also be found in Angela Pleasance’s physical appearance and screen presence in José Ramón Larraz’s 1974 film Symptoms, which as with Requiem, also depicts rural areas as being far removed from bucolic idylls.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-3

    Elsewhere:
    The Requiem trailer
    The Requiem title sequence by Peter Anderson Studio
    The Symptoms trailer via the BFI

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Week #28/52: Symptoms and gothic bucolia
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 22/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 1 – The Sleeper Awakens
    3) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 23/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 2 – “This is not a dream”
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 24/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 3 – Quatermass-esque Non Bebop Filmmaking
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52: Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations

     

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  • Image AA/26

    Image-AA26-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Katalin Varga, Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy – Arthouse Evolution and Crossing the Thresholds of the Hinterland Worlds of Peter Strickland: Chapter 26 Book Images

    duke-of-burgundy-the-2014-004-sidse-babett-knudsen-chiara-danna-bicycyle-silhouette

    katalina-varga-2009-peter-strickland-a-year-in-the-country-2Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country 3

    “The three full length films which Peter Strickland has made so far: Katalin Varga (2009), Berberian Sound Studio (2012) and The Duke of Burgundy (2014), all create their own immersive worlds, often self contained and separate from wider reality and its markers.”

    Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country 4

    “Berberian Sound Studio is set in the enclosed world of a recording studio in 1976 and could be considered an homage to and a possible comment on that period’s “giallo” and Italian horror film genres and their sometimes-questionable excesses…

    Berberian Sound Studio involves a garden shed-based British sound effects expert, played by Toby Jones, who travels to Italy to work on a film which turns out unbeknownst to him to be a disturbing giallo horror.

    As time passes at the recording studio life and art implode and fall into one another and apart from going to his bedroom he does not seem to leave the studio complex.

    His sanity crumbles and he becomes increasingly both part of and complicit in a culture and celluloid of misogyny, one which is masked and masquerading as art and the barriers between reality and unreality become increasingly blurred.”

    David Cronenberg-Videodrome-still

    “Alongside the link to giallo it shares a number of similar themes with David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983); the stepping into an altered reality via recorded media and the degradation of its listeners, watchers and participants.

    Although whereas that film has a certain ragged, driving, visceral, hallucinatory and at times street-like energy, Berberian Sound Studio has and creates a more subtle, phantasmagoric dreamlike atmosphere.

    This is not a film which intrigues and draws you in through a plot arc, rather it is the imagery, experimentation, atmosphere and its cultural connections.”

    The Berberian Sound Studio-Julian House-A Year In The CountryJulian House-Intro-Peter Strickland-The Berberian Sound Studio-A Year In The Country

    “With Berberian Sound Studio the cultural connections include a soundtrack by Broadcast and design/film work by Julian House (variously of Ghost Box Records, Intro design agency, The Focus Group musical venture and sometimes Broadcast collaborator), with striking elements of its visual character being created by him.

    These include the tape packaging, edit sheets etc. for the studio setting and as a film it is deeply steeped within such pre-digital recording technology, with its physical form and noises becoming an intrinsic part of the story and its enclosed world.”

     Berberian Sound Studio-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-A Year In The Country 5 The Equestrian Vortex-Berberian Sound Studio-Julian House-Broadcast-A Year In The Country

    “Julian House’s work also includes an intro sequence for the film within a film called The Equestrian Vortex, which is the one Toby Jones’ character is helping to create the sound effects for.

    Accompanied by Broadcast’s music this uses found illustration imagery and creates an unsettling, intense sequence which draws from the tropes of folk and occult horror.”

     The Duke Of Burgundy-Cat's Eyes

    “Following Berberian Sound Studio, Peter Strickland’s next feature film was The Duke of Burgundy.

    On initial glance and indeed for the first section of the film this appears to be something of a stylistically salacious piece of work, drawing from the more erotically-inclined side of the likes of director Jess Franco’s films, which it is said in part to be a homage to.

    Jess Franco was a Spanish film director, writer, composer, cinematographer and actor. He is known for having a prolific output of around 160 films released between 1959 and 2013, which often focused on exploitation genres. His work has gained a cult following, in part due to the exploitation elements of the films alongside his own at times distinctive film making style/aesthetics and also because his prolific output was largely made with little or no funding and has come to be considered a form of almost renegade or outsider film production.

    However as The Duke of Burgundy progresses its cinematic journey is shown to not be an exercise in purely prurient cinema.”

    the-duke-of-burgundy-peter strickland-title-film still The Duke of Burgundy-Peter Strickland-lecture-image film still

    “It focuses almost exclusively on the lives of two female lovers, largely in the setting of one particular romantically and texturally ornate house and whose work involves the research, collecting and study of crickets and lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).

    Although not explicitly explained, the wider world they live in seems to be largely concerned or even obsessed by such study, with their own lives revolving around little else (apart from boudoir activities).

    Much of the decoration of the main house involves framed mounts of these creatures and the film will periodically focus on these and related images, creating a returning refrain and a near scientific but also reflective, expressive study of the beauty and decorations of nature.”

     Terry and June-British sitcom

    “Connected to the strife of the film’s central characters, their conflicts and day-to-day nature of relationships, one of the reference points that Peter Strickland quotes in relation to the film is the 1979-87 British television sitcom Terry and June.

    he Duke of Burgundy has much in common with such work in the way that it is an observation of the practicalities and unbalanced wishes and desires that can be present in relationships, of the sometimes petty, sometimes far from petty, annoyances and compromises that can be part of them.

    Although in The Duke of Burgundy such things have an exotic setting and involve private, intimate rituals, ultimately some of the issues it considers are very similar to those in Terry and June; the frustrations of two people in their nightwear and pyjamas in bed.”

    katalina-varga-2009-peter-strickland-a-year-in-the-country-4

    “Katalin Varga was Peter Strickland’s first full-length film. Set in a contemporary period the films tells of a horse and cart journey and mission of revenge through the land by a mother, accompanied by her son who is unaware of the purpose of the journey.”

    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country

    “Josephine Decker’s Butter on the Latch film from 2013 is more stylistically experimental but might well be an appropriate reference point for Katalin Varga; pastorally set work that wanders off the beaten paths of conventional cinema or indeed a slasher in the woods and the land without the slashing.”

    katalina-varga-2009-peter-strickland-a-year-in-the-country-1b

    “Katalin Varga could almost be a period film and in part it seems to be set in a generally pastoral world that may not have changed all that much since medieval times.

    During the film it is physically jarring when the viewer sees a more built up area and modern buildings, or when a mobile phone ring tone is heard in the film, while a yellow plastic plate that appears at one point seems almost offensive in this setting.

    The modern world often seems to only appear in relatively small details: the contemporary rubber car tyres on the cart that is used in the journey, haymaking carried out by hand while in the background is a building with a satellite dish.”

     Scala cinema program-1986-London Scala cinema-London-photograph

    “Katalin Varga does not necessarily have the more polished production sheen of the honey toned fantasy land of The Duke of Burgundy or the cloistered, contained and imagined interiors of Berberian Sound Studio but it creates a sense of its own world, time and place nonetheless. It may in part be a side effect of that lack of sheen but it seems as though it could be some semi-lost European film from an unspecified point in time, possibly the 1970s, which although arthouse did not quite belong to the accepted, reputable canon of cinema.

    The kind of a film that would have been screened at London’s Scala cinema around the early 1980s to the early 1990s, which was something of a home for such things.

    Peter Strickland’s films bring to mind those kind of arthouse, sometimes transgressive films that have often gone on to find a cult following but have not always become mainstream critically acceptable.

    For example films that would have once appeared in the pages of Films and Filming magazine which was published from 1954-1990; often European cult arthouse independent cinema, with leftfield, exploratory and sometimes transgressive or salacious subject matter and presentation.”

    duke of burgundy-moths-collageStan Brakhage-Mothlight-1963 mothlight-1963-001-still-brakhage

    “(The) sense of homage within Peter Strickland’s films can sometimes be quite overt; in The Duke of Burgundy the earlier-mentioned night-time dreamlike sequence which sees the screen and one of the main characters consumed by a rapidly layering collage of lepidoptera seems to quite directly visually reference experimental film maker Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight film from 1963, which layered natural elements and insects to create a rapidly moving montage.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 26 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside 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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  • Arcadia – “She Was Told the Truth Lay in the Soil” – Views from a Not so Always Arcadian Idyll: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 26/52

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-2

    Arcadia was something of a treat to arrive through the old digital letterbox a while ago.

    It is a film directed by Paul Wright which was created from a collage of found images, with a soundtrack by Adrian Utley from Portishead and Will Gregory from Goldfrapp, alongside music by Anne Briggs amongst others:

    “Using a mixture of film and TV footage from the BFI National Archive and regional archives around the UK, director Paul Wright creates a mosaic of contrasting images, sounds and moods, taking in folk carnivals and masked parades, hunting and harvesting, communes and raves, mechanisation, environmental issues, fires, floods, storms and much more.” (From the film’s accompanying promotional text.)

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-3

    At times and particularly earlier in the film it can seem like a pastoral reverie but as it progresses the overall atmosphere and impression it leaves is far from a twee rural idyll and is at times deeply, quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) unsettling.

    At A Year In The Country I have previously talked about particular television series etc being a form of “Albion in the overgrowth”, in the sense that they may contain glimpses of what could be loosely called an otherly, undercurrents or flipside of pastoral related culture; due to the institutional funding via the BFI, the “known” performers of its soundtracks and its still independent/arthouse but wider scale cinematic and upcoming home release, Arcadia seems like a time when the underground goes overground – a more publicly prominent expression of a contemporary interest in what could also be called “wyrd” pastoral and folk culture.

    MisinforMation-Mordant Music-Central Office Of Information-BFI-DVD cover-A Year In The CountryIt could be seen as a companion piece to the also BFI released DVD MisinforMation, which was also created using found footage:

    “The BFI invited Mordant Music to re-score a series of 70s and 80s public information films, resulting in a startling and ingenious audiovisual mash-up.” (From the DVD’s promotional text.)

    Arcadia even shares the use of similar archival public information film footage, although due to its focusing on PIFs, MisinforMation can be seen as being more strictly hauntological than Arcadia, as such films are something of an ongoing mainstay and reference point for hauntological orientated ideas and work.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-1

    Paul Wright’s film seems to explore and exist in the undefined but still recognisable territory where the hauntological, spectrally imprinted layers of history and culture intertwine with that aforementioned sense of an otherly pastoralism and the further reaches of folk culture.

    Well, I say further reaches but actually much of for example the more folk ritual orientated footage that can be found in Arcadia would once and in a different context be considered to be fairly normal day-to-day archival footage of local activities and celebrations; within Arcadia they seem to gain another meaning as the film builds to become far more than the sum of its parts and reveals a sense of hidden layers and the stories to be found running beneath and throughout the land.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-11

    Although in large part being created from what appears to be archival documentary footage, Arcadia does not purely draw from such film but also includes sections of Brownlow and Morro’s film Winstanley and its recreation of the 17th century diggers and their radical communal ways of living – although in a way that film seems almost nearer to documentary footage than a work of biographical fiction and so seems to fit particularly well in amongst Arcadia’s use of found footage.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-13

    Elsewhere as mentioned earlier there are glimpses of public information films, what appear to be rurally set performance art and artist’s films and also the likes of David Gladwell’s experimental/exploratory film Requiem for a Village:

    “The idyllic, rural past of a Suffolk village comes to life through the memories of an old man who tends a country graveyard.” (From the DVD’s promotional text.)

    boards-of-canada-tomorrows-harvest-warp-artcard-edition-a-year-in-the-country-1 boards-of-canada-tomorrows-harvest-warp-artcard-edition-a-year-in-the-country-4

    At points Arcadia’s soundtrack brings to mind Ghost Box Records-esque electronica and possibly also Boards of Canada’s hauntological progenitorial work; connected to which and some of the atmospheres Boards of Canada’s work creates, the images on the screen in Arcadia are often pastoral in nature but the soundtrack at times appears  to conjure a sense of a foreboding dystopic future.

    At other points Arcadia’s soundtrack becomes a pounding, acid rave beat and images of the abandonment that is sometimes found in folk rituals and games are interspliced with footage of rave/club scenes, which historically could still be seen to have a rural connection as the unlicensed side of raves at one time often took place in country settings, in say deserted rural warehouses and open fields, although it is not made overly clear in Arcadia if this is the case with the footage which is used.

    Elsewhere the escapism of participants in psychedelic/hippy probably 1960s or earlier 1970s rural festival footage appears in the film, which is is somewhat contrasted by the use of other footage which depicts the harsher form of escapism and youthful expression of urban punk gigs.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-7Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-16Henry Bourne-Arcadia Britannia-photographs-folklore-British-pearly kings and queens

    Some of the images in Arcadia could be seen as being accidental forebears to Henry Bourne’s portraits of contemporary folk costume wearers in his book Arcadia Britannica: A Modern British Folklore Portrait. In fact Arcadia as a whole seems almost as if it could somehow have fallen both backwards and forwards through time and to somewhow be both an influence on and reflection on spectral pastoral work.

    Adding to that sense of time slip, the version I watched was a compressed, lossy, timecoded preview version, which along with some of the degraded/multi-generational nature of sections of the source footage lend Arcadia a sense that it could well be a semi-lost film that you might stumble upon on the likes of Youtube.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-6Broadcast-Trish Keenan-photograph

    Sections of Arcadia appear to be taken from previous era’s witchcraft/occult pseudo-documentaries and in a further falling backwards-and-forwards through time manner, some of the related footage in the film shares a similar aesthetic with some of the imagery and work created/collaborated on by the band Broadcast and its core members James Cargill and Trish Keenan, who released a collaborative album called Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio age.

    That album also used found sounds from similar pseudo-documentaries, while part of Broadcast’s avant-pop aesthetic seemed to draw from and/or channel a form of psychedelic occultism.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-5

    There appears to be a utopian/progressive undercurrent to Arcadia, related to which, at times the use and juxtaposition of images – for example the idyllic pastoral and the voracious actions of industry – can veer towards a more overtly polemic direction and possibly intention; it seems stronger as a piece of work when those elements are less stridently and more space is left for the viewer to travel with the film and I expect still be subtly signposted towards a particular conclusion and point of view.

    The Innocents-O Willow Waly-George Auric-Isla Cameron-Finders Keepers 7 inch vinyl-Finders Kreepers-A Year In The Country

    The film ends with George Auric and Isla Cameron’s haunting performance of the song O Willow Waly, a version of which was used in Jack Clayton’s unsettling pastoral supernatural 1961 film The Innocents and which was also released on seven-inch by often archival release orientated record label Finders Keepers. Due to that supernatural/pastoral connection, its use here seems somewhat appropriate and something of a rounding of the circle back to earlier work which also explored the undercurrents and hidden, layered stories of the land and rural areas.

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-12

    In reflection of the collaged, layered nature of the film, I thought I would continue and finish off with a few examples of the voiceover found in Arcadia, which I assume are also largely taken from archival footage:

    “She was told the truth lay in the soil.”

    “For a thousand years these valleys have had a secret which no one else has shared.”

    “A secret past. A hidden history.”

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-10

    “A land of great magic. A land of great mystery.”

    “All over Britain many still take part in these otherworldly rituals… return to a time when we were connected to the land. A time when we were connected to each other.”

    “Does your mam know what you get up to when you come down here?” – “She will do now with you lot showing this on the telly.”

    “None knew that a shadow had fallen on the land.”

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-8

    “For those with an image of the countryside as being somehow related to ‘Merrie England’, the presence of those who are impoverished and underpriveliged is a real threat.”

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-15

    “If I wanted to I could fill this little room with ghosts.”

    “The past is gone, the future is unwritten.”

    Arcadia-film-Paul Wright-2017-BFI-Adrian Utley-Portishead-Will Gregory-Goldfrapp-Anne Briggs-folk-found footage-14

    Elsewhere:

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

     

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    Image-AA25-A-Year-In-The-Country-Year-4-image-journeys-in-otherly-pastoralism-the-outer-reaches-of-folk-and-the-parallel-worlds-of-hauntology-1px stroke

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Tim Hart, Maddy Prior and “The Dalesman’s Litany” – A Yearning for Imaginative Idylls and a Counterpart to Tales of Hellish Mills: Chapter 25 Book Images

    Tim-Hart-and-Maddy-Prior-Folk-Songs-of-Olde-England-two different versions of the album cover

    Tim Hart and Maddy Prior-Folk Songs of Olde England-A Year In The Country 4

    “It is wise to be wary of harking back to some imagined pre-industrialisation idyll; as someone whose thoughts are recorded in the 1969 oral history book Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village by Ronald Blythe says, the old ways which were often quite harsh at the time can come to seem like pleasant aspects of life and times as the years add a distance and rosy glow to them.

    Having said which, the song “The Dalesman’s Litany”, as performed by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior on their 1968 album Folk Songs of Old England, which takes as its subject matter a yearning for a return to pastoral idylls and away from a life working in industry is an appealing thing.

    Originally a poem by Frederic William Moorman written around 1900, it is a tale told by an agricultural worker who has to choose between a life with his beau on the land he loves and working in towns, cities and mines because the local landowner does not want married workers.

    In the later 1960s when this song was released, an idyllic, pastoral view of Olde England alongside the use and reinterpretation of traditional folk music and lore were sometimes part of a more experimental, exploratory strand in music and culture which to a degree was intertwined with psychedelia and a “hippie” utopian viewpoint…

    The song imparts a sense of an aching yearning to return to the moor and leave the coalstacks, which makes the song a more personal counterpart to William Blake’s “Jerusalem/And did those feet in ancient time” which was originally published in 1808 and its words of dark satanic mills; a text which was a reaction to the societal disturbances brought about by the industrial revolution.”

    Fractures-Night and Dawn Editions-A Year In The Country

    “As mentioned in the chapter 7: “1973: A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures”, by the early 1970s the spirit of “hippie” utopian ideals, which backgrounded the era in which the song was recorded, had begun to turn sour and inwards…

    Accompanying which, being drawn to imagined, bucolic idylls from times gone by, folk music and culture may in part have come to be a reaction to a period of social, political and economic turmoil within Britain, related energy shortages and electricity blackouts.

    Indeed, The Dalesman’s Litany almost seems like a subtle protest song aimed at the era of its recording, obliquely filtered via, to reference Rob Young’s Electric Eden book (2010), a form of imaginative time travel, which further removes it from the more twee, romanticised side of folk interpretation and revival.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 25 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside 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 Shildam Hall Tapes – Preorder and Release Dates

    Shildam Hall-Dawn Light cover

    Preorder 10th July 2018. Released 31st July 2018. 

    “Reflections on an imaginary film.”

    In the late 1960s a film crew began work on a well-funded feature film in a country mansion, having been granted permission by the young heir of the estate.

    Amidst rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults.

    Few of the cast or crew have spoken about the events since and any reports from then seem to contradict one another and vary wildly in terms of what actually happened on the set.

    A large number of those involved, including a number of industry figures who at the time were considered to have bright futures, simply seemed to disappear or step aside from the film industry following the film’s collapse, their careers seemingly derailed or cast adrift by their experiences.

    Little is known of the film’s plot but several unedited sections of the film and its soundtrack have surfaced, found amongst old filmstock sold as a job lot at auction – although how they came to be there is unknown.

    The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld.

    The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was.

    Features work by:
    Gavino Morretti
    Sproatly Smith
    Field Lines Cartographer
    Vic Mars
    Circle/Temple
    A Year In The Country
    The Heartwood Institute
    David Colohan
    Listening Centre
    Pulselovers

     

    Will be available via our Artifacts ShopBandcamp and at Norman Records.

     

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  • Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-1

    A while ago I watched Requiem, which is a television series created by Kris Mrska and co-produced by the BBC and Netflix.

    It is a largely rurally set supernatural thriller, which is fairly unsettling without overly relying on gratuitous gore/fx as a form of entertainment/questionable audience stimulant, as seems to often be the case with much of contemporary television and film.

    As a very brief introductory precis of the plot it involves a famous classical cellist who after the self-immolation of her mother attempts to seek the truth behind her death and her own origins, the search for which, after she finds newspaper clippings collected and hidden by her mother, leads her to a rural community where a young girl had gone missing and was never found many years before, the mystery of which begins to have a multi-layered, supernatural conspiracy aspect to it.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-6

    Requiem could be placed in a loose gathering of “glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth” television – mainstream dramas etc which to various degrees explore, utilise and express a flipside or otherly pastoralism.

    (As I have mentioned before there is no overarching, definitive genre name for such things but elements of the further reaches of folk culture, paganism, the supernatural, hauntological timeslip etc can be found in such things. Wyrd is a word that is often used but for some reason it also seems a little possibly clumsy or inelegant in terms of trying to capture a sense of such spectral cultural phantasms.)

    Britannia television series

    Along similar lines in relatively recent times in that loose gathering could be included Britannia, The Living and The Dead and elements of Detectorists, while if you cast the net further in years it could also take in the Savage Party Hollyoaks trailer and the turn of the millennium remake of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – the latter two of which I have written about at the A Year In The Country site before and in the Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    Detectorists-Unthanks-Timeslip sequence

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-4

    Anyways, back more directly to Requiem.

    The introduction sequence is particularly striking. It combines various layered elements and atmospheres – a sense of beauty, subtle eeriness and darkness, a cello semi-hidden in the images, nature and wildlife, ancient folklore and superstition. Aesthetically it is nicely textured and kaleidoscope/mirrored, with subtle tinges of offset RGB transmissions and puts me in mind here and there of biological illustrator Angela Mele’s work for The Creeping Garden.

    (As an aside, the sequence is by the Peters Anderson Studio – which now I know makes sense I’d thought it had a certain classy texturality, the lineage of which could be traced back to the likes of Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson’s work for 4AD in the 1980s. The Peters Anderson Studio also created the nicely textured pastoral artwork for Sharron Kraus’ Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails album released by Second Language Music and which I have written about at A Year In The Country previously.)

    The Living And The Dead-BBC series-3

    The soundtrack for Requiem was created by Dominik Scherrer and Natasha Khan, who is known for her work as Bat For Lashes and could be filed alongside The Living and the Dead’s, in that it explores/accompanies a sense of otherly pastoralism (and in The Living and the Dead’s case folk music and culture) within a mainstream television setting and which has been released to buy but only, at the time of writing, via download.

    (The Living and The Dead’s soundtrack was released independently by The Insects who created/recorded it, Requiem’s by Dubois Music.)

    Which is a shame, as apart from having a softspot for physically presented music I think that both series’ imagery and themes could lend themselves to some fine packaging.

    Along which lines of such things being released physically or not, I have noticed increasingly that BBC television series are only being released in high definition online/digitally and in standard definition on DVD and not Blu-ray, which also seems a shame and restrictive in terms of options. The Living and the Dead was released on both Blu-ray and DVD but as far as I know Requiem is only being released on DVD.

    I guess this is market-lead consideration, with Blu-ray sales still only being a fraction of those for DVD (20/80 respectively the last I read).

    Although sometimes HD can be a little harsh in its presentation and possibly seem a little too “real” or break the spell of a drama, not having the option for it in physical media is still a tad annoying.

    Such is the modern world I guess. Which brings me to Part 2 of this post…

    To be continued in Part 2…

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-5

    Elsewhere:
    The Requiem trailer
    The Requiem title sequence by Peter Anderson Studio
    More on Dominik Scherrer and Natasha Khan’s score
    The Living and the Dead trailer
    The Unthanks/Detectorists timeslip
    The Britannia trailer
    The Creeping Garden trailer
    Angela Mele’s illustrations

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #58/365: Lullabies for the land and a pastoral magicbox by Ms Sharron Kraus
    2) Day #146/365: Glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth
    3) Day #274/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth…
    4) Day #275/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth (#2)… becometh a fumetti…
    5) Day #316/365: The Detectorists; a gentle roaming in search of the troves left by men who can never sing again
    6) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #16/52a: The Living And The Dead
    7) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #28/52a: Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders – Unreleased Variations Away From Bricks And Mortar
    8) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 9/52: The Creeping Garden – an exploration of a science / science fiction fantasia – Part I
    9) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 10/52: The Creeping Garden – an exploration of a science / science fiction fantasia – Part 2

    (Which is a fair few here’s and elsewheres…)

     

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    Image AA24-A Year In The Country Year 4 image-journeys in otherly pastoralism, the outer reaches of folk and the parallel worlds of hauntology

    File under: A Year In The Country ocular explorations

     

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  • Folk Horror Revival: Harvest Hymns I & II Released – Companions for Wanderings Amongst the Patterns Under the Plough

    Folk Horror Revival-Harvest Hymns-I-Twisted Roots-II-Sweet Fruits-book covers-1px stroke

    Published just recently are the books Folk Horror Revival: Harvest Hymns I – Twisted Roots and Folk Horror Revival: Harvest Hymns II – Sweet Fruits.

    The books are collections of articles, interviews, album reviews etc by a number of different authors, with both taking as their focus the undercurrents and flipsides of folk music, alongside more spectral/hauntological music and related cultural pastures.

    Folk Horror Revival-logo

    They are published by Folk Horror Revival which is described as:

    “…a gathering place to share and discuss folk horror in film, TV, books, art, music, events and other media. We also explore psychogeography, hauntology, folklore, cultural rituals and costume, earth mysteries, archaic history, hauntings, Southern Gothic, ‘landscapism / visionary naturalism & geography’, backwoods, murder ballads, carnivalia, dark psychedelia, wyrd Forteana and other strange edges.”

    In recent years those gathering places have included the main website, well-visited social media groups and a number of events including the Otherworldly: Folk Horror Revival at the British Museum day long event which featured talks, lectures, short films, poetry readings and museum tours.

    Folk Horror Revivial-Harvest Hymns I-Twisted Roots-book contents

    Harvest Hymns I – Twisted Roots considers the roots of related music and includes chapters on The Wicker Man soundtrack by Jonny Trunk, A Brief History of Acid Folk by Grey Malkin (of The Hare And The Moon and Widow’s Weeds), David Cain and Ronald Duncan’s The Seasons by Bob Fischer, the music of British folk horror films by Adam Scovell (author of the book Folk Horror: Hours Strange and Things Dreadful) and the sounds of The Stone Tape where Jim Peters interviews Andrew Liles. Elsewhere you’ll find chapters by/that focus on Sharron Kraus, Comus, Alison O’Donnell, Maddy Prior, Coil, The Radiophonic Workshop alongside a fair few other wanderings and explorations.

    Folk Horror Revival-Harvest Hymns-Sweet Fruit-book contents-1px stroke

    Harvest Hymns II – Sweet Fruits explores the modern day descendants of such work, including an interview with Jim Jupp of Ghost Box records by Jim Peters and Darren Charles, a review of Keith Seatman’s A Rest Before the Walk by Chris Lambert (of Tales from the Black Meadow), an interview with Drew Mulholland by John Pilgrim and also Jim Peters and a chapter on Boards of Canada’s Geogaddi by Daniel Pietersen. Elsewhere you’ll find chapters that focus on Moon Wiring Club, Songs from the Black Meadow, Jon Brooks’ Shapwick, Flying Saucer Attack, The Stone Tapes’ Avebury, The Rowan Amber Mill’s Harvest the Ears and as with the previous book a fair few more flipside of folk/spectral hauntological wanderings.

    The book also includes Cuckoos in the Same Nest, which is an alternate version of the Cuckoos in the Same Nest: Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings chapter from the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    And if you look closely, you may also see a piece or few of A Year In The Country artwork in the books…

    Folk Horror Revival-Field Studies-Harvest Hymns-book covers

    As just mentioned the focus of these two books are the music side of folk/hauntological and interconnected work; they can be seen as a companion piece to the previously published Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies, which focused on similar pastoral flipside and spectral areas but in the realms of film, television and literature.

    That volume featured writing by amongst others Robin Hardy, Ronald Hutton, Alan Lee, Philip Pullman, Thomas Ligotti, Kim Newman, Adam Scovell, Grey Malkin, John Coulthart, Gary Lachman and Susan Cooper and includes chapters on Public Information Films, Nigel Kneale, David Rudkin, M. R. James and well, once again many more…

    Folk Horror Revival-Field Studies-book contents

    If you should fancy a wander amongst the patterns under the plough you may well find that these three books prove to be rather fine companions and bountiful points of reference and inspiration.

     

    Elsewhere:

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

     

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  • Luke Haines – Our Most Non-Hauntological Hauntologist: Chapter 24 Book Images

    Luke-Haines-The Auteurs-Black Box Recorder-album and single covers and tracklisting-video still

    “Musician and author Luke Haines is a curious gent and his work is an interesting example of how pop/rock can be conjoined with a certain intellectual stance and influence and still be good pop/rock songs.

    Along which lines it could be considered to be “non-populist pop” (to quote the sleeve notes to The Eccentronic Research Council’s Underture 1612 album from 20121) .

    The term “pop” is used as two of the bands he was involved with, The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder bothered the singles charts in the days when such things kind of still mattered, while the songs themselves are often catchy.

    However, his work also seems to largely exist in a genre all of its own, one without a particular name.

    It is without a name as probably something appropriately descriptive would need to be multi-layered and include the likes of One Time French Breakfast TV Indie Popstar, Brief Top Twenty-er, Musical Dada-Pantomine Villain and Pop Culture’s Hidden Undercurrents Explorer.

    Which would be just a touch too long as a genre title for the racks of record stores.

    As a background to the above possible genre title his band The Auteurs had a period of mainstream success in France which included Luke Haines appearing on breakfast television and Black Box Recorder’s single “Facts of Life” spent one week at number twenty in the UK singles chart. Although his work has a pop edge, it often also interacts with and explores more fringe or even experimental cultural areas, while he at times seems to position himself/be positioned as an arch observer or outsider, possibly even nemesis, to much of music and pop culture.”

     Day 10-The Auteurs How I Learned To Love The Bootboys-A Year In The Country

    “There has been a connection or few with his work and what has come to be known as hauntology…

    If you consider hauntology in a more general sense to mean the present being haunted by spectres of the past then Luke Haines is probably one of the more hauntological musicians out there.

    His music often seems to literally be haunted by the past – his own, society’s, culture’s and bogeymen-like figures or worries of one sort or another from previous decades.

    Take the 1999 album How I Learned to Love the Bootboys by one of his previous bands The Auteurs, which he was the instigator/frontman of.

    The lead track and single of the same year “The Rubettes” borrows liberally from 1970s pop (“Sugar Baby Love” by its namesakes in particular), there are marauding skinhead bootboys from a similar era, an ode to a 1950s pop rock band (the singer of whom is “dead within a year”), imbibements popular in other eras (Asti Spumante, known as a “noxiously sweet poor man’s Champagne”) and so forth.”

     Luke Haines-Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop

    “Elsewhere, such as on his 2006 solo album Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop there are teddy boys discos and Vauxhall Corsas, “the three day week, half-day Wednesdays, the spirit of the Blitz” and an unsolved 1960s celebrity boxers death.”

     9 1:2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s & Early '80s-Luke Haines-album cover art

    “While in 2011 he released a concept album dedicated to 1970s and early 1980s wrestling, called in an “it does what it says on the can” manner Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ’80s, which is a fine title and subject matter.”

     Black Box Recorder-England Made Me-The Facts of Life-Passionoia-three albums-cover art-1px stroke

    “Between 1998 and 2003 Black Box Recorder, his trio with cohorts Sarah Nixey and John Moore, released three unparalleled albums which contained seething, brutally repressed, “now that the Empire has faded”, “I know what you’re doing in the afternoons”, arch Albionic pop-noir.

    They often sounded as though they were singing from some kind of brutal, sneering, imaginary 1970s English hinterland.

    Their work could be considered its own unique take on hauntological work’s creation of parallel worlds through a form of hazy misremembering and reinterpreting of previous eras and an associated sense of exploring resonant cultural reference points and atmospheres from the past and weaving with them to form new cultural forms and myths.”

    Moon-Wiring-Club-Rob-Young-album review in Uncut and album cover art-2

    “To a degree this connects with work that can be considered hauntological in a more conventional sense in that it puts me in mind of Rob Young’s review of a Moon Wiring Club album in Uncut magazine, where he talks of the enclosed music being “slathered in the fiction that it comes from an older, weirder England”.”

    Like-Haines-Maximum-Electronic-Rock-N-Roll-2-cover art and promo photograph

    Luke Haines-A Year In The Country

    “His 2015 album British Nuclear Bunkers took him nearer to conventional hauntological territory, being a largely instrumental, Radiophonic-esque album which was recorded in part using (presumably, from his championing of them online around the time of the album’s release) cheap tuppence ha’penny synthesisers.

    Aside from the album’s title, the titles of the tracks include “This Is the BBC”, “Test Card Forever”, “Mama Check The Radar at the Dada Station”, “New Pagan Sun”, “Deep Level Shelters Under London” and “Electronic Tone Poem”.”

     Luke Haines-Bad Vibes-Post Everything-book covers

    “What he brings to hauntology-related work is a playful, sometimes outright humorous take on such things; an absurdist and dada-like exploration of occult histories.

    If you should look up the definition of dada you may find that it was an art movement founded on “irrationality, incongruity, and irreverence towards accepted aesthetic criteria”,which sounds somewhat appropriate for Haines’ work and might also be used to refer to his insubordinate to the cultural status quo stance as an author in the 2009 and 2011 autobiographical books Bad Vibes and Post Everything and possibly also at points his interviewee stance.”

     Luke Haines-video still-2 Luke Haines-video still-1

    “Along which lines, the video that accompanies British Nuclear Bunkers features him with only somebody wearing a gorilla suit for company.

    They are pictured in a largely featureless room that implies a sense of it being part of a subterranean, not known to the public Cold War interrogation centre.

    The gorilla squeezes lemons and plays an analogue synthesiser while Luke Haines, dressed in what appears to be a biohazard protection suit, practises what can only be described as occult pagan yoga.”

     luke-haines-smash-the-system-album-morris-dancers-a-year-in-the-country-stroke-1

    “Haines’ 2015 album Smash the System seemed to also travel, in his own particular way, to the point at which hauntological concerns meet otherly folklore. So, for example, while there are all kinds of pop culture titles and references to the album (Marc Bolan, Bruce Lee, Vince Taylor etc.) there are also tracks called “Ritual Magick”, “Power of the Witch” and “The Incredible String Band”.

    The album has an archival photograph of morris dancers as its cover image and the accompanying video for the title track shows their contemporary equivalent on a slightly worrying and unsettling bender or borderline riotous fracas in an urban capital city setting (while the song also namechecks his love of The Monkees and The Velvet Underground).

    luke-haines-smash-the-system-%22pop%22-video-a-year-in-the-country-2 luke-haines-smash-the-system-%22pop%22-video-a-year-in-the-country-3

    “The video also features gas masks and a tray full of shots for the Morris dancers to drink (for some reason the latter of which seems most unruly, unsettling and just a bit wrong).”

     Earl Brutus-The SAS and the Glam That Goes With It-Tonight You Are The Special One-Scott King design

    A Clockwork Orange-film still-Stanley Kubrick

    “Appropriate reference points may also include the arty-lairiness of Earl Brutus, with whom Luke Haines has at various points shared a designer and collaborator in the form of Scott King and possibly even the imagined troublesome youth cult of the film version of A Clockwork Orange from 1971.”

    The-Auteurs-The-Rubettes-cover art and insert

    “…the cover to the “The Rubettes” single from 1999 travels further along this path with its depiction of genuinely unsettling folk horroresque masked men in black industrial protective weather proofs combined with Mr Punch-like outfits and masks.

    They have parked their livestock van out in the countryside in the middle of nowhere and one of them peers out from the slats in its rear at the viewer with intentions that can only be far from good.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 24 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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  • Audio Albion – Wanderings Amongst the Airwaves, the Ether and Elsewhere…

    Audio Albion-Nightfall Edition-Nightfall and Dawn Light editions-A Year In The Country

    A selection of some of the recent broadcasts, reviews etc of the Audio Albion album.

    Aside from the A Year In The Country connection, the below links etc are well worth a wander and peruse as, like a good jumble sale, you never know quite what else you might find when you’re rummaging.

    (PS Whatever happened to jumble sales? Largely supplanted by charity shops maybe?)

    We Are Cult website logo

    “A gorgeous collage of sound myths, emboldened stories and earthly sounds; a journey through the rims and roads of Britain.” From the review at We Are Cult, which joins something of a growing selection of other A Year In The Country reviews around those parts. Visit that here.

    John-Coulthart-Feuilleton-five in a row

    “On Stormy Point, contains a whistle recording made in one of the caves at Alderley Edge in Cheshire, an important location in the Rural Wyrd via the popularisation of its myths in the novels of Alan Garner… The Unquiet Grave by Widow’s Weeds… a marvellous interpretation of one of the spookiest English folk songs…”

    John Coulthart posted about the album at his feuilleton site, where it joins a fair old selection of other posts on A Year In The Country related work and releases. Visit that here.

    Massimo Ricci-Touching Extremes-logo

    “…purely acoustic rarefaction to aggregated loops, layered/solitary voices to morsels of modern folk melodies, palatable soundtrack-ish electronica to eerie nebula…” Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

    Goldmine magazine-2018 logo

    “Captured in locations as diverse as a derelict workshop in Holloway, Hereford Cathedral, a flood marsh in the Roding Valley and the cavern beneath Peveril Castle, the sounds of the surroundings are then blurred and blended into newly composed musical pieces – ambient nature overlaid by ambient sound, in which the former forms the backdrop that then drives the latter along.” Dave Thompson at Spin Cycle/Goldmine

    Music Wont Save You-Raffaello Russo

    “…tutti impegnati a scandagliare prati, foreste, foreste e panorami extraurbani, ricavandone una nuova eterogenea mappatura del territorio rurale britannico, attraverso narrazioni immanenti in un lungo periodo, costellato da stille elettro-acustiche risuonanti…” Raffaello Russo at Music Won’t Save You (and an approximate English translation can be found here)

    The Guardian-Friday 1st June 2018-folk column-Jude Rogers-Audio Albion-A Year In The Country-1600px

    “Audio Albion is the latest brilliant release in an ongoing project to map landscape and memory through eerie instrumentals and twisted takes on folk culture.” Jude Rogers at The Guardian; in the newspaper and the piece can also be found online here.

    Mark Losing Today-The Sunday Experience-The Restless Field-A Year In The Country

    “The haunting spectral that is ‘Winter Sands’… fashioned in twilight twinkles, its dissolving dream like palette chartering as were, mystical waterways beyond the veil, it’s here where nothing seems real, to world’s where imagination and dream collide into a perpetually shifting cortege seasoned in ghostly carousels and macabre mosaics.” Mark Losing at The Sunday Experience

    Shindig magazine-issue 79-Audio Albion review-A Year In The Country CD album

    “…’music and field recording map of Britain’ featuring 15 tracks that incorporate found sounds from rural walks, semi-industrials ‘edgeland’ and liminal spaces between this world and the next… The compositions often suggest unseen images and unrevealed narrative…” Ben Graham in Shindig! magazine, issue 79

     

    And now the radio etc broadcasts:

    Fractal Meat logo

    Tracks from the album by David Colohan, Magpahi and Howlround were played on Graham Dunning’s Fractal Meat, amongst its audio scrapbooking of the likes of “sonic art and experiments, improvised music, textures and rhythms”. Originally broadcast on NTS, the show can be visited here.

    Flatland Frequencies banner-A Year In The Country

    Luke Sanger played a track by Bare Bones on Flatland Frequencies (and something of a welcome return for the show). The show was originally broadcast on Future Radio and can be found archived here.

    the-gated-canal-community-radio-the-quietened-bunker-a-year-in-the-country

    Justin Watson of record label Front & Follow (always worth a look-see at what they’re putting out into the world) played tracks by Grey Frequency and Field Lines Cartographer on the Gated Canal Community Radio Show, where he was accompanied by Freak Zone and Late Junction producer Rebecca Gaskell. Originally broadcast on Reform Radio, the show can be visited here.

    The Late Junction-BBC Radio 3-logo

    Talking of which… Verity Sharp played tracks from the album by Magpahi and Time Attendant on two separate episodes of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction’s, amongst the shows around-midnight sonic adventuring and wandering. Visit those here and here.

    Resonance-FM-logo-Pull the Plug-Jonny Seven

    Johnny Seven played Vic Mars’ Dinedor Hill on Pull the Plug, alongside the rather finely monikered Making Tea for Robots. Originally broadcast on Resonance FM, the show can be visited here.

    The Unquiet Meadow-radio show-image 2

    The Unquiet Meadow have been wandering amongst a fair number of the various pathways of Audio Albion and over four episodes have played tracks by Magpahi, Widow’s Weeds, Vic Mars and Pulselovers. Originally broadcast on Asheville FM, the show can be visited here.

    Sunrise Ocean Bender-radio show logo-On a Satellite's Wing

    Sunrise Ocean Bender played Pulselovers’ Thieves’ Cant on the also rather finely monikered On a Satellite’s Wing episode of their radio show. Originally broadcast on WRIR, the show can be found here.

    The Seance Radio show-wider logo

    Grey Frequency’s Stapleford Hill was played on sometimes A Year In The Country fellow travellers The Séance’s phantom seaside radio show. Originally broadcast on/via Radio Reverb, Totally Radio and Sine FM, the show can be found here.

    Gideon Coe-BBC Radio 6-logo 2018

    Gideon Coe has played Vic Mars’ Dinedor Hill not once but twice on his show on BBC Radio 6. Blimey. Visit the shows here and here.

    On The Wire-Radio Lancashire-logo

    …and it was also played on the now decades longstanding On The Wire radio show (on the air since 1984, blimey again). Visit that here.

     

    Much appreciated and a tip of the hat to everybody involved in the above. Thanks!

    Audio Albion-Nightfall edition-print

    Audio Albion is a music and field recording map of Britain, which focuses on rural and edgeland areas. The album features work by Bare Bones, David Colohan, Grey Frequency, Field Lines Cartographer, Howlround, A Year In The Country, Keith Seatman, Magpahi, Sproatly Smith, Widow’s Weeds, Time Attendant, Spaceship, Pulselovers, The Heartwood Institute and Vic Mars.

    Further details can be found here at A Year In The Country.

     

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  • John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 3 – Quatermass-esque Non Bebop Filmmaking: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 24/52

    prince of darkness title-John Carpenter-1987Halloween III-John Carpenter-Tommy Lee Wallace-Alan Howarth-Nigel Kneale-1982-6

    So, continuing on from Part 1 and Part 2 of this post on John Carpenter’s 1987 film The Prince of Darkness…

    The film was written by John Carpenter but is credited to Martin Quatermass, in homage to Nigel Kneale and which also connects it to the John Carpenter co-produced and scored Halloween III (1982), the script of which was initially written by Nigel Kneale and which I have previously written about at A Year In The Country.

    british-quatermass-and-the-pit-poster-by-tom-chantrell-1967

    Quatermass-and-the-Pit-Nigel-Kneale-bluray-cover-art-foreign cover art
    (Above top: the original British poster art for Quatermass and the Pit. Below: artwork for a foreign release of Quatermass and the Pit and a Blu-ray reissue.)

    Prince of Darkness shares some similar preoccupations as Nigel Kneale’s work and could be seen as treading not dissimilar ground as Quatermass and the Pit, which features an ancient alien spacecraft and race that are unearthed and discovered to have been instigators/controllers of mankind’s darker urges over the ages: in both films ancient destructive, human mind and action controlling forces are awakened and the devil, dark forces and evil are given rational, scientific, physical explanations and embodiments, with these beings bearing a physical similarity to archetypal images of devils.

    The-Village-Of-The-Damned-poster-French-Martin-Stephens-1px stroke

    (In a further connection to British science fiction authors, one of the characters in Prince of Darkness is called Wyndham, which may well be a homage to The Midwich Cuckoos author John Wyndham – a book which John Carpenter would go on to adapt in 1995 when he made Village of the Damned, which had been originally adapted for cinema in 1960.)

    All the above could make Prince of Darkness seem to be a quite heavy experience but I hasten to add that it is an entertaining film – well, entertaining in the sense of unsettling the living heck out of you. As John Carpenter says in one of the Blu-ray extras “I wanted to do a movie that caused a lot of unease and dread”.

    Job accomplished Mr Carpenter.

    Prince of Darkness-bluray-John Carpenter-collectors edition-scream factory

    The extra in question is called “Sympathy for the Devil”, which features a new interview with John Carpenter and can be found on the Scream Factory / Shout Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of the film, which if you have access to a Blu-ray player capable of playing Region A discs is well worth seeking out.

    It features a sympathetic restoration and extras, particularly the new interview with John Carpenter that inform and inspire further debate rather than merely revealing or over revealing “the secrets behind the magic curtain”.

    Oh and nicely done animated menu screen as well (!).

    The Blu-ray cover features a newly commissioned illustration by Justin Osbourn, which pays homage to the atmosphere and era of production of the film while also lending it a certain modern tinge or edge.

    Steel Factory-Prince of Darkness-1987-John Carpenter-steelbook bluray-650px

    (As an aside, when writing this I saw that Scream Factory have released a steelbook version of the film, the new cover illustration for which is a good capturing of the intermingling of science, technology, religion, horror, the super or preternatural etc within the film. As an aside within an aside – blimey, it’s getting to be like vinyl single covers in the 1980s with all the variants of film covers released in limited edition and the like nowadays.)

    John Carpenter-Scream Factory-Shout Factory-bluray extras-Sympathy for the Devil

    Watched now, when much of film and television is almost frantically kinetic and action filled, Prince of Darkness has a refreshing stillness of pace – although without being slow, plodding or recalling a sense of the now sometimes hard to digest rhythms of previous decades of film and television. Rather, this allows the viewer’s mind and imagination to wander.

    Along which lines, in Sympathy for the Devil, John Carpenter discusses how film today “is all bebop” – referring to the style of jazz which features fast tempos and complex, rapid changes and how he considers that there are two main ways of making films: one approach which draws from German expressionist film and has a certain languid presentation which allows space and time for the viewer to “look around” and another which draws from Russian montage, where there is a rapid cutting together of images in order to keep people excited and stimulated but which can be devoid of content.

    Prince of Darkness ain’t so bebop and all the better for it.

    Prince of Darkness-John Carpenter-1987-film still

    Connected to which despite it being an unsettling horror film, there is little gratuitous gore in the film.

    This is in contrast to much of contemporary film and television, whether horror, thriller etc, where a very graphic presentation of such things seems to have become the norm and a form of easy, obvious and questionable form of audience stimulation.

    Yes, it’s okay, we get it, between CGI and prosthetics you’ve worked out how to portray such things – the possesion of that technical ability does not mean you have to use it. There is a known part of human consciousness called imagination which does not need precise visual depicting of acts in order to create its own images and atmospheres (!).

    Anyways…

    Victor Wong-Prince of Darkness-John Carpenter-1987-lecture

    John Carpenter also discusses in the Blu-ray extras how he had been reading a book on subatomic particles, which seems to have informed the film’s themes:

    “None of this is truth. Say goodbye to classical reality because our logic collapses on the subatomic level into ghosts and shadows.” (From a lecture presentation in the film.)

    That sense of reality, of our belief systems being questioned, collapsing and thrown into new light could well be the main underlying theme of the film.

    Elsewhere:
    The Prince of Darkness trailer via Scream Factory
    An extract from Sympathy for the Devil/an interview with John Carpenter from the Scream Factory Blu-ray
    The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition
    The Scream Factory limited edition Steelbook

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 4/52a: Halloween III: Season of the Witch – A Curious Slice of Culture and Collisions with the Past
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 22/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 1 – The Sleeper Awakens
    3) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 23/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 2 – “This is not a dream”

     

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