File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #14/52.
The song Geography from Belbury Polys The Belbury Tales album is one of the ones which has stuck in my mind the most when working towards/on A Year In The Country.
I think the night I first heard it was also the night when I originally wrote what was to become much of the text on the About page of A Year In The Country, so I think it helped inspire, spark and put textual form to something… so something of a touchstone/key record indeed.
The song (and as I’ve said before in previous posts, I use that phrase loosely here) starts with the phrase “The Geography of peace” and then wanders off into… well, how to describe it; as a piece of music it is a beautiful, haunting form of looped folk electronica.
I don’t know where the main vocals come from and I don’t think I want to as it has a lost treasure feel to it. I assume that they’re formed from a sample found and reused but whatever and wherever they’re from they’re quite lovely.
The album is rather nicely put together/packaged: there’s a swirling, disorienting loop of fiction by Electric Eden author Rob Young and appropriately swirling, disorienting artwork by Julian House (see Day #59/365 at A Year In The Country).
Also, there are little touches to the album that make all the difference, such as the way different paper stocks are used in the sleeve cover and interior pages, with the inner pages have a flecked, texture feel to them.
As is often the way with Ghost Box, there is a whole otherly world presented and created here; in this case it’s the re-imagined pastoral but quietly discomforting bucolic village pleasures of a parallel plot of England from who knows quite where and when. There is something not quite so in this parish but whatever it is that’s occurring is happening just out of sight, flickering away in the corners of your eyes.
Or as the poster for the album says:
“Belbury Poly spin some tall tales across a concept album in the tradition of English prog rock. Along the way they take in medievalism, the supernatural, childhood, the re-invention of the past, initiation and pilgrimage (both spiritual and physical).”
Or indeed a review at the time:
“Jim Jupp’s past-haunted electronic eccentrics is a beautiful, eerie thing – a piped gateway to false memories of a time when the benevolent nation state commissioned young men to re-score English folk songs with government issue analogue synthesisers.” (from Mojo Magazine).
(Jim Jupp is Ghost Box Records head co-coordinator/co-conspirator.)
Listen to Geography here. Purchase and peruse it here.
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #13/52.
Right, in the interests of textual restraint and because this is a film that I think tells it’s story itself, I’m just going to write one sentence about this film; suffice to say my mind has referred back to Two Years At Sea repeatedly while planning A Year In The Country and along with General Orders No. 9 and Sleep Furiously it has been one of the main celluloid flickerings which has caught my eye and imagination…
File under: Trails and Influences: Other Pathways.
A post in which I select my four favourite recent-ish designs by Ghost Box Records co-coordinator and The Focus Group conductor Mr Julian House; the ones that have caught my eye and mind the most and/or that I keep returning to (and/or that have been involved in causing me to utilise my electronic fiscal passkey).
It’s curious how things come around and link together… I knew that Julian House had been involved with graphic design agency Intro but I didn’t realise that he had worked on the artwork for Primal Scream’s Exterminator album… artwork which greatly influenced a project I worked on previously a fair few years ago now… and then all these years later here I am perusing and writing about his work again.
…and then in that trail of breadcrumbs and joining the dots way, when I was looking up where the Children Of Alice design came from I discovered that it was for an issue of Shindig magazine which featured…
…an interview with James Cargill of Broadcast, a piece by psych/acid folk documenter and authoress Jeannette Leach on Broadcast, a talk with Jim Jupp and Julian House/a profile on Ghost Box Records, a history of The Children’s Film Foundation (silver balls that eat all the cereal and all the electricity ahoy) and another piece of Julian House’s artwork accompanying a primer on the Italian slasher-but-odd and-possibly-art-rather-than-just-exploitation Giallo film genre…
…a genre which inspired the film Berberian Sound Studio, artwork for which was created by Julian House and is featured here, soundtrack for which was by Broadcast, with artwork by Julian House and…
…well there are some of the dots joined up and breadcrumb trails followed…
Hmmm, time to hide the aforementioned fiscal passkey again. A few trails and pathways:
Shindig Magazine here. Belbury Parish Magazine/Jim Jupp of Belbury Poly/Ghost Box Records on that issue of Shindig magazine here. Julian House at Intro here.
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails by Sharron Kraus, accompanied by bonus disc Night Mare.
I’ve briefly touched on the Pilgrim Chants album in A Year In The Country before (see Day #43/365) but once it’s eager arrival through the letterbox had occurred I thought it was time for a fuller visiting.
Now, where to start… well, to part borrow from the album’s title, as I listened to it I just kept thinking “this is a pastoral magicbox of an album”.
And it is that indeed.
When I was first reading Ms Kraus text that explained how she was inspired to make and the setting in which she made the album, I could connect quite a bit… there’s a sense of her discovering and rediscovering the land, as she had begun to live in (visit?) the Welsh countryside, exploring her surroundings and unlocking some kind of underlying magic or enchantment to the land.
In many ways, it seems that she was initially creating something which was for herself, which could be a soundtrack to her own experiences, early cultural pathways which had pointed to the land and to create something which could try to interpret and/or represent the secrets in the valleys, streams and pathways through which she wandered…
…and a phrase which kept wandering into my mind as I listened to these two albums was “these are lullabies for the land” and in many ways they literally feel or have a lullaby like effect: I find myself drifting off as I listen to them, they have a dreamlike quality and they transport me somewhere else that is rooted in the land but is also a journey through an otherly landscape.
This is music which also literally soundtracks the landscape where it was made, utilising field recordings captured along the way; the sound of birds, streams, waterfalls, animals, the wind and jet planes which were recorded on her explorations. A sense of wandering the land is brought to life through these found sounds and at points you can literally hear the journey being taken as leaves crunch underfoot.
How to describe these albums musically? Well, I’m not sure if I can do them justice but as a set of general pointers if I didn’t know who had made them and somebody had told me that these two albums were the soundtracks to a semi-lost pastoral science fiction film released by Finders Keepers Records, well I quite possibly would have believed them.
Musically they are largely instrumental pieces and for me the nearest touch points would possibly be other albums which take their own path through sometimes Arcadian, sometimes otherly arborea such as Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, Magpahi’s work for Vol. IV of the Folklore Tapes and Plinth’s (who Sharron Kraus has collaborated with) Wintersongs…
But they are not all bucolic countryside pleasantness, there is also a sense of dread to some of the songs, a quiet unsettlingness, particularly on songs such as Dark Pool, Nightmare and Sleepless (where I really found myself thinking that this music seemed like a rediscovered artifact, something from a different time or place), while An Army Of Woes takes a step or two towards Ghost Box hauntological reinterpreted library music… but really, if you should like to, I think that wandering off and listening to the music is probably the best way of doing it justice.
As a further note, the Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails album is beautifully packaged, even how the disc sits in its housing feels like something I want to coo over: it was released in a very limited edition and/or to subscribers only by Second Language Music and designed by Martin Masai Andersen/Andersen M Studio. It’s one of those times when something feels like a precious artifact, one which you want to pick up carefully and gently.
The album is presented as a small hardback style book and the packaging and photography perfectly captures the beauty and grace of the landscape through which Ms Kraus travelled and in which she worked.
I’m not a Luddite about such things but it’s also one of those times when physically produced cultural artifacts knock their purely digital brethren into a cocked hat; I can’t stand an MP3 on the side and have my mind sent off a-wandering each time I walk past it…
Sharron Kraus main home in the electronic ether is here. There is an excellent piece of writing by her about the album here (where you can also listen to/download the album). That writing is also continued here.
The Night Mare album, which accompanied Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails was only available to Second Language Music subscribers (cue frantic checking of Discogs etc to see if I could find a copy… to no avail). Fortunately it can still be found in digitised form here.
Second Language Music’s intriguing siren call of releases can be found here (maybe hide your debit card before visiting), Andersen M. Studio can be found here.
Other pathways: Plinth’s Wintersongs on vinyl via Kit Records here. Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure here. Magpahi’s contribution to Devon Folklore Tapes Vol. IV here (or if that has dissolved, possibly here).
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #14/52.
Now, if you’re a regular reader of A Year In The Country (if there is indeed such a thing), you may have noticed the work of David Chatton Barker popping up and cropping up here and there, generally when mentioning Folklore Tapes (of which he could be said to be the curator).
(As a brief precis: Folklore Tapes is a form of research project which encompasses amongst other things audio releases on the reels of ferrous cassettes which are housed in reimagined hardback books. As a project it explores the hidden recesses, nooks and crannies of Britain, it’s landscape and folkloric arcana. Alongside it’s audio releases, Folklore Tapes also encompasses field trip work and live events – I wouldn’t say gigs as they’re generally something much more than that and can encompass live physically invented projections and improvised soundtracks; see more at Day #32/365 and Day #7/365 of A Year In The Country).
As well as putting together Folklore Tapes, Mr Barker has also created a rather fine selection of graphic artwork, often for various offshoots/interconnected fellow travellers with Folklore Tapes and or unearthers of rare sonic delights Finders Keepers Records…
I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to his visual/design work is the way it delves in amongst layers and signifiers of culture from other eras, overlooked esoteric corners and artifacts, retains their spirit but reinterprets them to create thoroughly modern work. Tip of the hat to you Mr Barker. It’s lovely stuff.
So, on this page is a baker’s (barkers?) dozen of my favourite pieces of his visual work, the ones that have lodged themselves in my mind and/or that I have returned to peruse over the months… some are selected because of the work itself, some for what it represents/features, often because of both those reasons…
Limited edition of 31. Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on clouded transparent clouded vellum paper. Book page size: 29.7 x 10.5 cm / 11.7 x 4.1 inches. Book page count: 24 pages (12 images).
“The images in this book are transluscent waifs; as each page of the book is transparent, the images build up in layers throughout the book; sections of the image/s below the current page can be seen through onto the current page.”
File under: Trails and Influences: Electronic Ether. Case #6/52.
Curating the curators…
Now, the electronic ether is full of stuff. I’m sure most of us know that.
And so, a touch of curating doesn’t go amiss.
One such place is this page which is described as “All things hauntological, atemporal and future past nostalgic in music, media and ideas”… and indeed such things are scooped and sieved there.
I tend to think of it as a newspaper of all such things… a sort of newsletter digest collected and curated from the world’s thinkings and cultural endeavours.
So, as a brief overview of something of these sievings and scoopings there’s the Quietus on English Heretic alongside their features on Julian House of Focus Group/Ghost Box Records and Eccentronic Research Council… the release of Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life, various Tales From The Black Meadow, a fair smattering of consideration of the ruins and decay of culture and physical buildings/locations, all accompanied by a refreshing snapshot view or precis of a more academic/intellectual take on all things hauntological.
So, all in all, a fine dash or two of index carding of such things.
These particular curated spectres are put together by Sean Albiez who can be visited here and the page itself is here.
As a postscript: on the above pages there is also a brief mention of Owl Seance, which is a set of hauntological hills that I have been known to go tumbl(r)ing down. Another form of curating, this time of the visual kind.
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #13/52.
The Advisory Circle’s And The Cuckoo Comes was probably the first song (and I use that word loosely here) that I heard that had sprung forth from Ghost Box Records and travelling companions and is probably one of the ones that I have listened to the most in relation to A Year In The Country.
It uses a sample of a nature talk, I don’t know for definite where from although in my mind it conjures up the audio-recorded dust of the seventies of my youth and I expect it may have been borrowed/plucked from a Public Information Film of the time…
A brief half-listen of the words imply that it should be all pastoral delight as it describes the changes of the seasons. However, it is anything but an idyllic journeying through such things.
“In the summer, well, it’s usually cold and sometimes it snows. The winds blow. In the autumn the flowers are out and the sun shines. In the winter, the leaves grow again on the trees. And in the spring the winds blow and the leaves fall from the trees. And the sun shines and the leaves grow again on the trees. And sometimes it snows… And the cuckoo comes.”
There’s a real sense of playful dread to the song. How can “And the cuckoo comes” be such a shocking, worrying thing? And how can that “Well…” be so full of languid worry inducement?
It’s an unsettling song, there’s a sense of dislocation to it, which I had put down largely to the multi-layered, swirling, repetition of the song. But writing the lyrics down just now I realised how much semi-consciously that dislocation was also due to the words themselves; time, the seasons and nature are out of joint and at odds while waiting for the singing songbird.
Something of an ornithological theme in Mr Brooks work… above is his Applied Music Vol. 1: Science & Nature released via his own café kaput label, to the left is the Owl Service-leaning cover to his As The Crow Files album and below are some images from his night time drifting Shapwick album.
Shapwick was released by Clay Pipe Music and wandered off into the world post-haste and to continue the aviarist theme is now rather as rare as domestic fowl molars. Nice artwork/packaging/accompanying Shapwick owl print by Clay Pipe orchestrator Frances Castle…
The Advisory Circle is but one of the labels under which Mr Jon Brooks sends his work out into to the world. You can see more about him at his blog Café Kaput.
And I’ve mentioned it before but I think it’s worth a mention again: Jonny Trunk’s OST radio show on Resonance FM – Jon Brooks guests on an episode and it’s worth an auditory visit even if it’s just for the image of his wife putting down her knitting and accompanying him to do the actions to a Coal Board Safety Song by Max Bygraves.
I realise that last sentence probably sounds a bit surreal but if you happen to listen to the show all shall become clearer.
As a final point, it’s interesting how very limited, very independently released and niche records sent out into the world in editions of 200 copies or so are now reviewed by the mainstream weekend press (see review above).
Ah, in my day you were lucky to have 2 column inches in one of the music inkly-weeklies. How the cultural landscape has changed… Nice write-up mind, captures the spirit of things rather well.
File under: Trails and Influences: Touchstones. Case #12/52.
And while we’re talking about astonishing things (see Lutine at Day #50), this is a quite astonishing film by Robert Persons.
I watched it again just recently and I just sat there entranced with my hair stood on end for much of the film.
What is it? Well, it’s hard to quite describe as I’m not sure I’ve seen another film like it: it’s an experimental film in some ways but eminently watchable and beautifully shot – many of the sequences are nearer to celluloid takes on fine art photography which linger over the stillness of the subjects in the frame. I think poetic could be a good adjective. Haunting would be another
As a very brief precis, the film takes the viewer on a journey through the transformation of a section of mid-Southern American America (Alabama, Missisipi and Georgia) from a wilderness into it’s modern state.
It does this via the use of original film footage, maps, vintage photographs, found objects and views of natural and manmade landscapes.
Adding to the texture and layers of the journey the film takes is an accompanying narrative by a voice which could well be announcing the end of days (it reminds me of God Speed You Black Emperors Dead Flag Blues, which in some ways could almost be a companion piece to General Orders No. 9, with its sense of lyrically beautiful apocalyptic dread).
In many ways it could be thought of as a film which explores the hauntology of the Southern states; the land is seen to be littered with the remnants and spectres of mankind’s industrial and technological endeavours – old factory installations, derelict mobile phone masts, rooms filled with detritus and hundreds of scattered old books.
But despite a sense of a brutalising of the landscape via progress and the relentless march of freeways there is a beauty to the film and much of what it portrays.
(I don’t want to post too many stills from the film as I think if you should want to explore more it would be good to appreciate the imagery of General Orders No. 9 first time as part of the film.)
And the narration? Phew, well, I could be here all day quoting it but here are but a few snippets:
“Why is the sign of the thing preferred to the thing itself? We’re lost without a map… The lord loves a broken soul, let us hope we are well broken… The city has none of the signs of the place and all of the machine… You are not a witness to the ruin, you are a ruin, you are to be witnessed… The only response is to refuse, to go to the ruins and sit amongst them…”
Alongside the film, there are some quite lovely accompanying prints by Bill Mayer, which represent elements of the films symbology (the one in the left below is referred to on the General Orders No. 9 site as “derelict microwave overlord”… I feel that needs no comment).
There are also two accompanying books: Notes For A New Map, a collection of historical sources and icons and The Black Book which contains the text of the narration:
As an almost final note, I sat watching it and my mind thought “When I pass, if I’ve done anything worthy of a memorial, I’d like this film played on a loop for twenty hours as part of it”.
Possibly an odd thing to think and I don’t know quite why my mind thought it but I think it’s just because it touched something in me…
And as a final note, at some date I’m hoping that the soundtrack by Chris Hoke, Stars Of The Lid, Grace Braun and John Taverner wlll be released as in a superlative film it is another rather fine superlative.
File under: Trails and Influences:
Electronic Ether. Case #5/52.
Sometimes when writing about folk music people will talk about the purity of a singers voice… listening to Lutine I think I know what they mean.
Quite frankly this is astonishing music. There is indeed a trembling, tremulous, purity to the singing… for some reason I am reminded of the sound of gently peeling bells in a land I know not quite where…
Their music is a haunting, minimal take on and reinterpretation of folk/tradtional folk and all I can say is my mind seems to wander off to another plain, place or indefinable time when I hear their songs, particularly on Died Of Love.
I know little about Lutine, all I know is that they kept catching my eye while I was wandering around the digital fields of the world. The small gleanings I have come across include..
They have an album coming out in 2014 on Front and Follow and have shared a stage at Joseph Stannard’s The Outer Church with Jane Weavers Bird Records/Finders Keepers/Folklore Tapes fellow travellers Paper Dollhouse (whose A Box Painted Black album is something of a recurring touchstone for A Year In The Country, more about which I expect may appear later around these parts)… and I suspect they may hail from one of England’s southern coastal towns…
But I shall let their music speak for itself:
Listen to Lutine here and here, visit them here.
Monitoring The Transmissions A4 vellum print / poster.
Limited edition of 31.
Printed with archival Giclée pigment inks on clouded transparent vellum paper.
(In the photo on the right above the print is laid onto wood and the woodgrain can be seen through the transparent vellum paper).
Each print is signed and numbered.
Size A4: 29.7 x 21 cm / 11.7 x 8.3″
Shipped rolled and tied in transparent black ribbon.
File under: Trails and Influences: Recent Explorations.
Well, sometimes you come across something which needs little explanation as to why you should want to put it out into the world…
While writing the post on The Changes, bad wires and the ghosts of transmissions I came across an archive of promotional material and screen captures etc for the 1975 HTV British childrens science fiction television series Sky, which my caught my eye… more than a touch of David Chatton-Barker’s work around Folklore Tapes to some of these cutout collages.
Sky is another of those “hmmm, what was in the water at TV commissioning meetings in the seventies to think that these were quite normal programs for childrens television” series, which over time has grown layers of exoticisim… and of all such programs it also perfectly captures a sense of 1970s grime and the anti-style of a country gone to seed via it’s parkers, flares and fake fur zip-up coat fashion.
It is a sort of rurally set The Man Who Fell To Earth (with a curiously cockney alien) with ecological overtones, the promotional information describes the series thus:
“Out of the sky falls a youth, not of this place or time, “part-angel, part-waif”, a youth with powers he can neither control or understand… nature itself rejects him and takes on the cadaverous body of Goodchild in sinister personification of the forces of opposition… He speaks of time travellers “Gods you call them” who had tried again and again to help the people of Earth… Sky must find the mysterious juganet, the cross-over point in time, that is the key to his return to his own dimension.”
In a curiously forward thinking manner, just to make sure that the program would come to be connected to all things Otherly Albion and hauntological, to quote one of the press releases, it was in part filmed on “such legend-rich locations as Glastonbury Tor, Avebury and Stonehenge”.
Plus Jack Watson (the gun holding squire looking gent below) appears to have wandered away from his path as an easily lead sinner hunter in The Changes to a world of lost alien juganet seeking teenagers…
Anyway, I shall let the images speak for themselves:
File under: Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #5/52.
You may notice during this A Year In The Country that the wires, pylons and installations of modern communications reappear in form or another, particularly in my own work…
Why is that you may ask?
Well, I think it comes back to one of the roots of A Year In The Country – that it springs in part from the duality of my own relationship as a child to the countryside: as somewhere that was a fantastic adventure playground and also somewhere that I discovered about the end of the world via watching a program on the possible results of the so-called Cold War and nuclear conflict (see the About page for more information).
Right, deep breath before I start writing all this. It still gives me the heebie jeebies. I wasn’t sure how directly I was going to write about this stuff in A Year In The Country…
The idea of such a conflict was all quite exciting in the daylight of the playground and to young minds: war and such things seem often to be to younger male folk… but at night such an attack, the resulting devastation and consequences would be become my own particular bogeyman, possibly taking the place of more conventional scary fairy stories of times gone by; my own particular monster under the bed/in the cupboard but this was/had the potential to be real.
Around the time I discovered about the end of the world I also seemed to start discovering dystopian/disaster orientated science fiction along the lines of John Wyndham, John Christopher and other interconnected cultural items which possibly didn’t help the night time wanderings of my mind…
It’s curious how your mind remembers and mis-remembers things – I can remember discussing the1984 television film Threads about the effects of a nuclear attack on Britain in a country school playground in 1980, before it was filmed… but maybe that was actually Peter Watkins 1965 The War Game, which has a similar subject matter.
Now I come to write about it, so many scenes from Threads have stuck in and long fascinated my mind, possibly without me realising it. I use the word fascinated but that is with a sense of both attraction and utter horror. Right now though I’m not going to write and describe them… suffice to say and also to forewarn if you should watch it, it isn’t easy viewing…
The film Threads takes its name from the threads and lines of communication that connect civilisation and how they would be so heavily damaged in such an attack… these threads are literally physical items in the case of telephone lines, which I think subconsciously may be an early starting point for A Year In The Country and hence part of why they and interconnected poles and pylons reappear during it.
Another major contributor to such things was a science fiction short story I read sometime around the early to mid-eighties, wherein there is a lead up to a devastating attack/war, during which birds are noted as sitting on the telephone wires around and about… when the attack arrives, the central (human) character rushes to his fallout shelter, only to find it crammed full of birds and animals, with no space for him: the birds had actually been listening to mankind’s communications via the telephone lines and knew that the attack was coming and where to hide.
As an idea, that has always stuck with me and I find it quite unsettling writing about it even now.
I’m not sure what the story was called, I think it was possibly by Clifford Simak but I don’t think I really want to know, know too much about it or revisit it; sometimes these things hold their power more as semi-remembered cultural touchstones (something James Cargill of Broadcast touches on in an earlier post here).
This has probably all mixed in with the cover of the first edition of Rob Young’s Electric Eden and it’s almost perfect representation of the old ways of the land and the march of progress through a photograph of farm land being ploughed in a traditional horse-drawn manner, under the shadow of electric pylons.
Also tied into this recurring subject of communication wires and pylons is the BBC 1975 TV series The Changes based on Peter Dickinson’s book, which has as one of its central themes the idea of “the bad wires” (referring to overhead telegraph/electricity wires), which as a phrase seemed to be with me a lot while taking the photographs for A Year In The Country.
The Changes is part of that strange section of 1970s British children’s television which includes The Owl Service, Noah’s Castle, Sky and The Children Of The Stones, which concerns itself with subject matter and atmospheres that seem curiously strange and even unsettling choices for broadcasts aimed at younger folk; something of a preponderance of eerily presented supernatural/alien forces and/or the breakdown of normal society.
Curiously many of these programs were largely set in rural landscapes/villages etc, which in part is maybe some of what connects them with being part of a body of work that could be seen to be of an “Other” or Wyrd Britainnia. In The Changes much of modern societies technology is destroyed/rejected which could also be seen to connect with an attraction to rural, rustic, folk and ways of the land in folk music in the earlier 1970s and films such as Akenfield
As a brief precis of The Changes: it starts with a normal middle class family sitting at home, their daughter planning her homework, the weather has been strange and suddenly society is gripped by a form of madness which makes everybody destroy and fear almost all machinery and a pogrom of machine orientated violence sweeps the nation.
The program largely concerns itself with the period after this and as the modern cities become abandoned wanders into being a parable about racial harmony, life returning in the countryside to an almost medieval way of life under a sword wielding master of the village, all black and chain wearing louche beatnik robbers and brigands, wanders off into a milder version of The Witchfinder General territory where those who are suspected of using machinery or even saying there names are seen as “wicked sinners” and indeed to be witches…
I won’t spoil the plot for if you should watch it but suffice to say I was watching some of it thinking “How was this come to be made as children’s entertainment?”. In particular the first episode where the madness has gripped mankind and the machines are being smashed in the streets.
The program was originally made in 1973 and not broadcast until 1975 for reasons I know not.
Maybe it was considered too heady, depressing or possibly prescient for a society that was reeling from a large amount of political, social and economic strife, oil shortages and the unravelling of post-war political consensus.
Much of the 1970s in the UK was that way inflected but 1973 seemed to be a particular high/low point: something I had semi-consciously felt but which was confirmed when I recently read Francis Wheen’s Strange Days Indeed, a book about the paranoia and peculiar political and social behaviour which was afoot and even became commonplace during the 1970s, with the book portraying the year The Changes was made as something of a watershed for such things.
Possibly also The Changes could be seen as a reflection of some of societies fears of social breakdown at that time and the threats represented by a reliance on modern technology which needed modern fuel, which was at that time under threat due to a crisis in oil supplies… a wish for a escape from such worries could also be one reason for the aforementioned increase of interest in culture which reflected rural idylls and folklore/folk music at this time
It’s not as inherently strange as a program as say The Owl Service or possibly The Children Of The Stones but still quite odd and worth a watch as it’s an interesting document from a particular time in British history. Also programs like this, the aforementioned Sky, The Owl Service etc have somehow gained layers of otherlyness with the passing of time and they now seem almost like occult (in the sense of hidden) artefacts and transmissions from some other stranger fictional Britain.
That is possibly in part added to by the colours and nature of the images themselves; in particular with something like The Change which has never been commercially available to rent/buy and the only way of viewing it are in smudgey grey-green ghosts of the original broadcasts (again, something James Cargill also talks about, which can be read in an earlier post in A Year In The Country here).
If you should wish to investigate The Changes further, there is an extensive amount of writing and background on the program, including the author of the sites correspondence with the BBC about possibly releasing the series commercially: www.bilderberg.org/changes.htm
As a final note, I came across an interesting article from The Hauntological Society on the film Threads, the sense of dread it engendered and the way such fears have been reflected by elements of what has become known as hauntological culture: it can be read here.
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