“Individual trees provide very personal inspiration for some of the artists participating. Vic Mars takes Hertfordshire’s 900-year-old Eardisley Oak as the muse for his gentle, pastoral instrumental The Test of Time, and The Winter Dream of Novel’s Oak by Howlround is created from field recordings of an 800-year-old tree in Tilford, Surrey. It’s a warm, touching tribute to the receding wild woodlands of the British countryside, and – for maximum listening pleasure – perfect for an early summers’ evening constitutional through the copse or thicket of your choice.” Bob Fischer writing in his The Haunted Generation column in issue 381 of Fortean Times.
The Haunted Generation column also features Jonathan Sharp’s (whose work as The Heartwood Institute is included on The Watchers) Divided Time album which is released on Castles In Space. This was inspired by a cache of faded 1970s family snapshots that he discovered and which have a particularly intriguing character – the cover image conjures a spectral pastoral sense and seems to have tumbled backwards and forwards in time and has an “I can’t quite place what era it’s from” air to it. The Divided Time album can be visited here…
…and in an interconnected manner with all things spectral and otherly pastoral the cover article for the issue is written by Gail-Nina Anderson and titled “Folk Horror Revival – Exploring the Haunted Landscape of British Cinema and Television”.
Bob Fischer also has a relatively new blog also called The Haunted Generation, which accompanies his column in Fortean Times and where you can find articles and interviews with Jonny Trunk, Drew Mulholland’s Three Antennas in a Quarry and Frances Castle/Clay Pipe Music’s Stagdale, to name just a few. Visit the blog here.
“Full of the trademark otherworldly pastoralism we’ve come to love from A Year In The Country releases, The Watchers opens with the haunting drone of Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing… There’s twinkling synths (Field Lines Cartographer’s A Thousand Autumns) and almost psychedelic oscillations (The Heartwood Institute’s The Trees That Watch The Stones’)… [and] Howlround’s A Winter Dream Of Novel’s Oak, an eerie echo peppered with birdsong…” Finlay Milligan, Electronic Sound magazine issue 54
“A Year In The Country continue to release their sumptuous CDs… A Thousand Autumns by Field Lines Cartographer celebrates an ancient oak, its cyclical shedding of thousands of leaves providing nutrients for next year’s leaves. The twinkling synth sounds like the falling leaves in the shafts of Autumnal sunlight… Sproatly Smith arrive with Watching You another song from the point of view of these ancient trees, bird song, female voice, synth and acoustic guitar. Tracing the journey from acorn to mighty hollowed oak, a bucolic folk tune… Vic Mars is next with The Test Of Time this song takes its inspiration from the great Eardisley oak tree, one of the oldest in Britain. A purely electronic piece of music which is both cathartic and gentle in nature, it’s stately and develops into a bucolic pastoral piece… This could be the label’s finest release yet.” Andrew Young, Terrascope
“Combines the enchanted ambience of Field Lines Cartographer and Vic Mars with the druidic declamations of Widow’s Weeds ft Kitchen Cynics and Sproatly Smith, the dark frequencies of Depattering and The Heartwood Institute with Pulselovers pulsations…” Raffaello Russo, Music Won’t Save You
“The music portrays a gentle patience, from the field recordings sprinkled throughout the album to delicate chimes and folksong.” Richard Allen, A Closer Listen
“A Year in the Country’s latest uncanny release is The Watchers, a celebration of Britain’s trees that mixes electronica with eerie folk…” Jude Rogers, writing in the Folk Column of The Guardian
As an aside I would highly recommend a visit to Jude Rogers’ article 2018’s Best Folk Folk Albums, also for The Guardian, where you can find the likes of You Are Wolf, Olivia Chaney, Trembling Bells, Lisa O’Neill and Stick In The Wheel. Well, recommend and also urge caution due to the potential wallet injuring nature of it. That can be visited here.
And then onto some of the radio etc broadcasts of the album:
Episode 260 of More Than Human’s radio show featured Depatterning’s Ook/Dair and Pulselover’s Circles Within Circles. Original broadcast on CiTR FM, the show is archived here. Their record label has featured releases by the likes of Ekoplekz, Jon Brooks, Kemper Norton, Pye Corner Audio and sometimes A Year In The Country travellers Time Attendant and can be visited here.
The Geography Trip and Front & Follow’s The Gated Canal Community Radio Show included Vic Mar’s The Test Of Time. Originally broadcast via Reform Radio the show is archived here and their Facebook page can be found here.
And as a further aside Front & Follow recently released The Blow Volume 6 collaborative album featuring work by also fellow sometimes A Year In The Country travellers Polypores and Field Lines Cartographer, which rather intriguingly “initially drew from long conversations about alternate realities and altered states of consciousness”. The album can be visited here.
Phantom seaside radio show and sometimes fellow A Year In The Country travellers The Séance included Phonofiction’s Xylem Flow. Originally broadcast on Brighton’s Radio Reverb, totallyradio and Sine FM the playlist for the show can be found here and the show is archived at Mixcloud here.
Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing and Pulselover’s Circles Within Circles were included in an episode of record label Sunrise Ocean Bender’s eclectic and rather finely esoteric show. Broadcast on WRIR FM the playlist can be found here and the show is archived at Mixcloud here.
Sproatly Smith’s Watching You and Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing were featured on two episodes of the spectrally hauntological and undercurrents of folk wanderings of The Unquiet Meadow. Orginally broadcast on Asheville FM the playlists for the show can be visited here and here. Their Facebook page can be found here.
And as another aside a recent episode of The Unquiet Meadow also featured the A Year In The Country released Man Of Double Deed by The Hare And The Moon, from the album From The Furthest Signals and She Rocola’s Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town – the playlist for that particular show can be visited here.
Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing was included on the podcast Wyrd Daze Six: Then Space Began To Toll, which was released for Wyrd Daze’s sixth birthday. That and it’s accompanying digital ezine can be viewed and listened to here.
In A Clearing was also featured on fellow A Year In The Country traveller Mat Handley of Pulselovers and Woodford Halse’s You, the Night and the Music radio show. Originally broadcast on Sine FM the show is archived at Mixcloud here.
Johnny Seven played Grey Frequency’s In A Clearing on episode 408 of Pull The Plug, alongside tracks by the previously mentioned Jonathan Sharp, sometimes A Year In The Country fellow traveller Listening Center and Jane Weaver. Originally broadcast on Resonance FM the show is archived here.
Howlround’s The Winter Dream Of Novel’s Oak was included in episode 86 of Mind De-Coder, alongside various psychedelic, folk and acid folk wanderings (both old and new), including Anne Briggs, Rowan : Morrison and Shide and Acorn. The accompanying post can be found here and the show is archived at Mixcloud here.
And finally Verity Sharp played Sproatly Smith’s Watching You on the “Lost voices, found in song” episode of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, in amongst the show’s ongoing witching hour audio explorations. The show is archived here.
The Watchers features music and accompanying text on the tracks by Grey Frequency, Field Lines Cartographer, Widow’s Weeds ft Kitchen Cynics, Depatterning, A Year In The Country, Phonofiction, Pulselovers, Sproatly Smith, Vic Mars, The Heartwood Institute and Howlround.
It is inspired by ancient trees and their very stately, still form of time travel and the way in which they are observers over the passing of the years, centuries and even millennia, with some of these “mighty oaks” and their companions having lived through invasions of their island home undertaken by wooden ships, sword and arrow, the final days and passing of the old ways and the times of magic and witchcraft, the coming of the industrial revolution and the dawning of the digital era.
More details on the album can be found here.