Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd

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Cover art by Grey Malkin.

The folk horror revival wasn’t really a revival as such, it was more an identifying of trends which hadn’t been noticed or named before, the grouping together and labelling of which created a sub-genre ripe for further exploration. Over the past few years I’ve done my share to promote this loose affiliation, but I confess to feeling a lack of interest of late. Or rather, I’m less interested in its current manifestations. Genres in any medium have a tendency to follow a growth pattern which eventually arrives at mannerism and stereotype; something that was fresh because it was new (or rediscovered) is pushed through repetition into formula.

One of the exciting features of the first flourishings of Hauntological music in 2005/06 was the absence of a discernible formula. The areas of interest, and their hybridisation, were unpredictable, especially the first few releases on the Ghost Box label. Folk horror was incorporated into the Ghost Box project from the outset but it was never the sole concern. The debut album from Belbury Poly, The Willows, contains a range of references to rural horror, with a title lifted from Algernon Blackwood, and two tracks referencing Arthur Machen. But another of the tracks refers to Pauwels & Bergiers’ unique and influential occult study, The Morning of the Magicians, while the cover design is styled like an educational paperback from Pelican books, or an Open University prospectus. Belbury may be an old village with strange customs but it’s also home to a modern polytechnic. Elsewhere on the label, Pye Corner Audio operated at a remove from the folkiness, unsurprisingly when Martin Jenkins’ music is wholly electronic. The first Pye Corner Audio album on Ghost Box, Sleep Games, featured a typical mid-century housing estate on the cover; many of the track titles–Experimental Road Surface, for example—are closer to Kraftwerk than Blood On Satan’s Claw. The late Mark Fisher was credited inside with “cover concepts and research” which may explain the quotes from JG Ballard, French anthropologist Marc Augé, and theory fictioneer Reza Negarestani. The final track on Sleep Games, Nature Reclaims The Town, suggests the triumph of the wild but urban concerns dominate the album.

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Cover art by Jackie Taylor.

Metropolitan horror and urban strangeness is the theme of Urban Wyrd, a two-volume anthology of new writings edited by Andy Paciorek which provides a welcome counterbalance to the over-ploughed furrows. This is a companion volume and sequel to Field Studies, a collection which featured my essay about the plays for theatre and television by David Rudkin. My contribution to the new collection, Phantoms and Thresholds of the Unreal City, is a discursive meander through the streets of Paris, New York and San Francisco, threading together the lives and works of a disparate group of writers, artists and photographers: HP Lovecraft, Eugène Atget, Robert W. Chambers, Max Ernst, Berenice Abbott, Roger Caillois, Fritz Leiber and others. My original intention was to write solely about Atget’s celebrated views of Paris but, as is often the case, one thing led to another and I ended up with something that’s more about the metamorphosis of cities and architecture by writers and photographers, and what their transformations may suggest to us.

The huge contents list for both books follows below. Both volumes are available from Lulu here and here, and at a reasonable price considering the page count. Books like this are always good for indicating further avenues of exploration. I’m looking forward to going for a wander.

Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd – 1. Spirits of Time

• Foreword
• Urban Wyrd: An Introduction by Dr Adam Scovell
• Spectral Echoes: Hauntology’s Recurring Themes & Unsettled Landscapes by Stephen Prince
• Quatermass and the Pit: Unearthing Archetypes at Hobb’s End by Grey Malkin
• The Haunted Generation: An Interview with Bob Fischer
• On a Thousand Walls: The Urban Wyrd in Candyman by Howard David Ingham
• Protect and Survive: Dystopian Drama – A Jolly British Apocalypse by Andy Paciorek
• The Bad Wires: Reflections on The Changes by Grey Malkin
• The Hands of Doom: A Short Perspective on Divine Intervention by Leah Crowley
• Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Spiritualist Missionary by Jim Peters
• A Tandem Effect: Ghostwatch by Jim Moon
• Interview with Stephen Volk
• The Cookstown Ghost: Poltergeist Phenomenon in Urban Ulster in the Nineteenth-Century by Jodie Shevlin
• The Last Key That Unlocks Everything: Ghost Stories by Andy Paciorek
• A Very Urban Haunting …The Echo of Noisy Spirits by Jim Peters
• These Houses Are Haunted: Supernatural Dwellings in Film by Andy Paciorek
• The Photography of Carmit Kordov
• Wyrd Technology by Andy Paciorek
• Voices of the Ether: Stone Tapes, Electronic Voices and Other Ghosts by James Riley
• Urban Witchcraft by Darren Charles
• Video Nasty: Moving Image in The Ring and Sinister by Andy Paciorek
• An Interview with Richard Littler – Mayor of Scarfolk
• The World Falling Apart: Jubilee by Stuart Silver
• Doll Parts: Marwencol by Andy Paciorek
• Chocky: The Haunting of Matthew Gore by Grey Malkin
• The Sun on my Face: Demon Seed by Andy Paciorek
• The Photography of Sara Hannant
• A Hive Mind: Phase IV by Andy Paciorek
• Wired For Sound: The Auditory in Horror by Andy Paciorek
• “We Want You to Believe In Us, But Not Too Much”: UFOs and Folklore by S. J. Lyall
• A Space Flower: Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Andy Paciorek
• Under The Skin of the Man Who Fell To Earth by Andy Paciorek
• Silent Invasions by SJ Lyall
• I Am Not A Number: The Prisoner by Stuart Silver
• All For the Hunting Ground: Wolfen by S.J. Lyall
• Urban Wolves by Richard Hing
• Reclaiming the “f” word. A conversation between The Black Meadow’s Chris Lambert and Pilgrim’s Sebastian Baczkiewicz
• Sounds from a Haunted Ballroom: The Caretaker by Andy Paciorek
• Uncanny Valley: Spielberg’s A.I. by Damian Leslie
• Sounds and Visions: MKUltra, Number Stations, Hallucinogens and Psychological Experiments in Film by Andy Paciorek
• Concrete, Flesh, Metal, Blood: The Worlds of Ballard & Cronenberg by Andy Paciorek
• The Eternal Snicket by Professor Phillip Hull (From an interview with Chris Lambert)
• The Voice of Electronic Wonder: The Music of Urban Wyrd by Jim Peters
• Age of the Train: Rail and the Urban Wyrd by Andy Paciorek
• Mind The Doors: Death Line by S.J. Lyall
• Step Away From The Meat: The Midnight Meat Train by Andy Paciorek
• Evil Dream: Q The Winged Serpent by Scott Lyall
• These Cities are Ours: Notable Kaiju in Cinema by Richard Hing
• Wild Rides: Taxis in Cinema by William Redwood
• The Photography of Jackie Taylor

* * *

Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd – 2. Spirits of Place

• Foreword
• Urban Psychogeography by Stuart Silver
• Spirit of Place by Andy Paciorek
• Through Purged Eyes: Folk Horror and the Affective Landscape of the Urban Wyrd by Karl Bell
• Glasgow’s Occult Ancient Geometery: The Obsessions of Ludovic McLellan Mann and Harry Bell by Kenneth Brophy
• Post-Industrialism and Industrial Music by Simon Dell
• Towering Infernal: The Inner City in Contemporary Horror Films by Andy Paciorek
• God Will Forgive Them: Dead Man’s Shoes by Andy Paciorek
• Phantoms and Thresholds of the Unreal City by John Coulthart
• Holy Terrors – Whitby: An Interview with Mark Goodall
• The Burryman of South Queensbury: The Past Within the Present by Grey Malkin
• Saturnine: An Urban Meander by Andy Paciorek
• Devil’s Bridge: The Satanic Rites of Aclam by Bob Fischer
• Urbex, Haiyko and the Lure of the Abandoned by Andy Paciorek
• Wyrd On-screen: Urban Fears and Rural Folk by Diane A. Rodgers
• Spontaneous Shrines (Flowers Taped to Lamposts) by Howard David Ingham
• Between Two or More Worlds: The Urban Mindscape of David Lynch by Andy Paciorek
• Suburbia by Richard Hing
• Welcome to The League of Gentlemen … You’ll Never Leave by Jim Peters
• A Search for Aberdeen’s Lost Treasures by Peter Lyon
• Scovell & Budden: Greenteeth by Andy Paciorek
• The Photography of Neddal Ayad
• City in Aspic: Don’t Look Now by Andy Paciorek
• Bricks and Stones in The Pool of Life by Cat Vincent
• The Trumptonshire Trilogy by Andy Paciorek
• The Derive of Doom by Chris Lambert
• Iain Sinclair: Spirit Guide to the Urban Wyrd – Interviewed by John Pilgrim
• Review: Concretism – For Concrete and Country by Chris Lambert
• Shadow of the Cities: The Weird and the Noir by Andy Paciorek
• Black and White Dreams: An Interview with K.A. Laity
• Occult Detectives: An Interview with John Linwood Grant
• The Art of Andy Cropper
• Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles by Andy Paciorek
• The Photography of Peter Lagan
• Involute of Space / Time: An Interview with Will Self
• High Weirdness: A Daytrip to Hookland by Andy Paciorek
• Cyclopean Ruins and Albino Penguins: The Weird Urban Archeology of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness by Kenneth Lymer
• Sordid Smoke Ghosts: The Worlds of China Miéville by Colin Hetherington
• The Magic Kingdom: A Conversation with Walter Bosley by John Chadwick
• The City That Was Not There: ‘Absent’ Cityscapes in Classic British Ghost Stories by Anastasia Lipinskaya
• York: Albion’s Capital of the North by Oz Hardwick and John Pilgrim
• Urban Folklore: An Interview with Diane A. Rodgers
• Gripped: The Nine Lives of Thomas Katz by Howard David Ingham
• Place of Light and Darkness: Durham by Andy Paciorek
• Athens of the north: Edinburgh by SJ Lyall
• Service Station to Station by Andy Paciorek
• Miles Away: Hush (2008) by Andy Paciorek
• Sorcerers’ Apprentices and Industrial Witches: The Uban Wyrd as Magick in Leeds. West Yorkshire by Layla Legard
• Black as Sin: Possum and Spider by Andy Paciorek
• The Apartment Trilogy by Andy Sharp

Previously on { feuilleton }
A Year In The Country: the book
Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies

Le Dossier B by Schuiten and Peeters

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Almost ten years have elapsed since I devoted a week of blog posts to one of my favourite fantastic creations, the Obscure World/Obscure Cities of Belgian artist-and-writer team François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters. Schuiten and Peeters’ mythos is a multi-media project with a series of bande desinée albums as its core, a cycle of stories which introduce the reader to some of the cities in the Obscure World (a “counter-Earth” on the opposite side of our Sun), and which are connected by recurrent characters and motifs. Since the completion of the core series, Schuiten, with occasional help from Peeters, has expanded the mythos to encompass other books that flesh out some of the world’s invented history and its connections to our own world, together with other manifestations such as art exhibitions and music releases. Le Dossier B (1995) is a peripheral Obscure World production, a 54-minute TV documentary which entangles the genuine history of 20th-century Brussels with an invented secret society who believe in the existence of a twin city, Bruzel, that intersects with the Belgian capital.

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Le Dossier B was directed by Wilbur Leguebe from a script by Leguebe with Schuiten and Peeters. Valérie Lemaître plays the on-camera investigator, “Claire Devillers”, while artist and writer appear in roles that match their personalities. Schuiten is seen in silent footage as “Robert de la Barque”, an artist whose obsession with Brussels’ vast Palace of Justice provides clues to the Bruzel mystery via the eccentricities of its architect, Joseph Poelaert. Peeters appears later in the investigation as “Pierre Lidiaux” the author in 1960 of Le Dossier B (a book which has since vanished), his own study of the connections between Brussels and Bruzel. We first see Lidiaux being interviwed on a TV arts show, then later as the presenter of his own eccentric and unfinished film about Antoine Wiertz, the real-life Belgian painter of vast canvasses on morbid subjects whose museum Lidiaux explores. Aside from the well-realised historical fakery, one of the pleasures of Leguebe’s witty and imaginative documentary is the spotlight it throws on the history and culture of Brussels and Belgium. I hadn’t realised, for example, that the Wiertz Museum is so close to the European Parliament building which was still under construction when the film was being made. Elsewhere there are references to Magritte, Delvaux and Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta, and we catch a glimpse of work by another great Belgian painter, Jean Delville.

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The last third of the film is based around the researches of one James Welles (Adrian Brine), a British historian whose book-length study, Shadows in the Night: A Secret Society in Belgium, explores the connections of yet more historical figures with the Bruzel mystery, including the aforementioned Horta and chemist Ernest Solvay. The historian’s surname may be taken as a deliberate choice: Orson Welles was the director of another documentary mixing fact and fiction, F for Fake, while Welles’ appearance as Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight provided Schuiten with the model for the central character in La Tour, one of the albums in Schuiten and Peeters’ Obscure Cities series.

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Some of this territory is explored in another of the Obscure Cities albums, Brüsel, especially the building of the Palace of Justice and the concept of “Brusselisation”, a pejorative French term for the rapid demolition of historical quarters of a city to make way for new construction. Where Brüsel has the freedom of the comics medium to refashion the capital in a fantastic manner, Le Dossier B uses the material of our world to suggest another city (possibly the one depicted in the album) whose existence we never see. Apart, that is, for the suggestion near the end of the film that the Bruzel of the secret society is the Brussels of today, a city which has overwritten the Brussels of a century ago, just as the invented encyclopedia in Borges’s Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius gradually changes the world at large to match its contents.

Le Dossier B is available on DVD but seems to be sold out for now. Alternatively, it may be watched at YouTube in an unsubtitled copy that’s been uploaded in the wrong aspect ratio. The really determined may wish to do what I did: download the video, grab some English subtitles, then watch it in VLC with the aspect ratio set to 16:10. A lot of messing around but it works.

(My thanks to Brussels resident Anne Billson for the YT link!)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Urbatecture
Echoes of the Cities
Further tales from the Obscure World
Brüsel by Schuiten & Peeters
La route d’Armilia by Schuiten & Peeters
La Tour by Schuiten & Peeters
La fièvre d’Urbicande by Schuiten & Peeters
Les Murailles de Samaris by Schuiten & Peeters
The art of François Schuiten
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux

Weekend links 451

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Manifold (2015), a painting by Samantha Keely Smith which will appear in April on the cover of Life Metal, a new album by Sunn O))).

• At Expanding Mind: Professor and queer historian Heather Lukes talks with Erik Davis about Silver Lake riots, gay bikers, house ball scenes, the nostalgia for repression, and the joys and challenges of working on the online archive The Grit and Glamour of Queer LA Subculture.

A Stroke of Ingenious: Chatting Fear and Fantasy with Darius Hinks.  Also this week, Darius Hinks’ The Ingenious (for which I created the cover art) was featured in a Barnes & Noble list of seven attractive (if hazardous) fantastic cities.

• “From the late ’60s and through the ’70s broadcasters invested in home-grown kids’ television, and much of it was decidedly weird.” Paul Walsh on the vanished, thought-provoking strangeness of British TV.

That late surrealism still needs rescuing by curators and critics is perhaps not a sign of its defeat but of the breadth and pervasiveness of its triumph. Could we have Pablo Picasso or Jackson Pollock without surrealism? What about David Lynch, JG Ballard or Angela Carter? As an influence, it’s easy to give [Dorothy Tanning] a crucial place in the canon of feminist art. Louise Bourgeois was born just a year later than Tanning but only started to sew after Tanning had exhibited her first sculptures.

Lara Fiegel on the weird, wild world of Dorothea Tanning

After its own death / Walking in a spiral towards the house by Nivhek, a new album from Liz Harris (Grouper) “recorded using Mellotron, guitar, field recordings, tapes, and broken FX pedals”.

• At Dangerous Minds: Michael Rother (Neu!/Harmonia) on the forthcoming reissue of his solo albums from the 1970s.

Clesse by Clesse, another pseudonymous musical project by Jon Brooks (The Advisory Council et al).

• After Dark: The art of life at night—and in new lights by Francine Prose.

Elena Lazic on where to begin with Gaspar Noé.

• Mix of the week: Headlands by David Colohan.

Steven Heller‘s confessions of a letterhead.

• RIP Albert Finney.

• Void (2009) by Monolake | Void (2013) by Emptyset | Void (2014) by The Bug feat. Liz Harris

Weekend links 447

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Physical Training for Business Men (1917).

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis concludes his discussion with religious scholar Diana Pasulka about anomalous cognition, 2001 monoliths, disclosure, future truths, absurd Christianity, and her book American Cosmic.

• This year the LRB wouldn’t let non-subscribers read Alan Bennett’s 2018 diary but they have a recording of Bennett reading entries here.

• “Glen thought it was very good PR for us to be heavily involved in the druids.” Tom Pinnock talks to the Third Ear Band.

• Rebecca Fasman on the forgotten legacy of gay photographer George Platt Lynes.

• Laura Leavitt on John Cleves Symmes Jr.‘s obsession with a hollow Earth.

• David Parkinson recommends 12 essential Laurel and Hardy films.

• Paul Grimstad on the beautiful mind-bending of Stanislaw Lem.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 277 by Sigillum S.

• The endlessly photogenic Chrysler Building.

Energy Flow by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

195 Gigapixel Shanghai

Solaris: Ocean (1972) by Edward Artemyev | The Sea Named Solaris (1977) by Isao Tomita | Simulacra II (2011) by Ben Frost & Daníel Bjarnason

Weekend links 432

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Tokyo at night, one of a series of watercolours depicting the back streets of the city by Mateusz Urbanowicz.

• “The experience of reading the book is something like watching Dr. Strangelove on one screen, Apocalypse Now on a second screen, and having both feeds interrupted by explicit gay erotica.” Bad Books For Bad People examines William Burroughs’ celebrated YA novel, The Wild Boys. The subject is a perennial one here, explored at length in this post.

• Lindsay Anderson The White Bus (1967), a surreal precursor to If…. and O Lucky Man!, will receive the high-quality BFI reissue treatment as part of the Woodfall Films portmanteau feature, Red, White and Zero.

• The Radiophonic Workshop have composed the score for Possum, a horror film by Matthew Holness. The main title theme is here. The film is released later next month.

Might I have written a sober affair, had I not been under the influence? Perhaps not—I have never needed tramadol to be attended by angels, or to feel demons pricking my feet. But I think of Vincent van Gogh, who looked at the world through the yellowish haze conveyed by digitalis, and grew enraptured by sunflowers and straw chairs, and I think of a glass prism through which a beam of white light passes and is split into a rainbow. What had been a single lucid idea had passed through the drugs I took and been dispersed into a spectrum of colours I had only half foreseen.

Sarah Perry on trying to write while besieged by bodily pain and prescription drugs

• Jacques Tourneur’s masterful MR James adaptation, Night of the Demon (1957), is released on region-free Blu-ray next month by Powerhouse Films.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 673 is The Bug presents PRESSURE, and XLR8R Podcast 561 by Zendid.

• The Space Shifters exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London, messes with Adrian Searle‘s mind.

Gregory Wells on queers, faeries and revolutionaries in the psychedelic movement.

Wide Boys (1977) by Ultravox! | On Demon Wings (2000) by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore | Spoonful (2013) by Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters