The Shildam Hall Tapes

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The conceit of a “soundtrack for an imaginary film” dates back at least as far as Gandharva by Beaver & Krause, although only the second half of that album was the imaginary soundtrack, and a rather vague one at that. (A variation on the Gandharva suite did become genuine soundtrack music, however, when Robert Fuest asked Gerry Mulligan to rework his sax improvisation for The Final Programme in 1973.) The imaginary soundtrack idea didn’t really catch on until the late 80s and early 90s, with serious efforts such as Barry Adamson’s excellent Moss Side Story emerging alongside an increasing and often lazy use of the term “imaginary soundtrack” as a descriptor employed by journalists writing about instrumental electronic albums.

The Shildam Hall Tapes is neither lazy nor mis-labelled being the latest in this year’s themed compilation albums from A Year In The Country, and a collection described as “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 film stock 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.

Track list:
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

I’ve always enjoyed this kind of thing when it’s done well, as in Barry Adamson’s case, so was already predisposed to the new collection even before hearing it. The cumulative effect is much better than anticipated, thanks in part to a few deviations from earlier A Year In The Country compilations. The opening piece is by Gavino Morretti, a newcomer to the AYITC stable, and a musician whose albums to date are all in the imaginary soundtrack sub-genre. Morretti provides a marvellous piece in the Goblin/Fabio Frizzi manner that effortlessly conjures a title sequence of mists, coloured filters and Art Nouveau typefaces.

The following contributions range from the spookily atmospheric (Sproatly Smith, A Year In The Country, The Heartwood Institute) to electronic numbers such as The Computer by Field Lines Cartographer which suggests some kind of paranormal investigation like those in The Stone Tape and The Legend of Hell House. The biggest surprise for me was David Colohan’s How We’ll Go Out which is another electronic work, and very different to his earlier folk-oriented compositions. If, like me, you’ve been missing the “ghost” quotient among the recent releases on the Ghost Box label, then The Shildam Hall Tapes is a very welcome substitute: sinister, perfectly-pitched and leaving enough gaps in the scenario for the imagination to operate. I’m no doubt biased towards the format but for me this is the best A Year In The Country compilation to date so I’m now wondering what the follow-up will be like.

The Shildam Hall Tapes will be available for pre-order at Bandcamp from 10th July, and released on the 31st.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Audio Albion
A Year In The Country: the book
All The Merry Year Round
The Quietened Cosmologists
Undercurrents
From The Furthest Signals
The Restless Field
The Marks Upon The Land
The Forest / The Wald
The Quietened Bunker
Fractures

Weekend links 370

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The Conjure (2016) by Jolene Lai. Via Dangerous Minds.

• RIP George Romero, a proudly independent filmmaker who succeeded on his own terms. Kim Newman remembers the man who remade horror cinema. Romero always referred to Powell & Pressburger’s Tales of Hoffmann (1951) as a key cinematic influence, something he discussed with Marc Lee in 2005.

Man Alive (BBC TV, 1967): Consenting Adults: 1. The Men | Consenting Adults: 2. The Women. Two documentaries about the British homosexual experience screened shortly before the House of Commons vote that decriminalised sex between men in England and Wales.

Dolente…Dolore: The Inferno of Malcolm Lowry is the latest musical release from Larkfall: “a trembling, drunken dream with flashes of heaven and hell…”

Tom Harper on The Klenke Atlas (1660), one of the largest atlases in the world which is now available for viewing at the British Library.

Martin Jenkins of Pye Corner Audio, The House In The Woods et al talks to Bandcamp about his own brand of sinister electronica.

• RIP Peter Principle, a musician whose up-front bass playing was always a key feature of the Tuxedomoon sound.

• And RIP actor John Heard talking to Will Harris in 2015 about some of his many roles in film and TV.

• 355 free copies of Galaxy Magazine at the Internet Archive.

• Google Maps goes inside the International Space Station.

• Good with a knife: The papercut art of Ivonne Carley.

• Mix of the week: FACT Mix 610 by Karen Gwyer.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Yasujiro Ozu Day.

• L’alba Dei Morti Viventi (1978) by Goblin | East/Jinx/•••/Music #1 (1981) by Tuxedomoon | Martin (1983) by Soft Cell

Weekend links 280

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Keepers of the Moon by Bill Crisafi.

• More Thomas Ligotti for obvious reasons: Weird Fiction Review now has two Ligotti interviews, one from 2011, and a new one prompted by the Penguin edition of his stories. Also at Weird Fiction Review, two Ligotti narratives: The Night School, and The Red Tower. The latter demonstrates how weird fiction can dispense with character and story and still have a powerful effect.

• Related to the above: Terrors supernatural and psychological: Laird Barron on Ray Russell’s The Case Against Satan; Russell’s novel is also being reprinted by Penguin this month. And at Dangerous Minds: a collection of vintage dolls and ventriloquist dummies.

• “Time and again his books—even as they tell of remote planets and their inhabitants—foresee something perplexingly close to our present-day society, from visionary constructions to machines of destruction.” Strange Flowers on Paul Scheerbart.

Coil’s out-of-print discography gets a career-spanning reissue through Threshold Archives. Related: Russell Cuzner interviews Thighpaulsandra.

• Mixes of the week: The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XI by David Colohan, and Sounds From Beyond (October 2015) by Glossop Record Club.

Bill Crisafi: Artist, Dreamer, Feral Mystic. An interview with the artist by S. Elizabeth for Dirge magazine.

• Also being given the revenant treatment, out-of-print short stories by Aleister Crowley.

Alex Mar on the powerful appeal of modern witchcraft—even for a skeptic.

A Rest Before The Walk is a new album by Keith Seatman.

The Wounded Kings set out their stall at Bandcamp.

The Witch Queen Of New Orleans (1971) by Redbone | Witch (1977) by Goblin | Ditch Witch (2009) by Pink Mountain

Weekend links 232

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Forget Me Not (no date) by Caitlin Hackett.

• Halloween brings out the articles about weird fiction: “No one would now write of [HP Lovecraft] as the critic Edmund Wilson did, in the New Yorker in 1945: ‘The only real horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad taste and bad art.’ The true horror was in fact that of judging Lovecraft by the standards of a defunct literary culture,” says John Gray. At The Atlantic there’s Jeff VanderMeer on the uncanny power of weird fiction, while Matt Seidel at The Millions explores the mysteries and attractions of Robert Aickman’s “strange stories”.

The Witching Hour is a video essay by Pam Grossman “examining the many different faces of witches in film”. Pam’s video opens with a scene from Suspiria; over at FACT, Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti talks about the creation of Suspiria‘s peerless soundtrack.

• David Rudkin and Alan Clarke’s uncanny television film, Penda’s Fen, is given a 40th anniversary screening later this month at the Horse Hospital, London. For those who can’t attend (and those who haven’t already read it) there’s my post from 2010.

Nabokov sees each day’s weather as a palette: “The weather this morning was soso: dullish, but warm, a boiled milk sky, with skin – but if you pushed it aside with a teaspoon, the sun was really nice, so I wore my white trousers”. He listens carefully to the sound of the rain, which his letters brilliantly orchestrate. He provides fantastic descriptions of puddles, some of which contain shifts in perspective reminiscent of the nearly cinematic transitions found in the novel he would write shortly afterwards, King, Queen, Knave:

“I looked out of the window and saw: a red-haired housepainter caught a mouse in his wheelbarrow and killed it with the stroke of a brush, then he tossed it in a puddle. The puddle reflected the dark-blue sky, quick black upsilons (reflections of swallows flying high) and the knees of a squatting child, who was attentively studying the little grey round corpse.”

Eric Naiman on Vladimir Nabokov’s Letters to Véra

• Occult rock: Peter Bebergal talks to Expanding Minds about his new book, Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. There’s an hour-long film of Black Sabbath saving rock and roll in Paris, 1970, here.

• Mixes of the week: Burning The Existence, “a three-hour sonic exploration of the outer fringes of Goth”, and a horror soundtrack mix by Death Waltz.

• “‘Capital loathes the old,’ [Gareth] Evans said, ‘for anchoring us in the reality of the lived.'” Iain Sinclair on London’s lost cinemas.

Desirina Boskovich, co-editor of the Steampunk Users Manual, offers “7 Reasons Why Steampunk Is Totally ‘Now'”.

• Penguin has new collage covers by Julian House for The Cut-Up Trilogy by William Burroughs.

Hear a homemade synthesizer turn weather into music.

• Grotesque doodles by William Makepeace Thackeray.

full fathom five is Thom’s new blog.

Weird Dream (1976) by Harmonia 76 | Weird Caravan (1980) by Klaus Schulze | Weird Gear (1991) by Ultramarine

Weekend links 209

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Soundcarriers poster by Julian House.

A new release on the Ghost Box label is always a welcome thing but Entropicalia by The Soundcarriers, out on May 20th, is one I’m especially looking forward to. Julian House has made a video for new song Boiling Point, and there’s also the poster above which can be downloaded at larger size here. The Ghost Box Guest Shop has a couple of new additions including the recent Man Woman Birth Death Infinity album by Raagnagrok.

• “It’s a funny time to be making music, because we’re a generation of people who make music with screens instead of with ears.” Ben Frost talking to Tristan Bath.

• At Dangerous Minds: You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess, a rare glimpse of Yello live in concert, 1983.

Our movements about London are closely circumscribed, and while we may imagine ourselves to be free, the truth is that the vast majority of our journeys are undertaken for commercial imperatives: we travel either to work or to spend. All about us during our daily existence we are presented with buildings we cannot enter, fences we cannot climb and thoroughfares it would be foolhardy to cross. We are disbarred from some places because we don’t have the money — and from others because we don’t have the power. The city promises us everything, but it will deliver only a bit.

The place-hackers draw our attention to how physically and commercially circumscribed our urban existence really is. […] As more and more international capital flows into London, so public space is increasingly eroded — it’s just too valuable for us ordinary folk to paddle about in any more.

Give the freedom of the city to our urban explorers, says Will Self. Related: Robert Macfarlane accompanied urbexer Bradley Garrett on a night-time jaunt.

Black Sabbeth: Metal band Gonga covering a classic with Portishead’s Beth Gibbons on vocals.

• Pelican books take flight again; Paul Laity on the resurrection of the non-fiction imprint.

• Finland’s homoerotic stamps are an ocular feast for women, too, says Nell Frizzell.

• “I guess you could say I am a Pagan.” Kenneth Anger on the occult.

• “How much gay sex should a novel have?” asks Caleb Crain.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 112 by Kyoka.

The Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock

Zombi’s Guide to Goblin

Decadence Comics

Zombie Warfare (1979) by Chrome | Escape From The Flesheaters (Zombie) (1979) by Fabio Frizzi | Zombie’ites (1993) by Transglobal Underground