Fractures

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Fractures is the latest musical anthology from A Year In The Country, and having been listening to an advance copy for the past couple of weeks I can say it’s as fine a collection as the label’s previous opus, The Quietened Village. The latter album encouraged a variety of artists to create pieces around the theme of lost or abandoned villages; the theme for Fractures fixates on a year rather than a location:

Fractures is a gathering of studies and explorations that take as their starting point the year 1973; a time when there appeared to be a schism in the fabric of things, a period of political, social, economic and industrial turmoil, when 1960s utopian ideals seemed to corrupt and turn inwards. […] Fractures is a reflection on reverberations from those disquieted times, taking as its initial reference points a selected number of conspicuous junctures and signifiers: Delia Derbyshire leaving The BBC/The Radiophonic Workshop and reflecting later that around then “the world went out of time with itself”. Electricity blackouts in the UK and the three day week declared. The Wicker Man released. The Changes recorded but remained unreleased. The Unofficial Countryside published. The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water released.

Track list:
1) The Osmic Projector/Vapors of Valtorr – Circle/Temple
2) The Land Of Green Ginger – Sproatly Smith
3) Seeing The Invisible – Keith Seatman
4) Triangular Shift – Listening Center
5) An Unearthly Decade – The British Space Group
6) A Fracture In The Forest – The Hare And The Moon ft Alaska/Michael Begg
7) Elastic Refraction – Time Attendant
8) Ratio (Sequence) – The Rowan Amber Mill
9) The Perfect Place For An Accident – Polypores
10) A Candle For Christmas/311219733 – A Year In The Country
11) Eldfell – David Colohan

This isn’t the first time a year has been isolated as a basis for a musical anthology but prior examples such as Jon Savage’s Meridian 1970 are invariably concerned with the musical scene alone. Fractures is different for trying to seize the essence of the year itself even if a number of the musicians involved may not have been alive in 1973.

The year has a resonance for me that I recounted in the memorial post for David Bowie. That summer was significant (and therefore memorable) for being warm, carefree and positioned between the end of junior school and the beginning of secondary school. The years after those few weeks were increasingly bad on a personal level so 1973 for me spells “fracture” in more ways than one. None of this can be communicated by Fractures, of course, the contents of which have more of a cultural focus: A Fracture In The Forest by The Hare And The Moon sets readings from Arthur Machen to music, while The Land Of Green Ginger by Sproatly Smith draws in part upon a TV film of the same name that was broadcast in the BBC’s Play For Today strand. As those Plays For Today recede in time they seem increasingly like a dream of Britain in the 1970s, reflecting back in a concentrated form much more of the nation’s inner life than you get from today’s Americanised fare. Another Play For Today, Penda’s Fen, was being filmed in the fields of England in the summer of 1973 so we can add the crack in the church floor to the catalogue of fractures. (And for an additional musical entry, I’d note the astonishing Fracture by King Crimson, not released until 1974 but most of the track was a live recording from Amsterdam in November of the previous year.)

Fractures is available from the usual sources such as Bandcamp but hard copies are also being distributed via the Ghost Box Guest Shop.

Weekend links 312

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The Shadow by Kenton Nelson.

• The week in Coil: An interview by Derek de Koff, plus an extract from the new edition of England’s Hidden Reverse by David Keenan. Opening later this month at Ludwig, Berlin, is Chaostrophy, a Coil-related exhibition/celebration.

Strange Flowers remembers the incomparable Marchesa Casati, a woman who happens to feature in the book I’ve been designing and illustrating for the past few weeks. (More about that later.)

• “It wasn’t about how we could meet the demands of the book, but rather how the book meets us.” Ben Wheatley (again) talking to Jamie Sherry about bringing High-Rise to the screen.

• The latest release from Hawthonn is Sea-Spiral Spirit. The album has two accompanying videos: Pan Laws and Last Chimes From A Dormant Moon.

Alan Moore celebrates Chris Petit’s The Psalm Killer—a nerve-shredding Irish noir.

• Not a mix but a reading guide: The Brit Horror Mixtape collated by Mark West.

• More Penda’s Fen: Graham Fuller on the Romantic tradition in British film.

• Previews of Tooth by Raime, “a steadfast concoction of brooding dystopia”.

• “How big an issue is the nausea problem for Virtual Reality products?”

• FACT chooses 16 of the best songs powered by Sly and Robbie.

Geeta Dayal on the pioneering computer music of Bell Labs.

• Mix of the week: Finders Keepers’ Space Rock Special.

Paul Schütze: The True Art of Fine Fragrance

The Surrealist Legacy of Claude Lalanne

Les illustrateurs de Baudelaire

• RIP publisher Peter Owen

• Perfumed Garden Of Gulliver Smith (1967) by John’s Children | Perfumed Metal (1981) by Chrome | Fragrance (Ode To Perfume) (1981) by Holger Czukay

Weekend links 311

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Sphinx (2015) by Lupe Vasconcelos.

• I’ve been reading my way through Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels for the past couple of weeks, and may well progress to some of her other books once I’m finished. Highsmith had a long career so there’s a lot to read on the web. Catching my eye this week were 10 Best Patricia Highsmith Books recommended by her biographer, Joan Schenkar; The Patricia Highsmith Recommendation Engine; Highsmith on Desert Island Discs in 1979 (the book she said she’d take, Moby-Dick, is the same one chosen by JG Ballard, albeit for different reasons); and a prickly interview late in her life with Naim Attalah.

Discovering 20th-century literature: books, manuscripts and other documents in the collection of the British Library.

• Signed copies of Paul Gorman’s Barney Bubbles monograph, Reasons To Be Cheerful, may be ordered from the author.

• How a mysterious ghost ship brought cosmic disco to Cape Verde. Related: Quirino Do Canto by Mino Di Mama.

• Zombi drummer AE Paterra and composer Paul Lawler make prog-synth epics as Contact.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 185, a locked-groove mix by Massimo Carozzi.

• In London next weekend: Alchemy and Magic at Brompton Cemetery.

Die or DIY?: scarcities from the post-punk outer limits.

• More Penda’s Fen: a lengthy appraisal by Jerry Whyte.

Dennis Cooper salutes James Coburn

Bandcamp is good for musicians.

Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly art.

• This Heat: Rimp Ramp Romp (1977) | 24 Track Loop (1979) | Health And Efficiency (1980) | Makeshift Swahili (1981)

Penda reborn

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Penda’s Fen is one of the most important British television dramas of the 1970s, and would increasingly be recognised as such if the licensing problems which have dogged an official DVD release could be resolved.

That was how I ended the section about Penda’s Fen in the David Rudkin essay I wrote last year for Andy Paciorek’s Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies. The book had only been out for a couple of months when the BFI announced that Penda’s Fen would at long last be given a DVD and Blu-ray release, together with a collection of other TV dramas directed by Alan Clarke. A few months later and Penda’s Fen is now on sale, so those of us served by the European DVD region (or those with region-free players) no longer have to point people to a low-grade YouTube recording of the film.

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There’s no need for me to rhapsodise further about Rudkin’s work in general or Penda’s Fen in particular when I’ve already done so in the Folk Horror Revival piece, and in this lengthy post from 2010. The film itself looks the best I’ve ever seen it, slightly desaturated compared to the DVD I made of my own VHS recording (but then the BFI transfer is closer to the film elements) but with a fuller frame than in the TV screening. The one striking difference is in the title sequence which in the 1990 screening had a red cast throughout, something that’s missing from the BFI version. I don’t know why this is but the red cast always made the jump to the titles from a still shot of the Malvern hills more abrupt than it needed to be.

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The extras on this release are minimal, with a short collection of interviewees apparently taken from a longer documentary about Alan Clarke’s work that will be in the Clarke collection out next month. The booklet features a new essay about the film by Sukhdev Sandhu, editor of the excellent Penda’s Fen tribute, The Edge Is Where The Centre Is. The Folk Horror Revival book is listed in the notes at the end of Sukhdev’s piece so I’m hoping this may prompt some of the people encountering Rudkin’s work for the first time to also look at his stage plays and that other sui generis television film, Artemis 81. David Rudkin, who will be 80 this year, was one of the many unique writers shunted out of the TV world by the very “entertainment barons” that Arne the playwright condemns in Penda’s Fen. I’m glad he’s lived to see this overdue reappraisal of his finest work for the medium.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies
The Living Grave by David Rudkin
The Edge Is Where The Centre Is
Afore Night Come by David Rudkin
White Lady by David Rudkin
Penda’s Fen by David Rudkin
David Rudkin on Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr

Weekend links 295

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Untitled (2014) by Lola Dupré. Via.

Announcement of the week (if not the month/year) is the news that the BFI will be releasing all of the BBC dramas directed by Alan Clarke on DVD/Blu-ray in May. In addition to the long-awaited appearance on disc of Penda’s Fen (1974) we can expect a previously unseen director’s cut of Clarke’s last TV film, The Firm (1989), the DVD premier of Baal (1982) with David Bowie, plus many other works including some from the 1960s that were believed lost. (And it should be noted that this isn’t everything of Clarke’s; he also worked occasionally for ITV and later directed feature films for Channel 4.)

The BFI attention is a tribute to an exceptional director that’s overdue. Clarke has long been a cult figure among the British actors who worked with him, and among directors such as Harmony Korine and Gaspar Noé, but the tendency of TV to give one-off dramas a single screening has meant that much of his best work has been unavailable for years outside old VHS tapes. Clarke is important for having persistently chosen difficult subjects which he directed with a flair and intensity usually only found in cinema. When he died in 1990 the BBC repeated a handful of his films but the only ones given repeated DVD release have been the violent dramas with the big names attached: Scum (1979, with Ray Winstone), Made in Britain (1982, with Tim Roth), and The Firm (with Gary Oldman). Clarke’s oeuvre is much more than a parade of nihilistic villains, as will become evident later this year.

• A psychedelic video directed by Peter Strickland for Liquid Gate (ft. Bradford Cox) by Cavern of Anti-Matter. The debut album from Cavern of Anti-Matter, Void Beats/Invocation Trex, will be out later this month.

Celebrating Dusseldorf, the city that birthed Krautrock. (Article loses points for not mentioning producer Conny Plank.)

All Rivette’s features might be regarded as different kinds of horror films; Céline et Julie vont en bateau is his first horror comedy. The anxiety and despair of Paris Nous Appartient and La Religieuse, L’Amour Fou and Spectre seem relatively absent, yet they perpetually hover just beyond the edges of the frames. We still have no privileged base of ‘reality’ to set against the fictions, each of which is as outrageous as the other; and along with Borges, we can’t really say whether it’s a man dreaming he’s a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he’s a man—although we may feel, in either case, that he and we are just on the verge of waking.

Jonathan Rosenbaum on work and play in the house of fiction: Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 and Céline and Julie Go Boating

• Mixes of the week: Finders Keepers Radio Show Krautrock Special, and The Ivy-Strangled Path Vol. XV by David Colohan.

• At Dangerous Minds: Super strange sculptures (by Shary Boyle) only the dark and demented could love.

• Beautiful Brutalites: S. Elizabeth questions Arabella Proffer about her paintings.

KTL is a musical collaboration between Peter Rehberg and Stephen O’Malley.

• Why study art when you can make it? The strange world of…This Heat.

Sarah Galo on the explicitly sexual female artists that feminism forgot.

Irmin Schmidt‘s favourite music (this week).

• LSD: My life-saving drug by Eric Perry.

The Occult Activity Book

Twenty Tiny Cities

Der LSD-Marsch (1970) by Guru Guru | Krautrock (1973) by Faust | Düsseldorf (1976) by La Düsseldorf