Undercurrents

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Undercurrent: a word whose meanings offer many worthwhile associations, from submerged currents of air and water to suppressed activities, and anything that moves unseen beneath the surface. Undercurrents is the latest release from A Year In The Country, artist and label, the latter having had a particularly busy year. The country happens to be the focus of the new release:

Undercurrents was partly inspired by living in the countryside for the first time since I was young, where because of the more exposed nature of rural life I found myself in closer contact with, more overtly affected by and able to directly observe the elements and nature than via life in the city.

This coincided with an interest in and exploration of an otherly take on pastoralism and creating the A Year In The Country project; of coming to know the land as a place of beauty, exploration and escape that you may well drift off into but where there is also a sometimes unsettled undercurrent and layering of history and culture.

I found myself drawn to areas of culture that draw from the landscape, the patterns beneath the plough, the pylons and amongst the edgelands and where they meet with the lost progressive futures, spectral histories and parallel worlds of what has come to be known as hauntology.

Undercurrents is an audio exploration and interweaving of these themes – a wandering amongst nature, electronic soundscapes, field recordings, the flow of water through and across the land and the flipside of bucolic dreams.

The electronic nature of these recordings contradicts the usual expectation that anything to do with the country—especially the English countryside—has to be presented in a folk idiom and with acoustic instruments. This adds further resonances to the theme, making me think of electric currents, dowsing maps and John Michell’s eccentric (to say the least) take on Alfred Watkins’ ley lines, which hauled Watkins’ idea of trade routes used by ancient Britons into a New-Age soup of cosmic energy, numerology and UFOs. Michell’s zone is a little more far out than A Year In The Country’s explorations (and already mapped on albums by Tim Blake, Steve Hillage and others), the sounds here being more restrained and allusive, as they ought to be for undercurrents. The atmospheres are closer to Xenis Emputae Travelling Band but without the esoteric pattern, earth mysteries intuited but left unresolved.

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A map produced by dowsers showing alleged underground streams around Stonehenge. From The World Atlas of Mysteries (1978) by Francis Hitching.

Undercurrents will be released on 8th August in a range of monochrome formats, and is available to pre-order now.

Previously on { feuilleton }
From The Furthest Signals
The Restless Field
The Marks Upon The Land
The Forest / The Wald
The Quietened Bunker
Fractures

Weekend links 354

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The Dolly, Dolly Spy (1968).

• As mentioned previously, Concrete Desert is a musical collaboration between The Bug (Kevin Martin) and Earth’s Dylan Carlson inspired, they say, by Los Angeles and the fiction of JG Ballard. Martin & Carlson talked to Patrick Clarke at The Quietus about the album’s creation. Elsewhere, Kevin Martin compiled a list for Bleep of ten musical influences on the album, and Dylan Carlson had a Fireside Chat with Red Bull Music.

• Phil Legard of Xenis Emputae Travelling Band and Hawthonn has released a new EP, Hesperian Garden, featuring compositions derived from the Monas Hieroglyphica of John Dee.

• More Ballard: Mike Holliday maps the evolution of Crash, a novel which is published in a new “Collector’s Edition” by Fourth Estate next week.

Teleplasmiste “bridge the oscillation gap from deep listening ambient music and the heaviest of doomy drones,” says Richard Fontenoy.

David Barnett on Adam Diment, “the superstar spy novelist who vanished for four decades”.

• The queer art underground of 1980s London as photographed by David Gwinnutt.

A sculpture of a Buddhist deity made from 20,000 beetles.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 483 by Jane Fitz.

• RIP Gilbert Baker, designer of the rainbow flag.

• Rubber Dolly Rag (1930) by Uncle Bud Landress with Georgia Yellow Hammers | Voodoo Dolly (1981) by Siouxsie and the Banshees | Cosmic Funky Dolly (2003) by Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.

The Forest / The Wald

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November brings another compilation from the masters of monochromatic packaging, A Year In The Country. The Forest / The Wald takes woods and their folklore as its theme, so the autumn months would seem an ideal time for such a release. Trees make their presence most apparent during the leaf-shedding months of October and November, and one of the pieces on this new collection, The Hand of Auctumnus by Richard Moult, refers directly to the season.

The album takes as one of its initial reference points Electric Eden author Rob Young’s observations of the roots of the word folk as being “…the music of the ‘Volk’, a word born of the Teutonic Wald, the wild wood where society was organised ad hoc, bottom-up and frequently savage…”; places where rituals endured and perplexed their heirs.

In amongst The Forest / The Wald can be found expressions of greenwood rituals performed in the modern-day, echoes of fantastical childhood rhymes, sylvan siren calls that tremble through tangles of branches, electronics pressed into the summoning of otherworldly arboreal creations unearthed amidst the creeping thickets and elegies to woodland intrusions, solitudes and seasons.

Track list:
1) The Abney Ritual – Bare Bones
2) Hawthorn Heart – Magpahi
3) Deep Undergrowth – Polypores
4) Fantastic Mass – Time Attendant
5) Waldeinsamkeit – David Colohan
6) The Hand Of Auctumnus – Richard Moult
7) Tomo’s Tale – Sproatly Smith
8) A Whisper In The Woods – The Hare And The Moon ft Alaska
9) Ocarina Procession – The Rowan Amber Mill
10) Trees Grew All Around Her – The Séance with Lutine
11) Equinox – Cosmic Neighbourhood
12) Where Once We Wandered Free – A Year In The Country

Not everything here is folk-oriented, some of the contributions, such as those by Polypores and Time Attendant, are electronic pieces. David Colohan, Sproatly Smith, The Rowan Amber Mill, Richard Moult and others follow more familiar paths through the trees. Compared to Fractures and The Quietened Bunker, two of the earlier releases in this series, The Forest / The Wald is much closer to the territory mapped out by Xenis Emputae Travelling Band (or their present incarnation, Hawthonn), a response to British folk traditions that acknowledges the history without seeming beholden to it.

The Forest / The Wald will be released on 14th November.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Quietened Bunker
Fractures

Watch Repair

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This recent design job is nearing its official release date so I can mention it here. Watch Repair is a limited CD-R release via Manchester’s Ono label. Ono releases tend to be small-run, hand-crafted productions so for this the brief was to design something to fill out a single sheet that would be Risograph-printed then folded around the disc. The music is 37 minutes of guitar improvisation and antique clock sounds wrapped in a reverberant sound design. The detailed attention to spacial effects benefits from headphone listening.

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The Watch Repair people (who only go by that name occasionally) have a lot more of this music waiting for release. Also waiting in the wings is a superb reworking of some rare recordings made in the 1980s by author Mark Valentine under the name The Mystic Umbrellas. The latter will be of great interest to those who appreciate Xenis Emputae Travelling Band or to anyone who prowls Bandcamp in search of spectral ambiences. Here’s hoping it receives a release soon. Watch Repair may be ordered from Piccadilly Records.

Wyrd Daze 1

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Wyrd Daze is a new digital zine edited by Leigh Wright, the first issue of which is now available via a subscription of $5 (Canadian) or about £3. For that you receive a 66-page pdf plus access to music mixes and podcast files. The contents are the kind of thing which finds particular favour here: the weird, the marginal, the spectral, the esoteric, and so on. In issue 1 there’s fiction from Gareth E. Rees and Phil Legard (aka Xenis Emputae Travelling Band), interviews with writers Berit Ellingsen and David Southwell (the latter talking about psychogeography and “strange England”), a piece about Laurel Halo and Demdike Stare, many curious photos and graphics, and a lot more. I may be contributing to a future issue so watch this space.

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Artwork from issue 1 by Emma-Jane Rosenberg.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Weird