Zines Review: Rituals & Declarations vol 2 issue 1

Rituals & Declarations was conceived as a one volume, four issue project to run throughout 2020, which would embrace the weird as a way to step outside capitalist realism and help imagine a better future. Obviously 2020 didn’t turn out like anyone expected, and the demand for hope for the future only intensified, so they’ve made the decision to carry on through 2021 (no doubt helped by the positive reaction to their previous issues), and I’m personally delighted they’re continuing their run.

In this issue, we have Cormac Pentecost on Edgelands folklore, drawing a path of our neglected and overlooked locations from Grendel to Unofficial Britain via JG Ballard Ballard, Alan Garner and Stig of the Dump; a fascinating liminal zone, ripe for new folklore. Allyson Shaw does a remembrance for Isobel Gowdie, and on a related note, Elizabeth Sulis Kim gives us a short story on the ignorance and hate behind witch hunting. We also have Icy Sedgwick on fetches, LB Limbrey on queerness and nature, and more- my favourite being regular Hookland contribution by David Southwell, the folklore of a non-existent place.
It’s all packaged together in a nice, glossy cover on high quality paper, with some excellent artwork. Another top tier zine that I strongly recommend.
Copies are available here.

Ben Wheatley’s Earthy Liminality

Extensive Ben Wheatley interview by “Lady Limnal” covering his career and new film.

Here at FHR we’ve been fans of Ben Wheatley for many years, having followed his intriguing and varied career path from the pitch dark comedy of Sightseers, the pseudo 70s Wyrd of High Rise, the psychedelic oddness of Field in England and above all the disturbing Urban Wyrd of Kill List.

In this interview for the Liminal Worlds project, Ben discusses his new film In the Earth.

“…when I was a kid we lived by the woods, and I think just the actual physical presence of the woods made a difference to me, and fed into a lot of stuff, and a lot of the things in Kill List are from nightmares that I had as a child, about that very specific place where I was living, Billericay.”

Full interview here
http://www.liminalworlds.org/lady-liminal-takes-a-trip-with-ben-wheatley/

waiting for you: a detectorists zine

A fanzine as beautiful and introspective as the series it lauds, “waiting for you: a detectorists zine”, is a collection of essays, interviews and papers that celebrate, discuss and speculate on the sedate yet moving series created by Mackenzie Crook.

The strange times of lockdown have led to an unexpected (but welcome) boom in small press publications as well as niche “‘zines”. In the past, such publications were very much home produced, photocopied cheap and cheerful labours of love, but print on demand, modern software and emerging virtual communities in the time of pandemic have led to many wonderful creations. “waiting for you…” is no exception to this intriguing trend and is an exquisitely produced A5 volume, printed on high grade paper. A further pleasing touch, is that the pages have a retro eggshell blue tinge, that would doubtless appeal to the detectorist Lance, given his misty-eyed appreciation of older plastics in the series finale – though the zine sadly (fortunately?) does not have “the smell of 70s”.

Amongst the essays David Colohan explores the light and shade of folk horror themes in ‘Phantom Signals’ while David Petts turns a psychogeographical eye on the almost-real landscape of Danebury, the fictional home town of the detectorists. It was also a pleasure to see longtime Folk Horror Revivalist, Jim Peters as a contributor interviewing soundtrack composers Dan Michaelson and Harvey Robinson. Elsewhere in the volume, Mackenzie Crooks lesser known fiction is reviewed by Rosemary Pardoe, while Phil Smith opines on the series symbolism. The zine closes with Carl Taylor’s review of “Landscapes of Detectorists” a collection of essays edited by Innes Keighren and Joanne Norcup.

Lovingly compiled & edited by Cormac Pentecost and topped off with Jane Tomlinsons psychedelic cover art – “waiting for you…” is a must-read for ardent (or casual) fans of the series.

“waiting for you: a detectorists zine”is published by Temporal Boundary Press

(https://temporalboundary.bigcartel.com)

Format: A5, 54pp, paperback

Contributors: David Colohan, David Petts, Jim Peters, Phil Smith, Rosemary Pardoe, Carl Taylor

Art: Jane Tomlinson, Robin Mackenzie, The Moon and the Furrow, P J Richards

Edited by Cormac Pentecost

Zine Review: Weird Walk issue 4

The last couple of years have seen a real surge in the number of zines related to folk horror, folklore, forteana and the just plain weird. While zine culture probably peaked in the 90s but had waned to an extent with the creation of social media, it never died away completely. For many, the convenience of a blog post will never replace the satisfaction of having something you can hold in your hand, read on the bus and pull out a dusty box years later. This will be the first in a semi-regular series of reviews of folk horror related zines.

Weird Walk was probably the first zine of the current crop. It bills itself as a journal of wanderings and wonderings from the British Isles, and as this suggests, much of its content is focussed round getting out into the countryside. In the current issue (#4), we have a route for a weird walk around Glastonbury, an interview with Nick Hayes on land ownership and trespassing in England (as someone who lives in Scotland, where the right to roam is legally enshrined, this was quite an eye opener), some recommended listening for rambling through edgelands (recommended soundtracks for walks feature regularly in WW), and a piece from Stewart Lee on hunting megaliths in Lamorna in Cornwall.

My favourite article is by Zakia Sewell on growing up in Houndslow, the child of a Welsh dad and Carribbean mother, who finds a connection to a mythic Albion of druids and stone circles, away from the more toxic myths of recent times, a vision of who makes a connection can find belonging here, a world away from any kind of blood and soil bullshit.

This is all laid out beautifully in full colour, with plenty of atmospheric photos of dolmens, standing stones and the like, that makes me long for the lifting of lockdown and being able to get out into the countryside. Highly recommended. Copies of this and back issues available via their website at https://www.weirdwalk.co.uk/

Review by SJ Lyall

Wyrd Kalendar – Vampire Night

“Tonight is Vampire Night. In Romania the Strigoii or Vampires are said to leave their graves to seek out their former homes and victims. So hang out your garlic, put out your crosses… for the vampires are prowling and they’re looking for you. Be safe. And, if you can’t be safe, then dance, dance to these Vampire tunes. Happy Vampire Night!” – The Kalendar Host

With tunes from the likes of The Upsetters, Soft Cell, Gene Page, Rupert Lally, Bauhaus, Vampire Sound Incorporated, The Hues Corporation, Francois de Roubaix, Rob Zombie, Cobra Verde, Tangerine Dream, Gorillaz, Emil Richards, Beth Orton, Jonathan Elias, Radiohead, Gerard McCann, Tito and Tarantula, David Whitaker, Hot Blood, Jace Everett, Dirty Pretty Things, Barenakedladies, Jason Segel, Michael Vickers, Nouvelle Vague, Ministry, Michael Rubini and Denny Jaeger.

Interview with Gareth E. Rees

I

Gareth E. Rees is founder of the Unofficial Britain website and author of three books, Marshland (2013), The Stone Tide (2018) and Car Park Life (2019). His most recently published book is Unofficial Britain, a remarkably vivid exploration of a Britain that exists beyond the conventional and the prescribed. This is a book which peels by the layers of cultural conformity to reveal the previously hidden magic and strangeness of industrial estates, factories and pylons, motorways, ring roads and flyovers, hospitals and houses and housing estates. Noticing the strong connection to psychogeographic current which pulses through the veins of many members of the Folk Horror Revival, John Pilgrim took the opportunity to make some ‘routine enquiries’.

FHR: How have the towns and cities which you have spent time in shaped your identity and psychology – at the time and in the subsequent chapters of your life? Does the residue of place, especially the unofficial locations which you document live on in us?”

I’m half Welsh, half Scottish, with an English accent, and experience of living in Scotland, Wales, Northern England, London and the South Coast. Also I was born outside the UK. So I’ve been gifted with freedom from regional patriotism or prejudice. It means that in a book like this, I’ve been able to connect my own memories and experiences to many of its varied national locations.

The main thread of influence, particularly in my childhood, was that I lived in a threshold between countryside and city. Firstly, Kirkintilloch, just outside Glasgow, on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Then we moved to Glossop which is just east of Manchester, nestled in a landscape of old mills and factories beside the Peak District National Park.

The landscape of my youth was characterised by a mixture of industrial and rural, on the edge of things. When I eventually moved to Clapton in Hackney in my 30s, I began to walk the Lea Valley, London’s former East End industrial heartland, now a nature reserve. That was where my landscape writing began – the process which lead to Unofficial Britain.

In my first book, Marshland, I put my fascination with the marshes down to its evocation of my childhood landscapes. I believe that those early saturations of place stay with us for life – and they are valid and important no matter what that childhood environment was, be it deep rural countryside, suburban town, or urban council estate. Unofficial Britain is about looking at everyday places in which we live and acknowledging their place in our personal and collective memories.

FHR: In part, your book seems to be a challenge to the basis upon which traditional norms legitimise our experiences of the poetic and profound – is this right?

If you remove subjective notions of ‘ugliness’ and ‘beauty’, along with concepts like ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ and instead consider every object as having within it all the ingredients of the universe – then a huge world of possibilities open up, where a breeze block can be as interesting or meaningful as a rock, or where the undulations of the tarmac in a car park can be as fascinating as ripples on a pond.

FHR: Following on from this, you have said elsewhere that ‘everywhere is magical – everywhere is valid’. Pushing the logic of this a bit further it seems that this is both a personal invitation for a change in perceptions but also one which has cultural and political implications?

Yes, because it defuses this idea of an authentic pure ‘nature’ that must be revered (even though in a British landscape almost entirely reshaped by human activity since the Neolithic, it doesn’t really exist) while the places we all live are somehow sullied and unworthy. It also goes against this conservative, and often racist, idea that magic, folklore and myth belong in the rural past and to ‘proper’ British people (who also don’t really exist), because now we can see how imagination, storytelling and wonder continue in our contemporary world of industry, retail, housing estates and motorways.

FHR: Your book offers the prospect of an ‘urban reimagining’ – a chance to identify and connect to previously hidden aspects of our city environment. One example which I particularly liked was the role of roundabouts and your meeting with Stuart Silver in Glasgow and his call for urban paganism. Are roundabouts a good starting point in this respect? What are the roundabouts which you have known and loved?

Roundabouts are local lodestones in urban areas. They attract traffic from all angles then repel them in different directions. This gives them an undeniable power and influence. It is common for them to contain horticulture, sculpture, local advertising and other forms of local identity. So, roundabouts often have more to them than people think. Quite often they are situated on sites of importance – ancient crossroads, the sites of churches and prehistoric dwellings.

In the book I write about ‘the Urban Prehistorian’, Kenneth Brophy, who sees roundabouts as a legitimate fieldwork target for archaeologists. He gives the example of the Greenyards Roundabout near Bannockburn in Stirling, the construction of which in 2010 exposed post holes, Bronze Age roundhouses and evidence of agricultural activity. Sites like this offer an opportunity to peer through portals into the past. But it’s not only about looking back. Kenny believes that the roundabout has its own inherent value as ‘the latest aspect of the biography of this location’.

For an eye-opening roundabout tour, I recommend people visit Cribb’s Causeway Retail Park, just north of Bristol. It first appeared in my previous book, Car Park Life, but I make a return to it in Unofficial Britain. There are a series of roundabouts within the retail complex that have mysterious shapes and uncertain meanings – possibly relating to erogenous zones. I’ll leave it for people to get my book to find out more.

FHR: One chapter in your book draws out the terror and the anonymity of the hospital experience. Was it a therapeutic for you writing this chapter? And how might we encounter hospitals differently?

When I originally conceived of the hospital chapter, I was thinking primarily about the weirdness of the external areas – the seemingly chaotic jumble of disparate buildings, modern improvisations bolted onto the old, and the sometimes terrifying glimpses of the visceral reality – biomass chimneys burning tissue and bloody rags, tossed-away kidney dishes and signs for ‘blood letting units’. Beyond the grand facades of sliding doors and the smooth white interiors, there is a horror of sorts, in walking the back stage area. That stuff is in that chapter.

But then I bean to think about all the drama, horror, tragedy and joy that occurs within the hospital itself, which is rarely allowed to imprint itself on the disinfected and polished walls, floors and furnishings, yet which exists in the memory of those who experienced it. In moments of crisis, the hospital becomes the theatre set for the biggest dramas in our life – from birth to death – where we notice all the microdetails, the smells, textures and sounds. Then it’s all cleaned and packed away, leaving only this memory – which over time becomes a kind of fiction as we edit and shape that memory. In this way, a hospital interior is largely a psychological entity. Then when you think of the sheer volume of stories that happen in that space, it becomes an anthology of narrative that cannot be seen, but which does exist in the collective consciousness.

I don’t know if it will change the way we encounter hospitals, only that we maybe reconsider how weird they are – this non-place that is also fundamental to our family stories of birth, death, suffering and redemption

FHR: I saw that you were recently on television talking about your love of carparks. How might you persuade sceptics to re-evaluate the appeal of car parks? I personally find multi-story carparks to be quite sinister – is this your experience?

The appeal of car parks, for me, is that they are spaces in full public view, which many of us use daily or weekly, which are also unexplored as place in themselves. Why can’t a car park be as interesting as a wood? People use them to park cars and shop, but when you walk around them, poking into the corners, searching for clues, they reveal strange energies, weird juxtapositions and hidden stories. Google ‘car park + violence’ and you’ll see tales of horror, depravities, and a society with its wheels falling off. The heart of darkness might not be at the end of a river through the jungle, but in the space outside Tesco.

Car Park Life was specifically about chain retail store car parks, but in Unofficial Britain I explore the multi-storey, which are like crumbling Norman castles – one in almost every town and city. People find them beautiful but also sinister – in the book I talk about ghost sightings and experiences, as well as the creepiness of the decay inside these unique spaces.

FHR: In the book you share accounts of hauntings, often in quite mundane settings such as council houses. What is your own view of such things and how do they shape your philosophy of how we might broaden our experience of Unofficial Britain?

I wanted to get across the idea that the supernatural can seep into, and out of, every structure no matter how modern or seemingly mundane. Folklore and myth are not fixed in a halcyon past, but ongoing. They are carried in our hearts and minds, and therefore any place can be haunted – a 60s council house, a multi-storey car park, an industrial estate. We have lived for over 70 years in an urban landscape of council estates, shopping centres, motorways, pylons and cooling towers. They’ve been around long enough to become storied with love, loss, grief, violence, sexual awakenings and rites of passage. The book is an attempt to find some of the fresh shoots of future folklore as they burst from the concrete, seeking the light.

FHR: Can you say a little more about your literary influences. Clearly Richard Mabey’s Unofficial Countryside provides an important touchstone for challenging what is considered to be of significance in our landscape. Are writers such as JG Ballard and Iain Sinclair important to you? What are the pros and cons of being influenced by other writers?

Neither of those writers are particularly important to me, although Ballard inevitably crops up in the chapter about motorway flyovers. I am mainly influenced by other people who I’ve connected to online, who are ploughing similar – or complementary – furrows. I made a conscious decision to hat tip all the influences in the book itself, so you’ll see mention of websites like Scarfolk, Hookland and Anatomy of Norbiton, artists like Maxum Griffin, Jane Samuels and Mark Hollis, writers like Salena Godden, Nick Papadimitriou and Gary Budden, academic practitioners like Phil Smith, record labels like Ghost Box and musicians like Mark Williamson. The bibliography even includes Folk Horror Revival. These are the sorts of influences I have, and I can’t see any downsides to that – they are a source of ideas and inspiration. What I produce is something very different to these projects, so I am not burdened by the pressure of trying to compete directly.

FHR: Why is it that there seems to be a growing appreciation of pylons across the country? You document your own experiences vividly in the book but there are others who are connecting to this current – Hookland for example and the cult of The Children of the Hum.

One of the themes of the book is the way that landscape features become engrained in both our personal memories and the public folk consciousness. This can happen with industrial structures in the same way as natural topographical features. For everyone alive right now, pretty much, pylons have always been there. They’re huge, imposing structures that transcend town and city. On top of that, they’re highly sculptural, with phallic and feminine qualities. Depending on their location they can be menacing, majestic, serene or terrifying. Beneath the surface there’s a lot going on with pylons, as I reveal in the opening chapter which includes Illuminati conspiracies, Egyptology and alien invaders.

FHR: You are a musician. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how music and sound can change our experience of everyday environments. What artists do you admire – for example do you have any affinity with Brian Eno, ambient music or the Ghostbox project?

In my first book, Marshland, I used what I call ‘soundchronicities’, which are walks where you also listen to music at a volume that doesn’t drown out the external noise, creating a unique DJ mix, never to be repeated. I used a lot of ambient and experimental electronic music for that, including Eno, but also Ekoplekz, TVO, The Psychogeographical Commission and Jon Brooks. This technique allows you to open up new interpretations of a place, influenced by the mood of what you’re listening to.

In Unofficial Britain, I didn’t use music in that way, but I do write about some of the ways that pylons, underpasses, power stations, motorways and other modern structures have been expressed in music, poetry and film. So I write a little bit about Ghost Box Records, and touch on other genres too – for instance, the M6 feature in multiple tracks by Half Man Half Biscuit, while the building of the M1 was subject of a radio folk ballad by Ewan MacColl.

FHR: Finally, what three unofficial places in Britain would you recommend visiting?

That’s a hard one to answer. The main point of the book was to avoid obviously extreme or interesting locations and show that there is fascination in the everyday. We all live in places that are full of magic, weirdness and stories, if we can just dwell in them a while, look closely, and allow our imaginations to roam. So really I wouldn’t recommend visiting three specific places in the map – but instead visit three types of place near you and see what happens. I’d recommend: an underpass (ideally beneath a roundabout); an industrial estate; and a multi-storey car park. Go there, wander, poke about, and get the feel of the place. See what happens. You never know.

The Occultaria of Albion

A folk horror `zine series exploring the weird & unusual in Albion – reviewed by Jim Peters

I imagine that a fair percentage of you are, like me, a fan of the local guide to an area’s myths, legends and hauntings – the sort of slim publication you can pick up in the Tourist Information Centre, library or small local museum shop. Sometimes you can pick up a second hand copy which approaches the subject matter from a slightly different angle to a modern version and of these it is those from the late 60’s-70’s that are the most pleasing. There is something about this period that sets it aside as a high tide mark for all things folkloric, esoteric, occult and otherworldly and this is reflected in these wonderful little guide books. Written by people with local knowledge (“for local people – we’ll have no trouble here”) and a willingness to believe in the stories they heard as they were growing up, they present the most farfetched and dark tales with a non-judgmental innocence punctuated with groovy artwork, long lost fonts and, if you are lucky, a handful of adverts for local attractions and tradespeople.

Recently there has been a resurgence of self-published magazines which take a look at the same subject matters but do so in a studious, serious style for the already converted and while they are a refreshing sign of people’s changing tastes and the rise of folk horror and other dark topics in the public’s conscious they don’t have quite the charm of those small run local guides of yesteryear. Their production and the quality of the end product is very impressive indeed and makes for a thing of beauty but they look more like the coffee table read of Jerry and Margo than the 70’s charm of Tom and Barbara’s rustic kitchen table…..for that you need to visit Scaraby and pick up a copy of The Occultaria of Albion.

This charming, oddball publication is the brainchild of writer Richard Daniels and illustrator Melody Clark in which `the damned and dusty files of (the hidden, haunted Lincolnshire village) Low Scaraby are opened, releasing a howl of unsolved mysteries and oddities.’ The perfect size, length and subject matter to enjoy with your afternoon cuppa on an autumnal day.

Lower Scaraby was introduced us to in Richard’s wonderful short story collection Too Dead For Dreaming (previously reviewed by FHR) and each edition of The Occultaria of Albion focuses on a different aspect of the Folk Horror landscape and legends of the countryside around the village. We are treated to tales of a tiny model village with its own inhabitants and urban myths in the Isle of Drumgunnan issue, the portentous psychedelic summer gatherings at Wickstead House, Highway robbery and UFOs on the A2358 and all manner of other wyrd folk horror wonderfulness with hopefully plenty more still to come.

You can get your back issues and keep an eye on future releases on Richard’s Plastic Brain website:

( The Plastic Richard Daniels )

The Plastic Richard Daniels

Expect literary weirdness!

And you can also support them through Patreon and get all manner of goodies for your time and effort…as it says on the Patreon page –

Come; step through the fog and the velvet drapes and into an Albion which has always existed, though only ever glimpsed in the shadows. If you become an OCCULTARIA of ALBION KNIGHT (OAK) means you are part of an exclusive group of men and women – yes, in centuries past you would have been burnt as a heretic but today, you are a seeker of truth!

Note: the OA Trauma Helpline has now been disconnected. You’re on your own.

( Occultaria of Albion is creating a zine series exploring the weird & unusual in Albion | Patreon )

Occultaria of Albion is creating a zine series exploring the weird & unu…

Become a patron of Occultaria of Albion today: Get access to exclusive content and experiences on the world’s la…

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The Wulver’s Stane Zine

The Wulver’s Stane is a zine of folklore and forteana by Urban Wyrd contributor and FHR admin SJ Lyall. It features articles on folklore horror in punk, Edinburgh’s standing stones, Perth’s pagan rituals, woodwoses and an account of a roadtrip round some weird sites in the USA. Features cover art by Alex CF and back cover art by Graeme Cunningham.
Issue two currently in the works.
Copies are available here.

Book Review: Unofficial Britain by Gareth E. Rees

We think of folklore as taking place in misty moors and dark forests, but as ways of life changed and people moved from countryside to town, they didn’t stop telling stories or having unusual experiences. Instead these now take place in tower blocks or underpasses, crossroads are replaced by roundabouts and motorway junctions, and strange beasts are now encountered on the fringes on cities rather than deep forests. Unofficial Britain looks at the generally disregarded locations of the modern landscape that feature in people’s stories. There are chapters on the strangeness of pylons, urban geomancy, haunted housing estates, weird experiences on motorways and the non-places of service stations, and strange creatures and liminality in industrial estates. This features a look at the nightmarish Greenock catman, which sees the author go clambering through bushes behind Greenock bus depot in the hunt for him.

While the book documents a range of people’s experiences, it’s also a very personal book, taking us through the author’s life and the stories he told himself about the smokestacks and gap sites around him. It’s extremely readable and taps into an eclectic selection of sources- historical accounts, first hand experiences, urban druids and punk bands to name a few. Essential reading if you are interested in the urban wyrd and how folklore is mutating and developing in modern times.

Review by SJ Lyall

`Rural Eerie’ – New album from Flange Circus

`Rural Eerie’ by Flange Circus

Review by Jim Peters

`Rural Eerie’ is the new album from electronics and hauntronica trio Flange Circus available as a digital download and limited edition DVD in which they set out to explore the strange side of the countryside through sounds and words. Much like the Wyrd Harvest Press publications, who’s profits go to the Wildlife Trust, allprofits from the digital sales of Rural Eerie will, most fittingly, go to the Woodland Trust.

Introduction track Mouldy Heels soothes the listener ready for this nostalgic journey through sound with the kind of ambient drone that is the staple of any modern horror film but plenty of fresh touches to hold the listener’s attention. Strangely aquatic sounding birdcalls filter through the swirls with an echo that William Orbit would be proud of before heavy synths prelude an ominous piano refrain – A refrain that seems to come from the same place in our musical past as that of The Rolling of the Stones. All this before the introduction of some dramatic treated vocals that have a Wagner feels that hints at the gothic, pagan pomp of some of the finest Nordic drones and Runic rock…. building, building always building until we are primed and ready for the rest of the album – and remember this is just the introduction.

The rest of the album is a mixture of these musical/soundscape interludes that serve to shift the focus and reshape the landscape between collages of spoken word and poetry. It is an approach not dissimilar to how John Cameron scored Kes with the music only coming to the fore during the scene setting between the visual poetry created by Ken Loach from Barry Hines’ words.

`The countryside: a place of tranquility, less compromised by modern life, harmonious communities, innocence and safety. This much is the rural idyll. Yet the rural is also the unknown rustling in the hedgerow as the country lane is traveled at night. It can be the half-seen shapes and shadows in the woodland and copse; the desolate hillside, the treacherous rocky crag; the lone leafless tree atop the knoll. The countryside is the space where supposed closely-knit social ties become like suffocating and impenetrable knot weed to the outsider, the incomer, the blow-in. It is the place of curious rituals, wyrd practices and often unfamiliar and still-surviving lore: a space haunted by the ghosts of occluded pasts. Beyond the supposed rural idyll malevolent forces often work, uncanny sensations prowl and the eerie is always lurking and ready to be encountered.’

The album plays out as an inspiring, evocative, and at times mesmerizing tapestry of music, sound, spoken word, and poetry. Sepia tinted reminisces, self-fulfilling ritualistic behavior, tales shrouded in the warm breath of the land, and imagined histories now made real. The collective that have been gathered to create this wonderful body of work is made up from a core of musicians and a number of poets and writers who were commissioned for the album. Each provided a selection of evocative keywords from their work which informed the music and soundscapes and so the album slowly evolves and morphs with each new voice taking the listener on rewarding journey.

The musical side of the album is in the very safe hands of the three members of Flange Circus:

Pete Collins: Keyboards, Programming, Noises.

Bon Holloway: Keyboards, Programming, Field Recordings, Noises.

John Taylor: Keyboards, Accordion, Noises.

With field recordings collected from various rural locations in: Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and North Yorkshire it is not just the locations of this. It aural harvesting that shape the album. It hangs heavy with the air of the northern climes of this sceptred isle with the spoken word conjuring up the past and present of the North West – of the Lancashire landscape carved at and reformed by the long faltered advance of the industrial revolution and also of the uncompromised liminal spaces left untouched in-between. This is almost how the album is presented with the musical excerpts in-between the spoken word. It is as if the listener is swooping over a land of patchwork fields each with a story to tell and a memory to be harvested from the furrows below.

There has been is a beautiful moment of synchronicity as I listen and re-listen to this album and write this review with the warm summer breeze bringing me the majestic mewing of the Red Kites through my open window adding to the listening experience. At times it has been hard to discern if the field recordings seemingly woven into the tracks are from my garden or already on the album. It’s a beautiful occurrence and one that has made listening to Rural Eerie even more magical.

The overall effect of this collection of works is one that feels rewarding, as if you have just been shown something very precious and special from its creators and this is result of the different voices and tones of the words being fed to us. With the post-production and additional atmospherics, the musicality of these voices is brought to the fore. The first spoken word section is a wonderfully effective and evocative example of this with Emily Oldfield’s voice becoming another instrument – her soft tones and soothing delivery wraps itself around the lyrical language she employs to tell her tales and the listener is drawn in and given a seat at the bedside.

Even the title of the album `Rural Eerie’ and the names given to the instrumentals summon up a simpler, if darker, past…. of times before cities, roads, and the railways brought everything together. A change that instead of allowing stories and experiences to be shared and spread molded them together into an excepted version of our past that had no time for ancient beliefs nor a life shared with our landscape. It feels like it is this change and what came before that it that Flange Circus are trying to address with `Rural Eerie’ with references to ‘Mould Heels’ (the nickname of Katherine Hewitt one of the Pendle Witches), ‘Godspeed the plough’ (a banner from a news item about rural customs), and ‘Nineteen Corvids’ which is a play on Covid 19. This in turn links to Louise Holloway’s reading of `Desolation’ which is itself about Eyam (the famous plague village in the Peak District) and includes some recordings of the recent clap for carers.

In the challenge of addressing these themes – very successfully fulfilled – it seems on paper that Flange Circus tread the same furrow as the likes of Sproatly Smith and although the two are very different musically I would love to see these two share a bill sometime or maybe even collaborate. That aside I am more than content with Flange Circus to conjure up these many different and varied bucolic, musical tales –` real, half-remembered, imagined, absent and present’.

This is an ambitious project and the results are fantastic. I highly recommend this to anyone with a love of folk music, electronica, poetry, our rural past, the voices of the landscape, and real genuine talent.

You can download the album from – https://flangecircus.bandcamp.com/