Delia Derbyshire ~ The Myths and The Legendary Tapes: Film Review

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Back in the infancy of Folk Horror Revival, myself and fellow founding member Darren Charles cut our teeth on the live talk scene on behalf of FHR, delivering a lecture to the Alchemical Landscapes symposium at Girton College, Cambridge Univerity. In those hallowed halls we dedicated our talk to two luminaries of sound – Cambridge town’s own madcap Syd Barrett (as it was on the anniversary of his death that we spoke) and also to Delia Derbyshire, as Girton was the college she attended whilst studying her twin passions of mathematics and music.

But why would a pair of northern folk horror revivalists pay homage to an electronic music pioneer? The answer lies in that peculiar relationship (symbiosis?) between folk horror and hauntology. That and the fact we were both honoured and awed to be invited to speak at the seat of learning that the sculptress of sound once haunted with her presence.

Caroline Catz’s impressive documentary / docu-drama Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes (broadcast as part of the BBC’s Arena arts programming) further illustrates the bond between Derbyshire and her contemporaries and the worlds of folk horror & urban wyrd aesthetics.

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Born in Coventry in 1937, Delia Derbyshire stated that hearing the sound of air raid sirens as a child during the war had a profound effect on her and cemented a lifelong obsession with sound. Hailing from a working class background (which the plum intonations of her speaking voice would hardly suggest), Delia was offered places to study at both Oxford and Cambridge but followed a scholarship at the latter to study mathematics. She combined this course with her love of phonaesthetics and graduated in 1959 with a BA in Maths and Music.

Having taken up a position at the BBC in 1960; in 1962 she was reassigned to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – a department that some may have considered as punishment but a place where Delia felt a yearning to be. It is her work and time here that provides the main focus of Catz’s documentary.

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Set up in 1957 by Desmond Briscoe and the legendary Daphne Oram (an aural enchantress whose mastery of sonic weirdness was hidden behind features that would not have looked out of place at a Women’s Institute coffee morning) the task of the Radiophonic Workshop was to provide incidental sounds for radio and then television programming. Their task of creating new and different sounds led the workshop, which was based in Maida Vale, London and employed the sonic services of a number of sound wizards and visionaries to various fields of experimentation and the embracing of tape manipulation and Musique Concrete methodology. Oram departed the Workshop to found her own studio in 1959, but Delia would later fill those shoes with great competence and vision. A moment that would mark her place in music history came in 1963 when composer Ron Grainer asked whether she could do anything for a theme tune that was needed for a new BBC series. Providing Delia with a few musical notes and abstract suggestions for sounds including “wind bubbles” and “wind clouds”, she set to work. The TV show was called Doctor Who and for it Delia crafted one of the most infamous, innovative, timeless and enduring television theme tunes ever.

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Catz’s documentary of course captures that seminal moment, but she has a lot more to say about the life, loves, art and depression of Delia Derbyshire. The film is cut between interviews with those who knew and worked with Delia, recordings of her own voice in interviews and dramatised scenes in which Catz herself plays Delia. (I was racking my brain trying to remember where I recognised Caroline Catz from and it turns out that she plays the love interest of Doctor Martin in the eponymous tv show that has seemed to air on British telly since the dawn of time). In my mind now though she will be forever associated to this film which is clearly a work of love as well as of art.

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Caroline Catz as Delia Derbyshire

Catz guides us through the highs and lows of Delia’s life and soundscapes- through a haze of marijuana smoke and acid colours as psychedelia and Delia embraced each other and her depression and alcoholism (which was not considered much of a problem by Delia who seemed to see herself as a hopeful drunk rather than a hopeless one). We surrender to the white noise and are immersed in history and sound under the guiding light of Nick Gillespie’s cinematography. We voyeuristically listen on as seance-like, Delia engages in conversation with the disembodied voices of Mary Wollstonecraft and Ada Lovelace. Yet we are not merely enveloped in the broadcast of ghosts, for working with the 267 tapes belonging to Delia, that were found stored in cereal boxes in an attic after her death in 2001, the artist Cosey Fanni Tutti (possibly most well known for her work in the extreme art-music scene of COUM and Throbbing Gristle alongside Genesis P-Orridge) uses the magical archive to create more manipulation of sound.
It is not just Tutti however that has been inspired by Delia Derbyshire, as without her and the other Radiophonic visionaries the music output of the likes of Caro C, Burial, the Ghostbox oeuvre, Concretism, Broadcast, The Soulless Party and various other trip-hop, vapourwave, hauntological, electronic and film, TV & radio soundscape composers would likely be a different kettle of fish altogether.

Passing away from renal failure early after the turn of the century, Delia Derbyshire would likely be “tickled pink” to know that two decades into the 21st Century that the sound experiments she created as much as 60 years ago would be inspiring and innovating musicians and music now.

Delia Derbyshire: The Myths & The Legendary Tapes is available for free streaming to UK viewers now at ~

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000w6tr/arena-delia-derbyshire-the-myths-and-the-legendary-tapeshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000w6tr/arena-delia-derbyshire-the-myths-and-the-legendary-tapes

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Delia Derbyshire: 1937 -2001

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

Unearthing Forgotten Horrors ~300: An Interview with Darren Charles

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Unearthing Forgotten Horrors’ is a weekly hour-long delve into the darker recesses of the musical underworld. A chance to immerse yourself in obscure horror soundtracks, dark drones, weird electronica, freaky folk, crazed kosmiche and some of the most abhorrent and twisted psychedelia ever committed to vinyl, CD or cassette.

In honour of the 300th episode to be broadcast on A1 Radio on Tuesday 30th March 2021 at 7pm (UK time) Folk Horror Revival talks to our very own Darren Charles – the John Peel of Scary Music and Film Soundtracks and the voice of the consistently excellent Unearthing Forgotten Horrors …


Folk Horror Revival: Hi Darren. You are approaching the 300th episode of Unearthing Forgotten Horrors radio show on A1; could you tell us more about the show and how you came to be doing it and does that name have any connection to a certain folk horror film?

Darren Charles: Unearthing Forgotten Horrors is derived, as you allude to, from a quote in ‘Blood on Satan’s Claw’, when the Judge (Patrick Wymark) responds to the Doctor’s belief in old knowledge with the phrase “Witchcraft is dead and discredited…Are you bent on reviving forgotten horrors?” It was originally used as the name for a series of events that took place in Newcastle featuring live music performances and film screenings at the Star and Shadow cinema. We liked the idea of ‘forgotten horrors’ but my partner in crime Chris felt that using ‘reviving’ meant we sounded like we were selling tea infusions. I mentioned this in conversation with Andy Sharp of English Heretic fame and he suggested ‘Unearthing’ which instantly felt far more appropriate and was adopted instantly.

As for the radio show, I had a mix created by Jim Peters for the first event and approached a local radio station to play it as a marketing tool on Halloween, of which they obliged. Afterwards they asked if I would be interested in recording a radio show for them and so the UFH radio show was born. It ran for a while until the station closed down and we moved to our new home at A1 Radio, who we have since recorded almost 300 shows for.

FHR: Every episode you spotlight a Soundtrack of the Week amongst the great diversity of tunes you play, do you have any personal favourite soundtracks and which film / score first got you interested in cinematic music?

DC: I think it’s so difficult to pick out a single favourite because there are so many incredibly effective soundtracks out there. I would definitely suggest several Goblin soundtracks, Suspiria, Deep Red and Dawn of the Dead are all favourites, as well as Fabio Frizzi’s scores for Fulci’s zombie trio; City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and Zombie Flesheaters. Blood on Satan’s Claw, The Wicker Man, Halloween, Maniac, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Haunting of Julia, the list goes on and on.

The film that first got me hooked on soundtracks was probably Jaws or Star Wars, I loved both as a kid and both had these hugely iconic scores that were everywhere when I was a boy. In later years, and once I was old enough to discover real horror movies, I think Suspiria was the first to truly hook me in, it was the first time I thought of the music in a horror film as an integral factor in what made it truly scary. I also really love The Texas Chainsaw Massacre score, which I discovered around the same time. It’s such an appropriate score for that film, every time I watch it, it reminds me how much I love it.

FHR: Which folk horror film do you think has the most effective soundtrack?

As much as I love The Wicker Man it has to be Blood on Satan’s Claw for me. Marc Wilkinson’s score is astonishing, it’s so unusually sinister and queasy sounding, but it really is embedded deeply in what makes that film work so well. It has a playful devilish quality that Candia McCormack described as “wickedness itself” in the first volume of Harvest Hymns, which is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

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FHR: You have a Masters Degree specialising in the History of Witchcraft, what connections do you think there are between music and the occult?

DC: I think the two are inextricably linked, music has always been a powerful tool used in ritual magic dating back as far as we can remember and so many different cultures have cited its healing properties. There is something special about the way music makes us feel. A live performance can be uplifting or heartbreaking depending on the artist/performer and how many depictions of sabbats feature dancing and songs?

I think it’s also worth mentioning the number of musicians who are alleged to have sold their souls to the devil, like Robert Johnson and Paganini, those who write music that is influenced by occult writings such as Black Widow, Sun-Ra or Led Zeppelin, and even those for who the actual process of making music is part of their magical working, Coil, Psychic TV.

FHR: You have organised several live Unearthing Forgotten Horror events and As one of the head honchos of Folk Horror Revival, you have been instrumental in coordinating live events for us too – if money were no option which musical artists or bands (active or departed / defunct) would you most like to have headlining a FHR event?

DC: Oh, now that’s a hard one as there are so many great artists I would love to work with; The Incredible String Band, Donovan, Black Widow, Coven, Coil, The Doors, The Butthole Surfers, but I think my top choice would be Comus. First Utterance is my go to album when it comes to Folk Horror sounds, it has the perfect mix of moods, it’s quite a beautiful sounding record, yet it is one of the most horribly sinister and downbeat albums I’ve ever heard. I would love to see how it comes across in a live setting.

On the other hand we have had the privilege of working with some amazing artists at our events and I still dream of the day we can finally put on a Ex-Reverie or Rusalnaia gig. I won’t list everyone we’ve worked with in the past as the list would be enormous, but a huge thank you to them all for their support, their time and their incredible talents.

FHR: What is the scariest or most disturbing music you’ve personally heard?

DC: Another difficult one, as I don’t think of any single album when you ask this question, as there are a number of records that would fit the bill for scariest or most disturbing. Suspiria by Goblin would be one contender, it’s a safe choice as it has been widely recognised as being an incredibly sinister sounding record, the film itself is particularly effective when seen on a big screen with the soundtrack booming out of a massive surround sound speaker system. It’s incredibly nuanced, but it’s not until you’ve heard it in that sort of environment that you notice many of those nuances.

Other than that, I would suggest Fabio Frizzi’s City of the Living Dead soundtrack, it has real menace to it and a very downbeat vibe. Guiliano Sorgini’s Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is another that works on an ultra-creepy level. These are all albums I would recommend for someone looking to delve into the creepy soundtrack scene. On top of this, I would suggest those mentioned earlier in this interview, as well as Keith Emerson’s Inferno, Mark Korven’s The VVitch and The Radiophonic Workshop’s Possum, to name but a few.

Outside of the movie soundtrack, I would suggest checking out some of the great electronic music around today, The Heartwood Institute, English Heretic, Drew Mulholland, Hawthonn, Pefkin, Grey Malkin, Ashtoreth, Burial Hex, Black Mountain Transmitter, Haxan Cloak, Pye Corner Audio, Nathalie Stern and the myriad of associated acts that are springing up all the time.

FHR: Thanks for talking to us. Happy 300th Episode and keep up the excellent work. We wish Unearthing Forgotten Horrors continued sonic success for many strange aeons to come.

Unearthing Forgotten Horrors airs live on Tuesday evenings at 7pm (UK time)
– HERE

An Archive of some of the previous episodes can be found HERE – Well worth checking out 🌞👍 …

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The Psychic Audio Group

The Psychic Audio Group are a collective of paranormal investigators and music technologists based in Leeds who generate audio based around hauntings, drawing inspiration from Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Stone Tape’ they reconfigured their equipment to generate noise, producing some remarkable psychic feedback when installed at certain haunted locations. Here we review their three recordings thus far released.

Collected Recordings of the Psychic Audio Group, Volume 1

The first release of the Psychic Audio Group, features 11 tracks of suitably wyrd phonics, mixing ambient drones with glitchy off kilter electronics, field recordings and found sounds. I really enjoyed this one, there’s a level of dread filled intensity about the recording that verges on audial assault, and the whole thing has a sinister blackened noise vibe to it. Links to Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Stone Tape’ and EVP just add to the creepiness of the project. I guarantee this will go down a storm with Revivalists everywhere. This is highly recommended for fans of John Carpenter, Haxan Cloak, Burial Hex, Demdike Stare and the Nate Young (Wolf Eyes) and Steven Kenney (Werewolves) project Demons.

https://psychicaudiogroup.bandcamp.com/album/the-collected-recordings-of-the-psychic-audio-group-volume-2-eycheil

Also worth mentioning is the accompanying video, featuring the same sequences of audio as used in the album, but coupled with visuals from the recording sessions.

Sea of Ink

Sea of Ink is a stand alone track recorded during the sessions for their second album. What we get is more of the same glitchy electronic drones and sinister sounding atmospherics as the debut album. A work of creepy excellence.

https://psychicaudiogroup.bandcamp.com/track/sea-of-ink

The Collected Recordings of the Psychic Audio Group, Volume 2: Eycheil

The third release and second full length album from the Psychic Audio Group is an absolute doozy from start to finish. Recorded entirely on location at the Theatre Eycheil in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, with each track concieved in relation to the atmosphere of the site, and boy what an atmosphere it must have as this is off the scale for creepiness.

The album features 7 tracks of more of the same, but once again it excels at what it does. Darkly atmospheric electronic noise that recalls some of the most sinister music ever placed on vinyl. Nighmarish and disquieting, the whole thing has a deeply malefic aura about it. If someone were to ever remake John Hough’s 1973 supernatual tour de force ‘The Legend of Hell House’ these guys should record the soundtrack.

https://psychicaudiogroup.bandcamp.com/album/the-collected-recordings-of-the-psychic-audio-group-volume-2-eycheil

Vanishing Faces

Duo Joanne and Andrew Walker have been busy over the last twelve months with three separate releases to tempt Revivalists.

Foretold E.P.

First up was the Foretold E.P. which was released in April . I was lucky enough to receive a physical copy of the limited edition CD, one of only 78 copies released. The album is beautifully packaged, featuring some lovely artwork from Joanna herself. As you can see from the photograph below it is obviously designed to fit perfectly with the stories of the songs, which is something I really love about it. Alongside the fantastic cover art we are treated to some really nice little extras, stickers, a badge and a tarot card, the Ace of Wands in my case. This is a great card to receive in this instance as it represents creativity, passion and enthusiasm, all things that are abundant in this release.

This, their debut release is also sonically very good, and features 5 tracks of glitchy electronic folk infused with their love of traditional British folklore and the esoteric. The mix of traditional and modern instrumentation works really well and one can’t help but hear the influence of the likes of Current 93 rising to the fore every now and again, however it must be noted that they do possess enough of their own sound to keep it from turning into a pastiche. Overall, Foretold is an excellent debut release and one the duo can be very proud of.

Two Songs for the Summer Solstice

This was a two track single released to coincide with the Summer Solstice, on 20th June. Both tracks were heavily inspired by previous solstice celebrations that took place at Stonehenge and Avebury, and were a reaction to the current situation with regards to the Covid-19 lockdown, and the fact those sites were not accessible during the 2020 solstice.

‘To the Day’ represents the duo’s fond remembrance of past solstices, whilst Midsummer’s Dream entwines their own song with the fairy’s poem from the beginning of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Both tracks take the listener down a tangled acid folk drenched pathway that winds its way through the British countryside. This is a perfect midsummer release.

Wolf Moon E.P.

Released at the death of 2020, Wolf Man is a three track E.P. that the duo began composing under the wolf moon, the first full moon of 2020.

Opener, ‘Wolf Moon’ is a spoken word track that again mixes traditional instrumentation and modern technology, perfectly capturing the mood of the piece. This is followed up by ‘Cold Moon’ an instrumental with its feets firmly planted in ambient electronics. Beautiful and atmospheric, the track is perfect for laid back listening sessions. The final track is a remix of ‘Wolf Moon’ by Grey, it’s a fascinating amalagamation of drum and bass and ambient electronica that works really well. The band themselves have labelled the track ‘dub folk horror’ and who am I to argue?

All of their work can be heard and bought from their bandcamp page at:

https://vanishingfaces.bandcamp.com/