Lizzy Laurance’s debut album, Rocketman was released April 30th of this year. I would like to start by apologising to Lizzy for the delay in posting this review, however, a series of health issues and time constraints have held things up, which I hope are gradually coming to an end. Anyway, now that’s out of the way lets get down to Lizzy and her suitably impressive debut release.
Lizzy is a London based electronic musician who create “grainy pop-collages inspired by spatial locations; inner, outer and cyber”. In creating her music, she uses found sounds, ambient electronics, library samples, and electronic beats; stitching them together to create atmospheric aural soundscapes. Lizzy explores “the mythology of pop music and the icons who inhabit it”, through stories of “female identity, image-making and toxic masculinity”. Her inspirations are varied and thought-provoking, Lizzy cites David Lynch, Lana Del Ray and Godspeed You! Black Emperor as key influences on the sound of her album, and whilst this may sound like a disparate selection of artists, you can hear a little bit of each in the music, as well as a whole lot of herself. This is by no means an exercise in simply showing adulation for her heroes, she simply uses them to inspire and inform her own original sounding material.
The concept for the album came together while Laurance was artist in residence at Illutron, an arts and technology institute situated on an 800ft dredging boat in Copenhagen. She lived alone on the boat and made a number of field recordings that would form the basis of the songs featured on the album, not just from a musical perspective but from a storytelling perspective too. Lizzy says that she always felt there was “something rotten about the place” before she eventually uncovered that she was living at the site of the infamous Copenhagen Submarine murder of 2018. Founder of Copenhagen’s rocket building scene, Peter Madsen murdered a journalist (Kim Wall) who had come to interview him on board his home-made submarine. Laurance tries to reconcile the visionary ideals and technological innovations Madsen made with the destruction that was “left in its wake.”
After a short intro track (Promenade) that merely hints at what is to follow we are into our first song proper. “Baby Loves”, is a hauntingly atmospheric piece of Avant Garde audio that is eloquent and beautiful, yet possesses hints of a much colder, darker, industrial soundscape. “Come Down” almost sounds like drum and bass at times, yet Lizzy’s haunted vocals and the jazz trumpet samples give it a wholly warmer feel. “Gasoline Blue Jeans” reminds me a little of Portishead at their most experimental. There is also a starkness throughout the album that draws me back to Lynch’s solo albums Blue Bob and Crazy Clown Time. I also feel this particular track would have fitted nicely on the soundtrack to Lynch’s third series of Twin Peaks. “Too Hard to Die” is an off kilter, glitchy industrial nightmare that leaves the listener feeling drained, while “White Nights” is the sound of some sort of clanking mechanical hell, manifesting as music, with Lizzy’s ethereal vocals rising out of the clanking sounds of heavy machinery. “Shine” is a largely ambient track that allows Lizzy’s voice to take centre stage while strange otherworldly sounds move around it. I really like this track for the way in which it manages to create something that sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to a 1970s Avant Garde science fiction movie. “Famous” starts off with what sounds like corrupted seabird samples before settling into slightly off kilter ethereal pop territory. The lyrics are written from the perspective of a man who stalked Lizzy during her time in Copenhagen, but it’s got a much deeper meaning about toxic masculinity and why women continue to fall for bad men. “Rocketman” is a collision of metallic sounds, screeching metal guitar punctuates ambient industrial drones amid the roar of mighty engines. This is a throbbing and pulsing masterpiece of wyrd electronica. The album closes with the incredibly sad, “Song for Kim Wall” a short, melancholy tour de force that reminds you of the horrific events surrounding her disappearance and subsequent discovery before coming to what feels like quite an abrupt end.
Overall, I found Rocketman to be a masterpiece of dark industrial electronica that sounds like nothing else out there. There are hints of other things from time to time, David Lynch’s albums really come to mind at certain points, but it retains a special quality all of its own. Lizzy’s ethereal vocals are somewhat reminiscent of the sadly missed Julee Cruise, but that may be a lazy observation on my part.
The latest commission in Opera North’s FILMusic series is Erland Cooper’s new live score for the classic 1928 silent film The Wind. Cooper has composed his predominantly vocal score for the women of the Chorus of Opera North. Folk Horror Revival were lucky enough to catch up with Erland just a few weeks before the tour kicked off in Gateshead to learn a little bit more about the project.
FHR: First off, thanks for agreeing to the interview. I suppose the first thing I really want to ask you is a bit about yourself and your musical history? Your bio states that you’ve worked in a variety of different fields of music, so if you could tell us a bit about that?
EC: Yes, it’s quite a diverse background probably, but I suppose on reflection… joining the dots back it all makes perfect sense. I grew up in the North of Scotland and folk music was quite accessible. That’s pretty much the mainstay of an island, passing troubadours would come in and out, great fiddle players, Aly Bain, accordionists…you know, all sorts of brilliant finger pickers and things like that. I kind of had this guilty pleasure of enjoying that while my mates were playing football. I was sneaking in to the town hall to listen to Phil Cunningham and Ali Bain.
So, when I got to London, I still had a real kind of interest in two things – one, recording studios, how I’d read about residential studios, and I just turned up and found one and knocked on the door. It was Ridge Farm studio, they recorded everything from Queen to…you know, Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded there. Big, big records, big, big songs, and I thought I want to see one of these residential studios. I knocked on the door and it creaked open like in a vampire film and this guy came out with jet black hair and a white strip across his fringe and I said Oh hello my name is Erland, I’m from Orkney, would it be possible to see the studio? He swore and said “fucking hell, you’re from Orkney, you better come in”. I think he thought I’d travelled that day from Orkney. This guy introduces me to the producer Youth, who’s starting a folk label, Youth’s a big producer who’s produced loads of hits. Anyway, Youth introduces me to Simon Tong, Simon was the guitarist in a band called The Verve, and then Simon and I started writing together, we both had a love for psychedelic folk, acid folk, traditional folk. Not just someone with an acoustic guitar that they call folk music, we’re talking Bert Jansch all the way through to obviously Sandy Denny, and Jackson C Frank, but even further back Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams collecting these folk songs and transcribing them. So we both had this big love of that, and we just hit it off, Simon and I, and every week I’d go to his house and we’d write songs. To cut a long story short, Youth was doing a folk night and Damon Albarn was there. My first gig in London, my first gig, I get thrust up on stage in some bohemian club in Notting hill completely out of my depth, out of my comfort zone, looking out and seeing some of my idols as a boy. I get up and play these really earnest folk songs and I last… two minutes. It’s a loud din and then silence and they start again.
Anyway, a month later and we’re in Damon’s studio and we’re cutting a debut album, which took folk songs, much like Fairport Convention were doing, and other bands, Pentangle. Just twisting them up and before we knew it, it was out in the world. We did three records with that band. Then I did another project called The Magnetic North, which was really centred on place, Skelmsdale, Orkney, and that had more traditional orchestration.
So, I was starting to get a real interest in classical elements of working within shoegaze and psychedelia. So, if you look at it, over those 10-15 years, kind of psychedelic rock band to slightly more sophisticated indie band, and then because I’m not classically trained, I am constantly learning. I’m up early every day studying myself, but writing, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up, you know. I get to write these 8 or 20 notes and give it to a violinist like Daniel Pioro and he makes them sound incredible, it’s like a joy. I didn’t intend to be a solo artist, that has just happened. And now I’m commissioned to compose music, so that’s what I do. So that’s the thread of where it come from and I suppose it adds a different way of seeing or looking at things, maybe if I had studied classical music I wouldn’t approach it in the same way as slashing its face with a guitar line.
FHR: It’s really wonderful that you’ve come to classical music via an alternative route to most other people.
EC: Yeah, I’m glad you’ve said that… I feel like you can bring in your influences and look at things slightly different. Being Scottish and not having classic training kind of adds a level of being the underdog, which is quite fun.
FHR: But also it means you’re using probably different influences to those who have come from a classical background. You may have classical influences but some of you influences are coming from the psychedelic and acid folk bands you’re listening to.
EC: I think the one common thread with all of these projects is storytelling. The ability to tell a story in different form. I’m actually inspired more by what I call real artists, painters, architects, film directors and producers and art curated shows. I’m more inspired by that than musicians generally. Although I am inspired by classical musicians, when I see someone walk in with a cello, I get really excited, the same kind of excitement I used to get when I was learning how to record on a Tascam tape machine, kind of, what can I do here?
FHR: I wanted to ask a question in relation to Opera North and particularly the film music project. I was really interested to see you’re following in the footsteps of some pretty amazing artists; Matthew Bourne, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hildur Gudnadottir to mention but a few. How does it feel to be in such company?
EC: I love all their work. I mean, Johann’s work, which was vastly collaborative with Hildur, particularly over the five years prior to his death is an absolute constant. Johann would be a great collaborator, that’s what I take from his work. This idea that collaboration is being in the room constantly, that’s what it was in bands, jamming. For me, it’s different in this world and I enjoy it much more. You’re working on something on your own for ages and you get it to 80%, somewhere that’s really close, and it’s that last 20%, you just don’t know, you’re bringing in someone, Johann would work with Hildur and then that piece would just transform into something else. Was it Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe? He’d worked with this incredible vocalist on the Arrival soundtrack and that soundtrack is, I think the best soundtrack of the last decade. I don’t know if you know the film or if you know the soundtrack, just listen to the soundtrack alone, it’s brilliant.
FHR: I think it’s the same with all of his soundtracks, I regularly just stick one on while I am working or something…actually it’s often distracting, and I end up listening to the music and not doing any work.
EC: We’re going to be quite geeky now, have you watched his First and Last Men? Watch it, and listen to the soundtrack, it’s fantastic. Hildur’s on there and Robert and another Icelandic bass player. I think you’ll really enjoy that, but anyway…
FHR: Now we’ve got a basic idea about you and your work, how did this project come about?
EC: They commissioned me to help tell this story. It was one of the last silent films, as you know, but it came at a time where it fell between the cracks, because the talkies were coming and people felt it was old hat, but now on reflection its beautifully put together. The artistry was quite cutting edge, so I see it as a kind of requiem for a dying art form. Off it goes and another art form replaces it. So, I kind of wanted to touch on that as this sub narrative of what is going on, as well as this sense of the fear of the other, for them it’s the wind, but I think it’s deeper than that, I think it’s fear of native Americans, Indians… and fear of isolation, loneliness, fear of mental and physical abuse. It touches on some very insular and dark themes, and the Mojave Desert wind is this prominent fighting force. Growing up on an island, just to answer your question, surrounded by wind, I felt some kind of connection. In the winter months from the end of September through to Feb it’s isolating and the weather dictates the terms of what happens that day.
So, they came to me, and I watched it…I muted the sound, because several people have done stuff, and I just muted the sound on YouTube and watched it and thought OK yeah, I’d be honoured to do it, but I’d like to set an ambitious manifesto. To just make the whole score out of the human voice, predominantly. So, all the electronic elements you hear, this kind of sound design, this distortion, these sub layers are actually made out of the… I think it was 12 singers voices. I did a pre-recording with them, it’s going to be 18 when we work on stage live but I’ve also got some recordings already and I manipulated them and I put them through a tape and I processed them in an interesting way and also my own voice. To my left here I have tape machines and microphones and so all these layers come out of the human, and everyone is so harmonically rich and different. I just thought that would be interesting, I’ve since added a few subtle additional layers, there’s a bit of woodwind, but for them most just the voice, but they don’t sing all the way through. This is what I noticed, other people who have approached the score, it was just kind of wall-to-wall music. Just back-to-back, what makes modern scores quite interesting, Johann in particular whilst we’re on the subject, is the use of silence and space, but in a silent film that’s harder to utilize because you’ve got no sound design, you’ve got no foley, you’ve got no sound effects. So, when you’re silent, you’re just silent again so I think people have just filled it with music, and so I’ve tried to turn that on its head…and go. There are three or four themes that happen throughout, and the rest is my own made sound design and using the wind of the Mojave Desert, processing it in a particular way and combining it with the women of the Opera North, of the chorus and doing some things that make it sound interesting to my ear. I’ve gone slightly mad.
I had these large fans and I put a valve on them so I could control the speed and I was blasting them at the piano with a speaker and I created a wind tunnel in the studio, and all of a sudden I started to distort it and I thought, interesting, now it sounds like the wind, now it sounds like the other, now it sounds really scary, now there’s something I can’t control. And the reason I got it, I was reading that when they did the film, they got loads of huge aeronautic propellers that would whip up this storm and I thought that must have been terrifyingly loud, that must have been full on. So that’s what I’ve done in the studio, made a wind tunnel. I’ve tried to imbue that into the score. So, actually thinking about it, talking to you about it for the first time, it might be closer to how it felt making the film. We’ll never know, but that’s how it feels. I can imagine that noise, the fake wind, because wind doesn’t have a sound, wind only makes noise when it rubs up against an object. So, that’s when I was looking at the science and that’s how I’ve approached it. So, what I mean by all this rambling is that I’ve tried to make sound design. Not foley, but sound design, so it’s got something so then I can cut it and have silence that feels like…ah I can have a break. So, it’s not just wall to wall music and the Opera North aren’t just singing from start to end because that would be too much, I think.
FHR: The decision to use the female voices in place of music, where did that idea come from?
EC: I just think the human voice is so harmonically rich, as I touched on, also the kind of Theatre of Voice as, what’s his name the composer, I forget his name. I started at 4 this morning on five different things.
[He is referring to Paul Hillier, the English composer, conductor and baritone who worked with Jóhan Jóhannsson on several of his later works.]
In fact, that heavily inspired the Arrival score, and I thought it would be interesting to not use a string quartet, to not use a big timpani drum, like everybody would. I thought I’m going to strip all of that out and just use the voice, and I guess it will either work or it won’t, but I guess the idea is just, it feels like it humanizes it a bit more to me. It kind of makes it feel more experimental as well and it makes it more challenging. I like to set parameters, or barriers, they’re not set in stone. I made them I can break them, it’s nice to do that. You know when you’re faced with a blank canvas, it’s no wonder people have writers block when they have every digital instrument on the planet at their disposal. I just use one synth, I love really learning one instrument, it’s a joy for me and using it in a way that maybe it shouldn’t be used or hasn’t been used or isn’t how it’s supposed to be used, then you get something interesting. And so, I knew I could take the voice and put it through other things, other processing. So, putting the voice through the filter of a synthesizer, suddenly sounds like a synthesizer but it’s not it’s still the voice. The sound source is organic, and I think that comes from me using predominantly, or I have used in my solo work a lot of field recordings, a lot of found sound and using found sound in a way that sounds familiar, but also kind of interesting and different. I guess that’s why, it probably came from there.
FHR: It says in your profile that you have an interest in the relationship between landscape and psychology. I guess we can say these things are intrinsically linked in this film and it’s pretty powerful stuff. Looking back and thinking this was made in 1928 and the themes and ideas are quite powerful and strong?
EC: I think the ending was changed, what actually happens in the end was supposed to be that she walks off into the wind, never to be seen again. Instead, she falls in love, and it’s like you’ll do let’s run off together. So American, so kind of… we can’t leave them with an unknown. To a modern audience now, we’d expect that question mark of this powerful woman…she leaves all the men in her life behind her and goes, I don’t need that, but they read it as she walks off and ultimately passes. All because she couldn’t deal with it. So, they said no because she was a producer, remind me her name…
FHR: Oh it’s Lillian Gish.
EC: She worked really hard to produce, put it together, fight to get the finance, to then have it pushed back at the end. The ending isn’t Hollywood enough. For then, the film to really not make a splash as it should have done. I think one review had said this film is ridiculous, the hats would have blown off their heads. They just wanted to hear talking and were fed up of that medium. Actually, we look at it now and think wow! With what they had at the time in 1929 or 1928…brilliant.
FHR: Yeah, it looks astonishing when you consider the year it was made. If you look at the silent films of that era and consider they didn’t have the budgets they have today. We can marvel at the creativity of the set designers and film makers responsible for the likes of Metropolis or Haxan and ask ourselves how they did it.
EC: Maybe, that’s another reason. They were limited in their technical ability and resources. I wanted to kind of do the same and kind of like limit, not just shove an orchestra on let’s not do a Zimmer-esque score, let’s think about it more. That would be more pleasing on the ear I think, I think an audience would probably have liked, and may have expected me to do a string quartet piece with piano and voice. When they asked me I just kind of said I will do it, but not in the way you probably think I’m going to do it. They were really open to just “you do whatever you want” but maybe as a tip of the hat to the limiting of resources, I’ve tried to limit my set of screwdrivers and tools.
Thanks very much to Erland Cooper for his time and for chatting to us. Just to round things up, the performance is going on a mini tour starting at the Sage, Gateshead on February 24th, RNCM Manchester on 25th February and closes at the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds on 26 February.
You can check out the trailer for The Wind on YouTube from the link below.
Tickets for the Manchester show are available here:
Tickets for the final performance in Leeds are available from:
Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs,An' Aa'll tell ye 'boot the wyrms ...
On the weekend of 27th & 28th November 2021 Folk Horror Revival are proud to present Winter Ghosts 2021 ~ a veritable feast of Cryptid inspired wonders at Whitby North Yorkshire. On Saturday 27th 2021 the Metropolitan Ballroom (The Met) will present a fantastic mixture of Talks and Live Music. Whilst on Sunday 28th 2021, there will be session of story-telling in the Flowergate Hall which will also be hosting a phenomenal Folk Horror Revival otherworldly cryptid Art Exhibition at the time …
In the first of several posts let us introduce you to the wealth of talent that will delight your senses …
A T T R I T I O N
“Inside a cage of sound, Cold waves of electronics are juxtaposed against voices that seep through cracks in the walls of machinery and wires. Lyrics dart out in bullets from soundscapes peppered in sharp vocals and sound bites. A viola plays in the distance, giving life to this inorganic mass… Such is the imagery that spawns Attrition, who, with its marriage of the classic and modern, has brought to music the equivalent of a surrealist painting. From its earlier sparse and stark soundscapes, to a more expansive palette of orchestral work, Attrition has successfully melded several genres into one. The music flows – from gothic to industrial to experimental to classical – so smoothly, they might as well be making their own category. With more than twenty albums of constant variety, and an ever-expanding sound, they remain one of music’s darker and fascinating lights.” Akane
ATTRITION are pioneers in a darker electronica. Formed in 1980 in Coventry, England, influenced by a mix of punk ideology and experimental art aesthetics, they emerged as part of the early ’80’s UK Industrial scene alongside contemporaries Coil, Test Department, Legendary Pink Dots, In The Nursery, Portion Control et al. Founder Martin Bowes has steered the band through a 40 year career, fuelled by a succession of critically acclaimed albums…
The band has regularly toured Europe, North America and South America, Russia and Asia, appeared at major festivals and had their music included on a number of TV and film soundtracks….
Through their career Attrition have worked with musicians as diverse as Wolfgang Flur, psychedelic veterans The Legendary Pink Dot’s , punk legend TV Smith to Franck Dematteis of the Paris Opera.
Attrition’s music has featured on countless releases – from 1984’s “Bullshit detector 3” on Crass records to the hugely successful “Animal liberation” album alongside Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Smiths, Nina Hagen & Lene Lovich etc…
Their song “Acid Tongue” featured on KTEL’s Industrial story CD – a who’s who of industrial music with Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, Neubauten et al…
In Germany Orkus magazine’s Best of the 90’s collection featured their darkwave classic “A girl called harmony”… Martin’s increasing studio production work at his studio, The Cage, has included mixes for The Damage Manual (Martin Atkins, Jah Wobble, Geordie Walker, Chris Connelly et al…), Die Form, In the Nursery, Black tape for a Blue girl, Mona Mur/En Esch and mastering for countless bands and labels… He contributes synths and vocals on a song on the last Pigface album, is the narrators voice on US horror series, “C for Chaos”, has written the score to US horror film G.H.O.S.T from Mutantville productions … Their most recent album, Millions of the Mouthless Dead (inspired by Martin’s grandfathers experiences on the Western Front in 1917) includes collaborations with Anni Hogan (known for her work with Marc Almond through the 80’s) and the legendary Wolfgang Flur (ex-Kraftwerk)…
ATTRITION toured in the UK, Italy, New Zealand, Transylvania, Canada and Japan in 2018/19, and are currently working on an all new album for release later in 2021: The Black Maria. Meanwhile setting up shows around the world in support of it…
“Attrition have always been a nexus of industrial fury, gothic drama, ambient structural finesse and classical chamber orchestrations. Stunning in scope, character and intellect, Martin Bowes has been a paragon of true creative prowess, holding in two hands the past and future of music, and smashing them together with a calculated and charismatic menace. Bowes builds his dark industrial music with all the compassion and attention to detail of a classical musician…”
Dr ‘Doc’ Rowe has been documenting British Cultural tradition for nearly sixty years using video, film and photography as well as audio. His unique collection of contemporary and historical material on the traditional culture of the British Isles and Ireland is now housed in Whitby. The strength of the collection lies in its ongoing ‘serial’ fieldwork and regular contact with communities where individual events flourish – hence the material is at once wide-ranging, first hand and constantly updated. A long-term council member of the Folklore Society and Oral History Society, he regularly broadcasts on aspects of folklore and tradition he has also written a number of books and his photographs are regularly published. A teacher, photographer, broadcaster and performer, one major inspiration stems from working with Charles Parker in Radio documentary from the early sixties and in later theatre productions. . As well as a number of one-man exhibitions, he joined artists Alan Kane and Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller in a British Council travelling exhibition ‘Folk Archive: Contemporary Popular Art from the UK’ [2005 and still touring internationally]; he contributed to ‘British Folk Art’ [Tate Britain, 2014] and, more recently, ‘Lore – the Living Archive’ is an Arts Council funded travelling exhibition that curated material from the archive alongside contemporary artists who drew creative inspiration from the archive itself. www.docrowe.org.uk
‘Wyrms and Dragons of the Northlands’
By Andy Bates and Linda Richardson of Hazelsong Theatre
Tales of wyrms and dragons have woven their through the folklore of the North of England and of the Borders for generations. Drawing upon a multitude of sources, Andy Bates and Linda Richardson will explore these stories and their origins and will track them to their roots in Norse, Anglo Saxon and Celtic literature and iconography.
Andy and Linda will be accompanied in their presentation by an imposing and unpredictable wyrm of significant sinuousness.
Andy Bates is an archaeologist, a craftsman, a puppet maker and a performer. Linda Richardson is an artist, a costume maker, a performer and a writer. Together they are half of Hazelsong Theatre, whose work is rooted in the songs, stories, myth and folklore of the North and the Borderlands. The troupe creates performances which bring together storytelling, music, puppetry, theatre and ritual and all borne of the knowledge that these stories and songs are vital and very much alive. Hazelsong is working at the edge of the village, where the human world meets the wild and the imaginal, and where there is so much at stake.
Chris Lambert of The Soulless Party presents:
March of the Meadow Hags
“I bit into a pear once and tasted nothing but blood and gristle.” (from a conversation with an old man by Stanley Coulton.)
An audio visual and musical experience in which one of the strangest and darkest chapters in the history of the Black Meadow is explored.
Stay out of the mist…
Chris Lambert has been writing since 1991, creating plays for Tilt, Voice, Workswell Productions and his own company Exiled Theatre. He won the 2012 Reading playwright competition, Off the Block. Since then he has turned his hand to short stories and is completely stuck on his novel. Chris is part of The Soulless Party and has been working with Yorkshire musician Kev Oyston on the Black Meadow project inspired by the strange folk tales surrounding the North York Moors. He is founder member of experimental Mummer troupe The Mummers and the Pappers who have made appearances at two Delaware Road festivals. He has curated two albums “Songs from the Black Meadow” and “Wyrd Kalendar” for Mega Dodo that include tracks by The Hare and the Moon, Tir Na Nog, The Rowan Amber Mill, Alison O’Donnell, Concretism and Keith Seatman. He has had the pleasure of being Master of Ceremonies for Folk Horror Revival at the British Museum, Edinburgh and Whitby Winter Ghosts and for Mega Dodo and Fruits de La Mer at Séance at Syds. Chris is also a secondary school Drama and Film Teacher and occasionally dabbles in sound art.
Published works by Chris Lambert include: “Tales from the Black Meadow”, “The Black Meadow Archive – Volume 1”, “Christmas on the Black Meadow”, Songs from the Black Meadow” and “The Comic Mystery Plays” published by Exiled. His selection of short stories “Wyrd Kalendar” (illustrated by Andy Paciorek) is published by Wyrd Harvest Press. The plays “Ship of Fools”, “The Simple Process of Alchemy”, “Ugga (A play about a boy with a paper bag on his head)” and “Loving Chopin” are all published by Stagescripts. His short stories “First Step” and “Treehouse” have been published in “The Dead Files” anthologies volumes IV and V; “The Catalogue” and “Pilot” in “Tales of the Damned”; “The Eight Words” in “Dark Spirits”; “The Patient” and “The Most Precious Possession” in The Ghastling.
After having to cancel last year’s Winter Ghosts due to our old friend Covid-19 we are pulling out all the stops to ensure this year’s event is a sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears. This year’s event features the usual selection of talks and music as well as some pretty exciting performances, that we’re keeping a little bit under wraps for the time being, as well as a classic film that we will be unveiling in the very near future.
As many of us are based in wyrm country, up in the North East we have chosen a cryptid theme to this year’s event. So, expect to be regaled with tales of dragons, serpents and sea monsters.
Anyway, without further ado, here is our first lineup announcement. We are keeping all the juicy details close to our chests for now, but we wanted to share with you the supremely talented individuals who will be set to entertain you across the weekend of November 27th and 28th.
First up on the speaker list is an old friend of Folk Horror Revival, Dr Sarah Caldwell Steele – proprietor of The Ebor Jetworks, Gemologist, jewellery designer and expert in all things Jet. Sarah will be presenting a fascinating new talk for us.
The Shrouded Republic is a performance piece inspired by Rev. Robert Kirk of Aberfoyle author of “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies: A Study in Folklore and Psychical Research” and brings together once again the team that were responsible for the rather wonderful Leasungspell. Led by poet and author Bob Beagrie this promises to be a fascinating piece that needs to be seen.
Up next is Dr David. R Rowe or “Doc” for short. Doc Rowe is an archivist and collector, who has been recording and filming cultural tradition and vernacular arts, folklore, song and dance of Britain and Ireland since the 1960s. His collection currently represents the most extensive collection of audio and video material to celebrate the variety and richness of traditional folk culture of these islands. We look forward to revealing more details about his talk.
We are also incredibly proud to announce that Richard Freeman – Cryptozoologist, writer of both fiction and non-fiction and one of the world’s leading experts on all things Dragon will be joining us to present a talk on what lies behind the dragon legends and is there a possibility that these were more than just folklore?
We are also joined by The Hazelsong Theatre, whose work is rooted in the songs, stories, myth and folklore of the North and the Borderlands and the many cultures that have made the North their home. Hazelsong creates performances which bring together music, storytelling, puppetry and theatre borne of the knowledge that these stories and songs are very much alive. For us they will be presenting a talk on John McKinnell with a vaguely tame wyrm or two in attendance.
Evening Music Lineup
Our evening musical lineup is also very strong and features some of the most interesting performers working within the field today.
Folk Horror Revival are really pleased to be working with one of the brightest new lights in electronic music, Everyday Dust. Everyday Dust is a producer based in Scotland, who uses analogue synthesizers, effects and tape machines to create his own unique narrative-driven music. His most recent album for Castles in Space records, Black Water is a deeply immersive electronic album of sonar explorations which celebrate the ongoing search for the creature at large in Loch Ness. We think you’ll love what could well turn out to be his debut live performance.
Nathalie Stern and the Noizechoir are local legends in the Newcastle music scene, mixing drones and lush harmonised vocals Nathalie and the choir perform music to invoke elder gods to. Why not have a listen to last year’s Nerves and Skin album by Nathalie, that should give you an idea of what to expect from what is a hotly anticipated set.
Our final musical act are darkwave and industrial legends Attrition, after more than 40 years of producing interesting dark electronic music they remain as strong as ever, continually adapting and honing their sound, the group led by Martin Bowes remain at the cutting edge of modern day electronica and remain as influential on today’s artists as they ever have. We are very excited to see what they have in store for us at Winter Ghosts.
Ok that’s almost it, apart from one more artist, a super-secret film screening that we will be announcing in the not-too-distant future, and the relaxed Sunday lineup that is also coming soon. I hope that has whetted your appetite for this year’s Winter Ghosts. Tickets are available now from our Eventbrite page below priced at a modest £13 for the whole weekend. We hope to see many of you there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ~
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.
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 🌞👍 …
Duo Joanne and Andrew Walker have been busy over the last twelve months with three separate releases to tempt Revivalists.
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:
Stephen Prince and his project A Year In The Country are best known for their derives through the haunted areas of unusual folk music and folklore, occult British culture, pagan children’s TV shows of the 70s and 80s and the electronica of these isles such as Delia Derbyshire and Ghost Box Records. Their website charts a course through the shadows of modern culture of TV, literature, music and film, finding that which provides a more spectral, hauntological narrative of the last 50 years. Similarly, their music imprint has spawned several high quality compilations featuring artists such as The Heartwood Institute, The Rowan Amber Mill and Grey Frequency, as well as albums by Prince himself under the moniker A Year in the Country.
‘The Corn Mother’ first (re)emerged in 2018, as the A Year in the Country music label issued a soundtrack inspired by the notorious, possibly imaginary and subsequently unreleased film of the same name. Renowned for its tortured production history and its fabled lost screenplay, the movie itself had become something apocryphal and of legend, rarely seen but oft mentioned. Described as a ‘folkloric fever dream’, how this piece of cinematic conjecture fitted within and contributed to the current folk horror trend or to aspects of psychotronic cinema has been left as, essentially, a question mark. Indeed, there has been much musing but little else solid or informative regarding ‘The Corn Mother’ to base any consideration of its urban myth upon, until now.
In its ongoing pursuit of exploring the more haunted and liminal aspects of this island’s culture, A Year in the Country has produced ‘The Corn Mother’ novella, furthering the themes and characters of this spectral and hidden world, as well as an accompanying soundtrack, entitled ‘Night Wraiths’. Both are described as being ‘explorations and reflections of the whispers that tumble forth from the corn mother’s kingdom. A place and story where fact, fiction, reality and dreams blur into one’. The novella itself is sequenced according to the cycles of the year, into four sections or seasons and 52 chapters of no more than 365 words each. This nod to nature throughout the structure of the story alludes to the rural and harvest horror that spawned the original tale of ‘The Corn Mother’. Beginning in the year 1877 in a tiny, rustic English village, we first encounter the innocent Mrs Jessop who is unfairly accused of poisoning and spoiling the crops by employing witchcraft. This initial section details the growing hysteria that descends upon the small, insular village, already unsettled by the encroaching industrial revolution and consequent unwanted changes in country life that technological progress is bringing to them. The persecution of Mrs Jessop and her subsequent revenge as ‘the corn mother’ proves both disquieting and compulsive reading.
Time then shifts rapidly on and we find ourselves in the 1970s, as scriptwriter Peter is working on a story concerning a wronged villager who causes a village to splinter, fight, go mad with guilt and eventually up and leave. Sound familiar? Arthouse director Alain, whose films sound like they inhabit a genre somewhere between the Czech New Wave and Blood on Satan’s Claw, picks up on this script, which has been named ‘The Corn Mother’, and it goes into production. Things seem to be progressing well with the movie; the character of Ellen is introduced, who is producing the movie’s soundtrack, as well as Sarah, who is to play Mrs Jessop (this asks an eerie unanswered question; how does Peter know of her, know of her name?). Each chapter is written in the first person, giving a varied perspective and a personal take on the unfolding mystery that reveals both motives and intrigue. We also hear from crooked film funder Hines, whose corrupt financial dealings result in the whole production being cancelled and all cinematic reels and work completed on the movie disappearing. All, except for those which are taken and stowed away by a certain crew member, kept safe and hidden in a basement until they eventually emerge more than twenty years later. Meanwhile, the decades roll on and the rumours circulate. There is talk of ‘The Corn Mother’ being available as a bootleg VHS. A collection of videotapes that may have an edit of the film appear and then just as quickly are gone, as if they never existed, almost as if someone or something is eliminating all trace of the film’s existence. We are introduced to Alan, a film obsessive, who spends a significant part of his life trying to track down proof of ‘The Corn Mother’s existence, attending comic cons and searching internet databases, in particular the websites dedicated to the burgeoning folk horror movement. However, as reference to the film builds, it just as quickly vanishes, deleted. The evidence that ‘The Corn Mother’ existed, is being removed, but by whom or what?
A fascinating and truly inventive novella, ‘The Corn Mother’ touches upon those familiar pillars that A Year In The Country have become known for, the hauntological (and the imagined film in this tale really is a ‘past that is haunting the present’), as well as recognisable folk horror lodestones such as The Wicker Man. The story even cleverly builds in, during a ‘meta’ moment, the existence of 2018’s ‘The Corn Mother’ compilation that was actually released by the A Year in the Country label. Additionally, the text serves as a cultural and social reference point; throughout the passing of the decades; mention is made to the three-day week and power cuts of the 70s, to the Blockbuster video chains of the 90s and the subsequent rise of the internet. Nevertheless, much is also pleasingly unexplained. Prince is in no rush or pressure to reveal or join the dots, he trusts the readers to do this themselves, to surmise or imagine what machinations are at work.
The novella comes accompanied by ‘The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths’, a soundtrack for the stories as well as a standalone piece of work. The album itself is split in a similar fashion to the novella; inspired by the cycle of the year it is sequenced into seven tracks – as in seven days of the week. Spectral, swooping electronics and ominous analogue washes create a barren, shadowed landscape to illustrate ‘The Infernal Engines’, Mrs Jessop’s walks amongst the fields and the suspicion of ever nearing industry and mechanization. ‘Night Wraiths’ stays within this era, documenting the coming of the corn mother and her lysergic revenge upon the mob hysteria of the village. Chillingly effective and genuinely unsettling, the synth pulses and growls are an adept soundtrack to the terrors in the book itself and work in a similar manner; subtle, pervasive and with a creeping sense of unease. ‘I Have Brought a Myriad Fractures and Found Some Form of Peace’ is a ghost story of a track, decaying and ebbing as much as the village and the inhabitant’s psyches were cracking and breaking under the weight of their madness and guilt. ‘Ellen’s Theme’ then takes us into the 1980s and the synth soundtrack to the long lost film, the music inspired by such compositions as featured in that period’s horror cinema such as that of ‘Halloween 3: Season of the Witch’, electronic strings hinting at the darkness behind the reoccurring melody, a pulsing and layering paranoia. Hints of Coil, John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream float on a doomed, resonating motif that circles and breathes, growing in intensity. ‘Dreams of a Third Generation Grail’ references Andy’s search for ‘The Corn Mother’ film, a spooked sense of yearning and obsession played out in the ghost-strewn harmonies. ‘They Are All Here’ charts the disappearance of any record of the film ever existing, a lonely electronic arctic wind that is framed by solitary notes and unearthly bleeps. Finally, ‘An Unending Quest’ completes the album, hinting at the cyclical and repeating nature of ‘The Corn Mother’ saga itself.
This is an original and significant piece of work, not only in its novel, singular and successful approach to folk horror and ‘imaginary’ films (tropes which, as hinted at within the book, have perhaps reached saturation point in lesser hands), but in the creation of its own self referencing folklore. This may not be the last we have heard of ‘The Corn Mother’, her myth has been sown and will undoubtedly spring forth anew once again. Both an excellent tale of the supernatural and an effective slice of spooked electronica, ‘The Corn Mother’ is waiting in the fields for those who watch and listen. Time to gather the crops.
Arriving through the dark and sodden mists and across the bare, barren fields comes ‘The Black Meadow Archive Volume 1’, a follow up of sorts to the compelling and essential ‘Tales of the Black Meadow’, which charted the mysterious happenings and events in the Black Meadow area of the North Yorkshire moors via the work of the missing Professor R Mullins. Mullins’ papers, found after he had disappeared without trace, were the basis for the wyrd and eerie snapshots of such Black Meadow based entities as ‘The Rag And Bone Man’ and ‘The Meadow Hag’, truly chilling and disquieting reportages from what appeared to be a Tarkovsky styled ‘Stalker’ type tear or rend in the area’s dimensional fabric. Both’ Tales of…’ and its bewitching accompanying soundtrack by The Soulless Party are crucial reading and listening for those with an interest in both the folk horror or hauntological domains and are best enjoyed and experienced together. Now author Chris Lambert, also known for the follow up ‘Christmas on the Black Meadow’ as well as the excellent ‘Wyrd Kalendar’ book and accompanying album, has sired this new archive, replete with evocative illustrations by Nigel Wilson, John Chadwick and Folk Horror Revival’s Andy Paciorek. So, come, let us traverse this new mapping of the meadow for just a short while. But do stay on the paths…
This new publication draws from the government’s Brightwater Archives; reports, interviews, legends and hearsay from this spooked countryside collude to build a picture of a place that has long been a site of occult and deeply strange occurrences. The missing in action Mullins features, as do tales of unnatural creatures and incidences that stretch back from medieval times (‘Lair of the Coyle’) to the modern day, including an explanatory and insightful chapter that features none other than Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and his singular visit to the meadow. Elsewhere, and across the ages, we are introduced to shape shifting horse people (‘Legend of the White Horse’) in a beautiful fairy tale-esque sequence, the vengeance of a giant, brutal supernatural entity that seeks retribution for his stolen farm produce (‘The Ploughman’s Wrath’) and an emotive and touching story of grief and loss in ‘The Maiden of the Mist’. Indeed, one of Lambert’s strengths is his ability to move from the terrifying and grim to the darkly comic, as well as the heartfelt and appropriately sentimental, with apparent ease and certain skill.
The stories themselves are sequenced into relevant sections pertaining to groups of myths or site specific events; we have the ‘Heather and Bramble’ compilation, which includes a number of blood filled folktales such as ‘The Blackberry Ghost (whereupon a bullying older child receives a gruesome comeuppance from the land itself) and ‘The Heart of Blackberry Field’ (a recount of a sacrificial feeding of the local harvest with a truly disturbing twist). There follows a ‘The Mysteries of Flyingdales House’ compendium which recounts such happenings as ‘Dead Man on the Moor’, a chilling account of occult protection and the acute danger that the meadow’s mist holds, as well as the extended poem ‘He Took Her Hand’, which ends with the hanging of an innocent man and a lover’s final disappearance into the black meadow itself. The sub-section on ‘Creatures from the Meadow’ is particularly haunting and effective, introducing murderous meadow hags, witches and spectral supernatural entities; we also find such preternatural beings amongst ’20th century Encounters’ – the story of the grotesque ‘Ticking Policeman’ is one that will linger with the reader long after putting the book down.
‘The Black Meadow Archive Volume 1’ then is a necessary addition to any bookshelf that holds other Black Meadow publications, or to those who have an interest in the worlds of Hookland, Scarfolk or A Year In the Country, who enjoys the wyrd fiction of Robert Aickman or the work of Nigel Kneale, or that has a predilection towards the paranormal and the disturbing. Special mention must go the beautiful illustrations which compliment the tales and add a striking visual dimension to these horrors, this reader is reminded of the ghost story books of his youth where the artwork was equally as memorable and disturbing as the text itself. And, as with the previous collection in this series, there is an accompanying album by The Soulless party that marries gorgeous electronics with several of the tales from the book; experience them together for a truly immersive journey. Spend some time exploring the Black Meadow then, but do stay clear of the mist…
Never judge a book by its cover or so ‘they’ say … whomever ‘they’ are, ‘they’ don’t always get it right. The cover artwork of Benjamin Myer’s 2017 novel ‘The Gallows Pole’ designed by Delaney Williams captivated me at first sight. Instant reaction was that this wasn’t a new book but was one of Penguin books vintage green mystery and crime series and indeed though differing in time setting from the 20th Century noir of the majority of the Penguin books, ‘The Gallows Pole’ would be a more than worthy addition to the series. There is a ‘folk horror’ sensibility also to the artwork and within the novel itself there is an element of this sub-genre. Telling the tale of ‘King’ David Hartley, leader of the Cragg Vale Coiners, a troop of currency forgers living and working on the West Yorkshire Moors in the 18th Century, the sense of place and landscape is integral to the tale and this would in itself lend itself well to the folk horror reader but the visions of David Hartley and his reverence to a stag entity tie a tighter knot – as does the unfolding brutality as an outside agency heads north to the barren heaths to investigate the crimes against the crown. Myer’s writing itself is visionary and atmospheric, transporting the reader to the time and place of the harsh drama, which itself is inspired by true events. The dark mystique of the cover indeed is highly evocative of the tale that Myers spins with great craft and gravity.
Benjamin Myers’ roots lie in the soil of County Durham, as does those of Folk Horror Revival and also of The Shining Levels, a band that inspired by Myer’s novel have created a beautiful album of music and lyrics also entitled The Gallows pole.
Having had the good fortune to see The Shining Levels perform live at The Old Cinema Launderette in Durham and at the lovely Victorian library in Darlington as part of the Hark music and literature event, I urge anyone who gets chance to see The Shining Levels in concert to do so as their live performance brings a further element of beauty and depth to the stunning creation that is The Gallows Pole.
Folk Horror Revival were honoured to have The Shining Levels answer a few of our queries …
Folk Horror Revival: How did the collaboration with Ben Myers to produce a concept album inspired by his book The Gallows Pole come about?
The Shining Levels: The idea was first mentioned by Dan as a solution to me (Davey) whining about going through a creative void. It was a real light-bulb moment and the obvious thing was to create the album together which is exactly what we did once we had Ben’s permission and blessing to do so. He’d actually forgotten all about it and was genuinely shocked when I said it was nearly finished and could I get him to do a short piece of spoken word on it. Thankfully he really liked what we’d done and was happy to be associated with it. He was also very flattered that his book had inspired others to create their own work. Then we were then lucky enough to be taken on by our fantastic label Outre who did a great job of releasing a beautiful vinyl for us.
FHR: What is it about The Gallows Pole novel that you find particularly evocative and inspirational?
TSL: There is so much to delve into, the story of these poor people being able to stick it to a government that doesn’t care for them really resonated with us. There are so many defined characters with their own interesting storylines and there are several themes running through the book that really matter to people, like corruption, solidarity, treachery… I could go on. But when you add the thread of the supernatural, King David’s frightening visions of Stag Men and the alchemy of the coin replication it takes it to another level. And I shouldn’t forget to mention the way Ben writes and describes the landscape, it’s like another character, as a songwriter it’s a gift to turn a landscape into a soundscape.
FHR: Yourselves and Ben Myers hail from Durham (as incidentally do the founders of the Folk Horror Revival project); what is it about the county and / or city that you think inspires art of such a nature?
TSL: As I mentioned landscape is very important and we are lucky to have such beautiful surroundings here. From rich woodland to beautiful moorland and rolling hills, all mixed together. I’m a regular visitor to it all and I think you can feel its history coming up through your feet. Whether that is strolling the riverbanks in the city or moving further to the outskirts and hills, there are ghosts of our past right there. One day we’ll all be ghosts of it too so creating art out of that inspiration is very satisfying.
Not to forget the people, Durham has unique character and references. The city is very small so there are many cross connections and small degrees of separation. It’s a place with a full spectrum of characters to draw inspiration from.
FHR: Does your band name relate to the book ‘The Shining Levels’ by John Wyatt about his transition to rural life in the Lake District, or indeed the name applied to the lakes and tarns of Cumbria? Is this a book of any significance to you or did you come about the band name for a different reason?
TSL: Ben gave me a copy of that book about 20 years ago and I loved it. We’d virtually finished the album before we arrived at our name. We were throwing names back and forth over text and email, between me and Dan and then myself and Ben and that one came up. I believe it was one of Ben’s ideas as I’d asked him for his thoughts and we immediately all agreed on that. The imagery it evokes and the fact it has a literary connection. It sounds bright, hopeful and grand to me. Ben gifted it to me twice.
FHR: You recently performed live at the Hark event at Darlington Library which brought music and literature together as its theme and of course The Gallows Pole revolves around Ben’s novel; Are there any other books that you find of great inspiration or influence? Would you consider doing other albums pertaining to particular books?
TSL: I love the concept of art forms connecting and crossing over. Art inspiring art. I think we’re going to see more cross pollination in the future so it feels natural that we would follow up on the success of The Gallows Pole album with another literary connection which is what we are doing now.
Personally, I buy/receive more books than I have time to read which is ridiculous. I’m a bit of a geek so my go to choice is generally sci – fi/fantasy fiction though I do read other genres and non – fiction too. I think music could be written to any book you like. That’s why we’re careful to use the term ‘Inspired by’ rather than suggest it’s a soundtrack.
FHR: What plans lie ahead for The Shining Levels?
TSL: In 2020 we plan on playing many more live events and will hopefully both finish and release our next album which we’re hard at work with now. Something different but it will still very definitely sound like us.
(A little birdy has chirped that The Shining Levels may be seen and heard at Folk Horror Revival’s Winter Ghosts event in Whitby in November … touchwood … keep watching this space …)