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

WYRD KALENDAR, REVIEW BY JOHN PILGRIM

“Gripping, sometimes terrifying but always surprising: this is the year described in the Wyrd Kalendar. Live it if you dare…” – Sebastian Baczkiewicz, Creator of BBC Radio 4’s “Pilgrim”

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Following the cult success of “Songs from the Black Meadow” in 2016, Chris Lambert is set to bring more delight to all those who enjoy the curious, magical and mythical with the release of the Wyrd Kalendar album which is published by Mega DoDo.

The strange, or more appropriately, wyrd stories of the calendar months which are to be found in the book of the same title provide the starting point for each of the artists on this remarkable release.  A captivatingly diverse musical landscape opens out before us and quickly seduces the listener into an enchanting world of folk, electronica, psychedelia and forgotten horror soundtracks.

The new year is heralded in with Widow’s Weeds (led by Grey Malkin, formerly of The Hare and the Moon) with their occult tinged hymn Song for January. This sets the tone for an unsettling but captivating hour. The imaginative electronica of Keith Seatman leads us on before the talented psych-folk singer Emily Jones brings to life the words of her long dead ancestor in Waiting for Spring. And then, before we know it, Crystal Jacqueline is playing us all for fools as she goes Chasing the Gowk.

A personal favourite of this reviewer is the song for May, as Ghost Box’s Beautify Junkyards provide Portuguese pastoral enchantment in the form of May Day Eve.  Those people who had the good fortune to see Beautify Junkyards on their recent visit to these shores will be happy indeed with this sweet vernal offering.  Soon we feel the warmth of the sun on our backs as Alison O’Donnell of Mellow Candle, Flibbertigibbet, Firefay and United Bible Studies teams up with David Colohan in the wasp celebration of Deadly Nest.

The second half of the year unfolds with Scarfolk collaborator Concretism treating us to the vivid imagery of A Fair by the Sea and Icarus Peel exploring lost love and yearning in the musical lament The Weeping Will Walk.

The mellow mists of Autumn begin to fold around us as folk rock duo Tir na nOg invite us to raise a seasonal glass mbine and then it is the turn of Wyrdstone to immerse us in the haunting harvest celebration of The Field.

The Soulless Party leave their familiar abode of the Black Meadow to take us for a deliciously unsettling Dark November Drive
 The year concludes with the ever delightful Rowan Amber Mill who sing us out with The Witch’s Lament.
 A final gift comes in the form of the album’s closing titular track by the shape-shifting talents of The Mortlake Bookclub.

This album and the accompanying book illustrated by the hugely talented Andy Paciorek are the fruits of rich imaginations at work. You would be foolish indeed to consider going through the year in any other way!

The album is available to buy from January 1st 2019 from Mega Dodo as a CD and as digital download, with all profits being donated to Cancer Research UK. https://megadodo.bandcamp.com/album/wyrd-kalendar

The Wyrd Kalendar book is available from http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek

Mega Dodo Bandcamp

www.wyrdkalendar.blogspot.com

 

 

 

The Devil and the Universe (Live) – The Church of the Goat

The Devil and the Universe – The Church of the Goat

by Jim Peters

(this is an excerpt from an article that will feature in Harvest Hymns (Volume 2: Sweet Fruits)

It began with two cards selected from the 78-piece tarot card-set as utilised by the most famous occultist of the 20th century Aleister Crowley. ”The Devil” and “The Universe” were the cards pulled that would prophesize a name for a musical-magical-transcendental composition and transformation project…..

Ashley Dayour – (instruments and voice), David Pfister – (instruments and field recordings) and Stefan Elsbacher (percussion) set out to create music from magical systems. Their aim was to give up their musical creativity and allow the legitimacy of magic and religious mechanisms form musical rules. The process and its system dictated and created not just phonetic anarchy but also examples of sound perfection.

With this as their mission and the influence of Crowley’s tarot The Devil and the Universe were born. Using their transcendental music design and occult and religious iconography as inspiration they combined and reinterpreted these elements and influences to create a variety of musical offerings from Space Disco, Psychedelic Glam, Synth Pop, new wave and Black Metal. There is one musical style however that is very much The Devil and the Universe’s own and it is one they have christened `Goat-Wave’.

Watching The Devil and the Universe live is when all the various influences come into their own and combine to create a magical experience. I don’t mean that in a Disney way (there are no enchanted castles and princesses here!) but in a truly occult sense of the word.

The scene is set with images and film clips showing various robed figured in goat masks connecting with the landscape – communing and seeming taking inspiration from the sepia tinged rural landscape they roam across.

First to enter the Church of the Goat is Stefan (although you wouldn’t know it was him under his robe and mask) and he immediately starts pounding out a tribal rhythm as if to call the audience together – to get us all breathing, swaying and hearts beating in unison to one hypnotic beat.

Next David – once again fully robed and goated up – joins the swirling mist on stage and seems to merge with the visuals before joining in the rhythmic pulse. By now samples, field recordings and synth swathes envelop the audience entrancing them further as Ashley joins the others completing the Unholy Trinity. All three add to the growing sonic conjuration with the most unlikely of instruments – the wooden football rattle. Building the intensity until every person in the room – themselves included – is well and truly under the spell of The Church of the Goat.

There is no let up. Even when there is a change in pace or style or when new instruments are brought into the mix there is no pause between tracks – no chance to break the spell. The whole experience is built around that tribal primeval rhythm – it hypnotises, seduces, entrances and completely captivates the audience and when all three on stage become robed silhouettes pounding against the backdrop of creeping visuals the effect is magnificent. It is a shared experience – all those called to worship at the Church of the Goat do so as one.

The John Carpenter-esque synths, crunching guitars, perfectly chosen samples and field recordings – plus an array of percussive instruments – all play their part in the sonic alchemy but it is so much more than that. What makes The Devil and the Universe such an unmissable live experience is the sum of many parts – the music, the robes, the masks, the visuals, the lights, the audience and the rhythm….that never ending rhythm….the rhythm of the Universe…and The Devil.

(THE DEVIL & THE UNIVERSE)

When Will The Wolves Howl ?” / ” Kiedy Wilki Zawyja ?” by Mzylkypop

This is an album which throbs, pulsates and yes, howls, with imaginative intensity.

When Will The Wolves Howl? provides the soundtrack of a chilling imagined future. England is surrounded by the Republics of Scotland and Wales. Albion is now ruled by a far right government that has come to power on a manifesto of forced repatriation. There is panic in the streets. Resistance is scattered as bands of immigrants, environmentalists and activists flee to the ‘wild space’ north of the border. Here they bind together as they hide away from the UKops who deploy witch drones to trap, imprison and deport them.

So far, so dystopian. However, while this album undoubtedly warps the dark currents of the present into the future in disturbing ways, this is a recording that delights the listener with the most vibrant musicianship. The soundscape is ever-changing, twisting and turning with dexterity in ways which bewitch and surprise. Analogue instrumentation, mostly drawn from Somerset’s collection of 1960s keyboards, effects and woodwind, is used throughout to provide distinctive and innovative instrumentation.

Three years in the making, When Will the Wolves Howl? is an album fermented to perfection. It is the brainchild of Michael Somerset, formerly of industrial funksters Clock DVA and Was (Not Was). Those Revivalists who were lucky enough to attend the FHR events at the British Museum in 2016 and the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield in 2017, will most likely recall the striking performances delivered by Michael alongside The Consumptives and Mother Crow.

The album brings together a variety of other talented musicians on the Sheffield music scene, including I Monster, Simon Lewinski and several highly skilled drummers and bassists. Of particular note is the singer Sylwia Anna Drwal, whose vocal performance animates the whole recording with flair and sonic seduction. Given the subject of the album it is interesting to note that Sylvia is Polish and one might assume that the band’s name Mzylkypop is also of Eastern European derivation. However, this is not so as it is in fact a word which Somerset made up as a child to describe the ‘mischief maker’ in the Superman of DC Comics whose name was just a bunch of letters and symbols. As the strange uncertainties of 2018 begin to unfold, it is time that we allowed Mr Somerset and his fellow Mzylkypop mischief makers to entertain and protect us.

The howling has begun.

John Pilgrim

Review – The Stone Tapes – Avebury

Was this sent to me in the post or did I discover it in a cavity between the two damp granite walls of a forgotten stately home? Did I, driven by the impulse of a voice within me, frantically tear it from the mud and sod of a field deep in the heart of the West Country? Was I surrounded by ancient stones that seemed to sing out to me when touched or gently caressed? I am uncertain. Is this a genuine recording created using up to date digital technology or are they the sounds captured in the lusum magnetite of the dank walls, playing back when the atmospheric conditions are just right? There is an uncertainty here. This uncertainty is frightening and this fear is rich and sublime.

I listen again to ensure that it is not simply my own imagination or a half forgotten dream, but there it is; the voice in the static, the seemingly innocuous information about Avebury, the snatches of phone conversation with one voice strangely distorted. Is it deliberate? I don’t know. But I am unsettled, I am frightened and this fear is alive and immediate. But I welcome this and I stroll towards it all, arms wide.

In West Kennet the ritual has begun and my head spins, half formed voices dance out at me from within the ether, the whirling electronic dervish excites, inviting me to join the dance but I must not. I must resist. I take shelter in the lychgate, the rain pummelling down all around me and for a moment all is calm.

The rain stops and I venture towards the Owl and Druid Stone. I know I should not touch it but my hand is pulled forwards. The voices and tones thrust into me like lightning into bark. I am among the petrosomatoglyphs, the damp and the drip, the indistinct. The sound grows, it ululates through me as I spin, the light between the stones scratching at my retinas with every pass. My feet leave the ground, stray ends of grass tickling at my bare feet as I rise a narrow herepath before me, made of silver and granite. On closer inspection the path is festooned with tiny carvings, myriads of spirals, symbols, laughing mouths. The mouths move and speak and sing and question and grin. I am lost. I fall.

Reality seeps in. A voice clear and distinct on the end of a crackling line gives thanks. But, it flits away and deeper voices and drifting tones chant around me.

A cry. Someone is lost. But how can you be lost if you stand in one place? How can you be lost if you have not moved from the centre of a field? The sound builds, a low hum, growing. Reassuring dots and bleeps try to break through, but something is crawling in the dark. Something is in the way. I cannot move.

I am overtaken. I should not have listened to the Stone Tapes for madness seeps through. Sometimes we look to deep into the dark, sometimes we travel too far.

I have removed the headphones but Avebury is still within me. The sounds among the stones are sounds among the synapses. The stones are seen when I shut my eyes, when I blink, when the sunlight scrapes across the iris, the stones creep through into the dark.

Do not listen.

Do not listen.

Do not lis

Do not

Do

Sink. Tread. Spin.

Let it in. Let the stones in. Let them all in.

Chris Lambert – January 2018

REVIEW – Rowan Amber Mill `Harvest The Ears’

The Rowan Amber Mill
Harvest The Ears
(https://rowanambermill.bandcamp.com/album/harvest-the-ears)

The Rowan Amber Mill have been quietly but steadily pursuing their own eerie ruralism and arcane take on psychedelia since 2008’s ‘Folk Devils and Moral Panics’, notably releasing the ‘Book of the Lost’ project with fellow traveller of these roads, Emily Jones, in 2014. This latter recording was an homage to such films as The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, Blood On Satan’s Claw and Psychomania and ably constructed a soundtrack for an imaginary composite movie, replete with accompanying lobby cards and a suitable mythos. Aficionados of both modern day acid folk troubadours such as Sproatly Smith and Sharron Kraus as well as the haunted electronics of the Ghost Box label are strongly encouraged to wander not only the dark woods of ‘Harvest The Ears’, but also those of the Amber Mill’s back catalogue (a twisted folk version of Gary Numan’s ‘Are Friends Electric’ is one suggested highlight).

The Rowan Amber Mill’s most recent offering is a summing up and compilation of sorts, gathering new, unreleased and remastered songs together under the appropriate banner ‘Cuts From The Folk Horror Archive Vol 1’.

The extended title track of the afore mentioned ‘Book Of The Lost’ opens the album, a Vincent Price styled narrator and a shimmering wash of harpsichord and vintage synth immediately creating an effective atmosphere somewhere between John Barry and Paul Ferris’ s essential score for Witchfinder General. The full length ‘The Book of The Lost’ is a master work and this lengthier version of a track cut from its parent album is no less essential. The melancholic beauty of ‘Separations’ follows, part electronic madrigal and part woodwind imbued lament; this is truly a folk song of the forest. Next, ‘The Witch Twists The Pins’ is a sinister nursery rhyme, echoed vocals framed by the darkest of psych folk to conjure an evocative and magical musical incantation. A highlight of an album filled with many such strong points, this would be worth the cost of admission alone but there is much, much more. ‘Face Of Flowers (Woodcut)’, from the genius ‘Heartwood’ album, utilises harmonised vocals, insistent acoustic guitar and spectral strings in manner that surely has Paul Giovanni nodding his agreement from above. ‘A Hunting’ glistens into being from a few stately harp notes, growing and layering with both analogue synths and waves of choral voices, creating a welcome sense of unease and beguiling nostalgia. This then segues into ‘Pit Of Horror’, a swirling and dramatic instrumental that surely would have been gracing the soundtrack to a 1970’s children’s TV show of a more pagan bent, such as ‘Children Of The Stones’ or ‘The Owl Service’, had it been of that age. ‘The Witch Twists The Pins’ agreeably returns in instrumental form, revealing hitherto hidden detail, until it leads into the final track ‘The Call Of The Black Meadow 1, 2 and 3 (Backing and FX)’. A track previously used on The Rowan Amber Mill’s promotional video for the ‘Songs From The Black Meadow’ album (inspired by Chris Lambert’s book ‘Tales From The Black Meadow’), this is a haunted house of a song, stripped back to effects and sounds redolent of Daphne Oram or The BBC Radiophonic Workshop with solar winds and ghostly electronics whispering in and out of focus to powerful and disturbing effect. And then it is over and the listener is left with an enduring and pleasant feeling of disquiet, appropriate given the folk horror nature of these compositions.

This is an album then that belies its compilation or assorted collection status; it genuinely works as a piece in its own right and sits comfortably and confidently alongside the other Rowan Amber Mill recordings. Highly recommended to those who are keen on investigating the musical side of the folk horror revival, this is indeed a rich harvest for the ears. Time to gather the corn.

Grey Malkin January 2018.

REVIEW -The Heartwood Institute `Witchcraft ’70′

witchcraft-70

The Heartwood Institute – `Witchcraft ’70′

 

There are witches in today’s society… intones the voice with which The Heartwood Institute’s offering “Witchcraft ’70” opens. Allow us, if you will, to show you one of the most shocking realities of the ’70s.

These words are sampled from the trailer for Witchcraft ’70, one of the dime-a-dozen “Witchsploitation” documentaries that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s (although probably more for their lurid presentation of naked flesh than factual information about the dangers of the mid-century occult scene).

That’s not to say the newest release from the “hauntronica” outfit, hailing from the Lake District, is confined to the decade of disco. The synth work accompanying the titillating narration is rooted in the ’80s. On the title track in particular, I’m reminded of the analog work by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth for Halloween III: Season of the Witch, as well as the more beat-heavy cuts from the post-industrial scene (think Bites-era Skinny Puppy).

Following “Witchcraft ’70” is “Diana,” an exploration of the relationship between the Classical moon goddess and Lucifer. Again, behind the sampled narration The Heartwood Institute builds a pulsing wall of electronic sound, this time with clicks in all the right places, sleazier beats, recorded birdsong, and a throwback synth bass. “Witchdrone” closes out the release, two minutes of what can best be summed up by its title.

The Heartwood Institute released “Witchcraft ’70” as a Hallowe’en special, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until next October to have a listen. A must for everyone who enjoys the combination of kitschy samples and seriously good electronica, its biggest negative is that there isn’t enough of it. From beginning to end, it’s about 12 minutes and just got this listener revved up when it ended. Fortunately, the Heartwood Institute has other issues in their catalogue to explore.

Reviewed by Katherine Beem (The Stone Tapes)

REVIEW -Klaus Morlock `Bethany’s Cradle’

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Klaus Morlock – `Bethany’s Cradle’

Unearthed at last, one of the true “holy grail” soundtracks of seventies folk horror: Bethany’s Cradle. The film that never was.


For those unfamiliar with the background, Bethany’s Cradle is one of Italian director Angelo Ascerbi’s great, lost works. Shot in the English Lake district and based on a script by Antonio Baresi and made mainly using English actors. The film was financed by the equally shadowy Lupus Pictures, known for cult Euro Horror’s  like  “Blood Of The Limping” and the “Seduction Of The Beast”. Bethany’s Cradle tells the story of a young woman, Bethany, an apparent virgin who nevertheless becomes pregnant, and her involvement with a strange cult who carry out their rituals on the banks of Lake Windermere in the very heart of the Lake District. As a teenager growing up in Cumbria, I have a very clear memory of a feature in the Cumberland News at the time of the filming. As I recall, local extras were being sought for scenes to be shot in the Cumbrian market town of Penrith. Accompanying the piece were some shots of director Ascerbi posing with Eleanor “Ray” Bone, the witch of Blindcrake, who was apparently “advising” Ascerbi on certain key scenes within the film.

For reasons that are still unclear, production on the film was halted after an altercation between Ascerbi and Lupus pictures boss, Billy Wolf.

Undeterred Morlock continued with the score, which finally saw the light of day later in 1979 with a very limited vinyl release through Lambent Records. Copies of this being so rare, that five figure sums are now expected on the occasions that a copy comes onto the market. Fortunately for us Mr. Morlock’s curator has managed to acquire a serviceable copy of this super rare vinyl and effected a very high quality digital transfer, which I am delighted to report captures all the warmth and crackle of the original recording.

So, onto the content:

We begin with an opening title theme in the classic seventies euro horror style that makes some clear nods to both the maestro Morricone and the workhorse sounds of Fabio Frizzi. Eventually the piece mutates into a throbbing synth driven chase scene in the classic Tangerine Dream, sequencer epic style style. It’s here that Morlock deploys both the ARP Odyssey as well as the mighty CS80, later made famous by Vangelis in the score to Blade Runner. Next up is a total change of style, with a wistful solo piano piece; Bethany’s Solitude. Here we find a strange mixture of lounge jazz and almost Satie like dreaminess. An unexpectedly beautiful little piece. Bethany’s Dream finds us back in familiar Morlock territory, fusing spiraling guitars and Melotron that eventually fade into a wall of analog delay. This then leads us into Cumbrian Twilight, starting with ominous synths, this slowly builds around a driving drum machine pattern as more and more elements are added, the piece lightens before suddenly grinding to an ominous halt.

Farewell Letter, is a short piece for guitars that is in turn charming and hypnotic. Next up we have the hard synth piece, Cloudburst. Once again this has the feel of Frizzi or Carpenter, though the disco like beats date this quite firmly in the late seventies. Not even Klaus Morlock could avoid the need for disco in a soundtrack in 1979. However, Morlock is unafraid to pull the rug from under us and abruptly this synth piece dissolves into something else altogether, a beautiful lullaby recalling the opening theme. What follows next seems to predate the kind of music that Richard James would peddle under the name Aphex Twin so successfully on his selected Ambient works albums. Here, in The Draughty Church, the full might of the CS 80 is deployed in a majestic piece of what I can only describe as “proto-electronica”. This is prime Morlock, with drifting glacial synthesisers overlaying a driving bass line, all of which slowly morphs a wall of deeply unsettling synth textures and ambient winds. Next up is Village Messenger, and it’s here that the album moves from synth and prog territory into full on chiming folk horror. A simple guitar motif and hand drums conjure up images of pagan rituals being practiced on the shore of Lake Windermere in the early morning light of mid summer. Then, almost immediately, the mood changes again and birdsong and synthesisers lead us into the The Shadow Garden. No-one else conveys innocence and threat quite so effectively. Bethany’s Departure builds on this, opening with melancholy keyboards this too becomes gradually more sinister, the unease palpable as the synthesisers build upon each other, emphasizing the growing horror of the film’s resolution. We can only assume this was a film with no happy ending.

And finally we come to the closing theme, the most experimental piece of the album. Synths and reversed guitars intertwine in an oddly musical chaos, achieved no doubt by the use of multiple Studer multi-track tape machines, inexpertly synced together by Morlock himself.

So, where does this stand in the Morlock canon? Stylistically it’s a progression from earlier soundtracks: The Bridmore Lodge Tapes and the Child Garden, while taking in some of the more prog, psych and folk rock elements of the longer form releases Penumbra and Virgin Spring. Simply put, if like me you are Morlock obsessive, you have to have this release. Even in this digital format it is pure sonic wonderment. This is music that deserves to be heard, not hoarded in a private record collection. One can only hope that Klaus Morlock’s curator continues to unearth more releases for the benefit of his many fans.

Review by Jonathan Sharp.

REVIEW – Hermione Harvestman `A Harvest of Souls: Requiem for Dancers (Unseen)’

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    Hermione Harvestman – `A Harvest of Souls: Requiem for Dancers (Unseen)’

     

     

    The story of Hermione Harvestman is a fascinating one, a woman who felt haunted by music and saw her creative process as one, not of creation, but exorcism of sonic spirits. She was born in 1930, a classically trained pianist who went on to play church organ in rural County Durham. She was a prolific musician working in many genres composing for her own need, the local church and even amateur theatrical productions. Abandoning the piano at the age of 26 when she was introduced to the Clavivox, an early sequencer-cum-synthesiser. On discovering the Clavivox Hermione said ‘This was my epiphany – it one stroke it solved all my problems with regard to Western Tonality. Increasingly, I was drawn to monophonic music and modality, but I was ill prepared to join the elite who called themselves Folk Musicians or Early Musicians; bourgeois sub-sects striving for an authenticity so enamoured of a certain mind-set which I’d never been able to relate to. Neither was I too enamoured of Atonal Experimentalism. The music I heard in my heard was far richer than that, somehow – at least it was to me. I dreamed of hurdy-gurdies – of drones and monophonic keyboards playing parallel 3rds, 4ths and 5ths. In reality, hurdy-gurdies sounded ghastly (with significant exception). On hearing the Clavivox I heard the music that dreamed of astrological continuities between ancient music and future possibilities; it touched the essence of what music was at its most primal – that of both the planets of the Pyramids; that of the stars and Stonehenge.’ Hermione lived and worked in the county in which I grew up, it is both wonderful and sorrowful to discover that such a fascinating character who created such a vast library, lived so near and yet I only become aware of her years after her death.

    “A harvest of Souls: Requiem for Dancers (Unseen)” is one of 12 albums of her work she selected prior to her death in May of 2012 and collected together by Sedayne. The album is a suite of 8 improvised pieces, comprised of blissful yet haunting synth works performed live and recorded in the chapel house of York Minster in 1973. In the accompanying text on the bandcamp page Hermione describe her remit as “Being simple enough, to provide a sequence of improvisations prescribed in terms of duration and “mood” each relating to particular ideas in the programme and arrived at by intuitively reacting to the movements of the shadowy dancers”. The album begins with notes which sound almost plucked, gorgeous synth tones allowed breath and flow leaving space between each as the melodies become ever more intricate. As the album progresses the sound becomes fuller never overbearing and conjure thoughts both ancient and futuristic. The melodies at times sound almost medieval however the tone palette is pure monophonic electronica of the most beautiful order. The pieces switch between the melodic tonal and slightly droney with emphasis on harmoincs, all allow the sonic richness of the instrument to be expressed in a wonderful reverby sonic backdrop. As I listened I found myself thinking of ancients contemplating the heavens and the future, how alien yet familiar such music would sound to them. The entire album is a joy to behold however my favourite pieces are parts 7 and 8 (the closing two) which contain the most beautiful melodies and at times pre-figure Board of Canada’s woozy tape delayed sound. The album is available at hermioneharvestman.bandcamp.com and I cannot recommend it enough a sublime piece of synth improvisation.

    (http://hermioneharvestman.bandcamp.com/album/a-harvest-of-souls-1973)

    (Reviewed by Antony Wealls – Equestrian Vortex and The Mortlake Bookclub

REVIEW – Look To The North `You’re A Séance, Old North’

youre-a-seance-old-north

Look To The North – `You’re A Séance, Old North’

 

 

In a sect of Japanese Buddhism called Shingon Buddhism, there was a small group of monks in the Northern Japanese Yamagata prefecture on Honshu Island that attempted self-mummification. They called those who succeeded sokushinbutsu 即身仏.

With the devotional, ambient gem that is “You’re A Séance, Old North“, David Colohan and Zachary Corsa (the duo that constitute “Look to the North”) knowledgeably execute a process of reverential and gentle archaeology. Layers are slowly peeled away, overlapping washes are carefully and slowly resolved, care is taken throughout and the tools of the trade (the autoharp, the field recordings, the shortwave and the confessional sound fragments) are employed with deftness and expertise to reveal a truth.

There is a balance to things.

There are two tracks here, each of 20 minutes length; the two musicians present these tracks to us with complementary structures and parallel instrumentation. Corresponding curating snippets of voice in each track (male in the first, female in the second) guide us through a journey of reflective discovery that is in the best traditions of the broad church of drone music.

In the wonderfully titled first track “Where You Vanished Off The Edges Of A Cul-De-Sac, Like Falling Off A Map”; a thick, undulating landscape of ambient swell dotted with a surface layer of soft field recordings unfolds before us. This is eventually and tentatively penetrated by distant but insistent voices, and through those first few cracks in the outer mantle of this album come the plaintive notes of a parlour piano escaping out to us, providing those first glimpses of evidence that something is waiting for us, something is to be found on this record. But not yet, with easy drama Colohan and Corsa re-bury those fragments, protecting them from the atmosphere like the dutiful guardians they are.

It is with the second track “‘Harriet Was Here’, Less So Now” that revelations come more readily. As if to prepare us for the fact that these revelations will be challenging, a warning note is sounded, and then we are through. Through at first to the realm of spectral drones and ghostly backward echoes such as one might expect to find under the surface layer of things, a last attempt by arcane sentries to stay our progress perhaps. But “Look to the North” beckon us deeper, we are brave in their capable hands and things soon become more resolved. The first lone bleached notes of acoustic guitar begin to poke through, melody follows. We are glimpsing the ribs of a long-hidden sokushinbutsu, and we begin to appreciate the value of the find as it is unearthed before us.

“You’re A Séance, Old North” uncovers things, it reveals ancient truths, it awakens dormant memories and it provides a mirrored surface that allows us to reflect and view our feelings of mortality more objectively. It leads us to a discovery, gently and kindly, but the interpretation of what we find must be our own and ours alone.

Jim Griffin, Limerick, November 19th, 2016

(https://davidcolohan.bandcamp.com/album/youre-a-s-ance-old-north)

(store.aosmosis.net/products/571977-look-to-the-north-youre-a-seance-old-north)