British folk horror flowering again

Brexit is not the cause of Britain's renewed interest in its weird folk heritage, in the joys of cults and pagan sex. But the sudden veering into that world's darker side, where violence and groupthink and human sacrifice rule, seems guided by its anguish and sickly glee. Here's Michael Newton on the new flowering of folk horror.

Folk horror, which is the subject of a new season at the Barbican, presents the dark dreams Britain has of itself. The films pick up on folk’s association with the tribal and the rooted. And our tribe turns out to be a savage one: the countryside harbours forgotten cruelties, with the old ways untouched by modernity and marked by half-remembered rituals. ...

They may lurch into the ludicrous, but with surprising earnestness these films nonetheless play out a three-way philosophical debate: between enlightened rationalism, orthodox Christianity and renewed paganism. Sex is at the heart of this debate: just as these films both adore and recoil from natural beauty, so human loveliness entrances and repels them.

The anxiety comes from an unsettled telepathic quality of exurban British life, where eccentricity is adored so long as privacy is abdicated, and the heightened empathy of the village lurches to the crowd's destruction of individuals. Newton notes that a key theme of British folk horror is that the supernatural is never so vulgar as to show itself: the darkness is in people. And by the time you get to see it, you are thrillingly both participant and victim: "The pagan rite we are witnessing is the film itself." Read the rest

The Art of the Marbler

This old-timey UK film about marbled book covers has a peculiar quality to it, like a particularly sleepy episode of Look Around You or the video to some spooky electronica. It's "A Bedfordshire County Council Film" from "1970" and a completely wonderful how-to guide to a beautiful art form. [via r/videos.] Read the rest

Music for an imaginary science filmstrip

OMGVinyl's description of the new LP from Symbol (Christopher Royal King) is so perfect:

I was brought back to a dimly lit elementary classroom... sunshine pouring through the window and catching dust motes in the air with a wash of light as they travel on the whims of the hot air being blown out by the over-heated projector – complete with warbled cassette tape soundtrack. On the screen, the images of science and nature erupt and decay with macro intensity; all soundtracked by this...
Symbol: "Online Architecture" (via OMG Vinyl) Read the rest

Demdike Stare's haunted/haunting video for "Transmission"

For several years, I've raved about the dubby, samply, dark ambient music of Demdike Stare, a collaboration between the UK's Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty. Whittaker is a producer affiliated with Modern Love records while Canty is essentially a professional crate digger, seeking out weird horror soundtracks, Kollywood rarities, avant-garde curiosities, and other obscure vinyl for reissue by Finders Keepers records. Demdike Stare, the pair's own musical collaboration, was named for one of England's most notorious Pendle Witches of the 17th century. They've recently been releasing an excruciatingly-limited series of 12" vinyls in a series called Testpressing. The (NSFW) video above is for the track "Transmission" from "Fail," the fourth Testpressing, due out later this year. On December 13 at the British Film Institute in London, Demdike Stare will perform a new score for the classic 1922 horror documentary Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages. The duo is also on the cover of the new issue of The Wire magazine. (via The Wire)

And for more about Demdike Stare and hauntological music, don't miss Mark Pilkington's classic special Boing Boing feature on the subject here! Read the rest

Music Appreciation: Hauntology

In the future, the past is the present. Don't miss our Boing Boing Music feature on hauntology, in which Mark Pilkington connects the dots between Arthur Machen, Demdike Stare, 70s British television, Ghost Box Music, TC Lethbridge, and Coil. It's a heady trip down memory lane with a stunning soundtrack of spectral sounds crackling from the car speakers. "Hauntologists mine the past for music's future" Read the rest

The End of Chiptune History

Thomas Gilmore offers a brief history of chipmusic, whose practitioners "make complex music in a minimal way."

The more popular tools of the chipmusic (or chiptune, or 8bit) trade were made from the early '80s to the early '90s, when the most efficient way to add sound to a video game or computing experience was with a sound chip. These sound chips are limited, there are no two ways about that. Usually they're restricted to a small number of voices (sounds that can be played at once) and the palette of sounds themselves are set to a handful of presets that the chip is capable of creating. As a result of these limitations, the sounds created by these electronic devices are unmistakably distinctive.

What I love about it is the reminder that it isn't a new thing: music was always written for these devices, and many of them came with consumer-friendly composition software from the outset.

One thing about this history that's not quite right—and many of us in geeky indiedom make the same mistake—is in believing that this stuff is only just "starting to change what is happening on the surface of popular music."

On the contrary, this stuff has been mainstream for a good decade now, and the interesting thing is that all these pixels and bleeps are not just another passing fad. The undercurrents of dependence between nostalgia, avant-garde and mainstream culture obscure the way they've become weirdly, persistently invisible to one another. Derrida probably coined a word for this sort of thing 30 years ago, but I can't hear you looking it up because I'm listening to pseudo-orchestral dance arrangements of classic arcade chiptunes. Read the rest