Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The sand and the stars

Last year I finally finished converting all my CDs to MP3s and while going through the crates came upon some Flying Saucer Attack albums, like Chorus (above), which I hadn't really listened to in at least a decade.  I thought about a post then on FSA's use of landscape imagery but didn't think I had much to say about it.  However, I was interested to read this week in the latest edition of Wire about the links between their strain of pastoral post-rock and the hauntology of the Ghost Box label, which I discussed here a few years ago.  In his article Joseph Stannard also makes connections with Richard Youngs, Fredrik Ness Sevendal and the groups associated with the Jewelled Antler Collective (mentioned in passing in a recent post about Richard Skelton).

Flying Saucer Attack's music had by the mid 90s, according to Stannard, 'arrived at a heady, impressionistic hybrid of pastoral acoustics and wraithlike feedback...  Vast, wordless drones such as 'Rainstorm Blues' evoked the feeling of being a tiny human speck in a mythic English landscape, time-locked in perpetual twilight, at the mercy of the elements.' One of Simon Reynolds' blogs reproduces a 1995 article on the band where he notes that 'on their three albums and innumberable 7 inch singles so far, FSA have consistently, nay, obsessively, deployed cover images of idyllic Nature: cloud-castles in the sky, scintillating seascapes at sunset, lakeshore trees reflected in limpid water, ebbtide beaches at dusk. Then there's the song titles: "Land Beyond The Sun", "In The Light Of Time", "To The Shore", "Standing Stone", "November Mist", "Oceans"...' However, FSA's Dave Pearce punctures any grand ideas about this: "the pastoralism comes down to the fact that as a child I used to live in the countryside, in the Cotswolds. And being a shy, quiet person, I prefer the country, 'cos you can wander off on your own. In the city you get aggro and hassle all the time."

FSA were part of a Bristol scene that included Crescent, AMP, the Third Eye Foundation and Movietone.  Rachel Brook was in both FSA and Movietone, and several Movietone records had a landscape connection, like the single above, released in 1997.  In 2003 Movietone recorded The Sand and the Stars at various outdoor locations.  As Andy Beta says in a review for Pitchfork, 'the quintet lugged recording equipment out of their home studio and into churches and warehouses, up a cliff, and even into a bay near Land's End to capture that quality. The incidental, environmental sounds infuse with guitar, dulcimer, banjo, brushed drums, cubist bass, and the pastoral whispers of Kate Wright and Rachel Brook (who offset the brunt of early Flying Saucer Attack with a gentle serenity in her maiden days).'  The Domino website quotes Kate Wright: "We found the perfect bay in which to play the music, near Land’s End.  The sand shelved gently and the waves were loud even on calm days. We found a house to rent above the bay. The path down to the beach was steeper than I remembered and fairly difficult to navigate in the dark. But there were clear nights under the stars. We recorded on the beach with two microphones."

No comments: