Friday, September 05, 2014

A Journey to Avebury

There are two days left on the iPlayer to listen to an episode of Stuart Maconie's Radio 6 show on 'West Country Freaks' which includes some music specifically inspired by the landscape of Southwest England.  A few days before the broadcast I was actually in the West Country myself, about to visit the Avebury stone circle on our way back to London.  We stuck to our plan despite forecast heavy rain because I had worked it all out in advance with pleasing symmetry, to echo the stop-off at Stonehenge on our earlier journey west.  There had been rain in the air then too, giving some dramatic skies over the old stones, as you can see in my photograph above. Ah, Sonehenge... 'where a man's a man and the children dance to the Pipes of Pan'.  Spinal Tap's classic song was included in 'West Country Freaks', along with Coil's soundtrack to the early Derek Jarman film A Journey to Avebury (embedded from YouTube below).

Another band featured on the programme were Neil Mortimer's Urthona, whose blog records various visits to stone circles.  'From The Godless Erme Valley' was an outtake from their 2008 release via Julian Cope's Head Heritage, 'I Refute It Thus.'  This comprised 'three long tracks of primitive noise guitar freakouts inspired by the windswept-tor landscape of mighty Dartmoor, and a retort to the doom-laden cultural landscape of 21st century Britain.'  It came 'packaged in a unique organic fold-out cover plus inserts and highfalutin liner notes with nods to William Blake, Richard Jefferies and Walt Whitman.'  Their latest album is inspired by the great storm of 1703 ('no pen could describe it, nor tongue express it, nor thought conceive it unless by one in the extremity of it', according to Daniel Defoe).  In his review for Wire Joseph Stannard likens it to Flying Saucer Attack's 'Rainstorm Blues', which I mentioned in a post here a few years ago.

FSA were based in Bristol and their 'Sea Corpus', from the limited edition 1996 release 'In Search Of Spaces', was also included in 'West Country Freaks'.  Two other tracks on the show are worth highlighting: 'Somerset' by the prolific ambient composer and artist Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) and 'Piperspool' from John Surman's 1990 ECM album The Road to St Ives.  I had not checked out this St Ives album before, despite having visited several times in recent years and written here about the town's art and landscape. However, after returning from the Lake District a few months ago, I was listening to Ambleside Days - another John Surman album where each track relates to a specific place. I think these gentle jazz tunes were insufficiently experimental to feature on an earlier place-themed Freakier Zone covering the North West, which included a great interview with Richard Skelton.  Given Stuart Maconie's enthusiasm for fell walking and landscape, it would be worth looking out for more of these programmes in the future.

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