A Year In The Country – ‘The Restless Field’ reviewed

❉ Now That’s What I Call Hauntology.

The strain of fact, fiction, and myth that we know as Folk Horror has a powerful sense of place. The stories of M.R. James, the myths and folklore of Romance-era England, Nigel Kneale’s nerve-shredding The Stone Tape or more recent efforts like the BBC’s The Living And The Dead don’t just share an atmosphere of bucolic dread. They’re based around specific places, around the idea that the land remembers events that happen in and around it, or if you like, Hauntology.

The Restless Field, a beautifully curated and packaged collection of tracks inspired by various English fields and events that took place in them throughout history, might as well be called The Grass Tape. It’s the first of this year’s releases from the A Year In The Country project, and it’s a bewitching soup of ancient-sounding folk, eerie reels, drones, found sounds, and electronica assembled by various artists. Opening with the uneasy throbs and clangs of Field Lines Cartographer’s Ghosts Of Blood & Iron, and closing with the mournful folk drone of David Colohan’s Beyond Jack’s Gate, the 14 tracks weave their way across various times and various fields. Sometimes the field is a safe haven in the bosom of nature, in others it’s a place of conflict. The type of battleground may vary, but the music brings its ghosts vividly to life from the English Civil War through to Orgreave and the Battle of the Beanfield. There’s a desolate beauty to Polypores’ Graveney Marsh (the last battle to be fought on British soil), while the siren synths and jittery atmosphere of Assembled Minds’ 3am M5 Field Raid leave little doubt as to what kind of raid it represents.

Packshot.

As an album it’s all remarkably coherent, which is no mean feat when you consider how many artists are involved. The Restless Field is easy to get lost in, and is nicely varied. Listening Center’s Congested District is haunted exotica with skittering Stereolab drums, while Sproatly Smith’s Ribbons starts off like Floyd’s Careful With That Axe, Eugene before unfurling into a lovely collection of interlocking reels. Vic Mars’s Mortimer’s Cross is a pretty yet spooky canticle of archaic instruments, while Time Attendant’s Black Slab is doomy, clanging techno. Sometimes the synth-led tracks recall the electronic pastorales of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s Paddy Kingsland, like the breezy Badby 80. Elsewhere, Endurance’s gorgeous Beneath The Cherry Trees is all wide open spaces and sunny ambience, and the hallucinatory glitches of Depatterning’s Last Best West (circ. 1896) make for a particularly pretty haunting.

The Restless Field is something quite special, a concept album that shows its references but lets you do the thinking. We Are Cult highly recommend spending a little time in the long grass with it.


❉ Released May 2, 2017, The Restless Field is available in standard Day and deluxe hand-finished Night editions, via Bandcamp: Click here to order.

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