❉ Soundscapes at once alien and familiar, straight out of Scarfolk’s darkest corners.
Do you remember that time you awoke at 3am to strange noises coming from the lounge, only to creep down in your SuperTed pyjamas to find Mr Benn having murdered your father and now threatening to go at your Mum with a chainsaw made of pulled teeth and despair?
Welcome to the dystopian world Scarfolk creator Richard Littler and soundtrack composer Chris Sharp of Concretism create in Dick & Stewart, a series of animated shorts that can’t decide whether it’s set in ‘Britain’s dismal past or the Britain that’s soon to come’, but have firmly agreed to make you feel as if you’ve contracted a mental state of un-wellness just by watching and having the volume turned all the way up to 1.
Concretism, whose For Concrete and Country album was voted as the sixteenth best album of 2018 by Electronic Sound, have created an official soundtrack to subconscious childhood unease for their companion piece to Dick & Stewart. A partnership of total symbiosis, one maintaining and provoking the strength of the other, they have managed to pull a dread fuelled parallel universe from benign, familiar ’70s kids’ TV imagery and a narration so psychopathically calm from Julian Barratt that I’m tempted to steal and examine his hard drive for the sake of national security.
The soundtrack thrashes past you in moments, or puts you in an open mouthed gaze whilst the hours tick by, I can’t be sure, as the short musical cues and idents reassure and unsettle in equal measure. As you listen, the ground beneath your feet moistens, sucking them in, placing you in front of the Thames Television logo as you wait for a lunch your mum made and ITV’s next surrealist offering, forcing you to doze into an open-eyed nightmare retelling of childhood paranoia and ‘Charley Says’ Public Information Office films.
Opening Titles, serve as a jolly, relaxed introduction to the universe, its smattering of distantly familiar tones of childhood TV and bright acoustic guitars allow for a false sense of security to permeate, but it’s one that lasts only as long as the intro to next track, Too Many Teeth, which appears as our hero Dick, carrying the dismembered eyeball of his deceased friend, encounters a man whose hellish smile appears alongside an unsettling B-Movie synthesiser oscillation to shake the foundation of perception, from which we never quite regain a sure footing.
Ice Cream Rhapsody arrives from over the horizon in the guise of a Mr Whippy van being driven by John Wayne Gacy, the familiar chime turned into a discordant recollection being pulled from the psyche of a matured victim by a back street therapist. This is exactly where next track Dick & Stewart finds us, as Mr Tumnus sneaks in unseen, playing a flute and hinting that something very, very bad has happened, but he won’t tell you what. Night night.
Some transitional tracks, no less atmospheric, follow suite, suggesting metamorphosis – an intangible change of perception – before landing back on some terra firma with Green Fields, offering familiarity, light and suggestion of hope. This is immediately dashed by an audio retelling of the psychedelic barge nightmare from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with key track, Everyone Likes To Watch, where innocence is sped up beyond comfort to remove association with reality which is replaced by insecurity and a sense of desperate confusion, all despatched with a clown’s smile. Dick, in the animation where this track is found, is being forced to provide surveillance on his mother for an invisible end…the real horror of course is that every child with an iPhone or Alexa smart speaker is already doing this – technology forced down their throats and into ours. “Watching is normal and healthy” we’re told, just as in real life. We’re experiencing that ‘end’ now, here in 2020.
Supplemented with further drone-fuelled oscillations, unease abounds. It’s a journey into a reassessment of the awkward conversations and uncomfortable situations we sometimes found ourselves in as children, brushing shoulders with established modes of maturity, which is mirrored in Dick & Stewart by ‘the man’ though in real life they’re explained away with the logic of misunderstanding. It’s uncomfortable and entirely relatable.
Running provides a welcome release. A feeling of freedom and hope washes over you as momentum builds, wind in your hair, but it ultimately drives you ever further into the Orwellian, Cold War landscape of metaphor past or of something we’re sleepwalking into. It feels like the choice is ours, and we have no option but to make it.
Something Nasty bangs into view, confirming our worst fears from Dick In Bed, a sudden visualisation of what we’d tried to forget, before being lost in a mirage of nearly tangible memories that weave in and out of Dreaming.
The soundtrack is deeply affecting and remains long after the atmosphere fades back into real life. Soundscapes are at once alien and familiar, perfectly complimenting the Dick and Stewart shorts and are all the more powerful for it. Straight out of Scarfolk’s darkest corners, Dick and Stewart – Official Soundtrack is all the parts of your infancy you wanted to forget because you simply didn’t understand them. Memories that fill in the void in the moments before sleep that keep you awake. That this is achieved with the slightest of hand, with not a note put to waste is a testament to the skill and dexterity of Chris Sharp and his musical but minimalist approach that has won Concretism the praise it deserves.
October 16th sees a special release of Dick & Stewart: Original Soundtrack. A single sided 12” pressing that utilises a new process of UV printing that is only available from a very select group of manufacturers. With artwork designed by Richard Littler himself, this release makes for a very special and desirable album.
❉ Concretism: ‘Dick and Stewart: Original Soundtrack’ Heavyweight 180g White Vinyl LP with UV Print released 16th October 2020 by Castles in Space, CiS054. Distributed By: Forte Distribution. Digital Album for Streaming + Download (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more) releases October 16, 2020, RRP £6.99: CLICK HERE
❉ A regular contributor to Far Out Magazine, We Are Cult Magazine, The View magazine, Velvet magazine, the Teatles Book and more, Jamie Osborne writes a variety of fiction, non-fiction, comedy and features. Jamie loves to write about music, the Beatles, ’50s & ’60s culture and art, TV, film, comedy and football. You can find some examples on his blog page.