A Year In The Country – ‘The Shildam Hall Tapes’ reviewed

❉ Eoghan Lyng reviews the second themed A Year In The Country album of 2018, a conceptual musical package.

In a word; inventive. It maintains the hauntological nature of the previous projects with the narrative construct of an incomplete film and invents the consciousness where a large number of those involved, including a number of industry figures who at the time were considered to have bright futures, simply seemed to disappear or step aside from the film industry following the film’s collapse, their careers seemingly derailed or cast adrift by their experiences. The works of Gavino Morretti, Sproatly Smith, Field Lines Cartographer, Vic Mars, Circle/Temple, A Year In The Country, The Heartwood Institute, David Colohan, Listening Centre and Pulselovers are innovative, tidy, and, again, inventive.

Again, there are touches of Richard Wright’s cinematic keyboard work, particularly evident on an echoey and sultry How We’ll Go Out, droning in sounds and effects, hypnotic and aloft. Flautist sounding Dawn of A New Generation opines for the emotional and rhetorical, complete with scat vocals overhanging the willowy keyboards. Galloping Backwards with Western desert guitars is fittingly dynamic and dramatic, but floaty in delicate fingerwork. Overgrown Garden is serene with kaleidoscopic Strawberry Fields mellotrons, psychedelic is particular potencies and pleasurings. Darkened covers chase the colourful vision films adhere to, particularly one made when the British film industry had come to a creative and narrative renaissance.

This project differs from the pastoral and natural view Audio Albion journeyed on. Instead this takes the form of an abandoned soundtrack, found amongst old film stock sold as a job lot at auction – although how they came to be there is unknown. With the many rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults. It is an interesting view by which to record music, journeying into similar steps where Andy Partridge and John Leckie took their sixties influences and made Dukes of Stratosphear (decidedly more sixties than most bands in 1985) and U2 (caught in one of their many creative ruts) guided themselves under Brian Eno’s direction as The Passengers to write themes to various film plots. Conceptual and musical, it is a worthy package for this team.

The sounds venture into reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter culture and elements of the underworld. It’s a neat package of archival appropriation, though it sounds decidedly contemporary at the same time.

The spectral imagery and sounds are appropriately colourful, a nice contrast to the darkened imagery stamped onto the cd’s packaging. Just as film is the visceral, visual experience needed to startle and stimulate the eyes, The Shildam Hall Tapes is the appropriate aural experience needed to caress and connect the ears to everything they are listening to. And most of all, it is, in a word, inventive.

‘A Year In The Country – The Shildam Hall Tapes’ released 31st July 2018. Preorders open 10th July 2018. Available in two CD editions: Dawn Light edition £11.95. Nightfall edition £21.95. CDs will be available via A Year In The Country’s Artifacts Shop and at Bandcamp. Downloads will be available at Bandcamp,  iTunes, Amazon etc.

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