Thoughts, Things, bits and bobs

Not too much to bore you

Why Folk Horror? Why Now?

 

With the sudden invasion of hippie counter culture, the squares of Brittan unwittingly birthed a new genre of film, a genre that expressed the fear that one day we may find ourselves surrounded by people we don’t understand and who are set on converting us to their, often primitive, ways …

 

The fear is that no matter how well to do you are, even if you are Police Sergeant Neil Howie traveling to Scotland to help save a murder (1973), The Wicker Man), you will inevitably end up surrounded by people who just want to have sex, take drugs and probably kill you in some slow and outdated way.

 

Nowadays, as we reappropriate hippie counter culture into festival fashion and relish any opportunity to gather, take drugs and engage in coital delights (often

ignoring the pagan side) these films of the late ’60s and early ’70s are comical, even whilst being horrifying and brilliant.

 

However, in the last few years we have seen a sudden and plentiful reassurance of folk horror, and this time it doesn’t seem to be restricted the British cult cinema. American producers A24 have contributed modern Folk Horror classics such as 2016’s The Witch, 2017’t It Comes At Night, 2018’s Hereditary and their most archetypical folk horror extravaganza, 2019’s Midsommer. Jordan Peele hit home with his class/race shifting debut Get Out (2017), and again with his follow up Us (2019). Even Jim Jarmusch has come through with an offering of folk-horror-comedy, predictably soaked in satire and political metaphor

 

The idea of the other surrounding us and the normal person finding themselves surrounded by the other has permeated out of ‘Horror’ and can been seen even in the masterful Swedish love story, 2018’s Border, and also in to comedy, albeit a comical style that will have you reeling in your seat, in the 2013 psychedelic arthouse romp ‘A Field in England’.

 

Folk horror can be described as the protagonists finding themselves in an unfamiliar land, surrounded by a character they have little understanding of, (Midsommer takes this idea quite literally, with a host of extras constantly in the back of shots, tilling fields and tending to gardens). My query is why has this returned to the zeitgeist, this time not just national but globally. How have we scared ourselves once more into thinking the minority could become the majority and that we could suddenly wake up from a social media-induced trance to find that our community holds beliefs that could end us. Or that so many extras we have previously ignored have irrevocably changed the communal consciousness?

Buxton opera house is a gaudy state of affairs. Emerald green drapes and painted gold décor add excitement to every vista, to either side of the audience are frescos of Shakespeare and Gilbert, (Sullivan must have missed the boat on this one) and tying it all this together is a healthy portion of white marble. Complimenting this extravagant interior is a sea of grey topped opera fanatics speckled with points of honey mist auburn lovingly dyed by those still with life to live. Opera is alive and well with those, still alive, but, often not too well.

 

The exuberance doesn’t stop with the venue. Onstage is seven chandeliers variously being raised and lowered above the cast of twenty-plus cast members, each adorned with their own stately costume. As these cast members perform and emote for the audience they are accompanied but 

an orchestra of twenty-or-so more musicians all led by their conductor. The point being, disregarding lighting tech, stagehands, consume designers, marketing, etc. etc. this is a very large cast. Only in an art form as overstated and grandiose as opera would you have a production so bloated as this. Money has been funneled at every aspect of this production, and quite rightly so, the cast of singers and the musicians supporting them have trained and educated themselves over a lifetime to perfect their art and it is all culminating in this breath-taking performance, and let’s be clear, the performance is very good.

are reclining in later life to enjoy the fine things. While I am concerned that I want more people my age in the audience to engage in something that I personally love, I am more concerned that the career path I have chosen might not have an audience by the time I make my break on the opera scene.

 

Upon leaving as if the gods of art heard my calls of bitterness I pass the only group of people my age (no doubt cross overs from the much more current Buxton fringe festival that surrounds the opera festival) at the moment one is saying to the other, ‘I’ve never seen an opera before and that was amazing’. Then there is me hoping … please come again.

There isn’t anyone in the audience I can see that I wouldn’t have to double my age to relate to. However, this isn’t a picture of the bourgeois, but rather, normal old people enjoying life and the arts, this isn’t even a boring crowd, sure there are a few guys who looked like they enjoyed a jazz cigarette back in the day, but quite rightly so

A fetish for the incomplete

Growing up in a time where anything can be recreated digitally and still being young enough not to notice how terrible the Phantom Menace looked, it’s no wonder that high-quality goods make little to no impact on me.

 

I can’t really speak for anyone else but my life seems to be full of small jobs that can be completed, accompanied by YouTube videos analysing various songs or films or how-to videos showing the quickest and easiest (and least mentally taxing) ways to complete tasks. Nothing is presided over.

 

However, It seems more and more common that popular pieces of art have touches of the Lo-fi. With Instagram accounts like f1rstoftheroll displaying half completely exposed images, often of something totally mundane, the front of a shop, a washing

machine, a foot. Although this is pretty

boring in description, 189k people follow

and countless accounts have copied

the premise. It is that I find myself

endlessly staring at the photos

wondering what more there is behind

the white curtain, but rather, how

refreshing it is to see something totally

normal and reminiscent of ordinary life

and the inability to capture anything
fully anyway.

Though Paul Mccartney, lo-fi, bedroom recording style often puerile post-Beatles solo albums were not so well received at the time today they are alive in most of the music I love. From Devendra Banhart, Mac Demarco, The Unicorns and Love to most recently (and most notable) Tyler the Creator. Need I mention the countless Lo-fi hip hop YouTube channels presenting little artifacts of jazz broken into flecks and lovingly coated in a wash of white noise and warm production.

A reflection, maybe of my

own inability to capture and hold

anything perfectly, for any amount of time?

I don’t quite understand what it is about ‘low quality’ stylistic recordings that arouse me so much. Part of it is the quiet expectation that comes with the crackle of the vinyl as the needle drops. Part of it, I’m sure, it’s a hark back to a more juvenile time before the constant onslaught of life didn’t create such dissonance in life that’s I could cope with a certain level of aural incompleteness with not a bat of my eyelid. 

Bethlehem Casuals ... Recording

I wake up, its day four, a mechanical sound is washing over me. Although the sounds are incredibly abrasive, the distortion has the same sort of pleasantness that an Etta James belt seems to have. I will find out, when I eventually get out of bed, that Atanas Dochev (percussion) has been recording some of his wilder ideas through a 1950’s Victor amps.

 

When mentally preparing for going into the studio, it is easy to envision yourself as some mad scientists, tirelessly going over each and every detail with equal parts perfectionists genius and carefree artist. In reality, the recording proses is a long and tiring process.

 

After spending the first two days; setting up and recording the band together live, Which has its own stressful element, and the second day listening to saxophone and cello repeating each of their parts to perfection, both your carefree spirit and your sense of unstoppable excitement start to wilt.

 

So, it is as I lie here, drained, with a slight cold, that I am probably complaining about more than it is bad, waiting for the adrenalin to kick in enough for me to have a coffee, that I am struck by a realisation. I may not be one of the Rolling Stones, staying up for a week at a time, snorting lines of coke and writing some of the most ground-breaking rock music of the 21st century. However, I am part of a group, and right now as I take five, the energy lives on, the experimentation continues and the music that represents us all persists.

Ainmikii Feral Project R&D

A couple of weeks have passed and I am reflecting on the

Animikii R&D that I was privileged enough to be able to

shadow. I place myself back in the studio, at The Point in

Eastleigh, on the wall in front of me is a timeline depicting

the life of Kaspar Hauser. The wall is like a child’s

scrapbook, playfully littered with a menagerie of life facts

and conjecture. To my right is a handful of contemporary

painting and artforms to my right five black hoods and

behind me is a feverish red finger painting drawn with an

intensity that can only come through organic emotions and

that simply says ‘Kaspar’.

 

Animikki’s blend of

Grotowski style physical

theatre, balance of

spirituality and a touch of

the playful macabre could not be more at home

retelling the rich and deeply concerning story

of Kaspar Hauser. Furthermore, no two musicians could be more versatile and free of ego enough to match the theatrical solemnity than the two founding members of the Vonnegut Collective.

 

It is a pleasure to be welcomed

into the family and to become

part of the creative energy that

this group ooze with every

session. Having attended

numerous laboratories, I was

familiar with the practice and

felt comfortable in the role of

participant. However, this session yielded me the opportunity to become the fly on the wall I had thought about many times, when twisting and writhing on the floor, fighting with my mind to stay focused on whatever theatrical stimuli the practice demanded. As I watched the gyrating and squirming of the cast, the formation of elements manifesting and abstract contortions and reflexes, it became starkly apparent that everyone is different. I fully understand how much of a platitude that may sound, but when you are laying there, eyes closed, striving to physically and mentally will your body to impersonate water, it’s easy to wonder whether what you’re doing is ‘right’. Now I know, it is.

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