Record Release: Outcrops, by Spaceship

Listened to by Paul Scraton:

Spaceship is Mark Williamson, a musician and sound artist based in West Yorkshire, and today marks the release of ‘Outcrops’, a site-specific, haunting and melodic album that is not only inspired by the landscapes of northern England but was recorded there. The sandstone outcrops can be found above the town of Todmorden, and the album was recorded in place, with Williamson taking his synth up into the rocks to create the pieces encased in small caves. Each of the tracks on the album is named for its location and incorporates field recordings and found sounds, and was also created to evoke a particular phase in the geological history of the outcrops – Orchan Rocks evokes the Ocean, Bride Stones the Glacier and so on. This story is also lyrically told in the sleeve notes, describing the rivers as they “surged from the uplands,” the “peaceful, aquatic interlude between the ever-shifting chaos,” and the ice as it “plucked and scraped and tore at the land…”  

Crossing the Pennine hills a few weeks ago it came to me once again that how we interpret a landscape, how it makes us feel, is tied to what we know about it – the stories we have heard and what we bring with us as we approach it. The same can be true of works of art. What we know of the author or the painter, the musician or the photographer can shape our interpretation of a work, whether we want it to or not. The knowledge of how it was created feeds into our experience. I sit at my desk in Berlin and listen to the Spaceship album and I can picture the sandstone outcrops and the fields beneath the moors as behind the melodies I’m sure I can hear the wind blow and the birds call. Are they there? I’m not sure. But I know one thing: the next time I cross the Pennine hills the tracks from this album will echo. I have added to my collection, the one that helps me understand a place. The hills will be different somehow. That’s the power of art, the power of music. The power of storytelling, in all its forms.

***

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‘Outcrops’ by Spaceship is available on 12” and download, and is released on 24 May 2019 by wiaiwya.


Mark Williamson on twitter
Spaceship on soundcloud



Seven Days Walking by Ludovico Einaudi

"I remember that in January 2018 I often went for long walks in the mountains, always following more or less the same trail…”

Ludovico Einaudi is a prolific Italian composer and pianist, and has published 20 albums since 1988. In his work he is often influenced by the quotidian and nature: his album 'Una Mattina' is the perfect soundtrack for a lazy spring morning with a book and a good coffee, and in 2016 he recorded a heartbreaking 'Elegy for the Arctic' for Greenpeace. 

His latest project is 'Seven Days Walking', a series of seven albums that will be published in the next seven months; all focusing on a different day of the same walk in the Alps, and how the days change while walking, slowly but discernible. 

"The idea first came to me as I was listening to the recordings of the first sessions: each version seemed to me to have its own personality, with subtleties so distinct from one another that I was unable to choose which I preferred. I associated everything with walking, with the experience of following the same routes over and over, discovering new details each time. And so in the end I decided to thread them all together in a sort of musical labyrinth, a little like stepping inside the twists and turns of the creative process, to understand how a musical idea can develop in multiple directions, and changing once again at the moment in which it is heard."

You can listen to the album through a variety of different services here.

Sound of the times: Chalk Hill Blue by Will Burns & Hannah Peel

By Paul Scraton:

The final track reaches an end and the record stops. I pick it up and turn it over. Start again from the beginning. The music comes in waves, a fragmented, crackling, sweeping electronica that brings first to mind a desire path close to my mum’s in Yorkshire, where it passes beneath a huge, humming electricity pylon in the grounds of an old asylum transformed into a whole new village on the edge of the moors. But then I am taken, via a gentle voice, to the chalk landscapes of the south, and the stories to be found if we only “look beyond the intensive agriculture, the lookalike market towns, the wealth, the gold course and the four-wheel drive cars…”

Chalk Hill Blue is the name of a butterfly that can be found in those chalk landscapes around Wendover in Buckinghamshire, where the poet Will Burns lives and writes. It is also the name of the album Burns has created with the artist, producer and composer Hannah Peel, with his words and her music coming together to create a haunting, unsettling and strangely beautiful portrait of a place and its stories. Burns and Peel met in 2016 and two years later began working on the album. Sometimes the music came first, with Burns then selecting the poem that fit best with the sounds Peel was composing. Sometimes it was the poem that inspired the composition. The result was this album, released by Rivertones label of Caught by the River.

In a way this album is specific, telling as it does the stories of a particular place and of particular moments in time. The track titles themselves are rooted in location (Ridgeway), season (Spring Dawn On Mad Mile, Summer Blues), date (May 9th, February) and, of course, the local wildlife (Chalk Hill Blue). It is an attempt, as has already been mentioned, to look beyond the identikit everywhere of the 21st century world and find the real place that lies within or beneath. And it is a recognition that there are elements that have been lost. This might be true of the stories, which are now half-remembered, or the routines, work lives and traditions of the people. This loss it is most definitely felt when the album considers those other lives, the non-human lives, with which a place is shared. There is, Burns writes in the sleeve notes, “not as much as there should be, no, we must admit that.”

If stories, of people and other living things, of places and what they contain, exist only in memory then they become by nature fragmented and infused with loss. This atmosphere of change, melancholy and absence permeates Chalk Hill Blue and is perhaps why, on the second and third listen, I am taken away from Wendover once more and back to my mum’s Yorkshire village and then on, to the flat landscapes around Berlin or an empty square in a crumbling French market town. For while the album tells the fragmented stories of a particular place, it resonates because of the questions it poses for places far beyond:

What role does place play in our identity?
What does belonging mean?
How do we find our feet in an ever-shifting world?
How do we make sense of what has been lost?

There is a danger in these questions, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be asked. Questions of home and belonging, of the lost stories of place and an impending environmental catastrophe are key questions of our time. It is not possible to observe the movements that gave us Brexit, the rise of the AfD in Germany or the Gilets Jaunes of the French periphery without understanding how these questions link in. As we mop out our flooded towns and we try to protect our villages from raging forest fires, as we wonder where the bees have gone or why the cranes are staying through the winter, these questions return to us time and again.

These are uncomfortable questions, and it is to Will Burns’ and Hannah Peel’s credit that Chalk Hill Blue provokes us to ask them. We cannot ignore them. We have to find the answers to these questions and find the answers that are not rooted in nostalgia or the exclusion of others. There is no going back. However we find a answer, and one which rejects the dead ends of nationalism and nativism, the first step is to tell the stories. The first step is to know what is happening. How did we get here? It can be the role of music, of poetry and of art, to bring those stories to light. Through its thoughtful, thought-provoking poetry and beautiful, atmospheric music, Chalk Hill Blue does just that.

***

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Will Burns & Hannah Peel will be performing Chalk Hill Blue live at dates around the UK. More info on Caught by the River here. The album is released by Rivertones and is available on CD or 12” Vinyl here.

Paul Scraton is the editor in chief of Elsewhere: A Journal of Place. His debut novel Built on Sand is published by Influx Press in April 2019.

Music and place: Kitty Macfarlane's Namer of Clouds

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Review and Interview by Paul Scraton:

I first heard the music of Kitty Macfarlane on her EP ‘Tide & Time’ a couple of years ago and was immediately struck by both the beauty of her voice and the spirit of place to be found within the lyrics. ‘Wrecking Days’ was the standout song, with its stories of beachcombers stalking the shore, and it was great to hear it again in a new arrangement on Macfarlane’s debut album ‘Namer of Clouds’, which is released by Navigator Records this week.

All the tracks on ‘Namer of Clouds’ speak to our relationship with landscape, place and the environment, whether it is Macfarlane’s native Somerset on ‘Man, Friendship’ or the story of the last of the Sardinian sea silk seamstresses on ‘Sea Silk’. This is an album of haunting, lyrical music that asks the listener to consider her place in the world, the beauty to be found there and the consequences of our negligence or disinterest. On ‘Wrecking Days,’ Macfarlane describes what is left behind by the tide, and if there is poetry in the image of cuttlefish bones, there is certainly a warning in what else can be found on the beach, from the discarded fishing tackle to the plastic bottle tops, resting among the seaweed and stones.

This is thoughtful songwriting, whether in the original compositions or new arrangements of traditional folk ballads. The album closes with an artistic collaboration across the ages: on Inversnaid Macfarlane reworks a 150 year-old poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins about the importance of preserving the wilderness for future generations, a task that is as important now as it ever was.

You can hear ‘Man, Friendship’ and see the official music video below, and we are extremely grateful to Kitty Macfarlane for answering some of our questions about the album, her songwriting in general, and the importance of place in her work:

From the moment I heard Wrecking Days on the Tide & Time EP, it seemed clear to me that there is a distinct sense of place in your songwriting. What role do you feel place has in your work, and which places most influenced the songs on the new album?

'Place' isn't just a geographical location. It's bound up in the stories that span hundreds of years, the changing face of a landscape over time (and our part in that), the traditions that tie people to the land, and the inexplicable way certain corners of the world can make you feel. At school we are taught geography, history, art, chemistry... as if they are separate things. For me, songwriting pulls it all together. My album couldn't help but be a bit of a tribute to Somerset, where I am from – the scenery creeps into my songs almost by accident, along with the stories of the people and creatures that live there. That said, there is also a song set on a small Mediterranean island off Sardinia, and another which is a song-setting of a poem by Manley Hopkins about a Scottish stream. I wanted it to be an album of songs loosely bound by mankind's relationship with the land.

Of all the places you have written about or the landscapes that have otherwise inspired your work, which is your favourite?

Again and again my songs return to the beautiful and ancient Somerset Levels. They are a large low-lying wetland area of peat and clay with an eerie timeless quality - perhaps something to do with their yearly renewal by ruthless flooding. The Levels hold stories of ancient people preserved in the peat; of wandering Neolithic people on their wooden trackways; of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, conquering the Danes against all odds from his hiding place on the isle of Athelney; of the disastrous floods of 1607 where thousands of people perished; of the basket-makers and thatchers, the elver fishermen and cider producers. Man, Friendship deals with our steadily changing climate, the cruel floods across Sedgemoor and what is left for humanity to cling to when all else is washed away.

In February this year I went down to Shapwick Heath nature reserve on the Levels to watch the starling murmurations at dusk. I was surprised to find hundreds of other people with the same idea, and there we all stood, wrapped up in coats and scarves, while a hundred thousand winged bodies swelled above us, bound by some magnetic tether, a pulsing leviathan in the sky. I wrote Starling Song about this uncanny phenomenon, but it was more than just a spectacle for me - it felt like a moment of immense connection with humanity.

Glass Eel is a on the surface a song about the eels that have historically filled Somerset's waterways. Their colossal, near 4000 mile migration from the Sargasso Sea to Europe is one of science's great mysteries, and there are many parts of their enigmatic life cycle that we still don't understand. The song is about the constant motion of the Earth and everything on it – how we are all compelled by the same centrifuge that drives the eel. But the European Eel is now critically endangered, due to a loss of intertidal and wetland habitats, overfishing, and man-made obstacles to their mammoth journey. I think the plight of the lowly eel is strangely metaphorical for the problems our own species faces – our fragmentation of the land with motorways, dams and weirs is like the international fissures wrought on a global scale, our gluttony and overfishing relates to our wider exploitation of the environment, and the eel's journey recalls our own questions of rights to land, migration, and belonging.

Do you find yourself most inspired by places you know well, or have travels - on tour for instance, or otherwise - given you new places to write about?

There's a definite appeal to writing about places that are familiar, as they become entwined with so many unaccountable emotions and memories. But there is inspiration everywhere and it's exciting to think of how open-ended songwriting can be. For one of the songs on the album, Sea Silk, I travelled to Sant'Antioco, a small island off Sardinia to meet and interview an elderly Italian lady who is one of the last remaining people to create 'sea silk' in the authentic and traditional way. Sea silk is a very fine thread spun from the filaments or 'byssus' of giant endangered clams that live in the Mediterranean. It has extraordinary qualities which turn it from a dull brown to a brilliant gold in sunlight. The art of spinning sea silk has been practised for centuries, and is passed down through generations of women in Sant'Antioco – traditionally, it cannot be sold for profit, but must only be given away. It crops up throughout history here and there – Nefertiti's bracelets, King Solomon's robes, even perhaps Jason's golden fleece... but is shrouded in mystery. Chiara Vigo is a remarkable woman who has devoted her life to this art form, and it was incredibly special to hear her talk about how she learnt it from her grandmother as a girl.

To me it spoke of the historical relationship between women and textiles and the land, and the important roles women throughout the world have quietly performed in the background that are rarely acknowledged by the history books. I love knitting, and part of that is the feeling of connection with generations of women before me. I don't actually speak Italian, and Chiara doesn't speak English, which made for an interesting interview (luckily I brought a friend who could translate!) but when we showed each other our own knitted creations, it felt like we shared a common tongue. A recording of Chiara's rich italian speaking voice opens the song, along with part of a soft chanting folk song that she sang to us, that coincidentally happened to be in the right key... it all felt spookily preordained!

In the album notes it says that "the album is augmented by all kinds of 'found' sound." Can you tell us a bit more about this, and how you think this helps route your songs in the places you are writing about?

I really wanted the album to feature little pieces of the places that inspired the songs. We borrowed a portable mic and took field recordings in various locations – the chaotic waterfowl recorded at dawn from a hide on the Avalon Marshes set behind Starling Song (I saw my first Bittern while recording this!)the babbling brook with its restful birdsong to accompany Inversnaid, the crash of Sardinian waves behind Sea SilkMorgan's Pantry is a traditional song about the malicious 'Morgans' that live in the Bristol Channel, that allegedly come to the shore at the foot of a hidden waterfall on the North Coast. We set out to track down this waterfall, only accessible at low tide, from an Ordnance Survey map, and recorded the rush of water falling onto the rocks, which then formed part of the song's soundscape. Using found sound seemed to pay tribute to the people and places in the songs, and made the process feel like a sort of collaboration between myself and the wild.

What are your upcoming plans? Tour dates you'd like to tell us about... oh, and when will you be coming to play in Berlin?

I'm just about to set off on a big UK tour! It starts on the 4th October in the Lake District, then I'm off all over the country for 23 gigs in all. The two biggies though are my album launch shows in Bristol (10th November) and London Kings Cross (13th) – these will be really special evenings where I'll be playing with a full band with lots of treats and surprises... Unfortunately no European gigs yet, but I'd love to come and play in Berlin one day!

The Namer of Clouds by Kitty Macfarlane is released on 21 September 2018 by Navigator Records.

Music and Landscape: In Place, by Colin Riley

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By Paul Scraton:

I first listened to In Place, a new song-cycle by the composer Colin Riley, as I moved through Berlin on the way to meet a friend. The songs accompanied me along the river that leads from our apartment building to the row of late stores and kebab shops, jewellers, travel agents, bakers and pawnbrokers that tout for business along Badstraße. The songs provided the soundtrack of my U-Bahn journey beneath the city streets, the landmarks of the German capital passing by above me, and as I stopped at a bookshop and a supermarket before climbing the four flights of stairs to my friend’s apartment.

This album will now be linked in my memory with this springtime journey through the city streets. This happens to me a lot with music. The albums of my childhood, when heard today, take me right back into the car as we cross the Llanberis pass in the drizzle or the wide expanse of Anglesey in the sunshine. Some songs conjure memories of barbecues in a Leeds backyard or of a ferry deck on the way to Sweden. There is the music that soundtracked a piece of good news, which offered consolation during bad times, and provided company during a long wait through the night for the birth of my daughter.

Because music is tied so much to my memories, it is also rooted in place. Not, perhaps, the subject of the songs or the albums, but something very personal, based on my own experiences. So I was interested to approach Colin Riley’s In Place with the knowledge that these were songs already rooted in place, including as they did text from contemporary writers of place, including Paul Farley, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, as well as some already-existing pieces of landscape writing, to create an audio portrait of the landscape and languages of the British Isles.

On that first listen, moving from the riverbank to the street to the underground station, the album felt like it was also taking me on a journey. It was in parts physical; the songs conjuring up moments on the moor or forest path, moving past tin mines and abandoned railway stations to suburban street corners and edgeland wastelands. But it was also like a journey of the imagination, the music moving in surprising directions as the texts seem to drift in and out, as if I was moving the frequency dial on an old-fashioned radio through stations named for places I had only ever seen on a map.

Back home I listened again, attempting to scribble some notes. I am not a music writer and I find it hard to describe music in any real sense. What is going on with the music in Colin Riley’s song-cycle? Jazz? Probably. Classical? Sure, why not.  But the truth is, even as I attempted to listen more closely, trying to be able to write a considered verdict on this beautifully created work of collaborative art, I realised that I was not capable of describing the songs in any way other than what it was that they made me feel.

There were sounds that suggested the natural world. Rivers and waterfalls. The sounds of the forest. From there the songs took me up onto the fells and down into the valleys, before dropping me on a street corner in the post-industrial city, where the hammer, blast and clang of the factories have long been silenced, but still echo in the sound of footsteps and in the rhythm of a bassline or the beat of a drum.

What I liked most of all about In Place, from the first listen to subsequent times I went back to it, was that this was no gentle stroll through a pastoral, idyllic representation of the landscape of the British Isles. Although there is wonder in this music, there are also haunting moments that challenge the listener. Once more, I was conscious that during this journey Colin Riley and his contributors were taking me on, there were certainly things that were beautiful and breathtaking, but there were also unsettling moments, uncanny or simply strange. And this is how it should be. For why else would be we explore the coastline or the unknown city neighbourhood, search for the hidden valley or take the path that leads deep into the forest?  

In his notes for the album, Colin Riley began by writing that ‘a place can make you feel many things’. This is true. And it is to his credit that In Place managed the same trick for me, as I began the process of adding my own places that were now tied to this music to those already contained within the songs themselves.

Beyond the album In Place released and available now through Squeaky Kate Music, Colin Riley’s project also includes live performances and a series of podcasts for Resonance FM. You can find out more on the project website. Twitter links: In Place / Colin Riley

Waiting Rooms by Samantha Whates - Part I: Dunoon

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Singer and songwriter Samantha Whates is writing and recording her forthcoming album entirely on location in a series of waiting rooms, some active, some abandoned, trains, buses, hospitals, ferries, care homes. The album will address themes of loss and waiting, of transition and of time passing in transient spaces.

The first recording took place in Dunoon in Scotland, a stunning Victorian ferry waiting room on the inner Hebridean island; the second was overnight in an art deco waiting room at one end of ta tube line, as empty trains rolled in and out; the third took place in Great Ormond Street Hospital with a full band in the public waiting room on a busy Sunday.

Dylan White, who is working with Samantha on the project will be writing a series of posts for the Elsewhere blog from the different locations of the recording sessions. First up, Dunoon on the Isle of Bute:

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We're all waiting. Everybody waits. Hospitals. Train stations. Airports. Life itself is a waiting room. In writing and recording her new album entirely in waiting rooms Samantha Whates has tapped into something vital, universal, and as the country creaks and lurches towards who knows what, something urgent and essential.

I set off with Samantha to scope out a former ferry terminal waiting room on a Victorian pier in Dunoon on the Isle of Bute. Gulls swooped and circled as we loitered, ourselves waiting for the harbourmaster to arrive and let us through the padlocked gates. Just as we began to worry we had the wrong day a member of the crew arrived, all hi-vis and friendly bustle. As he led us out over the gangplanks towards the turrets and timbers of this strikingly restored space, Ian regaled us with tales of the great paddle steamers that would ferry Glaswegian holiday makers across the Firth of Clyde from the 1800's right up until the 60's, and tales of the wild Saturday night parties he'd DJ at here in the 80's. Only afterward I learned this town had a US nuclear submarine base around that time, it's location a faintly obscure Harvey Keitel movie, and imagine raucous squaddies quarreling on these boardwalks. With the fall of the Soviet Union the navy moved on, the base closed and along with much of this little town these rooms fell into disrepair and ruin, awaiting its next chapter.

Recently refurbished and completely renovated into its new incarnation as a local community centre and civic attraction, the freshly painted walls sing back at us with reverb and history as Samantha tests the sound of this space.

Ian leaves us to it to check the fittings and the sockets and the practical repercussions of using this place as a recording location. Beyond accessibility and acoustics, the navigation of bespoke bureaucracy and email tennis, one of the challenges facing Samantha is sheer logistics: aligning the calendars and itineraries of geographically disparate musicians and their instruments into remote locations.

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"One of the songs we recorded here Sailors has been arranged for Shruti - Lute - Voice. We went on the Ferry from just outside Glasgow with all our recording gear and instruments including a double bass! It felt so in keeping with the songs we choose to record there - something about the journey on the ferry looking out to the water and seeing the pier appearing in the distance. Knowing it was the first recording - I really got into the feeling of the start of the journey. Where all these songs came from. Something about putting the songs back to the source of where they were written - the sentiment and emotions felt through the subject of these songs feels so much clearer when you're on your way to these rooms to go back to that feeling and record them...."

I'm researching and drawing these buildings as part of my involvement in this project, but right now I just loiter and listen, looking out at the circling gulls over the grey waters beyond as the lilting sound of Samantha's guitar and voice stirs life and warmth back to these old rooms, summoning the ghosts of holidays, labourers, sailors and fisherman who've watched these same waters from this spot for the past hundred and fifty years or more, waiting for a bite, a sign, a passing moment.

My reverie is curtailed by Ian's sudden return. "I'm sorry to cut you off I gotta deal with that boat."

And we are hustled back out into the world as he runs to greet the next ferry's arrival. This is a port and he's on shift.

Time and tide wait for no one.

Watch a film about Waiting Rooms from Julius Beltrame, a filmmaker and photographer with an eye for place, architecture and the arts:

We are looking forward to more blogs from Dylan as the project progresses. In the meantime, if you would like to support Samantha as she goes along you can make a pledge in return for different goodies via her pledgemusic page.

Dylan White’s website / twitter
Samantha Whates on twitter

New Music: Nadine Khouri

By Paul Scraton:

One of the joys of being involved with a project such as Elsewhere has been to discover many different artists, writers, musicians and other creative folk who we have connected to through via the journal, our events or our online activities. In the case of Nadine Khouri it was something of a re-connection, as I met Nadine in 2008 in Beirut where she was recording an interview for a radio show. I was staying with the presenter of that show, and after the recording we went for something to eat together.

Nadine was born in Beirut, although was forced to leave at the age of seven during the conflict in Lebanon. She is now based in London, and at some point over the past couple of years since Elsewhere was launched we got back in touch. I was especially excited to hear, and then receive, Nadine’s new album The Salted Air, which was released in January. It has been playing on heavy rotation ever since, a haunting and atmospheric collection of songs that contain a sense of loss, displacement and yearning for someplace or something else that certainly resonated with me as I was thinking about the theme of transition that is at the heart of the upcoming issue of the journal. 

Drowned in Sound describes The Salted Air as “a pocket-sized book of lullabies, and gothic shanties, whose sounds and lyrics evoke a series of wondrous daydreams and sorrowful, mood-filled, late-night tales,” which should be more than enough to get you to go and check the album out. Below are the answers to the Elsewhere five questions, that I fired over to Nadine by email in the last couple of days, and a live performance of 'Broken Star' from the album. For more on Nadine, her music and upcoming live shows, take a look at her website.

Five Questions for... Nadine Khouri

What does home mean to you?

For a person who was displaced from a young age and had to navigate between various cultures, you can end up feeling a bit fragmented, or at least unable to point to a single place.  "Home" is probably more of a state of mind for me, of total presence.  

Where is your favourite place?

Oh, it’s hard to say!  I love my room at my parents' place in Beirut as it’s inspired many a song…  And anywhere on the Mediterranean.

What is beyond your front door?

Some withered trees and a Turkish corner shop.

What place would you most like to visit?

I just got back from playing some dates in Portugal and I’ve always felt I'd like to spend some more time in Lisbon.  Honestly though… the list is long! 

What are you reading right now? 

Carlos Drummond de Andrade 'Multitudinous Heart' (Selected Poems) 
 

The Memory Band: A Fair Field

In Elsewhere No.01, published in June 2015, we spoke to the musician Stephen Cracknell  about his work and, in particular, the music he releases as The Memory Band, that “imaginary band, built inside a computer and made flesh by the contributions of numerous musicians.” We asked Stephen to be our first interviewee in the pages of Elsewhere not simply because we love the music of The Memory Band, but also because within all the recordings, there is a strong sense of landscape, history and place to be found, alongside the beguiling mix of digital sounds, acoustic instruments and traditional melodies.

The new album – A Fair Field – just released on Static Caravan Records is no exception:

The Memory Band navigate a dream landscape of fading identity, dredging up forgotten histories from old maps, half-filled diaries, government records and lists left inside magazines detailing obsolete television schedules. The music was fed by stories of magical hares and the recollections of ballad sellers bearing placards at the great fairs of times past, the fields of which now lie buried beneath leisure centres, electricity substations, and retail parks. It traces the connection between the headstone of a man killed in Norfolk by the sails of a windmill, the first observations of solar flares, incendiarism, council estates and an old man’s recollection of ploughing the land by starlight in another time.

One of the great appeals of The Memory Band is shear depth of the influences and mix of ingredients that goes into each song.  Take The Bold Grenadier, which you can listen to via the link below. This is The Memory Band’s version of a traditional tune that was arranged by Richard Rodney Bennett for the 1967 film Far from the Madding Crowd. In the spoken word introduction, we hear the voice of Vashti Vincent, who was recorded in the village of Sixpenny Handley in Dorset, England, in 1954, in which she tells the story of how her father bought a ballad about a 19th century murder at a Sheep Fair:

Stephen has written about that episode, and more on the creation of A Fair Field and the places that inspired it on Caught by the River.  A Fair Field by The Memory Band is available on Static Caravan Records. The interview with Stephen Cracknell appeared in Elsewhere No.01, which you can buy in our online shop here.

 

New Town Utopia, a film by Christopher Ian Smith

Sometimes a project comes along that really captures our attention, and the news of a kickstarter campaign for Christopher Ian Smith's documentary New Town Utopia is exactly one of those moments. The film explores the utopian dreams and concrete realities of Britain's new towns, with a focus on Basildon in Essex where Smith grew up, reflecting on its ambitious and aspirational beginnings and its subsequent fall from grace.

New Town Utopia is, therefore, a journey into art, architecture and memory, and the stories of those people who call Basildon home. The idea is to discuss the question of whether it is people who make a place, or if a place makes the people... have a watch of the film they have put together for the kickstarter campaign to learn more about it and it hear Smith talk about his motivations for making the film:

New Town Utopia has been four years in the making, but as Smith has said, there is a certain urgency to its message right at this moment: “It is more relevant than ever - as the housing crisis exposes the long term impact of ‘right to buy’, globalisation continues to decimate the traditional high streets, and the Brexit vote revealed the depth of dissatisfaction of the Basildon people with their lot. This film is a chance to explore the complexities of a place so often derided on local and national level. In doing so it reflects on the issues impacting all our towns and communities” 

You can follow New Town Utopia and find out more about the film on twitter, facebook or via their website. The kickstarter campaign which will run until September 26th can be found here.

Lo Sound Desert

Long time followers of Elsewhere here on the blog will know that we flagged this project last year during the crowdfunding campaign to bring the documentary film ‘Lo Sound Desert’ to completion. We are extremely happy to announce that following successful festival screenings, premieres around the world and some great reviews, ‘Lo Sound Desert’ by Joerg Steineck was officially released last month and is available now to stream, download or for purchase as a DVD.

Beyond the music, ‘Lo Sound Desert’ appeals to us here at Elsewhere because it is a documentary about a specific scene at a specific time in a specific place. The Coachella Valley music scene in California began as revolting punk rock kids, escaping from the narrow-minded authorities of their suburban desert communities in the early 1980s, jamming all night in the middle of a surreal desert landscape. This scene gave birth to bands such as Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age, and the ‘desert rock’ would soon spread through the underground music scene until bands such as these were headlining European stages.

'Lo Sound Desert’ was inspired and created by the same sense of autonomy inherent to the scene it portrays, self-financed through a ten year production period that has resulted in an intimate insight into a unique music scene that, like the film, is framed and coloured by a very unusual environment. The film is narrated by Josh Homme, Mario Lalli, Brant Bjork, Alfredo Hernandez, Scott Reeder, Sean Wheeler and many more from bands such as Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson and Mondo Generator.

This is a story about music and place, and is one which has never before been told.

Lo Sound Desert website