A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Hear the call of the Rag & Bone Man!
surrender to the lure of the moor
but do not follow the mist!
Professor Roger Mullins disappeared without a track, in 1972, which seemed to lend some veracity to his claims. Mullins had been investigating the Northern York Moors, after becoming obsessed with another lost scholar, Lord Brightwater, who disappeared while investigating the same lonesome terrain, in the 1930s.
Due to a recent shift in the Freedom Of Information Act, the Brightwater Archive re-opened 3 years ago, inspiring a new generation of seekers of the fantastic. Principal among these are the author Chris Lambert and his musical seer, Kev Oyston. Lambert and Oyston used their musical project, The Soulless Party, to explore the folkloric threads of the vanishing city in the mist, and the harrowing call of the Rag & Bone Man.
The inspiration does not cease at musical extrapolations, however, as Lambert and Oyston have created a dense and immersive multimedia experience, centering around these otherworldly moors, which also include a book, written by Lambert, Tales from the Black Meadow, musing on these themes and creating a dense mythology.
The book, original album and BBC Documentary, combined to snare the curiosity of a whole new generation of musicians, who congregate on Songs Of The Black Meadow. It is an excellent illustration of how many ways a subject may be explored.
Much as last time, things start off with a theme, in the form of Forestpunk favorite The Hare & The Moon, featuring Alison O’ Donnell, in the rowdy, rowing pirate shanty of “Black Meadow Song”. Freewheeling fiddles and fifes bring in the Victoriana early, setting this firmly in the British countryside.
The theme continues with the rolling, tumbling, fingerstyle guitar of “The Horsemen”, by Wyrdstone, which finally brings together John Fahey and John Renbourn, for all time. There is no dispute between East and West; it’s all fields and rolling hillsides.
The setup lingers with one final number, “The Meadow’s Call”, by The Rowan Amber Mill, with Angeline Morrison; more mummer pageantry, with plaintiff pagan calling from Morrison that is both lovely and chilling.
From here, the fourth wall of documentary detachment shatters, as the album fluctuates between “theme music”, ie. songs, mostly of a pastoral British folk flavour, interspersed with moody, dark ambient drones from a number of our favorite producers – Lost Trail, The Implicit Order, and Joseph Curwen, along with some new favorites from Keith Seatman and Septimus Keen. All of the producers have an organic, rural edge to their drones, which makes it far Earthier, and a little more unsettling, than their cosmic Dark Ambient cousins. Take, for instance, The Implicit Order’s “Blackberry Eyes”, whose ferric hiss seems to inherently conjure images of the fog, where the tape plays the role of water molecules hanging in the air, diffusing all it touches.
These kind of touches make Songs From The Black Meadow a damn fine record, and not just a good concept.
I’m not going to lie, the unsettling dark drone tracks are my personal favorites – spooky dark ambiance to get lost in, and provide inspiration for your own infernal creativity. If Leyland Kirby were to try his hand at creating landscapes instead of architecture, this is what you might get. So if you’ve burned out all yr Caretaker records, and are looking for a host of new, talented artists to explore and get lost in, this is well worth the cost of admission, (and possibly yr sanity).
The misty meanders are not the only noteworthy sounds, however. As you know, we’re ardent admirers of British folk music, and there’s plenty on offer, here. Top mention goes to Elena Martin, with a bright, clear and strong voice that sends shivers down my tailbone on “Search The Fields”. “The Meadows Call”, by The Rowan Amber Mill, has become our seasonal soundtrack, and speaks to the peculiar, uncanny sense of atemporality that is common to a lot of music we feature.
“I am Dead Inside
and i hunger for the spring.
I lost my place in time,
now the rot is setting in.”
– The Meadow’s Call, The Rowan Amber Mill with Angeline Morrison
The Black Meadow spreads its lure across all styles, genres, and eras. There’s even a bit of grimy hip-hop, in the form of Eastgreen‘s tale of obsession and serial murder “Welcome To The Meadow”, that does not end like you’d expect. Eastgreen’s tale is less a soundtrack for a horror film than a terror all its own. There is also a moment of traditional, ie. Ghost Box style, hauntology, with the radio oscilloscopes, electric harpsichords and dream sequences of Keith Seatman’s “Playing Hop The Scotch”.
Songs From The Black Meadow is a well-realized, immersive concept that will pull you in, and never let you go. It serves as an additional soundtrack for some damn fine horrors, and also stands alone as a weird, supernatural journey all its own.
The Black Meadow is a place outside of reason – a place where Mayberry trees talk, and possibly lure you away from your life for a day or a year. It is a misty, spectral Faery dimension that is uniquely British, but could be anywhere.
As ever, we will continue to brave the blackest nights, to bring you as many strange, ghastly, and ghostly realms as possible. This one will hold you for a while. If you’re looking to add a dose of paganism to yr Holiday Season, start here, and get the book of lore, as well.
Chris Lambert – <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EX1K228/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00EX1K228&linkCode=as2&tag=forestpunk-20&linkId=5VP62KTJAGGANYN3″>Tales from the Black Meadow</a><img src=”http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=forestpunk-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00EX1K228″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />
The Soulless Party