A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Pastoral Electronics + Proto Ambiance: Bogquake – The Bogquake Tapes (Harmonic Union Music)

Bogquake Hauntology review

drifting organs + dusted riddims from the haunted hinterlands between trvth + fiction.

In 1973, after drifting about the western marshland of Hookland County in one of the wilder parts of Britain, itinerant psych-folk singer Gordon Stranger happened upon a grouping of wide-eyed freakniks, eking out a sustenance living plying a primitive sort of space folk with rubbish equipment. Stranger, ever the opportunist, sensing a grand opportunity AND a great experiment, quickly usurped control of the space children, dubbed himself lead vocalist and guitar player, and Bogquake was formed, to dredge a wyrd furrow in the British psychedelic undermind.

The experiment, however, was short-lived. Two days into recording their debut, the entire band absconded, blaming the stench of the decrepit oyster warehouse they were laying down track. Stranger was left to salvage what he could from a single 1/4″ reel, rescued from the local harbour where drummer Jim Frankels chucked them, after learning his parts had been replaced with a MiniPops drum machine.

This single reel of mouldering proto-Industrial space rock racket, that would become The Bogquake Tapes, neglected to raise any interest with industry bigwigs, and Stranger rambled on to his next venture. The Bogquake Tapes would lie undiscovered, until rescued from a boot sale with a lot of hydrophones in 2012. Realizing the cultural relevance of their discovery, the good citizens donated the tapes to the Hookland Public Library, where they were unearthed by Harmonic Union Music in 2014.

Except for that it didn’t happen.

or, it might’ve happened. We’re not exactly sure. It’s hard to say.

You see, there is no Hookland. Or there might be, we’re not sure. Hookland might possibly be the creation of brilliantly eccentric (and thorough) cult author David Southwell. Hookland began life in the digital pages of the wonderful Wyrd Daze ‘zine (of which i am a sometimes collaborator and full-time supporter). Southwell conceived Hookland as a travel guide for an imaginary county in England, the kind of guide you’d find at a Petrol station.

Bogquake, therefore, serves as a kind of lost field recording from some imaginary landscape, some liminal plane, neither here nor there, but somewhere in between.

Either way, whether it was recorded yesterday under an assumed name, or 41 years ago by a group of malnourished eccentrics, the music is damn fine. And if it was recorded yesterday, the illusion is damn complete, as The Bogquake Tapes is 33-and-a-half minutes of pure, sprawling, cosmic space rock and proto-kosmische, rendered in gloriously fizzy, period-authentic fidelity.

The Bogquake Tapes may come wholecloth, but its comprised of distinct chapters. It kicks off with a pleasant dusted drum machine and simple pulsing synth sequence, surrounded by a rumbling windy sub-bass, all doused in liberal amounts of reverb and dub delay, of course. It stands somewhere between the sweetly melodic experimentation of Harmonia and the chillier dub Techno excursions of Pole or Wolfgang Voigt/Gas. A kind of sitar-like backwards tape phased effect creeps in, slowly segueing into a laserlike snake charmer lead, towards the fade-out. Its a grand example of slowly drifting Berlin School synth meditation.

The bottom drops out, all of a sudden, for the second movement – a deep space Radiophonic warble, like being suspended in a gelatin cube at the center of Time & Space. Its wonderfully eerie, full of detuned burning circuit boards and unsettling bells & whistles. It takes us back to a time when electronic music was not slave to the grid, when things could be loose and ragged and wyrd. Everything sounds lovingly sourced from glorious analog gear, pure solder and tubes and drifting tuning glory.

A bit of normalcy returns, for a brief moment, with some clangorous guitar, sunshine synth, and even the human voice, however distant, intoning endlessly, caught in the spell, lost in the groove. This would be their showstopper, their penultimate moment, their ROCK OUT, which could’ve made Bogquake on level with Pink Floyd, had they but been known.

The bottom drops out, once again, to bring in a menacing, thumping, haunting primeval ancient future ritual, like worshipping some space deities. This breaks into a moody, monolithic guitar jam, like Neil Young & Dylan Carlson jamming on some High Rise tunes. The pace seems timeless, although being held together by a sludgy metronomic beat, no doubt from that MiniPops drum machine that caused such grief. One wonders might have been, if this kind of loose, ragged, proto-post-rock might’ve caught on with more than the heads, as this sounds like Bardo Pond 30 years before their time, or the mighty fretboard explorations of Nick Saloman, with the songs removed.

The beat drops out to reveal a particularly lovely starshine synth/flute meditation, that somehow manages to sound like deep space Pink Floyd and the instrumental intro to Simon & Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)”, at the same time.

The Bogquake Tapes might be the lost electronic ruminations from Gordon Stranger. Or, it might be the artful artifice of one Spaceship Mark, the main motivating force behind Harmonic Union Music. Or perhaps Spaceship Mark did find these tapes at the local library, to belch them out into the celestial sphere, and transport us all.

As usual, there are no clear and easy answers in Hookland. Fans of similarly shadowy nether=realms of the imaginations, such as The Black Meadow and Moon Wiring Club‘s Clinksell, not to mention the eternal Village Green of Ghost Box, will find a lot to love, on this compelling transmission.

To learn more about Hookland
Excerpt from the Phoenix Guide To Strange England

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2 comments on “Pastoral Electronics + Proto Ambiance: Bogquake – The Bogquake Tapes (Harmonic Union Music)

  1. 1537
    April 14, 2016

    I think you totally invented this one!

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