The Dark Side of Britannia

Give yourself in to any slipstream, let go and you'll soon find yourself transported to wonderful landscapes. Look back on your journey and you'll discover the unique narrative thread that binds them.

Besides being a catchy title, The Dark Side of Britannia is a cursory incursion into the experimental undercurrent that runs in the topography of British music from the last couple of decades. The works of the holy-tryptich Coil, Nurse With Wound and Current 93 would serve as a good primer - along with David Keenan's in-depth tome, England's Hidden Reverse.

Alongside Brian Williams (aka Lustmord), their concern for the gothic, the dark corners of the imagination where traditional instrumentation voices primal impulses of fear, discovery and illumination serves as a musical antipode to British stiff-upper-lip stoicism, fixed in the primeval, the undergrowth of ritual and folklore. And so, we pluck the fruits from different branches of sonic explorations, directly or associatively connected to their work.

The musical pastorals of British folklore are similarly conjured in Cyclobe and Stargazer's Assistant, who share not only the collaborative nature of the Coil/NWW/Current93 triad, but also their structural and thematic narration of British paganism. A more direct variation on this can be found in John Williams' scores for Ben Wheatley's cinema and more recently, Folklore Tapes, which has further tapped into Britain's folk arcana.

These two explorations of narrative structures and folk musicality are brought together in the amneotic fluid of memory, a playing field where Leyland Kirby and his multiple pseudonyms deconstructs within various degrees of sonic violence and tenderness, British music of yesteryear or its ruined future. This notion of bringing the ghost out of the machine of memory is similarly explored by L.Pierre and his fabulist collages of haunting beauty.

Peppered throughout are more direct manifestations of British phantasmatogia, from Phantom Plastics' explorations of EMT to Okkulte Stimmen's library of paranormal recordings.

The guiding structure for the mix was one of self-aware pathos which oscillates as much as it grows, leading to a de facto finale with the b-side of L.Pierre's last recording, 1948, fading into the oblivion of its runout groove.

Whether it's paganism, remembrance or otherworldly creations, The Dark Side of Brittania has never looked so enlightening. As the famous poet once said, "come on, come in, for we have some flax golden tales to spin?."

Words & mixtape by Andrei Tanasescu

*photo credits: Tacita Dean - Ship of Death

Tracklist:

  • The Advisory Circle - Callsign ‘A’ - The TV Trap
  • L. Pierre - Now Listen!
  • Xian Orphic - Orchid (Orchidaceae)
  • Coil - Disco Hospital
  • Jason Lescalleet & Graham Lambkin - Quested to Saint Hilda
  • The Caretaker - Friends Past Reunited + The Stranger - The Mists Are Rising
  • Current 93 - A Visit to Dogland
  • Hafler Trio - Chronos Destroyed + Kelly Jayne Jones - Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)
  • Current 93 - The Moons at Your Door + Phantom Plastics (The Dead Mauriacs, Chris Connelly, Michael Esposito) - Ghosts in Gaslight
  • Lustmord - Opening
  • Cyclobe - The Woods Are Alive With The Smell Of His Coming
  • Jim Williams - Kill List OST + Exploding Cup, Charlton House, Rec. London, England, 1995
  • Zoviet France - Dybbuk
  • Nurse With Wound - Mourning Smile + Nurse With Wound - Sheela-Na-Gig
  • Cyclobe - We'll Witness The Resurrection Of Dead Butterflies (Three Moons)
  • The Stargazer’s Assistant - Agents of Altitude
  • The Sonic Catering Band - Refrigeration
  • Sally Golding - Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
  • V/VM - Uncle Ernie + Arianne Churchman - Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  • Mary & David - Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) + Leyland Kirby - The Sound of Music Vanishing + Girl’s Voice, Singing, Rec. North England, 1974
  • Pan Sonic - The Illusion Of The 7th Hymn (Hafler Trio Re-Arrangement)
  • Gazelle Twin - See How They Run
  • Zoviet France - Is It + Lustmord - Exit
  • Zoviet France - Smocking Erde + Rudi Schneider Trance-Breathing, Rec. London, England, 1933 + Female Entities, England 1970s
  • Luciano Capitani, Marcello Bacci - Chorus I + Chorus II
  • The Caretaker - False Memory Syndrome
  • L. Pierre - 1948 (Part 2)
  • Mary Stark - Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

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