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Well this post comes out of the blue, a flash of inspiration if you will. One of my favorite hidden little bars The Coffee Pot puts on a fantastic movie night once a month, so you get to see gems such as Suspiria, Turkey Shoot, Cat In The Brain, Creepshow and The Wicker Man on a slightly larger screen. Now, for a variety of reasons, The Wicker Man is one of those films you just have to ‘experience’ in all its creepy, slightly sleazy 70’s folk pagan horror glory ha ha. There’s plenty of naked dancing, psychedelic folksy sing-a-longs and Christopher Lee in one of the leading roles. You get to see him prancing around in white makeup and a wig, a precursor to Death Metal? Really, what more do you need??

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When the locals start wearing ceremonial masks during the second half though, I was reminded of the fact that in some regions of Eastern Europe (this is as far as I know, it probably includes most of the continent)  a lot of these traditions have remained from pre-Christian times. Halloween is an offshoot of these practices, for example. Basically its the difference between worshiping god (ourselves really) and worshiping our planet (hoping our environment doesn’t kill us). A lot of the pagan costumes, masks and ‘magic’ objects were a big inspiration to modern artists in the early 20th century. They have a force you cant learn in art school, it comes from something non-intellectual and has been made and remade over many centuries. It reflects our animal self and is ever present. It exposes us to War, Sex and Death, all the things we’d like to shut off so we can safely watch it on TV. I’ll be exploring a photographer who’s been documenting European ritual costumes in the next post.

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Popular or urban culture has always had a link with folk horror and so it continues today, from Giallo/Slasher film and soundtrack revivalists such as Death Waltz Recording Company, Zombi and Umberto to the Sci-Fi/Folk Horror revival or rather re-imagining by the Ghost Box record label I’ve posted about before. Ghost Box artists such as The Focus Group and The Advisory Circle at times sound like they formed specifically to soundtrack films like The Wicker Man. Recent films The Babadook, Berberian Sound Studio, Where The Wild Things Are, The Ring and Pan’s Labyrinth all draw from our pagan myths and rituals too.

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“Founded by Jim Jupp and Julian House, initially as a CDr label, Ghost Box is an independent music label for artists who find inspiration in library music albums, folklore, vintage electronics, and the school music room. Inspired by spooky vintage electronics of the 1970s, the label soon found itself described as part of an emerging ‘hauntology’ scene. ” (Discogs)

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And what a parallel universe it is! It’s a very British audio/visual past recycled, dissected, cut-up, reassembled, filtered until a post modern brew emerges. It’s 60’s pop melodies mingling with ‘The Wicker Man’ soundtrack, its Brian Eno sound-tracking Dr Who, see where I’m going with this. And visually the same retroactive tricks are applied, although within a stricter frame work, of say, a label such as ECM of World Record Club. The typography and consistent layout reminds me more of a catalog or brochure, and the dynamic graphics and clean lines recall mid-century pop art and graphic design. It’s visually and musically arresting, a complete package which always wins me over. There are those who bemoan the ironic post everything cut and paste world of today but if it yields interesting results its an experiment worth undertaking I say.

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“I do think that now that everybody has access to everything at all times, it means nothing is unique or quite as affecting. When you base things – music, imagery, whatever – on vague memory, it invariably makes it slightly wrong. If you go back and study the actual thing before creating a piece of art, it’s always going to be a pastiche. I think what we do is about trying to get a vague sense of what the memory of that thing was rather than copying things.” Julian House

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The designs are by Julian House, whose work as a member of design firm Intro also adorns records by The Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream, Broadcast and Luke Slater among others. Here I’m only focusing on the Ghost Box releases for continuity’s sake and the fact that they’re a relatively new entity for me (where have I been??). And lets face it, it’s hard to beat a new discovery of any kind!

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More info below:

Julian House Interview

Belbury Parish Magazine



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