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'The Restless Field'   

-  Label: 'A Year In The Country'
-  Genre: 'Folk' -  Release Date: '2nd May 2017'

Our Rating:
In the US of A, the movement which all too briefly flourished under the New Weird America umbrella prompted significant, yet marginal, one-off compilations such as By The Fruits You Shall Know The Roots and The Invisible Pyramid.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Rob Young's book 'Electric Eden' attempted to define Britain's 'visionary music' with its 'wyrd' and often contrary mix of folk-based radicalism and conservatism.

A crucial uniting element of these evolutions lay in the way they prompted musicians,artists and writers to comprehend and interpret 'tradition' in terms of national character.

This is also a key component of the British-based 'A Year In The Country' project which is presented to the world in woolly yet poetic terms as "a wandering amongst subculture that draws from the undergrowth of the land".

This pitch is deliberately directed beyond mainstream perceptions of culture and identity thus creating a healthy distance from the blinkered thinking of Little Englanders.

The "audiological explorations" chosen to introduce the project may be pastoral in scope but the landscape evoked here is muddy and rugged as opposed to the green and pleasant land of yore. This is "a place of conflict and protest as well as beauty and escape".

Mostly the mood is downbeat, exemplified by the creaky violin and plucked banjo of Bare Bones' [ fears ] avaunt! upon 'the' hill and the disintegration drones of Depatterning's Last Best West (circ. 1896).

Welcome contrasts to this funereal tone include the synth-fused menace of Pulselovers' Badby 80 and Polypores' Graveney Marsh, both slices of electronica that flirt with danceability.

With some dedicated Googling I dare say one could find the histories and origins of the fourteen contributors but I'd rather to let the mystery be. The anonymity of the artists is part of the collection's appeal.

I prefer to imagine these shadowy figures as modest representatives of 'the people'; hidden voices united through a shared idea of commonality.

They are inspired by a range of historical flashpoints finding a consensus through the identification of the sacredness of 'the land' as something to be preserved or, when push comes to shove, fought over.

Events cited include the British Miners Strike of 1984 and also range across four centuries from the English Civil War in 1642 to The Battle Of The Beanfield involving New Age travellers at Stonehenge in 1985.

Another source of inspiration was The Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932, an act of civil disobedience instigated by Ramblers Association which has already been immortalized in song by Chumbawamba (You Can) and Ewan MacColl (The Manchester Rambler).

Then we have Sproatly Smith's Ribbons which draws upon the discovery of The Rotherwas Ribbon, a line of fire-cracked stones dating back to around 2000BC uncovered during the construction of a road in Herefordshire. Archaeologists believe this find may have no parallels in Europe and, while its precise purpose is unknown, some have speculated that it may have been used in some kind of ritual or ceremonial activity.

Although there are no words spoken or sung on this album the music speaks volumes with a brooding, eerie quality that is more menacing than celebratory. As such, it is more like a score for a low budget horror movie or as a soundtrack to a radical makeover of BBC's Country File.

In highlighting the nation's alternative history 'The Restless Field' offers a fascinating insight into the roots and branches of the British character and the UK's seemingly unlimited capacity for spirited defiance and sheer bloody mindedness.

A Year In The Country's website
  author: Martin Raybould

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