Electric Eden – Unplugged

Woah, I finally finished ploughing through Rob Young’s book on the rise and fall of folk rock (and seemingly most music in between, 607 pages).  A true obsessive’s work, it’s both immersive and sometimes frustrating.  Folk has its detractors and some of the hey nonny crap that appeared in the late 60s early 70s is enough to unravel anyone’s chunky jumper, yet to my mind it is a far more authentic and honest part of our musical landscape than the blues, for example.  But as reading about music is like dancing about architecture and best left to the likes of me, here is a whistle stop tour of records I think capture the sound of Albion both ancient and modern.  Most Rob touched upon but some he didn’t.

Heron – I blogged about their two open-air pop extravaganzas a while ago.  They are samey and even a bit limp sometimes but well recorded and quite captivating in places.

Virginia Astley – Want to go even further out(side)?  Sister of Pete Townshend’s wife, the fragrant Ms Astley created this hyper pastoral oddity in 1983 to universal indifference.  Their loss, as this melodic fresh air symphony is perfect for hot summer afternoons in the garden where time slows to a liquid crawl and creates the space to listen to the sounds of nature all around.  Works best if the neighbours aren’t having a BBQ.  Reissue this now please!

Advisory Circle – As The Crow Flies.  Like nothing I’ve ever heard this mashup of 70s PIFs, analogue synthscapes, Open University weirdness and slices of rural English life is unique, documenting a mysterious land fast disappearing under the tide of globalised corporate blandness.

Ultramarine – United Kingdoms.  English trancemasters whose first conceptual single was about Vorticist artist Wyndham Lewis, they were set to become the new Orb but instead lost their deal after their 1993 album melding ancient history with shiny beats flopped.  Like a hurdy gurdy forced to spend the night in the same tent as a TRB-303, merrie olde England just necks some E and goes with the flow.

O.Rang – Fields and Waves.  Two refugees from Talk Talk were talking late one night about what free jazz really needs – a trip to England’s bleaker outposts like the Isle Of Grain, to like really appreciate their forbidding allure.  Free jazz wasn’t quick enough in getting it’s coat, and here are the holiday snaps to prove it.

XTC – Skylarking.  Criminally overlooked by Mr Young, this album IS rural England away from the bright lights of the 80s.  A complete cycle of the sun and moon in the Wiltshire heartlands with love, sex, faith, work, death and rebirth all passing through the looking glass to bittersweet arcadia on the other side.  Much of XTC’s work is folk-rock in excelsis, Electric Eden is barren without one of their tunes playing.

And one old English sheepdog: the Incredible String Band.  Why, just why oh fucking why?  Should be blasted out into space as far as the rocket cottage will take them.

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