Hello strange folk. Everything has gone a bit crazy, and chances are some of you are stuck in solitary at the moment. To ease some of the gloom, we thought it would be useful to share with you our HERESY reading list for SS20, Corona edition. To keep the mood up we've also taken the initiative to pair each book with a relevant beverage, so you can numb yourself correctly while falling into a blissful world away from apocalyptic toilet paper warfare.
England's Hidden Reverse - David Keenan (Strange Attractor Press)
This is a really interesting book that delves deeply into the English post-punk/industrial music scene and the ideas and culture that surround it. Formed from hundreds of hours of interviews, mainly with underground trailblazers Throbbing Gristle, Nurse with Wound, and Coil, as well as their peers of the underground and fringe practitioners, it highlights the obscureness of British culture. Keenan examines the relationships these artists had with earlier generations of outsiders, and how they turned what they took from them into something new, that has been instrumental to British music and art.
The book also contains pages of brilliant photography of all the parties involved, which seems apt, as the visual tropes of the movement were just as critical as the music itself. If there was a case for folklore being a subject that is fluid and constantly evolving, this would be a fantastic example, especially as there are clear lines of influence between the artists covered, and those involved in the 'New Weird Britain' scene that is happening right now.
For our pairing, we thought it should be something industrial, experimental, and a bit aggressive. We've found something in the studio that fits pretty well, a plain, unmarked beer can that has been on the studio floor for a while. There's a 50% chance it contains a sour-beer which would be perfect, but the uncertainty fits the theme nicely too.
Weird Walk (zine) – Various
We imagine that if you've ended up here reading this, that you might already be familiar with Weird Walk. In a time where there seems to be a lot of people jumping on the folklore band-wagon, the guys at Weird Walk are doing something authentic and interesting, and with reception they've had so far, I can't imagine they're going to slow down any time soon.
Self described as 'a journal of wanderings and wonderings from the British Isles', these zines are really nicely put together, the pictures and graphics are perfect for getting you into a romantically rural mindset to read about things like Medieval graffiti, flat roofed pubs, or some musings on walking. A really great look into folk activity, both historical and contemporary, Weird Walk feels as alive as a punk zine, just maybe a little slower and quieter. An important manual to help lead this reviving interest in the odd and important parts of British culture.
The drink to go with this was a no-brainer, a British ale from one of the most iconic British folk sites, Cerne Abbas.
The English Year - Steve Roud
This isn't so much one to sit down and read cover to cover, but an excellent book nonetheless. The English Year is a chronological guide (one of the best we've found) through all the English folk customs that happen throughout the year. There are all the ones you know, and a lot of ones that you don't. Every time we pick this up it reinvigorates our excitement for how weird and cool this country can be, cheese rolling, Obby Oss's, marbles championships, dwile flogging, you're pretty spoiled for choice. This is best enjoyed with other people, so fingers crossed some of you are on group lockdown.
We think a beer from our folk-enthusiast mates at Villages would be fitting for this one, this one is a session beer so you don't lose the plot and sign up for this:
HELLEBORE – Various
Small press has always been important to us, and has had a hand, in one way or another, in shaping what HERESY has become. HELLEBORE is the first issue of a really cool little zine about Folk-Horror, with writings inside from a line-up of PHD students novelists, weird-fiction writers, and folklorists. There is an interesting interview with Professor Ronald Hutton (folklore/paganism historian), with his take on where folk-horror, witchcraft, and rural superstition sits in today's cultural landscape. There are some nice graphics in there too, with lots of recognisable bits of folkloric iconography and some cool witch-y etchings.
It would only be sensible to pair this one with something a bit dark, so we figured a bottle of Hobgoblin would fit well. It's only a short zine so you could probably read the whole thing with one, maybe two, bottles of this, depending on how 'thirsty' a person you are.
All in the Downs - Shirley Collins
Shirley Collins is considered, by many, to be one of the most important figures in British folk music. A folk-song collector and folk singer, she was instrumental in the English Folk Revival of the 60s and 70s. Her career was cut in half, as after suffering an intense heartbreak that destroyed her self-confidence she withdrew from performing, unable to sing, for almost thirty years, until, after years of coaxing from Current 93's David Tibet, she returned to perform with the band in 2014 at the Union Chapel in London.
The book is autobiographical, and Shirley's gentle manner is conveyed brilliantly through her written voice. The book darts back and forth through time, recalling memories that are unbound by a rigid chronological narrative, which is especially pleasurable to read, as it feels like she could be right by you, telling the story as it comes to her.
This one is a perfect remedy for being cooped up at home, as Collins gives brilliant and loving descriptions of the Hastings countryside she grew up in.
To go with this we thought we'd need something a little bit rural to get the full effect of being transported to the countryside going, but Shirley is no wimp, so a strong bottle of mead seems to fit.
Diary of a Drug Fiend - Aleister Crowley
This one was one of the research texts for our upcoming A/W season later this year. Aleister Crowley is Britain's most notable and celebrated occultist, Diary of a Drug Fiend is his first published novel, and although it is written as fiction, the story is commonly accepted to be based on Crowley's own experiences. It was widely documented that Crowley was an enthusiastic drug-experimenter, and struggled with addiction, mainly heroin.
The book follows an aristocratic couple in a whirlwind love affair that leads to a chaotic drug-binge honeymoon in Europe, followed by a desperate downward spiral, intertwined with occultist philosophy and experimentation with magick. The book is equally energising and harrowing, and both sides of drug use are conveyed with an authenticity that only a seasoned participant could recount.
The protagonists are wealthy guys, so even in the midst of the ups and downs of heavy heroin use, they seem to be drinking a lot of champagne. We decided for practicality we are going to pair Diary of a Drug Fiend with a Prosecco instead, this one is a tenner from Sainsburys. Look after yourself but lets not go mad, there's a pandemic out there.
Cheers for reading, remember to think about vulnerable people first, don't be a dick and stockpile stuff that older people might need. Be sensible and keep yourself and others safe.