In Haunt

When sounds of the strange countryside surged across The Peer Hat stage and over the audience as part of a performance at the Gothic Manchester Festival 2019, the fusion of electronic music, field recordings and live readings was a thrilling combination. Now the band behind it, Flange Circus, have created a full album (available digitally via Bandcamp from the 17 July) in homage to that original live set. Their soundscape spans across an impressive 13 tracks, complete with atmospheric readings from Sarah Hymas, Andrew Michael Hurley, Louise Holloway, Helen Darby, Mark Pajak and Emily Oldfield. All profits from digital sales will be donated to The Woodland Trust.

Rural Eerie By Flange Circus

The resonance of the Rural Eerie could be considered particularly pertinent right now. After all, the situation of the Covid-19 Pandemic meant that people only had the option of walking closer to home; causing those who live in the countryside to perhaps encounter its everyday eeriness in a whole new way, whilst to those living away from it, a sort of mystery and ‘otherness’ was instilled. During this time, the sounds of nature have seemed to emerge stronger than ever: the cry of birds, the weird turns in the weather, even the echo of our own footsteps. Presented by Flange Circus alongside Haunt Manchester and MASSmcr, Rural Eerie rips apart the myth of the countryside idyll and encounters alternative aspects of location through a powerful score, structured around readings of both poetry and fiction.

The haunting hum of synths and plunge of bass combined with the creep of spiralling keys is testament to Flange Circus’ self-described ‘hauntronica’; a genre of sound emerging through hauntology and electronics. Expect basslines that bed themselves deep in the mind and melodies moving sinister through the sonic experience, hit home with the drive of a tin drum; as works to chilling effect on the album itself. The band consists of Bon Holloway, Pete Collins and John Taylor – each multi-instrumentalist delivering their own twisted rural reflection.

By Pete Collins/Flange Circus

Not only is the music strikingly unique, but it has been specially developed with the writers involved... an example of poetics and performance in exciting creative fusion. The poets, writers and readers were commissioned to reflect on the Rural Eerie theme ahead of the original 2019 performance, and the band then co-ordinated soundscapes to their work based on a selection of keywords. The album has been Produced, Mixed and Mastered by Bon Holloway at High Peak Recordings, New Mills, Derbyshire. In addition, Lucy Simpson assisted in the recording of Mark Pajak, Sarah Hymas and Andrew Michael Hurley at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Considering that the genres of place studies, nature writing and ecology seem ever-increasing in popularity, Rural Eerie provides a fascinating range of mediums challenging old set narratives about the countryside and inviting audiences to enter the Gothic, the wyrd and the magical. Particularly passionate about this is author of The Loney, Devil’s Day and Starve Acre, Andrew Michael Hurley:

“More than ever we need to seek out the weird in our rural landscapes. In doing so, we are reminded that even the places we pass every day - the field by the railway line, the featureless moorland - are alive. More importantly, if we infuse those places with stories, our stories, then we're far less likely to let them die.”

By Pete Collins/Flange Circus

Andrew Michael Hurley, along with Emily Oldfield, was also involved in performing an abridged version of the Rural Eerie at the Manchester Folk Horror Festival III, again at The Peer Hat. To coincide with the album release, Flange Circus have additionally announced a limited edition DVD: ‘Rural Eerie Visualised’, featuring the album accompanied by films and visuals shot by the band, edited and produced by Pete Collins.

The band added:

“Our experiences of the countryside have always seemed at odds with the idyllic and the harmonious vision pedalled by certain groups and institutions. The bucolic rural always has a darker, more sinister side for us: woodlands at night; abandoned farm buildings; lonely moors; communities the are often more suffocating than welcoming; that look you get when you walk into a village pub, the way you’re made to feel an outsider; that noise, that screech, when you’re walking down a country lane at night or camping out; that moment when you stray off the public footpath and the consequences you reap; rituals and events of a seemingly ‘traditional’ nature that are bound up with some bygone and exclusionary sense of national identity - survivals that might seem quaint, but are weirder than that. All of this and more we wanted to explore this musically and sonically.

By Pete Collins/Flange Circus

“The eerie is all about something that should be there, but isn’t, or something that is there, but shouldn’t. The countryside is full of eerie experiences and sounds, place and objects, practices and rituals, and that’s what we’ve tried to capture here - particularly through the multiple field recordings we used on the album and how we’ve mangled them. Yet we didn’t want this just to be music - we wanted to explore this through other media and forms. So that’s why we wanted poets and writers to explore it alongside us, and to film those weird and eerie things and places in the countryside for the DVD. Our last album, ‘Abandoned Glow’, explored themes of haunting and ghostly experiences, so ‘Rural Eerie’, seemed a logical progression for us in terms of ideas, but also to expand what we creatively produce.

“Working with poets and writers has been an inspiring venture for us (and we must thank Emily Oldfield for curating them as it wasn’t a world we knew much about). Listening to the way they brilliantly evoke their stranger experiences of the countryside and then trying to compliment their work with sound was challenging, but exhilarating.

(Image below - taken prior to the Rural Eerie: Abridged performance, now featuring on the DVD. From left to right: Pete Collins, John Taylor, Emily Oldfield, Andrew Michael Hurley, Bon Holloway. Photograph by Helen Darby.) 

By Helen Darby

“Hopefully listeners of the album and viewers of the DVD will come away thinking about their own weird experiences of the countryside and be ready to read rural landscapes in different way. A lot of the sonic side is about taking sounds and making them vaguely familiar, yet never fully placeable. Hopefully this will lead people to dislocate and disturb that idyll we’re all told to believe in, but also embrace, repatriate and even celebrate its stranger, darker side.”

With evocative track titles including ‘Snipes on Down’ and ‘Nineteen Corvids’, this is a plunge into the Rural Eerie intensified by field recordings from various rural locations in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and North Yorkshire.

Rural Eerie is available for Digital Download via Bandcamp on the 17 July, and for pre-order now https://flangecircus.bandcamp.com/album/rural-eerie-2 (also contains a link to the limited edition DVD), all profits from digital sales to The Woodland Trust.

Flange Circus DVD

By Emily Oldfield

Image 1 by Flange Circus, images 2-4 by Pete Collins/ Bon Holloway/Flange Circus, image 5 by Helen Darby, image 6 by Flange Circus. 

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