Thursday, November 29, 2012


The exquisitely monikered electronic duo of Adrian Anthony Flanagan and Dean Honer have created a beguiling, gritty, poetic beauty of a record that is part psycho-geographical field-trip, part history lesson and part contemporary state-of-the-nation address. “Practical Electronics enthusiasts from Sheffield, make spooked out spoken word LP with Maxine Peake” is how The Eccentronic Research Council underplay their achievements on “1612 Underture” an album based around “the mistreatment and memory of the Pendle Witches” in this the 400th anniversary year of their deaths.

There are musical backdrops and interludes of library music corruptions, Kraftwerk-like machine pulses and windy drones over the course of this 37 minute journey o’er hill and back in time. But in the foreground is the narration – and latterly singing - from stage and screen actress Maxine Peake. You only need to listen to scene-setter ‘Autobahn 666 (Travelogue #1)’ to know that this is neither opportunistic celebrity casting nor novelty but a match made in rain-swept heaven (“Welcome to the all beautiful flowers, we need our rain”). By your third listen, it’s inconceivable anyone else could deliver this front-woman role that pulls all the time and space dimensions of “1612 Underture” together so well.

Peake brings a flinty, hard-edged Northern attitude to the record whether it’s a road-trip into the heart of Lancashire in the travelogues (the elegiac ‘From The Grave To The Freshcos Late (Travelogue #4)’ is particular moving), the bitter, first-person re-telling of the biased trial and persecution the ‘witches’ (‘Trial By Jiggery Pokery’ and others) or the angry, final condemnation of contemporary mores and celebrity obsessions in ‘Ghost Of Old Lizzy Southerns Returns’. There is a rich eloquence to this demotic poetry whether modern or ancient, whether condemnatory or conversational (“tourism is a funny old fox-trot in Pendle Town... how do we market the loss and hanging of women?”). As well as the anger and observational sharpness that ridicules David Cameron, the EDL, Jeremy Kyle and Matthew Wright, there is also a winning humour (“curse the Twentieth Century Yorkshire versus Lancashire bread-cake versus barm-cake debacle...[pause] it’s a barm-cake”) to off-set the analogue spookiness worthy of Broadcast at their most occult and morbid.

“1612 Underture” is released on Jane Weaver’s Bird imprint which to date has concentrated on female folk singers either current or overlooked from earlier decades. At first the shadowy and bearded Eccentronic Research Council appear unlikely bed-fellows with the label. But their collaboration with Maxine Peake not only has strong feminist leanings in its uncovering of injustice and prejudice both then and now, it also fulfils a definition of folk as music of the people. I saw some Twitter shock that this album wasn’t included in Top 100 albums of the year from Manchester’s Piccadilly Records. The more I play it, the more I agree. It’s a fascinating listen and one that deserves to reach far beyond its hard graftin' Northern patch.

The Eccentronic Research Council 1612 Underture [BUY]

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