This is the second installment in a series of four blogs about Dark Mountain’s newly released compilation album, ‘Reading the Ashes‘. Out fresh just this Monday past, I described the reasons for another musical angle of the project on the first blog. In short, as a musician myself, it has seemed to me that music and song are often some of the most prominent forms of storytelling. And so it felt pressing to bring together a collection of musical artists and their songs, inspired in some way by Dark Mountain themes.
In this second installment, I bring to you the following three artists that feature on the compilation, Telling the Bees, Tom Maringer, and Dougie Strang.
To download and listen to the full compilation album, please go here: Reading the Ashes
Telling the Bees
Taking their inspiration from folklore, landscape, psychedelia, paganism, and the politics of protest, Telling the Bees mix driving songs and tune-sets with haunting ballads. Intelligent lyrics, exotic rhythms and modes, and instruments as varied as fiddle, mandolin, cello, double bass, concertina, stomp box and English bagpipes are brought together in skilful arrangements, wild at times, gentle at others. They met in 2007 at Oxford’s legendary Catweazle Club, and have released two acclaimed albums, Untie the Wind and An English Arcanum. Their new album, Steer by the Stars, is due for release on may day 2015.
When asked how Dark Mountain relates to their music, Andy Letcher from the band said:
“I’ve been involved in green, alternative, festival, eco-protest movements all my adult life so it’s inevitable that that comes through in my music. And I’m instinctively drawn to the older, folk, drone-based musics of the world. Perhaps that reflects a yearning for something ancient, something that’s been lost.”
When asked about their song ‘Lyra’ on the compilation, Andy said:
“The Lyra of the title has nothing to do with Philip Pullman! I was noodling on a recorder, sat in the stairwell of the house where I was living in Frome, and I started thinking about the constellation Lyra and the ring nebula. The tune just popped out in that rather mysterious way that they do. The epic string arrangement belies its rather mundane origins!”
Find out more about Telling the Bees at their website here: http://tellingthebees.co.uk/
Tom Maringer likes to call himself a comprehensivist in the style of Buckminster Fuller and after the writings of Robert Heinlein. He has degrees in geology and geography, has worked in mineral exploration, cartography, writing, teaching, music, media services, and currently owns a business dedicated to the production of fantasy coinage from fictional or mythical worlds. His novel, ‘A Superior State of Affairs’, deals with the social repercussions of an academic discovery of time-travel, with the fundamental problem of time lying at the root of most of his efforts. Tom was an avid climber and caver back in the day, though in his 60s now has a higher aversion to risk. He still likes to get out in the wilderness whenever possible.
When asked how Dark Mountain relates to his music, Tom said:
“Art and fiction can bend the fabric and time and space to engage with might-have-beens and future possibilities such that we can immerse in those ideas and experience the emotional impact of them. It’s one thing to imagine the world descending into an environmental catastrophe and calculating numbers of dead… it is quite another to immerse in a story of an individual living through that catastrophe. Thje intellectual grasp of FACTS alone will not get people to change the business-as-usual manner of doing things. It will require the absorption of TRUTHS about the nature of time and space and perceivable reality. Only then can ideas be translated into actions.”
When asked about his song ‘Otterhead’ on the compilation, Tom said:
“It is not a song that I intended to write, and indeed I found myself fighting against it at first. I was like: No No! I can’t write that! I want to write a happy song! But the song wrote itself as it were. I woke up from a deep sleep on the eve of Dec 22, 2012… from a dream in which someone is singing this song in my face and demanding that I write it down and remember it. There is a subtext to the song… scenery and images that flicker behind it. I have come to interpret it as a message from the far future… a warning to us in this time… not to let things get too far out of balance. The melody is very simple… like a nursery rhyme, easy to remember and easy for children to sing. And the message is also very simple, if profound. It tells us that if the sea-otters are lost, then the catastrophe is irredeemable. The corrolary is that if we can keep the sea-otters, then whatever else is wrong can be fixed with time. I should tell you that, when I wrote this song I knew nothing about sea-otters… other than a few cutesy photos. I live a thousand miles from the nearest ocean. I’ve never even seen an otter! So this bizarre song erupting into my life caused me to start researching… and to find that the sea-otters are considered a keystone species of coastal ecosystems. That tended to encourage me that perhaps there was something to this thing… this message that I have been asked to pass along. To all who enjoy this, pass it on: “Aint no good if they all gone away, there’s gotta be otters bobbin’ in the bay”.
To find out more about Tom visit his website here: http://www.shirepost.com/wp/mint-master-tom/
Dougie Strang is a Scottish artist and performer drawn to making things that are mostly out of doors, collaborative and participative. Particularly interested in exploring the subtle and not so subtle gaps between human and animal, Dougie makes art that tries to bridge those gaps. Dougie has an MA in Scottish Ethnology from Edinburgh University, where he studied folklore, folk art, and traditional cosmology, all of which continues to inform his work.
The artwork for this album came from one of Dougie’s photographs, called tein eigin/need fire. Here he is explaining his work:
“The tein eigin or need fire was lit as part of a protective and restorative ritual, enacted during times of calamity or illness amongst people and/or livestock. It’s recorded as having still been in use in remote communities in the Scottish Highlands up until the end of the 19th century – almost within living memory – though evidence suggests its use was once widespread throughout Great Britain. It represents a continuity of ritual practice stretching back to the Mesolithic and to the peoples who first inhabited these isles. My instillation/performance is a gesture towards that continuity, though it also takes its own form: the tein eigin was specifically a fire ritual, whereas my piece, by including a burial, highlights its relationship to wider themes of death and regeneration. I’m learning, slowly, to simply make the thing that wants to be made.
“For the piece to have integrity, I knew I’d have to bury myself rather than use a sculpted figure or photo-shop the images. Any sense of artifice was quickly erased by the earth being shovelled on top of me. I struggled with claustrophobia and a growing panic – the need to push my way out – despite being covered by only a couple of inches of soil. Earlier, whilst excavating the burial hole in a randomly chosen clearing in a wood in Galloway, I found bones, old bones, laid deep – the skeletal remains of more than one animal – along with fragments of charcoal. My world-view, the one that comes as standard issue when born into a culture that insists on rationality and empiricism, is increasingly challenged by such ‘coincidences’.”
To find out more about Dougie visit his website here: https://dougiestrang.wordpress.com/