The Corn Mother, the latest “artifact” released by multimedia hauntologists A Year In The Country, is a soundtrack to a film that was never released. Only because it was never released, it’s less a soundtrack and more an evocative response to the source, based on half-remembered scenes and Chinese-whispered dialogue, forming an incomplete yet inviting sense of curiousity. You want to see the film as described in the liner notes, and as conjured in the songs on the album, and that’s an incredible trick to pull off.
What’s worse is that The Corn Mother - a folk horror story, all harvest and nature magic and blood in the soil - almost certainly doesn’t exist, although its parallels do in such films as The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan’s Claw, and television plays of the 1970s like Penda’s Fen. This is hauntology - the genre, rather than the philosophical dystopic - in its finest form, where buried memories of film, TV, music, and life come to the surface, often unverifiable because the hard copy has been lost or was never properly recorded in the first instance.
A Year In The Country have set out their stall impressively. Alongside CD releases like The Corn Mother, they have made hauntological fictional evocations their stock trade, and produced one of the set texts in their self-titled anthology, released in 2017. They join fellow travellers Ghost Box and Clay Pipe in creating new old things, accompanying BFI, Trunk, and other crate-diggers, in filling in the gaps left by the neglect of our forebears. At times like these, you can be forgiven for looking back when there is little to look forward to (and that’s the hauntological dystopic).
The artists featured are a mix of established genre veterans and less-recognised acts, and the sounds veer from full-on folk songs to redolent soundscaping. There’s always an air of menace present, as befits the “source material”, though, and if The Corn Mother were to be suddenly discovered, there's no doubt that it would take its place amongst the eerie, unsettling ritual horrors it is clearly designed to conjure.
THE CORN MOTHER – REFLECTIONS ON AN IMAGINARY FILM / PERFORMED BY: VARIOUS ARTISTS / LABEL: A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY / RELEASE DATE: 4TH DECEMBER