[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
A Year in the Country would have to be the major revelation in my musical world this year; it is both this artist’s platform and a label which boasts an impressive roster of individuals pursuing their own creative visions. ‘All the Merry Year Round’ is the latest in an ongoing series of compilations which seek to uncover hidden truths and lost histories so often clearly visible in plain sight, but only if you have the acuity to perceive them. Whilst other compendiums this label have issued sought to understand the ramifications of man’s intrusions into the natural order, what is offered up this time gives us a rare look through the malaise of crass commercialism into the whys and wherefores of what traditions actually are.
United Bible Studies take us into the fields with a lovely opener entitled “Towards the Black Sun” and we’re soon fully inducted into these mysterious proceedings via Magpahi’s “She Became Ashes and Left With the Wind”. Following this mournful, willowy composition is Cosmic Neighbourhood’s “Winter Light” and then Field Lines Cartographer with a jarring song quite fittingly entitled “Azimuth Alignment Ritual”. Everything seems to be defined in this realm with the pastoral assurance only isolation can provide, why there’s a friendly neighbor coming up the road even as I type.
Oh wait, no, that’s Polypores shifting the mood completely thanks to “Meridian” after which A Year in the Country themselves serve up a timely reminder of what this is all about through “Tradition and Modernity”; this stark change in tone is carried to it’s fruition at the very last with Time Attendant’s “In a Strange Stillness” and The Seance’s “Chetwynd Haze”. I begin to see why it is this was offered in a dawn and night edition as well as digital, an entire cycle of time passes through our ears in a surprisingly short of amount of it but it can be manipulated quite easily depending on where in that cycle you embark from.
At the heart of things, ‘All the Merry Year Round’ gently ushers us to and then shoves us through the proverbial eye of the needle, giving no answers… only existing; I definitely came away with all manner of imagery behind my eyelids, this label is one which proves to me yet once more just how many layers of sediment make up the experimental side of things in merry old England. I used to think it an onion skin but now it has become a maze of subterranean substrata which appears to be endless; while the carolers bellowed away beneath them the arcane and esoteric played and played.