Monday, 16 April 2018

Review - Concretism - For Concrete and Country

 Buy the album here

The tape distorts and I am on the Black Special, sweeping across the grey landscape towards my refuge. Calm voices of probable doom are buffeted by the rhythm of the turning steel on the tracks. And although the end is near I am smiling at these sweet sounds of grey horror. As visions of a melting landscape drift before me, the Radomes stand proud, incongruous and mighty. It is time to disembark.

I can hear the pulsing beats of the microwave relay echoing down the hundred metre blast tunnel. In the generator room a man wearing spectacles sits behind his desk, pressing buttons.  I start to tremble. My feet shift left to right and my head sways back and forth. Are my teeth loose or is it my imagination?

They are coming. They are clothed head to toe in white, breath echoing in their cylindrical masks, voices muffled.
“There has been an Unspecified Radiological Incident,” one of them shouts, but her voice is far away and distant. It seems like a memory of something I never knew. She takes off her helmet, asking me if I have come to join the ROC Trainee programme. The man behind the desk stands and flicks a switch. The beats go dark. A voice of an old recording sweeps across, the analogue invades the digital, a misremembered score for a public information film.

I bought this badge in an Antiques Shop in Sheringham, Norfolk.
Everything else in the shop was made of brass.

The woman leads me up a flight of stairs. We wind our way higher and higher breaking through the concrete, the granite and the sod into grey steel and air. Higher and higher. The view from Pye Green Tower is one of imagined devastation. I wish for an end, for emptiness, for the new start that I have seen rehearsed over and over. But I am left waiting, watching.
In the radar room the dot dances, blips and repeats, the man behind the desk stares at it. Scratching his bobbing head. Men and women are working at beige computers, clacking away at heavy keyboards. Waltzing from chair, to screen, to map, to dancing dot. The end of the world was never so romantic. If the tunnel protects us from the inevitable this will be the seat of power. We will need a system. We will need new governments for a new nation. Someone will need to guide us. I hear a voice of calm among the beats and pulses and steel hits, but it is not enough. The man behind the desk is still. Just for a moment.
In the quiet the click of the hardened telephone exchange sings out. Soft sweeping synth caresses the wires, buzzing pylon waves of electricity swim in steady strokes above our heads. The man behind the desk is poised. Alert. He takes off his glasses and gives them a wipe.

"The radiation from this dust is dangerous. It cannot be seen or felt."
Protect and Survive - Crown 1980

A mask and suit are thrust into my hands.
“Just in case,” someone mutters. “We must be ready for the dustfall. Have you built your inner refuge? Your fallout room? Maybe you should stay here. Maybe you should stay with us. Listen.”
The calm voice reassures and frightens in equal measure. Soft tones, rich electronic bass and mechanical clanks, but underneath are reassuring tones that carry sweet nightmare on their breath.

I will stay. The man behind the desk demands it. He draws me in. Commanding me to listen again. To Protect and Survive. To plan my survival kit. To know the warning sounds. To remember. To do this for memory. For past. For future. For concrete and country.

The man behind the desk bows. I will listen again.

The apocalypse is coming and it is a beautiful thing.

You can listen to the first track here:

For Concrete and Country.
An Album of Grim British Cold War Electronica.
Vinyl LP and Digital Download.
Released by Castles in Space on 20th April, 2018.

Genre: Electronica, Hauntology.
Format: 12” vinyl LP (300 copies black vinyl. 200 copies Turquoise Vinyl.)
Also available as a digital download.
Release date: 20th April 2018
Available from: Norman Records, Castles in Space Bandcamp.

Following on from a series of EP downloads and 2016’s vinyl compilation album, ‘Electricity’, Concretism releases an all new album, “For Concrete and Country” via Castles in Space on 20th April 2018. Drawing on influences from the books ‘War Plan UK’ and ‘Beneath the City Streets’, this album features music inspired by Britain’s Cold War infrastructure and state continuity preparations for nuclear emergencies - both real and imagined. The album takes us on a sonically adventurous journey through microwave tower networks, hardened telephone exchanges and devolved regional governments.

The wonderful artwork is by Richard Littler (“Scarfolk”) and features an adapted image of a “radome” located at Field Station 8613, a secret base located about nine miles west of Harrogate in North Yorkshire. These massive white golf ball-like domes protrude from the earth, protected behind a perimeter fence topped with piercing razor wire. Here, in the heart of the tranquil English countryside, these sinister radomes were used to monitor Soviet communications throughout the height of the Cold War.

Chris Sharp, the talent behind the Concretism project, takes inspiration from this not too distant world of nuclear and cold war paranoia, resulting in an album of unsettling electronics which perfectly invokes the pervasive cultural disquiet of intrusive surveillance, the red menace and the bomb. Fears which the recent drift of events confirm are still very much with us, remaining part of our societal DNA.