On Plough Tuesday, a Straw Bear marches down the streets of Whittlesea and dances in front of its houses in exchange for gifts of money, food or beer, not that different from what many bands do these days, same as it ever was.
This is another of those millennial English folk traditions that the 20jazzfunkgreats endorse and cherish, echoing as they do the cycles of an ancient land spinning through the eternal rerun of the seasons at their own rhythm, connected to itself and the Earth, the Stars and the Secret World in ways that we nowadays attempt to recreate psychedelically, always falling short because the cognitive frame underpinning such link is lost.
When we look back this way, we usually draw on legends of witches and pagan rituals, beautifully creepy animal masks, sacrifices and black-hoofed beasts trampling the fields, and the rest of it, tacitly shelving the Wicker Man in the horror section of the DVD store, rather than in the mythical ethnography where it actually belongs.
Salmon Patch, which closes Arrow Shower, Way Through’s (i.e. Upset the Rhythm’s Chris and Clare) excellent debut (pre-order here), captures that other rarely recalled side, the joy of the elusive English sun breaking through a sky which gives and takes away, to shine upon the communal procession by which the years are counted. Its awesome post-hardcore-folk jangle delves into a pond of static that is, in fact, a field recording that Chris and Clare took at the aforementioned festival, before splashing back with a triumphant chorale. It is rather fitting that it is Chris and Clare who are behind Salmon Patch, seeing as their wonderful London happenings bristle with the unfakable communitarian spirit of the true, archetypical festival.
And as a footnote to what we just described, here you have the instrumental for Willow’s Theme, which in its vocal version soundtracked Britt Ekland’s bible-basher psyche busting sex spells at the Wicker Man’s Green Man Inn. Utterly breathtaking.
Horrid Red’s religion is of a different sort, for this is after all a band of Comanche raiders rather than sedentary gatherers. Their rituals and songs pay tribute to the gods of metronomic velocity, kaleidoscopic bloodshed and enlightenment through beautiful strife, and to the enemy, beloved because it helps resolve their violent algebra.
If you were to follow their trail of carnage across the vast steppe, reach their leather tent, slide inside and sit with them during a rare moment of calm spent sipping on stolen elixirs, and you asked them what is best in life, this song would be your answer. And Conan would be proud.