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English Heretic - Wyrd Tales, The Heretical Reader + CD

Wyrd Tales is the third publication and recording from English Heretic, an organisation comprising occult archaeologists, astral geographers and mystical toponymists to maintain, nurture and care for the psychohistorical environment of England. English Heretic have already started a black plaque campaign to commemorate and draw public attention to historical figures in such diverse fields as sorcery, the Royal Art, left hand path occultism and witchcraft, as well as the mentally infirm: tortured poets, psychopaths and village idiots. Michael Reeves the director of the classic horror film Witchfinder General has already been commemorated at Ipswich Cemetery. Wyrd Tales is their most ambitious project to date, consisting of a publication and accompanying CD containing documentary evidence of their excursions both real and imaginary. Wyrd Tales casts its net wide taking in articles on forgotten occult screenplays, atavistic audio experiments involving techniques derived occult artist Austin Osman Spare, investigations into the psychogeography of landscapes pertinent to the authors Daphne Du Maurier and M.R. James, dovetailing into hermeticism, alchemy, folk beliefs and customs along the way.

Wyrd Tales opens with the fictionalised account on the trail of the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, and the possible inducements of confession through Digitalis poisoning by the plant Foxglove. Written in a contemporary M.R. James style it's a cryptic yarn, augmented by the archaic folk of 'Seasons of the Witches Glove', a track reworked and made famous later by the Scottish folk minstrel Donovan.

Two fictionalised pieces surrounding the occult artist Austin Osman Spare are illustrated by tracks constructed using an AOSSIC Radio, a type of audiomancy whereby recordings are taken from scanning the wavelengths, edited to remove any insignificant elements and played back while focussing on a Spare painting taped to the radio set in order to glean hidden perspectives from it. The first track using this technique, 'Pan Satyros' splices inane conversation of a couple on their first date recorded at one of Spare's favoured public houses, while the other focuses on the paintings 'The Vampires Are Coming' and 'Minion of The Outer Ones'.

The screenplay The Abraxas Inheritance by Robert Navane tells the tale of a Professor Nayland investigating sympathetic magic in rural England whose unwitting demonstration of alectromancy to a farmhand, sporting a ring depicting the deity Abraxas, leads to a Wicker Man-esque climax. The accompanying 'Theme From The Abraxas Inheritance' is an eerie soundscape with the telling voiceover: "sacrifice to appease the gods", while a boy, girl and man recite the poem: "Don't stray too far in the corn-fields, for the wheat cock waits, buried to the neck in fresh threshed yield, and guess who will be the autumn crow...".

Side 1 of The Digitalis Experience - An Electronic Meditation on the 17th Century East Anglian Inquisition by the music group Witchcraft Research Association and the post-Reichian philosopher Dr. Alan Champagne illustrating the confessions extracted by the Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins. The torturous watery effects reflect the confession of the Anglian Vicar John Lowes extracted whilst subjected to prolonged swimming in a pool, while eerie strings provide the backdrop to the horribly garbled confession of Margaret Wyard. 'Xanthopsia' features Champagne elucidating on psychoactive herbs and witchcraft. The electro rhythms and English accented vocals on 'Mansions On The Moon' are reminiscent of the Legendary Pink Dots. The final track from this elusive album features words from an alchemical formula sung over ritual folk music. The Digitalis Experience accompanies a monograph on alchemy and its connection to the witch's confession and the purported role played by Foxglove poisoning.

The English Heretic team investigate the geography in the M.R. James story 'Oh Whistle And I'll Come To You', extrapolating on the superstitions surrounding whistling and speculating on the folkloric inspirations for the story. It's accompanied by environmental recordings taken from Felixstowe and Walton. It creates a subtle ambience consisting of lapping waves, disturbed beach shingle and gentle flute playing. The second part based on John Dee's Tuba Veneris appears to be an invocation of three demons, in the mould of Current 93's 'Maldoror'. Phil Legard of the ether-folk outfit Xenis Emputae Travelling Band guests too.

The Menabilly Barton Pathworking as recorded by Dr. Alan Champagne and members of the English Heretic Research Group attempts to map out the significance of the Cornwall locale where Daphne Du Maurier lived and wrote her most famous novel The Birds, and to investigate the unconscious effect that wartime experiences had on the writer, and the psychological effect it continues to exert on the populace at large. The audio document of the pathworking expedition fuses Elgar's Cello concerto with the songs of Vera Lynn, ominous soundscapes and excerpts from seances channeling the speeches of Winston Churchill (himself a freemason and Druid). This is the first report from English Heretic investigations into the occult aspects of Britain's war campaign.

Wyrd Tales traverses a psychic hinterland blurring the lines between fact and fiction. It's the sort of thing that you might file alongside Stewart Home's non-fiction pamphlets, and Mark Pilkington's Strange Attractor volumes. Read is as fiction, read it as occult investigations, read it as humour or as a combination of the above. The folks at English Heretic are on to something but what exactly I'm not sure. For more information go to