Friday, 26 February 2010

Slipper-y slope

When the winter nights bite, there’s nothing so good as a pair of slippers. But slippers can be horrible things, and Lord Bassington-Bassington has so far avoided them like, well, if not quite like the plague, then at least some other uncomfortable affliction - say, an ear infection (always a tricky condition for Bassets).

Still, His Lordship thinks that if the slippers are made of velvet and emblazoned with a nice motif they become less granddad-y and more Baudelaire-y, and thus perhaps acceptable for use around Bassington Manor. And a little research has turned up some rather delightful slippers.

These green velvet slippers send His Lordship's thoughts back to old Laibach record covers, and thus back to a million fond memories.

Lord Bassington-Bassington’s favourite purveyors of footwear, Jeffery West, have also gotten into the slipper action with these sleek numbers.

But the real crown is taken by New and Lingwood, meanswear extraordinaire, with these Pirate King slippers. They have the same motif that's on one of His Lordship's hankies, and the possibility for matching is intriguing.

Whatever pair of velvet slippers Lord Bassington-Bassington ends up selecting, there just one problem: His Lordship's better three quarters, Lady Mju, is solidly against them, and if he aquires a pair of velvets she has threatened to buy a pair of felt slippers, the least sexy piece of footwear known to man (even if they do look rather snappy on Sonny Duckworth.)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Bowler Hat Day - report

A while back, we here at the Chronicles decided to celebrate the first Norwegian Bowler Hat Day. A few sporty colleagues consented to help out with curry cookery, and even more agreed to be our guinea pigs.

Thank you so much for all your time and effort, and thanks to everyone who ate our vegetarian curry and contributed money to this noble cause.

Here are some quick pictures from the event and the receipt from the charity.

(The World's Coolest Librarian demonstrates proper, though non-compulsory, attire for the event).

(While Mrs. Ferrada demonstrates that there are many ways to wear a bowler. In fact, are there anything that won't go with such a stylish hat?)

(Lady Mju's private secretary, Kornelia Shazoo, was put in charge of the money gathered).

We're already looking forward to next year's event!

Here's your donation receipt:

Donation reference : D19036375

Charity name : SOS Children's Villages UK

Charity registration number : 1069204

Donation amount : GBP480.00

Gift Aid plus supplement : GBP0.00

Sonne Hagal

We've been a bit lazy with our musical updates here at the Chronicles, but thought we'd tip our readers off that Sonne Hagal have recently released some very desirable pieces of vinyl. One of these is a re-release of their album Jordansfrost, in a very stylish sleeve. The album is a very solid neofolk release, with a gallery of guests ranging from Of the Wand and the Moon, Darkwood, Lux Interna and In Gowan Ring - just to mention a few names.

Of course, Sonne Hagal are no strangers to stylish reissues.

The other piece of vinyl is the new seven inch single "Läuthner", a snappy little number in a beautiful little gatefold cover.

Both records have provided Lord Bassington-Bassington with a lot of pleasure.

(We bought both from Mr. Pockrandt in Germany, and suggest you patronise his emporium).

Oh, and here's one of the songs from Jordansfrost.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lovecraftian discoveries

It's time for a small Lovecraftian post.

Firstly, because we've quite forgotten to show our readers what it looks like when we finally got a full-sized version of Mr. Kvant of Scania's study of H.P. Lovecraft properly framed and mounted on the wall of Bassington Manor.

It looks rather small in this picture, but it's really 70 cm tall. It's hard to put words to the pride Lord Bassington-Bassington feels about owning such a beautiful object, not least because it was created for him.

And secondly, because the new issue of Dark Discoveries magazine is an H.P. Lovecraft special, and Lord Bassington-Bassington has enjoyed it very much. With the short story by W.H. Pugmire as the high point.

Friday, 19 February 2010

On the Street... Drooping Ears, Strømmen

Basset lovers know full well that tragedy can strike. But tragedy can also lead to joy.

Not long after the Norwegian family of Sørensen lost their beloved canine companion, a young lad found their home to be a good place to set up camp. Enter Mr. Gustav Beowulf av Lulubelle, whom Lord Bassington-Bassington and Lady Mju were recently able to visit at his abode in Strømmen, close to Oslo.

And how better to commemorate the visit, than to continue the Chronicles’ habit of looking at the fashion and lifestyle trends in the canine community?

We feel that this picture shows how well Mr. Gustav Beowulf carries off the droopy-ear look that is absolutely essential for the coming season (and, as we have stated before, for every season).

Like any trend-conscious bachelor, Mr. Gustav Beowulf knows how to appreciate the finer things in life. Like a thorough belly-rub.

After this rubdown, Mr. Gustav Beowulf was kind enough to take Lord Bassington-Bassington's secretary for a short walk. Which was sorely needed, as His Lordship's secretary and assistant is starting to get a little heavy in the flanks.

Gustav Beowulf has no such figure problems. In fact, as this picture shows, one of the advantages of having a perfectly proportioned Basset physiology is that one can pull off almost any look. Take, for instance, this workwear-inspired harness. It would look somewhat ludicrous on a lesser breed of canine, but looks fabulous when Gustav Beowulf rocks it.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Karjalan Sissit

Martial industrial music was an interesting proposition for a while. Industrial noises, militaristic drumming, historical samples - perfect for us who overdosed on historical documentaries and war simulations when we were younger. But like any genre, it soon became flooded with cheap clones. It seemed like any kid with a computer, access to The History Channel and a few unsavoury books was cranking out some drum machine sequences drenched in Hitler samples.

So when Albin Julius, leader of Der Blutharsch, in many ways the genre's best band, stated that "Martial industrial is dead", you just knew the martial party was over (while the party obviously continues over at Der Blutharsch's house, where they now play groovy psychedelic rock).

That doesn't mean Mr. Julius was entirely right, though. For even if a genre dies, it doesn't mean that the best bands in it also have to go the way of the dodo. And just as AC/DC and Motorhead have survived any number of backlashes against hairy hard rock, there are some martial industrial bands so enjoyable that they'll be immortal.

One of these is Karjalan Sissit.

Karjalan Sissit is what you get when you take a Finn that seems kind of pissed off that the Winter War ended before he was even born, and pissed that black metal ended before he could burn a church, but mostly pissed on Koskenkorva, and transplant him to Sweden. There you let him have access to Peter Bjargö's Erebus Odora studio. And the rest if, if not exactly musical history (Bach it ain't), then at least tremendously enjoyable. Here's an interesting interview, by the way. And we here at the Chronicles particularily recommend the debut album on Cold Spring - if you can get hold of it.

As the videos above indicate, Karjalan Sissit give some of the most demented concerts imaginable, and Lord Bassington-Bassington is happy that he has been lucky enough to catch them on stage once.

These videos are from a gig in Eskilstuna, and no, we here at the Chronicles don't know where the band ends and the drunken audience begins, either.

And no, we don't recognise any songs, either.


It's almost enough to give one back faith in martial industrial...

Monday, 15 February 2010


Before my eyes, there slowly emerged a giant snake coiled about the earth; a snake that by constantly swallowing its own tail vanquished all polarities; the ultimate, huge snake that mocks all opposites.

Opposites carried to extremes come to resemble each other; and things that are farthest removed from each other, by increasing the distance between them, come closer together. This is the secret that the circle of the snake expounded. The flesh and the spirit, the sensual and the intellectual, the outside and the inside, will remove themselves a pace from the earth, and high up, higher even than where the snake-ring of white clouds encircling the earth is joined, they too will be joined.

I am one who has always been interested only in the edges of the body and the spirit, the outlying regions of the body and the outlying regions of the spirit. The depths hold no interest for me; I leave them to others, for they are shallow, commonplace.

(Yukio Mishima: Sun and Steel, tattoo by Ink Couture).

Friday, 12 February 2010


In a time when music is sold in cheap and gaudy jewelcases or terribly-sounding MP3, it's fun to follow artists that try to put some effort into presenting their music. For a beautifully presented record can provide an extra dimension to the experience of music, much in the same way that good popcorn can make a movie more enjoyable.

Neofolk labels and artist have always been good at producing “cult objects”, but one wonders if the boxed version of Sturmpercht’s new release, Schattenlieder, don’t set a new benchmark even in this genre.

The idea is to use the musical instruments to record a cover of one of Sturmpercht's songs, which will then be released in a compilation. Lord Bassington-Bassington is working on how to carry out this project, as he - apart from howling - has little aptitude for making music.

(Thanks to Lady Mju for the pictures).

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Blur, Britpop, British Image

As should be obvious to any reader of the Chronicles, Lord Bassington-Bassington suffers from an advanced case of Anglophilia (some would go so far as to call it Anglomania). And while the roots of his affliction go far back, there are certain milestones that can be ascertained. One was discovering legendary band The Who at a tender age, the other was buying George Marshall’s book The Spirit of ’69 – A Skinhead Bible, a book which will certainly be covered in detail in these Chronicles in the future. Another milestone was being exposed to a charming quartet of young English musicians who call themselves Blur.

Blur started out as a rather run-of-the-mill band trying to surf the dance rock wave that started in Manchester. But after a while, the "Madchester" phenomenon drowned in a wave of drugs and baggy clothes, and Blur needed a new direction. Grunge? No, contrived scruffiness of grunge rockers – not to mention their whiny music – were hardly an alternative.

Something new and fresh was desperately needed. And like all sensible people, Blur searched for the new and the fresh by looking to the old and well-tested.

The result was two brilliant albums, Modern Life is Rubbish and Parklife, where a vision of Englishness bordering on pastiche was put across with a passion. This Britpop, as it came to be called, had no clearly defined manifesto, but if it had had one, it would be perfectly summed up by The Kinks’ song "Village Green Preservation Society".

While the covers of the longplayers Modern Life is Rubbish and Parklife are emblematic of Blur’s mentality, nothing captures this phase of Blur’s career better than the promotional photographs British Image 1 and 2. The photograps are taken by Paul Spencer, and captures the band at their most vibrant and relevant. And yes, His Lordship is considering buying prints of these from here, despite exorbitant prices.

Not only had Blur realized the pure power of British style, but also the power of being seen with members of the canine community. Is that a lovely Bullmastiff we're seeing? Rumour has it that the original sessions featured a Basset, but that rampant anti-Basset sentiments in the record industry at this time demanded that the canine be exchanged for a more popular breed. One only wonders how far Blur could have gone without such concessions to commercialism. Surely they would have achieved the American success that eluded them.

Gradually, Blur dropped the stylish British mannerisms in covers and dress, flirted with American “alternative rock”, and more or less became everything they originally reacted against.

But not before giving us two of the best albums of the 1990s. And two of the best band photos.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

In a Western - and wintry – rose garden

Recently, Lord Bassington-Bassington went back to the house of the mysterious Sufi master to collect the remainder of his library. This is now safely deposited in His Lordship's office, along with this beautiful cupboard emblazoned with a Sufi logo.

So we felt it would be the right occasion to publish this excerpt from Hazrat Inayat Khan's In an Eastern Rose Garden. This passage really struck a chord with us.

Nature's religion

Although it is no exaggeration to say that there are numberless religions in the world. And every religion has so many different sects and churches and chapels that this life is not long enough to study them – indeed it would be impossible even to count them in one lifetime – yet that which should really be studied proves to be something very different, for the thinker perceives that these many different religions have sprung out of one religion. Religion may begin in the East or the West, in the South or the North, yet it will always end in many religions. The more we ponder upon how all can have come from one, the plainer becomes the fact that all are expressions of one religion. And this religion is nature's religion.

The question as to what exactly this religion really is and how one may get to know it, can only be answered by those who have raised themselves beyond the limitations of ceremonial and dogma in which they are always first instructed. But rising above a religion does not mean giving up the religion. It means being fully benefited by the religion. Those who say they have given up their religion are not above it; those alone are above it who have arrived at a full understanding of the spirit of religion. As soon as the spirit of religion has become manifest, then indeed are the eyes blessed. The distinctions and differences of castes and creeds and religions all vanish away in one moment of time.

Once this is perceived, there ceases to be anything to criticize; it is all one what form of worship is to be used, what church is to be attended, what book is to be read. From now on it is seen that there is no such thing as a heretic, no such thing as a heathen, no difference between Kufr and Muslim.

The master's old prayer beads won't be used much, we fear, as Lord Bassington-Bassington isn't much given to prayer. But we hope that we have found a properly respectful resting place, namely on top of a copy of Muhammad Asad's translation of the Quran, a copy of which was kindly presented to us here at the Chronicles by general secretary of the Islamic council of Norway, Shoaib M. Sultan, himself. We are deeply grateful for this, and it has already given us much pleasure.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Italian Neofolk: The Green Man

They've been mentioned in passing here at the Chronicles before, but The Green Man fit perfectly into our little series on Italian neofolk.

The Green man represent neofolk at its most hippy, perhaps even its most trippy, and use themes borrowed from such bottomless sources as the writings of Aleister Crowley and the film The Wicker Man. We here at Bassington Manor are especially taken with their stage props. Nice sun banner, isn't it?

Visit their MySpace page for more sounds, pictures and information. We here at Bassington Manor are planning to order their records.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Bowler Hat Day

Looking for a charity to back can be difficult, but after a long search we here at the Chronicles found the perfect cause: Bowler Hat Day. This annual event takes place this coming Thursday, and it's a day when the City of London picks up its bowler hats and does something for those less fortunate (i.e. those who do not have their own bowlers.

Even if London City is a bit away, His Lordship is planning to import this fine tradition to Norway, and we here at the Chronicles will be serving a hot curry lunch to our colleagues, asking them to pay what they like and send the monies to the Bowler Hat Day people.

Usually, proceeds from Bowler Hat Day go to SOS Children's villages, but in light of the terrible situation in Haiti all money collected this year will go to relief work in that unfortunate country.

Bowler Hat Day does not support such worthy causes as Basset rescue groups, but you can't have everything.

So, pick up your bowler hats and do something charitable this coming Thursday! (Or later, the Chronicles' little event will have to be postponed to next Monday for technical reasons).

If you gentlemen need any tips on how to wear a bowler, we here at the Chronicles suggest you take a peek at Mr. John Steed. And if you ladies need tips, we couldn't resist publishing the picture below, which we stole from this excellent French blog (and which they in turn borrowed from Ralph Lauren).

But ultimately, bowlers are not what's important. The heart beating about a foot below it is what matters.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Darkwood: Nibelungenland

Because Darkwood were mentioned in yesterday's interview. And because sometimes a beautiful song and a bunch of photos is all you need to make a nice little video.

The song is from Darkwood's album Nothwendfeuer, a record that should be in every neofolk collection.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Looking for neofolk

Even the most casual reader of this blog can hardly fail to notice that it publishes quite a few posts about neofolk music. The reason, of course, is that this is one of Lord Bassington-Bassington’s favourite genres. But what exactly is neofolk? This is a more difficult question than you might think.

Thankfully, there's help at hand. Enter Andreas Diesel and Dieter Gerten, two Berlin-based gentlemen who are in a unique position to shed some light on the subject. Herr Diesel and Herr Gerten are the authors of Looking for Europe: Neofolk und Hintergründe, the most comprehensive text about the genre available. Taking its name from a Sol Invictus song, the book runs to over 500 pages, and is accompanied by a four-CD compilation giving a broad overview of where neofolk comes from, what it has been and what it is today. This book is indispensable reading for anyone who want to claim any insight into the matter.

(Dieter Gerten, left, and Andreas Diesel. Photo by Kathryn Gentzke)

While Looking for Europe was written in the gentlemen’s native German, Looking for Europe is currently about to be translated into English. Watch this space for more information.

When not writing about neofolk the two work with other very serious and intellectual matters. Herr Gerten is a professional hydrologist and amateur meteorologist, while Herr Diesel is a poet and translator. He has been translating H.P. Lovecraft into German, which of course earns him a lot of respect here at Bassington Manor.

This interview was done by e-mail, and Herren Diesel and Gerten did not distinguish who contributed which part of which answer. So if the reader wishes, he or she can imagine the two gentlemen as a two-headed troll. Albeit a very well-mannered and cultivated troll. Perhaps more Gilbert & George than a troll, now that we think of it.

(Death in June)

– It is hard to get a grip on what neofolk is, as many of the bands who have had the label applied to them sound nothing alike. So what, exactly, is neofolk? Is it a musical genre, a “scene”, or a movement of sorts, or just a label for some record companies to make their customers feel themselves superior to the normal Grufti (Gothic person)?

– It’s really hard to pin down. Personally, as former Gruftis we first encountered bands of that type in the early-to-mid-Nineties’ gothic and dark-wave scene. This was before the term ‘neofolk’ had come into use as a designation for a separate genre; back then, most people, at least here in Germany, considered bands like Death In June, Current 93, Sol Invictus, or Sixth Comm to be intrinsic parts of the dark underground.

– These groups were special because they referred to obscure literature and movies, history, mythology and occultism, while their music was a blend of the musicians’ roots in the industrial, punk and wave scene(s) with their interest for traditional (British) folklore and singer/songwriters like Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen, or Love. All this made for a unique mixture, something that was amplified by the quasi-mythical status of these bands back then (remember, it was hard to find anything by, or any information on, so-called cult groups in pre-internet days, which made it even more alluring).

– In Looking for Europe, we argue that the aesthetical and spiritual common ground of the bands we deal with in the book is more important than a merely musical one. Of course most of the bands that are labeled neofolk, dark folk, or apocalyptic folk have at one stage of their career or another used musical elements that account for the term ‘folk’, but these can be mixed with other styles (ranging from elements of early music via pop to industrial harshness) or even be completely neglected, without the artist in question necessarily dropping out of the referential web that, in our opinion, constitutes neofolk more than musical categories. For example, bands like Blood Axis, Ostara, or Orplid might record albums with few or no folk elements, but still there are features in the lyrics and the overall presentation that make their music function within that ‘canon’.

(Current 93)

– Neofolk has attracted a fair bit of controversy because of themes and symbols that often pop up in the neofolk context. In fact, some people seem to want to paint neofolk as some sort of fascist conspiracy – as a sort of “Skrewdriver for grownups”, perhaps. What is your take on this situation? Is there a neofolk ideology?

– Simply speaking: no, there is no such thing as a fixed “neofolk ideology.” As anyone who knows some of these musicians, label bosses, and fanzine writers will attest to, these people are often very different from one another, and great emphasis is put on individuality.

– Having said that, there are of course some common features, as we have implied in our answer to your first question. Most, if not all, of the artists we examined in Looking for Europe are interested in and inspired by things from the (European) past – literature, art, mythology, religion, occultism, historical events – and they express their personal reflections on these things in a musical style that often sees a combination of old and new elements.

– The people who would like to portray neofolk per se as some sort of “Skrewdriver for grown-ups” or “Frank Rennicke for goths” (Rennicke is a German neo-Nazi songwriter) clearly follow their own agenda, whether they come from the extreme left or the extreme right. They project their own narrow-mindedness and biases unto a musical spectrum, while totally ignoring the diversity and ambiguity of the whole thing and, above all, disregarding the autonomy of the artistic sphere.

– This is not to say that every artist in this spectrum, every statement that has been made, or every reference or sample within the music is beyond criticism or that ‘confrontational’ art shouldn’t be scrutinized. One could ask whether a band uses historically charged allusions for mere shock value, or in the framework of artistic debate, or if there are more sinister (or silly) reasons for this.

– However, the controversy surrounding these things, especially on the internet, has become a bad parody of Groundhog Day mixed with Godwin’s Law: a ritualised trench warfare that, regardless of proclamations to the contrary, isn’t interested in open discussion, explanation, or clarification. Several times, when confronted with positive proof that the artists they’re rallying against in fact aren’t the fascists or racists they would like (?) them to be, these “internet partisans” aren’t relieved. Instead they get even more angry and just keep pressing their point – a rather strange and, ultimately, very revealing reaction.

(Darkwood's Nothwendfeuer, an exquisite neofolk album)

– Looking for Europe was published in 2005. What has happened in neofolk since then, and which new trends do you see emerging? Does it have a future, or will the genre become so formulaic that it will die of itself?

– When we speak of neofolk as a genre, then the whole thing is well past its prime in our opinion. Like in most other musical niches, clichés, repetitions, and stereotypes abound. The fragmentation into sub-subgenres, as well as the advent of affordable music software, MySpace, download labels, and other internet platforms haven’t helped that situation. These tools tend to encourage young would-be musicians to put out all their stuff to the world immediately, without any period of critical reflection and maturation. I am rather fond of Siouxsie Sioux’ famous riposte to punk’s DIY ethos: “Everyone can’t do it.”

– Positively speaking, there are, and probably will always be, great musicians coming forth with inspired music in this field, but these artists are mostly striving against the stream of subcultural fads and fashions and don’t get as much attention as their music deserves. As examples from the last decade or so, I should mention artists such as Lux Interna, Birch Book, IANVA, Naevus, or Darkwood in this regard.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Truth in streetwear (an art critique)

In 1929, Belgian artist René Magritte exhibited a painting of a pipe with the moniker “This is not a pipe”.

This is not only one of the most famous pictures in the history of art, but an interesting philosophical paradox to ponder. A bit like a zen koan, perhaps.

Oh, and the pipe was really beautiful, so like the best avant-garde art it also has a an element of beauty that can be appreciated even if you’re not the type who likes discussing art theory while wearing black turtlenecks.

But let's get to the point. A few weeks ago, while waddling around the streets of Oslo, Lord Bassington-Bassington passed by one of the city's leading purveyors of so-called “streetwear”, i.e. clothes for people who like wearing baby clothes after they have graduated from kindergarden. In the window of this establishment His Lordship spied a selection of footwear whose large slogans – unusually annoying and aesthetically abrasive even for a style of clothing that makes people wear shirts which proclaim that they're “porn stars” – caught his attention.

While obviously a nod to Magritte, these statements represent what is called, in Internet parlance, an “epic fail”. So Lord Bassington-Bassington feels the need to try his paw as an art critic and explain why. For, as His Lordship usually says, “I might not know much about art, but I know what shoes I like”.

The footwear-borne Magritte homage fails for two reasons.

1. It’s been done before. If you’re going to set up shop in the cultural wasteland that avant-garde art has been for decade upon decade now, the least you can do is try to be original.

2. The statement “this is not a shoe” upon these pieces of footwear is not a paradox, as a canvas-made, rubber-soled pair of Converse have virtually nothing to do with shoes in the first place.

No, this is most emphatically not a shoe.

This, however, is a shoe.

Instead of an interesting philosophical paradox, what the people over at Converse have given us is a rare instance of truth in advertising. I guess we here at the Chronicles should be thankful for that small mercy. Perhaps we could look forward to other forms of streetwear being emblazoned with similar slogans? Do our readers have any suggestions?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Silent and Soviet Sherlocks

For Lord Bassington-Bassington, there will only be one Sherlock Holmes: Jeremy Brett. And no, it's not just because our friends at Orchestra Noir paid homage to him, though we here at Bassington Manor have to admit that this did play a part in our decision to purchase a DVD box of Jeremy Brett's collected works as Mr. Holmes.

As a result of this, His Lordship has so far refused to see the Sherlock Holmes film currently making the rounds in the cinemas. An American as Sherlock Holmes? No, thank you.

Which brings us to this little snippet, which illustrates why silent movies are so superb. For when small-talk is eliminated, only the truly relevant questions remain.

If one is going to choose a wildly inappropriate actor who likes to undress to portray Mr. Holmes, why not just as well go for Arnold Schwartzenegger? Or a Russian?

It turns out somebody already had that last idea. And as the film below shows, however evil the Soviet Union was, it could make a better Sherlock Holmes than the current capitalist movie industry (thanks to The World's Coolest Librarian for the tip).

Perhaps His Lordship has to moderate his passionate anti-communism?

Now playing: L'Orhestra Noir's homage to the real Holmes. On beautiful, single-malt coloured vinyl.