The Walled Garden
Release date: 30th March 2020, BUY IT (digital)
Pre-order the vinyl version from Wrong Speed Records (ltd to 100 copies)
On the Somerset and Dorset border, between the villages of Goathill and Haydon, is a small garden enclosed by a nine- and-a-half feet high, red brick wall. It can be found just off the B324, at the southernmost edge of the Kendall estate: 13,000 acres of land once owned by the Kendall family − producers of the world-renowned rejuvenating ointment. It was once on the grounds of the manor house, but the property burnt down in 1935, leaving its satellites − the follies, outbuildings and ornamental gardens − untended and unmoored within the vast acreage. By the end of the decade the walled garden was under such a dense canopy of bramble that any penetration beyond the rusted garden gate was quite impossible. In its prime it was said that the garden was extraordinary in every regard, but in one most of all: every plant within its walls was poisonous.
The last tenant of Kendall Hall was Charles Wylde-Martyn; a distant cousin, he inherited the estate after the last Kendall patriarch died without issue. He came to the countryside late in life having spent a good proportion of his adult life abroad; first as part of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, then later as a tea magnate in Rhodesia, with many excursions and diversions in between. He came to this estate with a plan for a garden: a garden that would be unlike any other in England.
It seemed that this late-flowering passion had been triggered by a mouldering tome that he had brought back from overseas; a book that is referred to in his diary as Se Deofol Geard (this is an approximation of what is written, Wylde-Martin’s handwriting was, at this time – by dint of infirmity, delirium tremens or conditions unknown − all but indecipherable). His abrupt interest in garden design was seen by his wife and children as a harmless frippery with which to while away his twilight years, and he set to with their full endorsement.
There was, however, something awry in Wylde-Martin’s garden.
Individually, the anomalies were negligible, but in combination the accumulative effect was considerable. The garden had a troubling, disorientating power, influencing even the most insensitive visitor. The angles of the wall were just off, the trellises hung askew, the beds, which at first glance appeared to be rectangular, were in fact misshapen into asymmetrical parallelograms that made the observer anxious for reasons he or she could not fathom. Discordant bells chimed from the branches and the walls were inset with curious hollows. Had he consciously designed it this way? Why these particular plants? His diary offers no clue and in the latter entries contains nothing but a single repeated phrase: “there will be no invitation to the house.”
There are many curious features to the garden, both organic and otherwise. We have whittled it down to these…
The Widow Blades #7
Fourth Album, Monotreme Records Catalogue number: Mono-49
Release dates: 24th October 2011, BUY IT
Whilst growing up in the country, Reigns Operatives A & B, from an early age became aware of the bizarre, yet inconclusive, fate of a woman from a neighbouring village. It took some years (and a great deal of wading through a seemingly endless stream of local conjecture) for them to ascertain that the woman in question was Millicent Blades: a middle-aged widow who had disappeared during the blizzard of 1978, vanishing somewhere between the villages of Tup’s Fold and Tone Gulley. Nothing was found of her save a set of interrupted footprints and a pile of clothes – all turned inside out.
The intervening years have provided much in the way of outlandish theories pertaining to her disappearance but very little in the way of answers. In a possibly futile attempt to reverse this situation and still haunted by the stories they heard as children, Operatives A & B went back to the area to document her final journey across the countryside. Using equipment selected purely on the basis of portability and resistance to the elements (with perfect synchronicity, their week of recordings coincided with the heaviest snowfall since 1978), they recorded at all the key locations that the widow visited (or is thought to have visited) on her final, fateful day: including, amongst others, her house and that of her physician, an Anderson shelter (home to a vagrant who was briefly suspected of her murder), a former tea room that she had frequented since the fifties, a disused tannery, and (for the climactic 20 minute closer, “The Mounds”) an excavated series of barrows; the approximate location of her disappearance.
The recordings proffered no conclusive answers: whether this was due to the inclemency of the weather, the passing of time and the resultant cooling of the trail, or the operatives’ disastrous decision to record the entire album under the influence of Hybrium Sulphate (a monstrously unpredictable chemical that the widow had herself been prescribed) is a moot point.
The House On The Causeway #6
Third album, Monotreme Records Catalogue number: Mono-37
Release date: 9th March 2009, BUY IT
Between Black Ven and Golden Cap, a slim, man-made promontory of granite cobbles extends unnecessarily a half-mile out into the English Channel. Nothing of note lies at its end or at any point along its length. This apparent futility has ensured that the causeway has, over the years, been excluded from all but the most painstaking of cartography. Even to the naked eye it seems to elude detection for the almost perpetual gathering of fog that seems to hover over its entire reach, and its brief moments out from under this oppressive vapour are instantly curtailed by the ravening attentions of the tides. Only the briefest window of opportunity arises to explore this altogether pointless finger of slimed and stinking rock.
It was during one of these rare moments that Reigns Operatives A & B came to record a perplexing audio phenomenon. It is said that the fog that so vigorously clings to the causeway has an inexplicable irregularity: that when it reaches a certain density, purportedly when light can no longer penetrate it, it emits a high pitched ringing similar to the onset of tinnitus. Apparently, it is this ringing that generates in the listener a temporary but profound befuddlement of the senses that has caused many an excursionist to wade, disorientated, into the sea.
Unfortunately, despite an abundance of fog, the Operatives heard nothing but the slow lapping of the glutinous, clotting water. Furthermore, due to the fog’s impenetrability and their vehicle’s inability to negotiate the cobbles, the Operatives tarried too long and were roughly ushered by the tide to the causeway’s furthest point.
Stranded upon a raised and wooded tumulus they found themselves face to face with a most unexpected sight: a house; a house that had most assuredly not been visible from land. The house was unlocked and uninhabited, but in no way abandoned for its chambers were in a state of high expectancy, as if visitors had been, for a prolonged and industrious period, eagerly awaited. The Operatives, for want of anything better to do, entered the house and, for reasons that still seem to elude them, moved from room to room, taking photographs and recording the strange resonations that seemed to emanate from the walls.
They left the house almost two days later in a state of high distress and with the recordings you now have before you.
It was only as they made their way back to the mainland and the house was out of sight that they were at last aware of an insistent high pitched ringing…
Styne Vallis #5
Second album Catalogue number: jfr022
Release date: 30th October 2006
“A sulphurous, blue-grey miasma hangs heavy over this spoiled reservoir as if the air itself is attempting to solidify to hold the water down. Within it, like spirits trapped in aspic, hover a million flies drawn by the stench of stagnation. If you could see through the fug, through the gelatinous surface of the water and through the shifting green murk, you would see houses, all the dwellings of a forgotten village, pathetically huddled together on the reservoir bed. A thousand silent corridors, landings and hallways, all lost in the gradual act of flaking away.
To the north, the Rectory, its trellises black with kelp. To the west, the war memorial, the names of the fallen devoured by the creeping slime. Now, to the south, the chapel and its new congregation, a thrashing, knotted snarl of eels. Above them, a rusted bell will occasionally slump to one side, emitting a reluctant clank. And somewhere, a page from a sodden calendar comes loose and floats up towards the surface.
This is Styne Vallis. This is where the trail begins…”
Scripted voiceover for Eric Eptova’s lost documentary “Wessex Faultline: Following the South-West’s Supernatural Seam” (1972).
The Blank Tape / Frozen Acid 7’‘ #4
Second 7” single Catalogue number: jfr022b
Release date: 18th December 2006
7” single with booklet.
We Lowered A Microphone Into The Ground #3
First album Catalogue number: jfr018
Release date: 31 January 2005
Upon the fringes of the Somerset Downs, in the paddock of a retired arable farmer, between a collapsed outhouse and a chickenless coop still encrusted with droppings, under a sheet of corrugated iron, there is, in the ground, a hole. An unremarkable hole, perhaps; shapeless, ragged, about the size of a tractor wheel. It is, however, one of four so-called “bottomless” holes worldwide. Its depth and dimensions are literally unmeasurable. Although nothing can be seen within, either with the naked eye or with specialist equipment (all photographic experiments have recorded nothing other than a suffocating gloom), locals claim to have heard strange disturbances emanating from the opening. Some say they have heard unearthly melodies, some the mutterings of an unknown language, one even claimed to have heard his own voice as a child.
On hearing these rumours former PJ Harvey guitarist Tim Farthing and his sibling Roo came to the Downs in an effort to capture these phenomena. Equipped with a mile of flex, a microphone and a recorder the brothers made their tape on a cold November morning in 2003. Each track was made at ever increasing depths until they ran out of cable.
Using a new process of noise reduction technology, designed by the brothers themselves, they were able to strip away the layers of static and interference on the raw recordings to reveal the versions that appear on their debut album “We Lowered A Microphone Into The Ground”. The results astonished and unnerved them to such a great extent that the brothers tried to destroy the tapes in a frenzy of drunken superstition. Despite considerable fire damage, the treated recordings were salvaged and restored by a local entrepreneur to something approaching their former glory. The original tapes and their unpatented noise filtration apparatus were, however, completely incinerated.
Although this recording is perfectly safe, we do not advise playing the tracks out of sequence. For reasons yet to be ascertained, this practice has lead to equipment failure and, in some instances, physical side effects in the listener including disorientation, mild nausea and prolonged auditory hallucination.
Corners And The Straights 7’‘ #2
First 7” single Catalogue number: jfr017
Release date: 17 May 2004
The Two Minutemen Compilation #1
The twominutemen (cd) Catalogue number: jfr011
Release date: 01 August 2003