and it’s not just great artwork

When you got 17 different acts recording in 17 different ways you really need someone who can make it all fit together smoothly. Also when Bandcamp offers high res downloads and vinyl needs special treatment to sound good and CD needs a different approach you really need somebody to master it who’s got a good grounding on all the formats.

A good understanding of the mission and the music would help too. So it had to be Andrew Liles who’d himself contributed a track to the album with his blood-curdling take on “The Landlord’s Daughter”.

As well as being a seasoned producer, composer and musician, Liles’ technical skills have leant themselves to many a mastering job for the likes of Nurse With Wound, David Holmes, Ben Chasny, Jarvis Cocker, Gnod, Bill Fay, Current 93, The Lounge Society, Natural Snow Buildings, Comus, Kawabata Makoto, W.H.Lung, The Orielles and many, many more.

No good having such a great line-up for the album, all giving their best, if we’re not going to make it sounds as good as possible. Being so heavily experienced in mastering all the types of music featured on here, Liles has done a perfect job.

But it’s not just top musicians…

..though obviously it’s important that we got a great line-up who could do the line-up justice.

However, as any true lover of physical media knows, having great cover art is important and for this mission I had only one person in mind.

I have the poster for this excellent documentary on my bedroom wall, in a recycled wood frame. It’s the first thing I see many mornings

He’s also done artwork for the mighty Green Lung

And this Wicker Man blu-ray box set from Imprint FIlms

So, of course I asked him if he’d do our cover art. He’s a busy guy, check out his website and you’ll see he also does a lot of film and TV work

He did a few mock-ups and they were all so good, I had no idea which one I wanted for the cover. He also said that when the line-up was finalized, if he had the time, he’d do the whole design.

Well, fast forward 18 months later and I message him to say I finally have a line-up, does he have the time and by a weird coincidence (if such things exist!) it turned out not only did he have a little time but he’d just come back from a holiday visiting and photographing the filming locations so not only could he do the whole design, he had the materials to take his mock-ups to the next level.

He asked me if I wanted a gatefold design for the vinyl. Gatefold costs more. I’m from Yorkshire, we don’t like extra costs but the idea was too powerful to resist.

So there’s the ruined church from the film as it looks in June 2023

RIchard also has a Big Cartel page where you can buy prints of his stuff

You should also follow his Instagram.

Michael Begg – Appointment With The Wicker Man

This one on the soundtracks is just a fanfare, some dialogue and some sound of burning from the film. Well, I say “just” but it is some classic dialogue

Written out like that it sounds kind of skippable but however, I had a better idea. You see I’m an enormous fan of the Scottish composer/producer Michael Begg ever since I heard the fourth album of his project Human Greed back in 2011.

He’s also a prime member of Fovea Hex alongside Clodagh Simonds (Mellow Candle). He’s also collaborated with Brian Eno, Colin Potter, Chris Connelly and Hans-Joachim Roedelius. And he’s definitely a dab hand with the field recordings too, as this incredible album based round the sounds of a Glasgow crane demonstrated

So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get him to record something for Was Ist Das? He was the first person to finish their track for the project, and this conversation led to classic Human Greed albums getting reissues on Was Ist Das? on double cassette deluxe editions

It just goes to show how long “Ballads of Seduction, Fertility & Ritual Slaughter” has taken to come together, because we’ve now done two double casette reissues before the project was finished. Heck, the catalogue number for Ballads is WAS58, our reissue of “Fortress Longing” is WAS68.

Anyway, taking advantage of his home studio and immediate proximity to the Scottish coast, Michael Begg has created something intimate and intense using his studio skills and authentic field recordings. Now it is time for YOUR appointment with the Wicker Man

Dean McPhee – Sunset

The Wicker Man Wiki says that this is apparently derived from a Bulgarian folk song called “Zamrakanala Mona Jana” of which I struggle to find any trace. Messing around with Google Translate I get the claim that the title is in Arabic and means “You are not from heaven”. That may be AI just talking cobblers. So the more I try to find out about this one, the more mysterious it becomes

Dean McPhee is a solo electric guitarist who has recorded for labels like Folklore Tapes, Hood Faire, Blast First Petite and Reverb Worship.

I’ve tried many times over the years to review Dean’s music and it always feels like floundering trying to find the right words. It’s beautiful, atmospheric, spacious. Play it for yourself and see what I mean

Dean’s never done a cover version before but I just had this absolute conviction that this song would sound amazing floating out of his guitar and would make a perfect final track for the album. Luckily he agreed and so does the record.

The Banshees of Bunworth – Searching for Rowan

“Searching for Rowan” is a modernized version of the old Irish reel “Drowsy Maggie” (it’s a reel not a jig as often reported) with simply some electric guitar added over the top. Plus a nursery rhyme. Its a simple twist but has always been my favorite instrumental in the whole film.

Unlike the other songs which tend to lend themselves well to solo interpretation, this was one where I really felt we needed a band. However, with the bands you have complications like getting everyone together at the same time, rehearsing, recording, mixing. Then it’s got to fit in with existing recording, touring and recovering schedules. Also, harsh fact of modern musical life, day jobs.

My brain went through a lot of pain on this one and then the answer hit me so hard. I went to Willie Stewart and Natalia Beylis. I’ve lost count of how many times they played the Calder Valley as part of Woven Skull. Everybody who met them thought they were grand musicians and awesome folks.

Natalia runs Sofia Records. Willie runs Nyahh Records. Together they did the Hunters Moon Festival in Carrick-on-Shannon, Ireland. They even turned their home into a venue sometimes. Everyone loves them. So it was simple, rather than ask a band, just ask Willie and Natalia to get a squad together

Naturally, Willie is on the percussion. Natalia, following on from the immense album linked above, is on the organ. Then they’ve got Matt Warren on the guitar, Ultan O’Brien on viola and Zoe Basha on vocals. So on paper, they’re all set to do it totally faithfully which they do except there’s a much greater sense of exuberance. It feels joyously alive. Then comes the bit when you’re expecting “Baa baa black sheep” to come and the unexpected happens, plus it feels like someone put their foot on the pedal.

It’s a fucking blast.

Burial Hex – The Masks/Hobby Horse

One of the most interesting instrumental parts of the soundtrack, seemingly playing Britten’s “Corpus Christi Carol” again but this time on an acoustic guitar accompanied by some discordant sounds and jigs, a really atmospheric and striking piece of music that synchronizes perfectly to the film.

Naturally, with this being a Was Ist Das? release I wanted to find someone who could make atmospheric, discordant music….

Burial Hex is the project of Clay Ruby. I’m not an occultist myself but I’ve always found its association in music intriguing like with Coil and most definitely in Burial Hex. I’ve also always liked the fact that he’s based in Wisconsin, a place I’ve never visited but that has haunted my subconscious ever since my first encounters with the Wisconsin Death Trip book and documentary.

As well as Burial Hex, he’s played with Wooden Wand and Zola Jesus, is a member of Wormsblood, Jex Thoth, Second Family Band and he co-runs Brave Mysteries label who have put out many of my favorites like MV & EE, Phurpa, Bong, Chicaloyoh and Sylvester Anfang II

Never really know what to expect from Burial Hex’s music, it has so many different aspects, yet I knew from the themes that whatever I got back would be absolutely 100% faithful to the spirit of the Wicker Man soundtrack. What we get is on one level musically very faithful and on the other level blown way further out with huge, echoing spaces of sound. A rather sepulchral sounding version, you could say

David Colohan – Loving Couples/The Ruined Church

Well, now we’re properly into the realm of instrumental themes, though of course “Loving Couples” is just a soft, wordless flute reprise of “Gently Johnny”. The piece known as “The Ruined Church” is taken from the start of Benjamin Britten’s “Corpus Christi Carol” which is an ingenious reappropriation when you think about it.

David Colohan is an Irish singer, songwriter, musician and producer. He’s the most common element of United BIble Studies (though even he is not on every UBS record or live line-up) and has previously worked solo as Agitated Radio Pilot and Raising Holy Sparks before switching to just using his own name.

Since then, he’s firmly established himself as one of the leading synthesizer dreamers of our age, creating endless works of analogue electronic beauty

Does it count as cheating when I’d already got him on here as part of UBS? Not really, cause there’s a very distinctive difference to his solo stuff and I knew he’d be a perfect fit for this. There’s hints of Coil circa “Music To Play In The Dark” and also the feel of something you’d find on a classic library LP. So, yeah, he is on here twice, but the results justify it!

Sharron Kraus – Sing Cuckoo (Summer Is A-Coming In)

So much has been written about this 13th Century song that there’s not really a lot I can add. It’s a celebration of the excitement you feel when Summer is on its way (so whoever wrote it was clearly not living in Phoenix)

Sharron Kraus is such a figurehead for real, living but slightly dark folk music in the present day that it would have been ridiculous to undertake a project like this and to not at least try asking her to take part. She’s created an incredible series of albums, not to mention some outstanding collaborations like Rusalnaia (her duo with Gillian Chadwick), her trio with Meg Baird & Helena Espvall as well as work with United Bible Studies, Belbury Poly and American author Justin Hopper.

For all her grounding in English folk, she’s created a truly international body of work and when a new album drops, its a major event. Definitely an artist you have to follow on Bandcamp.

Sharron has created a deconstructed, haunting rendition of the song. There’s an air of melancholy, which Sharron explains was caused by the realization that when the song was written, the cuckoo was much more common than today. The British Trust for Ornithology states that since the early eighties, Cuckoo numbers have dropped by 65%. Beautiful and sad at the same time. It’s a wonderful reinvention

Teleplasmiste – Festival/Mirie It Is

Let’s be pedantic, and use its original 13th Century name “Mirie It Is While Sumer Llast”. This and “Sumer Is Icumen In” are both rare examples of 13th Century songs that aren’t psalms.

Teleplasmiste is a collaboration between co-founder of Strange Attractor Press, Mark Pilkington (Raagnagrok, Urthona, The Begotten, Luminous Foundation) and Michael J. York (Coil, The Holy Family, The Stargazer’s Assistant, The Utopia Strong, The Witching Tale) who’s also leant his talents to Current 93, Shirley Collins and Ulver among many others.

Aside from their rich musical pedigree, another thing that excited me about asking them was that Mark appeared in the documentary “Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched” which planted the seed from which this project grew. Also Strange Attractor Press put out the excellent book “Of Mud and Flame: A Penda’s Fen Sourcebook” which really let me deep dive one of my favorite films.

I felt like Teleplasmiste would be able to do something incredibly radical with the music while at the same time treating it with the greatest respect and reverence.

The result is the longest song on the album, nearly nine minutes long, starting off in a huge swirling abstract whirl of analogue synthesizers and subtle pipes, it builds in intensity before piping out the old refrain in spectacular fashion.

Hawthonn – Lullaby

Lullaby in the film is a simple harp refrain based around a repeating riff. Not something that would really lend itself to a cover version usually but in the right hands it could be the seed that grows a mighty tree. Hawthonn were definitely the right hands

Raising up in the same West Yorkshire psychedelic scene as the likes of Vibracathedral Orchestra and Ashtray Navigations (for whom Phil of Hawthonn played with on a few recordings), they chart their own distinctive path that recalls how Coil blurred the lines between art and the occult.

While as ethereal as anything Dead Can Dance or Six Organs of Admittance have invoked in a studio and definitely seekers of obscured truths, they bring that no bullshit Yorkshire attitude and would most likely sooner collaborate with Celine Dion than entertain any of that fake edgelord, shit-posting nonsense. They’re real people, not posers in any sense.

I was so excited when they agreed to do this track because I really had no idea where they would go with it. As I suspected, they used the original merely as a launchpad and are as indebted to Paul Giovanni about as much as Chris Corsano is to the first ancestor to hit a bone on some stretched skin.

It’s not so much a cover version, as a righteous evolution.