"Second Language are one of those labels that don’t belong in today’s downloadable, I-want-everything-yesterday society. Their lovingly hand-crafted releases reward patience on the part of the artist as well as the audience.
Tyneham House is a fittingly timeless release, produced in conjunction with Clay Pipe Music, who have lent Frances Castle to provide the simple but effective folky artwork. Comprising of numerous short melodic studies by several anonymous Second Language regulars, the album has been put together from snippets of old cassettes and records and dedicated to the village of Tyneham in Dorset.
As with any Second Language release the packaging is just as important as the music; particularly so in this case. Featuring a lino-printed illustration of Tyneham House, a cardboard box contains a little treasure trove of sounds and images nestled amongst shredded paper. Accompanying the CD and bonus cassette is a brief introduction to the release and a beautifully illustrated booklet containing further images along with touching quotes from former Tyneham residents. Once a thriving and charming village, Tyneham was requisitioned by the military for training purposes during World War 2 and subsequently never given back. Its once proud manor house fell to ruin and it now remains a ghost village. Second Language felt that it was high time tribute was paid to this fascinating place.
So, on to the music. Arranged like audio postcards containing brief messages from the anonymous inhabitants, the 14 CD tracks come and go, offering glimpses of the landscape. Flutes, guitars and accordions are order of the day and although much of the music borders on the twee there is something so charmingly English and picturesque about the whole thing that you can forgive it. This is undeniably music for sunny days, meadows and flocks of birds whistling through gentle breezes. There are, of course, the occasional breaks for rainy days and a cosy fireplace, as in the drifting ‘The Ragged Cat’ and sparser moments such as ‘The Porch Room’.
There is a more fragmented nature to the cassette tracks, which offer further explorations of the source material. Characters and places are formed through a greater use of field recordings of rainfall, bird song and spoken word. We are invited into people’s homes and to local gatherings, all adding another layer to the work. A sense of place is conveyed, offering a glimpse of what life may have been had the village been returned to its rightful owners.
All in all this is a lovely little collection of pictures and sounds and certainly succeeds in providing a fitting soundtrack to this intriguing story. Fans of esoteric folk musings and of course Second Language’s previous releases will certainly not be disappointed. – Recommended!
- Katie English for Fluid Radio"
"“Oh, how lovely!” says she, clapping her hands once in delight. Over sixty years have passed since she last saw her ancestral village. Blinded by a mortar strike, she had been told only spindles of narrative: Mum, we had to move. The government needed our village for training exercises. They shot up the Tyneham house; we were not allowed to move back. The cat kept wandering to her old quarters; the soldiers kept shooing her away.
“Place is place,” the woman recites, milky eyes and cracked hands and a voice caught inbetween. ”Home is home.” She caresses the ridged paper of the tiny booklet that she found in the cardboard box. ”Do read it to me again.”
“Please treat the church and houses with care,” her granddaughter reads, dutifully.
“But they did not, did they.”
“They did not.”
“But the little booklet tells our story.”
“It does. And the music.”
“I always did like those plastic boxes.”
“Cassettes. There’s a CD too.”
“Who’s the lovely man singing?”
“I’m not sure, one of those Second Language types, very pleasant, don’t you think?”
“Is someone writing on a chalkboard? Who’s there?”
“I think that’s part of the song.”
“Oh, and . . .” Now she wrings her hands as if washing them. ”Oh.”
“What is it?”
“I always did like the flute. Elizabeth played the flute.” Elizabeth smiles, remains quiet. ”Such happy times, before the war.” She pulls the box closer, reaches inside once more. ”Did the sparrows come back this year?”
“They did. They’re here now.”
“Oh!” she exclaims once more, patting the shredded paper inside. ”I think I have found their nest!”
Tyneham House, a joint releases from Second Language and Clay Pipe, straddles multiple genres with ease. The CD of ambient folk tunes is sparse and primarily instrumental. The cassette is a collection of found sounds, many from other long-lost cassettes: primers, conversations, birdsong, rain, rattles, creaks, and more music, including a child’s piano lesson. The folk art of Frances Castle (The Hardy Tree) ties it all together. The release is a testament to the resilience of place: a fascinating curio in the form of a contemporary keepsake. (Richard Allen - A Close Listen)"
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