Sweet Fruits: ‘Shapwick’ by Jon Brooks

In May 2018, Wyrd Harvest Press published Folk Horror Revival: Harvest Hymns, two excellent volumes of appreciation for music with a strong connection to landscape. For Volume 2: Sweet Fruits, I wrote about my love for Jon Brooks’ 2012 album Shapwick, released by Clay Pipe Music. It’s quite an impressionistic piece – I listened to Shapwick repeatedly throughout the summer of 2013, which was a difficult year for me in many ways. But the album helped so much. Thanks to Andy Paciorek of Folk Horror Revival for allowing me to reproduce the article in full here:

All the greatest music has the power to transport.

Shapwick takes me to a wood; a wood no great distance from here. It’s a late on a summers evening and the air is thick and heavy, laden with the scent of wild garlic and honeysuckle. The trees form a canopy; a green smother of sycamore and birch, and through their leaves I catch fleeting glimpses of a drowsy haystack, marooned in a shimmering, rolling field of pale earth.

The heat is lifting, and the air is breathing a sigh of relief. It throbs with a vague, buzzing analogue hiss and – on the lightest of breezes – I hear the faintest shimmer of a thin, elusive voice. “If the bat actually takes the insect tonight, what we hear on the detector is this…” but within a moment it ebbs away on a gentle tide of pops and hums. I’m usually at the gate at this point. I have to hold it open; poor old Allie can’t climb it any more. 

Pianos tumble; woodwind drifts. This might be the most perfect night of my childhood, when – just for a moment – the terrors of the nuclear age are pushed back into some distant, not-happening future, and the world is soothed by a chorus of pulsing, synthesized calm. Or it could simply be a dream of those times; a fortysomething man drifting through the days, retreating from middle-aged melancholy into a never-quite-happened past.

It doesn’t really matter either way. A passing car rumbles in the distance, then seems to falter – somehow gently rewinding backwards through time. A telephone voicemail message is evasive; broken and lost. There are hints of listless Saturday teatimes, of shock regenerations beneath giant radio telescopes. And through it all, an overwhelming sense of sadness, loss and grief.  

Shapwick takes me to people I once loved, their faces vague and fuzzy. To memories both sweet and haunting; a dog I nursed through the final months of illness, and the back seat of a tiny car with upholstery hot to the touch. It makes me feel both happy and sad, both young and old, both myself and somebody else. And music that makes me feel like somebody else is always very welcome indeed.

This isn’t the Shapwick that Jon Brooks visited before he made this album, but that’s fine. Everyone who hears this album, who loses themselves in its perfect, haunting mystery and charm, has to find their own Shapwick. I’ve found mine. I hope you find yours, too.

Shapwick is available here:

https://cafekaput.bandcamp.com/album/shapwick-2

Folk Horror Revival: Harvest Hymns and other Wyrd Harvest Press publication are available here:

https://www.lulu.com/search/?adult_audience_rating=00&contributor=Folk+Horror+Revival&page=1&pageSize=10

Interview with Jon Brooks here:

https://hauntedgeneration.co.uk/2020/04/03/jon-brooks-shapwick-and-how-to-get-to-spring/

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