Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Steampunk continues a folk meme

From the Independent on Sunday: A new age of steam (Kate Youde, February 2010 - "Steampunk, a modern mix of Victorian technology and sci-fi, is becoming a major influence in books, fashion and on the big screen"). There seem to have been a lot of media references lately; possibly in connection with the recent exhibition of Steampunk art at Oxford's Museum of the History of Science. The article focuses on Katie MacAlister's Steamed: A Steampunk Romance, which looks rather fun, and mentions groups such as the Victorian Steampunk Society and the UK Steampunk Network website. It's a genre I rather like, as you might guess from the continuing references to Charles Babbage here at JSBlog.

Quite by coincidence, during a meander through YouTube, I ran into Abney Park, a steampunk/gothic band: see their exquisitely-designed website. Their songs are framed by the persona of aerial pirates in a steampunk world (it reminds me of that in Kipling's 1905 story "With The Night Mail", in which the world is governed by a consortium running an airship cargo network). I can't say I like all of Abney Park's work, but it includes a number of very good folk-industrial fusion pieces such as this gripping and hard-edged version of I Am Stretched On Your Grave (Abney Park, BTW, get their name from the overgrown and atmospheric Abney Park, a non-denominational cemetery in London).

Rather like "Patrick Flemming was a Vallient Soldier" - see Immortality through song previously - the song I am Stretched on Your Grave is a highly durable meme, originally an anonymous 17th century Irish poem, Táim sínte ar do thuama (From the Cold Sod That's O'er You in Walsh's 1847 Irish Popular Songs) - thematically similar to The Unquiet Grave. It has since been through a great many covers; the Sinead O'Connor one is well-known, although I like Kate Rusby's straight folk version better.
- Ray


  1. Irish music is rather amazing. I once could do about a dozen fiddle tunes (but not like those River Dance speed demons). Hardy is good, but he doesn't do melancholy like the Irish (in my humble opinion, of course.) My father (Irish descent) liked "Oh the days of the Kerry Dances."