#3 What Is New Weird Britain? A Guide To The UK Underground In 2018

As we get ready for this year’s Supersonic Festival, Noel Gardner, John Doran and Luke Turner present their takes on what the underground we’re calling New Weird Britain constitutes, from anti-corporate defiance, performance art, and a bold new exploration of landscape and place.

The way that we discover and consume music is constantly changing. In a climate of the tame repetitive mainstream where music is only valid if it gets financial return, Supersonic has always celebrated the counter cultures that emerge to create music against the odds.

The Quietus have released three essays which articulate the gloriously fertile underground scene of the UK- a scene coined as ‘New Weird Britain’- and how those cherishable artists within it account for a glorious, nationwide explosion of defiance in music.

Read Luke Turner‘s take below, where he highlights Supersonic line up Gazelle Twin, Shirley Collins, Laura Cannell and Nik Void as his choice for this year’s festival



New Weird Britain Essay #3

New Weird Britain: A Guide To The UK Underground In 2018

By Luke Turner


A dark smear on the road ahead, cars swerving to avoid the dismembered remains of a deer. Quiet car parks where solitary men emerge from white vans, furtively following one another into the bushes. Seasons topsy turvy from climate change. The Diggers, the Ranters, the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Archive documents that bluntly report tragedy, a dead baby wrapped in newspaper and dumped in a forest clearing. The crumbling concrete of obsolete fortifications, a reminder that the English landscape has always had within it the promise of violence. 

These are aesthetic and historical touch points for a gathering of the artists of New Weird Britain who are re-examining our relationship to the non-urban. Nature-inspired art can often have a sentimentality that’s a hair’s breadth from the reactionary, as Tom Nairn wrote in an analysis of Enoch Powell’s pastoral poetry, we might find “babbling brooks feeding rivers of blood”. New Weird Britain can help dam these malevolent streams as, with DIY artists forced out of our increasingly homogenized cities, it’s in the grubby hinterlands of the non-urban that we might increasingly seek insurrection.

On Saturday night, Gazelle Twin presents the debut of Pastoral. This record, made in the deep England of her Midlands home, has at its heart a brutalism and a politic that attacks the conservatism of the (frequently rural-dwelling) Baby Boomers who brought us Brexit. It ploughs up the increasingly outdated view that art related to the natural world and rural has to be soft and twee. Pastoral declares that the non-urban landscape is if anything more violent and defined by sex and death than the city. 

This might still be expressed in traditional forms. In Laura Cannell’s fiddle and recorder, the lark of Vaughan Williams is caught in the talons of JA Baker’s Peregrine, swooping over the flat lands of the east. There’s a common misconception that the world of folk music is inherently conservative, but the reemergence of Shirley Collins as a contemporary artist subverts simplistic notion. Her recent memoir All In The Downs is as much a polemic about the power of the old songs as it is a telling of her own life. 



I find it significant that these artists are female, subverting the paradigm of the poet of nature being the lone male, conquering territory. At the heart of our thinking around New Weird Britain as a navigation of place must be a focus on diverse and oft-unheard voices. In my spoken word piece for Modern Ritual, I discuss a queering a landscape, arguing that a re-sexualising of the pastoral (a different take on the current vogue for re-wilding nature) might bring us a more sensual engagement with the land. In this fecund exploration of place we might begin to cleanse it of the polluting forces of nostalgia and nationalism; reclaiming England through sound. 

New Weird Britain at Supersonic, according to Luke Turner:

Gazelle Twin
Shirley Collins
Laura Cannell
Nik Void