Local band "Beyond The Bars" have released two albums. The more recent is entitled "Far Off Things".  Could this , I wondered, reflect  an Arthur Machen influence? The bands lyricist, Jonathan Airdrie, told me:

"This title encapsulated, firstly, the impact of the 'mystical moment' ; and also the influence of the past (wandering through the highways and by-ways of Gwent) on the present."

He added:

"I was - and am - convinced, as Machen was, of my debt to the magnificent splendour and mystical qualities of the Usk Valley, especially where the river moves into and through Caerleon and then out towards Usk town itself. The ineffable beauty of Gwent Iscoed was a vital instigator in terms of me writing anything at all. I was 'blown away', as they say, by its wonder."

As 'an angst ridden adolescent' Jon lived at the bottom of St. Julians, a suburb of Newport. He told me, "I would, almost daily, walk up to Christchurch and look down over Caerleon."

Prim Gardens (of Christchurch Hill)
(from "Far Off Things")

Fare thee well the simple believing,
on the walk where time stood still.
From the Usk's sweet silver winding
past prim gardens of Christchurch Hill
I believe that time stood still for me
in the curious blossoming of that spring
Before I saw my watch needed winding
But which took me in?

Stay a while for me, jewel of my soul
Stay a while for me
my memories gold

Fare thee well, the dreams of this country
books are swallowed, day at a time
staring back and breathing deeply
signaled by seasons, looking for signs
Fare thee well, wood-crested hilltops
names that escape, or whither my tongue
Road to the coast
Road to the mountain
neither there to run

Stay a while for me, jewel of my soul
Stay a while for me
my memories gold

Fare thee well hours of profit
Language of love, sang in my room
Hair hiding halos, well worth loving
freely made known but leaving too soon
Another room now and a diary of duty
science and dope and Rave behind brick
the clever, the cautious, the words without feeling
what's the point with this?
Stay a while for me, jewel of my soul
Stay a while for me
my memories gold

A Call from Home
(from the first album, Rustic)

Today I feel, a call from home
Twm barlwm's naked mountain,
calls me with a radiant vision
My home 's the womb, when I'm away
Lie me safe in childhood memories
goddess of the molten sunset

There is no peace here
There is no joy here
where is the dream I saw
of heaven on the other hill?
oh Lord, oh God

Oh I've explored, every age
I've wished me back in childhood
dreamt of a contented future
I am drawn, back to the brook
to a time that seemed my vision
of a land I could not enter

Why is there something missing?
why always something missing?
Here, where curtains are drawing
lights hastily dimming
oh Lord, oh God

(a song written specifically about Arthur Machen, not yet performed by the bandů)

Whose heart hearing whispers
Will stay true?
Will it happen to me?
- It happened with you,
Watching the curling magic strand.
That shaded brook
Still stains my life,
Draws me on,
Gives me voice -
Marked in me
The magic of this land.

And who else
The hills retrained?
- To your tasks,
So restrained!
Blind to the grasses glow.
Commerce now,
Clueless mediocrity!
Where in us now
Does the satin river wind.

You who let the colours run,
Let them drip -
Everyone -
Medium but not messenger exact!
The sun behind the oval mound
Tugged you, but by language bound,
You clothed this country's goddess
In facts.

Jon explained: "The references to Machen and his work are at least oblique and sometimes, I'm afraid, impenetrable. The song tries to square my experience with Machen's, explain his writing as the clothing of feeling with 'facts" (i.e. that Machen wrote narratives and tried to convey the numinous through this form) and question those who shared my experience and have now deserted its legacy for grubby material gain!"

The band on stage at the Maindee Festival, Newport, July 2001.

Article on the band written by Adrian Ross.

The band's website, www.beyondthebars.com , is well worth a visit. It offers extensive background information and the facility to sample their special blend of music.

Let's put pressure on local venues - such as The Drovers, and Drapers - to book "Beyond The Bars", before the band make it big and set their sights beyond the bars!


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