Eerie kids TV music from another age makes its CD debut

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The Vernon Elliott Ensemble – Ivor The Engine & Pogles Wood

To anoraks of a certain sensibility, Trunk Records honcho Jonny Trunk is slowly assuming the role of a pop culture National Trust – preserving musical memories that will always be too obscure or esoteric for mainstream consumption. Thanks to him, the soundtrack to camp horror-flick Blood On Satan’s Claw is once again in circulation, whilst [b]Basil Kirchin[/b]’s Abstractions Of The Industrial North has been liberated from the music library limbo.

If affection for such off-beam instrumental excursions runs deep, then that shouldn’t be surprising. As Trunk’s 2001 reissue of [b]Vernon Elliott[/b]’s music for [b]The Clangers[/b] serves to remind us, the music that accompanied our pre-school yesterdays defied categorisation. In the hands of Elliott, outer space was depicted not as a wonky Joe Meek-style futurescape of possibilities, but a place where tiny curiosities happened amid a backdrop of vast emptiness.

This CD gathers together the rest of Elliott’s work with master storyteller Oliver Postgate. In keeping with their settings, the music for Pogles Wood and [b]Ivor The Engine[/b] was stripped of avant-garde flourishes. The main Ivor theme included here is akin to a 12-inch (or, if you like, wide-gauge) version – with a minute of Satiesque piano and Elliott’s bassoon preceding the recognizably jaunty bit. Much of what follows is really just colour (“Ivor Resists Starting” is the sort of thing you insert as light relief when making CD-Rs for friends) but just as much is unexpectedly moving: the choir on “Land Of My Fathers” and the bucolic canter of “Fast Theme”.

Even if you remember [b]Pogles Wood[/b], chances are you won’t remember its finest moment “Witch’s Theme”. After complaints from worried parents, this burst of air-thickening orchestral portent was shelved, along with the witch whose entrance it heralded. What remained, however, was hardly easy listening. “Pogles Walk” sounds like the music woodland animals might make after the humans have left, whilst Apprehensive Music is up there with [b]Depeche Mode[/b]’s “It’s No Good” for the most literal title of all time. Odd doesn’t even begin to cover it – but smuggled in the Trojan horse of Postgate’s narratives, the effect of Elliott’s music was mesmerising. It’s hard to imagine a generation weaned on [b]Tweenies[/b] and [b]Fifi & The Flowertots[/b] coming to appreciate the music of their early years in quite the same way.

PETER PAPHIDES