Last year the folks at Finders Keepers—one of the UK’s most fervent proponents of musical arcana of all stripes—reissued an obscurity called Furia by a British group called the Fates. At the time I’d never heard of them, but I was intrigued when I found out that the band’s leader, Una Baines, had played in the brilliant and criminally unknown Manchester band Blue Orchids. After picking up the record I further learned that keyboardist Baines was an original member of the Fall, leaving the band around the same time as guitarist Martin Bramah, in 1978. The following year they went on to form Blue Orchids, which in addition to making a slew of remarkable singles and the classic album The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain) (Rough Trade) also ended up functioning as the backing band for Nico during the years she spent in Manchester in the early 80s, although Baines left the group at the end of 1982. She reunited with Bramah briefly in 1985 to cut the single “Sleepy Town,” but the reunion was short-lived and she turned her attention to the all-female Fates, whose occult-flavored British folk also possesses an austere postpunk vibe.
The music on the group’s sole album, from 1985, is largely acoustic, with flutes and whistles embroidering Baines’s strummy, quasi-tribal tunes—a kind of minimalist rusticity that suited songs inspired, in part, by the Pendle witches, a dozen women who were executed in 1612 on accusations of witchcraft. For today’s 12 O’Clock Track you can hear one of the album’s leanest and most hypnotic jams “Sheila/She Beats in My Heart,” a medley blending a kind of post-Velvet Underground drone and a slightly unnerving, extended chant.