Whilst drafting my end-of-year list the other day, it occurred to me that whilst many of the albums that look set to end up on there will already be at least vaguely familiar to most of you – be it via previous Foam Hands coverage or praise from other websites, press etc. – there is one candidate that I haven’t yet mentioned here, and that has received surprisingly little in the way of attention elsewhere. Like many other great records (and films, and books) I was introduced to 1612 Underture by The Eccentronic Research Council by The Quietus, whose John Doran does a far better job (here) than I ever could of describing the historical events that inspired the project, which finds actress Maxine Peake narrating a prose poem about a nun and a priest road-tripping around present day Lancashire to find out more about the women who were tried and executed in the area for occult “crimes” during the witch-hunts of the 17th century against a backdrop of synth-based Kraut-pop, electronic psychedelia and analogue ambience courtesy of Sheffield musicians Dean Honer and Adrian Flanagan. With her thick Bolton accent, Peake – known for roles in TV series like Red Riding and long-running council estate comedy Shameless – adds a very British edge to a variey of musical styles that are, by nature, very German; opener “Autobahn 666” (below), for example, pairs a monologue about travelling the sinisterly-named Lancashire A-road (“Some call it the Devil’s Highway/ and some call it the Road To Hell/ But I can’t believe the Devil came from Bolton/ Gorged on black peas astride a small stone elephant/ And I don’t believe he was ever a fan of Chris Rea“) with the kind of bleeping proto-techno that makes the Kraftwerk connection obvious even to those that missed the nod in the title. It’s occasionally difficult to guage the tone of the whole piece – whilst the historical subject matter is treated with a reverence that implies genuine interest, Peake’s hearty delivery and scattered references to local goverment fatcats and the death of Top Of The Pops suggest an undercurrent of more contemporary socio-political satire – but if anything that just makes this hermetically-sealed oddity all the more intriguing: are the ERC a band or some kind of jokey performance-art project? Or both? And whatever the answer, where do they go from here? Regardless, they’ve produced a gem of a record, one that you shouldn’t let slip by unheard.