“The past keeps coming back because the present cannot be remembered…”
There’s a very unusual provenance associated with the term “Hauntology” that stretches back to the works of French philosopher Jacques Derrida. But its more recent usage is attributed to the writer Mark Fisher whose writing suggests that the current cultural landscape is in the grip of a kind of “formal nostalgia”. New concepts can seemingly only gain currency if they mimic or pastiche the past.
It’s these weighty ideas that Fisher was wrestling with, in correspondence with the music critic Simon Reynolds, where the concept of hauntology was brought forward. But Fisher was arguing about an expected future that was conjured up in the 1970s that has seemingly not appeared. “Hauntology is not, therefore, primarily about nostalgia: it is about imagination” commented Fisher, “Any progressive politics worthy of the name is founded on our ability to imagine a world better than the one we presently have.”
Which brings us to Hauntology in UK, a compilation which was crafted in tribute to Fisher and could be considered a symphony to lost futures. The project, overseen by label Eighth Tower Records, brings together an intriguing collection of music producers, including Howlround (who TEC has encountered previously), Pascal Savy, Michael Bonaventure and the ominously titled Dead Space Chamber Music.
What emerges from this collection of strange soundscapes is an undefinable mood that perhaps hints at the vague, shadowy futures that we, as a culture, are always grasping for. At lot of the compositions have an eerie and unsettling presence that prickles at the edge of the senses. There’s something quite timely about its release for those people viewing the Netflix horror series Archive 81, which employs a similarly unnerving soundtrack care of Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow (and in itself deals with themes of hauntology that perhaps are more closely rooted in Derrida’s ideas).
At times, the music on Hauntology in UK takes on an alien presence, such as the distressing pulse of ‘A Slow Cancellation’, care of seasoned veteran Howlround or the cosmic hymnal of ‘Illusions Of A Recent Past’ from Rapoon & Sonologyst.
But there’s also contrasting compositions to switch up the mood, such as the ephemeral ambience of Grey Frequency’s ‘Utopia Mist’ or the seeming musique concrète approach by Foreseer on ‘Creux es Faies’.
The whole affair is wrapped up with Dead Space Chamber Music’s ‘The Grail Carol’, an oddly charming folk outing with an indistinct vocal floating through it. It conjures up ideas of music leaking in from the universe next door.
In essence, Hauntology in UK is music that suggests a soundtrack from a lost film; at times charming and others where it’s deliberately trying to invoke less congenial moods. On that basis, it’s casting around for a vague and undefinable lost future seems quite appropriate.
Hauntology in UK is out now via Eighth Tower Records: https://eighthtowerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/hauntology-in-uk