Sunday, November 22, 2020

Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past

I don't know if this is the very first book wholly dedicated to hauntology (there's been a couple of tomes from A Year in the Country that cover that terrain where it particularly overlaps with the pastoral horror / rural uncanny). But Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past is a notably thorough and probing survey of the field from the marvelously monikered Merlin Coverley (and that's his birthname, not an assumed alias), whose prior works include the adjacently-themed Psychogeography  and Occult London. Mark Fisher comes up rather often (and yours truly makes the odd appearance too) along with expected suspects like J. Derrida and M.R. James. 

Release rationale:

"Ghosts and spectres, the eerie and the occult. Why is contemporary culture so preoccupied by the supernatural, so captivated by the revenants of an earlier age, so haunted? The concept of Hauntology has evolved since first emerging in the 1990s, and has now entered the cultural mainstream as a shorthand for our new-found obsession with the recent past. But where does this term come from and what exactly does it mean? This book seeks to answer these questions by examining the history of our fascination with the uncanny from the golden age of the Victorian ghost story to the present day... Moving between the literary and the theoretical, the visual and the political, Hauntology explores our nostalgia for the cultural artefacts of a past from which we seem unable to break free."

More information about Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past can be found at the Oldcastle Books website. You can check out the introduction in pdf form here

The front cover photograph of long shadows gave me a little haunty shiver as it recalled "Ghosts of NYC": a family self-portrait we took in the golden hour of the day before we left Manhattan and moved to Los Angeles, about ten and a half years ago now. 


Monday, November 16, 2020


"More interesting still is that nostalgia can bring to mind time-periods we didn’t directly experience. In the film Midnight in Paris (2011), Gil is overwhelmed by nostalgic thoughts about 1920s Paris – which he, a modern-day screenwriter, hasn’t experienced – yet his feelings are nothing short of nostalgic. Indeed, feeling nostalgic for a time one didn’t actually live through appears to be a common phenomenon if all the chatrooms, Facebook pages and websites dedicated to it are anything to go by. In fact, a new word has been coined to capture this precise variant of nostalgia – anemoia, defined by the Urban Dictionary and the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows as ‘nostalgia for a time you’ve never known’."
- from an essay by Felipe de Brigard in Aeon magazine

"In 1985, the psychologist Endel Tulving in Toronto observed that his amnesic patient ‘N N’ not only had difficulty remembering his past: he also had trouble imagining possible future events. This led Tulving to suggest that remembering the past and imagining the future were two processes of a single system for mental time-travel. Further support for this hypothesis came in the early 2000s, as a number of scientific studies confirmed that both remembering the past and imagining the future engage the brain’s so-called ‘default network’. But in the past decade, it has become clear that the brain’s default network supports mental simulations of other hypothetical events too, such as episodes that could have occurred in one’s past but didn’t, atemporal routine activities (eg, brushing teeth), mind-wandering, spatial navigation, imagining other people’s thoughts (mentalising) and narrative comprehension, among others. As a result, researchers now think that what unifies this common neural network isn’t just mental time-travel, but rather a more general kind of psychological process characterised by being self-relevant, socially significant and episodically, dynamically imaginative. My suggestion is that the kinds of nonautobiographical cognitive contents associated with nostalgic states are instances of this broader category of imaginations....

"Consequently, nostalgia can be associated with a possible past one didn’t experience, a concurrent nonactualised present, or even idealised pasts one couldn’t have lived but nevertheless can easily imagine by piecing together memorial information to form detailed episodic mental simulations..."

Thursday, August 20, 2020

(Un)cancelled Future

Last November I delivered a paper at the Hamburg (Insecurity) Sessions conference, which was themed around "the slow cancellation of the future" - a thought-slogan associated with Mark Fisher

Well, partly delivered - as often seems to happen with me, the allotted period of time ran out before I got anywhere near the end.

Here is the full text, tidied up, expanded here and there, and given a new title: (No) future music?

Cast of characters: Bifo Berardi, Fredric Jameson, J.G. Ballard, Alvin Toffler, Kodwo Eshun, Marc Acardipane, Phil Knight, Oswald Spengler.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Haim Travel

"While recording Something to Tell You, they met every day in studios — four for the drum parts alone. Each space was from a different era, which translated onto the album. At Vox Recording, which dates to the 1930s, 'it’s just linoleum floors, so it sounds very live,' Danielle said. 'We recorded with one mike in the back of the room.” Sunset Sound had “more of a ’70s, tight wood sound. You can really hear the warmth of the drums.'"

- "Haim Wants To Prove Vintage Vibes Feel Just Right Now",  New York Times 2017

Loved loved loved Days Are Gone... it felt like something emotionally real  cutting through the elaborate pasticherie (those canned-sounding mid-late 80s reverbs) ... the tension between the two levels on which the music worked (longing and pain from life; irony and historical hyper-awareness) was delicious... and then there was the internal tension of the music itself as a performance, the thrill I've described before as the shock of ability: the sheer musicality of the singing and playing, the rhythmatization of the voice and the myriad tics of syncopation in the drums and guitar parts...

But Something To Tell You left me cold, just seemed too fiddly and over-worked... 

Conversely the new one feels downbeat and sluggish (I guess there are reasons for that).

I suppose I will give it another go at some point

Overall feels similar to the arc taken by Vampire Weekend - from freshness to fussiness - as commented on in the end of year faves + thoughts at Blissblog

Talking of the Zone of Fruitless Intensification

Nearly forgot - the Unfave!

Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride

After several attempts that only got a little way in before I had to bail, finally, during a long journey, I made another kind of lengthy arduous trek: listening to the entirety of the fourth Vampire album. Eucch - everything that was enjoyably precious and dainty in the first two albums has now definitively become prissy and over-ornamented. What is the sound Koenig & kru are aiming for here - Lindsey Buckingham '80s solo album meets Dave Matthews Band with a bit of Wilco thrown in? And did I mention that it's long? The debut (which still sounds so fleet and fresh) clocked in at under 35 minutes, a canny return to the manageable proportions of the classic LP; Contra was similarly short n' sweet and left you wanting more.  But FotB, in its middle-aged spread, leaves you wanting less. Or in my case, wanting none. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

a past gone mad (eternal returns)

this lineup of horror for 2021 (promoters hopefully assuming things return to normal on the mass gathering front) flashed me back to those strange jumbles of artists from different eras that I would see in the section of concert / tour / festival ads at the back of Uncut in the mid-2000s

blogged about it in this 2005 post A Past Gone Mad, an early expression of befuddled dismay and atemporal disorientation of a kind that culminated in me doing Retromania a few years later

a decade-and-a-half on, there's even more of a Nineties flavour (in 2005 The Farm, Happy Mondays, a Hacienda renactment represented baggy-nostalgia) but there's also a discernible Noughties-redux ripple running through the hodgepodge

if we're retro-blogging (in both senses) here's a couple more Past Gone Mad blogs from back in the day