Friday, November 15, 2013

Hauntology Weekend / Public Service Broadcasting / Victory Girls

As part of its massive nation-wide year-long GOTHIC: The Dark Heart of Film project, the BFI is having a Hauntology Weekend. In association with The Wire, it takes place on Friday December 13th and Saturday December 14th. 

The Saturday 14th December event is Vault: Music for Silent Gothic Treasures, with eldtrichtronic musicians performing new scores for 110-year-old Gothic films. It's at the BFI Southbank at 8.45 pm.

From the press release:

The ensemble was put together by Sarah Angliss, a composer, automatist and theremin player, whose singularly unsettling music was recently heard at the National Theatre as a tense underscore to Lucy Prebble’s The Effect. Angliss’ music for Gothic film will be performed by her band: recent Ghost Box collaborators Spacedog. They’ll be joined by Exotic Pylon’s Time Attendant (Paul Snowdon) who will be supplying a new work on simmering, tabletop electronics. There will also be some extemporisations from Bela Emerson, a soloist who works with cello and electronics. Fellow Ghost Box associate Jon Brooks, composer of the haunting Music for Thomas Carnacki (2011), will also be creating a studio piece for the event.

Sourced by Bryony Dixon, the BFI’s curator of silent film, many of the short films inspiring these musicians were made in the opening years of the twentieth century. The Legende du fantôme (1908) and early split screen experiment Skulls Take Over (1901) are on the bill, along with the silent cubist masterpiece The Fall of the House of Usher (US version, 1928) and more.

“There is undoubtedly something uncanny about the earliest of these films”, said Angliss. “Many are stencil-coloured in vibrant hues, adding to that sense of the familiar taking on a strange cast. They seem to demand music that suggests rather than points up the horror, a motif that discomforts as it soothes, or a sweet sound that is somehow sickly, as though heard in a fever. As with vision, sound for horror can use the art of the almost, inviting the audience to make unnerving connections of their own.” 

Jon Brooks said “the visuals suggest aural textures reminiscent of painted glass, to strange derivatives of stringed instruments. Hopefully I've conjured some playfulness amongst the macabre too."

Adding to the strangeness are Angliss’ automata, who will also be performing live. These include a polyphonic, robotic carillon (bell playing machine) and Hugo, the roboticised head of a ventriloquist’s dummy who is of the same vintage as some of the films. The event will be directed by Emma Kilbey. After the BFI Southbank performance there are plans to tour Vault around Gothic revivalist buildings around the UK. 

The musicians

Sarah Angliss - composer; multi-instrumentalist (including theremin, modular synth and other live electronics); automatist.
Member of Spacedog trio.

Jenny Angliss - vocalist
Soundcloud (vocal samples):
Member of Spacedog trio.

Jon Brooks (aka The Advisory Circle and Cafe Kaput) - composer and multi-instrumentalist (providing a recorded piece)

Bela Emerson - composer and cellist, works live with electronics

Stephen Hiscock - composer and percussionist
Member of Spacedog trio and EnsembleBash.

Paul Snowdon (aka Time Attendant) - composer and performer with electronics


The lingering undeath of Hauntology persists!

Another example: this group Public Service Broadcasting, and their cackhanded attempt to mainstream Ghost Box et l. A blurb: "Through their uniquely spell-binding live AV Transmissions audiences will witness the band weave samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material around live drums, guitar, banjo and electronics as they teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future - beaming our past back at us through vintage TV sets and state of the art modern video projection devices." 

The sound though is closer to Propellerheads with a proggy live-played whiff of I dunno, Levitation thrown in, and even - quel horreur - a tinge of Mumford on certain songs.

On their
2013 album Inform- Educate - Entertain the reference points in terms of paternalist-pedagogic-Britain-of-yore are not the usual Ghost Box/Mordant etc 60s/70s ones (Penguins, Open University, spooky kids TV, Radiophonics etc) but the 1940s: rationing, the Blitz, Stafford Cripps, the Beveridge Report....

One really hopes the "keep calm and carry on" / "pull together"  vibes are not meant to align with Cameron and the New Austerity.

Just to show their hauntological allegiance  they have a tune called "Roygbiv" but I'm damned if I can hear the Boards of Canada original in there.

PSB reminded me a bit of this spoof of Forties nostalgia in Rock Follies, when the Little Ladies's svengali Stavros decides that with the UK economy in crisis circa 1975, ‘Austerity Rock’ will be the next big thing.  The Little Ladies are remodeled as 1940s nostalgia act The Victory Girls, singing songs like ‘Where’s My Gasmask,’ ‘I’ll Be a War Bride’ and ‘Glenn Miller is Missing.’ Stavros also builds Blitz Club, which is styled as a London tube station turned bomb shelter, with deliberately grotty grub purchased using a ration card, and a simulated air raid.

Also reminded me of this: Roxy's "The Bob Medley" - BOB. standing for Battle of Britain - 


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