Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Friends, again

"We spend our days in front of screens which broadcast us more information than we’re able to handle about things we aren’t able to change. Is it any surprise that safe and familiar relics are being dug up to soothe us?" - Olivia Ovenden

What with being Mr. Retromania, I am quoted in Ms. Ovenden's Esquire piece "The Pull Of The Past: How We All Got Hooked On Nostalgia In The 2010s", an interesting deep dive into the memory-surfacing algorithms of social media etc, with a particular focus on Nineties-nostalgia and the widespread recourse to Friends as a sort of televisual eqivalent to ambient / Ambien.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Hauntology Parish Newsletter - Bumper Yuletide Edition

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

Moon Wiring Club cometh with his customary seasonal offering: Cavity Slabs. Like the atypical summertime long-player Ghastly Garden Centres of earlier this yearSlabs is a brisk and beat-driven effort, veering away from the boggy hinterland of ambience and vocal gloop into which much of Ian Hodgson's output this past decade has sunk so deliriously. Focused and concise, the new record  boasts just eight tuff tunes. The reference point this time around is breakbeat hardcore - in moments, I'm reminded of the phat-but-spooky sound of Eon, although Ian says the launchpad for the new direction was actually this obscure tune:

This very very early Moving Shadow track (by a group later and slightly better known for their Rising High releases) first reached Ian's eardrums via an Autechre radio show from many years ago. "It always stuck with me. It’s that mix of beats with ‘anything goes’ sampling and environmental sounds ~ it always makes me think of coastlines... and a sort of grey mistiness."


The aim with Cavity Slabs was to take a detour round the ongoing overload of rave-replicas, with their neurotic attention to period detail and naked nostalgia, and instead reactivate the bygone playfulness and incongruous-samples-clumsily-collaged approach of the early Nineties, which threw up so many genre-of-one anomalies and half-realised oddments alongside the classic bangers and slammers.

^^^a megamix of three tunes from the album^^^

"I wanted to compose something that reflected the dankness / mystery of fog without it being an ambient drone affair," adds Ian. The name Cavity Slabs comes from a pile of building materials Ian passed on a rainy-day stroll, which conjured associations both of vinyl platters and "limestone moorside and burial chambers". The overall atmosphere and thematic is caught in the slogan "COAX ANCIENT VOICES FROM THE LANDSCAPE" and track titles like "Cromlech Technology" - cromlech being a megalithic altar-tomb or circle of standing stones around a burial mound.

Cavity Slabs is available for purchase here .

But wait... there's more... adding to the Xmas feast, there's a new, radically different version of an old MWC fave: a DL-only VULPINE REDUX edition of Somewhere A Fox Is Getting Married.  "The original album plus 47 minutes of 12 bonus track alternate takes / extended versions / tangentially related nonsense from the vaults circa 2006-2011" including unreleased experiments like "35 Year Sit Down" and the lost "Schlagerdelia" classic "Mountain Men".


Talking of "grey mistiness" -  remiss have I been in not alerting parishioners to this new release by  Lo Five - Wirral-based electronician Neil Grant.

There's a really nice "mundane mystical" atmosphere to the sound Neil's worked up on his lovely new album Geography of the Abyss - muzzy textures like looking out through a coach window that's streaked with rippling rivulets of heavy rain, or trying to peer through the frosted-glass window of your front door to see who's coming up the path. The vibe of the album reminds me of the sort of trance you can fall into while travelling on a train or a bus, that feeling of slipping outside the moorings of time. 


A record that not only remissly passed without comment from me, but that I missed completely when it originally came out in June - Vanishing Twin's The Age of Immunology.

Triffic stuff -  at times like The Focus Group if based around "proper" musicianship rather than sampladelia. As with their previous album Choose Your Own Adventure, the starting points of Broadcast, Stereolab, White Noise, library music, etc, are still discernible, but now they are definitively on a journey of their own.

‘You Are Not an Island’, ‘Invisible World’ and ‘Planete Sauvage’ were apparently "recorded in nighttime sessions in an abandoned mill in Sudbury"!


More remissness - alert overdue for the release of the audio element of Andrew Pekler's wonderful Phantom Islands - A Sonic Atlas  project of last year.


A recommendation from parish elder Bruce Levenstein

Release rationale:

Mount Maxwell continues his run of 1970s themed releases with a full length meditation on the perceptual experiences of children born in the wake of the 1960's cultural revolution. Highly ambivalent in tone, Only Children marks a departure from earlier MM releases both in its use of acoustic instruments and in a newfound sense of criticality towards its subject matter; the back-to-the-land optimism of tracks like 'Nature ID' in uneasy proximity to the skeptical disquiet of 'Weird Places' and 'Nomad'. 


Bruce also brings to my attention this effort

Release rationale:

There was a certain something about watching television in the 70s and 80s. The static crackle when you switched on your set. The faint smell of ozone as it slowly warmed up. The chunky buttons (including such flights of fancy as 'BBC3' and 'ITV2"). And, of course, the programmes themselves.

Whether it was HTV's seminal Folk Horror tinged children's classics 'Sky' or Children of the Stones, BBC1's fiercely intelligent 'adult-show-for-kids' 'The Changes' or ITV's everyday tale of alien possession, 'Chocky', the era was bursting with inventive, unforgettable and yes, terrifying shows.

The only thing more memorable than the actual programmes were their theme tunes. The unique talents of Paddy Kingsland, Sidney Saget, Eric Wetherell, John Hyde and many more were responsible for the atmospheric, eerie soundscapes which formed the aural backdrop to our favourite shows. Which is where Kev Oyston (The Soulless Party) and Colin Morrison (Castles in Space) come in. They've corralled the best of today's innovative electronic musicians, and together they've created 'Scarred For Life: The Album', a collection of new music inspired by the terrifying televisual sounds of our childhoods.

All proceeds for this album will go to aid Cancer Research UK, a charity which is close to the hearts of some of our artists, one of whom is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.

Enjoy. And remember: DO have nightmares. They're good for you.

-Stephen Brotherstone & Dave Laurence, co-authors 'Scarred For Life Volume One: the 1970's'. .


The incredibly prolific and thorough Stephen Prince of A Year in the Country - independent scholar of the rustic eerie and convenor of reliably interesting compilations - has just published a second book.

Straying From the Pathways: Hidden Histories, Echoes of the Future's Past and the Unsettled Landscape is the companion volume to last year's Wandering Through Spectral Fields: Journeys in Otherly Pastoralism, the Further Reaches of Folk and the Parallel Worlds of Hauntology. 

How does Stephen do it?!?

More information about Straying From the Pathways here.

Hark at this here Table of Contents!

1. Explorations of an Eerie Landscape: Texte und Töne – The Disruption, The Changes, The Edge is Where the Centre is: David Rudkin and Penda’s Fen: An Archaeology, The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale, The Stink Still Here – the miners’ strike 1984-85 – Robert Macfarlane – Benjamin Myers’ Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place

2. Fractured Dream Transmissions and a Collapsing into Ghosts: John Carpenter – Prince of Darkness, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Village of the Damned, Christine – Nigel Kneale – Martin Quatermass – John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos

3. Hinterland Tales of Hidden Histories and Unobserved Edgeland Transgressions: Adrian McKinty’s In the Morning I’ll Be Gone – Clare Carson’s Orkney Twilight – David Peace’s GB84 – Tony White’s The Fountain in the Forest

4. Countercultural Archives and Experiments in Temporary Autonomous Zones: Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s Tomorrow’s People – Richard Barnes’ The Sun in the East: Norfolk & Suffolk Fairs – Sam Knee’s Memory of a Free Festival: The Golden Era of the British Underground Festival Scene – Gavin Watson’s Raving ’89 – Molly Macindoe’s Out of Order: The Underground Rave Scene 1997-2006

5. The Village and Seaside Idyll Gone Rogue: Hot Fuzz – The Avengers’ “Murdersville” – The Prisoner – In My Mind – Malcolm Pryce’s Aberystwyth Mon Amour

6. Albion in the Overgrowth and Timeslip Echoes: Requiem – The Living and the Dead – Britannia – Detectorists

7. In Cars – Building a Better Future, Peculiarly Subversive Enchantments and Faded Futuristic Glamour: In the Company of Ghosts: The Poetics of the Motorway – Joe
 Moran’s On Roads: A Hidden History – Chris Petit’s Radio On – Autophoto – Martin Parr’s Abandoned Morris Minors of the West of Ireland – The Friends of Eddie Coyle – Killing Them Softly – Langdon Clay’s Cars: New York City 1974-76

8. Brutalism, Reaching for the Sky and Bugs in Utopia: Peter Chadwick’s This Brutal World – Bladerunner – J.G.Ballard – Ben Wheatley – High-Rise – Peter Mitchell’s Memento Mori – Brick High-Rise

9. Battles with the Old Guard and the Continuing sparking of Vivid Undercurrents: A Very Peculiar Practice – Edge of Darkness

10. Lycanthropes, Dark Fairy Tales and the Dangers of Wandering off the Path: The Company of Wolves – Danielle Dax – Red Riding Hood – Wolfen – Hansel & Gretel: Witchhunters – The Keep

11. The Empty City Film and Other Visions of the End of Days – Survival and Shopping in the Post-Apocalypse: Day of the Triffids – Into the Forest – Night of the Comet –The Quiet Earth

12. Universe Creation, Spectral Lines in the Cultural Landscape and Reimagined Echoes from the Past: Hauntology – Hypnagogic Pop – Synthwave – D.A.L.I.’s When Haro Met Sally – Nocturne’s Dark Seed – Beyond the Black Rainbow – Mo’ Wax, UNKLE, Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead, DJ Shadow, Andrea Parker – Ghost Box Records,  The Focus Group, Belbury Poly – The Memory Band – The Delaware Road – Rowan : Morrison – Howlround – Mark Fisher – the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – Adrian Younge’s Electronique Void – DJ Food – Grey Frequency – Keith Seatman – Douglas Powell – Akiha Den Den – The Ghost in the MP3 – Black Channels – The Quietened Village – The Corn Mother


Now this is a little odd - not only is this here chap trespassing on Hatherley's terrain, he's borrowed his first name too! 


Finally -  and no doubt this morsel of news has already reached your flabbergasted ears  -  but cor blimey guvnor,  Paul Weller's only going to release a record on Ghost Box! The In Another Room EP is out early next year. And it's actually rather good.

Monday, December 16, 2019

the Future is 50 years old

i.e. young people dancing to electronic music

RIP Gershon Kingsley, who reached the ripe old age of 97

interesting, isn't it, that the Future would emerge first under the sign of easy listening - and even kitsch?

c.f. my "friendly futurists" thesis (Jean-Jacques Perrey et al)

the most successful hit version =  Hot Butter

Didn't realise that Jean-Michel Jarre did a version

Makes sense cos "Equinoxe 4" always felt like a semi-rewrite - not literally, but the vibe 'n ' feel, albeit more sedate, less boppy-bouncy

another of the many 'Popcorn' covers

Inane in the Membrane