Thursday, January 04, 2007

Two More Great Albums from 2006.
The real problem with end-of-the-year lists is that one tends not to hear a lot of the best stuff from a year until the following year. Two cases in point are The Owl's Map by Belbury Poly and Dead Air by Mordant Music. Certain reliable sources have been onto me about these albums for quite a while now but it took birthday gift giving from folks in Blighty for me to actually get them. Both are immediately extremely striking and - of course - definitively hauntological. I can see myself seriously falling for this stuff over the coming months.

There seems to be a minor debate going on as to whether a piece of music can be simultaneously dancable and hauntological. I'd like to offer "Fallen Faces" by Mordant and "You Hurt Me" by Burial as two prime examples of hauntological floor fillers.

12 comments:

Saelan said...

You know, I checked out dead Air and The Owl's Map on Simon Reynolds'recommendation and I really didn't like either of them. As haunted library music goes, I much prefer the Focus Group to Belbury Poly, but even Hey Let Loose Your Love sounds kind of "minor" to me and I've mostly been using songs from it as interludes on mix CDs. It's particularly apt for transitioning between cocaine rap and pastoral folk, which is pretty much all I feel like listening to lately.

Biggie Samuels said...

Maybe you're just culturally disadvantaged, being too young and North American to "get" this incredibly provincial strain of UK hauntology. Or maybe you're just culturally disadvantaged having had your brain addled with so much mediocre indie rock that you can't spot incredibly VITAL music when you hear it.

I'M KIDDING! I'M KIDDING. Kind of.

The thing is that this music is referential without being *self*referential. That is to say , this music is "about something" rather than being "just good music". It's all about context but the context can't really be understood by having read about the artists' influences on Pitchfork. The context is extra-musical and very specific.

However, I don't feel that you must have experienced the aspects of British public life from the 1970s that fascinate Ghostbox and Mordant to understand the feeling behind the music. We all yearn for dead utopias.

This music exudes a subtle fascination as is very much forward looking, without making a big fucking deal about it. I've been listening to these albums all day and I think I'm in love.

Biggie Samuels said...

All of which reminds me that I forgot to include "The Complete Topic Recordings" by Anne Briggs in my end-of-the-year list. The most expensive record I ever bought but worth every penny. Has the exact relationship to private-press folk pastoralism that Ghostface has to coke-rap. I'll leave you all to figure that one out for yourselves.

Brady Cranfield! said...

I downloaded both on your suggestion and I can understand your reasons for enjoying them. I like the eclectic quirkiness of Owl’s Map over Dead Air, which perhaps doesn’t grab me for the same reasons Saelan didn’t get into it (by the way, it really reminds me of Skylab’s #1, which I think is better). And indeed they very much sound informed by the historical context you describe, even though the context isn’t part of my everyday lived life. True UK hauntological resonance as such is therefore lost on me, except for that I can discern because of watching British TV while growing up. Yes, a few episodes of good old Doctor Who or whatnot and the aesthetics of the UK hauntological become partly demythologized for us outsiders, but if not properly understood as a felt relationship. I must say, however, I think your joking-not-joking rejoinder to Saelen was, as you put it, provincial. We get it: we’re not local! Nevertheless, I figure the notion of the hauntological, such as it is, has applicability outside the UK, too. Keep up the good work Sammytown.

Biggie Samuels said...

Frankly, I'm *amazed* that everyone doesn't love the Mordant album as much as I do. Who could ask for more than this start-to-finish-brilliant mix of hard electro, abstract electronica and pluderphonics? Listen to it again *all the way through*.

Also, I'd say that provincialism/provincialness is one of the main appeals of UK hauntology and that this aspect can still appeal to people who don't exactly get the details - similar to the way I enjoy (but don't fully understand) guitar-based music from Africa.

Plus everything is better in Britain, obviously.

Brady Cranfield! said...

Ha-ha. I did listen to it "all the way through", you fascistic iPod hater! I’m simply not moved by the music as much as I was hoping to be. I agree that “provincialism/provincialness” seems to be a big part of UK hauntology (which partly explains the sentimentality of it all). But I also think the concept of hauntology, played out as it is threatening to become here in Blog-o-Land, is useful in other parts of the world, too. Of course a possible “Canadian hauntology” seems perhaps a little silly.... I mean, Beach Combers? How hauntological is that? On the other hand I think this is part of what’s motivating Kevin “Sipreano” House’s reissue work, if without the use of the hauntological vocab.

Biggie Samuels said...

Actually, I think Canadian hauntology has a lot of potential. I'm pretty sure that Juniour Boys have been (at least implicity) sited as an example of Canadian hauntology. Something to do with abandoned stripmalls (which ties into Nick Krgovich's Burquitlam Plaza project).

Biggie Samuels said...

Also, I'm pretty sure that Kevin House and Sipreano are different people.

Brady Cranfield! said...

Oops. Right you are. I meant Kevin “Sipreano” Howes (said: house). Sorry about that, Kevin old man, just typing without thinking…. Yup, K-Punk cited Junior Boys kinda in this way. But the notion of international airports and flying seemed more important that anything specifically Canadian, save maybe talk of chilly acoustic atmospherics (because we all live in igloos here, as you now know), plus comments on stuff more generically "urban North American". I guess you need a more manifestly colonial past to be properly haunted.

Biggie Samuels said...

Actually, I think Colonialism is a big issue here. Canada's colonial past leads to a real tension between American Capitalism (private) and European Social Democracy (public) which is distinctly hauntological in its effects.

This, in turn, got me thinking about the hauntological aspects of the Black British experience. Makes me think of Birmingham and those "London is the Place for Me" compilations.

Brady Cranfield! said...

Nice point regarding Canada’s particular colonial matrix, Sam. I agree: colonialism is a big issue. That’s what I meant by Kevin’s comp, by the way. But I haven’t read everything posted on hauntology – is colonialism specifically central to the idea as it has been elaborated? I tend to think of the idea generally in terms of history, or as historicalness or historicity, I guess. That this also includes colonialism is apparent. Do you have the day off? Oh, I forgot: you're a communication specialist! Get back to work.

Biggie Samuels said...

Haven't seen colonialism mentioned in regards to hntlgy. Perhaps the subject is considered too crustily Structuralist.