Hauntology (US Chapter): “Hypnagogia” run amok….

01 Jun

As you can tell from some of the ramblings from this blog, i´m a bit of a fan of the idea of hauntology in music. The idea of taking ideas/sounds from the past, then moulding and re-working them within a current framework of mind. If you´re not sure what your´re talking about, then this previous post will help you….

The other day, fellow culture motherfucker Paul Sullivan posted this link about hauntology in art. This got me thinking about the conceptual differences between the US & UK branches of Hauntological music.

Like “Hauntology” in the UK, Lo-Fi pop music in the US has been going on for quite a few years. The Likes of Ariel Pink & Neon Indian have been producing a kaleidoscope swirl of distorted pop noise for a while now. And like UK Hauntology, the rise of this cut and past approach to noise culture has mushroomed into a “scene” over the past 18 months.

The term “Hypnagogic” was coined last year by Wire Magazine journalist David Keenan to describe  the music that was coming out from the underground noise scene at the time. It seemed that noise had mutated into something that could be described as a mix of woozy lo-fi synth sounds, slowed down new age beats, and snippets of past musical genres, most notably 80´s plastic pop & soul (Keenan made special mention of the likes of Don Henley’s “the boys of summer”). The main exponents of this new front in underground music he cited were the likes of James Ferraro, Oneohtrix Point Never and Pocahaunted.

So far, so similar to the UK. But English spoken by Americans and the British, while sharing many fundamentals, often takes very different influences. This also applies for Hauntology and Hypnagogia. The first overall difference is that of texture and tone. As mentioned in my previous post, while UK hauntology music is awash with retro pastiche, it actually sounds clean and clear on your stereo. The idea is in the aesthetic of something from the past infecting music in the present.

Not so with hypnagogic pop. Here it´s all in the form and sound. Most Hypnagogic music would have a sound that can best be described as “degraded”, often sounding like an old scratched mono tape of 80´s pop hits that has been gathering dust in your parent´s attic. The same goes with most of the accompanying videos, that often look like badly spliced pieces of old VHS/Betamax tapes that they´ve found in a storage room. Take the follow video from Matrix metals. a warped version of the Theme tune to a Miami vice from an alternate universe, set to a weird montage of 80´s excess….

The whole package is made to sound as it if actually comes from the time it alludes to, as if you listening to a remnant or memory of that time made physical.

And then there´s the influences. The US doesn´t look towards the 60´s or 70´s ass much as UK acts does. Rather US acts look more towards the 80´s pop, Japanese new age synth music and the new age drone of Krautrock for it´s main reference points, as well as the cultural signposts of the times. Think Top Gun, Ray Bans, early MTV, Arcade Games, and corvettes on Malibu.

Since the term Hypnagogic was birthed, re-appropriating the flotsam of 80´s pop culture and packaging them in a muffled noise seems to have exploded across the contemporary music scene like a mutant Ebola strain. There´s the take on Komische synth epics of the aforementioned Oneohtrix Point never (who has made a highpoint of Hypnagogia by making “nobody here”, which takes 4 bars from Chris De burghs “Lady in Red” and just runs with it), and Emeralds, the premiership  Psychedelic hipster Dance music of Animal collective and Panda Bear, the early 80´s influenced synth pop of Washed out and Small Black, the retro Liquid funk of DâM-FunK as well as the new-age style meanderings of Ducktails, Matrix metals, Sun Araw, Edibles and James Ferraro. And that´s just off the top of my head. Behind those guys are dozens more pretenders to the Hynagogic crown.

My personal feeling is that there is probably going to be a lt more of this stuff that will be infecting our ears over the next year. Alas most of it will be a half-baked still-formed mess of I CAN HAZ MONO LOOPS as people will try to ride the hipster zeitgeist and will only be worth listening once after illegally downloading before deleting completely. But But there is going to be stuff that will make our ears sing. We just have to keep looking back to our futures….

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Posted by on June 1, 2010 in literature, music


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