Sunday, May 30, 2010

"There's nobody here"...

In honour of the discussion at Cafe Oto a few months ago on 'Hauntology' in music, the above clip - mentioned during the talk - is Oneohtrix Point Never's strangely hypnotic rendering of Chris de Burgh's 'Lady In Red', the 80s schmooch classic remixed to haunting, ghostly effect.

One of the interesting points made in that talk was the fact that photography is changing from the format of photographic film to digital photography, thus losing in some respects the ghostly feel of old photographs which are tied down to a pre-digital photography area. Indeed, it can't be long before traditional photographic film, much like obsolete formats such as the floppy disk and DAT tapes, will become phased out. The unmistakably dated sepia feel of old photos will be an experience forgotten, as digital photography essentially renders all pictures pretty much the same quality, whether now or in ten years' time. It will therefore become increasingly difficult in the future to pinpoint when pictures were taken.

Indeed, a similar point could be bought up regarding analogue vs digital recording equipment. With the preference for digital tape over analogue tape (except for die-hard analogue purists such as Steve Albini and Toerag Studios in east London), even cheaply-recorded material will increasingly have a digital mid-range sheen to them, which could lead to a difficulty in twenty years time of placing songs from the previous two decades. This is in marked contrast to even records from the late 80s, which sound - twenty years on - dinsinctive of their time (the JAMC's "Psychocandy" and New Order's output, to give examples). It's interesting to note that artists such as Ariel Pink (at least in his older material) have embraced the hiss and low-fi noise of 4-track tapes as essentially an intentional, aesthetic choice in this day and age (given that digital music equipment is practically as cheap, and in the case of - now expensive - old analogue tape machines, cheaper). Much of Lee 'Scratch' Perry's dub recordings from the Black Ark days now sound utterly fixed to their time and space, analogue recordings filled with ghostly wooshing sounds, echo, and reverb; indeed, during the talk the point was made that dub was the first genre to remix songs into haunted instrumental versions where the vocals, if they did still remain, became essentially a ghost-like sound, one more instrumental in the mix alongside primitive samples of birds singing and water flowing.

Not only does the analogue nature of these recordings bind them to a certain time and place (the late 60's/early 70's, Jamaica), but dub can also be considered a huge influence on hauntology and the first wave of post-rock (Seefel's Quique, Tortoise etc.), along with the whole methodology of 'remix' culture, which has become increasingly superficial (I loved the story of the Aphex Twin being offered to remix a Lemonheads song, and him giving a CD of his own gabba music that happened to be lying around to the biker person who came to pick up the remix at his house). In it's own way, dub remains just an important an influence on 'hauntology' in music as the BBC Radiophonic Workshop/Delia Derbyshire does.

No comments: