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A Lineage of Spectres Part 1 – From Hauntology to Hypnagogic Pop: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 19/52

Hauntology-images-Demdike Stare-Ghost Box Records

Although not exclusively so, hauntological orientated work tends to use and refer to British culture from approximately around the late 1960s to the late 1970s, to be a re-imagining and misremembering of reference points and that era’s music and other culture to create work that seem familiar, comforting and also often unsettling and not a little eerie.

The resulting  work often conjures a sense of parallel worlds that are haunted by spectres of our cultural past (to loosely paraphrase philosopher Jacques Derrida).

One of the possible reasons for the hauntological work focusing on/drawing from the above time period often quite specifically is that from the late 1970s onwards there could be seen to have been a swing towards the right politically, socially and economically within Britain. The starting point for that movement is often considered to be the 1979 election of Margaret Thatcher’s right-leaning government in Britain.

Within hauntological work there is often a mourning for lost progressive futures, sometimes overtly and sometimes as an underlying cultural trope or atmosphere, which essentially demarks the above time as a tipping point for an ending of the prevalence of related hopes and dreams – hence the cutoff of the late 1970s in terms of points of reference and inspiration within much of hauntological work.

Although, as I have mentioned before, author David Peace has commented that:

“…people often talk about 1979 and the election of Margaret Thatcher as a sea-change. But these things rarely take place overnight. And I still think her re-election in 1983 represents the clearest marker of how far things had changed. And of what was to come…”

The 1980s could be seen as a transitional, liminal period which involved ongoing conflict and rearguard actions from older, progressive/social consensus ways of thinking.

This could allow for a less era delineated sense to hauntological work, less of a quite well defined cut-off point than the late 1970s. Hauntological-esque spectres and parallel world refracted reimaginings could well draw from a later period.

Which leads me to…

Oneohtrix Point Never-Angel-Memory Vague-video still

Work such as hypnagogic pop shares a number of similiarities with hauntology  – it also utilises misremembered, re-imagined cultural memories/reference points and creates a parallel cultural world the draws from past eras and often creates work which David Keenan called “pop music as refracted through the memory of a memory”.

However, it is American rather than British culture orientated and it draws from the 1980s and early 1990s and in this sense it illustrates that hauntology could be seen as being part of a continuum or broader lineage of such work.

Oneohtrix Point Never-Angel-Memory Vague-video still-2 copy

(A brief definition of hypnagogic pop from Wikipedia: “Hypnagogic pop – sometimes used interchangeably with “chillwave” or “glo-fi” –  is a 21st-century style of pop music or general musical approach which explores elements of cultural memory and nostalgia by drawing on the music, popular entertainment, and recording technology of the past, particularly the 1980s. The genre developed in the mid to late 2000s as American underground artists began reaching back to retro aesthetics remembered from childhood, such as 1980s radio rock, new age, MTV one-hit wonders, and Hollywood synthesizer soundtracks, as well as analog technology and outdated pop culture.”)

Tdk c60-cassette-hypnagogic pop

One of the signifiers of hauntology is an interest in and utilisation of the signifiers of previous era’s recording media and its related audio artifacts – such as vinyl hiss and crackle, tape wobble etc – with such aesthetics being used in order to create or conjure a spectral, edge of memory sense of the past.

The use of such signifiers is also present within hypnagogic pop but in its case these are more likely to be the likes of video cassette, 1980s-esque computer graphics and early internet aesthetics.

BBC Records and Tapes-The Radiophonic Workshop-A Year In The CountrySeasons-David Cain-Jonny Trunk-BBC-A Year In The Country

In contrast to hypnagogic pop, hauntology does not tend to be all that pop orientated – it may draw from areas of pop culture such as 1970s childrens’ television dramas but it is more likely to be presented in for example the form of Radiophonic-esque/inspired electronica.

However, “traditional” hauntology does not have one overarching musical style – rather it is defined by a shared music and cultural approach than a shared musical style, something which critic Adam Trainer has also identified in connection to hypnagogic pop.


Which brings me to synthwave…

To be continued in Part 2 of this post… coming soon…


Hypnagogic pop at Wikipedia

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
1) Day #183/365: Steam engine time and remnants of transmissions before the flood
2) Day #162/365: Hauntology, places where society goes to dream, the deletion of spectres and the making of an ungenre
3) Day #125/365: Journeying through The Seasons with David Cain (or maybe just July and October)
4) Chapter 3 Book Images: Hauntology – Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre
5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 17/52: David Peace, Texte und Töne, The Stink Still Here and Spectres from Transitional Times – Part 2


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