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A Lineage of Spectres Part 2 – Hauntology, Hypnagogic Pop, Synthwave and the Creation of Mystical Half-Hidden Worlds: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 21/52

Sky-1975 TV series-A Year In The Country

In Part 1 of this post I discussed how hauntology and its sense of creating parallel worlds via the hazy misremembering of past eras’ source material could be seen as being part of a broader continuum and lineage.

Oneohtrix Point Never-Angel-Memory Vague-video still

Part of that broader lineage or continuum could be considered to include hypnagogic pop, with which it shares some notable signifiers and cultural approaches.

The quotes below about hypnagogic pop demonstrate this, as they could well be describing hauntology:

Hypnagogic pop artists have a tendency to: “turn trash, something shallow and determinedly throwaway, into something sacred or mystical” and to “manipulate their material to defamiliarise it and give it a sense of the uncanny”. (Adam Harper, Dummy magazine)

The genre has been likened to: “sonic fictions or intentional forgeries, creating half-baked memories of things that never were—approximating the imprecise nature of memory itself” (Stone Blue Editors)

It has been described as “tak(ing) aspects of modern culture and nostalgia and transform(ing) them into new collective memories”. (Luna Vega)


Although possibly more overtly replication than refracting orientated, the music/cultural movement of synthwave which began to develop around a similar time as hypnagogic pop, could be seen as a further example of this broader lineage.

As with hauntology, both synthwave and hypnagogic pop essentially create/recreate their own parallel worlds and cultural visions which draw from filtered, sometimes reinterpreted cultural memories.

Synthwave-lightgrid landscape

(A brief definition of synthwave from Wikipedia: “Synthwave – also called outrun, retrowave and futuresynth –  is a genre of electronic music influenced by 1980s film soundtracks and video games. Beginning in the mid 2000s, the genre developed from various niche communities on the Internet, reaching wider popularity in the early 2010s. In its music and cover artwork, synthwave engages in retrofuturism, emulating 1980s science fiction, action, and horror media, sometimes compared to cyberpunk. It expresses nostalgia for 1980s culture, attempting to capture the era’s atmosphere and celebrate it.”)

Synthwave lightgrid landscape-2

In contrast to hauntology and hypnagogic pop, synthwave has a more noticeably defined and identifiable aesthetic  – in particular retro futurist lightgrids and a Tron-esque aesthetic frequently appear.

Beyond The Black Rainbow-still-1

As part of the above lineage of hazy parallel world misrememberings and reimagining of past eras, in terms of cinema you could also look towards the likes of Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow film, which I have written about at A Year In The Country before; it draws from 1980s film, video and music culture and has been described as a “Reagan era fever dream” and creates a sense of being some lost, almost hallucinogenic cultural artifact from a darkly refracted dreamscape vision of that era.

Beyond The Black Rainbow-still-3b

At points, particularly in its driving sequences and some of the lighting structures of the underground complex which are portrayed in the film, aesthetically it intersects to a degree with some elements of synthwave, although in a possibly darker and less escapistly kitsch manner.

Beyond The Black Rainbow-Jagjaguwar-Panos Cosmatos-A Year In The Country-gatefold

Hauntology and hypnagogic pop tend to have more heavyweight theoretical, philosophical and cultural viewpoints either attached to or underpinning related work (sometimes by its creators, sometimes by third party observers and critics), while synthwave seems to also be a possibly more overtly purely escapist form of cultural entertainment.

Which brings me to some of the possible underlying impetuses for and/or attraction of some of such work.

Year 2-wanderings and perhaps revisitings-The Stone Tape-A Dream Of Wessex-Christopher Priest-Ghost Box Records-Julian House-hauntology-folk-folklore-A Year In The Country

The roots of the word hauntology come from in part Jacques Derrida’s observations that in late-stage capitalism (ie today and in relatively recent decades) society would be drawn to the nostalgic, the familiar and to become haunted by spectres of its own past.

Spectres is an interesting and possibly apposite word to use and it connects back to the just quoted hypnagogic pop artists’ attempt to create “something sacred or mystical”.

What hauntological work in particular seems to be in part is an attempt to reintroduce a sense of the unknown, the partially hidden, of the mystical into a world which is often focused on scientific and economic rationality which has little time for that which cannot be “logically” explained, categorised and organised by and within its own structures, theories and tenets/beliefs.

The Edge Is Where The Centre Is-books-Texte und tone-Pendas Fen-David Rudkin-Mordant Music

In part such attempts to reintroduce a sense of the mystical can also be connected to the confluence and interaction of otherly pastoral, wyrd or “eerie” Britain orientated work and hauntology, which as Robert Macfarlane has said could be seen as being:

“… an attempt to make sense, explain, account for and possibly act as a respite, allow refuge from and act as a bulwark against the current dominant capitalist system: in part a utilising or reconfiguring of the spectral or preternatural as a form of expression, exploration and escape from related turbulence and pressures.” (Quoting myself quoting Robert Macfarlane in The Edge Is Where The Centre Is book on Penda’s Fen.)

Prince of Darkness-bluray-John Carpenter-collectors edition-scream factory

So, hauntology could be seen as a form of exploring or creating modern-day magic, the mystical, the supernatural, spectres and hauntings…

Which brings me to John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness film from 1987… more of which coming soon…


Hypnagogic pop at Wikipedia
Synthwave at Wikipedia

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
1) Day #149/365: Phase IV – lost celluloid flickering (return to), through to Beyond The Black Rainbow and journeys Under The Skin
2) Day #162/365: Hauntology, places where society goes to dream, the deletion of spectres and the making of an ungenre
3) Day #183/365: Steam engine time and remnants of transmissions before the flood
4) Day #255/365: Beyond The Black Rainbow; Reagan era fever dreams, award winning gardens and a trio of approaches to soundtrack disseminations… let the new age of enlightenment begin…
5) Audio Visual Transmission Guide #9/52a: Beyond The Black Rainbow and Phase IV
6) anderings, Explorations and Signposts 2/52: Penda’s Fen and The Edge Is Where The Centre Is – Explorations of the Occult, Otherly and Hidden Landscape
7) Chapter 3 Book Images: Hauntology – Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre
8) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 20/52: A Lineage of Spectres Part I – From “Traditional” Hauntology to Hypnagogic Pop


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