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Quiet Glitchy Melancholia – Andy Votel’s Styles of the Unexpected and Hauntology Precursors

It’s been curious how a number of times as I’ve wandered through the “spectral” cultural fields that make up A Year In The Country how I’ve realised that work I’ve been exploring, writing about etc was created by people whose work I’d come across long before.

For example, as I write in A Year In The Country: Straying In The Pathways, a number of the people who have gone on to create music of a hauntological-esque nature, had previously created trip hop-esque music that I’d come across back in the 1990s; or how I’d actually first explored Julian House of Ghost Box Records work also in the 1990s/early 2000s work via the graphic design work he created for the likes of Primal Scream’s Exterminator album, some of Depeche Mode’s hits compilation albums, a book cover design he did for a George Orwell reissue etc.

Which brings me to Andy Votel’s Style of the Unexpected album; this was originally released in 2000, I think collaboratively, by Twisted Nerve, a label which Andy Votel co-founded prior to Finders Keepers Records, and XL Recordings.

Andy Votel was one of the founders of the largely archival record label Finders Keepers Records, which released a number of albums that I’ve written about at A Year In The Country before, including Willow’s Songs that collected music that inspired the soundtrack to The Wicker Man and Jane Weaver Septième Soeur’s The Fallen by Watch Bird conceptual pop album/project of “cosmic aquatic folklore”.

I’d first discovered tracks from Styles of the Unexpected via the now defunct music magazine Select in the later 1990s/early 2000s, which I had something of a fondness for, and that, if memory serves correctly, seemed to, in part, focus on/offer a slightly more, hmmm, refined or even populist-ly thoughtful, intelligent and eclectic take on indie, electronic etc music than some other mainstream music magazines of the time, a focus that was often reflected on the magazine’s free cover mount CD.

Revisiting the music on Style of the Unexpected decades later was, yep, a curious thing as in some ways it seems like both a precursor and a bridge between, say, later 1990s downbeat melodic instrumental trip hop that was often found sound/sample based, or at least seemed as though it was (think DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, Nightmares On Wax’s Carboot Soul etc) and more recent hauntological-orientated electronica.

In particular the track “Return of the Spooky Driver” has a spectral, quietly glitchy melancholia that wouldn’t seem all that out of place amongst contemporary hauntology, which in this instance is spliced/intertwined with driving upbeat interludes that wanders towards but stays shy of the sometimes almost cartoon-like character of late 1990s/early 2000s big beat music, which often incorporated and could be considered a catchier, more populist and dance-floor friendly flipside to that period’s instrumental trip hop.

Styles of the Unexpected is long out of print but is available digitally and can be found fairly cheaply on CD and is also available digitally… and it turns out it was a sequel to some of Andy Votel’s earlier records which sampled Blood On Satan’s Claw, The Wicker Man and Twin Peaks… hmmm, I expect a wander over to Discogs may be on the cards soon.


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