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Revisiting Bridge and Tunnel – Dystopic (Almost) Pop Songs and Further Hauntological Precursors

In a recent post I wrote about Andy Votel’s Styles of the Unexpected album and how it could be seen to be 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”…

For a while now I’ve had various other bands, TV series, film etc bouncing around in my head that could also be considered to be precursors to hauntology, including Boards of Canada and the TV series Look Around You, both of which I’ve written about before at A Year In The Country and I would include the duo/band Bridge and Tunnel in a possible list of such things.

Bridge and Tunnel were active between 2000-2004 and for most of that time were a duo made up of Nathan Bennett and Mark Bihler and released three albums and four singles on CD and vinyl, mostly on the Harmsonic label, which I think they founded/co-founded.

They created excellent melodic, glitchy, at times crackle and found radio signal filled spectral electronica/electronic rock that, as with Andy Votel’s “Return of the Spooky Driver” on Styles of the Unexpected, also interlinks with downbeat/trip hop in its use of, at times, slow, crunchy atmospheric beats. Their music also had a certain left field pop nowse that in a more just parallel universe would have had them appearing on Top of the Pops back when.

The haunting, elegaic single “Faces In The Crowd” from their eponymous first album brings to mind the “hidden reverse” otherworldly siren call remembrance of those who have been lost in the tenderly sad but also playful “Going Up” from Coil’s The Ape Of Naples album:

“[Faces In The Crowd] paints a picture of gentle suffocation and paranoia: ‘Ghosts are scratching at my door… Who am I today?’ The romanticism of hindsight never sounded so scary – this siren is definitely calling your ship to the rocks.” (Quoted from a press release which accompanied its release.)

Single “Nothing Is Sacred” is the most wonderfully catchy, unsettling, dystopic, borderline apocalyptic concept of a love song I think I’ve ever heard.

That single was included on their second album Without Ghosts, which as the title suggests heightens their “spectral aspect” and includes “As They Appear” which subtly glitches and drones as some kind of unexplained figures from the past begin to appear and asks us to “Imagine this life without ghosts”, while “Phantom Semaphore” from the same album is threaded through with a melancholic guitar line that accompanies a tick-tock metronome-like click as an almost John Carpenter-esque synth pad and an indefinably ominous distant wind weave in and out.

The artwork for their first album and the “Faces in the Crowd” single were created by Horst Klöver, although the credits do not make it clear if he also took the photographs used for it.

The images have a textural quality that reminds me, in part, of classic 1980s 4AD record cover art by 23 Envelope (aka graphic designer Vaughan Oliver and photographer filmmaker Nigel Grierson) filtered through the lens of urbex/abandoned places photography and city edgelands and creates an intriguing, entrancing world that finds beauty in decay and the forgotten.

There’s actually a six degrees of separation link or two between the A Year In The Country themed compilation releases and Bridge and Tunnel, as Bridge and Tunnel remixed Saint Etienne’s “Heart Failed In The Back of a Taxi” and Nathan Bennett was a guest vocalist on Saint Etienne’s cover of the Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra song “Got It Together Again” which was originally released on the 2002 tribute album Total Lee! The Songs Of Lee Hazlewood…

…and in turn The Séance, who have released tracks on the AYITC compilations feature as its members James Papademetrie and Pete Wiggs, the latter of whom is a member of Saint Etienne… there are other links but I may go into them another time.

Bridge and Tunnel’s releases are now long out of print and to my knowledge haven’t been released officially digitally, although some of their tracks can be found on YouTube. Their CDs and vinyl can be found used on Discogs etc, often for literally only a few pence.


Links at A Year In The Country:


Links elsewhere:


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