To mark the label’s tenth anniversary Ghost Box have compiled a double album of highlights from the back catalogue. Thirty one especially re-mastered tracks and extensive sleeve notes by music writer, Simon Reynolds.
'A zeitgeist used to be a formidable thing. Matthew Arnold coined the term in 1848 to capture the spirit of social unrest that suffused Victorian England. In 1933, Aldous Huxley wrote in a letter that the zeitgeist “is a most dismal animal and I wish to heaven one cd escape from its clutches.” Implored W.H. Auden: “May we worship neither the flux of chance, nor the wheel of fortune, nor the spiral of the zeitgeist.” This threatening creature was capricious in its moods and careless about tradition. It was sinister—powerful enough to convince individuals that they were not responsible for their own choices, that they were merely carried along by the romantic gust of the now. In Bismarck’s Germany, the terrifying phantom of volk nationalism absolved people of any need to resist the pull of consensus and think for themselves. But if we used to talk about the Roaring ’20s or the Flower Power ’60s, great sweeps of history distilled into luminescent symbols, now we get a 5-minute-long zeitgeist consisting of, say, TV shows about white girls in Brooklyn. Somehow, the zeitgeist—once so historical and grand—has become an anemic, trivial little sprite.' - Katy Waldman
Issue 9 - The Good Old Days? Negotiating Quality, Mythology and Technostalgia in Contemporary Music Production
The Journal on the Art of Record Production (JARP) is an international online peer-reviewed journal promoting the interdisciplinary study of record production. The journal publishes peer reviewed research papers, conference papers, interviews and reviews with contributions from world-renowned industry professionals.
Particularly interesting articles in this issue are:
'Technostalgia And The Cry Of The Lonely Recordist.' - Alan Williams
'Tradition And Innovation In Creative Studio Practice: The Use Of Older Gear, Processes And Ideas In Conjunction With Digital Technologies.' - Phillip McIntyre
'Beyond Skeuomorphism: The Evolution Of Music Production Software User Interface Metaphors.' - Adam Bell, Ethan Hein, Jarrod Ratcliffe
'As an aesthetic, hauntology is located in the notion of nostalgia as an unsettling sense of the intrusions of past imaginings of a utopian future into the present. ... I use this term to refer to the unsettling qualities faux-vintage smart phone camera apps impart to photographs and videos of contemporary life. Smartphones encourage people’s dislocation from physical surroundings. The spectral co-presence of others frequently disrupts face-to-face encounters. In turn, this fosters widespread nostalgia for a lost utopian future where there is no pressure for constant connection via networked technology.' - Marsha Berry
'Mervyn O’Gorman was an English engineer whose artistic interests turned him into one of the early pioneers of color photography. Using the Autochrome Lumière process that was launched in 1907, O’Gorman shot images that are now regularly featured in exhibitions of early color photos.
Among his best known works are a series of color photos of his daughter, Christina, taken in 1913.'
'Matthew Sweet explores the dawning of the age of Black Aquarius - the weirdly great wave of occultism that swept through British popular culture in the 1960s-70s. From journals like the Aquarian Arrow to the diabolical novels of Dennis Wheatley, lurid accounts of satanic cults in the Sunday papers and the glut of illustrated books, part-magazines, documentary film and TV drama, it was a wildly exuberant seam of British pop culture.
Flowering from the more arcane parts of the hippy movement but mutating into something quite different, why was there such a huge crossover appeal for the British public? Was this a continuation of the Sixties cultural battleground of restrictive morality being secretly titillated, or was it something else - something darker? These questions certainly puzzled factual television at the time.
The age of Black Aquarius matched the late Victorian craze for the occult in its intensity and popularity, and certainly drew from some of that era's obsessions - dark dimensions, secret rites, unearthly energy - but filtered through 'the permissive society', through a hugely eclectic counterculture, swinging sexual liberation and new kinds of consumption and lifestyle. And while dark forces were summoned in the grooviest of Chelsea flats they were being unearthed in the countryside too, a fantasy of pagan ritual and wicker men, of tight-lipped locals and blood sacrifice at harvest time.
Contributors include Mark Gatiss, Katy Manning, Caroline Munro, Kim Newman, Highgate Vampire hunter David Farrant and Piers Haggard, director of 'The Blood on Satan's Claw'.
'Writers and artists have long been fascinated by the idea of an English eerie - ‘the skull beneath the skin of the countryside’. But for a new generation this has nothing to do with hokey supernaturalism – it’s a cultural and political response to contemporary crises and fears'
'This eerie counter-culture – this occulture – is drawing in experimental film-makers, folk singers, folklorists, academics, avant-garde antiquaries, landscape historians, utopians, collectives, mainstreamers and Arch-Droods alike, in a magnificent mash-up of hauntology, geological sentience and political activism. The hedgerows, fields, ruins, hills and saltings of England have been set seething.' - Robert Macfarlane
'The local school is closed, the chapel celebrates its last wedding, furniture that has stood in farmhouses for centuries is removed, graves are dug up and re-located. Thus did the Tryweryn Valley and the village of Capel Celyn become one vast reservoir via an Act of Parliament that allowed Liverpool City Council to proceed with the creation of its new water supply despite the opposition of every Welsh MP bar one.
The Tryweryn Bill allowed Liverpool City Council to by-pass obtaining planning consent from the relevant local authorities. Wales’ powerlessness was exposed and protests involved members of the Free Wales Army and Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru. Pupils and staff of Friars School in Bangor filmed the demolition and construction work from start to finish and have produced what might have been regarded as an objective record of an emotive event. The school concludes that the reservoir has enhanced the natural beauty of the area and that it will attract tourists “to enjoy the sailing and fishing on these once troubled waters."'
Sean Albiez's insight:
With thanks to Laura Denning for drawing my attention to this.
From 2010 - 'But it is not that “we are all Futurists now.” Quite the opposite, today everything must find some pre-built historical rack to hang on, which is Futurism’s very antithesis. The chief symptom of this historicist sequelmania is that any “political” valence is today identified and experienced as an insertion, as a figure on the monochrome ground of consensus reality, and not as part of the fabric of social exchange itself. Instead of art as a by-product of history, and as a necessary and embodied deposit of a form’s historically accrued relationship with its audience, we have a universe of pre-regulated meanings, programmatically fixed through scholarly administrative fiat, and a present that is being ventriloquized continually through the past. This strange hollowing out of the present is itself a political development. The risks and rewards of music lie as always in the dynamic between the audience and the work, at this moment caught in the scholastic temptations of an ascendant cult of history, and in the troubled and troubling “museumification” of sound, both of which cut against the only aspects of Futurism worth preserving for the constantly disappearing present.' - Benjamin Lord
'The future is alongside us, sometimes closer, sometimes further away.
Hidden Valleys starts from the perception that the human world is an eerie place, particularly in relation to its stories and dreams. It also starts from events that took place in North Yorkshire, in 1978. A work of philosophy, an account of experiences, and a biography of a year, it is simultaneously a challenging cultural analysis, drawing on novels, songs and films. It argues for lucidity over reason, becomings over conventional gender and familialism, groups over state politics, and for an escape to wider realities in place of the delusions of religion. Most centrally it breaks open a view of a futural dimension that coexists with the present, and which intrinsically involves a heightened awareness and evaluation of the planet, of women, and of the abstract. Inseparably it is also a detective investigation into the causes of the eerie human predicament. The book reaches the planetary by starting from a singular place, it reaches reality by starting from dreams, and it reaches the future by finding a doorway in the past.' - Zero Books
Another in our series of singles, this time by Ghost Box regular Pye Corner Audio. With dark dystopian industrial disco on "Machines Are Obsolete". With a slightly more upbeat collaboration with Belbu - Ghost Box
Yet more work from the staggeringly prolific Jon Brooks. This time on the rather lovely Canadian label More Than Human Records. Jon Brooks is in calm and reflective frame of mind, with elegant icy electronics on this limited edition of 250 LPs.
'The history in Computer Chess, however strange and fictional, is presented as a forgotten moment in time, now rediscovered and shown, glitches and error-lines included, as a historical touchstone for our contemporary digital time. It employs, and at the same time moves beyond, postmodern aestheticization and presentist history, into a surreal, almost myth-like, retelling of the origins of our contemporary society. It is that which makes Computer Chess feel substantial and truthful.' - Ruud Klomp
From 2009 - 'What's going on here is what academics describe as "slippage of the auratic". Walter Benjamin theorised about the "aura" possessed by the singular artwork, the painting or sculpture, in the age of mechanical reproduction. Yet as digital culture takes over, "aura" is being conferred on things that not long ago would once have been considered mass produced and characterless. In the age of the webzine and MP3, it is solid-form cultural artifacts – vinyl records, vintage DJ mixtapes, yellowing magazines – that become attractive in the face of the infinite dissemination and seeming ephemerality of web culture. In this respect, fanzines have a significant edge over even a golden-era copy of NME or Rolling Stone, in so far as they're limited-run and thus closer to being a one-off. Fanzines are dripping with "aura". They're special too because they're typically the singular expression of an individual, who often appears to be deranged with enthusiasm or frustration. And in addition to evoking the fanatical intensity of particular moments in music history, they tend to contain amateur photography of bands or gigs: images that haven't been widely disseminated or officially approved. So it makes total sense that collectors are hunting rare zines down.' - Simon Reynolds
'Imagine: an endless plaza filled with towering pillars of light. A vast, gridded expanse of escalators criss-cross the atmosphere, ascending ever upward into a vaporous haze of glowing advertisements and shimmering glass. An infinity sponsored by multi-billion-dollar corporations and dripping with the stimulating lubricant of commerce, this monument to capitalism as artificially engineered heaven is the eerie endpoint at which our world becomes comprehensively commercialized.
That's our best guess for the future, a utopian dystopia that wants for nothing, and where the human spirit goes to die. This is where a genre called vaporwave draws its inspiration, and in North Texas Michael Cole Young is perhaps its lone practitioner.
Vaporwave acts as a critique of the aforementioned capitalist nightmare. Sampling, repurposing and then looping the banal sounds of bygone commercial stock music (elevators, infomercials -- all iterations of listen-while-you-wait ambient fodder), vaporwave tracks consist almost entirely of these slowed-down, or otherwise heavily warped, fragments ...
... From dance patterns and hauntological textures to pristine, future-seeking art-pop and ethereal beat instrumentals (even metal and acoustic singer-songwriter under his own name), Young's music speaks to an artful command of mood and concept. Whether it's for satire or genuine expression, it affords him the capacity to comment sharply on contemporary issues without needing to utter a word. His aspirations and motivations have always been, and remain, simple and admirable: "To connect with people and to change the way they think.' - Jonathan Patrick
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