Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Hauntology of The Gold Room by Sadhugold

From the wikipedia page for Hauntology:
A derivation of Derrida's hauntology idea informs a style of 21st-century music exploring ideas related to temporal disjunction, retrofuturism, cultural memory, and the persistence of the past. Hauntology often involves the sampling of older, "spectral" sound sources to evoke deeper cultural memory. Common reference points in hauntological music include vintage analog synthesisers and cassette tapes, library music, old science-fiction and pulp horror programmes (including the soundtracks of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), musique concrète and found sounds, dub and English psychedelia, and 1970s public informational films. A common element is the foregrounding of the recording surface noise, including the crackle and hiss of vinyl and tape, calling attention to the decaying medium itself.

According to Nature Sounds, the new instrumental album The Gold Room by Sadhugold was "conceived as the score of a prequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic film The Shining" but it also feels like a perfect embodiment of hauntological music. An instrumental homage to a classic ghost story film that creates a spectral vibe of its own thru dusty, lo-fi analog elements and distorted, mutating melodies that feel like they're emanating out of a haunted jukebox. Or the analog dispatch radio in the office of The Overlook with the call letters KDK12.

I've been very impressed with this album, captivated by Sadhugold's chunky kicks-and-snares and the way he toys with and distorts each beat. Also interesting to me is how this is a straight instrumental record, no vocals at all, not even any kind of clips of voices from The Shining. Through the track titles and the movements of the song, though, Sadhu creates audio spectral visions of the themes of the film. One of the best examples is on "Dull Boy" where the melody, an absolute banger of resonant organ keys, gives the sense of a spiraling descent into madness and chaos, confirmed by the track title referring to that iconic scene of The Shining where Jack Torrance's wife discovers every page he's written says "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

Kubrick's 1980 film is one of the greatest cinematic puzzles ever devised, a labyrinth with a life of its own, springing forth elaborate subjective interpretations, theories, and homages from creative souls who become allured into its layers. I've gone thru my own phases of obsessing over Kubrick and The Shining and written about it in this space. That film seems inexhaustible, a classic in every respect, and while it has inspired a whole subculture of devotees (including previous attempts at hauntological musical renditions) this new project from Sadhugold was an ambitious idea that he executed with a mastery worthy of the filmmaker he's paying tribute to. The whole album is a banger that can stay on repeat, revealing new ripples and distorted spectral disturbances with each listen.

(Thank you to my friend Angelo for putting me on to that concept of Hauntology, a word combining haunting and ontology.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Indelible Sensory Imprint of Mexico City and the Pyramids of Teotihuacán

PQ perched on the Pyramid of the Moon overlooking the Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacán, Mexico.

"In this twilight age of all the disciplines, in which beliefs are dying and religions are gradually gathering dust, our sensations are the only reality left to us. The only scruple that need concern us, the only satisfactory science, is that of sensations."

That's Fernando Pessoa in The Book of Disquiet describing the sensations of living in the city of Lisbon (a place I got to visit in 2014). Pessoa's poetic detailing of the sensory world of a modern city explored throughout The Book of Disquiet rung resonantly with my experience of Mexico City on a 10-day trip this past June. Looking back on that trip, it's the sensory experience that sticks out to me. Mexico City is such a vast, bustling, densely populated, and beautiful place. The experience of being there brings so much to bear on the senses that you end up filtering so much of it out so as not to get caught up in focusing on every little thing. As I've continued to digest the experience of being there, certain things that I overlooked or forgot about come floating back up in my memory.

Little details return, like the way the sunlight comes down through the trees. Mexico City felt like a metropolis inside of a jungle while surrounded by mountains on every horizon. It's a gigantic place with variation across each neighborhood, but the parts we mostly stayed in (La Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods) were so full of lush green, tall thriving trees that there was often a canopy for the sunlight to creep through. There were so many miniature parks with jungles of trees and plants alongside old statues and fountains. Giant, lush bougainvillea vines climbed lampposts and hung on electrical wires. Palm trees clustered together. Many of the buildings had porches full of plants like this place: