What if ghosts bring us the future? “Phantasma-goria” by The Eivind Aarset 4-tet on #neuguitars #blog
Are you afraid of ghosts? Me, just a little. Not that I’ve ever met any, but they worry me. They smell of death, of past things, of ended existences. Nothing comfortable. When I think about the word “haunting”, I immediately think of those big, scary old houses that you can find in some abandoned and unknown city, and that strange feeling that you sometimes get when you think you are alone, but you realize not to be completely. Our society was built on the idea that time is a linear progression, that we are constantly evolving and that we develop our ways of living and creating in a progressive form. The concept of “Hauntology”, on the other hand, combines the words “ontology” and “haunting”, suggesting a disturbing alternative: that, perhaps, time is something less one-dimensional than we believe and that past, present and future can coexist through the acts of recycling and repetition. Hauntology suggests the idea that the past, in all its forms, haunts us as an eerie specter living through the present and future of our culture. We see much of this in our political and cultural spheres, with similar issues raised century after century with similarly similar responses and figures in power. Mark Fisher explored these areas by moving through a profound relationship between cultural experience and personal experience, drawing on his struggles with depression and beautifully connecting the two by analyzing our society’s collective desire for the past. I am sure that the Italian phrase “it was better when it was worse” has entered our minds and speeches both in terms of our personal experiences, and out of that desire for what once was and that continues to haunt us, in particular. with the advancement of technology.
In the world of sound this is expressed in the re-emergence of vinyls and tapes, which Fisher describes as “a longing for the past … we are constantly grieving for something that doesn’t exist and are attempting a future that doesn’t even exist … “(2012). Musicians associated with Hauntology were imbued with an overwhelming melancholy and concerned about the way technology materialized memory – hence the fascination with television, vinyl, audio cassette and the sounds of these abandoned technologies. If we take this explanation and apply it to the age we are in, an age where we can trade tons of digital music in a matter of seconds, we can see how the soaring sales for physical copies and LPs demonstrate the veracity of these ideas. Those who dealt with Hauntology considered this intertwining of past, present and future as a “specter” or a “ghost”. And these ghosts weren’t all that friendly. Eivind Aarset plays elegantly with these semantics, titling his latest album as “Phantasma-goria”. It plays with it because it draws not only on hauntology, but also on an old form of technology and representation: phantasmagoria was a form of theater that used a modified version of the magic lantern to project scary images such as skeletons, demons and ghosts on walls, smoke or semi-transparent screens, often from behind the screen itself. The handling made possible effects such as zooming in and out of characters and, using multiple devices, you could also switch from one image to another very quickly, creating a “montage” effect in real time. A technique, a technology of the past that is taken up in the present where “Phantasma-goria” becomes a pan-stylistic collage, a global music with a high emotional impact, a tape composed of many fragments of different styles which, electronically modified, self-phagocytize each other. An imaginary sonata of impossible music, of music brought from the future by ghosts. “Panthasma-goria” deceives the ears with its concentrated flows of information, while the sounds shun their acoustic bodies and change shape to assume the same density as the images projected by the phantasmagoria on surfaces made of smoke.
Space also coagulates and folds, altering its density, altering perspectives so that sounds arrive fragmented and liquid. Music is architecture, buildings go upwards, in vertical, layered structures. Eivind Aarset has always been referred to as a master in the use of pedals and effects for his guitar. In “Panthasma-goria” the effects dissolve the hierarchies connecting the instruments to each other in a chameleonic circuit, which generates new sophisticated textures. Effects transform instruments into hearing aids, audio extensions, grafted hybrids, an electronic ecology where the input of one instrument is the output of another. The distinction between ‘real music’ and sound effects collapses into a flow of sounds, a current that changes shape and direction all the time. Sound is separated from its source and ghosts are its bearers. “Panthasma-goria” therefore also suggests a use of technology that pursues different purposes for which effects and pedals were created: from simple generators of new sounds, the effects inaugurate an alchemical era, a science of non-linear synthesis, where whoever controls the effects controls the means of transmutation of sound. An alternative, semiotic use of technology that I believe William Gibson would like. These sounds seem to respond and satisfy that part of me that has always rejected the anguish and depression implicit in hauntology. The music of “Panthasma-goria” is neither distressing nor oppressive, if anything comfortable. The ghosts that travel on the instruments of The Eivind Aarset 4-tet are bearers of a positive and stimulating message, they push you towards an ‘immersive’ music that has no other desire than to welcome. Give it a chance. Welcome to the ghosts.
“That’s what I think art is about, when it’s not boring, it’s the allowing of ghosts to come back.” – Jaques Derrida, 1993
The Eivind Aarset 4-tet:
Wetle Holte — Drums / Percussion / Metallophone. Drum Programming / Mellotron on Outbound (or) Stubb1 / Organ on Manta Ray (or) Soft Spot.
Erland Dahlen — Drums / Percussion / Logdrum /Vibraphone. Drum Programming on
Soft Grey Ghosts (or)Twilight Chamber.
Audun Erlien — Bass. Casio Synth on Intoxication.
Eivind Aarset — Guitar / Electronics / Edits.
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Arve Henriksen — Trumpets on Manta Ray (or) Soft Spot.
Jan Bang — Samples on Manta Ray (or) Soft Spot, Didn’t See This One Coming & Soft
Grey Ghosts (or) Twilight Chamber.
John Derek Bishop — Field Recordings & Treatments on Manta Ray (or) Soft Spot & Light on Sanzu River (or) Dreaming of a Boat.