In Arcadia‘s (Chris Garth of Rochester, Kent post-metal/sludge/post-rock act Upcdownc) superb 2020 album Phon was an opportunity for Garth to properly exercise his John Carpenter musical inclinations. With new release Hauntology to quote Chris himself it is ‘basically a follow on from a lot of the ideas I was pursuing on my last release Phon, albeit with the addition of other elements like effected guitars and vocal’. Since the aforementioned Phon full-length, an additional Phon – Part 4 surfaced last year which I also recommend everyone check out.
The artwork for those releases was done by Yasmin El Amery and so captivated me that I enquired to Chris as to whether I could have some printable copies to put on my walls, it was therefore with some delight that I noted the artwork this time round has also been produced by Yasmin. The cover of Hauntology looks warm and fuzzy with a family (?) huddled round a fire looking at a shooting star, and considering my mental health woes of recent times, this doesn’t look like a bad setting (despite camping not being high up on my bucket list). A Wikipedia explanation of the album’s title refers to ‘a genre or loose category of music that evokes cultural memory and the aesthetics of the past’. This is exemplified by the Ghost Box label as well as acts such as The Caretaker, Burial and Philip Jeck.
Web Weaver starts where Phon left off, shimmering synths and spacey atmospherics that I could easily envisage accompanying Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, the TV show Stranger Things, or any number of films/shows that attempt to pay homage to the spirit and aesthetic of 80s sci-fi. Needless to say, I loved it. Aurora feels like the pioneering work of Jean Michel Jarre, in particular the epic Oxygène, and whereas I sometimes find effected electronic vocal treatments off putting (such as the ham-fisted embarrassment that is Cher’s Believe or the disappointing The Brazilian Gentleman’s L & L that I reviewed for The Shaman), here it blends into the music effortlessly.
It’s living, breathing proof that electronic/ambient music doesn’t have to be cold and detached to be appreciated…
Chris mentions listening to Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd and latter day Flaming Lips in the promo notes and these more guitar-driven influences are certainly present in the graceful Passer By. This makes for a slight change in sound which, unlike David Gilmour’s frankly tedious solo output, never outstays its welcome or gets lost in endless virtuoso noodling. There are also shades of Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) work on the Lost In Translation soundtrack, affording it a shoegaze quality that will delight fans of that genre no end (myself included).
DiYoA is the shortest number on the album at just over two and a half minutes, and also the strangest with a mash of weird and wonderful sounds that serve as the perfect segue way to the concluding track Reverberance. There is an organic, naturalistic feel that perfectly juxtaposes the album art. Being an old sentimentalist I would say there is a distinctly romantic sensation present that truly tugs on the heartstrings. Remember the San Junipero episode from Black Mirror? This would have been the perfect tune with which to fade it out, especially as it lacks the overwrought hipster pretensions which came with that particular instalment.
It’s never easy following up a great record, but Hauntology does an outstanding job by experimenting with new styles while maintaining the core of what made me fall in love with the project in the first place. It’s living, breathing proof that electronic/ambient music doesn’t have to be cold and detached to be appreciated.
Scribed by: Reza Mills