Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Belbury Poly and “Hauntology”

I wasn’t aware of “hauntology” as a musical term (or any other sort of term) until I came across Belbury Poly. Philosopher Jacques Derrida coined the term to describe the relationship between the past and the present. The music that falls under the label is a mixture of old and new electronic sounds. It’s generally quiet music, with occasional vaguely sinister undertones.

Jim Jupp (Belbury Poly) described his own music in this way in a 2009 interview:

Part of a theme that’s ongoing in all the Belbury Poly records . . . is a tradition of British science fiction, where you’ve got on the one hand the setting of a very traditional background, with very ancient things, but you’ve got this weird, cosmic stuff happening [at the same time]. A lot of old British sci-fi books – John Wyndham, for instance – have these really mundane, quaint little village settings, but all of a sudden something really freaky and cosmic appears in the middle of it.

What is freakish is not necessarily overt – a nuclear war, or a sudden landing of carnivorous aliens – but a more subtle, unsettling sensation that the ordinary world is lying side-by-side with any number of other, stranger ones. It might only take turning a street corner at the right (or wrong) moment; opening a door that you’d never noticed before; switching on the television in time to catch a sinister glitch in the broadcast: any momentary gap in the border between here and elsewhere might thrust you into a new – or an old – reality.

I like all of the Belbury Poly albums, but if I had to choose one to recommend starting with, it would probably be From an Ancient Star.

A couple samples (Youtube links):

The Advisory Circle is another artist in the same genre and on the same record label. As the Crow Flies would also make for a good introduction to this type of music.

A couple samples (Youtube links):

A heavy influence on hauntology music is library music of the type produced by BBC Radiophonic Workshop. One example of their work that I like a lot is Fourth Dimension by Paddy Kingsland.

A couple samples (Youtube links):

I happened to discover Kingsland’s music through a independent game called Space Funeral. It’s quite an interesting game, and I recommend trying it if you think a very short, very unusual RPG sounds like fun. You can get it for free here.
 

 

Some Recommended Chiptunes

After mentioning 4mat, one of my favorite chiptune musicians, I thought I’d note a few others that I’ve come across in recent years.

 

Tugboat: Man of the Year

For some time, this album was available only on CD-R, directly from the artist. (I have a copy, its title hand-written in permanent marker.) But you can now download the album here for free.

Tugboat announced in 2008 that he wasn’t creating this type of music anymore, and I haven’t come across anything else by him, but I think this album is excellent.

 

Peer: Dances

Belgian composer Pierre Slinckx released a chiptune album under the name Peer. It’s unique and very good. You can find it here.

And you can find more of his music here.

 

8BP050

This one isn’t by a single composer–it’s a compilation of 50 songs by many different artists. I think it’s available only on CD and not as a download.

I have the CD set and I highly recommend it, but if you’re just looking for free music you can download the 20-track “bonus disc” here. These are songs that didn’t make the 2 CD set, but I found them to be just as good as the ones that were included.

I could list many more, but I suppose this is enough for one post.

 

Ronald Jenkees

Ronald Jenkees released his third album Days Away today, so I suppose it’s a good time to mention him here.

Jenkees first became famous-on-the-Internet when he began posting videos of himself playing his synthesizer on Youtube. He began each video with the greeting “Hello, Youtubes!”

He’s certainly talented, and I’ve listened to his previous two albums many times. And his latest seems to be at least as good as the previous two.

From a 2008 interview:

I used to make beats and silly raps and share them with friends on my website, but that was the extent of my music career. I actually studied tech in college and always did music for the fun of it (still do!). I started posting videos on YouTube just to entertain people – mainly my old college friends. Eventually I started posting vids of myself playing music. I guess it mixed well with my goofiness on camera, but mainly that combination of being entertaining and letting loose helped me to not feel like such a show-off. The YouTube audience is the only reason I came out with a whole album and am now working on a second.

Days Away seems to be his first instrumental-only album, the others each featuring two rap songs (their titles helpfully including “rap” in parentheses). Whatever your opinion on rap, I’d recommend listening to 56K (rap) and Let’s Ride (rap) at least once–but try some of his other songs first.