In February this year I wrote a 4 part piece on the idea of anti-hauntology. Part 1 looked at the legacy of SOPHIE’s music in contrast to Mark Fisher’s concept of hauntology. Part 2 took the anti-hauntology idea and applied it to the work of experimental producer Arca. Part 3 aimed to defend anti-hauntology against claims that it could be reduced to accelerationism. And part 4 went into more philosophical depth looking at the concept through an analysis of the work of Bernard Stiegler.
Anti-hauntology was initially a direct response to Mark Fisher’s concept of hauntology. Fisher diagnosed that cultural forms, especially contemporary pop music at the time that he was writing, had become seen as the ghosts of previous forms that existed before them. They were limited by a lack of innovation. They no longer had the desire to create something radically new. What this represented to Fisher was a kind of mourning over the possible futures that had been lost due to the ubiquity of capitalist realism, of which hauntology was a symptom.
However, I claimed that Sophie and Arca (among others) represented a new wave of creativity in music production that could no longer be described as hauntological. In fact, it actively pushed against hauntology. They were drawing out new lines of flight for contemporary music; pushing the zeitgeist into radical new directions which carved open new spaces for creativity both in the cultural and political realms. As I wrote in the first article on SOPHIE and Fisher:
When I claim that these artists represent a kind of anti-hauntology, it’s not to say that they do not exist alongside spectres of the past, of course every kind of music is a result of what came before it, but that they do not dwell on the past, they push forward looking for new openings and unusual connections which can bring these spectres together in new creative ways. As Hugh Tomlinson wrote in the forward to Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy: “Active forces, like becoming itself, are deemed superior because they are creative: they produce differences, whereas reactive forces produce nothing. Reactive forces only lead to ressentiment and bad conscience”. If hauntology could be reframed as a reactive force, then anti-hauntology is a purely active one.
The Iglooghost Dilemma
At the time of writing these articles there was another artist I had in mind who I thought potentially represented the anti-hauntological aspects of music production that I thought were so prevalent in the work of SOPHIE and Arca. That artist was Iglooghost.
Iglooghost is a producer who creates music that might be described as a dreamy gen Z amalgamation of Flying Lotus and Aphex Twin. His previous records blended elements of glitch-hop, IDM, trap, classical, and a number of other genres and sounds to create something that was both chaotic and hauntingly beautiful. The track ‘New Vectors’ from the Clear Tamei EP certainly had some of the characteristics I was looking for to exemplify anti-hauntology:
But, although I had always thought of Iglooghost’s music as genre-bending and boundary-pushing, I couldn’t quite describe it as anti-hauntological in the way that the others were. Igloo had been constantly touted as the heir to Aphex Twin since his early releases and some might say that these earlier records were recreating many of the same sonic textures that Aphex had been producing 20+ years ago. Anti-hauntology has to seek out new vectors rather than repeating old ones. It’s about imagining new futures not mourning those that never came to pass.
However, on April 2nd Igloo released his sophomore solo full length album titled Lei Line Eon, and with this new record he has really moved out Aphex’s shadow into a new world that is entirely his. Lei Line Eon sounds like an interdimensional dreamscape of ambient of drones and spacey string sections. The vocal accompaniments are a combination of BABii’s angelic melodies and Igloo’s own dark whispered poetry. But, where Igloo really moves away from his IDM/wonky roots is in the percussion. The drums in Igloo’s previous releases had always seemed to me like what Aphex Twin would have been producing if he had started creating in an era after hip hop, trap and dubstep, but the percussion in Lei Line Eon is much more stripped back and subtle. It blends perfectly into the euphoric mystical atmosphere that Igloo is creating. This album to me is truly something unique, even in Igloo’s own discography. He’s taken his work into new territory that truly his own. This is anti-hauntology.
A New Digital Modernism
The curious thing about this release is that it’s not only the music that he’s moving into new territory, but the musical experience as a whole. Lei Line Eon attempts to provide a whole artistic milieu for the music itself. The album is accompanied by a whole directory with references to an fantasy genre created by mystical beings that he calls ‘Lei Music’. Igloo has devised a whole world around the album which incorporates imaginary experiments, analysis, and digital art. As he writes:
“I recently started a research institute to study a special subgenre called Lei Music. This video documents an expedition we took to a place known as the M⚮rlands. This infinite biome of rugged granite and soil surrounds the towns that practice Lei Music & very little is known about it. It is inhabited by strange organic drones knows as Celles, yet the few people who have stepped into the M⚮rlands have struggled to form any type of contact with these beings. Our expedition’s purpose was to establish some kind of communication with the Celles & learn more about their existence.” － ＩＧ ☗ ∰ ፨ ☼ ⑇ＸＯＸＯ
This new level of aesthetic experimentation brought me back to thinking about Mark Fisher and his concept of popular modernism. In Ghosts of My Life, Fisher states:
What’s at stake in 21st century hauntology is not the disappearance of a particular object. What has vanished is a tendency, a virtual trajectory. One name for this tendency is popular modernism. The cultural ecology that I referred to above – the music press and the more challenging parts of public service broadcasting – were part of a UK popular modernism, as were postpunk, brutalist architecture, Penguin paperbacks and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. In popular modernism, the elitist project of modernism was retrospectively vindicated. At the same time, popular culture definitively established that it did not have to be populist. Particular modernist techniques were not only disseminated but collectively reworked and extended, just as the modernist task of producing forms which were adequate to the present moment was taken up and renewed. Which is to say that, although of course I didn’t realise it at the time, the culture which shaped most of my early expectations was essentially popular modernist, and the writing that has been collected in Ghosts Of My Life is about coming to terms with the disappearance of the conditions which allowed it to exist.
To put it simply, popular modernism was created from a cultural climate that sought to eliminate the boundaries between the popular and the experimental, or the mainstream and the avant-garde. It was the fertile ground from which new cultural forms could be created that weren’t endless repetitions of the past. Importantly for Fisher, as the above quote mentions, the popular modernist tendency was embodied in all forms of artistic expression from music and record art, to architecture and radio shows. The problem for Fisher was that popular modernism had been destroyed by contemporary capitalism. Capitalism had subsumed all potential ‘new vectors’ for creation within itself. Popular modernism had become yet another spectre of the past haunting a present in which those dreams of freedom and creativity were lost.
Or so Fisher thought.
The interesting thing about Lei Line Eon is that it seeks to create anew all the aspects of popular modernism that Fisher thought were lost. A brief scan of Iglooghost’s https://www.leimusic.xyz/ page gives us a dazzling variety of creativity and innovative ideas which accompany his music. There is even a whole new system of asemic writing Igloo uses as lei music notation. Similarly, the imiginary ‘Gylph Institute’ aims to translate the ‘ancient’ writing and notation systems of the Celles into something contemporary musicians can understand. Igloo writes:
After spending the last year & a half dedicated to tracing the sprawling history of a phenomenon called Lei Music – I decided to formalise my fixation on the field by founding a research facility called the Glyph Institute². In the following months I will be publishing my experiments, analysis, and best attempts to elucidate the questions that have always eclipsed any formal understanding of Lei Music. Comprised of a tangled nexus of folklore, geology, sound technology and ever-diverging historic accounts – Lei Music’s questions seem eternally shrouded by a dense blur.
One of the many reasons we were trying to create Glyph Suite was to transcribe Lei Music notation into linear, horizontally sequenced music, or the closest we could get to it. This turned out to be a misguided idea, when we figured out the hard way that these songs traditionally reacted / contorted in accordance to the summon’s fluctuations (which is also related to the physical location’s atmosphere.) This stuff just can’t really be accounted for in the notation…
(For an in depth analysis of asemic writing practices, including the previous asemic alphabet used by Iglooghost see Blue Labyrinths contributor Sam Woolfe’s excellent article.)
Now, if we compare what Iglooghost is try to create here with the popular modern past that Fisher thought was lost, we can see how this new project is really pushing into anti-hauntological realms. Fisher states:
Music culture was central to the projection of the futures which have been lost. The term music culture is crucial here, because it is the culture constellated around music (fashion, discourse, cover art) that has been as important as the music itself in conjuring seductively unfamiliar worlds. The destranging of music culture in the 21st century – the ghastly return of industry moguls and boys next door to mainstream pop; the premium put on ‘reality’ in popular entertainment; the increased tendency of those in music culture to dress and look like digitally and surgically enhanced versions of regular folk; the emphasis placed on gymnastic emoting in singing – has played a major role in conditioning us to accept consumer capitalism’s model of ordinariness.
If there are two things that this new Iglooghost record embodies I would argue they are ‘the futuristic’ and ‘the fantastic’. Igloo is not just concerned with creating wildly inventive music on its own, he’s trying to move the whole culture around his music into imaginative and fantastical directions. As these directions start to solidify in the minds of his listeners, they will create new avenues for artistic expression within the realm of music culture. He is developing a new form of popular modernism for the digital age, one that is not confined by the analogue limits of the popular modern era that Fisher mourns. If the hyperreality of 21st century pop stars is, at its essence, hauntological, then Iglooghost’s project with Lei Line Eon and the Glyph Institute is precisely anti-hauntological.
Now, what does this mean for anti-hauntology? As we saw in the previous articles, anti-hauntology does not have to embody visual artistic elements, or elements of fantasy and anti-realism (although many of the artists mentioned do precisely that), but these elements help to set the foundations for what SOPHIE called a ‘whole new world’. In the digital age, the possibilities for creativity in the milieu surrounding music have never been more apparent. The ideas of an artist like Iglooghost who uses innovative production techniques combined with a focus on digital art and animation really exemplifies the move away from the lost futures that Fisher despairs over. Although the popular modern era that Fisher describes is long gone, we are starting to see a push into a new era of digital modernism, and perhaps this era will serve as the antidote to the cultural stagnation which is mourned by hauntology.