Writer Mark Firsher suggests Hauntology is a term that describes the sense of the present haunted by the “lost futures” of modernity, in which the artist is deprived of the resources to create something new. In Stefan Schneider and Jay Ahern’s debut LP as Hauntolgists there is an element of truth to that statement as they delve into the familiar waters of minimalists club music. Built on a foundation of efficient repetitive beats, and conventional figure bass lines, the album is immediately familiar to the listener; relying on the resources we’ve acclimatised to in the world of electronic dance music through 808’s and modular synthesisers. But in negating the possibilities for something new, they arrive at something different, a singular alternative voice amongst the monotonous murmur of the majority. In the contemporary zeitgeist of Techno’s fundamentalist pulsating drones, Hauntologists self-titled debut stands out as a unique existentialist entity.
The album is forged in the repetitive loop, but often saunters off into the endless possibilities of the modular synthesiser, with Schneider and Ahern working in the dark territory that shrouds the ideal behind the project. The menacing undertones however are always disturbed by the playfulness of the spasmodic synthesiser and on a track like Brooklyn this contrast works well to find new dimensions in the post-modernist vacuum of club land. The beat doesn’t thump as much as trod, and with the steady anchor of the bass-line, the other parts are given free reign, indulging our sense of adventure within the context of the familiar. Schneider and Ahern’s sound design as Hauntolgists marks the duo’s major appeal and is at its most impressive on Suspend. A LFO modulated bass swims around detuned piano strings and indecisive modular tones developing in the realm of the repetitive nature of the rhythm section. The repetition on Hauntolgists would become quite stale if it wasn’t for these improvised Jazz impulses of the synthesiser, pulling the listener forward and giving the dance tracks a notable development in their through-form. Point, with its acid-influenced bass line dripping in the squeal of increased resonances, makes quite the impression in that regard.
For the most part however, Hauntologists, sound is tied in with th down-tempo dub-tech foundations with its deeply plucked tones resonating with a lazy sense of premonition. The other key ingredient in their sound is Schneider’s ethnological field recordings from his time spent in Kenya, which crop up from time to time in the context of electronic dance music. They never take the obvious form in the sense of layering rhythms on top of each other, but rather find a new purpose within the context of the club track. The marimba on Howl is distant, only taking up the lower mid frequencies, while the figure bass line dominates in the foreground. The organic guitar sample from Hush cropped in its edited form, like a part of collage making a bigger picture as its quantised to the 4/4 beat that underscores it. In both cases the focus does not fall on the exoticness of the sound’s origins, but rather a distinct move to emphasise the sound as something ingrained in the very essence of dance music. They are not being recognised as the ‘other’ but rather the continuous thread that runs through it all.
These consistent sonic quirks and Hauntoligists concerted effort to soften Techno’s hardened edges through dub and subtle beat arrangements make for a refreshing change from the industrialised hard-wax version of the genre we have been bombarded with. It’s still in the voice of the minimalist age we find our self in, but rather making more from less, Hauntoligists strive in its true ideal of less is more. They might not be breaking new ground with their debut LP, but they are definitely giving us a new perspective on the familiar.