Brontë Country I

I have wanted to return to the village of Haworth for a few years now, ever since I first wrote about Wuthering Heights on the blog two and a half years ago.

Since we moved to West Yorkshire at the end of September, I’ve been itching to go. The Brontë parsonage is less than an hour’s drive from our new house but, since we’re now in a very high-risk area for the coronavirus, we were reticent about rocking up at a tourist hotspot.

Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, we went. After a brief look around a mostly battened-down Haworth, we popped in the parsonage giftshop, bought a map, and went on a very long walk across the moors.

I’m hoping to write something new about the Brontës soon but, until then, enjoy these photographs of the very witchy woods of West Yorkshire.

Buddies Without Organs:
Episode #01: Body Without Organs

I am very excited to announce that Sean the hauntonaut and I have started a new podcast together. It is called Buddies Without Organs.

The premise is that we are two buddies making neither head nor tail of Deleuze. Each week we pick a concept from Deleuze’s writings, read a relevant chapter from one of his books, and then try to guide each other (and you) through it, throwing it against our various interests as we go.

For the first episode we tackled — what else? — the “body without organs”. We’re hoping to do another episode every two weeks from here on out.

You can listen below via Soundcloud, follow us on Twitter here, and also follow the podcast as an RSS feed here.

Also, go and check out George Rennie, who has written a magnificent theme tune for us.

Welcome to the inaugural episode of Buddies Without Organs.

Hosted by Sean Pearce and Matt Colquhoun, BwO is a podcast exploring the concepts of Gilles Deleuze. Perhaps the best known of the French post-structuralists of the second half of the twentieth-century, Deleuze is a notoriously difficult thinker to read closely. Together, Sean and Matt hope to better their own understanding of his body of work as well as open up new entry points for others.

We began our adventure with our podcast’s namesake — the body without organs.

The BwO theme tune was written and recorded by George Rennie

New Blog Merch:
Xenogothic x Crit Drip

It’s been a while since there was any new XG merch.

Following the very successful back patches and the “Obelisk” t-shirt I uploaded to Teespring about 18 months ago, it’s been a bit quiet on the wearable blog insignia front ever since. Now that the blog has a new look, however, and with Christmas right around the corner, it feels like the blog could do with another little fundraising drive.

The issue, as ever, is that I’m design-illiterate.

Cue Craig, host of the Acid Horizon podcast and mastermind behind Crit Drip. Craig has designed two different styles of merch for the blog — a classic Gothic blackletter design, and a more post-punk modern Goth design as well. Together, I think they neatly cover the voided bases that XG tries to move outwards from.

You’ll find a range of variations on these designs over at the Xenogothic Teesprint store here. If there’s a variation you’d like that isn’t listed, hit me up and I’ll see what I can do.

And don’t forget to check out the Crit Drip store too. (I’m waiting on a Guattari black metal jumper at the moment, which I swapped Craig a copy of Postcapitalist Desire for [shh!], and have been peeping the Spinoza and Bataille tees for a while as well…)

Less Hauntography, More Salvagepunk

As I continue to plug away at my own post on the new Oneohtrix Point Never album, Enrico Monacelli has pipped me to the final line and written an amazing essay for Nero that is such a magnificent punch to the gut of cliched Fisherians I did a little air-punch whilst reading it.

The way Monacelli draws on Bonnet and Gayraud is brilliant — I’ve been perusing After Death and Dialectic of Pop in orbit of MOPN as well, funnily enough; slightly panicked I may need to look elsewhere now so as not to echo Enrico too closely! — and his attack on what Fisher’s theory has been reduced to is so brutal and surgical, I wanted to clip and post it below for my own posterity. (Here’s looking at you, “Mark Fisher Memes for Hauntological Teens”.)

Noting how a genuine interrogation of millennial chronopolitics has been made anemic by the very forces it hoped to critique, Monacelli (lightly butchered by Google translate) writes:

The most painful side of this marginality is certainly noting how a sad pseudocritical vulgate has been built on the idea of ​​technically reproducible memory dissolved by the subject of memory itself and, more particularly, around the corpse of Mark Fisher. It is easy to see, in fact, how a turbid mass has spontaneously assembled and brandished the remains of the British theorist to justify a resentful and, at worst, pretentious attitude towards the world mediated by our expanded memory. Armed with Capitalist Realism, exhibited as the Little Red Book of a Pale and Agonizing Cultural Revolution, and ready to accuse every enemy of being infected with the disease of theoretical vampirism, this group has transformed Fisher’s work into a sad invective against contemporary (cultural and economic) stagnation — a work of denunciation morally detached from this same alleged stagnation and freed from all kinds of internal contradictions. With the tone of someone who knows a lot, this congregation of spirits in exile, far from the promised land of the revolution, has hung its curses on the door of “neoliberalism” — an ultra-polysemic term, capable of encompassing everything in itself, without need of too many explanations or clarifications — and she has relegated herself to her black corner where she can mourn the slow cancellation of the future, unaware of how the present constantly produces escape routes from majority time.

This is precisely what I meant when I noted, back in March, that

whilst much has been made of Mark’s writings on hauntology, in practice his theories have often been rendered hauntographically by others. For clarity, we can understand the difference between hauntology and hauntography as being similar to the difference between biology and biography — one orders and describes the events of a life after the fact; the other is a study of life as it is lived, and all the mechanisms and relations that make it possible. In these terms, Fisher saw himself as less a writer of obituaries and more as a necromancer for not just lost futures but the futures we are continually losing. To dismiss his hauntological writings as the cultural mourning of an out-of-touch writer from Generation X — as is common amongst new readers today — is to ignore the innate hope his writings contained and the riling declaration that the new could only emerge from a vigilance regarding one’s own cultural position in relation to the recent past.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and the ever more confusing kernels this kind of thought is thrown into.

Merlin Coverley’s new book on the subject, for instance, whilst fascinating, seems counterintuitive in its attempts to provide a history of hauntology. It exemplifies a hauntographic reading of where the term has come from that undermines its very power. Because the point is that hauntology isn’t concerned with the past; it’s concerned about the future.

Somehow, Daniel Lopatin is able to make these convoluted kernels productive. The recently released video for “Lost But Never Alone” is the perfect example. In inserting an iPhone into an ’80s sitcom, we get a certain anachronism that is neither representative of past or present, but it doesn’t collapse into pastiche. It instead exemplifies a twenty-first century détournement, reweirding the past rather than becoming complacent about its ever-presence.

What is produced instead is, at best, some sensation that is unfamiliar, despite the familiarity of that which is being deployed to produce it. That’s what is weird about the video for “Lost But Never Alone” — it isn’t the various anachronisms in and of themselves that make us feel something but the way in which the collage of blatantly impossible objects and imagery nonetheless resonates with our contemporary “order of things”. This isn’t the present aping the past, this is the past confronting a future it couldn’t possibly have foreseen.

Whilst watching it for the first time, trying to uncover the emotion at the heart of the family drama on screen, I wrote the following note:

Is it the fear of new technology or the fear of their punk son’s alternative structures of belonging? Doesn’t an iPhone — as a contemporary signifier for our constant tethering to social networks — signify both? But parents love Facebook now so the shock is lost. Gotta send an iPhone back in time to do it! And I can’t figure out how they did it!

That’s not hauntological — that’s salvagepunk.

More soon. I don’t want to write too much and cheat on this other mammoth 0PN post I’ve been working on for the last fortnight.

For now, check yesterday’s Twitter thread that inspired this post and which was inspired by the publication of Enrico’s essay, featuring a rare k-punk clipping from a 2013 issue of Wire magazine.

Mark Fisher Revisited — Video

I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s previously advertised conversation with Tariq Goddard, head honcho at Repeater Books, and Tõnis Kahu, lecturer at Tallinn University who wrote the afterword to the Estonian translation of Capitalist Realism.

We’d hoped to be there in person for a panel at the Kirjandusfestival Prima Vista in Tartu, Estonia, but, well, the world’s broken so maybe next year!

I thought the conversation was really excellent. There was a great dynamic and I felt we covered so much more ground than is usually at these things. It was wonderfully all-encompassing — a hard thing to pull off.

The Archipelago — XG on Movement Radio

I recently had an excellent conversation with Yannis-Orestis Papadimitriou about my work and the work of Mark Fisher, which is due to be broadcast on tomorrow at 15.00 Eastern European Time. Tune in!

We could have kept talking for a lot longer. If you listen in and enjoy it, let them know! There may be a “part two” at some point.

Vague Memories of Oneohtrix Point Never:
A Prelude

I am completely obsessed with Magic Oneohtrix Point Never at the moment. Daniel Lopatin’s synthesising of just about every lesson learned over the last ten years of his career has produced a deeply rewarding and evocative album. I have a lot to say about it.

As a prelude, I wanted to take a little trip down vague-memory lane.

Every time I hear the music of Oneohtrix Point Never, I’m transported back to 2011. No matter how much further Daniel Lopatin develops, explores and further mutates his own sound, my mind goes back to then. I can’t help it. It’s an embarrassing Pavlovian response. Memories are powerful things.

They are also untrustworthy. The first time I saw OPN live was at the Animal Collective-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival in May 2011 — six months before the release of his breakout album Replica. Before thinking back to that time in 2020 and checking my dates, I was positive that Replica was the first record I heard; in retrospect, the earworms of Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 must have already established OPN as a sonic presence. The track “Angel”, later re-released as part of the aptly-named Memory Vague A/V project, is a diffuse cultural touchstone in this regard. It samples my favourite Fleetwood Mac song, whilst also feeling like a refracted response to Bullion’s “Crazy Over You” that similarly captivated me in 2010. (It was my ringtone for ages — remember ringtones?)

Where Replica fits into this lineage is unclear. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter. Chronologically, it follows the Chuck Person project, and yet the Eccojams feel like a series of somewhat solid objects siphoned off the top of Replica‘s more primordial soup. These vague and templex memories are more seductive than the reality. The fine line between remembering and hallucinating disintegrates.

It doesn’t help matters that the period from 2010 to 2013, when the OPN project truly came into its own, are perhaps my most formative years. 2011, in particular, straddles my first and the start of my second year at university. Replica was a constant companion from that year onwards. It soundtracked so much of my mundane student existence — I remember listening to it on repeat whilst playing copious amounts of Skyrim — as well as a number of almost spiritual experiences that punctured the mundanity.

At All Tomorrow’s Parties, for instance, my housemates and I hung out with the photographer Jason Evans, a lecturer at our university who we idolised. On the night OPN was set to perform, we drank a lot of vodka and smoked a lot of weed at his chalet. (I think Dan Snaith from Caribou came by at some point?) (Also his neighbours were Alan and Mimi from Low.) In a thick haze, we wandered around the pavilion, laughing and playing games, in this weird twilight world of wide-eyed students drifting alongside their cultural heroes. Then we went to see OPN’s set.

On arriving at the venue, we were too far gone to stand for the entire set and listen. We lay down on the floor and let the sounds wash over us. Sara Rejaie took the three pictures below — many thanks to Sara for digging them out for me the other day; Jason and my housemate Michael are first, followed by our crowd neighbours as the lying-down trend caught on.

My memories of the set itself are patchy. All I remember is the intensity of the experience and being captivated by closed-eye visuals as the carpet ended up on the ceiling and the whole world stuttered to the sounds of “Andro”. It was transcendent.

A few months later, once Replica had been released and I had probably spent too much time in its company, OPN returned to the UK for a small tour. I caught the show at the Cube Cinema in Bristol. Sober this time, with no closed-eye visuals for entertainment, Nate Boyce’s backdrop was more than intense enough. The cinema felt like a perfect venue too, considering the composition work Lopatin would go on to do with the Safdie brothers, prefiguring this psychedelic transition from screen memories to real memories to real screens.

I remember the cinema felt like a pressure cooker. I was fidgety and found myself enthralled, if overwhelmed. When the show was over, I shot out into the night like a bottle rocket, navigating my way slowly back to Bristol’s bus station, to get the bus back to Wales. Barely out of the venue, I found myself caught up in the gravitation pull of a nearby housing estate, chasing a fox around in the night with my ostentatious camera flash illuminating the strangest of colours in this otherwise dark and wintery world.

I’ve gutted to have not seen OPN live since then — especially the MYRIAD tour, that passed through London whilst I was there but it sold out by the time I realised. Here’s hoping after coronatime is over we can get back to a venue sometime soon, not just for the sounds but the striking experiences that OPN seems to conjure in his orbit — Silver Surfer of the Trash Stratum.

10,000 words on OPN to follow…