Posts Tagged ‘Forebears’

14th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Amongst the fermenting foment that is the melting pot of the Leeds alternative scene, J. S. Gordon, or Jack as he’s also known, is one of those people who’s to be found ambulating the underground circuit around the rehearsal space and indie venue CHUNK with noisemongers IRK. His Platitude Queen vehicle represents a less frenetic, splenetic kind of sound: a ‘contemplation on cultural heritage’, it’s pitched as an album which fits ‘the wider traditions of folk music’ while crossing into ‘the world of hauntology’.

In liner notes fitting for a philosophy graduate, Gordon unpacks the idea behind the album:

‘The form of hauntology which besieges this collection of songs is one that lurches from the depths of the past, but also recognises the (lack of) future. The traditional view of hauntology (as per Jacques Derrida) is that the present is haunted by persistent recurrence of concepts and ideas from the past. The discomfort lies in the fact that these concepts, these ghosts, do not properly belong to the past, and the observer who connects with these ghosts is therefore also removed from a common sense view of time. We are therefore forced to remove our expectations of causality and the origins on these concepts, before they “returned” as ghosts.’

In its continual plundering of the past and the immense fiscal value of the nostalgia industry, in which a collective yearning for even the most recent past has scope for commodification, Postmodernism is in some sense built on hauntology, and in its endless recycling of the past, whether through a contemporary filter or a fashionable dash of retro chic, we find ourselves in a present where the future is doomed to remain mired in the past, while at the same time any real sense of history is dismantled by an all-encompassing simultaneity. As such, everything is rootless, as fragmentary echoes of all things past reverberate around us. And so we come to Forebears.

Forebears certainly presents an intriguing aspect on what you may categorise as hauntological folk: often wonky, always sketchy, and curiously evocative, if not necessarily unheimlich in its evocativeness.

The first song, ‘Sambucus’ is sparse and lo-fi, an acoustic piece that rumbles and mumbles like a Silver Jews outtake, wistful melancholy and off-the-cuff. The stomping ‘Dance of the Mummers’ s quite a contrast, a kind of folk-punk Cossack shanty, but as if played by Trumans Water on acoustic guitars. If that description sounds addled and vague, then it’s probably about right in conveying the strange atmosphere of the album. Everything calls to mind something else, something just beyond the ken of recognisance.

‘Hob Headless’ introduces an almost country tint, and ‘Pignut’ comes on like a wonky, vibrant and wholly irreverent collision between Pavement and The Pixies, unplugged. The eight-and-a-half-minute ‘Peg Powler’ is stark and lugubrious, some Leonard Cohenesque acoustic picking growing to some layered splendour and a slow surge of tension. Forebears, then, isn’t short on intriguing moments, or, indeed, quality songs that hang suspended in an indefinable time all of their own.

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