Dub no bass with my 303, man. Or something like that
With a name like Hauntologists, it’s pretty much a sure thing that we’re not in for 68 minutes of David Guetta-style rave pop. For this is an album of deep, dark and spectral techno, made by two guys from Berlin (where else?) with little more than a couple of magic boxes produced by Japan’s marvellous Roland Corporation.
Hauntologists are Stefan Schneider and Jay Ahern, who have a stop-start collaboration history stretching over seven years. Schneider has excellent past form as one third of post-rockers To Rococo Rot and one half of Schneider Kacirek, while Ahern’s impressive producer/label boss CV includes cuts under the Add Noise and Cheap & Deep monikers plus releases by Carl Craig and Morgan Geist. Schneider and Ahern share an appreciation for all things dub and acid, but the genesis of their warm, sweet music apparently came down to one simple fact: one of them had a 303, the other an 808.
And let’s face it, if you’re going to make minimal throbbing techno, then those two pieces of kit are always going to give you a flying start.
The pair first started making music together back in 2008, with a series of acclaimed EPs that married ethnological field recordings Schneider had collected in Kenya with raw, moody and tribalistic future-funk beats. ‘EP1’, ‘EP2’ and – yes, you’ve guessed it – ‘EP3’ became DJ favourites, a slew of cryptic rhythm tracks to percolate into the sets of techno emissaries the world over. For their debut album, however, the duo have updated the Hauntologist ethic and set a course that moves a bit closer to the centre of the dancefloor, albeit one that still veers well away from Guetta’s shiny podiums.
‘Turned’ is the killer track, all phantom timbres, itchy rhythms and a mood lifted straight out of the pages of Mark Danielewski’s psychological horror epic ‘House Of Leaves’. ‘Sustain’ runs with the idea, threatening the listener with depth-charge bass and subtle melodies that sound as though they were quite possibly made by some people under the stairs. ‘Howl’ meanwhile comes on like the bastard offspring of Richie Hawtin and Basic Channel, jacking the beats into a more protracted yet restrained fury before fading out like an elevator in freefall.
Sure, this is music to listen to with your headphones on that long train ride from London to Inverness, drifting along on sci-fi rhythms and intergalactic effects. But it works superbly in a club too, especially if the DJ turns up the bass and you have little fondness for your eardrums. For Hauntologists, it’s about conjuring up ghosts in the machine, creating (head)spaces that shouldn’t exist, and inviting us to get lost in the silver box. Prepare to be spooked.