Hauntology is already dead; it always has been. Bucolica is a haunting listen, rising out of the eerie space that separates the musical dimension of hauntology and early electronica, landing in the midst of the classic fog-shrouded forest where nothing is as it appears.
The gap in the tree-line is only just perceptible through the black of the night, casting only a dim flicker of light against the cutting dagger of a thousand branches. Looking straight ahead, you can see The House in the Woods. The debut from Martin Jenkins (Pye Corner Audio) is a strange, swirling beast not unlike his PCA alias, but the dead, early synthesized melodies and the dark-tinted harmonies have followed him into his newly acquired residence.
The electronic rhythms that loop like the white lines on an old, decaying VHS tape have surrendered control, but the music still has an apparition or two locked away inside the basement. The yawning chasm of static coughs out a deep, bleak drone which then funnels itself into a rhythmic cyclone. Deep in the mustard yellow mist, the apparition of the night twists its face into a silent scream. Flutes loop beside a warbled horizon, seized by an invisible force until it is bent slightly out of pitch. Underneath the eerie flute lives a recurring beat, padded enough to feel distant…for now. The thick beats are shrouded in reverb, thumping like footprints in the soil. It’s the nightmarish, surreal folk music that could accompany an M.R. James ghost story, where a sighting is possible at any time. It is the unseen that terrifies.
The ghost box is set to record whatever phenomena it can. An EVP is picked up, suffocating the microphone with lungs that shouldn’t work and giving a hint at what currently resides inside; the dark, rainy territory is thoroughly that of misery and paranoia. Disembodied voices linger in the grey fog. Nothing is able cut through it; not even the ambient covering that tries to get inside. In another life, it would have been a tranquil listen. Here, though, the not-quite-right ambient passage is pulled out of shape, stuck in the dead zone. “Sunlight On Rusting Hulk” basks in a dull, glowing harmony as the tepid warmth of a pounding beat suffocates itself with its own rainstorm of reverb.
Other melodies shift eerily, levitating inches off the ground. “Favershell” could be the outer village where the outsiders have gathered, while “Mountains Of The Sea” cranks up the eerie to the terrifying. Dark to the point of jet black, the fog has now shrouded everything in its midst, swallowing the very house. A chained phantom rattles the foundation of the track. In a place where life was lost, the disturbed voice of a faceless, black-robed monk comes from the crumbled ruins of a white stone abbey; once pride of the forest, the spirit returns to the electronic realms for one last static-injected prayer. Bucolia is ancient and yet present, rusting out of tune as the years turn to decades; it’s removed from hauntology, but you can see the genre on the horizon, like a figure standing guard. Watching.
The cool breeze against the palm points to the exit, and the atmosphere is cool enough to give you a chill. Soaked raincoats drip out the final, guitar-led melody, the light promising a little sunshine for tomorrow. You can almost hear the music of the wind as you leave the house behind; it rustles the grass with its ghost story. Class this as an X-File. (James Catchpole)