Currently reading Paul Auster’s latest novel “Sunset Park”.

It’s taught me a new phrase “trashing out” which is the American for house clearance. It usually starts with economic disaster – getting laid off from a job (or receiving a pink slip, as the Americans say). When people then can’t pay their mortgages to the bank, the solution is to do a runner in the night. The bank needs to then sell the house and has to get it clean and ready. Nobody leaves their house in pristine condition – there is usually one last futile bout of rage and destruction. But neither can they take everything they have accumulated. Small flakes of their lives are jettisoned where they lay. The ‘hero’ in the novel has a job as a trasher-out and he takes photographs of this flotsam – children’s toys, books, electronics, “all the stuff that used to be so easy to buy on credit”. It all goes in the dumpster (that’s a “skip” in the UK).

When I looked up trash-out I came across companies with interesting marketing lines. My favourite was “we are the dumpster that fills itself”. It seems like a motto for the age. Like “Repo Man” in the 1980s, we’re back in the art of the dispossessed.

In the book, Auster does his favourite trick of deconstructing some cultural artefact and using it for its intertextual value. In this book it’s the 1946 movie, “The Best Years of Our Lives”, which is the one about American soldiers returning to normal life after WW2.

It’s probably a bit too obvious for the genius of Auster, but if he wanted to talk about the “ghosts of people he will never see and never know are still present in the discarded things strewn about their empty houses” then maybe the 1962 movie “Carnival of Souls” might have worked too. It’s the story of an alienated woman called Mary who finds it hard to re-connect with the world following a car accident in which she was the sole survivor. Her talent is as a church organist, but her world soon warps into a ghoulish danse macarbe to the tune of her own frenzied instrument as the line between the real and the surreal blurs. The souls dance with her in the ruined ballroom of an abandoned amusement park, and seem to want her to join them. She can’t understand why she seems invisible and nobody will help her to get out of there.

She was dead all along of course.

Carnival of Souls may be a cult classic now, but it started life as a B movie shocker. The trailer is at pains to point out that if the audience can’t take it then tough, there are positively no refunds.

The notion that we are all ghosts that occupy a world soundtracked by some eerie half-remembered hymn is not a new one. Electronic music borrowed the philosopher Jacques Derrida’s concept of “Hauntology” some time ago. Derrida was also the inventor of “deconstruction” as a concept. Hauntology is concerned with the paradox of the ghost (or spectre) as neither being or non-being. The world is equally paradoxical, in that the future is a refelection of the past. It’s said to be a take on Karl Marx’s line about communism being the spectre that haunts Europe. Derrida’s angle is that the more we ignore the suffering of the world, the more it will “haunt” us, and therefore despite the fall of communism we still need it.

In music, the term hauntology has more to do with the evocation of memories by sound. Even as we reflect on the past, we are anticipating and directing the future. If I recall a happy memory and act upon it, my future is haunted by my past.

And so dubstep is one example of hauntology. By evoking the memory of 70s dub and burying it inside layers of seemingly random sound (representing memories) it creates a sound for the future in the present. “Decaying loops” so to speak.

If Auster is correct and we must now more than ever grapple with “the imponderables of fate, the strangeness of life, the what-ifs-and-what-might-have-beens”, then the soundtrack for our modern world should be the stuff of nightmare, a carnival of lost souls. But do we ignore the reality, wallow in misery, or do we smash the Tory party’s HQ? A haunting dilemma.

The least I can do now is let you listen to a tune or two. Here’s some hauntology:

James Woon – Wayfaring Stranger (Burial Mix)

CV313 – Subtraktive (King Midas Sound Dub)

After that, you can if you like watch Carnival of Souls.