The Black Ghosts

The Black Ghosts

(Southern Fried Records/IAMSOUND; 2008)

By Danny Roca | 22 August 2008

So, ex-Simian Simon Lord and ex-Wiseguy DJ Touché—smirk—are doing…gothic dance? Well, so read the press release and numerous interviews around the release of their mixtape earlier this year. Maybe someone had finally achieved the unachievable and melded the Banshees with Donna Summer (fingers crossed). Sadly, once you disregard the band name and the album artwork, there is nothing that delivers on the promise of robots draped in crushed velvet. As expected from DJ Touché, there are a few B-Boy stylings and some lampooning of urban genres. Strangely, despite the success of Simon Lord’s own ventures into dubstep on his solo album Lord Skywave (2008), it is in the RnB or hip hop flavoured tracks where The Black Ghosts struggles.

Opening cut “Some Way Through This” is an aggressive RnB track with plunging echoing bass drums and stabbing strings circa Aaliyah-era Timbaland. It’s a great production job but Simon Lord’s voice, which can be soulful and expressive, is rendered whiny and reedy against the heavy bass. The track begs for someone with a stronger voice. Similarly, “Until It Comes Again” see-saws awkwardly between a Mark Ronson-ish guitar lick and a hammer-headed two-note riff—two components that fail to gel. Both tracks are clumsy and in comparison to their eclectic but cohesive mixtape and the relative smoothness of Lord’s mish-mashed solo project you can’t help but wonder if this unease is the result of an unhappy compromise or of a song-writing impasse.

Thankfully, these are just two misfires, album-cripplingly sandwiched around a triple whammy of floor fillers. “Anyway You Choose To Give It” has juddering keys, skittering hi-hats and Lord emphatically tripping over himself to get out his disdain. “Repetition Kills You” unfolds Damon Albarn’s unmistakable yelp onto a playful indie-dance anthem that manages to marry Simian’s psychedelic washes to Gorrilaz-aping jerky synths (... too many monkeys, though). But it’s the summer-encapsulating “It’s Your Touch” which is the true diamond here. Making economic use of a lounge jazz Pop Concerto Orchestra sample, Lord sounds suitably loved-up (“Yeah, you know how to make things flow”) as he navigates through Latin percussion and warm organ swells.

It’s unfortunate that when the album gets into its stride, “Until it Comes Again” stops it dead in its tracks like a roadblock. They could have achieved a more refreshing change of pace by segueing into the subtle folktronica of “Full Moon” or the mournful cellos of “Don’t Cry.” But again, these are sequenced arbitrarily amidst the heavier dance cuts like “I Want Nothing” and the distorted guitars of “Face” which, sounding like a Hi-NRG Depeche Mode is at least en route to delivering on that Gothic dance promise. But maybe I’m missing the point. Could it be they deliver on that promise through the unease caused by the unhappy clashes thrown up by the sequencing? It would certainly be much subtler then using horrific imagery and minor-key melodies. I hope so, cos it certainly sounds better than a pop-minded songwriter and a skilled DJ sullying what could have been a great album.

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