Matt Randall and Lee Hall have known each other for years, with the pair helping to steer 90s John Peel favourites Beatglider. Joined by fellow Southend based musicians Roy Thirlwall and Leighton Jennings, it’s fair to say that Ghost Music have a history.
This weight of experience comes to the fore on their debut LP, with ‘I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here’ deciding to wear its influences on its paisley pattern sleeve. So expect supremely dreamy guitar pop minimalism, with shades of Galaxie 500, K Records, and Flying Nun groups such as The Clean or even The Chills.
A superb genre piece, where this debut album excels is in its presentation. The lucid songwriting aims to recover lost memories, delving in the band’s own adolescence – those superbly well chosen influences – to create shadows, the ‘ghost music’ of the band’s name.
So opening track ‘Home Dog’ chugs like the Reid Brothers during their imperial gloom pop phase, ‘Strange Love’ chimes like a lost cut from ‘This Is Our Music’, and ‘This Kingdom’ has that strange, wistful nature that characterises so much of Calvin Johnson’s output.
It’s the sound of indie pop becoming self-aware about its own capacity for memory, a genre becoming nostalgic for the process of nostalgia. What keeps Ghost Music from becoming too introverted, though, is the wonderfully hewn songwriting, the manner in which those influences are played around with in a respectful but never reverential fashion.
‘Blind Spot’ opens with some Galaxie 500 style strummed guitars, before making way for a Mary Chain buzzsaw guitar solo, but these snippets are blended by that effortlessly sighing vocals which warn of a heart that beats “so slow”.
‘I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here’ has a real pop fixation – songs rarely stray beyond the three minute mark – but this helps keep each idea succinct, refusing to lapse into self-indulgence. Adorable folk-influenced nugget ‘Queen Of England’ dissects the collapse of a relationship, the beauty acoustic guitar line set against glacial moments of melody and a half-spoken vocal that disarms in its directness:
“Well we might be sad or happy, but neither really knows, for there is nothing that is good or bad but thinking makes it so…”
Strictly minimal and hopelessly lovelorn, ‘I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here’ has a charm entirely of its own. Well worth seeking out.
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