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Album Review: Ghost Culture 'Ghost Culture'

I've been waiting a long time for this album.  I can still remember the first time I heard Mouth when it arrived seemingly out of nowhere in 2013.  An unassuming repeating synth fading playfully, attacking and releasing as delicate elements slowly emerge around it. 

Though hardly a crescendo, the moment the drums  kicks in instantly grabs your attention.  It's a "who IS this" moment akin to the Beta Band scene from the film Hi-Fidelity.  Fortunately the rest of the song delivers too, instantly putting Ghost Culture on the map.  Breathy vocals floating over a series of synths sounding like the centrepiece of a DFA mix, particularly their fascination with analogue synths and the foundations of German electro.

Follow up EP Giudecca continued in much the same way.  A track that led naturally from Mouth, but with a more focal vocals line bringing focus to a wandering structure akin to the best moments LCD Soundsystem had to offer.  It sits partway between something you want to dance to, sing along with, or nod your head and let wash over you, often a combination of the three.  Though a beautiful track in its own right, I couldn't help thinking that the similarities were great enough that I had him sussed out.  You felt like the big man on campus, you liked him but you didn't need to hear any more to know what it was going to sound like.  Then the album came out.

Though the synths and the vocal style remain consistent, this debut shows that there's more to Ghost Culture than a simple downbeat dancefloor filler.  Though not the surprise genre hopping tour de force Todd Terje's debut was after the runaway success of Inspector Norse, if you say you saw the psychedelic ballad Glaciers coming, then I'm calling you a liar to your big fat lying face.  This is a single person electric pop project akin to Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, lending heavily from Depeche Mode with more ideas than an Idea Convention, than a down-the-line electronic DJ project.  Each track meanders into different places, often unexpectedly and though at risk of losing the listener, the composite elements are enticing enough to pull it off.

So who is Ghost Culture?  Elusive right up to his shadow of a photo that graces the album cover, Mouth was enough of a hit to convince genre splicing DJ Erol Alkan to sign him to his Phantasy label and release his album.  In his own words "I didn't take too much influence from any particular era or genre... what excites me rather than what I think will excite others.", a manifesto reminiscent of Dan Snaith's behind his Daphni project, yet more reminiscent of Caribou instead.  This is one man, one synthesiser, a sequencer, a couple of effects and a bucketful of creativity.

To focus on highlights here is particularly difficult as the shift move so frequently you've barely begun to take in before it's moved on again.  The infectious groove of Answer barely feels like it's started before it's moved on to the swaying ballad of The Fog.  This restlessness is both the album's biggest strength and weakness, overloading your senses with possibility but never fully exploring its limits.  The closing notes of final track The Fog end relatively abruptly, leaving you wanting more, which is how it should be.  2015 has only just begun and if this is the benchmark, then we're in for a fantastic year. 

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