Progressive atmospheric rockers Ghost Against Ghost issue their debut album, Still Love, on April 14. Set for release through NY-based Our Silent Canvas, it’s a nine-song/hour-plus stretch defined nearly as much by narrative as by its stylistic ambition and melodic breadth. At the core of the outfit is Christopher Bono, whose background as a producer comes through in the lush arrangements and sonic diversity employed. The story goes that while Bono was working toward completion of another album, Oia, that would have served as Ghost Against Ghost‘s first full-length, he learned of a family trauma that pushed his writing efforts instead toward Still Love as a means of coping and processing.
Indeed, even the title speaks to the kind of emotionally evocative spaces the record covers — calling to mind the phrase “still life,” as in painting (and one could easily argue the layers of songs like “Resume” and “Your Secret Ocean” are constructed with this at heart as well) and the notion of love itself remaining, i.e. being unconditional. Through washes of synth, guitar, and electronics, as well as collaborations with guitarist Anthony Molina, drummer Thomas Pridgen and a host of choral guest vocalists, Bono is able to put an expansive but still deeply human resonance to the story he’s telling and exploring, and though the tale may be dark, the resulting audio moves gracefully toward a sense of lightness and is not at all afraid to find beauty in its own pain.
While it may have come about as a change of plans, there’s very little about Still Love that feels accidental. From the melancholy orchestral swell of lead-in “Son of Cessiphus” and the linear fluidity of the title-track, coated in synth, percussive clarity and a broad melodic heft — the vocals of Jamie Rae, Stacie Bono and Michele Kennedy making an immediate impression alongside Bono‘s own — through the multifaceted electronica rush in “Resume” and into the cacophonous payoff for the record as an entirety in the penultimate “Unarm” before the Ulver-style cinematics of “Guerison” close out with piano, chorus, keys and drone before a sample, presumably of Bono talking to his mother on the phone, actually caps, there is an urgency to the material, but it’s much more about the emotions at play than about the execution of the songs themselves.
In those, one can hear Bono working with a producer’s clarity in culling together the various elements, the turns in “The River of Intimate (Pt. 1)” and “The River of Intimate (Pt. 2)” as distinct as they are unified while just a short while later the noise and experimental eight minutes of drone in “Your Secret Ocean” lead into the aforementioned closing duo. Each individual piece serves a greater function toward the entirety of the work, and as the would-make-Devin–Townsend-jealous piano-infused and cascading sprawl of “Still Love” is complemented by the three-minute interlude “A Relapse of Remembrance,” the listener finds themselves processing the crux of what Ghost Against Ghost are offering here perhaps in a similar way to that in which Bono is using this music as a processing vehicle to start with.
Speaking as well to the thread of purpose that draws these songs together is the fact that Bono has essentially made two different versions of Still Love — an “audiophile” edition and one more to the volume standards of modern commercial production. It’s the same songs, arrangements, recordings, and either way a listener might choose to go, there isn’t a shortage of nuance to be found, but it’s one more way in which Bono as producer is exercising — or perhaps “exorcising” — a measure of control over the kind of aural and emotional complexity that would wriggle itself free of a less sure guiding hand. Dubbed simply “Loud Version” and “Quiet Version,” the simple fact of their existence adds even further dimension to an offering that seems to bask in a world or at very least a headspace of its own making.
That’s a process which by its very nature requires a certain degree of self-indulgence, but Still Love — though its name might invoke a feeling of permanence — does not linger in one place too long. Even the drones of “A Relapse of Remembrance” and “Your Secret Ocean” move toward something, and the surrounding context in pieces like “Still Love,” “Resume” and “Unarm” brings the listener into this world with an open invitation to experience and relate, to contemplate one’s own secrets and the moments and aspects of our lives that can define us, no matter how much we may or may not want them to do so. More than anything, with that last bit of laughter at the end, Ghost Against Ghost‘s Still Love assures that it’s all okay — it’s all part of the thing, of living. And so it is.
Below, you can listen to the premiere of “Still Love” (the loud version), which is followed by more background on the project from the PR wire. Once again, Still Love is out April 14 on Our Silent Canvas.
Ghost Against Ghost will release their first full length album on April 14, 2017 via Our Silent Canvas. Pre-orders are available now via Bandcamp. This 65 minute LP weaves themes of love, heartbreak, and betrayal into monolithic synth-driven space-rock, with inspiration as diverse as Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Ros, Vangelis and Pink Floyd.
Writer and producer Christopher Bono utilizes his classical background to sculpt this expansive and engaging series of compositions, contrasting heavy walls of sound with ambient passages, contemporary classical and experimental electronic influences. Bono collaborated with Thomas Pridgen, whose drumming credits include the likes of The Mars Volta, Trash Talk, Suicidal Tendencies and Memorials. The album’s enveloping sound also contains special contributions by ambient guitarist Anthony Molina, the multi-instrumentalist famous for playing with Mercury Rev, and otherworldly choral sections featuring vocalists Jamie Rae, Stacie Bono and Michele Kennedy.
While in the midst of completing the yet unfinished Ghost Against Ghost concept album, Oia, frontman Christopher Bono was unexpectedly struck by a psychologically disorienting family tragedy in the spring of 2014 forcing him back into the writing studio to process this new trauma through music. Over the following months, Bono reflected on the confusion and internal conflict that resulted when the life he knew was ripped apart by disturbing revelations of a shocking betrayal and a Pandora’s Box of dark, misaligned secrets. To dig further into the heart of the experience, he based the lyrical point of view from that of the female victim, his mother.
The album also comes in two versions, the audiophile version which is more dynamic and quieter, and a louder master that appeals on a more commercial level. About the production process Bono says, “as a producer, I’m continuously exploring vintage, analogue gear and instruments contrasted with the precise benefits of modern, digital techniques and equipment. Simultaneously, as a composer, I see the pros and cons of the analogue-digital domains similarly to the differences found in writing and arranging for acoustic versus electronic instruments. In both cases there is a colourful beauty created when the different production styles and sound worlds are blended in unexpected ways.”Ghost Against Ghost, Ghost Against Ghost Still Love, Our Silent Canvas, Still Love