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Ghostwood – The Lost Album

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Today we’re constantly warned about our digital footprint to the point of cliche. These warnings are not without good reason as horror stories abound where something a person said, clicked or liked online come back to haunt them years later. We can only shake our heads at some of the ridiculous, pointless or downright stupid things we did in those innocent, trailblazing years of social media a decade ago. 

When you’ve had a social media profile for such a long time, you pick up significant flotsam and detritus. A Facebook friend with someone you’ve only met a couple of times and won’t see ever again, a page you hit like on because of one mildly bemusing post, a page to a concrete business because one of your mates asked you to. Most of these relics cling to us forgotten, unseen, mostly benign and waiting for the day when we finally clear out our profiles like we’ve always been saying we will. 

I say all this because last month a distant memory of my digital footprint reared its way back into my life in a most unexpected way.

On a Sunday evening, I spent a few minutes scrolling mindlessly through Facebook as I made myself a tea and was greeted with this.

Ghostwood, a Sydney shoegaze band, was releasing an album. At first glance, this wasn’t particularly exciting news. In our current world where we are forever drowning in content, another band releasing an album was just another brick in the wall. But what made this announcement different from others was that Ghostwood is a band that had the briefest of moments in the sun in 2007-2008 before disappearing for more than a decade; unseen, unheard and entirely forgotten. Just another band to fall victim to the chaos of young adulthood.

I saw Ghostwood at the Northcote Social Club a decade ago. I’m fairly certain they were supporting Mercy Arms, another Sydney shoegaze band that fell apart too soon, but the memories all bleed and blend after so long that I can’t be sure. What I do remember is being mesmerized by what I saw on stage. Atmospheric, driven and powerful. This was a band that hooked you in and didn’t let go. I remember buying their EP straight after the set ended and playing it for weeks on heavy rotation. This was a band that seemed set for big things. 

In 2008, Ghostwood relocated to Britain to play shows and record an album. The social media posts dried up and eventually, I moved on assuming the band had come to an end and its members moved on to the next stage of their lives. 

Needless to say, that June 2019 post took my by surprise. At once, the memories of that show and that EP came flooding back to me and I eagerly anticipated listening to this record they had dubbed The Lost Album.

Upon its release on Spotify a few days later I was impressed by how fresh this lost album sounded even though it was recorded years ago. The tracks from the old EP were there. “I Am Overcast” still teased with swirling guitars and pounding drums while “Red Version” still creates an increasingly tense soundscape that cries for release up until the final seconds. I expected these tracks, regardless of their quality, to grab me for no other reason than the pure nostalgia hit of remembering a time in my life that almost feels foreign to what I am now. 

What I didn’t expect was that the previously unreleased tracks to hit me with the same emotional punch. “Pink Panther” with its ethereal and moody instrumentals and forlorn vocals mesmerizes as it washes into your skin. Closing tracks “Haha1996” and “Great Inventions” are more upbeat and irresistibly catchy. 

As someone who is constantly fighting an internal battle over their love/hate relationship with shoegaze, this album is a reminder of what the genre can offer at its finest- beautiful, distorted soundscapes that are carried with an urgency of purpose rather than meaningless noodling and pedal switching. 

Hearing such a stellar album ten years after it was recorded, inevitably leads to questions of what could have been. This is normal but what’s more important is appreciating that this album even exists to begin with and that hopefully through the power of the internet it will find its way into hearts of people who will appreciate its craftsmanship regardless of whether or not they saw Ghostwood in 2007.

(self-released)

Reviews

Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.

Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.

For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.

(Hellminded Records)

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Pine – Pine

Pine’s debut album is a kind of hypnotic melancholia

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Pine

Where did Ottawa’s Pine come from? It’s a question worth asking after listening to their painfully gorgeous self-titled debut album. Pine use the phrase “doom and gloom never sounded so sweet” to describe their sound, and true to that, this 11-track outing is filled with the kind of hypnotic melancholia that became the playbook for a great many Midwestern emo bands that emerged in the late 90s/early 2000s. The biggest difference here is that while Pine have the heartbreak down pat, their musical sense of loss is lifted slightly by the airy, more wistful sounds of their guitar-strewn songs. Sure, there’s a lot that sounds like a great Mineral record or a Gloria Record album, but there’s also traces of Florida indie/emo band The Rocking Horse Winner and at times, bands like Rainer Maria.

Pine are buoyed by the great vocal work of Darlene Deschamps. Her voice soars through tracks like “Memento” and the terrific “Lusk”. The latter in particular is a great example of how Pine lull you into a sense of calm before it explodes in a collage of symphonic distortion and post-rock twinkling. In “Sunder” they ascend to louder, more expansive sounds. The song is a great combination of thick, fuzzy guitars, mid-tempo percussion work, and that pained vocal delivery that gives the song an extra punch in the guts.

The album took an impressive 2 years to finish, and you can hear the trials and tribulations of that gestation period through the songs. There’s pain, sadness, anger and frustration in songs like the intro “Within You” and the more new emo-esque “Swollen”, but also beauty, and as the album concludes, a sense of incredible catharsis. The record SOUNDS great too, with production values (by a production team that includes Will Yip, who has helmed records by Circa Survive, Braid, Saosin, and the Bouncing Souls to name a few) adding to the grand cinematic finish of the record.

For those who love what emo was in the mid to late 90s will find much to like about Pine just as much as those who like Explosions in the Sky and their post-rock brethren. Pine have been crafting their sound over the last few years and while their previous EP Pillow Talk showed a solid foundation, this new self-titled record is the work of a band close to the height of their abilities. Moving, beautiful, and littered with life’s roller coaster of emotions as songs, Pine is definitely recommended listening.

(No Sleep Records)

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