Mark Brend, better known under his spooky alias of Ghostwriter, is joined by collaborator Michael Paine on a collection of compositions that evoke empty English houses where people once used to live but have since evacuated; sentimental piano is at the fore, along with flourishes of guitar, xylophone, abstract percussion, found sounds and other loose ends. Morrow is a chilling and melancholy work of art.
8/10 Robin Staff review, 05 January 2015
Ghostwriter and Michael Paine dedicate the bulk of ‘Morrow’ to Phyllis Paul, an obscure literary figure shrouded in mystery whose works have only recently been uncovered and celebrated. The story behind Paul is vaguely and hastily compiled, like proof of some ancient ghost, and the music on this record feels like a tribute to that ambiguity: the mix between neo-classical, neo-folk and baroque offered here is gentle, subliminal and so slight you may well forget you’re listening to anything other than natural sound.
Through these compositions, Ghostwriter and Paine are attempting to evoke “English pastoral noir”, though the darkness implied in that description only creeps in on chance moments. The found sounds that characterise “Cooling bay” suggest the bluster and chaos of a shared heritage, while the mix of distraught piano, booming percussion and chilling vocal samples on “(s)pace (l)eft (o)ver” reduce the landscape to one terrifying, suffocating moment. For a lot of ‘Morrow’, it feels more like these artists are intruding on an already settled English landscape: “Pulled down” is made up of one monolithic organ drone in which the artists seemingly fall upon the keys of a piano, making noise just to cut through the silence.
It’s rare that a sound experiment is this niche in thematic quality -- one record jumps to mind, and it’s Have a Nice Life’s 72-odd page dissertation and/or record ‘Deathconsciousness’, dedicated to an ancient cultish figure -- but ‘Morrow’ can be enjoyed with or without full context. Its music has an innocence and gentility about it, which may in part be due to the unusual orchestral decisions these artists make (ukuleles, autoharps and glockenspiels all feature heavily and lighten the record’s weary load), though mostly seems to stem from the affection Ghostwriter and Paine have for Paul's literature. There's more love to this than noir.
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