In football terms Ghostpoet has gone from mid-table Championship to nailed on Champions League place with this, his third record. In short: he's really upped his game. Where previous records were interesting but a little niche, Ghostpoet has now made a record everyone can enjoy. It's bold, it's bright, it's tuneful. With a background in UK hip hop, this album uses those influences and marries them to the best bits of forward thinking indie (say, Radiohead, TV on the Radio). Looking forward to it.
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Ghostpoet certainly starts like an express train on his third album. Opener ‘Off Peak Dreams’ is a skittering, soulful effort driven by pounding drums, sparse piano notes and a funk ladled synth. It’s like he’s woken up and realised that he’s spent two albums making underground hip hop with esoteric appeal but has now decided to really go for it. Thing is - nothing is spoilt. This is Ghostpoet as was but also new and improved.
Comparisons could be made to Tricky and there are certain similarities in the vocal delivery but whereas Tricky’s music is paranoid dark and latterly dreadful, I find Ghostpoet’s music to be life affirming and hits at that spot in your psyche where you think life is pretty darn good after all. Certainly the Radiohead-ish guitars and traded male/female vocal interplay on ‘X Marks the Spot’ hint at Bristol’s favourite weed smoker but I’m also reminded of Dean Blunt’s recent ‘Black Metal’ (or the first half of it) which also has the sound of an artist finding the light and the end of a long dark tunnel. What I like about this album is that it sits perfectly in the mid point between decent indie rock and decent hip hop, blurring the edges to the point where I’m not sure what his influences actually are.
Certainly the brooding indie of dreamers as diverse as Mogwai, Joy Division, TV on the Radio can be heard in the myriad of sounds- ‘Shedding Skin’ is particularly eerie with its ghostly guitars and gothy bass lines, then in come the vocals spoken word before a chanted chorus and a skittery drum and bass beat. Like Blunt’s album it gets darker as it progresses (with a severe Massive Attack/Bristol scene influence on the trip-hoppy ‘That Ring Down the Drain Kind of Feeling’) but this record never descends into indulgence.
This is an excellent album, very accessible but also really interesting -not too polished nor slick with every track having it’s own merits. When the dust settles this has gotta be one of the strongest records of the year.
8/10 Alan McClure Customer review, 19th November 2015
Ghostpoet, whose inspiration is Obaro Ejimiwe's (Ghostpoet) life has his third album to tour with and it brings a new dimension to the rap/hip hop artist. I put him into those genres because others do but I hate pigeon holing creatives. Unlike his two previous albums Mercury nominated Shedding Skin sees Ghostpoet in a happier place and this is reflected in the ten tracks (he has 'shed his skin). For once he even displays humour in the title "the pleasure of pleather" as one the seats in the recording studio had a covering of "pleather". Known for composing music that fits his mood this album looks more outwardly than before and I think this will gain him a wider audience. Tracks work with themes of homelessness, relationship break-ups and in 'I Helped You Pack' domestic violence. As I understand this series of 'externalised' tracks is the result of meeting Brian Eno in Mali. This encounter lead to Ejimiwe looking at his surroundings rather than constantly looking internally although he does admit he is in a much happier place than when composing his first two albums.
Shedding Skin has Ghostpoet benefitting from playing with real musicians rather than hard drives. The result verges on a guitar album however the recognisable monologues remain complimented by some beautiful string soundscapes. The soundscapes offer a kind of dreamy groove.
Off Peak Dreams the opening track is immense and unmistakably Ghostpoet. The live band supports the overall compelling sound especially the guitar of Joe Newman. In truth as the tracks continue to resonate I did feel the album was building to a large soundscaped finale. This is where I was disappointed as the final tracks become a little laboured and do not fulfil the promise of side A.
Reflecting on Ghostpoet's newfound 'happiness' I could suggest working with people and not in isolation benefits everyone including his audience. Supporters of his first two albums may be challenged by Shedding Skin's overall sound but I am one of those and I believe this album will enhance Ghostpoet's reputation and audience. As his record label is Play it Again Sam I would suggest playing it again and again and again and again and agai......
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