Naming Ghosts work hard to defy categorization on their self-titled debut release, offering up a shifting blend that encompasses chillout grooves, hushed ambient, and an arc of subtle darkness. Musician/producer B.J. Schweinlin teams with pianist and vocalist Eva Zimm on these 10 tracks, pairing acoustic instruments with electronic treatment and turning out work with solid impact and plenty of depth. There’s strength in diversity here, for the most part, and none of the changes in tone seem, forced. The duo can handle a piece like “The Light and Shadow Show,” where a slow moving, darkly twinkling opening rises up to spin into a sort of Oldfield-style flair on string sounds and acoustic guitar. The symphonic side here conjures thoughts of Ommadawn, had Oldfield chosen to temper it with extra electronics. They can also nail the techno/lounge smoothness at play on “Deep Green,” coolly laying doing a punchy, steady riff on organ chords and thickening up the feel with more rhythmic elements as the piece progresses. It’s infectious. And there’s the hushed side, evident most clearly on a piece like “Early Transitions,” hanging long chords out to travel and fade over round chime tones. There’s a nice half-dreaming sense here, and the balance between the soft lines of the pads and the more solid texture of the chimes is perfect. As much as this album works for me, Naming Ghosts do lose me briefly during “False Sunrise.” The clatter of bells, while appropriately dramatic for the piece itself, just feel bombastic and distracting compared to the rest of the album’s subtler flow. Nothing else pulls me out of the moment here, and considering that Schweinlin and Zimm keep me fully involved during all their musical costume changes, even having one moment where my focus is crunched makes a difference. This release has been a pleasure to keep on repeat during my review listens. A strong debut that leaves me looking forward to more.
Available from the Naming Ghosts web site.