Sermones Ad Mortuos, The Ghostlands Themes

sermones_ghostThe Ghostlands Themes has a story to tell. A ghost story, obviously. For the most part, it tells it well and manages to not get too rolled up in the obvious tropes of the idea. Make no mistake (and no pun intended), it’s full of theme. Temple bells, people asking spirits to reveal themselves, church-organ tones, there’s plenty here to hold the idea in place.  The narrative begins with “Invoking the Phantom” with heavily echoed vocal drops over wavering pads. This is where we get the temple bells, placed after a nice fade into quiet. It makes for a nice segue into “A Glimpse of Our Ghostlands,” which picks up a New Age feel and dresses it in grey shades. Arpeggiated notes gracefully unfold and we hear someone asking the spirits to say hello. Although I find the vocals a little interruptive, musically the piece lands in a comfortable space between ambient and New Age and is both relaxing and engaging. There’s quite a bit of charm in “Don’t Turn Off De Ligh'” an easy-moving piece on keys that takes a neat turn into a droning shape halfway through. Just when you’ve settled into that, there’s a tiny pause and the piece bursts out in a funky little sequencer riff and you get a dose of angel-voice pads to sing over it. Just a lot of fun. “Absent, Yet Still Here” catches my ear when it mixes a repeating guitar phrase with organ tones. The bass notes here rumble and the high notes sing a smooth descant. It doesn’t develop much further than that but the repetition carves out a meditative zone for its brief run. There are, however, two tracks in particular go a bit far afield for me. “Poltergeist in the Music Room” bludgeons the theme with dissonant guitar that might have been meant to be clever but instead just sort of pokes me in the forehead. The theme gets utterly overdone on “Our Souls Are But Feathers Trapped in Tar.” Most of this track, the longest on the release, is a bed for a long dramatic recitation. A trifle hammy, perhaps, and it just seems to go on too long. Where other expressions here are brief and effective, this one sticks out. Overall, though, worth checking out—especially if you like theme.

Available from Bandcamp.

 

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