Take the nostalgia-heavy sounds of the style known as “synthwave,” cross it with some post-rock structure, and slap some glitch on it and for the most part, there’s Ghosts, the debut release from No Absolution (Justin Burning). I find the album a little uneven. There are moments that shine, but I’m just not getting hooked by the synthwave side of it. Burning crunches nine songs into just over half an hour, so the whole thing flits by with just a few tracks leaving a strong positive impression. The bass-driven weight of the title track helps make it the best offering here. It lumbers in all moody and heavy on massive chords, then meets up with a melody in a higher register for contrast. It keeps its lead-booted rhythm scheme throughout, just varying how hard it hits. Late in the track Burning switches to a faster pulse of bass sequence, and the slight change of velocity gives it punch. “Paradise Lost” stands out for its Fender Rhodes keyboard sound, playing a melancholic tune over droning washes. On an album that tends to load on and layer a lot of stuff, its uncluttered nature makes a solid statement. Simple, sad, and effective. One spot where the synthwave ideal works for me is on “Disconnect.” This track comes off like the opening music for a science fiction mystery. Burning splashes it with a gorgeous wave of tremolo leading up to mid-track, then snaps it off out of nowhere to move the piece into its next phase. And if a bit of cheesy retro is the allure of synthwave, the grungy harrumph of the synths that leap in here are just the thing. Many other tracks just leave me ready to tap the “next” button. “Penumbra” churns noisily but feels uninspired. A video game style arpeggio doesn’t help, but I’m not a big fan of that point of reference. “Fragments” is overpowered by its tinny, repetitious drum line. It’s all I can hear, and it’s not long before I don’t want to hear it. Mostly, though, Ghosts represents a decent starting point for No Absolution. If you like the synthwave idea, you’ll get more out of this than I do. I think there are some good ideas happening here; I’m just not a big fan of the presentation.
Available at Bandcamp.