Our friends here in San francisco at the mythical Aquarius Records store:
GHOSTWRITER & MICHAEL PAINE Morrow [Deluxe] (Time Released Sound)
Ye gods, how do they do it? Another great release, in of course both regular and deeeeeeeeeeluxe versions, from Time Released Sound, a local label specializing in obscure experimental/ambient loveliness from around the world, and also specializing in the most over the top, one-of-a-kind, labor intensive, hand made packaging for the deluxe releases we’ve ever seen (and the standard digipacks look nice too). Mr. Colin Herrick, take bow. He’s the crazy guy who spends all his free time making these things, it’s his label.
So, what’s this one like? As usual with TRS stuff, this artist Ghostwriter (aka Mark Brend) and his accomplice here, Michael Paine, we weren’t previously familiar with, but we believe they’re British, and bit like another TRS disc last year, the one by The Inventors Of Aircraft, thematically, this concerns itself with England’s faded past. Impressionistic, hushed atmospheres, melancholic and beautiful, inspired by sepia-toned mid-century memories of seaside holidays and gloomy country houses. Hence the vintage 1930’s wallpaper worked into the deluxe edition packaging (each one different!!). Ghostwriter’s “folktronic” approach finds melodic acoustic guitar and piano motifs
interwoven with field recording hum and other evocative samples. It’s quite nice – again as usual with TRS stuff!
And then there’s the packaging. What do you get for your 75 bucks if you spring for the deluxe art object option? Well, protected by two sheets of cardboard, you get a handworked 7″ square translucent envelope containing a “uniquely hand distressed and antiqued hardcover booklet”, with the cd inside in a “typewriter addressed, stamped and soiled envelope” (not too soiled, though!). Meanwhile, the aforementioned booklet’s pages are collaged with that wallpaper and other images, AND comes with a small, round hand-stamped and colored jigsaw puzzle depicting a pastoral scene! Again each one different. Pretty special, and perfectly aligned with the mood of the music.
The deluxe edition is limited to just 80 copies, the digipack to 150.
Norman Records in England writes:
8/10 from Robin (Staff) on 23 December 2014
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.
Ghost in the machine
To all intents and purposes, Ghostwriter is Devon-based music author/RC scribe Mark Brend, though he’s actively encouraged collaboration from the off. To this end, Ghostwriter’s intriguing, all-instrumental 2010 debut, The Continuing Adventures Of The Strange Sound Association, featured contributions from author Colin Wilson and long-time acolyte Matt Gale, who previously appeared alongside Brend in acclaimed 90s indie-folk outfit Mabel Joy.
That initial release featured tracks influenced by and/or alluding to enduring 20th-century literary figures such as Georges Simonon and John Steinbeck, so it’s fitting that Brend first met it’s follow-up’s chief sonic confederate, ex-The Becketts/PJ Harvey guitarist Michael Paine, in a bookshop in the shadow of Exeter Cathedral. In keeping with the Time Released Sound imprint’s DIY aesthetic, the strictly limited-edition deluxe CD of Morrow comes housed in a distressed retro-style book cover; literature is, again, central to its content, with several tracks referencing the works of enigmatic, supernaturally inclined British author Phyllis Paul.
As with its predecessor, Morrow takes the listener on subtle, otherworldly excursions. Arguably its most complete track – the evocative I Am Based On A True Life Story – is redolent of a more downbeat, bucolic Stereolab, though elsewhere the album’s minimally applied palette of Debussy-esque piano figures, guitars, church organs and found sounds favourably recalls Talk Talk circa Laughing Stock.
Time Released Sound | TRS 048
Reviewed by Tim Peacock
Filed under Reviews