To be honest, I’m sitting here wondering how the heck I’m going to describe the music of Sydney’s Ghoul - no matter how hard I try, it seems that there’s no neat one-size-fits-all category or description that is going to give you a realistic sense of this group’s diverse and unique sound: it’s a myriad of styles and moods, and really it has to be heard to be understood.
Fortunately, it’s not that hard for you to hear it: the band made a shrewd move and released their new EP A Mouthful of Gold as an entirely free download for all, which I applaud them for doing – it’s a step which I think more and more emerging bands will realise is a hugely worthwhile investment to reach a larger audience, and I think it will reap extremely good dividends for the earlycomers that do it – things will probably change once every Tom, Dick and Harry jumps on the bandwagon and floods the marketplace with free music.
So, the music: the EP is 9 tracks, clocking in at 19 minutes. It lacks a song that is singularly destined for radio. It shifts and warps stylistically from track to track and yet, unlike a lot of EPs, it’s a complete work in and of itself – it has a definite progression which carries the listener from the first through to the final track, sometimes even blurring the line between songs, making it a seamless play. It’s remarkably cohesive – and this is even more impressive when one considers the territory covered.
The album begins with a simple triangle wave synth motif, the sound of which is expanded upon in its ghostly simplicity through the second track. It’s restrained, a bit ethereal and expands gradually – yet by the time we’ve reached track 3, we’ve somehow found ourselves in a 5/4 groove listening to a four-piece saunter away before building into a fenetic rocker. Did I mention only a few minutes have passed at this point?
So the EP goes – it mutates and changes as it plays, yet it always sounds natural and never like it’s covering all this territory for the sake of it.
Of particular note are the band’s more melodic tunes – tracks like the opening two numbers, along with Corn Cob Dub / Jakob and Swimming Pool contain gorgeous melodies and wonderful textures. Other tunes have a proto-goth aspect to them a la Bauhaus, such as **** Math and Fertile Girls (which is one of the creepiest song titles I’ve heard in a while).
The lead vocals – a soul-esque croon – in particular lend a unique character to the group, and I’m sure this will be one aspect of the band’s sound that will be brought up in every review they get, for better or for worse. Personally, I think they add a left-field yet brilliant element, though it did take me a few moments to get my head around.
In summary, this is a dark, sometimes eerie listen. Needless to say the band are doing something that is not being done by many others – you’re unlikely to find this becoming a “next big thing” movement and it’s probable that you won’t hear an army of clone bands playing the same thing next year. All the more power to Ghoul, I say – the album is a remarkable piece of work and I for one have enjoyed listening to it immensely.
I highly encourage you download this EP at the link below, and then support the band by attending one of their shows listed on their Myspace.