Friday, 6 March 2015

Album Review:Ghostpoet – Shedding Skin


Obaro Ejimiwe's profile seemed to rise rapidly following a Mercury Prize-nomination in 2011 for his debut album under the name Ghostpoet, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, losing out to PJ Harvey for the award. He had some releases to his name, including work with pop experimentalist Micachu, defining his sound with electronic production as half-spoken vocals that saw him straddling somewhere between singer songwriter, producer and alternative hip hop, a sound he continued to define for his 2013 follow-up Some Say I So I Say Light alongside working with Damon Albarn and The Streets.

For his third album Shedding Skin, his touring band have gotten a look in on this album, replacing the electronic textures and beats of his previous album, relegating them to a supporting role behind the drum kit and guitars. Whilst every other songwriter is going down the vocals and beats path laid out by the likes of James Blake, it's interesting to see Ghostpoet taking a different path.

The whole album with the addition of a full band feels like a bigger collaborative piece of work, drifting into new sounds like the hints of psychedelic soul in the energetic opening track Off Peak Dreams and dream pop creeps in X Marks The Spot. The album is bolstered with appearances from Lucy Rose, Etta Bond, Nadine Shah and Maximo Park front man Paul Smith adding to the voices and characters that carry Ghostpoet's dark narratives.

Shedding Skin creates a personal, intimate feel, guided by Ejimiwe's low key mellow vocals. X Marks The Spot cultivates this mood over it's quiet bass pulse before breaking into a dream pop chorus of paired male female vocals. The back and forth argument between the capable vocals of Nadine Shah carries it the drama of a relationship that's run out of steam as Ejimiwe just sounds tired as he singsI don't care anymore”.

The title track keeps the drums to a minimum leaving more space to be filled by it's eerie tones and haunted repetition of the line “You think you know me/You'll never know me”. That Ring Down The Drain Kind Of Feeling sustains the dark sound with it's looser late night trip-hop swathed in murky vocals, echoing guitars and cold keys that chill like the midnight soul of early Portishead.

Yes, I Helped You Pack's darker rock conveys a domestic relationship crumbling with more than a little echo of Radiohead in it's ringing minor key guitar lines and creeping electronic echoes, an influence that seems to be weave through much of Shedding Skin, especially on tracks like the synth-led Better Not Butter.

Following advice given by Brian Eno, Ejimiwe recording an album quickly, Shedding Skin feels like it's benifited from that approach. It's focused body of work with a few small surprises. The more ambitious piano-led album closer Nothing In The Way shows there are more than a few novel tricks to Ghostpoet's song writing. It's a welcome shake up to Ghostpoet's sound that may pay off further when performed live, imbuing his song writing with a palatable drama as he paints vivid pictures of social ills and disintegrating relationships.

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