Ghost Light get experimental in their psychedelic, political, and emotionally charged debut album, ‘Best Kept Secrets.’
Stream: ‘Best Kept Secrets’ – Ghost Light
The alternative 5-piece band: Ghost Light are building their name through a gracefully executed fusion of live instrumentals, cinematic percussive elements, and a powerful musical vision. Unafraid to embrace the unconventional, their music endeavours to bring listeners to a place of transcendence, through a melding of emotional devices that range from pleasantly relaxing to at times catastrophically intense.
Atwood Magazine is honored to be premiering Ghost Light’s evocative debut studio album Best Kept Secrets, a body of work that has been in the making since 2017. Starting with band members Tom Hamilton and Raina Mullen, the pair began the creative process with a little “chemical assistance” through the usage of LSD, which reportedly helped them discover new combinations of styles and sounds, to create something wholly unique.
The rest of the album came together in a rather interesting fashion, with each of the other group members visiting the original duo to add their respective parts into the mix. Once they had a firm arrangement, they met up at an old Chrysler warehouse in Philadelphia and began recording sessions before finalising the album.
Best Kept Secrets starts off with an atmospheric entrance, introducing a wind chime motif we hear throughout the rest of the album.
As the first track “Elegy” unfolds, an operatic voice cuts through thundering orchestral percussion and foreboding piano chords, preparing listeners for the emotional and tonal complexities that await throughout the rest of the album.
After “Elegy,” we’re blasted by an electric guitar that thrusts audiences right into “Don’t Come Apart Just Yet, My Dear” for several bars before literally slowing down the tempo to set the tone for Tom Hamilton’s vocals. The subsequent duet that follows as vocalist Rainer Mullen joins in showcases the groups chemistry as the voices intertwine and mingle amongst Bluegrass-inspiredinstrumental accompaniment. It’s an inclusive track and a perfect example of Ghost Light’s lyrical refinement and meshing of genres.ance
The following track, “Diamond Eyes” is possibly one of the songs that won’t stick out to you upon first listen but will grow on you with future replays. One standout feature of the track is the clear spatial positioning of the instruments in the song’s second section. You can almost see the group sitting in that warehouse, riffing off each other and building on each other’s performance.
Taking the energy and volume down a notch, Ghost Light continue with “Isosceles.” Through whispering, soft percussion, gentle harmonies, a recurrent guitar groove and at times syncopated soundscapes, the track leads listeners through a mesmeric, folky trance. Upon reaching the bridge, the energy rises through a cacophony of experimentation that introduces new sounds like a howling brass and electric organs, before returning to it’s previously subdued self.
After “Isosceles” tapers off, the album’s true interlude “Beyond/Before” begins, which takes a trip south of the border with a bit of Latin flare. While the vocals sit out this round, the guitar steps in with some impressive riffs and slides that showcase the band’s instrumental prowess and add a nice emotional, human touch.
“Keep Your Hands To Yourself” is the first track with a message that isn’t lyrically veiled. Musically, the track is highly repetitive and implements many tactics used in popular rock singalongs which are usually crowd pleasers. Light and full of energy, the track serves as a reference to the ever-growing #MeToo movement and frames consent in quite possibly the catchiest light possible through its bubbly timbre.
Next up comes the instrumental track, “If Only, For Now,” which puts the windchimes motif front and center for the first half before taking a darker turn towards the end of the track, leading us into the most harrowing song of the album, “Doorway to a Silent Chamber.” The piece begins with anxiety-inducing dissonant piano chords that are offsetting until Raina Mullen’s calming voice enters the mix. The message she’s conveying isn’t necessarily clear at first, especially to those unfamiliar with American politics. However, upon digging it become’s apparent her “fourteen-thousand empty sneakers” is based on a display made in the United States Capital which memorialized the estimated seven thousand children killed by gun violence since the Sandy Hook Massacre of 2012.
Upon making that connection, the track becomes almost unlistenable, as the emotions it stirs within are so great and upsetting. To be able to induce such a visceral reaction is a resounding musical accomplishment and a true testament to Ghost Light’s abilities. The chorus, which proclaims, “There’s no time now for talk, we’re at war” echoes the rebelliousness of the ’70s and frames it within the current political climate to great effect.
Finally, after the emotional unrest of “If Only, For Now,” listeners arrive at the album’s namesake track. “Best Kept Secret” shifts the focus away from worldwide issues and back onto personal ones. While lyrics are always open to interpretation, this song can possibly be seen to relay groups’ personal message to their audience, conveying their own desires and experiences that led them to this point. The ending is certainly chaotic from a mastering standpoint, as the distortion grows to extreme levels as each member of the group makes sure they are heard as loudly as possible, in a powerful exclamation right before the album’s conclusion.
For Ghost Light, Best Kept Secrets is more than just a debut record. “We were simultaneously creating a band and an album at the same time right from the start, which was pretty thrilling,” Tom Hamilton tells Atwood Magazine. “Raina [Mullen] and I had been putting material together for months, and we knew Holly [Bowling] was gonna have a few pieces as well, so when we got together as a band for the first time, we set up in a circle in this huge room, hit record, and it just worked.”
Drummer Scotty Zwang remembers the beauty of being in the moment – real, and right there. “We captured the process as it was happening live – something that seems all too rare these days. It was unanimous that the most important aspect of the band and record was to try something new, not only for us but also the listeners.”
Hamilton expalins, “We recorded almost every second of our time in the studio, which was a great tool in being able to help us gauge progress or regression, find our strengths and weaknesses, and how to use all of that info to be better and to make the songs better. We focused almost exclusively on just the instrumental side of the songs, with a huge emphasis on feel over perfection, with all of the basic tracks recorded live. Once we were good with the bones of the songs, that’s when we started trying to figure out what we wanted to say lyrically, and that’s when the collection of tunes started to actually feel like an album.”
“A big influence for how Best Kept Secrets was pieced together was the first season of the HBO show, True Detective. The way they used Louisiana almost as its own character in the series, with long shots of landscape perfectly placed, really struck me. So the album was sequenced to feel like a film, keeping certain tracks as instrumental and using them as those landscape shots to give the songs with lyrics the desired context as character/plot driven scenes in the arch of the story we were trying to tell.”
Best Kept Secrets is out everywhere Friday, March 22, 2019! Catch Ghost Light in concert throughout this spring and summer.
Stream: ‘Best Kept Secrets’ – Ghost Light
— — — —
📸 © Jason Siegel