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Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!

Maria Turauskis


The electro duo that is Holy Ghost! have been around for a couple of years now within the Brooklyn scene, creating acclaimed remixes of artist such as MGMT and Phoenix. 2011 see the long awaited release of their debut album, which is their first full-length exploration into writing and recording their own original work. Signed to DFA, musically the group are certainly cut from the same cloth as label mates LCD Soundsystem, with a cool, hip edge and lashings of analogue synthesisers and production techniques.

Through this debut release, Holy Ghost! have produced an interesting sound which is entirely created from electronic instruments. These synth sounds appear to all be analogue – they certainly have the warm grain of analogue instruments at any rate. There is a plethora of synth timbres used; square waves, pads, deep phasers and pulse waves, square filters, gated synths, running gates… I could go on, but for both our sakes I should probably stop. Put simply, this album is not just drum machines and string pads – these guys are synth aficionados. Their influences range diversely across the 1970/1980s synth landscape. The fat, belching synth-bass timbres of New Order are present, as is the Italo disco of Alexander Robotnick; the myriad layers of Giorgio Moroder and the sweeping strings of Hi-NRG artists such as Sylvester. Holy Ghost! seem to have fused all music that drew on synth technology between the years of 1976 and 1984 and blended them together into a seamless musical collage.

The vocals, by comparison are often fairly clean and unprocessed. They do at times have some interesting effects, but in general they subtly pull attention by being cool and unperturbed. In upbeat tracks, they have a nonchalant positivity, whilst tracks in a minor key are presented with a similar cold despondency. The vocal delivery too is very reminiscent of 1980s artist such as the Pet Shop Boys and The Human League, with medium-low pitched male vocals that roll off the tongue, with a slight staccato and a cold grain.

This is generally a very enjoyable album, with some great synth work and some interesting hooks and timbres. It is however very much a throwback to synth cultures past, and often the album doesn’t feel like a post-modern reversioning of archaic synth cultures, but more a direct resurrection of the past. It feels like a relic, and it hasn’t even been released yet. Perhaps it is too subtle for me; maybe there are nods to 2011. But if there are, I cannot hear them.