I swear that as a reviewer, things are getting harder to define.
What do I mean? The crossing of genres, the meshing of styles, is becoming so common as to make established genre descriptions almost defunct, and this is making the job of those of us that still write about music very much more difficult.
But for the listener, this is a good thing. Less artists slavishly following defined genre norms, more artists experimenting with their sounds and taking things in hitherto unthought directions.
As difficult as it makes my role, I’m all for this. I’ve long got tired of some aspects of our scene, as bands churn out the same old material year-in, year-out, fully aware that their fans will buy it regardless, while other bands that try and push forward struggle. This does appear to have changed in the last few years, though, with a marked change in the styles “in vogue”, with a modern take on 90s industrial becoming the cool thing.
Ghost Twin, however, are having none of that. Instead, they come beamed in from somewhere else entirely, where synthpop, trip-hop and ethereal gothic music all got along famously and conjured up something sounding really fresh and vibrant.
Notice was served by an impressive EP last year – led by the exceptional Chymical Wedding, a dizzying, upbeat swirl of synthpop that seems to spiral across the speakers as if you are spinning round and round while listening to it, and is perhaps unsuprisingly the central anchor of the entire album.
While most of the vocals are handled by Karen, her bandmate Jaimz offers darker, harsher vocals as a counterpoint, often in harmony with her, and this brings an almost malevolent edge at points. Think of it as a sour flavour in an otherwise sweet dish, a way of tempering something. When it is flipped, too, such as on the driving Mystic Sabbath, Karen’s vocals offer a sparkle that gives the song a hell of a jolt.
The only reference point I can find for Karen’s vocals, actually, is an album that I’d otherwise long since forgotten about – an industrial side-project called Killing Ophelia, that I reviewed about fourteen years ago, interestingly with the vocalist also being called Karen. I’m sure that’s entirely a coincidence, but the similarity is uncanny.
Not all of the album works. Stacking most of the songs where Jaimz sings lead together really deadens the pacing of the album. Evermore feels like it will last that long, dragged down by a sluggish beat and robotic, treated vocals, that not even Karen’s sweet harmonies can’t save. Into Oblivion has flashes of processed guitar, but again feels kinda dull, but the latter half of the album is rather saved by ElectroHirsuite, where the pair share vocals and it has a great buzz to the whole song.
The thing is, the first half of the album is so good that I’m willing to overlook those missteps somewhat. The title track has a sharper cutting edge, with heavier beats, interesting synth programming and well-used multi-tracking of Karen’s vocals, not to mention a glorious maelstrom of a breakdown and close-out. The Haunt keeps up the pace, the dual-vocals intertwining nicely and bubbling synths popping all over the phasing of the sound, and Saturn Follows The Sun brings forth the ethereal element of their sound nicely, with Karen’s vocals having a yearning quality and space-rock guitars offering unexpected textures deep in the mix.
This is a great, perhaps surprisingly summery album, too. Not half as dark as some of their counterparts on the same label have been over time, this is, for the most part, a very, very good electronic pop album. One made by artists that are open-minded enough to take in influences that work, rather than are fashionable, and one that would have been exceptional if only there had been a bit more judicious editing. Recommended.