RADICAL FACE: Ghost (Morr Music)


Posted on Mar 5th 2007 09:30 pm

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Radical Face: Ghost

Morr Music 2007
11 Tracks. 47mins46secs

Radical Face is the song-based project of Ben Cooper, better known as one half of electronically subverted indie-pop duo Electric President, which he formed with Alex Kane in 2000. The pair released their self-titled debut album on Berlin-based Morr Music last year. While Cooper has previously recorded an album under his Radical Face moniker, The Junkyard Chandelier in 2003, Ghost, released on Berlin-based imprint Morr Music, home of B.Fleischmann, Isan, American Analog Set and Lali Puna, is his official solo debut.

At the helm of Radical Face, Cooper affirms a more subtle and gentle personality than with Electric President, exposed through catchy pop melodies and brushed orchestrations. At times evoking the captivating world of Sufjan Stevens, especially on songs like Let The River In, Wrapped In Piano Strings or Homesick, or the offbeat pop of Merz, Cooper generally finds inspiration in the great American folk tradition, which he then enriches with discreet found sounds to bring it right up to date. Apparently recorded in a shed somewhere in Jacksonville, Florida, where Cooper has established his studio, Ghost is modern, fresh and elegant, with dense orchestrations washing over its naturally stripped down songs to give them substance and definition.

Based around the idea of houses collecting memories, with those having lived in a place still inhabiting it, albeit as ghosts, long after they have departed. This translates into very structured yet spacious song forms with instrumental sections given prominence all the way through, and found sounds, from wood cracking to empty footsteps, giving some compositions a particular relief. The voice is also pushed slightly in the background, as to preserve a cloud of mystery over Cooper’s often dark and claustrophobic lyrics. This gives Ghost a rather moodier tone than its upbeat songs could originally lead to think. Cooper works his way through beautifully written pieces, which repeatedly twist and turn unpredictably from delicate acoustic melodies to full blown orchestral grandeur and back, his voice, soft and sweet, contrasting with the overall mood of the record.

Cooper never settles on a particular theme for very long, but he retains a strong unity of sound all the way through, creating effects with anything from lonely banjo or accordion to sharp electric guitar incisions, dense synthetic waves and haunting found sounds. Although there is definitely a radio friendly aspect to these compositions, they would probably be best suited to the dead of the night, with only insomniacs and graveyard shift workers left to appreciate their universal appeal. Songs such as Welcome Home, Let The River In, Wrapped In Strings or Winter Is Coming all work on so many different layers that repeat listens tend to reveal new depths and meaning, from their apparent lightness to much murkier entrails.

Ghost shares with Electric President’s debut a taste for atmospherics and melodies, but with this album, Cooper exposes his music in a much softer light and candidly reveals its deepest cracks and darkest corners. The result is at once touching, enchanting and a tad disturbing but captivates all the way through without ever dipping in any way.

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