Two times Mercury Music Prize Nominee Obaro Ejimiwe, better known by his stage name Ghostpoet, is releasing the follow up to his outstanding 2015 album “Shedding Skin”. His fourth studio album “Dark Days & Canapés” hits all musical outlets on August 18th. The British Vocalist/Multi instrumentalist has upped his game with each new release and this time is no different. The latest release evinces once again Ghostpoet’s almost superhuman ability to meld together various textures and sonics producing music that is unique and alluring. Thematically Ghostpoet blends the intimate and personal while making it seems so universal and effortless.
Londoner Ejimiwe began his career in MC/Hip Hop traditions with his first two albums being more centred on beat driven sonics. However, there was always something distinctive and singular in Obaro’s lyrics as they attempt to square day to day occurrences with the over all journey of life. His music with its gritty undertones pulls no punches and does not try to dress up the hard won realization that you have to play the hand you’re dealt.
Ghostpoet’s 2011 debut “Peanut Butter and Melancholy Jam” would start him on the path to a career in music he never dreamed possible. That career would send him on a musical pilgrimage seeking greater understanding. Along the way, he would earn significant critical acclaim. Over the progression of his three prior releases, Ghostpoet has moved farther and farther away from his original MC influenced stylings. On “Dark Days & Canapés” he introduces to his singular mix the influences of Krautrock, The The, Talk Talk and Nick Cave.
The release was recorded in producer Joe Abrahams’ East London studio. Unlike the brilliant “Shedding Skin”, where a virtual plethora of guest vocal artists were utilized, this time only two vocal cameos were used; singer/songwriter EERA and Massive Attack’s Daddy G. One of the musical goals set for the album was a fuller band sound, delicately balancing the synthetic with the organic. That goal was accomplished in part by the utilizing of collaborating guitarist Joe Newman’s skills. An Additional goal for the album was to go from prior ambiguity in the lyrics and sonics to more concrete imagery and structure. Finally, there was an attempt to mingle Obaro’s strong vocal abilities into the tapestry of the surrounding sound. A tough task indeed as his forceful personality comes forth no matter how self-effacing Ghostpoet tries to be vocally.
“Dark Days & Canapés” is an exceptional release that has Ghostpoet channelling all the uneasy of our age. It is a pulse taking of the condition the UK and the world, finding both linger on the edge of dystopia. The album crackles with social commentary because it is unavoidable. The lead off song “One More Sip” is a lovely bridge from Ghostpoet’s earlier sounds to something more intricate. There is a fantastic beat fest married to an off kilter discordant sound. The lyrics offer up a mantra about what we use to rationalize our inattention to human suffering. “Many Moods at Midnight” is epic and somewhat sinister in feeling with its examination of heartbreak and the setting loose of wild emotions. “Trouble +Me” is a magnificent rainy day song reminding me of the works of Burial on “Untrue”. The theme speaks to Sod’s law and being jinxed, and is total sophisticated musical ear candy. “(We’re) Dominos” addresses each person’s responsibilities and how our decisions affecting others just as much as ourselves. This theme plays out over a minimalistic accompaniment that is stark but effective in getting its point across. “Freakshow” is a truly brilliant track with its Nick Cave vibe backed up with fantastic Krautrock influenced guitar. The narrator begs for release from the freak show of the world and his self-inflicted bad decisions.
“Dark Days and Canapés” doesn’t put a foot wrong with each selection offering up arresting textures and prescient themes. “Dopamine If I do” is another fantastic fusion of varied genres; jazz, hip-hop and spectacular electronic sophistication. This fusion creates a tension between the street smart vocal stylings of Obaro and the crystalline vocals of guest contributor EERA. When you think that you have reached the peak of the recording, “Live Leave” launches with a surreal atmospheric sound. The track focuses on Ghostpoet’s continued attempt to come to terms with our finite time on Earth. The industrial rock “Karoshi” creates a paranoid/ claustrophobic environment. It aptly re-produces a feeling of powerlessness and polarization that is epidemic in our world. The Sonics are a perfect echo of the meaning of the work Karoshi, a Japanese word for death from overwork. The song emphasized the idea that the modern world is great at creating new features and objects all meant to distract us from our condition and human hardship.
On the release, Ghostpoet does not exempt himself from blame as he tries to figure out how to deal with his own success. He suggests that success is gradually desensitizing him to the world in misery. On “Blind as a Bat” he questions how you stay grounded when you are surrounded by the finer things in a life characterized by the repeated refrain, “Palm trees and Appletinis”. The track sonically is an outstanding composition made up of discordant piano, swirling guitars, flashes of jazz and Portishead sonics. This feeling of disparity between the haves and have nots is underlined even more so by the “Therefore but by the grace of God go I” track “Immigrant Boogie”. The song portrays the perils and trials of modern day refugees fleeing their homeland hell. This narrative takes place over a fantastic Neu!, Can, Joy Division influenced amalgam of sound. It looks to characterize the desperation of those who through no fault of their own become political footballs when all they seek is hope and safety.
Ghostpoet gets high marks for his consistency on the release with each song having a stunning impact. The last two songs are as ambitious as the prior selections. “Woe is Mee” unreels an ersatz western movie atmospheric that reminded me of The Pixies “Silver” off of “Doolittle”. The delicious Daddy G vocal cameo enhances this psychedelic shimmering Wild West saga making it unforgettable. The final track “End Times” is a stream of consciousness trek through Ejimiwe’s head, as he identifies where he currently stands at 34 years of age and ponders what could be just around the bend.
I have a definite predisposition for Ghostpoet’s offerings, finding them enticing and engaging. He continues to progress and gain more skills and wisdom with each new release adding to his fine tradition of outstanding work. His musical moodscapes become more and more alluring and fine tuned as he utilizes his brilliant ability to blend genres. Like some sort of magician, he comes up with presciently literal themes married to amazingly textured sonics. If you are unfamiliar with Ghostpoet’s prior works I recommend each one and offer “Dark Days and Canapés” as an excellent example of fine musical workmanship that provides an excellent gateway into his discography. With Dark Days and Canapés” Ghostpoet ascends another rung on the musical ladder creating significant anticipation for his next transmission.