reviewed by Michael Thomas
In the music of Brenna Lowrie, something dark isn’t directly in vision—it’s just about to strike, or it’s already departed, leaving devastation in its wake.
After a long break following The Body Electric, she whet appetites with the shapeshifting Sleeptalker EP. It oscillated between psychedelic and folk music, never firmly settling on one or the other. Now with Hungry Ghost, she’s leaning a bit more towards psychedelic music, though she hasn’t left folk music behind entirely.
This time around, Lowrie has Jesse Northey, Clayton Smith and Nathan Lowrie backing her up instrumentally. Northey’s bass is especially wonderful, adding an extra dimension to Lowrie’s spooky songs.
Lowrie can almost effortlessly conjure a spooky atmosphere when she wants to. Opener “Dead Sun” does that quickly. Gloomy guitar chords and a creeping bass line really make it sound like it could be a theme song for a desolate earth. The narrator of the song cannot escape the darkness, which may or may not be literal. “Morning will bring/Fewer dark things,” she sings, but who knows how many dark things there were in the first place. “She’s the Moon” is also gloomy, but the language in it is stunningly beautiful. It’s like she’s constructing a new Greek myth: “she” may or may not be a celestial body, doomed for eternity. Similarly ancient themes abound in “Babylon,” though the atmosphere there is a much more adrenaline-fueled one, with psychedelic guitar.
Lowrie is always extra thrilling when she ups the ante a little. The powerful image of “Babylon” is one such instance, another is “Canary in the Mine,” which adds some swirling keyboard. At times hearkening back to Jefferson Airplane, it’s especially attention-grabbing with Lowrie’s use of the imperative in the chorus: “Run through the door/Drop to the floor/Settle the score.” Suddenly the language is firmly in the present and it’s wonderfully unsettling.
There’s more of Lowrie’s world to explore, from the rocking-revival sound of “Bad Learnings” to the wistful guitar of “Water Deep.” Hungry Ghost roams through all these lands, continuing to prove that Lowrie’s stories have power.
Top Track: “Canary in the Mine”; “Babylon”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)