reviewed by Cissy Suen
The Moncton, N.B. group’s self-titled debut begins with a walk through the clouds of reminiscence. I found myself daydreaming as “Past Apartment” began, my thoughts jumping lightly and happily in a nostalgia filled trance. If you’re a fan of the English TV Series Skins, it reminds me a lot of “Cassie’s Theme” from the second instalment of series 7. The hazy plucked electric strings dance above the underlying stretched notes that gradually fill the song to completeness as the longer background tones accumulate to raindrop patterned chords at 1:47. “Past Apartment Goes Live In The Classifieds” compliments the beginning track with a sort of closure. The title was a bit deceptive to me as the word “Live” led me to assume a more lively sound, however the 49 second tune delivers a stronger sense of satisfaction than action.
“Improvisation #33 (Mon corps n’est pas un temple)” sustains the sense of closure but introduces new previously suppressed emotions through the ambient echo and second plucked progression. A third progression and then a fourth, and so on, are later introduced in the second half of the track, as well as a variety of harmonious tones to compliment the persistent echo. I’d like to think of all these elements as the environment; We began in “Past Apartment” with nostalgia and retrospection and in this track we open up to the present external world. Even the sense of closure in the second track is a very independent feeling that is upturned by the various factors of an outside environment. My interpretation of the title track is a comment on the inevitability of being influenced by this environment, and as such all becomes an improvisation. The brackets in the title brings to mind introspection to extrospection on a spiritual level.
This spiritual level enters the dream world in “Annual “Can’t Sleep, Clown’s Gonna Eat Me” Month”. The classic nightmare is given a voice as the climactic and sudden end, beginning at 1:17 of the track. The calm, though slightly menacing, strings are met with a sudden block as a single note is repeated until la fin. These eerie figures stay in “Starving Ghosts”, the fifth and initially dissonant filled track. A play between minor chords and a lighter hopeful shimmer occurs for about a minute until that sense of self, the main strings from the previous songs, returns. It’s quite beautiful as the strings that have come to represent oneself begin to dance with the minor chords are no longer minor and the ever unchanging shimmering progression, ending with the shimmer, an acceptance of the self’s ghosts.
The final track of the album “Un à dix sur l’échelle de l’angoisse et du malaise” is as much a masterpiece as it is the greatest of any 20:58 tracks. All characters of the album come into play here, beginning with dissonant nostalgic ambience then entering the higher pitched dream like tones. The track can really be dissected into ten different movements but this is where I take my leave and let you embark on that journey on your own. What I will say though, is my appreciation for the way the track begins and ends in a similar fashion – ending literally on a positive note.
Recorded only in a week, the album is a stunning reflection. It brings to heart, not mind, various thoughts and sentiments that are pure and difficult to voice. I can only give you a little insight into my interpretation of the group’s gorgeous work but I can guarantee that it will evoke a level of personal satisfaction that is rare to find in even the most famous of ambient records. I can say think of Sigur Rós or Explosions in the Sky to naïvely attempt to describe the style, but really, Starving Ghosts are in an elegant league of their own.
Top Track: “Past Apartment”; “Improvisation #33”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)