Ghost’s idiosyncratic brand of breakcore delves into obscure nooks and crannies of the sonic spectrum and exploits a vast range of tones to generate a broad, almost visual vista. Sharp, tight clicks and ticks direct the mind’s eye toward microscopic clockwork while distant echoes from no obvious source suggest mysterious motion occurring some great distance away. This contrast of perspectives – zoomed-in and intimate versus far-off and indistinct – articulate a world of breadth and communion.
Combining sounds that produce such a wide degree of scale and speed is an impressive accomplishment alone, but Ghost demonstrates the depth of his skill by making sure the timbres compliment rather than clash. Creaks, slides, scrapes, brushes, taps, ripples, wobbles, and plunks all interact symbiotically and enhance the presence of one another rather than grate or confuse by their proximity.
This obsessively detailed sound editing sometimes causes the music to approach an uncanny valley of sorts, where snares and cymbals are portrayed as barely recognizable not just due to being electronically re-sculpted but because of their uncharacteristic placement in the song arrangement, being used as raw indicators of momentum rather than traditional beat markers. Other sounds approximate the resonance of typical wood or metal instruments but are manipulated to such an extent that they also become pure components of structure that reference only the song in which they act as crucial elements.
At times a tightly-reigned synthesizer will make a gracious appearance, providing a sort of as-above-so-below overview of the song. Or, perhaps due to the laser-focus of these brief melodies, they resemble a scrap torn from a larger map, revealing a location in reference to the stuff immediately nearby but leaving the rest of the area unknown until explored. These bits of melody usually serve as landmarks to punctuate movements within a song, suggesting (sometimes misleadingly) their upcoming direction.
Running beneath these micro-motifs are pulsing currents that sweep along like a sudden subterranian flood, not immediately visible but identifiable due to its effects on the ground above. These dynamic shifts go well beyond the simple loud/soft vocabulary of many artists, exhibiting an ebb and swell of rhythmic intensity that sometimes counters, sometimes compliments the melodic component, which frequently anchors the song to our more familiar sense of tonal sequences. In the case of some songs, like the excellent opening track Troublesome Pixie, a short, looping, chiming melody acts as this anchor, unflinching in its responsibility to provide some mental shelter for the listener while the surrounding hurricane of drum breaks skitter and smash together like a blizzard of giant buzzsaws.
In other tracks, like the tension-choked Running With Scissors, the line between melody and rhythm is satisfyingly blurred, as chords played by strings simmer beneath the loping stride of breaks before leaping into the forefront of the song in sharp stabs to claim the rhythm as their own. Then, as always, they recede to give way to the next bit of rhythm or melody, which takes its lead and forges ahead before giving way to something else again. This cycle repeats but, like waves eroding a stony shore, sounds (at least subtly) different every time.
This tidal theme permeates Exploding Geometry, and is even elaborated on vocally with a short spoken poem during the song Butterfly Effect, in which someone (presumably Ghost himself) talks of, “a calm and quiet ocean / one wave amongst the sea / that wave may one day grow / to be a mighty tsunami”. Whether intentionally or not, this verse serves as an efficient description of the concept that underlies the feel of these compositions. Few pieces of music offer this chance to sink and surf at the same time. Succumb to the riptide!
Exploding Geometry is available from Mozyk records (along with some other great glitch/breakcore) as well as Ghost’s bandcamp.