Hungry Ghosts - Self-Titled
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Hungry Ghosts
Self-Titled
(Reliant / Fiido)

I know I already mentioned it in my review for their album Alone Alone, but perhaps there's something to my theory that Australia breaths sounds of desolation into groups from the continent. Not only do we have the Dirty Three and the slowcore Bluetile Lounge, but the Hungry Ghosts as well. Even the names of the groups conjure up images of haggard and weary souls, forgotten oasis', and wandering spirits.

While I used words like cinematic and desolate to describe Alone Alone, I'm going to use words like haunting and sparse to describe this, their first and self-titled disc. Although there are a couple tracks with a bit of a jaunty feel (including the very southwestern, almost Calexico feel of "Waltz"), the release is much more wandering and even a touch more experimental than their newer release. With 11 tracks that span almost an hours worth of time (once again), they play with a much wider variety of instruments and arrangements, conjuring up an even more bleak look at things. In other words, if the last one was music for leading you through a desert, this one is the sounds you hear right before you black out from dehydration.

The album opens up with "Man Who Refused To Kill," and offsets an electric guitar with what is either a harpsichord or a harp (or perhaps even a guitar played in nothing but plucked highs) while minimal percussion and eerie keyboards provide a crooked spine to the track. It's exotic and spooky at the same time. After the Dirty Three-esque (with a darker edge) "A Joke's A Joke" and the aforementioned "Waltz," the album falls into more duel guitar work (including one Morricone-inspired riff) and quiet chimes on the very pretty "Nowness."

The album changes up on the French waterfront meets spaghetti western sound of "Plaster Of Paris" (in which the group again makes the best use of an accordion this side of a polka band) before dropping off into the completely dark second half of the disc, including the track that starts it all, "Peak." Building itself softly like something you'd hear off a Godspeed You Black Emperor release, the track mixes a screeching sound into the layered track (sounding like an upset banshee) before the guitars and drums cap off in some thunderous responses. Although a couple of the tracks drag a bit towards the end of the disc, things wind down in amazing fashion with the sparse western feel of "Blood" before the album closes out on the aptly titled "Relief." It's a short track on which the group again uses some stringed instruments (and that accordion again!) to breath a bit of life back into things after the several claustrophobic tracks previous. While the album is an import release and a little more than most discs, it's still worth the money, but if you've heard the other release by the group you probably realize that.

rating: 7.510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00