Paul Duncan has a brief, yet fairly impressive musical history that pre-dates the creation of his newest and latest side project Warm Ghost. Prior to recruiting members of Oliver Chapoy (Aarktica, Saxon Shore, Helado Negro) to team up in the name of shoegazing glory, Duncan built a diverse back catalogue and a successful career as a singer/songwriter for several amazing bands on the scene, from Tortoise to Grizzly Bear. So when time came for him to recruit top tier musicians to help construct the concept behind his Uncut Diamond EP, it’s safe to assume it wasn’t that difficult to pull some strings. The end result, however? An experimental clusterfuck of synth pop, cold wave and electronic sounds that I’m still not too sure what to do with yet.
So while I’m not new to Paul Duncan as a musician, I am completely new to this sound and style he’s attempting to build for himself. Duncan and company call it an “intricately arranged shimmering sonic world of twisting words and melodies.” Some of my buddies called it “8-Bit NES Emo Music.” What I’m hearing is a lot of fuzz and feedback that layers intense and lush synth compositions, TONS of experimental pedal effects, and dark lo-fi distortion that occasionally lead into songs that sound like long intros to Phil Collins’ records. Songs like “Without A Dancer” and the epically titled “Let My Angst Unfold in the Water like a Hounds Tongue” wander in between odes to Depeche Mode, ’70s disco and AFX pedal reverb sounds. But not even the fan-adored song and video for “Open the Wormhole in Your Heart” could capture my attention. There’s still a certain something that is missing on this project. To directly reference the Uncut Diamond title, this album needs a bit more polish for me.
For some, the lo-fi synth-pop shoegaze experience is probably what draws you to Warm Ghost in the first place. While I hear the direction in which they are heading, recognize the talent behind the project and what they are trying to execute, it needs a cleaner, tighter, mastered sound before they completely capture my attention. Granted, this is an EP, so there’s tons of hope that their actual album (if it happens) will be much more focused, less moody, with some clean studio mastering on it. Maybe then I’ll check again.
If you’re into bands like White Moth, Echo Lake or Team Ghost, than this is going to be right up your alley, and you’ll probably rate it higher than I did. Not all art appeals to everyone, which is as it should be regardless of its quality. It might appeal to you, however.