God Is An Astronaut

Ghost Tapes #10

Written by: AP on 19/12/2021 20:59:20

With a trio of disintegrated jet planes that appear to be caught in a temporal reversal and a title that seems to allude to a piece of footage from an amateur paranormal investigator’s archive, “Ghost Tapes #10” by the Irish post-rock ensemble God Is an Astronaut creates intrigue before one has even heard a whiff of the music. There is something quite unnerving about the imagery, suggesting that this tenth and latest offering by the County Wicklow band will not be subscribing to the bright and uplifting formula that most bands in the genre like to utilise; there is something darker and more sinister about it. This was good news to me when the album originally arrived last winter, and it remains a felicitous prospect now that I revisit it again in the dying days of the year, enveloped yet again by the gloom of both winter and the unending coronavirus pandemic. There is not a whole lot to smile about at present, so what better companion for all the darkness and turmoil than some bleak and dramatic, yet also emotive instrumental music?

One would not expect to find a post-rock band on the Napalm Records roster, but after listening to the opening track “Adrift”, there is an argument to be made for GIAA’s belonging there. While the music is not heavy per se for hardened metalheads, the track nonetheless ticks many of the boxes that tend to define the metal subgenres, not least its foreboding tonality and ghostly atmosphere. These rely heavily on the riffs of bassist Niels Kinsella, whose instrument enjoys an unusually strong presence in the mix, and the eerie style of which closely resembles that of the psychedelic black metal band Oranssi Pazuzu’s Toni ‘Ontto’ Hietamäki at times. This is perhaps most obvious in the bridge of the second song “Burial”, where Kinsella steps forward and drops an absolutely menacing bass line that bores through the ambient keys and reverberating guitar notes. It sounds deliciously visceral and now that one has been introduced to it in that song, the crucial role it plays in shaping the atmosphere of this record is impossible to ignore. You will find revenants of it rumbling through all of the subsequent tracks, rendering the likes of “In Flux” and “Fade” into much more unsettling experiences than a post-rock aficionado is likely to expect.

Another unusual aspect of “Ghost Tapes #10” is the kinetic drive and urgency of its material. The languorous swells and releases, and the orchestral crescendos favoured by many of the group’s peers are nowhere to be heard here; there is momentum in Hanney’s drumming and the different passages that comprise each song are not drawn out any longer than necessary. And yet despite never meandering, the four musicians are able to weave tapestries that are every bit as dramatic and resplendent as songs twice or even thrice their length, with the additional bonus of having an intensity that is virtually unparalleled in the genre. It is an approach that has brought success to bands like Caspian, with whom GIAA share this penchant for seamlessly transitioning between moods and emotions that seem to be at odds with one another, and it certainly helps to set them apart in this crowded scene. It is course even easier for GIAA to stand out when they are able to compose material like the penultimate track “Barren Trees”, which is without question one of the finest pieces of instrumental rock released this year. Ethereal chants melt together with sheets of synthesiser, soaring tremolo guitar and melancholy keys as the bass and drums rage beneath, to produce an intense and cathartic piece of music that, in my book, deserved to bring the album to a climactic conclusion instead of “Luminous Waves”, which honestly plays more like an interlude and should have been positioned as such.

This is a minor misjudgment on an otherwise excellent album though, one that should leave long standing fans of GIAA licking their lips given that it cements the definitive return to the darker and heavier sound of the band’s quintessential 2005 album “All Is Violent, All Is Bright” that began on 2018’s doom-ridden “Epitaph”. One might argue that “Ghost Tapes #10” is not very adventurous in that sense, but if, like me, you were left feeling ambivalent by its predecessor, let alone by the robotic krautrock stylings of their 2015 effort “Helios | Erebus”, this is likely to be exactly what you have been hoping and waiting for.

8

Download: Burial, In Flux, Fade, Barren Trees
For the fans of: 65daysofstatic, Caspian, Maybeshewill, pg.lost
Listen: Facebook

Release date 12.02.2021
Napalm Records

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