Plumbiferous Media

Ghost – Tape Deck Mountain

Nov 26th 2009
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Ghost - Tape Deck MountainTape Deck Mountain
Score: 56

Indie duo Tape Deck Mountain began by (rather appropriately) releasing their music on cassette tapes, including their debut EP Sparks. Though they’ve switched to more modern release formats for their first LP, they’ve kept the slightly lo-fi feel that distinguished their sound on Sparks, creating a subdued but genuinely interesting first album with the recent release of Ghost. Ghost is flawed but certainly unique, and at under half an hour is certainly worth listening to even if only for the occasional bit of inspiration.

Ghost starts off shakily. “F-,” the first full track on the album, is plagued by mixing issues that keep every element of the track at a uniform dynamic level and make the sounds of the track completely unimmersive. Fortunately, the album improves markedly from that point. While “F-” remained unmoving throughout, the following track develops nicely from its intro to its main section, and the entirety of “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie” shows a strong progression, with the very low bass toward the end being especially helpful in showing the track’s development.

But while Tape Deck Mountain cleans up its act immediately after the first track, at least as far as overall sound, the instrumentals are more mixed. There are extremely interesting sections such as the chaotic building introduction to “Ghost Colony,” but numerous sections of the album devolve into repetition with some, but nowhere near enough variation – a prime example being the rest of that track.

Travis Trevisan’s voice creates a steady line through the somewhat muted depths of Ghost, while at the same time carrying along a great deal of the energy of the album. As Ghost manages to both be subdued and echo with power, so does Trevisan, especially on the more complex sections of the album, such as “80/20.” At other points, Trevisan’s voice melts into the music or disappears completely, depending on the sort of sound Tape Deck Mountain is attempting to create, for example, on the jangling intro to “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie.” It makes for an occasionally perplexing and generally interesting overall experience, if one that is slightly marred by occasional drifts into repetitive sound.

Ghost‘s lyrics are not quite as important to the music as are the instrumentals, and it unfortunately shows. The opening track, “Scantrons,” chronicles the narrator’s desire to “pass out Scantrons to everyone we know,” which, while somewhat amusing at first, doesn’t quite work either as the topic of a song or as an extended metaphor. Much of the album manages to avoid lyrical issues by keeping the vocals (which are otherwise generally decent) buried within the music as a whole, but when the lyrics make their way out, it doesn’t always go well. The worst example is perhaps “In The Dirt,” which contains the exemplary lines “Please don’t marry / That asshole Larry / You know he’ll move the place you’re buried.” Interesting instrumentals and well-crafted overall sound can’t quite overcome this significant issue, and so the lyrics of Ghost stand as the weakest part of the album.

Ghost is in some ways a very confusing album. Parts like the applause at the end of the monologue in “Ghost Colony” indicate that a good amount of careful thought went into creating the album, but issues such as those on the first track would indicate otherwise. Similarly, the album is generally quite well balanced, and has healthy amounts of variation between tracks, but all the attention spent improving these was clearly taken from what might have been spent dreaming up lyrics. But what is most interesting about Ghost is that despite being a decent, quite experimental album, it is simply not terribly engaging or thought-provoking.

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