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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