This is a band that has existed for a couple of years and over this period of time have grown in strength, confidence and appeal. Their first gig was an enviable affair for many kraut-rock acolytes when they were invited to be the backing band to Can’s Damo Suzuki. Coveting genres such as progressive rock, folk, and doom the band have since then found a way to breach inevitable obscurity by releasing this self-titled album on Withered Hand Records. So what do we have here with this release? In the press release they liken themselves to Pentangle, Sleep, and Electric Wizard. After hearing the album I am convinced the cited influences reflect the band’s tastes rather than directing listeners to bands with applicable commonalities, instead I would point those people looking for similarities in the direction of kraut-rock monsters, Can, Amon Duul II, or closer to home Comus, Tea and Symphony, and Mark Bolan’s Tyrannosaurus Rex, believing these evoke less typical and yet more exciting and accurate comparisons.
The Collector kicks off the Crumbling Ghost affair, swaying to the might of flares and sweat, this is a song to be played in seedy clubs while burning josh sticks. Embedded dynamism is only measured by the radical changes between full on rock and more kraut orientated rock. My preference and favourite parts rest with the more experimental interludes.
As one will discover this is an album that was recorded at different times in different studios. The tales of two cities really makes this an odd collection of tracks. The Collector has a distorted guitar sound that would be more at home on a lo-fi black metal album or a noise not music punk record. It certainly contributes towards the chaos and the charm of their opening gambit. However, I do think I’m getting a headache.
Omie Wise tells the tale of a poor lass who was murdered in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1808. I do believe a song such as this is where the true strength of Crumbling Ghost lies. Dare I say it, its verging on good ‘ol electro folk, transporting me back to an age when cardigans, beards, real ale and good fellas gathering in local pubs to give song about local history was an acceptable past time. It’s a powerful song for the Ghosts and if comparisons were going to be made, I would say this falls somewhere between Gryphon and Tir Na Gog. Brilliant.
Aggro Pronto starts with the vibe as Omie Wise, but this is a more pedestrian version and showcases the talents of all musicians concerned. As an instrumental it still gives me the feeling of something I would find on a Nectar or Amon Duul II outtake. I just love it when bands understand space as a crucial component to the edifying riff, and this is one good example of that, laid back and forgiving I would love to hear this being played on a cool summer’s day with the dog fox at my feet.
The Stumbling Host follows and this is surely the band conveying to the masses a master class on how to write and perform a classically arranged Kraut Rock number, with perhaps a bit of Parson Sounds thrown in good for measure. I know I keep saying it but this is a classic track and would sit very nicely in my German rock collection. Quirky, playful, enticing, the track pulls you in, invites you to sit in a field of poppies and watch the blue skies fall over your body in syrup sweet swirls of ecstasy.
Daytrip to Bungay: Dominating the middle pages of the recording daytrip to Bungay is another instrumental, and you know I’m fine with it. Medieval, folky, colour hazed into the jacket of a grateful dead jacket, this pulls all the right punches and leaves me feeling sated and content. So hop into your Citroen C2 and take a trip to Bungay, because when you arrive you are bound to find the Crumbling Ghosts cavorting around the town centre in jester outfits and a drug wry grin on their faces. And if you ask, they may well play the following track Blasted Heath which also begins with jig style rhythms, but then turns a whole lot darker with something a kin to a doom riff emerges. Juxtaposition aside I’m not absolutely convinced this style sits well with the embodied beauty of the village green preservation society of previous tracks. It may prove to be something of a weak point on the album. It is of course all relative, in no way should you regard my opinion as indicating a dislike, it is still good, if not bloody great, but, and there it is but, somehow Blasted Heath doesn’t have the focus and bite of previous songs.
Nobody Here signals a return to normal transmission. Dare I say it this is sounding with the vocals like a Death in June track, no bad thing if you put aside any political misgivings you may have about that band. Fuzzed out and tripped out this develops into something so much more than D.I.J. ever did.
Sheriff’s Ride pulls you back in with merry medieval may pole dancing and the jolly circumstance of being strung out and wanting to take more acid in the sun drenched morning dew fields of a bygone era.
The Man of Burnham Town is a CG interpretation of a previously recorded folk song by Martin Carthy (1967). Mindful of the original lyrical content condoning wife beating the band decided to omit any reference to any such ancient male to woman carry on. What you have in it’s a place is a totally crazy, rock out, psych storm of harmonies making this one of the strongest songs on the album.
Battle of Barnet finds us back in the Brixton recording with some high pitched distorted guitars, but never a band to become a one trick pony as soon as you go to cover your ears from the vile noise they suddenly unleash a soft, quiet, inclusive harmony which curves its way from the speaker into your body. To be honest I’m not sure about this last track, for me at least it doesn’t sit well with gifted abilities on display on so many of the other songs in this release.
So overall what should we make of Crumbling Ghost? I tell you what you should do before making an assessment, make a nice selection of scones, then a cup of tea, and when you’ve sat down and made yourself comfortable put this little beauty on. It’s an album that’s going to make you feel young and re-invigorated, it is viagra for hippies, so go out buy your bell bottoms, a nice cardigan, look for an old Afghan, and smoke some hash. Once this has been accomplished go back into the house, eat the rest of the scones and make yourself another cup of tea after which you will fall asleep content in the knowledge that you have been made into crumble by the ghost of yesteryear. Bloody superb stuff!!
Scribed by: Pete Hamilton-Giles