Review: Ceremony ‘In The Spirit World Now (Synthetic Remixes)’

I’m going to get this out of the way first… I LOVE Ceremony, and in my opinion they’re one of the best and most underrated punk rock bands of the 21st century. After starting out as a raging ball of break-neck speed hardcore fury, the band have dialled down the aggression and velocity and increased the sonic variety in their music at an exponential rate, all the while keeping a constant level of intensity and unique personality in their EQ. On their third and fourth LPs, 2010s Rohnert Park and 2012s Zoo, the band hit a perfect sweet-spot full of an unparalleled passion and energy, and they’ve become two of my favourite punk records of all time.

Ceremony ‘In The Spirit World Now (Synthetic Remixes)’

With their following album, 2015s The L Shaped Man, the band received some criticism for being too unfocussed in their post-punk experimentalism and losing some of their song-writing knack in the process; but in last year’s In The Spirit World Now the band found their mojo again. They delved further than ever into new wave sounds whilst still retaining their incredible spirit. For all of their progressive movements in punk and hardcore, what makes Ceremony‘s music so brilliant is their ability to write catchy tunes that feel highly inventive and yet are actually remarkably simple. In The Spirit World Now saw the band regain this ability, despite moving into almost completely new sonic territory. This record already had more than its fair share of synthesisers, so producing a ‘synthetic remix’ does, to a certain degree, make a lot of sense.

If you like synthwave then you will probably be able to enjoy this album regardless of whether you know the original songs or not. As I said before, Ceremony‘s music thrives on their brilliant song-writing, and this remix album is a great demonstration. The band have essentially removed all the guitars, bass and acoustic drums from the record and replaced them with synthesisers, keyboards and drum machines. The vocals appear to be the same original performances, but they often get placed into a more cavernous zone in the mix.

It sounds charmingly vintage throughout, and encompasses everything from early 80s synth-pop, to 90s rave and shoegazing electro, and even some chiptune and nintendocore sounds of the 2000s. There is, however, a very modern clarity within this often dense and varied layering of sounds. It’s joyously visceral in its way, and I really feel a lot of jubilation in these songs, which wasn’t as obvious in the original versions.

It sounds charmingly vintage throughout, and encompasses everything from early 80s synth-pop, to 90s rave and shoegazing electro…

Despite this being a remix album, I get the feeling that Ceremony have tried to allow the listener to understand it outside the context of the original album. They’re altered the track-listing around and a number of these remixes flow into each other quite subtly. Considering the band have talked in interviews about how important it was to get the flow of the original album right, this seems like a deliberate move on their part.

Although none of the songs sound totally removed from the originals, there are times where there is a definite distinctiveness: We Can Be Free, From Another Age and Calming Water all take on a life of their own, whilst closing track Turn Away The Bad Thing is a complete turnaround from the soulful Chelsea Wolfe opening track on the original album. I Want More is possibly the most divergent remix, the track has turned from a spiky post-punk number into a glitchy piece of frenzied Hard-NRG.

Even as Ceremony toned down the aggression over the years and utilised more major-key chord progressions, they never lost their intensity and ultimately it didn’t always leave much room for amusement. So it’s wonderful to see the band not taking themselves too seriously in this endeavour and really having fun recreating their album with electronics.

I’ll sum up this record with a metaphor: this is the sound of a band who have gone to a fancy dress party dressed as Depeche Mode circa 1981, hit the bar, had a few vodka-cokes, danced around to Pet Shop Boys and New Order, and just let themselves go; and if there was one thing I previously found missing from Ceremony‘s top-notch punk rock, it was the ability to, on occasion, really have some fun!

Label: Relapse Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Will J