Blackgaze is one of the most subtle genres of music. There’s an incredible amount of written talent that goes by-and-large unnoticed. In a genre that is mainly built on repetition and longer, more progressive suite-like songs, it is far too easy for an album to become mired in its own sound. The sound of blackgaze is a double-edged sword — its greatest strength is also its greatest downfall. Bands avoid these pitfalls in various ways: some bands, like Agalloch, bring in more varied instrumentation, others, such as An Autumn For Crippled Children, use their inventiveness to obscure and break genre boundaries. Ghost Bath dance elegantly around the inherent obstacles of blackgaze with the help of a different tool- their formidable grasp of atmosphere.
Throughout Moonlover, Ghost Bath’s new album, the bleak and desolate atmosphere the band invokes has a hefty presence. From the soft, lilting tones of the intro track, ‘The Sleeping Fields,’ to the final bars of closer ‘Death And The Maiden,’ the empty and lost-feeling tonality leads the way for fantastic and ethereal blackgaze. The slow-moving strains of each track give way to a cathartic hypnosis, allowing the listener to float through a dreamlike state of bliss. Listening to this album, it’s easy to lose all sense of time.
Ghost Bath allow the instruments to do the lion’s share of the work on Moonlover. Across the album, vocals are rare, popping up only occasionally to add another layer of texture to the sound. For most bands of this trade, the vocals, stingingly raw and desperate, play an important part. Here, the formula is cleverly subverted; the majority of the album is instrumental, and better off for it. This isn’t to say the vocals are bad- when they do appear, they bring forth a more human and earthy side to Ghost Bath’s otherworldly atmosphere. The trading-off that occurs between the vocally-led and instrumentally-led parts of the album diversify the experience and ground it more in reality, lending it a greater strength.
As with many other blackgaze albums, though, the greatest asset here — the atmosphere — is also, in some ways, Moonlover’s undoing. Across the record, many of the tracks blur together into a dreamy and celestial soup, wonderful and exciting, but mixed together to the point where nothing stands out. Occasionally there’s a chunk of something unique and unexpected, but Ghost Bath are definitely a paint-by-numbers blackgaze band. Although Moonlover is a supremely enjoyable aural trip through a dimly-lit world of specters (one might even say… ghosts) and graveyards covered in overgrown ivy, anyone who has listened to a blackgaze album before knows what they should expect. Moonlover is a Call of Duty game of an album: while it’s heavily enjoyable to those who already like the genre, Ghost Bath does very little to step outside of established norms. The atmosphere is a huge boon in this sense; very rarely does a blackgaze album this conventional manage to hold the listener in for more than a track or two, but here, Ghost Bath keep the listener entranced and wanting more with their phenomenal command of mood.
When all is said and done, Moonlover stands triumphant. Ghost Bath have done a fantastic job of creating a blackgaze album that sucks the listener in and keeps them interested for the whole running length. Far too easily does blackgaze become mired down in its own self-indulgence, but here, led by a great sense of texture and spirit, Ghost Bath rise above it.
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Ghost Bath- Moonlover gets…