Ghost Simpson is a relatively new project formed in 2014 with Lee Chernowetz on synth and guitars and Melissa Chernowitz on vocals and synth. Joined by Greg Meisenberg on drums (for ‘silver arrow’ and ‘I know that ghosts have wandered the earth’), this self-titled effort is their debut work and it explores the ongoing fascination with what happens in the afterlife. Each track tells its own story as the duo delve into Folk, soul and pop to deliver a unique and occasionally unsettling body of work.
First track, ‘the silver arrow’ emerges from a haze of synth noise that builds to the sound of a ghost train running its way along rusted tracks with Melissa intoning the lyrics with the dark intensity of Marianne Faithfull channelling Karen O. It’s a dark, brooding, gothic atmosphere the duo conjure, the music rooted in the post-punk experimentation of the early eighties, whilst Greg’s pummelling percussion gives the track a flesh-and-blood feel that synth work alone rarely captures. The short, spectral ‘Spookhaus’ has more in common with the orb’s ambient, dub work than with traditional pop writing and it segues neatly into ‘leatherman’, the story of a homeless man whose sleeping spirit ascends to the heavens during the night to combat the demons of air and weather. A fascinating concept, it’s covered by Ghost Simpson as a synth/acoustic guitar hybrid in a woozy style that recalls a dark underground nightclub where the blues-loving patrons have all been doped with ketamine and left, drooling for a night of psychedelic noise and half-observed flashes of distorted reality. A short segue track, ‘a storm approaches’ provides the gentle, yet ominous intro to ‘Mary Celeste’, as a phonograph is interrupted by the sound of the furious elements. Overcome by the power of the sea, ‘Mary celeste’ is a sea shanty filtered through a bank of Moogish effects, whilst Melissa delivers her most fragile vocal. It’s a unique conceit and it’s here, in particular, that you realise that in this age of endless derivation, Ghost Simpson have tapped into something truly different. Greg returns for the final track, the rippling ambient dub of ‘I know that ghost have wandered the earth’ and we’re once again plunged into an alternate dimension where the Orb and Fuck buttons collide in the spectral plain. It’s a highlight of the EP and the perfect starting point for adventurous listeners who want to know what Ghost Simpson have to offer.
Ghost Simpson is an exploratory EP that introduces the band that is its namesake perfectly. There are reference points here from the progressive synth experiments of acts like Banco De Gaia and System 7 to the ambient dub of the orb (themselves explorers of the space originally occupied by the likes of Pink Floyd and Yes), but the story dictates the mood and so ‘the silver arrow’ takes on the aspect of a careering train, endlessly running down broken tracks and ‘Mary Celeste’ is formed around a traditional sea shanty. At its best, Ghost Simpson is an involving and evocative meditation on the afterlife, but the diverse nature of the music does occasionally cause the listener to become removed from the overall atmosphere of the EP and it’s easy to imagine that Ghost Simpson would benefit from having the space of a full length album in which to more fully explore their muse. For those who are interested in the world of avant-garde synth music, Ghost Simpson are a fascinating act who have successfully opened up new vistas to explore.
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