Sebastian Arnström is a man who likes to keep very busy. Bearing in mind that Simian Ghost started out as something of a side project for this frontman, releasing two albums and an EP in two years is a fair effort. When you consider that Aerial, his other band, have produced five albums in their six-year existence, it’s clear that Arnström’s thumbs won’t be doing any work for the Devil.
Maybe it’s just that they keep recording studios nice and toasty in Gävle, halfway up the icy Swedish coast.
Aerial’s early sound was much rockier and moodier, but gradually morphed into something more pondering and electro poppy, which carried on into Simian Ghost. The “Infinite Traffic Everywhere” debut album and “Lovelorn” EP were slightly more experimental than this latest work. “Infinite Traffic Everywhere”, for instance, featured songs called “All I Know Is But A Fog” and “Sequenced Dreams of Independence”.
“Simian Ghost” has less jarring instrumentation and more of the soothing harmonies that they hinted at in those earlier works. In my book, electro synth giving way to Spanish guitar is a good thing. Simian Ghost’s new direction means more Fleet Foxes-esque woos and a fondness for triangles. It’s more folksy and, at times, sounds like it’s straight out of the 60s.
And it wouldn’t be the 60s without an occasional other-worldly vibe. This doesn’t really come as a surprise given that Arnström has a ‘background in visual art and production’, and is influenced by writers such as H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur C. Clarke.
The band signal their gentle intent early on. The first two tracks have a definite dreamlike, thoughtful quality, and then “The Capitol” begins with: ‘There is a place I know/Where my ideas unfold’.
The aptly-named “Siren” is another song with a distinctly surreal feel to it: ‘Crawl into the tree/Follow my voice…as you dissolve in me’. Here he repeatedly promises to ‘keep all the animals calm’. God knows why the animals need calming, but I’m sure he could manage it. The album as a whole could be described as calming and even as (in the untarnished sense of the phrase) easy-listening, but not in a Phil Collins way, because he’s anything but easy to listen to. The Flaming Lips would be a much kinder and more accurate comparison.
“Wolf Girl” and “Automation” are two of the stand-out tracks on the album. They both seem to have a bit more purpose about them and both have wisely been released as singles. For me though, the luxuriant “Sparrow” is also a highlight, sounding like Turin Brakes at their best.
This year they’ve looked to break the UK, playing Camden Crawl, The Great Escape Festival, and nine dates on The Line of Best Fit tour. They’re well suited to indie festivals, have received some positive media coverage and this album will definitely help them build a solid UK fanbase.