For this particular writer, any band that cites its’ influences as shoegaze, psychedelia and krautrock has attracted the attention from the outset. Originating from California, this is the first full length release from United Ghosts on Tambourine Girl Records. Can the band really amalgamate shoegaze, psychedelia and krautrock into a fully cohesive sound? Surely influences such as those are in danger of producing pedestrian pop, albeit with an edge? Thankfully “United Ghosts” allays any fears and instead delivers ten arrangements of unadulterated joyfulness and spirituality. The key sound is achieved somewhat by the dual vocals of Sha Sabi and Axel Steuerwald who create an almost wraithlike eminence layered upon luscious tunes. “United Ghosts” is a collection of tunes that are immediately accessible on first play, that is not to say they lack depth or authority simply that they are striking to the ears from the offset. Certainly not music to gaze at shoes, more music to gaze at the sky.
The opening ‘Echo Lake’ leisurely throbs onward over dreamlike keyboards and guitar lines, providing the perfect supplement to the ethereal vocals, whilst ‘Unhypnotized’ picks up the tempo slightly whilst losing none of that trademark wistfulness. There is certainly a sense, as the listener moves through the tracks on “United Ghosts”, that this could indeed be music from another era altogether. An almost sinister edge to the chord progression on ‘The Revolution Waiting’ takes the listener momentarily out of their previously established comfort zone. Krautrock credentials are fully recognised on the openings to ‘Modern Crime’ and ‘Holes into the Night’ which go on to develop into a delicious beds of inspirational noise, whilst ‘Sparkle and Fade’ soothes the mood with a restrained naivety.
‘Sparks from a Cold Star’ is the point on this release at which the mood changes slightly and the pace quickens somewhat. There is a rough edge to the guitar sound which complements the layers of psychedelia below. The pace remains on ‘Coat of Arms’ which by now has combined all previous elements into a powerful blend of melody, fervour and attack. The lead guitar lines are infectious and enriching in equal measure. The album closes with an Eastern flavoured ‘Aftershadows’ which further establishes the bohemian qualities that the album overall appears to capture. Again the lead guitar lines provide a coarse juxtaposition which lends itself pleasingly to the mood.
Overall there is a trance like quality to the music here which simmers with a little hypnotic seductiveness. At times the listener could be reminded of the Jesus and Mary Chain or Hawkwind; whilst on the other hand a different listener may get a sense of My Bloody Valentine or Ride. Either way “United Ghosts” is a glorious introduction to a band that has perfected their signature sound, and if they can deliver these songs as arrestingly in front of an audience, would offer a stirring live experience.