Aeroc: Viscous Solid
Ghostly International

Prior to hearing Viscous Solid, I wondered which stylistic category of Ghostly it might align itself with. Would it be Twine's eerie electronica, Solvent's electro-synthpop, or maybe the superb microhouse of Matthew Dear's Leave Luck To Heaven? You've no doubt guessed that Geoff White's Ghostly debut aligns itself with none of them but in fact forges its own unique path, and in doing so showcases another further dimension of the Ghostly sound. One connection that does spring to mind is to Greg Davis's music but that proves superficial as the sole common denominator is their use of acoustic guitar; the respective styles of Curling Pond Woods and Viscous Solid show little commonality beyond the obvious, things like a shared love of drones, for example. In fact, White's recording is largely genre-defying, in spite of the fact that the individual pieces easily slot themselves into distinct categories: drones, electronica, even acoustic post-rock. What distinguishes it is its expert sequencing and admirable restraint. Brief drones alternate with more conventional compositions but their transitions are masked by the seamless flow that White creates from beginning to end. Consequently, Viscous Solid registers as a conceptual and unified whole, an interconnected suite of compositions that unfolds according to a natural sequence. And if that weren't enough, White created this elegant and sophisticated work using only guitar lines and manipulations.

Of its sixteen tracks, about seven are brief spectral drones, dark, nocturnal segueways to the more fully developed pieces. The bar is raised high at the outset with “My Love, The Wave Break,” one of only four tracks where guitar is featured as an identifiable instrumental component. In this lovely opener of delicate ascending motifs, see-sawing layers of strummed acoustic guitars swell and recede accompanied by a clacking, shuffling beat. Following a droning interlude, “Mahy” repeats the pattern with gorgeous guitar picking that resonates with ambient shimmer. Darker, portentous moods emerge in the drones like the eerie “Wish Eyes” with its popping percussive patter and “Rockets Can't Get The Stars,” spookily haunted by ghostly wails and crashing waves. It's the longer compositions which impress most, however. In contrast to the album's general hushed ambiance, the aggressive “Blue Eyed Bitter” pairs acoustic strums with cleanly voiced lines of jazz-rock electric guitar, while “Summer's Almost Over” closes the recording with an infectious funk-soul electronica pattern overlaid by dense cloudy textures. The climax of the set, “Please Go Wrong,” appears near the end. Sophisticated and nuanced, it boasts a soulful swaying rhythm that White enriches with insect chatter and murmurs. Tension gradually builds as a faintly implied wisp of melody nudges softly upwards, and then calmly achieves resolution with a repeating upper note. It's a marvelously subtle moment and speaks volumes about the sensitivity White demonstrates throughout. Viscous Solid is a remarkably satisfying work from this Force Inc. and Traum veteran. Exercising admirable restraint throughout, White manages the difficult task of being tasteful yet never boring, and the fact that the entire recording was generated using guitar only makes it even more remarkable.

August 2004