Ghost Bike: Sun of the Dead

At the risk of reading too much into its diverse sound, Vlad Shusterman's second Ghost Bike full-length, his follow-up to 2010's You Don't Exist, sounds very much like the work of someone who's absorbed the musical styles associated with both the Middle East and Western world. Throughout Sun of the Dead, Middle Eastern sonorities rub shoulders with rock elements such as hard-hitting drums and distorted electric guitars, though not in such a way that a clear split can be drawn between them. Instead, the various parts blend into a polyglot style the Russian-born and Jerusalem-based multi-instrumentalist calls “ghost-rock.” Multiple sub-genres surface during the fifty-four-minute recording, among them dubstep, shoegaze, electronica, industrial, drone-metal, and trip-hop. Ghost Bike's hallucinatory sound can be explained at least in part by the fact that many of those styles appear within a single song (the repeated appearances of speaking voices also intensifies the effect).

While Shusterman's credited with guitars, synths, samples, programming, and vocals, it's not a purely one-person project, as a number of vocalists contribute to six of the eleven tracks. The project's heavy character is established from the outset in the drone-metal overture “Ridiculous,” its foreboding haze rendered all the more desperate through the addition of Tamar Singer's vocal. Less oppressive by comparison are “Sun for a Lover,” which, while still heavy, is made more accessible through the pop melodies sung by Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, and “Boschian Bubble,” a heavily atmospheric riff on dubstep featuring Ayala Almog's ethereal voice. The album's at its most doom-laden during the harrowing “Slaveship Earth,” a grime-coated fireball powered by raw trip-hop beats and pulsating dub basslines, and “Love Song for Norway” and “The German Ocean,” two especially powerful exercises in guitar-generated blaze.

If one track were to be chosen as representative of the album, a good candidate would be “Safe on the Edge” in the way it offsets the warmth of Almog's vocal melodies with bruising electric guitar playing and a crushing drum attack. Sun of the Dead is certainly one of the most explicitly aggressive albums n5MD's released in recent days and one that likely would appeal to fans of the label's bitcrush recordings; in fact, it wouldn't be stretching it too far to suggest that “Love Song for Norway” could even pass for a particularly heavy bitcrush track.

January 2014