Without Ghosts Conjures Up Pleasing Beats and Melodies

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Without Ghosts
Bridge and Tunnel (Harmsonic)

The Bridge and Tunnel cover also encourages further examination. These symbols are understated, but hold so much potential. Art reduced to a few simple components. I could sit and stare at this cover?or a larger version of same?for hours on end, deriving pleasure from my own imagination, without any need for prompting, without ghosts. The square, the triangle and the circle?so much more pleasing than alpha and omega or a slightly unfocused shot of some vegetation, don't you agree?

The music is similarly pleasing: hushed voices and beats so gentle and constant as to almost not be there. When lyrics do intrude, they make a generous nonsense, glimpse at half-forgotten memories and link together Eastern despots with present-day paraphernalia. (The title is mendacious: these ambient soundscapes, this melancholic electronica, do nothing but evoke whispery apparitions.) The drawn-out start to "The Kids Are Dead" (an instrumental replete with saddened echoes of bells and the occasional Gregorian chant) reminds me of the intro to Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," and hell. I like that.

Memories and ghosts are so damn important. Bridge and Tunnel understands this. They may list an intimidating array of electronic friends?Nord Lead 1, G3 and G4, Mutator, Lexicon PCM91 and MPX 100, E-MU E6400, Motu 2408 Mk II, DBX 386, HagenukClou, Lavazza, 1212 Mk IIs, Boss TU-12H, Sovtek Tube Midget 50H, et al.?but that's only because they would have been unable to reveal these half-remembered melodies and yesterday's radio static without them.

Maybe it should come as no surprise that these two London boys (Nathan Bennett on bass/guitar/voice, Mark Bihler on computer love) have remixed Saint Etienne and France's Mellow. The center of the instrumental "L.A. Knights" boasts a cyclical pedal steel and continually threatens to burst into the refrain to Kraftwerk's "Autobahn." Such playfulness is very common here, and endearing. I swear that the guitar on "A Wheelchair for Mrs. Ruple" has been lifted from the Cream songbook, while what is that menacing voice on "Nothing Is Sacred" doing if not wickedly mimicking the entire sword and sorcery genre? Or perhaps that's simply Nathan's musical apprenticeship in New York's grindcore scene asserting itself. The start of "Tulsa" whistles gently to itself like something from (ex-Tricky backing singer) Allison Goldfrapp's baroque Felt Mountain album.

A square, a triangle and a circle. I like it. There's a wholeness and neatness to all of this. Also, Nathan proclaims that "contemporary r&b is the devil" and you have to like that, don't you?

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