An elusive, complicated work with plenty to be enthralled by.
James Skinner 2010-05-25
With the release of their last album Glory Hope Mountain, The Acorn caught the ear of everybody from Elbow’s Guy Garvey (who named it his favourite of 2008) to Kanye West (who posted the video for Crooked Legs on his blog under the all-caps heading, “THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!”). The album itself is indeed a beautiful thing, wherein singer Rolf Klausener considers his Honduran mother’s flight to Canada and the eventual happiness she found there. Along the way the Ottawans tapped into something grand and elemental, resulting in a set that felt both deeply personal and wonderfully vast, thoroughly earning its many plaudits.
No Ghost is not a concept piece as such, and it occasionally sees the band react against the outright prettiness they’re capable of – in the opening Cobbled From Dust, squalls of feedback and low end disorientate the listener to the point where you think something might have gone with the recording, before the insistent rhythm returns even stronger. Harmonic wisps of guitar permeate the record, and the title-track abandons acoustic guitars entirely, entering on crunching, muted strums reminiscent of Cursive’s abrasive masterpiece Domestica.
But it’s not quite as simple as that. When Klausener and co. strip things back, they come on like the Nick Drakes, the Sam Beams of this world: deftly picked guitar, plangent violin and double bass propping up evocative, considered lyricism. Sequenced immediately after the title-track is Slippery When Wet, a delicate, rootsy number that tugs at the tear-ducts with genuine power. Common to all of these songs is a sense of dislocation – the impression that something, somewhere, is out of synch. Whether this is communicated via opaque lyrics or swathes of noise, it does make for an occasionally unsettling listen.
This is an elusive, complicated work, which by its nature fails to reward in quite the same manner as its predecessor. What it sometimes lacks in emotional weight, however, it makes up for in adventurous, finely sculpted arrangements. You could draw a loose analogy with Radiohead here, and how Kid A was perceived after OK Computer, or even OK Computer after The Bends; whatever, there is plenty to be enthralled by on No Ghost.