Ghostwriter w/Michael Paine – Morrow

Ghostwriter - Morrow

Ghostwriter – Morrow

Having carved himself an inventive niche under his Ghostwriter guise with 2010’s The Continuing Adventures Of The Strange Sound Association album and 2013’s Dimensions EP, Mark Brend (erstwhile member of Mabel Joy, The Palace Of Light, Farina and Strange Sounds Orchestra) returns again with a new label, a slightly wider cast of contributors and a warmer though no less esoteric sonic approach.  With Brend’s newest collaborator Michael Paine sharing the billing, Morrow is an endearing product of English eccentricity being expressed far from the madding metropolitan crowd by a low-key conjoining of likeminded souls.

Inspired by mid-20th century novelist Phyllis Paul, a writer with a penchant for both the natural and the supernatural, Morrow may certainly feel like a soundtrack disembodied from an unfinished book-to-film adaptation but it’s one that certainly functions well in its own otherworldly non-rock bubble.  Deploying a dizzying array of instrumentation (everything from autoharp and dulcimer to synth and vibraphone), antique samples (primarily ghostly voices from out of copyright TV shows and films), found sounds (ticking clocks and lapping coastal waters) and the returning largely wordless Victoriana vocals of ex-George chanteuse Suzy Mangion, Morrow fashions an immersive sound world to get lost inside.

Whilst the collection ebbs and flows elegantly as one continuous piece, individual highlights are still apparent and different ones appear on each listen.  Hence, cherry-picked delights at time of writing include the multi-suited home-to-harbour journeying of “Cooling Bay,” the wistful minimalism and incorporeal plummy voices of the sub-editor troubling “(s)pace (l)eft (o)ver,” the synth-subverted classical twinkling of the Wendy Carlos-indebted “Secker Morrow Waltz,” the haunted yet beatific evocations of “The Death of Phyllis Paul,” the choral Mangion-led bucolic balminess of “Bidding Bell,” the pretty melancholic explorations of “Our Sweet Portion,” the plaintive piano and foreboding percussion juxtaposing of “Twice Lost” and the ISAN-like electronica of “The Hemel Hempstead Mystery.”

Ultimately, journalistic dissection can only take you so far into explaining the near-magical qualities of Morrow – arguably one of this year’s most transporting and thought-provoking treasures.  Let your own ears do the judging and hunt it down before it’s lost in a limited edition haze.

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