“No Ghostless Place” – ‘Raised By Swans’
As you are more than aware, Highly Evolved is undergoing many-a-change these past few days: I hope that reading-regulars aren’t too displaced with the new layout, for we intentionally aimed to install an animated banner as an introduction to the page [hence the swirling colours of magnificence above, which will have to suffice for now]. With some minor drawbacks – those being, respectively, lag and repetition – we eventually decided to dispense with the animation altogether. So, there goes five-hours of my life I won’t be getting back…
Until I can come up with a hand-drawn still, things will have to remain mundane for now; as you are probably also aware, we’ve set up our own Twitter and Facebook accounts, so you can track, follow, or do whatever the fudge you want, relating and pertaining to Highly Evolved.
So I’d not like to dawdle any further – I thought I’d steer away from the ambient scene, seeing as coverage for ‘Eluvium’s’ “Similes” and ‘Bullets In Madison’s’ “We Became Your Family When You Died” aren’t having the desired effect I had originally anticipated. Deciding I would get back to the roots of the blog, with‘Raised By Swans’, an indie-rock band from Ontario, Canada, I find I’m helplessly drawn to its riff-simplicity, with bands like ‘Interpol’ and ‘Kyte’ comparisons looming overhead.
I was reading one of my previous reviews the other day – as you do – and found myself caught up in ‘The Besnard Lakes’ all over again; feeling slightly estranged, for at the time, I was listening to ‘Raised By Swans’, I was delightfully surprised to find this band fervently dissimilar from the usual-listenings of the North American region and Canada in particular.“No Ghostless Place” is a refreshing follow-up from the band’s initial debut way-back in ’05. So – you do the math – this album smacks of maturity, and I would liken it to the lovechild of ‘Interpol’s’ “Turn On The Bright Lights” and ‘Kyte’s’ “Science For The Living”.
This album really got me thinking in relation to ‘Kyte’s’ return with “Dead Waves” – which I heavily considered reviewing prior to “No Ghostless Place”. Now that I seem to have matured [only a little] since my review of “Science For The Living”, I found that “Dead Waves” was characteristically stuck in relation to sound; there was little, if any, captivation left. All the tracks started to melt into one and other, and it was “Science For The Living” all over again…
When I first stumbled across “No Ghostless Place”, I was amazed how much it sounded like a Canadian-twisted ‘Interpol’. Now, this is in no way like the American ‘Interpol’ we are all anticipating; but seriously, more like a cousin with familial-ties to a sort of ‘Arcade Fire’ meets ‘The Besnard Lakes’. It brings the best of three-worlds into this collaboration of – reiterating – simplistic guitar-riffs, courtesy of ‘Interpol’, which are in themselves just as, if not more, effective than the complicated squeals akin to Hendrix. I heard the ethereal-hollowness, the haunting echo of ‘Kyte’ in the vocalisation, and the dark, despondent lyrics of ‘Arcade Fire’s’ “Neon Bible”.
And when I listen to this album in its entirety, I feel like I am falling. I can never quite pick myself up in the same way. In this respect, “No Ghostless Place” is kind of like a parasite, a take-take-take relationship: the more you listen, the worser you feel. These tiny little fingers scrape away the fleshy sinews covering your heart, digging deeper still, until at very last they make themselves at home within your chest. I know what you’re thinking, its character ‘Kane’ from ‘Ridley Scott’s’ “Alien” all over again; it’s eventually going to pop out and say hello. And although many of you reading this might consider it a negative-connotation, this semi-elaborate allegorical representation of how catchy and memorable the songs are is what drives the album on the whole.
A four-pronged band, consisting of ‘Eric Howden’ [vocals/guitar], ‘Alex Wright’ [guitar], ‘Andy Magoffin’ [bass] and ‘Brady Parr’ [percussion], form the basis for ‘Raised By Swans’. Their album, “No Ghostless Place”, tops at close to an hour, with a total of thirteen mindblowing tracks. The album, on the whole, is deceptively long: while in itself, a majority of tracks flow from one to the next, stand-alone features like the opening track “We Were Never Young”, are a perfect format for single-release. So, even if you haven’t heard the rest of the album, it’s not hard to appreciate the qualities of individual tracks.
This – I believe – is a rare feature. I find that most albums tend to be one or the other – they either ‘got-to-stick-together’ or they just ‘don’t-mix’. I’ve touched on some similarities between ‘Raised By Swans’ and some other bands, so you already know what to kind-of expect. For those of you unfamiliar with the idea behind the impact of simplistic-riffs, I would constitute a song or album in this way, which features no elaborate or extensively-complex guitar-solos; this is probably the most effective aspect of “No Ghostless Place”, and it works harmoniously with the vocalisation of lyrics. There aren’t any overpowering crescendos, no subsonic-synth, no deep bellow of bass or percussion, everything is kind of at the same level: which, in the end, might need an equalizer for an amplifier/speaker set-up, because it would probably be too similar, too same-y. This is perhaps, the only setback for “No Ghostless Place”, and I wouldn’t rate the album solely on this hiccup.
“No Ghostless Place” opens – as previously stated – with “We Were Never Young”, and it’s this sole reason which compelled me to listen onwards. The neat, tidy juxtaposition between vocals and guitar are appropriately contrasted: while ‘Howden’ takes the highs, guitar will often help balance sound so as to not make the track too asymmetrical. This delicate duet between vocals and guitar is wonderfully displaced by resonance, and the accompanying lyrics are absolutely soy-perb!
“We were you-u-u-ng…
We didn’t heed* those things…
If birds were singing then…
We were loved…
We were young,
like the universe,
like our mothers were,
like these words…*”
With my newfound appreciation for well-thought-out lyrics, it makes a song all that much better when I hear something simple, yet effective, poetic in its own right; this track is a shining example of what you can expect from ‘Raised By Swans’. I will finish by saying that you’d be foolish not to listen to “No Ghostless Place”. Once ensnared, you’ll never escape; I know I’m still struggling in its web. I would be delighted to see more from ‘Raised By Swans’ in the future, and it will definitely be a band worth watching out for…
Reviewer’s Pick: “We Were Never Young”
Stand-out Tracks: “We Were Never Young”, “Night Fighter”, “There’s Hope Yet”, “North Of Light’s End”
The Enantiomorphic God