Ghost Wave, out of New Zealand, balances jangle pop with pulsing unease, bright dual guitars with a penumbra of rhythmic murk. Ages, the first full-band LP for this bedroom-project-that-grew, is noticeably darker than early single “Sunsetter,” grounded in a subterranean buzz that is more Jesus & Mary Chain than the Clean.
Ghost Wave started as the solo project of one Matthew Paul, a guitarist and singer whose first addition to the line-up was another guitarist (who also sometimes played bass) Rikki Sutton. He then added Eammon Logan on drums and Mike Ellis on bass. Still, the double guitar interplay has been a factor since the beginning, here perhaps accentuated with marginally cleaner production. “Here She Comes,” then, is slack, slanting and gorgeous. Its drive comes from two layers of guitars, one pushing a rhythm, the other scattering rainbows. Yet while that’s the single, other tracks are darker and stronger. “Horsemouth” comes across as louche and celebratory, a dragging tambourine suggesting a party, the roil of guitar and bass insinuating menace. “I Don’t Mind” is offhandedly radiant, guitars scrabbling away like pencils in the margin, while the bass and drums carry things forward.
The words – and indeed the singing – are not the main thing here. Paul has a high, thin, tremulous voice, rather like Jeremy Earl of Woods, which reinforces a dreamy vibe but never dominates. His lyrics are, at best, ordinary, adolescent, disconsolate. He rasps them out of the side of the mouth, and when he ends a line with “Hey, hey!” it is the most decipherable thing he’s said so far. Not surprisingly, then, the best cut on the album is the instrumental “Arkestra,” a mesmeric jam which puts the bass up front, the drums on kraut-y repeat and the vocals way down (just murmurs). There’s a Clean-like drone in this one, but the guitars have a Sonic-Youth-circa-Rather Ripped sheen. It’s a mess and a resolution all at once, a miasma shot through with clarity. The rest of the album is good, but if you need one reason to play it again, this is it.
DOWNLOAD: “I Don’t Mind” “Here She Comes” “Arkestra”