Music review: Ghostpoet, Village Underground, Shoreditch
With Mercury-nominated 2011 debut Peanut Blues & Melancholy Jam, Ghostpoet rewired something very British into his own bleak, bruised sound.
At best, Obaro Ejimiwe’s dream-like delivery is magnetic, intimate; pulling you under the covers with him for honest confessions. At worst, it’s lazy, his elliptical phrasings and slurry delivery packing cotton wool between him and you. Lines like “dim sum and noodles were life-long friends who kept squabbling all the time... I try in vain to make sense of it all," can leave you cold.
As the sun sets through the skylights of Village Underground, an industrial space well-matched to the music, he opens with "Gaaasp". The crowd seem subdued, straight from the office, and it seems his soporific style could go either way.
But, thanks to his charisma and drum machine, he veers away from the murkiness of his studio offerings. He beams at the crowd asking: “are you here to party?”. The addition of synths, tubular bells and other instrumentation not heard on the album, builds a lush, upbeat soundscape that it's hard not to move to.
The skeleton of the set is still the dubby synths and electronic clicks that sound akin to the rainy bus stop setting of the video for track "Meltdown". Hailing from Tooting, south London, and recording his first album in his bedroom in Coventry, he paints an undoubtedly urban soundscape - comparing red eyes with brake lights - that you’d be forgiven for thinking were informed by a comedown or two.
There’s a rich British heritage to his sound - the everyday concerns of Mike Skinner, the immersiveness of Massive Attack, the delivery of Roots Manuva - that doesn’t sound out of place between contemporaries Nicolas Jaar and Flying Lotus.
Samples of rain and tweeting birds add atmosphere, before ‘Survive It’, co-sung with a female vocalist, consolidates his sound and the audience’s spirits. He finishes with an unflinching appraisal of depression in "Comatose" and the bittersweet "Meltdown" - a couplet showcasing his emotional range. And for anyone in any doubt, a raucous encore of the defiant "Us Against Whatever Ever", shows that he most certainly was here to party.
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