”When you wake in the night do you feel alone? Like the time that you had is already gone? Can you feel the light? Can you feel at all? I can see it in you. Can you see it in me?”
Rock can be split into two major eras – Ground Zero-based Rock derived from Chuck Berry, Elvis, The Beatles and other pioneers of the 60s/70s and Post-Radiohead Rock. It’s a gross oversimplification but the underlying principles of each camp define the major musical characteristics of adherents, particularly the shift from song-centered proto-rock to the more amorphous, textural vibe prevalent after Thom Yorke and Co. (and many others like Blur, Pavement, and other boundary pushers of the 90s/2000s not to mention the rise of electro wizards like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and Squarepusher). However, one occasionally finds a band comfortable straddling this divide, dragging their fingers through varied traditions to scoop out their own sand for the hourglass.
Athens, GA’s Ghost Owl is both resolutely modern – a hum of technology rides a bright current that just feels bloody contemporary – and steeped in stage-won, long practiced instrumental aptitude and well-sculpted song craft. Adam Perry (bass, lead vocals, songwriting), Albert Suttle (drums) and Matthew McDonald (keyboards, guitar, vocals) are seasoned musicians after more than a decade with Perpetual Groove, which announced an indefinite hiatus in 2013. But, Ghost Owl is no derivative of PGroove. There is something more expressly engaging and effusively alive about the trio in this new, swiftly evolving incarnation. Where before the “jam band” tag may have applied – to a degree – what’s emerging in Ghost Owl is EDM wise and much closer to the gleaming slipstream of modern rock innovators Simple Minds and Ultravox as well as contemporaries like Foals, Rubblebucket, and The Flaming Lips. The cerebral, emotionally prickly undertow of a lot of Perpetual Groove’s catalog is replaced by a direct inducement to breathe in, breathe out, and dance in the sunshine.
After less than a year of experimentation and exploratory gigs, Ghost Owl has released its first official salvo, Say Goodbye To Finland [listen to it above, at bottom of this article or on the band’s Bandcamp Page where you can do the right thing and buy a copy!]. From the first gentle murmurings on through many bright bursts, the album is invigorating, a rush of tentative positivity.
Ghost Owl never offers puffery, readily acknowledging that “American dreams are dying” but displaying a spirit that says they’re not letting them fade without a fight. Amidst crooked hues and widescreen performances, Ghost Owl, by example as much as anything stated outright, offer something viscerally enzymatic, a sonic push to get up and get into it while there’s still something to get into, an invitation to run into the night and tear down the walls that keep us apart.
Guitars flutter in, adding mood and spice, but it’s the interlocking rhythms and pulsing electronics that dominate and provide a perfect chrome sparkle for Perry’s husky, liquid voice to flow over. Unlike a lot of electronica aware rock, Say Goodbye To Finland keeps every track lean, never overworking a groove or belaboring a point. They get in, get the job done, and jet while one still wants more – something that bodes well for the live progression of these tunes in days ahead. The sequencing is spot-on, too, culminating in a pair of tunes, “Clouds Will Lift” and “Sun Will Shine,” that are genuinely healing, digitized jubilation that clears away the grit from eyes to reveal new horizons where we’ll be okay despite all the evidence to the contrary.
We snagged Ghost Owl for DI’s signature questionnaire and here’s what the boys had to say.