The Very Last Of The Saints
Simon Jay Catling
, June 28th, 2012 12:14
Though Manchester-based Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller have changed creative approaches repeatedly since first quietly emerging in 2006 – clutches initially full of riffs five-fingered from the 65daysofstatic rehearsal room as worriedaboutsatan - a keenness to exploring space and expanse has always existed within their output. One need only listen to the recent mix they did for The Quietus to realise that the pair's panoramic vision remains prominent, their love of film scores pronounced. "We hatched a plan to soundtrack a journey through an imaginary destination, using David Lupton's amazing album artwork of a rotting, dystopian city as inspiration", they explained of their collage that veered from everything from Thom Yorke and Sandwell District to Scuba and The Irrepressibles. Indeed, much of their previous work has always felt as though constructed with an imaginary film reel running through their minds in tandem.
So it is that despite switching their name to Ghosting Season within the past eighteen months, a different moniker hasn't necessarily yielded a complete departure, though certain aspects have undoubtedly changed. Last year the duo told The Quietus that a support slot with Shackleton in Manchester in late 2010 re-focused their direction, the shirt-drenched charge of late night clubs becoming more alluring than the early doors curfew of evening gigdom they'd settled into.
Almost as if to back up that, The Very Last Of The Saints comes out on veteran DJ Sasha's Last Night On Earth imprint and makes in part a stylistic move towards techno that was previously hinted at on last year's Far End Of The Graveyard EP.
'Time Without Question' joins the title track from that previous release as one of their most dance-orientated cuts to date, with burbles of computed instruction chattering away as though processing the stoical four to the floor rhythm that itself communicates, even if only to tersely demand movement. 'Pio' is another with its feet stuck to the sweat-sodden late night tiles, softer of edge and more reflective in its tone, it presents itself as a daybreak soundtrack, the final dance to fade of a night.
Yet the shift isn't as pronounced as one might've been led to believe. For large parts Ghosting Season continue to reach out for a broader sound beyond a rigid template. The beats have hardened and the track lengths have shortened, but The Very Last Of The Saints feels more like progression than a complete overhaul. This is a relief, for their 2009 'satan-monikered LP Arrivals possessed far too much quality to completely leave behind.
After first 'Ghost Drift's' foreboding welcoming and the return of 'Far End Of The Graveyard' in all its deep-welled pulsing glory, Miller and Ragsdale seemingly revert back to what they do best – allowing the vivid imagery mapping their minds to take control rather than the white labels they've recently heard. Much of what this album evokes isn't too far removed from the now well-trodden path of late night suburbia, of bleary-eyed journeys home and a landscape forced to shield from the harshness of artificial light long after nature has settled into dusk.
However the feel of songs like 'Follow Your Eyes' and 'Lies' go beyond such fall-back imagery and tease your neurons into further wandering, to dystopian futures, apocalyptic post-futures, created fictional experiences that stretch to worlds away.
To make a slightly skewed link to another Manchester-based artist of a different hue, it was L.S Lowry's stoic, stubborn drawings of matchstick men that garnered him a recognition that's stretched beyond his own life; yet it was the great washes of shade that made up his seascapes of trips to the northern coasts of England and their gradual blend of colours free of defined boundary that suggested a great spectrum of influence was at play. So it goes here that whilst the more defined elements - the near-constant thud of the bass drum, the rhythmic gridlines that similarly seem to emerge and fade in their visibility – provide the immediate notice, it remains the nuances of what Ghosting Season do adjacent to these that makes this record so captivating.
It wasn't a red herring they threw out by suggesting that their world was now shaped towards a more primitive euphoria, their leaner, more direct live sets and subsequently increasingly frequent small hours billings providing the proof of that. The Very Last Of The Saints doesn't exist in a similar realm though; it's full of ideas too disparate for the dance floor and possesses touchstones beyond even the vast sphere that now makes up electronica to fully fit into a genre constraint – something that is to Ragsdale and Miller's advantage on this excellent record.