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DM Stith
Heavy Ghost Appendices Jamie Bowman , July 5th, 2010 12:01

DM Stith’s 2009 debut Heavy Ghost was one of last year’s private joys; a strange, spectral album which bewitched and beguiled those who heard it. Here was an artist and album which seemingly arrived from nowhere with a hermetically sealed worldview of icy, echoing sound. It was all rather disappointing, then, to discover that Stith was simply a graphic designer from Bloomington called David.

As good as Heavy Ghost was, the fact it can spawn a 22 track, double disc collection of b-sides, remixes, demos and cover versions might at first seem overly-ambitious, but as Stith’s sketches and doodles unravel and reveal themselves, it all begins to make perfect sense.

Where the original album was characterised by dense layers of guitar, piano, distant choirs and Stith’s own, multi-tracked voice, here the songs are given space to breathe, often leaving only his Robert Wyatt-like voice and minimal piano backing. Heavy Ghost standouts ‘Braid of Voices’ and ’Thanksgiving Moon’ are refreshed by the tactic of taking something away, leaving them more direct than the complex, ethereal originals.

On the cover versions, Stith verges close to Jeff Buckley territory with reinterpretations of standards such as the Ronette’s ‘Be My Baby’ and Randy Newman’s claustrophobic drama ‘Suzanne’. Both are successful, with ‘Be My Baby’ in particular unwinding itself as a lovingly simple study, far removed from the potent drama and wall of sound of the original.

The second disc of remixes is equally successful at adding to Stith’s delicate soundscapes. Few of the remixers do any thing radical, instead letting the songs develop over time and adding small but perfectly formed flourishes along the way. The hip hop beat of Michna’s remix of ‘Thanksgiving Moon’ and the Spanish guitar flourishes of ‘Braid of Voices’ are particular highlights. Less potent is Dayna Kurtz’s cover of ‘Thanksgiving Moon’ which recasts our hero as an unlikely Harry Connick Jnr swing star. Far from a mere mopping up exercise of odds and sods, this handsome collection adds meat to the bones of Stith’s fascinating and unique work.

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