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Team Ghost
Celebrate What You Can't See Simon Jay Catling , December 6th, 2010 04:43

What Team Ghost’s Nicholas Fromageau must think of the current vacuous adornment of vaguely hip, trebly reverb drifting through 2010 is anyone’s guess; if anything, one can’t help but think the M83 co-founder must feel a little irked. Shoegaze is an odd genre in that many of its main purveyors seem comfortable in their association with it, one need look no further than this EPs bankrollers Sonic Cathedral’s openness regarding their definition for evidence of that. But it’s at its best when confined to the margins, lurking in the shadows when the snarling beast of rock n’ roll has taken popular alternative music to overly simplistic levels of testosterone – see its initial incarnation’s antidote to early 90s grunge, its existence in the ether as The Strokes commanded the surface in the new millennium.

Currently, though, no one wants to face up to the real world, never mind take it by the scruff of the neck. Those that do form the increasingly hard-to-pinpoint alternative mainstream now stem from shoegaze, but they cut and paste it with an ultimately empty conglomerate of 80s 4AD dream-pop influences, stoner slackerdom and early 60s pop. Their world suddenly invaded by these soulless saps, where do the escapists go when they want to escape?

Celebrate What You Can’t See answers that by resolutely refusing to slip into the sort of comfortably mellow glow that the chillwavers and hypnagogic popsters of the year are extracting from their parent influences. It heads in the opposite direction; there’s a spine-tingling chill to opener ‘High Hopes,’ a crystalline clarity to the guitars slicing through the aerated vocals and the song’s watching on synths. It’s no bold advancement in sound for Fromageau who, despite the collaborative efforts of fellow Team Ghost studio member Christophe Guerin, has created something intrinsically linked to his old charges, while also recalling his early-millennium contemporaries Ulrich Schnauss and the Radio Dept. As such there’s a slightly dated, clunky feel to the spatial awareness between synth and keys on the title track, gaps left blank on a canvas that could’ve done with more shading. Yet it’s because of these well worn nuances that it’s a success; a comforting, familiar beauty unfolding throughout the EP. It’s their confidence in this well-bedded structure that allows the pair to tug at the heart tissue.

Again, this isn’t without flaw, but if final track ‘Into My Arms’ feels a little less thought out - a winding down of sorts - then that’s only because the two preceding numbers, ‘It’s Been A Long Way, But We’re Free’ and ‘Signs & Wonders,’ positively surge with emotional gravitas. The former is more subtle in its subdued circling electronic tinctures and layered loops, but then its hidden energy is revealed in the latter, a rousing tide of sound capturing the senses in their wake and flooding them with overwhelming potency.

The biggest problem for the French artist ought to be trying to escape the shadow of his old group; but on Celebrate What You Can’t See he actively seems to be sticking to the template that’s rewarded him so well in the past. So what is this, a stubborn reaction to the overriding lethargy that sweeps the dispersed sub-genres of his younger peers? Probably not: Fromageau’s never given any previous indication that he’s particularly swayed by genre comings and goings, and it’s that which gives his output a singular, isolated quality. Questions over whether he should look to move it further forward can for the moment remain hushed; for now the injection of life into a genre in danger of mothering too much deadweight will be refreshing enough to most, even if done with old tools.