Music Review: Thought Forms - Ghost Mountain

Thought Forms – Ghost Mountain

When I listen to new music, or to a new album by a band or musician I already know and love, I listen to it on my headphones. I like to be completely focused on the music and the lyrics, and let it win me over without any distractions. When I first put Thought Forms Ghost Mountain on I was in a rush to get to work and put it on while I was on my way out the door, distracted by other thoughts on my mind. Those distractions only lasted seconds. I don’t remember my journey to work, I must have done it on auto-pilot. I don’t remember if I was sitting or standing in the subway car, if I grabbed a cup of tea on my way or how many cigarettes I lit up. All I remember is the way the music grabbed me by my insides and twisted them around, threw a few punches in there and then wrapped me in a soft, warm blanket. Apart from all of the emotions that the music sent me spinning through, all I remember thinking was “Oh. My. God.”. I may be prone to hyperbole in some situations, but when I say that this album is amazing I mean it with no exaggeration. It is amazing.

Nothing is as deep as the rivers we keep – Sans Soleil

I’ve followed Thought Forms for years, ever since seeing them play at Cake Shop in NYC in 2006, spending time with them on different occasions in NYC and England, seeing them grow through their first album, solo projects, different live sets and ultimately opening for Portishead on their North American Tour in late 2011. Since then they have recorded their second album, Ghost Mountain, while still continuing to tour and play live shows on a regular basis (although I wish they were able to make it to the States more often than they do). 

Ghost Mountain kicks off with Landing, a dark epic of doom which drags you into a bleak box where you feel like your screams go unheard while the music builds incessantly and then dies down, giving you a chance to breathe: beauty within darkness. The album follows on with Ghost Mountain – You and Me, a respite in the world of darkness created by Landing, beautiful soft riffs, building up in harmony, slowly adding melody and background vocals. These sounds come from within, two people together somewhere in the wilderness, holding hands, no words, together and not alone anymore. Charlie’s angelic voice is swirling around you, you feel lost inside your own mind that seems to be melded with the mind of the person next to you, two people in their own matching worlds.

Frozen in time , Oceans of blood, Electric hum, Over again, hiding beneath acres of history, And I wait for you to come, To come around – Ghost Mountain – You and Me

Sans Soleil is the first single on the album (see the video below), and is the first song on the album that departs from the mainly instrumental sound Thought Forms had before. Charlie and Deej’s voices respond to each other, and as always their guitars communicate perfectly together, creating harmonies that sound beautifully natural and organic. The video matches the song perfectly:

Burn me Clean is my own personal favourite on Ghost Mountain. It is a call, a request, standing on a mountain in the wilderness, calling out to the world with the use of a flute, guitars, drums and a voice. This song is absolutely amazingly beautiful – it could be used as part of a movie soundtrack, standing alone, surrounded only by clouds and stars; in a clearing in a dark forest; standing around a fire, invoking a higher power. The song evokes elements of witchcraft and paganism with an underlying intensity of gloom, heavy guitar sounds waiting to suddenly burst into destruction before disappearing into the background again, forever present, always ready to reappear and crush the sound, but surrounded by tenderly ethereal sounds and vocals. Always an element of menace in beauty, and when the guitar breaks out it is as if your heart does too. Destruction to create renewal, depressing but ultimately uplifting.  A paradox of a song that won’t leave you after the first listen. Close your eyes and let the music take you where it is supposed to take you. You may not come back exactly the same.

Only Hollow takes you away from the lonely mountain or forest and brings you back to this world. Charlie’s vocals sound less ethereal and angelic here and more angry and aggressive, the perfect segway between the darkness of Burn Me Clean and the delicate beauty of the next song, Afon. Afon is like a beautiful butterfly, flying high above you, a song that you cannot contain but that will not let you go. I would love to hear this one live to see what Thought Forms do with it.

Fine white lines of light join us eye to eye, From coast, through air, in waves, Blood lines fade, bleach light you made – Afon

I’ve heard Song for Junko live many times and am so glad it made it on to Ghost Mountain in its latest format. The piece is a back and forth, layered double vocals and guitar riffs talking to each other with Guy’s fantastic drumming consistently leading the way from beginning to end. The piece is a momentum of build-up and release, harmony and utter distortion. 

To close the album out, O provides the eeriest sounds yet. There is no way to categorize this song as it has a pure Thought Forms sound that calls to the gothic, dark side in me that I still carry around with love. Charlie’s voice sounds utterly angelic at times while Deej’s sounds completely demonic in the background. Impending doom with a sudden change about five minutes into the song as it breaks into anger and palpable pain, to go back to the initial sound. A flash of anger within a time of search and questioning. Brilliant.

Waiting for good fate to knock, He don’t see those good things for his mind is too small, A tight narrow space, and the space is not black, No it’s not even black and it’s all your own doing – O

It’s not even the end of January yet and I know that Ghost Mountain is going to be in the Top Ten of my favourite releases this year. Own it and listen to it loud – let it take you deep down inside and far away at the same time.

Charlie and Deej took the time to answer some questions that I had for them in regards to the making of Ghost Mountain and other related interests. For further information on the band see the links below the interview.

Jade:  Although Ghost Mountain definitely contains the signature Thought Forms sound it has definitely taken a step away from the sound of your first album, mainly with the addition of more lyrics and vocals. Is there a reason for this, or was it mainly an organic process?
TF: It just happened naturally… when we first started out in 2004 we were totally instrumental but as time went on and we became more confident we started adding some more vocal stuff into our improv bits when we were playing live… that spilled over into the writing process. 
Jade:  How do your songs mainly come together? Is each of you in charge of certain parts that come together as one track, or do you each write your own songs? Describe a typical Thought Forms song writing process.
TF: Most of the time we just get together and things evolve from improvisations and if we’re lucky and something feels good, we’ll be able to sort of remember what we were doing or the recorder will have been switched on! Actually, just the other day I was going through some old recordings from jams back in 2010 and there were the very first recordings of what became “Ghost Mountain You And Me” and “Song For Junko” and it was cool to see how much they’d changed in the past three years!
Other times one of us will bring in a more set, structured idea for a song and we’ll work on it together, like with the tracks “Sans Soleil” and “Only Hollow”. Some of the tracks developed through playing live over three years but we wrote and recorded those within about three weeks! It was a new way of working for us.

Jade: In the past year you have been on tour with both Portishead and Beak>. Have either band influenced your music or live act at all?
TF: Deej :
I think there have been influences, it’s hard not to when you play with great musicians! Geoff Barrow giving us advice, Ade Utley showing us new guitar tricks in his guitar orchestra, Jim Barr being a great producer on our record, Matt Williams singing and joking with us... It all gets stored somewhere!

Jade: Do you have a specific moment during the tours that really sticks out and/or is memorable to you? (Different answers per band member are fine!)
TF: Deej : Yeah - when Guy thought Whales lay eggs. Very amusing. 
Apart from having the pleasure of seeing Portishead...
I think playing in amazing venues that fill up fast before you go on. 
Charlie : So many amazing / funny / surreal moments. I suppose playing wise, when we played with Portishead in the big outdoor venues – that was amazing and very, very scary, but beautiful. And like Deej said, getting to see Portishead every night! 

Jade: How did the making/recording of Ghost Mountain differ from that of the previous album?
TF: Firstly, we had a lot more time to do it. The first album was recorded in just a few days and we went into the studio trying to replicate what we do live – we all played together in the same room and there were very few overdubs.
With Ghost Mountain, we had much more studio time from the outset but also, we’d decided / realized that trying to “capture” what we are live on a record was not something that would ever really work… Making a record is a different thing entirely and we embraced that this time round and really made use of the studio.
Also, this was our first time working with a producer. Jim really helped us to grow as a band and develop our ideas. It was great to have someone there as an objective outside influence and better yet, one who makes music that we really love and who, through seeing us play many, many times, really knew us and understood what we were about and what we wanted to achieve.

Jade: Who are your main influences (does not need to be limited to music)?
TF: Deej : I guess the music scene in the 90's played a major part in my guitar playing... Listening to Pixies, Nirvana, and Sonic Youth but those came from friends and people I met that introduced it to me. I'm like a sponge and I find it important to be open in learning new things. 

Jade: What are your plans for 2013? Will you be touring after the release of Ghost Mountain?
TF: We’re going on tour in Europe right when the album comes out, supporting Esben and the Witch -  we’re really looking forward to that.
We plan to tour a lot this year though most of it is unconfirmed at this point.
We’ll also be starting work on writing new music as well as doing lots of visual stuff.

Jade: What is each of your favourite song on the album and why?
TF: Deej : I like them all because they're a lot different from each other but still flow together. 
I do have a soft spot for "Burn Me Clean" because the way it was made... We played an improv gig at the Croft in Bristol and the song just came out of us naturally, it was like we invoked something and luckily we recorded it. After the show we listened to it and then slowly molded into a structure. I love how the song grows from eastern sounds to dark heavy drones and then to an epic explosion of beautiful noise. 
Charlie : It’s hard to choose, they’re all quite different and I’m quite changeable!
“Afon” was a song that we played live a few times and had tried to record demos of but we were close to discarding it as we couldn’t get it right. Jim got such a great drum sound and through his suggestions it ended up sounding exactly how we’d wanted it to without knowing how to achieve it. So for that reason, I’m especially pleased with that one!

Jade:  You also have solo projects that you each work on outside of Thought Forms. Please provide more information on them and links if possible!
TF: Charlie : I make music on my own under the name Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan  - I started doing it in 2006 and have done a few gigs since 2007, but very few.  To date, the recordings have been mostly improvised, one-take kinda things but I have some more structured stuff that I’ve been sitting on for far too long that I hope to get recorded this year.
Deej : Yes, I have a solo project that’s named after me... Deej Dhariwal
I use my solo work to experiment and try different things. It’s essentially bedroom jams full of drones, loops and melody.

Thought Forms Website
Thought Forms Facebook Page 
Invada Records
Thought Forms in New York 2011 Photo Set

Music: The Raveonettes - Observator

You know how there are so many bands that release an amazing first and/or second album, and then you lose interest in them? Or those old bands that have an amazing repertoire of music, but sounded much better 10 or 20 or 30 years ago? I could give you a list of them that would go on for ages, including even some of my favourite bands that I feel I have been listening to my whole life. The Raveonettes are the exact opposite for me – every time they release a new album I find it even better than the last one. The latest, Observator, released back in September, is absolutely brilliant.

The Raveonettes have always been one of my main NYC loves, and Pretty in Black, released early 2005, was one of the first albums that I purchased just after I moved to NYC. I remember strolling into Tower Records on Broadway (I’m still sad that it doesn’t exist anymore), listening to it on one of those listening stations and taking it away with me. Those were the days when I didn’t really know anyone in the city and spent my free time walking around the streets and hanging out in record and book shops. I love the mix of Jesus and Mary Chain-style tunes with 50’s-style rock and Motown sounds combined with lyrics that are often darker than you would expect, especially in the more poppier songs. I‘ve seen them live many times and they never disappoint.

In any case, this latest album just knocked their previous album, Raven in the Grave, off my obsession list. It’s darker and dronier (don’t know if that is a word, but it’s the only one that actually says what I want it to say), and also sadder than other albums they have released. It corresponds perfectly with my mind set at the moment, and actually paradoxically lifts me up and makes me feel happier. The lyrics are spot on in all of the songs. I wish I could play it on a loop all night at work tonight, but I don’t think that’s possible, so I will just listen to it again all day today…

“I saw it you and me in time apart
I get a shiver from broken hearts
I like the sun when it don't shine
I make it hard on anyone
So many restless souls
I don't wanna be young and cold
I don't wanna be young and cold”
From Young and Cold

Music: Ren Harvieu

Just last week I was complaining that I didn't feel like I had been inspired by music by new musicians anymore, and that I was just sticking with all my favourites. Granted, I have a lot of favourites, many of whom continue to release albums, so I am never short of new music to listen to. Just new musicians/bands/singers etc. I've been thinking about it all week since my last music-related post... You know, that feeling of listening to a song and immediately feeling a dozen different emotions at once, and then getting all excited about discovering a new, brilliant album that you will listen to over and over and over again, and subsequently force everyone else to listen to. I remember when that happened to me with Karen Elson a couple of years ago. I literally fell in love with her album on the first listen, listened to it over and over again for weeks, and was really excited when I got to see her play a show to a small crowd at the Studio at Webster Hall. I've been waiting for her to release some new material for a while, and noticed that there was a new video announced on her Facebook page... A duet with woman called Ren Harvieu.

So I watched the video (and loved the song of course), and then started looking up who this Ren Harvieu with this beautiful voice was. It appears that she is British, has an album coming out on May 7th, had an accident last year that should have left her paralyzed but that she managed to recover from and has an amazing voice. I have such a soft spot for strong female voices and characters, especially ones who send chills down my spine when they sing, with or without musical instruments accompanying them. You just have to listen to her over of my love Roy Orbison's Crying (see below) to see what I mean... Stunning. I couldn't stop listening to her and tried to find anything online that I could play via Spotify or download and put on my ipod... Nothing available in the US unfortunately... It doesn't even look like you can buy the album on iTunes here when it comes out... So I am going to continue to watch videos on youtube until some nice soul who lives in England sends me her album.

YAY I am so excited to have finally found a musician to be excited about again! And my lovely friend Charlie just told me that she would send me the album when it comes out, so now I am over the moon. Cue jumping up and down and looking like an idiot ;)
Have a listen and a look below...

Official website
Ren Harvieu Facebook

Music ramblings: The Prodigy

Sometimes I feel like my tastes in music have become way too nostalgic... It's becoming more and more rare for me to actually discover a new band or musician that I fall in love with. I think I can count the amount of times that happened last year on one hand (and I am trying to rack my brains to figure out who they were right now, to no avail). Maybe I am just relying too much on the stuff that I already know I love (and there is a lot of that), so I'm not even looking for anything new. (This means I need suggestions, for those who didn't get the hint).
Anyway, I was making a playlist on Spotify for my sister (it's HERE if you feel like listening to it) and have since been dancing round my apartment (and subsequently at work during a performance of Being Shakespeare) to The Prodigy all day. I still remember the first time I heard them, back in 1994. I think it was the first time I really got into music that wasn't rock/punk/folk/metal/goth/EBM. I was in England during my summer holiday and the video for No Good (Start the Dance) was pretty much playing on a loop on MTV (between Alanis Morrisette, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Blind Melon, Stiltskin, Gun, Blur, Oasis, Alice in Chains and that bloody Wet Wet Wet song). I loved that video (still do actually). Dark and creepy with furious dancers in an underground basement area. Kind of like a visual dance track of the parties I was used to going to. I bought Music for a Jilted Generation that summer, but pretty much only used to listen to a couple of songs off it for a while. My sister also immediately fell in love (although that was no surprise, she was already well entrenched in the underground rave scene in France).

Fast forward a few years and The Fat of the Land came out. I can't tell you how excited I was, especially after having heard Firestarter and seen Keith Flint's new crazy punkesque look and vocals. I like angry music and I like to dance, so couple anger with dance beats and it seemed like the perfect combination. Like dance music for those who are into the darker side of things. EBM and Dark Electro also worked, but there was something really refreshing about The Prodigy. There was that whole controversy about the track called Smack My Bitch Up (and the awesome video that came with it), but that just made me like them more. That track, as well as Breathe are still firm favourites of mine. In fact, I've been dancing to Breathe all day.

That said, I missed out on the album that was released in 2004 (I was too busy living an idyllic life in Israel on a kibbutz while drinking too much vodka), and I didn't even realise that they released another album in 2009. Must get on that as soon as I get home tonight... And I still haven't seen The Prodigy live, which I really need to one day.They should totally co-headline a tour with Skinny Puppy or something... Anyway, seeing as I am back in 1994 now I'm going to move on from The Prodigy for an hour and listen to some Asian Dub Foundation, just to take my mind off the fact that my sister is currently watching the Buzzcocks live at Coachella, while I am stuck at work in Brooklyn.

The Prodigy official site
The Prodigy on Wikipedia

Music: Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light

I make no secret about my love for Spiritualized, so I am of course overjoyed by the fact that the new album is currently streaming on NPR HERE, and will be officially released on April 17th (next Tuesday!! I cannot wait to listen to it over and over and over again on my ipod, at work, at home, walking down the streets, basically everywhere).

I had always liked Spiritualized a lot, but it wasn’t until I saw them live for the first time that I actually fell completely and utterly in love with the music, the lyrics and just the entire performance. Since that time I have seen them live quite a few times, cumulating in the epic performance of Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space at Radio City Music Hall a few years ago (yes, epic epic epic). They are one band I really cannot miss when they come into town, and I won’t be missing them this year either, thanks to my lovely friend Meg who bought me a ticket for my birthday. They are playing Terminal 5 on May 7th (see the official site for more US and world dates) and I intend to get there as early as possible in order to actually get a good spot.

Anyway, I’ve been listening to Sweet Heart Sweet Light over and over again this week and I can’t get enough of it. I don’t know how Jason Pierce actually does it, but he produces amazing lyrics that are actually quite simple at a first glance but astonishingly profound, moving and powerful, and then moulds them together with music to create soaring anthemic songs. I’m not going to stop myself from gushing about this album because it has really made me so happy this week. I think I can just always count on Spiritualized to produce songs that say exactly what I feel inside. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but I’m really not exaggerating here. Listen and see for yourself.

On the whole I found Sweet Heart Sweet Light to be uplifting. While Songs in A&E had a more fragile feel to it (if you know Jason Pierce’s history it’s easy to understand why), this new album feels stronger and in general happier (if that is really possible, I’m kind of struggling to find the right words here). There is the real rock song Hey Jane, the stripped bare song Freedom, the distorted drug song Heading For The Top and the anthemic Too Late. My absolute favourite is Little Girl, just because the lyrics speak to me so much “Sometimes I wish that I was dead cos only living can feel the pain, sometimes I wish I could fly, you get so grounded and life will pass you by”. The Jesus/God metaphors in Life is a Problem are really smart. I always feel like Jason Pierce’s mentions of God/Jesus/religion are more of a comfort than an actual belief, more like the idea that there is something bigger than oneself out there in the world, rather than an actual belief in God. I could, of course, be wrong, but that’s what it feels like. Like I can’t save myself, but this bigger entity can help me. Make sense? Probably not.

Sweet Heart, Sweet Light is such a beautiful album. I’m just going to listen to it on a loop again all day until I have to go back to work. If you get a chance to see them live, don’t miss it as there really isn’t anything like it!

Music Break - Because I feel like it

I haven't written anything for three days and I have been sitting in front of the thinking about something I may want to write about, but I just don't feel inspired. So, this is just going to be a music post. Actually, a music break, rather than a post, because I am not really going to write anything, just post videos of songs that I love immensely.

Oh, and I am now over 1/3 of the way through my novel. And I submitted two short stories to a competition, not that I think they are any good, but you never know, and practice never hurt anyone. I feel I need to focus more, somehow, but my head is all over the place (and I am working ever day for the next 9 days, so that just gives me another excuse to procrastinate).

Talking about work, I'll be working at Darkroom with Eric on Monday night, so come and visit, because you know you want to. 167 Ludlow.

So... Enjoy...

Pulp - Underwear

The Levellers - The Boatman

T.Rex - Children of the Revolution

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - From Her To Eternity

Iggy Pop - Nightclubbing

David Bowie - Life on Mars

Stevie Nicks - Bella Donna

Spiritualized - Medication