When the dust settled after the dissolution of screamo heavyweights, City of Caterpillar, Majority Rule, and pg. 99, a colossal amount of energy and creativity was displaced. In the wake of their collapse, former members strived to find new creative outlets. Ghastly City Sleep was born out of the displaced elements of these genre-defining bands. The emotional outbursts that seemed to erupt so passionately from City of Caterpillar or so aggressively from pg. 99 became “influences” rather than the “next big thing,” and who would have thought that the members of these fallen greats would continue in a band so mellifluous, relaxing, and with an uncanny knack for melody? Ghastly City Sleep remains a group that demands
an intense emotional engagement from the listener, even if the means to this end differs so greatly from what the members were used to. Relying on atmosphere, whispery vocals, and creative melodies, Ghastly City Sleep produces somber post-rock pieces that add up to a mesmerizing and fulfilling whole- in this case, Moondrifts
With their self-titled 2007 EP, Ghastly City Sleep crafted four songs that successfully lured the listener in with intrigue. Wave after wave of atmospheric synths and drums were perfectly calculated to erupt into a tidal-wave sized climax. Yet, Ghastly City Sleep differs from members’ past projects in their ability to construct a comprehensive experience that relies much more on the overall feeling being portrayed rather than singular moments, as it was with pg. 99 or City of Caterpillar. This style is very indicative of the sharp transition to post-rock, and only little tastes of it were given on Ghastly City Sleep
. Impressive as it was, 4 songs can only go so far. In 2010, we can see the full extent of Ghastly City Sleep’s transformation. Promising signs have morphed into products, and optimistic indications are now results. Moondrifts
, at its crux, is an exciting expansion of everything that made their debut EP so spectacular.
doesn’t feel incredibly innovative when compared to Ghastly City Sleep
, yet it feels undoubtedly better. The airy vocals and haunting atmosphere still serve to beautify the album in every way possible, as before; though Moondrifts
succeeds by triumphing on a larger scale- a 10-song album. Shocking with splendor and grandiosity seems to be a trend in post-rock these days. Instead, Ghastly City Sleep plan to lull you to sleep, abduct you into Moondrifts
, and subject you to some spellbinding ****. You come out on the other side muttering to yourself, “Did that just happen?”
My case in point is “No No No No.” With a slowly building intro with vocals, soft and light as can be, Ghastly City Sleep lure the listener in- only to subdue him with the dissonant and weird sounds of some other planet. The effect can only (and I mean only
, because this is obviously a comparison to stay far away from) be compared to the mesmerizing and sometimes terrifying effect of Kid A
. Ending the song with more straightforward talking, “This is just a dream, this is just a no no no no...” the lyrics and manner of speech couldn’t better complement the song.
The emotional effects of Moondrifts
are clear and precise, and Ghastly City Sleep are scarily efficient and consistent at tugging on your nerves. On the other hand, the band displays their ability to perfectly craft songs that leave your mouth agape in wonder. “Billowing” is perhaps the group’s single best song to date. More conventional in the sense that it relies heavily on the vocal melody, “Billowing” takes a free-flowing approach to achieve, once again, a haunting effect. “Pent up black clouds... billowing again...”
is repeated over a weary piano until the song builds to an echoing, crashing crescendo. Not every song is satisfying though, as seen in the valley in the middle, “1994 (it’s a weird world)” and “I Suppose.” Here, Ghastly City Sleep get a bit lazy and the effects, ambience, and wandering doesn’t result in much productivity. Instead of meandering aimlessly, like on these tracks, Ghastly City Sleep perform best when they seek out a clear objective.
A much different side of Ghastly City Sleep can be seen on Moondrifts
too, especially with the lively “Farewell My Friend.” Comparisons seem useless, as they carve a path all their own. Vocals are a larger facet of the mixture, and “Just holding on...”
provides a nice lyrical backbone to the song, in a more “loudly talked” tone. From the promising 4-song EP produced a few years ago, the band has definitely incorporated some impressive aspects that only further their already-perfected haunting melodies- visible in songs like “Farewell My Friend” and “No No No No.” To claim that every melody on here is ingeniously crafted to the point of perfection is obviously hyperbole; but the waves of melancholy, of climactic beauty, of poignant simplicity serve to make me feel this is the case at times on Moondrifts
, you'd best be careful to remember that the band doesn’t derive from straightforward post-rock roots, and therefore expect anything but
your run-of-the-mill post-rock record. In this sense, Moondrifts
has the potential to be divisive, but those who pass up the spectacular release due to misguided expectations will be missing out... not only on Ghastly City Sleep realizing their potential, but what has the potential to be one of the most solid albums of the year.