Review Summary: "And when it's over, and the streets are soaking up in the blood, you smile and know that you just won another day with yourself, you know?"Invisible Ink For Sketching Ghosts
opens with a quote from Richard Linklater's seminal Before Sunrise
. It's appropriate; the debut album from Irish musician Shane Harrington, who pieces together haunting sonic collages as OST, shares Linklater's existential fascination, but more importantly, it shares a flexible sense of space. Just like the thoughtful slackers and musers occupying the universes of Waking Life
, Dazed and Confused
, and, yes, Before Sunrise
as well as its companion piece Before Sunset
, Harrington's tracks are both extremely intimate and daringly omnipresent. They seem to have come from somebody sitting right next to you, or perhaps inside the confines of your mind, and yet they project a quiet confidence that echoes in our bottomless headspace.
This uncanny marriage of the personal and the dispassionately universal grants Invisible Ink For Sketching Ghosts
its staying power as well as its compulsive listenability. An immediate and easy point of comparison is the work of Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong as the Books, but unlike that whimsical duo, Harrington deals in emotional frankness. The effect is striking: when we hear Johnny Marco sob, "I'm fucking nothing, not even a person" on "Death Before Death", we've been deprived Sofia Coppola's careful handling of her protagonist, and so the utterance is not cathartic so much as helplessly nihilistic. Somewhere
was accused of indulging in privileged solipsism, and admittedly there's a fair bit of navel-gazing to be found here, but Invisible Ink
is disarmingly honest even when it's emotionally puerile. Of course, the elegantly rough-hewn music (and occasional atmospheric vocals) that Harrington weaves his samples together with helps matters. Every track is a pleasure to hear, and many moments - the post-rock stylings of "All Of This Can Be Fixed" and "Tokyo Trustfund" come to mind - are heart-stoppingly gorgeous.
All of which lends this album well to late-night listening. But make no mistake; this is not something to leave on while drifting off to the mysterious lands of REM sleep, not unless you'd like the movie playing across your eyelids to be populated by lost, puzzled souls. Somehow, Harrington has managed to musically encapsulate a generation of ex-dreamers. In the end, his effort is more touching than many of the films he samples - a superior bunch, if I may say so myself - because it turns Kim Krizan's subtle observations about communication into a reality that is at once tangible and not. It explores that which "we perceive [that] cannot be expressed" through that most abstract medium of all: organized musical sound. This is heady, philosophically tormented stuff, but it's blissfully easy to swallow, the sonic swirl never less than tasteful - a little bit of Dntel-esque glitch here, a mournful guitar line there - and frequently much, much more than that. As the final strings of "Night Loop" fade away, you'll want to start again, right from the beginning. And so we relive our anguished, spectral contemplation, over and over again.