DM Stith
Heavy Ghost


4.3
superb

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
March 20th, 2013 | 16 replies | 2,124 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: “Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer."

I’m writing this at night. Alone, on a couch in a house by the water, windows on either side that are little more than vacant stares of an outside that is hushed and cold. The only light is this interminable speck on the water, the crimson tip of a buoy that blinks idiotically and perpetually, on just enough of an odd beat to make me notice when it steps out of line and granted a hazy enough cast by the opaque windows to create an eminently annoying effect. The buoy is really my worst enemy, unpredictable and implacable, blurry and bright. It’s not the cool or the quiet; the room is chilly and creaky and this blanket I’m covered with is horribly thatchy, yet I’m nevertheless content without being entirely comfortable. Heavy Ghost is a uniquely claustrophobic record - in its hauntingly repetitive minor-key piano chords, horror-movie undertones and Thom Yorke-approved wailings, it is a subversion of Asthmatic Kitty’s chamber-pop aesthetic, Sufjan in negative. It is the perfect evening record, but not the kind that goes softly into a gentle night. It’d rather be the buoy in the bay, that bit of dissonance in an otherwise finely woven album of bitter indie folk, distorted by impeccable goth craftsmanship and an experimental bent that is simultaneously terribly distorted and incredibly beautiful.

For a debut, Heavy Ghost is remarkably confident of where it wants to go – down, and deep. David Stith had the genesis of these ideas while helping to record a My Brightest Diamond record, and Shara Worden’s orchestral tendencies show up here, as does his family’s own strong musical background. Heavy Ghost is a densely layered album, with a liberal use of strings and horns, lap steel and electronics on top of a latticework of piano and tribal drum patterns. There are no simple cadences here; melodies and harmonies wrap around whole scales, complex and at times disturbing, whether it be in the sinister backing vocals of “Creekmouth” or the jagged yelps of “Spirit Parade.” Stith’s careful work layering his voice into his own ghostly backing chorus provides much of Heavy Ghost’s most intricate and rewarding moments, at times gloriously simple (the airy refrain of “Morning Glory Cloud”), at others elaborate and confused (consider the eerie echo chamber that “Pigs” becomes). This is not exactly easy listening – Heavy Ghost exists in something of a tortured realm, all minor key elegies and adventurous layers of sound that fold in on themselves like the void at the center of House of Leaves. For most of the record, the walls feel less like they’re falling down and more like they’re closing in.

It’s not until “Fire of Birds” that something resembling sunlight peeks through, Stith’s tender falsetto finally exploding upwards with the clattering swell of the percussion and the strings into a strangely triumphant lyrical smile. It’s the essential release in a record teeming with meticulously arranged tension, and it performs its job as admirably as the rest of Heavy Ghost does in exploring all the shadows of the studio and the soul. The record itself ends unresolved, split between hope and the dark on “Braid of Voices” and lost in a coarse rush of abrasive strings and synths and a barely-there vocal on “Wig.” Heavy Ghost finishes with just as many questions as answers, but the end result is neither as important nor as compelling as the process itself. Foremost among those questions is Stith’s lack of a follow-up, yet it’s easy to see just how emotionally draining such an album might be. Perhaps it’s fitting this way; after all, Heavy Ghost is the sound of impermanence, something that never settles and never seems to know where it’s going to end. As ethereal and skilled as it is, it very much lends Heavy Ghost an air of timelessness.



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user ratings (19)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2013



14989 Comments


oh man a Personal rudy review lets go hold on reading this shit aspa

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2013



10258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

not very personal haha

Digging: The Bilinda Butchers - Heaven

fromtheinside
March 19th 2013



17714 Comments


i'm happy i voted for you even more now

this album is incredible

Digging: Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2013



49791 Comments


oh when I use I and stuff I get shit on but Rudy can't fail I see how it is

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

YetAnotherBrick
March 19th 2013



4392 Comments


i gotta hear this

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2013



10258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU1stt0okdM

Gyromania
March 19th 2013



15200 Comments


good review

do want

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2013



6026 Comments


Forgot about this album, gonna listen to ittt

Digging: Your Old Droog - Your Old Droog

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
March 20th 2013



23798 Comments


uh oh

FelixCulpa
March 20th 2013



1237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Looong time since I last listened to this record. Sounds like it worth a revisit.

Emyay
March 21st 2013



5797 Comments


listening now. reminds me of sorne a bit. interesting stuff. will revisit.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
March 22nd 2013



4381 Comments


I just checked out "Pigs", I really liked that track, will check out the rest. Good review, Rudy. His voice also reminds me a little of Nick Drake's.

toxin.
March 25th 2013



12021 Comments


wow, sweet review klap
not sure if it's my thing but it makes me wanna check it out regardless

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2013



10258 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

thanks guys. nick drake is an excellent comparison

ethos
December 15th 2013



1743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

gypsy swag

StickFeit
July 16th 2014



37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very surprised by this record!



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