Review Summary: Delta Sleep show that they are not content to stay the same; adding a whole new dynamic to their sound that is equal parts euphoric and sullen.
Oftentimes, in music-based forums and things such as, whenever the genre of Math Rock is brought up, there is always one reply that asks: "What is Math Rock?", and I always find myself compelled to point said person in the general direction of Delta Sleep, whom in their debut Twin Galaxies managed to encapsulate all that was good about Math Rock and so much more in just 10 tracks. It was clear from the get-go that things were only going to get better for the 4-piece; now, following the release of their sophomore effort, Ghost City, I've changed from being compelled to point that person in the general direction of Delta Sleep, to being certain that they are a quintessential act in their genre.
Perhaps the most prominent thing about Ghost City from the initial playthrough is the shift / expanse in tone and soundscape: guitars are layered within ambient swells and each chord rings out with the most beautiful reverb - all of which create a contrast towards the sombre concept Yuceil's vocal talents are building. Ghost City sets its focus on a tech-noir setting wherein the world is represented as a city, and each building is a separate corporate entity, and our lone, nameless heroine is tired of being another intertwining cog in the machine - and so she runs until either the city ends, or until she just experiences something other than the dull, grey life she is used to. Her journey starts on the opener "Sultans of Ping", where she dreams of an escape, then wakes, and runs - knowing she cannot possibly spend any more time in the city. The song almost begins in a dream-like way; all of its elements slowly building over the swirling vocals and driving drum beat to create a cacophony of sound until it hits the coda - and the song spreads its wings and flies just like our protagonist is running. It is a serene introduction to what may seem like a bleak setting.
The beauty doesn't stop there, however. As the character's journey progresses, so do rhythms of the instruments, and Delta Sleep (just as they proved on Twin Galaxies) prove that they are in no shortage of intuitive note patterns and complex compositions, weaving faded arpeggios into jagged, often polyrhythmic drum beats on tracks like "After Dark" which build upon these patterns into a major-key chorus; a solemn juxtaposition to the characters thought process throughout, "The air is too thick to breathe, won't make it out alive". This builds and builds and builds, until it hits the point where our heroine releases her pessimism - the guitars take a somewhat sinister turn, the drums return jagged, and in an emotive mix of anger, frustration and hope, the half-sung, half-shouted "I'd give my whole world to find a way out" comes bellowing through, creating an angst-filled but dazzling outro ala We Were Promised Jetpacks. Delta Sleep recreate these amazing moments so frequently throughout Ghost City, such as on the singles "Single File" and "El Pastor", where each instrument is given its own unique personality to build around the storytelling, and they all explode in the outro. While song structure may seem similar on some tracks, each one is so perfectly diverse that its hard to criticise without being distracted by the sheer gravity of the world the artists are creating.
My personal favourite "Dotwork" does everything that "After Dark" does so well in terms of its borderline-sinister overtone: jagged drums and time signatures, sullen vocals and earnest-toned arpeggios broken up by uplifting major sections. However, the building tension in this track doesn't erupt in a huge outro, it stays more subdued and changes to a far more upbeat tone, that is almost impossible not to dance to. Instead of cries for help that have been showcased on other tracks, the vocals match the uplifting music, the character showing a more positive outlook on her eventual escape from the city, learning to "push aside her biggest regrets". Then, "Dream Thang" continues the serene atmosphere showed on Sultans of Ping. "Sans Soleil", possibly the most emotional song on the album, is another highlight, combining everything great about Ghost City - the beautiful rhythms and guitars, exceptional vocals and a 5/4 time signature. It is a flashback to what the character remembers of the city, and then lead single "El Pastor" begins to admire the nature that grows and prospers outside of the city. Finally, the second instrumental, "Glass", acts as a break from the chaos of the rest of the album, before crashing down for a final time in "Floater", my second favourite song in Ghost City, where it is revealed, that past all of the hardship our heroine has finally escaped: "Away from being plugged into a mainline at all times".
There is just so much to go on about in this album, and that is in no way a bad thing. Delta Sleep have managed to create a piece of art so brilliant it is difficult to find even a single piece of criticism. The storytelling is amazing and unique, the expanse in the way each instrument sounds; from the guitars reverberating around each track with an unprecedented level of goodness to the way the rhythm section don't just support the guitarists, they are a whole new beast of their own. Ghost City battles existentialism, self-worth and the way in which the corporate world operates; it adds a whole new dynamic to the band; and it sets an example as to what Math Rock can be when it is done to the calibre that these guys have.
Delta Sleep have really come through with this album, creating something that is nothing short of amazing. For the second time in a row, they have proved that they are a force to be reckoned with.