Wow! You had me at "Wichita"! Being a long-time Pat Irwin fan, I was expecting a lot, but this exceeds even my highest expectations! Simply brilliant - start to finish! If I can call this work part of an 'ilk", I will say this replaces Tom Verlaine's Around at the absolute top of the ilk!
Favorite track: Wichita.
Originally self-released on February 2nd of this year, Northern Spy is now proud to present this fantastic album on CD for the first time, with four never-before-heard bonus tracks. This is Ghost Box (Expanded).
What would it sound like if ambient pioneer Brian Eno had produced the Western film scores of Ennio Morricone? We’ll never know, but we’re now a step closer thanks to Ghost Box, the debut album by SUSS, a quintet whose members have worked in various capacities with Lydia Lunch, the B-52s, k.d. Lang, David Bowie, John Cale, Ed Sheeran, Wilco, Norah Jones, The War On Drugs, Burt Bacharach, the Nickelodeon network, The New Yorker, and countless others.
More than a literal reconstruction of an imagined collaboration between Eno and Morricone, Ghost Box opens a door onto a world where ambient music and country-western make for natural bedfellows. That world, as it turns out, is the one we already live in -- it just took someone to make the connection. For multi-instrumentalist, cowpunk pioneer, and digital media entrepreneur Bob Holmes, that connection has been hiding in plain sight for decades.
The catalyst behind SUSS, Holmes views electronic acts like Boards of Canada and shoegaze icons like My Bloody Valentine as more recent avatars of the “high lonesome” vibe that we typically think of strictly in terms of traditional roots music. In that light, you can trace the melancholic sprawl of classic titles by both of those acts back to Hank Williams. And in reverse, what is twang if not a form of ambience?
Ghost Box, then, embodies “ambient country music” not as novelty or mashup, but as the organic offspring of forms that, in a sense, were already conjoined. One of the album’s charms, though, is that the rest of SUSS didn’t necessarily see it that way. So it required quite a bit of stabbing in the dark for Holmes on mandolin, guitarists Pat Irwin and William Garrett, pedal steel player Jonathan Gregg, and synth looper Gary Lieb, to arrive at a blend that felt natural.
The goal, in a nutshell, was to create ambient music using traditional instruments -- a kind of reverse-engineering of Holmes’ longstanding conviction that electronic music is today’s folk expression. Ostensibly, Ghost Box achieves what Holmes was aiming for, but it also accomplishes much more. As tumbleweeds continue to blow across the screen of modern fashion, musicians have increasingly yearned to connect with the mythical America that reverberates in vintage sounds.
Today, we’re practically inundated with music that evokes the hills of Appalachia, the neverending Western sky, the hallowed halls of the Grand Ole Opry, and so on. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between reverence for these cultural artifacts and a fascination with them as kitsch. In both cases, roots music can exude the fragrance of social archeology. Ghost Box echoes from a more genuinely inviting musical landscape where the cowboy-hatted Brooklynite and the native Kentuckyan are no longer pitted into their stereotyped roles as tourist and tourist attraction.
Whatever your frame of reference, wherever you stand when it comes to notions of “authenticity,” Ghost Box will transport you, as Irwin says, to “some new places.” But nowhere does SUSS present its marriage of country and other forms as a gag. “In our old band Rubber Rodeo,” says Holmes, “Gary and I were well-known as the guys who mashed-up Dolly Parton and Devo -- but you could see the stiches. This time, we wanted to make music where you couldn’t see the stitches.” -- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, music journalist
released November 16, 2018
SUSS is: Bob Holmes, Gary Leib, Pat Irwin, Jonathan Gregg and William Garrett
All music written, performed and arranged by SUSS.
Recorded by Pat Irwin, Bob Holmes, Gary Leib and William Garrett
MIxed by William Garrett at Electracraft EAST
Laredo mixed by Pat Irwin
Mastered by Oscar Zambrano at Zampol Productions
All tracks: High Lonesome Music (BMI); Obliterati Publishing (ASCAP); PI Publishing (ASCAP); G4 Music (ASCAP)
supported by 11 fans who also own “Ghost Box (Expanded)”
personally, I had never seen Low before, but I'm a young one so Its understandable why. But about the album. It is a wonderful composition, the feeling and emotion I get from is simultaneously warm and fuzzy while also feeling far away. A wonderful blend, I hope to follow in the future and see more like this! electrodeath