I’ve been waiting for this one a long time, ever since Antethic teased “Modulor” last year. It was a tantalizing, almost frustrating wait after that, as the song was a very promising of a hint of things to come. It rises and falls at a deliberate pace in 7/4, slowly gaining traction and only giving the listener a short moment of respite before the grand finale. Overall, it delivers a master class in post-rock buildup and release, complete with a final stretch as cathartic as they come.
RELEASE DATE: 02 April 2017 LABEL: Self-released
Because of this, half of the anticipation waiting for Ghost Shirt Society’s release was a sort of anxiety, wondering how the rest of the album would fare when compared to the extremely high standard set by “Modulor.” I’m thrilled to say that far from languishing under the song’s formidable shadow, the other eight songs on this epic retain its tonal and stylistic qualities, while at the same time taking the themes present entirely in their own direction.
While I have enjoyed Antethic’s previous releases, it has to be said: This came completely out of left field. Ghost Shirt Society is a standout with its consistent sound and well-executed overall theme. “Ilium” serves as an appetizer to the titanic “Modulor,” while “Metamachine” follows as a direct counterstatement – the band are equally capable of a more evenly paced, almost krautrock-esque attitude, and they set out to demonstrate this early. This aesthetic is revisited later in the somewhat more exuberant “Sentinel.” Even with about half of the rest of the album being considerably more reserved than the aforementioned tracks, it never lacks this sense of precision. I cannot praise Antethic’s maturity in songwriting enough, nor their level of control over their sound.
This is quite obviously a labor of love, possibly several years in the making. The cogency of the ideas, themes, and textures presented on Ghost Shirt Society is second to nothing I’ve heard in quite a long time, and every song has the distinct feel of something that was worked over countless times, the band not satisfied until every single crack had been ironed out. With most artists nowadays feeling pressured to release music on a relatively frequent basis, this kind of patience is invaluable, the results incredibly rewarding.
Perhaps it’s my imagination running wild here, but I picture Antethic disavowing these industry conventions entirely during the creation of this album. No YouTube teasers, no crowdfunding (no offense to those who go that route), no studio photo shoots – just silence. The music is nurtured and allowed to develop at its own pace – no rush to show it to the public before it’s absolutely ready.
What we get is something that sounds like the result of genuine soul-searching – the kind of music one can be driven to make after shutting out all external influences, drawing purely from one’s own most innermost inspiration. This enriches the final product with a sound that is truly Antethic’s own – something difficult to accomplish in instrumental music, and rare indeed in the post-rock scene. The ideas here are not overly complex, and it won’t take you long to decide whether this album clicks with you. However, the execution leaves absolutely nothing to be desired, and if you enjoy the icy textures, straightforward crescendi, and subtle manipulation of relatively simple melodies, you will find renewed appreciation for Ghost Shirt Society with every listen. It occupies a niche entirely its own – not because it is in any way groundbreaking – but because of its sheer excellence, crystal-clear direction, and impeccable production.
With Ghost Shirt Society, Antethic have delivered one of the year’s premier post-rock releases. It isn’t as lush or as pensive as many releases in the scene. What it does deliver, however, is an endlessly expansive tonal landscape. Many metal, post-metal, and drone albums are effective because they evoke a sense of crushing gravity, an unstoppable force that makes the listener feel tiny in comparison. Ghost Shirt Society does something similar, but instead of grinding you down with sheer force, it invites you to look up and wonder.