Sometimes in life we have that sense of the inevitable; things we need to get over with, relationships that we have to break off, people we have to fire. All things that – technically – we can avoid, but which “need to happen”. Artists can feel the same way when a work of art “needs” to come into existence. It is the seed of an idea that is often discovered by hitting point in life where there is no choice but to move in a certain direction. Similarly, Ghost Against Ghost mastermind Christopher Bono was “unexpectedly struck by a close, personal tragedy” which forced him to change his course. Over the past years Bono has been carefully crafting the sound of his project; studying classical music, building big multimedia-fuelled live shows, and collaborating with a wide variety of musicians. All of this work was to culminate in a two hour-long concept album called Oia, but fate decided otherwise and in stead, Still Love was birthed.
RELEASE DATE: 14 April 2017 LABEL: Our Silent Canvas
That Ghost Against Ghost’s sound is the result of a painstaking developmental process is not unimaginable. The music is a sound of its own—a bewildering mixture of 1980s synthesizers, electronic dance music and dark romanticism—that is dominant in its presence and prone to flood your living room in sound. Large choruses are flanked by soothing verses and soundscapes, while culminating in drum-charged climaxes, courtesy of drummer Thomas Pridgen (ex-The Mars Volta, ex-Suicidal Tendencies, The Memorials). It is nice to hear Pridgen play outside the boundaries of what he is known for, and his drumming is definitely one of the bigger highlights of this record.
Still Love is a substantial work of art, clocking in at one hour and five minutes, consisting of nine songs, some of which were released earlier as EPs; Still Love with the introductory Son of Cessiphus and the concluding A Relapse of Remembrance were released in November 2015, Your Secret Ocean and Unarm were released in January 2016, and Resume came to us as a single in May 2016. In between we find two new songs, album closer Guérison (French for healing) and the two-part The River of the Intimate. The latter is definitely the most interesting addition to the album, which shows emotive qualities similar to the work of Anathema.
Not irrespective of the fact that the bulk of this LP was already released in separate EPs, Still Love feels a bit jumbled, just like its subject matter. Conceptually, the album revolves around themes of loss of love, betrayal, and trust. Bono himself deems the album to be a coping mechanism for personal tragedy, and he outlines the album on his Bandcamp-page by a series of philosophical questions. Still love is mightily ambitious work that tries to answer big question upon big question. It is undeniably an impressive musical achievement that is only a little less exciting in 2017 as it was in 2016, but it fails to leave these questions in their own right, by answering them with seemingly insufficient replies. Of course we have to leave the artist in his own right, rather than questioning his ulterior motives.
The fact that the cover art is the same as the still love EP makes it harder to judge this record in its own right as a cohesive body of work. The songs absolutely do not flow from one to another (not even the two parts of The River of the Intimate fit together in a logical manner), which comes at the cost of presenting a story of resolution. This is a shame considering that cinematic music like this calls for a certain coherence in presentation, and it would have been advisable to change the order at the cost of a chronological story.
This makes Still Love essentially a collection of 8 minute-long pop songs with massive drums—kind of like In the Air Tonight but with more ‘love’, and less ‘serial killer’ involved. Phil Collins has many lovers and haters alike, and it will probably be the same with this album. Still Love is a mighty work of art that juxtaposes pop-sensitivity with an intense listening experience. It has its obvious flaws, but it also has a myriad of attributes to be enjoyed, which should leave the listener curious for Bono’s upcoming epic Oia.