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Ghostpoet - Dark Days + Canapés (Album Review)

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

There’s the UK hip hop scene, there’s the grime scene and then there’s Ghostpoet. Obaro Ejimiwe has always eschewed convention wherever possible, whether that’s through his garbled vocal delivery or his bleak, even atonal production choices. Most markedly of all, though, across three albums he has developed a cynical narrative style that’s entirely his own.

They say nothing is scarier than one’s own imagination and Ghostpoet’s outlook on the world is one of trepidation and suspicion. But where he’s tended to express that through wry observations and oblique metaphors on previous records, ‘Dark Days + Canapés’ sees him commenting on modern issues more explicitly.

Lead single Immigrant Boogie is perhaps the most obvious example as he approaches the refugee crisis through the eyes of someone trying to make their way across.

It’s a topic covered by a range of artists in the past year or two – from Benjamin Clementine to PJ Harvey – but the difference is that Ghostpoet’s approach doesn’t feel preachy or moralising.

Even ignoring the obvious point that all music is political, whether the artist is conscious of it or not, this isn’t necessarily a record out to make a wider point about the direction of the country. Rather, it is an unflinching reflection of how Ghostpoet feels about various topics, which is invariably anxious, claustrophobic and even embarrassed.

This is, as ever, expressed through his vocals. Ghostpoet has often been accused of mumbling his lyrics, but it feels particularly apt here given the messages he’s conveying. At no point does this album feel angry at the current state of affairs – just despondent. In the hands of a lesser artist, this might feel dull or monochromatic, but the production here makes a key difference.

On previous efforts, Ghostpoet has been fascinated with exploring darker textures through the use of electronics. This time around, he has a full band behind him. For the most part, the shoegazey guitar lines and subtle use of strings work well. The existential Live>Leave crescendos beautifully, with wailing harmonies filling the mix.

It’s a nice trick. Ghostpoet is the one who sounds despairing and coldblooded, miserably repeating refrains again and again (see (We’re) Dominoes), while the backing band adds a sense of emotion and humanity. These guitar-led sequences eerily recall Radiohead on ‘OK Computer’, another record filled with paranoia and unease at its modern surroundings.

Oddly, that probably explains this album’s biggest weakness. Although Ghostpoet’s performance feels authentic, he doesn’t give the listener much to grip and relate to. He poetically touches upon things like social media anxiety (“Instagram your foes, I do that a lot / Maybe in time you’ll tell me why you walk the earth all alone.”) but his inability to derive anything positive or hopeful at a realistic point means it starts to feel hollow.

‘Dark Days + Canapés’ is coherent and sonically interesting to listen to – even more so than his previous records – but the pictures Ghostpoet paints are nihilistic to the point where it’s distracting. There are nuggets of wisdom throughout, but his inability to switch gear will affect its replayability.

Ghostpoet Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 24 2017 - DUBLIN Button Factory
Wed October 25 2017 - LIVERPOOL Invisible Wind Factory
Thu October 26 2017 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Riverside
Sat October 28 2017 - GLASGOW Stereo
Sun October 29 2017 - SHEFFIELD Plug
Mon October 30 2017 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Tue October 31 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Mama Roux's
Wed November 01 2017 - CAMBRIDGE Junction
Thu November 02 2017 - CAMBRIDGE Junction
Fri November 03 2017 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Sat November 04 2017 - DOVER Booking Hall
Mon November 06 2017 - LEICESTER O2 Academy Leicester
Tue November 07 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
Wed November 08 2017 - BRIGHTON Concorde 2
Fri November 10 2017 - LONDON Printworks
Sat November 11 2017 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy 2
Sun November 12 2017 - NORWICH Norwich Arts Centre
Mon November 13 2017 - PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms
Tue November 14 2017 - BRISTOL Marble Factory

Click here to compare & buy Ghostpoet Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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