At the risk of attracting a lynch mob, I’d like to this review by thanking Damon Albarn.
It’s thanks to him that I came across Ghostpoet when he provided the vocals for ‘Season Change’ as part of the Africa Express compilation ‘Maison Des Jeunes’ that the Blur frontman helped to produce when it was released in 2013.
That was the same year that Ghostpoet (real name Obaro Ejimiwe) released his second studio album ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’, the follow-up to his Mercury Music Prize nominated debut ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’, which came out in 2011.
Two more albums have been released and a further Mercury nomination has been given out following that initial discovery, resulting in increased exposure at the hands of radio stations such as BBC Radio 6Music.
While the artist has been reluctant to cast himself in a specific genre, a variety of musical instruments including percussion, guitars, piano, synths and drums feature on this new record and appear to gravitate towards an alternative rock/electronica sound that accompany his low-key but powerful vocals.
Given that the album came out in May, it feels timely with the lyrics “It’s getting kinda complex these days/we’re gonna need our hard hats,” on opening track ‘Breaking Cover’ almost providing an apt metaphor for first 6-8 weeks of lockdown imposed in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.
His rallying call to stand up against rising hatred around the British Isles on ‘Rats In A Sack’ (containing the lyrics in the chorus of “out means out means out,” that certainly is not in support of the vote to leave the EU) becomes more furious as the song develops and the guitars grow darker along the way.
A poem spoken in French by guest vocalist SaraSara for the first sixty-five seconds on ‘This Train Wreck Of A Life’ is not full of love, but seemingly regretful of it and once Ghostpoet comes in, the sad piano vibes continue at a glacial pace to the song’s end.
And it sets the tone for the remainder of the album with mournful lyrics, (“She said/Shoot for the moon honey!/But there’s no light in sight,” from ‘Nowhere To Hide Now’), more failed love (“Hold on my love/You’re slipping away from me again” on ‘When Mouths Collide’) and general angst (Who knows what will await/If I fall too deep,” on the title track).
The atmosphere isn’t very cheery, but you suspect that’s the point as Ghostpoet seeks to unload whatever has been on his mind since previous release ‘Dark Days + Canapés’ over the course of ten tracks lasting a grand total of forty-six minutes.
What you have is plenty of tension from start to finish.
However, the way the music and words are delivered should make you appreciate what a talent Obaro Ejimiwe is and that there aren’t a lot of musicians who would leave you feeling low but perhaps thoughtful at the same time.
Ghostpoet will be performing at Manchester Academy 2 on Saturday 27th February 2021. Tickets on sale now.