SUSS - Ghost Box - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

SUSS - Ghost Box

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-11-16
SUSS - Ghost Box
SUSS - Ghost Box

SUSS has created a pretty unique work with Ghost Box. They describe it as ambient country, and that's pretty accurate. There are lots of redolent steel guitars strumming their way through the set, as well as long, luxurious pads. You wouldn't necessarily think the two styles could work together, but they do, and it's magic. If anything, Ghost Box feels like a spiritual successor to The KLF's Chill Out, in a strange way. But whereas that album was supposed to represent a fanciful journey along the U.S. Gulf Coast, this album sounds more like the American West. And with titles like 'Witchita', 'Big Sky', 'Gunfighter', and 'Laredo', it's clear that's not mere coincidence. The entire set is like a dusty desert highway under a starry sky. I see cowboys and smell campfires.

Plenty of songs are mellow in the extreme. On 'Witchita', the album's opener, the guitar laps at your ears like ocean waves, while hypnotic islands of sound float by. 'Late Night Call' hums like feedback in a mirror, and intermittent whistling gives the song a lot of charm. 'Rain' moves at a glacial pace, layering the steel like fine silks, but comes off as mournful compared to the rest of the set. 'Canyonlands (Return to Witchita)', with guitars and synths drifting along on the breeze at dusk, is almost soporific, but it's so lovely you'll want to stay awake to enjoy it. A giant, warbling bassline leads 'Salt', but it makes way for archetypal steel guitars that echo across the landscape.

Not everything is meditative bliss, however. 'Big Sky' tends toward the epic, first stretching out its intro guitar seemingly forever, then adding cute little key stabs and an ur-country guitar melody. And 'Laredo' feels like the beginning of a momentous event, with an organ and peppier percussion to accompany the ubiquitous guitars. Then there's a surprising change of pace in 'Gunfighter', which gets spacier and a touch creepy, using old radio or TV show samples to add some nice texture. 'Steam' is draped in a big, hollowed-out synth pad, tearing itself open slowly while mixing in steel licks and UFO transmissions.

'Laramie' is billed as the single, and it's also something of an outlier, with a lot more weirdness and synths than much of the album. The steel guitar used much more sparingly here, is supplemented by a wheezing, transcendent harmonica. The synth style in this track nods toward the dissociated electronics of the 90s. 'After the Storm' closes out the album by starting at the edge of the universe, pulsing to life, then dropping most of the ambience and working as a purer slow country instrumental.

I consider myself an ambient aficionado, and in that regard, Ghost Box succeeds mightily. I'm also someone who can appreciate classic country, can't stand modern country pop, and adores steel guitar. I am bowled over by the ostensibly odd combination of sounds on this phenomenal set. If it intrigues you whatsoever, grab this album as soon as you're able.

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