Bands take note: this is how to draw attention to an album. Boston’s maritime musicians Ghosts of Sailors at Sea have put time, effort and thought into every facet of this engaging LP. A uniformity of theme is apparent in the name of the quartet (a sometime quintet with cellist) and the album. The theme continues with the inspiration behind the tracks, each of which bears the title of a sailor or ship lost at sea. Extra credit is awarded the band for the written summaries that accompany each piece. Now add intriguing cover art and the gorgeous dual-toned vinyl, which imitates the orange and red of a foreboding sunrise. Even the name of the label – Faded Maps Records – fits the profile.
The pleasure is not just in the presentation. The band brings the energy, the loudness, the riffs. While loosely categorized as post-rock, the band all-out rocks, and we really hope they make it to ArcTanGent this year, because we’re confident that they kill it live. “Mary Celeste” starts things off with a bang, and there’s no letup until the bitter end. One can imagine the ghost ship drifting, lifeboat missing, crew gone, leaving no hint as to the nature of their demise. The song attempts to fill in the blanks, which allows the mind to pass through the theories: mutiny, squid, squall. Every aspect of the production is powerful, from the pounding drums to the pummeling guitars to the electronic whirlpools that suck everything into a vacuum at the end.
This is probably a good time to mention that Ghosts of Sailors at Sea doesn’t do interludes and troughs. It’s all peaks, as apparent in the dramatic “Robert Wilmott.” But quiet sections are unnecessary when the story is one of a murder covered by a fire and followed by a shipwreck. In math rock style, the track proceeds from one set of riffs to the next like a set of swiftly-moving waves crashing into a prior set. As “Antonio Amador” proves, even the breakdowns have breakdowns, but a breakdown at sea is unlike one on land, because a ship can’t pull over.
“Orrin Mills” has the funkiest beginning, a sign that the band does indeed know how to produce music that one can dance to. The bass conclusion (easy enough to extend) cements the thought. It’s one of the album’s three single-length tracks, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it end up on a 7″, backed by the fast and furious “Sir John Franklin”. (We recommend Dan Simmons’ speculative novel, The Terror, for an additional thrill.)
On a personal note, this is the first record my friend’s children (12 and 7) have ever seen played, and they were fascinated by the process, asking all sorts of questions about the turntable, the needle and the record itself. If this had been a typical black slab of vinyl, they might not have been interested. So Ghosts of Sailors at Sea, congratulations ~ you’ve made an impression and will always be somebody’s “first!” Who knows ~ maybe these kids will become vinyl aficionados, and always remember Red Sky Morning! (Richard Allen)