Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ghost Echoes are for Real

Ghost Echoes are a San Francisco band. "Wow", you might say, "real insightful, dude." I'm not just stating the obvious, seeing as that all three members of the band live, strive and struggle in SF. No, I mean they SOUND San Francisco. Please indulge me while I attempt to explain.
San Francisco is a singular place. There's always seems to be tension in the air. It's a city that is very much defined by the conflicts that occur here. All cities are this way, of course. Most major cities don't have the problem of having only seven by seven miles of space to deal with, though. This fundamental lack contributes hugely to the feeling of being boxed in. Residents of SF are piled closely atop one another at all times. Along with the spacial issue come the long history of social conflict (Check out City Light's Reclaiming San Francisco, and then seek out any older SF native for a counterpoint to that), bizarre weather patterns, and constant influx of new demographics.
Ghost Echoes spring from the morass that is San Francisco. Their original Myspace header read "We're like a mirror of what's fucked-up". I can agree with their sentiment. I hear this, and a lot more in their music. Their sound is defined by a simplicity that rewards the listener with a dense, physical music. Drummer Jonny keeps his kit down to one cymbal (not even a hi-hat, at that), no rack toms, and a really big snare drum. His SF antecedent is the great Tony Fag, who utilized a similar set up for astoundingly physical results in Bomb. Jonny's rhythmic flow sounds like amped-up Rockabilly at times; he drives Ghost Echoes with a relentlessly fast 16th note pulse, occasionally breaking it up with rapid fills on his floor tom. His swing comes from syncopation on the snare drum, placed around the time keeping function of his ride cymbal beat. It's a beautiful thing. Bassist Franz oftentimes carries the tune for Ghost Echoes. He uses a large cabinet and pushes his amp really hard. This combination delivers a deliciously fuzzy melodic sound. During some songs he pumps out frenetic double time riffs for an effect that can almost sound like Black Metal bass. As my pal Colin pointed out, he also bends the bass strings to get a trippy vibrato. Fans of Will Shatter's and Bruce Loose's bass sound can find a real thrill when Franz straps his bass on. Last but not least there is guitarist Jamie. He plays a Rickenbacher hollow body through what appears to be a tube amp. Much like Franz, he drives his amplification system hard. When not playing melodically, his guitar squalls and feeds back in spacey ways. He refrains from from tight power chord strumming, and issues a broad, loose sound within his chord sequences. His playing can remind you at times of Frankie Fix's, and at times of Ted Falconi's. To paraphrase Joe Carducci's musings on 1977 SF band Grand Mal, it's a glorious mess. Ghost Echoes songs are physically powerful, emotional outbursts. They buzz, whir, and then explode. They're Punk songs, for sure. Punk of a sort that seems to spring easily from people dealing with life in such a strange, tense place as San Francisco.
Forgive me, I've spieled before the meal:


Michael said...

Great post - and what a find! Who knew SF could still come up with something this hot-wired and shattered. These guys sound great on MySpace; do they have a CD out yet?

We are liquid said...

Yes, contact them through Myspace,and they'll hook you up with a disc. Live, they're just incredible: a really energetic, rolling ball of thunder, etc, etc. I love this band. First time I say 'em, my friend Scarp just looked at me and said "wait 'till you hear THESE guys". SF can still produce bands like this, thankfully. As an added bonus, they're friendly once you get to know them.