Some images just stick with you; images like Geist und Blutlache, a spare but spooky portrayal of a ghost staring at a pool of blood. Or is it simply a kid wearing a bone white sheet, standing over a crimson-splashed slab of concrete? Whatever the case may be, Paul Duncan was so captivated by Katharina Fritsch’s work that it helped inspire the name of his equally haunting avant-pop project, Warm Ghost.
“I was about 11 when I first saw that image in a book my art teacher gave me,” says the longtime singer/multi-instrumentalist (see also: a couple solo albums and collaborations with such varied artists as Oren Ambarchi and members of Grizzly Bear, Tortoise, and Bear In Heaven). “I thought it was so simple and beautiful.”
Duality is also one of the driving forces in Warm Ghost’s debut album, Narrows. On the surface, that means every pop element (the comet-like chords of “G.T.W.S.,” the climactic, synth-chased choruses of “Myths On Rotting Ships”) is offset by an experimental one – from flourishes of field recordings to splintered blocks of beats and samples that suggest a life of listening to Aphex Twin, Autechre and fringe icons like Fennesz, Cluster and Chris & Cosey.
“It’s all about making our music more challenging to the ear,” explains Duncan’s bandmate, Oliver Chapoy. “There is so much happening throughout the songs, little sound bursts, hypnotic rhythms that help maintain the balance between an electronic pop album and an experimental one.”
“I made one note to myself before we started this LP,” adds Duncan. “It just said ‘automatic writing’. Words get in the way of music sometimes, and I really wanted it all to feel organic, but with architecture and depth.” The voracious reader also explored the concept of duality and such uncomfortable yet universal topics as the human psyche through Narrows’ richly-woven lyrics. All of which makes perfect sense when you consider Duncan’s influences : such subconscious-skimming writers as Carl Jung, William Gibson and Jorge Luis Borges.
“Humans are all changing from month to month,” he explains. “The only cells we never replace are the ones in our brain. We just call upon unused brain cells when our current ones are damaged or depleted. So there are small channels or neurological waterways that connect all things that make us up. That’s definitely what the record is about…and making wry humor out of the pretension of that assumption.”
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