Written by: Dave Cantrell
When Team Ghost, Nick Fromageau’s post-M83 project, announced themselves in 2010 with the 25-minute, 7-song “You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me” EP, they did so with an opening salvo (“Lonely, Lonely, Lonely”) that is windswept, dark, texturally dense while being, somehow, simultaneously airy and hopeful. It’s also an instrumental that lasts an attention-challenging five minutes, an audacious gambit for a debut in anyone’s book but it worked via the built-in suspense of its deliberate layering and, well, the simple fact of it being an irrepressibly engaging composition that makes it seem all things are possible even as it tugs at some ominous strings knotted in the shadow of its heart.
So, the gamble was no gamble at all. Fromegeau, and Co. knew they could establish their authority any way they wished so why not with a wordless beauty that standard rock orthodoxy would have had them saving for the record’s final track. In that context, there was nothing surprising about that debut’s subsequent trawl through Ride-inspired slabs of shoegaze, the spritely slices of electro-pop that had Fujiya calling up Miyagi in a cold sweat or the odd flights into post-punk metaltronic hubris where sang-froid vocals float above thunderous undercurrents like Gary Numan meeting Motörhead in Neu!’s Düsseldorf garage. Successful not only at establishing the Team Ghost palette, that initial EP – and the EP that followed, both of which are collected on Japan-only album We All Shine – also marked them out as almost breezily confident, an impression Rituals confirms full-stop.
Confirms it so well, in fact, that I could nearly rewrite those first two paragraphs with alternate song titles and, aside from displaying a bolder, more assured soundscape here, it could well stand in as a review of Rituauls. “Dead Film Star,” a pounding album highlight, slams around the sky’s rafters like some kind of turbo-jet lost since 1992, while “All We Left Behind”‘s wall-pulsing burst-out near track’s end does a fine job of leaving one breathless and blown away. “Montreuil” goes bouncing and popping darkly about between the ears, setting off a board of rapidly blinking lights just behind your eyes that might easily find a home inside a certain iconic video, while the lascivious “Somebody’s Watching” imagines what it might have sounded like had a couple of Reid brothers emerged a half-decade sooner.
In the end, however, Team Ghost’s meat-and-potatoes is the MBV’ed sonic blast. Not homage, not pastiched in any way, but suitably and unashamedly ramped up to meet the expectations of the 21st C. ear (NME, in their deftly cynical way, call it ‘cold-gaze’). Jam-packed with a tasteful rampage of effecting dynamics – the eponymous “Team Ghost” shudders with a slow, eerie rumble that you’d rather not meet on a dark alley out behind the club, “Things That Are Sometimes Tragic” begins in an abandoned warehouse that just happens to house the expanding universe – Rituals is rather masterfully evocative while ready at the touch of a button (one of those, you know, down there beneath those gazed-upon shoes) to punch its listener’s ticket to that new, expanded, and even a bit more frightening carnival of light that’s come to town.
– Dave Cantrell