The music of GhostChant is, appropriately, haunted by traces of musical spirits that Joe Cornwell (the young man behind the moniker) must’ve registered subliminally… some listeners will hear echoes of ‘intelligent’ drum’n’ bass, and artists as diverse as Everything But The Girl, Boards of Canada and The Wu-Tang Clan in the emotional atmospherics created by this remarkable new talent… others have already him as part of the ‘future garage’ movement, and Joe himself will namecheck the likes of Burial, Bonobo and even MJ Cole as influences on his music. None of which quite prepares you for the depth and quality of Sincerity, his debut album.
Originally from London, Joe now hails from Liverpool, where he was until fairly recently a university student studying music –though Joe puts ‘studying’ in inverted commas: ‘I didn’t really attend many lectures. I just spent all my time writing my own music.’ If Sincerity is the result, Joe’s academic loss is our gain.
Not until recently associated with underground music, Liverpool now has a thriving scene spanning the worlds of rock and dance. Cornwell made a big splash at the city’s recent Sound City festival event, and speaks highly of the creative buzz that now emanates through the city’s more left-field venues. As well as Sound City, he’s played as far afield as Hong Kong, where he opened (in a live set) for fellow maverick Kieron Hebdon’s FourTet at the island’s Clockenflap Festival. He’s also scheduled to play the BBC’s Introducing… stage at this year’s Bestival… Meanwhile, support on the airwaves has come from Radio 1’s (and Bestival organizer) Rob Da Bank and garage station Rinse FM.
An eclectic DJ known for dropping old-school house and garage as well as the newer stuff he plays, Ghost Chant’s artist debut belies any reductive ‘dance music’ tags. The mood is predominantly down-beat, melancholic and wistful rather than bubbling, and despite the plethora of fingers-on-the-pulse guest spots, has a distinctive artist identity throughout. Joe (who will play the guitar at his live gigs) describes the sounds he draws from his laptop as ‘instruments’ and with them he creates music that is spare but dynamic. ‘I’m quite introspective and reflective really… I wouldn’t say moody. Music can be emotive without being happy feel-good stuff.’ Joe cites the hardcore/punk he listened to before his later immersion in contemporary dance culture as being formative in this respect: ‘bands like GlassJaw, The Movielife , Botch… I loved the energy and emotion in their music.’
‘Garage and dub-step play a massive part in how i write my music and I’m a huge fan of both and people can definitely hear those influences in my songs. The term “future garage” is a bit of a swinger to me though. It made more sense to me maybe a year ago but now it has kind of taken on odd connotations. Ambient bass music is what i have been calling my music lately. ‘
Divided into two halves, The Path and The Process, Sincerity hooks you in right from its moody Intro and sublimely ambient title track, through the nihilistic dubbed-out trip-hop of Feel Nothing and the single that created a real buzz about this release, Laid To Rest, while distinctly ‘urban’ vibes are provided by garage heads ChaCha and Chimpo and US rapper Space Ghost Purpp. Other guest appearances come from Liverpool’s very own Ragz, and an extremely diverse cast of singers including Fifi Rong, Holly Lapsley, Sarah Zad, Anthony Kastelanides (featured on the debut single Laid To Rest) and Sofia Yousef… unique artists sought out by Ghost Chant as the ‘right voice’ in each case for his beats.
Says Joe, ‘The title of the album Sincerity relates to the idea human beings aren’t perfect and despite many of our good intentions we don’t always do the right thing (on a personal level and on a wider scale) but what’s important is that people should wear their hearts on the their sleeves and try to be honest and true to themselves. The Path is about making those mistakes and learning from them and The Process is more about trying to address our imperfections and failures, weakness and insecurities. Or something like that!’ he laughs. It’s an intense, somewhat dark journey from one end of the album to the other, but we’re betting that just like us, you’ll be heading straight back to the beginning as soon as you’ve reached the end.
We’re expecting big things from this album and probably even bigger to come from GhostChant… don’t sleep on it!