Album Reviews

Michael Plater: Ghost Music

The U.K.-Based Australian experimentalist returns with his stunning new solo LP.

Last week was a huge one for new releases. Not since the early part of 2020 prior to the pandemic can I think of a new music Friday which boasted such a fine array of records. One that possibly evaded most ears came in the way of Michael Plater’s Ghost Music.

Involved in a plethora of other projects, including The Northern Lighthouse Board, Ghosts of Electricity, Cornish Wreckers and The Old Colonials to name but a few, the U.K.-based Australian experimentalist has reached the apex of his creative arc with Ghost Music. From Paul Warner’s cover art to Plater’s lyrics and his band’s spidery arrangements, everything just lines up.

Backed by John Hannon (violin, cello, harmonium, organ, drums, percussion, trumpet, clarinet, electric guitar, bagpipes, harmonica) and Stafford Glover (bass guitar, autoharp, piano, percussion, drums, electric guitar, synth), with further assistance from Fawnia Mountford (autoharp), Tony Millman (piano) and Mark Kluzek (piano, accordion), on paper at least, there’s a Crime & the City Solution circa-late ’80s Berlin vibe. However, in truth, it feels a lot less chaotic than that. These songs are too tender to burn the heart: they melt it instead.

Björn Magnusson: Nightclub Music & Ethereal Faith

This rich journey filled with emotional undercurrents starts with Gathering Feathers – an electric folk number that slowly emerges from the tall grass; its messaging elusive, tickling the subconscious with danger – don’t get too close.

The Waking Dream and The Alchemist are part troubadour part Burning World-era Swans. “With all the names burnt into your skin,” sings Plater. Sonically and thematically, so many British-based artists fail to capture the imagery that folk music commands, and it’s partly down to locality. Using the humid landscapes and prairie hum of Australia’s regional areas, Plater creates his own frightening reality, with illuminating string sections and the kind of backwater baritone that transports the listener to these terrains.

Michael Plater - Ghost Music

The piano/organ-based Katie King is the first of three moments on Ghost Music that takes to the heart with a serrated knife. “The spirit on this final reel” laments Plater, and just when you think he couldn’t find a darker corner on earth if he tried, we are greeted with the bone-raw Your Family Ghosts. I can’t see a sadder song being committed to tape all year, the rustic stripped back piece cutting so deep in all its harsh truths and scarred memories. So stirring, it’s almost unlistenable.

The epic Saint John’s Eve swells with the kind of tension we’d associate with the Dirty Three. Those quiet/loud build-ups that dance along the knife’s edge. Next up is the folk-drone assault of The Lost Keepers. Like a vessel cut adrift to tackle the high seas, The Lost Keepers is Ghost Music’s outlier, however its inclusion is crucial, for it tells its own story of Plater’s creative past.

Rabbit Hash: Don’t Mistake My Enthusiasm for Impatience

It leads into the third dirge and final piece of the puzzle in Burning Windmills. Like a spectre navigating through the pitch black of night, Plater teases us with lost gods and rivers buried beneath the soil. Southern gothic in nature, it evokes the kind of imagery of Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers.

Ghost Music isn’t a record you choose. Boasting songs that feel as though they were written for your ears only, it chooses you. It’s not true of course, but that’s how great storytellers sink their hooks in, and Plater is most certainly that. Not only is he a storyteller through the similar lens of underground purveyors, Simon Ward and Ellis Swan, Michael Plater is a world-builder and one whose music should be attracting far more attention than it currently does. Hopefully Ghost Music changes that.

Ghost Music is out now via Hypostatic Union. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

3 replies on “Michael Plater: Ghost Music”

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