Mix Tape: Self-Evident Ghosts and Desdamona

Rich Horton reviews some new recordings from Bribe the Ghost and Self Evident; he likes what he hears.

bribe the Ghost
Self Evident

I haven’t done as much music reviewing lately; instead I’ve been keeping busy with CD summaries or articles about musicians. Since I receive tons of CDs, when I do get to review them inevitably I pick out ones that I enjoy, rather then picking up something that I wouldn’t have something nice to say about. So forgive the relentless positive tone.

The CDs I picked to review are quite a bit different from each other. Bribe the Ghost is characterized by what some would call an indie rock sound, or what I call “reflection songs,” which I tend to enjoy more when I am having a moment of solitude or thinking. I mainly picked this out because of a few songs– especially “Analog Machines” –which seem to calm my ever-present life stress.

But when it’s time to move out, Self Evident’s self titled CD, has a rougher edge and a faster pace, which lends itself to fast driving. It’s also really great to do manual labor to. I love the escapism of this music—sure it’s musically adept, but it’s also emotionally challenging.

After writing these reviews, I attended the CD listening party for Desdamona’s new CD The Source and I was able to bring home a promo copy. I can honestly say that this might be the breakout local CD of the year. It’s just the feeling I get after a couple of listens: a musical high with warm fuzzies. (Does anyone remember the story of the Warm Fuzzies?) Desdamona has expanded her musical talent exponentially. I plan to not just review this CD, but talk to her about the new album and how she feels about it in an upcoming installment.

Desdamona aside, here’s the promised reviews of Bribe the Ghost and Self Evident.

Bribe The Ghost: Identity

Any band can list their influences, and Bribe the Ghost on their myspace page list a who’s who of indie bands and solo artists. Identity dips into the indie well, but also shows promise as something unique.

The songs are well structured and well produced, but the ones that wander out of conventional indie rock rise to the top. Track 8, “analog machines,” has a great acoustic feel with just a tinkling piano in the background. The vocals are similar to that of local singer-songwriter Michael Morris. The slow beats of “a restless night and the following day” sets itself apart from the batch of more straightforward rock songs on the CD.

There were things that bothered me about this record. Tracks 7-10 seem to be the best tracks on the CD, and the liner notes confirm they were recorded later. In my opinion those tracks should have made an appearance earlier than they did. The vocals also seem to be trying to find themselves in the first few tracks and are not as strong and comfortable. In those later tracks, however, the vocals seem to have no problem fitting excellently over the songs.

Bribe The Ghost would fit nicely into local label 2024 records’ line-up, with their penchant for mid-tempo rockers and vocal dynamics. If the band and principal songwriter Chris Wilson can turn this first album’s experience into a stronger second record, Bribe The Ghost will be well on their way into the next level of being musically viable. A good first effort should turn into a remarkable second album.

Self Evident

I once sent this band’s earlier CD out to a writer who proceeded to shred it. I published this drubbing in the publication I was putting out. Their fans emailed me in droves about the injustice and hopefully someday I will live it down. Myself being a musician, I always enjoyed Self Evident’s interesting guitar and bass parts and am a fan of the band. At the same time I could see where a casual musical listener might be turned off by the longer music interludes and the math rock aspect.

This new album, however, might help the band cross over into new territory. Somewhere between Fugazi and The Minutemen, the orientation of the band is more focused on this CD, more song-centered. The melding tone and intricate guitar and bass parts are there and their new drummer Ben Johnston does a great job tying it all together.

Conrad Mach has also found a more comfortable place for his vocals to meld with the backing music mayhem. I don’t know how he plays the guitar parts he does while also singing at the same time.

Tom Berg’s bass playing is as remarkable as ever, leaving no doubt to his status as one of the top bass players in the Twin Cities. His lines find their way to the top and complement the guitar parts rather than just backing them.

This band also has the great benefit of being able to fit with many styles of music, and would be just as great on a bill with a punk band as they would be playing with an indie rock band.

Self Evident has been around for a long time, with numerous albums to their credit and just the ability to stick it out where other bands might call it quits. With great features in the City Pages and in The Pulse this go-round, I hope they can muster more years and more albums. I will definitely keep listening.