If indeed there were ghosts writing music, or just listening to it, the ones behind I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here would the subdued, contemplative, but also inquisitive type one can find in, say, the recent movie ‘A Ghost Story’. Just a simple white blanket, with a pair of eye holes, roaming through the life of others with no real hope of besetting, or conditioning anyone.
Ghost Music is a sort of reboot of Matthew Randall (also known as Plantman, in recent years) and Lee Hall collaboration – they were formerly known as Beatglider. The project, again, springs from around the Southend-by-the-Sea area. I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here is honestly closer to Randall’s latest (superb) outputs as Plantman, i.e. a finely crafted guitar-pop, that looks at the first 80s psychedelia, or at the gentler post-punk bands (Vini Reilly has been tributed with a song by Plantman in ‘Whispering Trees’, which is a hidden masterpiece of the decade).
With such a background, things might turn out sour, as fans of Kozelek and Red House Painters surely know, and Beatglider was definitely a more tormented, noisy version of Randall and Hall. But here and now their spirits linger closer to their kin Dean Wareham, his bewilderment at things, his gentler contemplation of the world (‘Blind Spot’, ‘Black Bird Stars’, the Velvet-ian ‘Gurl In A Whirl’).
Also, the general theme of I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here is an elegy for love, that brings about the romantic allure of bands like the Apartments (‘Messenger’), or even the Go-Betweens (‘Heart-Shaped Holiday’). A couple of bands that went far underrated in their times, but took songwriting very seriously – not a random parallel.
Beneath the ghostly wall of lo-fi, one can in fact, and again, appreciate the simple, almost liquid in its naturalness, melodic taste of songs like ‘Home Dog’ and ‘Strange Love’, which would make the fortune of some new Paisley-inspired bedroom-band. The songwriting leads, for sure, the song dynamics but (one should not forget) the effort to underline and to magnify the song theme with the arrangements is obvious and makes for a deeper and enduring listening experience. A very solid record, that maybe lacks some of the deeper epiphanies, the subtleties of “Whispering Trees”, but nonetheless represents a touchstone in terms of contemporary guitar-writing.
Words: Lorenzo Righetto (Twitter)