Simian Ghost emerged from a recording project by Swedish songwriter Sebastien Arnstrom. In 2012, their second Album, Youth received acclaim in UK newspapers such as The Times and The Guardian. This work, combined with their UK appearances also led to being featured on BBC 6 Music. Since then they have produced an epic 18 track album titled The Veil.
The band is a 4 piece outfit with Erik Klinga (brother of Arnstrom) and Mathias Zachrisson having been joined recently by bassist Wilhelm Magnusson. Simian Ghost is self titled because, although it's the band’s fourth album, it's the first to contain studio produced material in collaboration with Thomas Hedlund of the French outfit Phoenix. It is very much a statement of confidence and intent.
The music is full of dichotomies. It's clear but confusing, a compelling listen yet easy background music, frivolous yet full of meaning, complex and yet delightfully simple at the same time. The lyrics are often vivid but just as often, remain beyond the reach of my consciousness. The way the lyrics fade in and out is so cleverly constructed that they prompted thoughts and then left space for me to create my own meaning which is inevitably constructed from my own life experience and perspective. That, rather intriguingly, made me feel personally connected to the music.
Ultimately, Simian Ghost is an ethereal piece of work. Listening to it is a delicious game of chasing shadows. There are sprites and sylphs of melodies, the rhythms and lyrics dance, sometimes within reach but not within your grasp. They are in your peripheral vision, but when your attention chases them they are elusive but remain seductive. On one level it is simply happy music, as Sebastien puts it in the opening track "Fun", like “chasing the shadow of a bird through a corn-field”.
The tracks wash over the ear in delicious waves of sensations with subliminal hooks snagging the intellect at unexpected moments when the lyrics become clear and draw your mind into listening intently reaching for the wisp of meaning. "Shadow" is a description of the footprint we leave in our wake as we meander through life, Sebastien’s has been "following him around since 1985”. The stand out track is "Lose It", a cheerfully tragic plea written in the voice of a child with a disability to those who victimise him “please don’t make it harder than it is.”
The self titled album Simian Ghost is a work of art and a compelling listen, it is right up there with the best of Lemon Jelly and Daft Punk. It would be equally excellent as the accompaniment for a meal with friends, a solitary evening with a bottle of wine or maybe even as the backdrop to the final 5 minutes of Grand Designs!
Simian Ghost is released on September 29th.
Review by Pete Yeomans