Wilderness Names (youtouchusyoudie Records)

Living Ghost a/k/a Daniel Davis (ex-Weather is Happening, ex-Be Kind to Your Neighbor) makes dark, dense, lo-fi jams in the vein of TV on the Radio’s debut EP, Young Liars. But where TVotR mined the soulfulness of drum machine-laden post-punk, Davis brings out the punk in post-punk. Wilderness Names is the first release for his new(ish) solo moniker and over the 31-minute run time, it can get a bit messy and sprawling, but when it hits, it’ll lay you out flat.
Davis’ Living Ghost opens up his debut torrent of guitar noise with an impressive and imposing two-song suite. “Satisfaction Song/Long Walking Wake,” comprises roughly one-third of the album’s time and sets the ominous vibe of the record well. The big question with the massive eleven-minute jam is why the two are bound together as one track? I don’t see a thematic reason and the whole album has a wonderful sonic cohesion–these two halves seeming no more closely related than any of the other tracks, so I’m left wondering why we have this giant, uncompromising track instead of two dirty, distorted, post-punk jams.
“Go it Alone (Where No One Goes)” is already one of my favorite songs of the past few months, and with it’s heavy, trunk-rattling beats, I see no reason for my affections to wane. “Go it Alone” isn’t just a sweet-ass beat, it’s also a heart-wrenching, vocal chord-shredding performance from Davis who pushes the levels into the red, over top of his looped and layered guitar attack.
“Raze Your Hands” adheres, largely, to the same aesthetic as “Go it Alone,” loud, hyper-distorted waves of guitar and vocal-chord breaking bellows. However, “Quitting Song,” which follows, is a tight, terse tune, foregoing much of the massive arrangements of the first three tracks. Though Davis crafted fantastic beats, which cut a swath between truck-bumping and nervous skittering, “Quitting Song” is the first time the beats really get spotlighted. Davis’ guitar work is minimal and atmospheric–as opposed to gigantic and atmospheric, and he opts for the album’s closest concession to signing.
The key to Davis’ army of one on Wilderness Names is how he divides his talents to carry each composition at alternating points. His core-rattling howls are intermittently frightening and heart-wrenching. However, he can’t keep that kind of sustained vocal-chord torture just isn’t possible. That’s where Davis’ fretwork comes into play. Drawing on some angular picking from the likes of Wire (circa Pink Flag and Chairs Missing), he buries them in sheets of reverb-laden guitar work, ala My Bloody Valentine, which gives the songs a density that belies the inherent repetitiveness of looping and layering instruments. Wilderness Names rarely sounds pat or excessively looped, Davis manages the uncanny feat of making overdubbed and layered instrumentation sound loose and easy without sacrificing the strength of the compositions.

You can pay what you like for Wilderness Names on the Living Ghost bandcamp page here.

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