I am tremendously lucky in that my job gives me the opportunity to experiment with culture. I always try to push forward outside my comfort zones, find something new and interesting and I often do that through Bandcamp. It’s there I found the excellent Modern Aviation and there I recently discovered the equally excellent Ghost Cop.
Ghost Cop are Lucy Swope, Sean Dack and friends. Across One Weird Trick, they tokyo drift through multiple styles and genres, creating an album that feels urban, retro, modern and complicated. An aural map of any given city in essence, shot through with humor, darkness and eccentricity.
‘Leaving the Plaza at Dawn (Part 1) is all driving, urgent synth lines and the sense of a chase barely contained. It starts the album off perfectly and is built on by ‘Accelerate’ which scatters a hint of The Human League over a drum line that classic Sisters of Mercy fans will nod approvingly at.
From there the album slows down a little with ‘Enhance’ which puts me in mind of nothing more than the Deus Ex games. There’s the same sense of sleeping informational leviathans, of something vast under the surface of a song whose tension constantly ratchets but is refused release.
‘Quiet Test’ follows it and is the moment the album executes a perfect Judo throw and dumps you on the ground. The vocal here is more Laurie Anderson than anything else and the song is, if not whimsical, then certainly more open and upbeat than anything that’s come before.
Title track ‘One Weird Trick’ follows and plays like everything that proceeded it stacked on top of one another. Chunky bass, driving synths and an offset vocal all land and land well. Especially as they’re followed by the Vangelis-esque ‘Approaching the City Limits; (Part 2) with it’s massive, Cthonic sliding synths and sense of imminent doom.
‘Forever and Never’ is back to the urgency but with a narrower sound that tips over into rock and is all the more successful for being the one time the album does. It’s followed by still another change of pace, the vocals swimming to the slightly Middle Eastern surface of ‘Listen to the Sound’. If there’s a sunset in the city this album is set in, it sets in this track.
‘Lay Down’ picks up on that slower tempo and manages to retain urgency despite that. It’s another broad, layered piece and has some of the strongest vocals on the album. As opposed to ‘Shine’ which places a bleaker vocal inside a stripped down arrangement whose structure creates the same urgency as ‘Lay Down by keeping the vocals and orchestration separate far more.
The album is rounded out by the STRIPPER remix of ‘Accelerate’. It’s a great round off, rebuilding the track into something with an almost jazz feel even as it strips the piece down to its skeleton and bolts a very different skeleton to it. It’s a world away from the 1980s-esque original and stronger for it.
That idea, of variations on a central core, is something the limited edition of the album makes overt. In addition to a collection of artwork and the album on a USB stick it ships with a collection of micro fiction short stories by Tim Maughan. Tim, whose novel Infinite Detail is out next year, has an exceptional eye for this exact sort of story and has great fun here. Each one is essentially the same; a city bus stop, a moment admiring someone’s dress senses, eye contact, guilt. But each story is set in an entirely different city. Sometimes it’s a utopia, sometimes it’s a ruin. But the core remains the same and so do we. Survival not as victory but as consistency. Instinct overwriting environment. All are delivered with Tim’s customary wit and incisive eye for detail and character and each one complements the album perfectly. If any are still available, find them here. If not, other editions will be.
One Weird Trick is an extended sprint through a city made of music. Every street is different but the ground remains consistent and that gives Ghost Cop the opportunity to be endlessly inventive, nod to the past and more importantly, build the future of their genre. One of the strongest albums I’ve heard in a long time, and if you can, pick up the limited edition, it’s more than worth it.