Written and recorded while front man Travis Trevisan was laid off, San Diego’s Tape Deck Mountain has taken two polar opposites, gritty lo-fi and crisp hi-fi, and settled in an uncomfortable middle ground aptly named “mid-fi.” While this approach has promise Ghost struggles to balance these two sides.
“Scantrons,” the album’s opener, begins with the ambient hum of guitar feedback and then is joined by the gentle strum of a guitar. Trevisan’s vocals emerge from the mix wrapped up in lo-fi distortion making it sound like a hollow echo. As the sleepy mix progresses, the listener is woken up by a heavy, stunning drumbeat.
The follow up, “F-,” blends into the end of “Scantrons” but leaves behind the lo-fi distortion and switches to a carefully polished keyboard and multi-layered vocals. It’s a clear departure from the controlled feedback and distortion of the opener and in this case the pairing works quite well.
While the top of the album is evenly matched, the rest of Ghost suffers from jumbled track pairings. “80/20” ends in a collision of distortion, feedback, drums, and guitar that is carried over onto “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie.” The instrumental pace is kept up until the two-minute mark when it shifts into a blend of vocal samples and otherworldly keyboards.
In the case of “80/20” and “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie” the pairing is uneven. “80/20” features a delicate haunting chorus and driving lead guitar while the follow up is simply the end of the first. The opening pair is balanced, each is a separate song that is listenable on its own. Not all of Ghost’s tracks are partnered up in a lo-fi hi-fi mishmash, at times the transition is made within the song.
The album’s namesake, “Ghost Colony,” features Trevisan’s crisp vocals eerily singing over clean sounding instruments. As the track draws to an end, the feedback and distortion kick in ending in a screeching wail.
Ghost flies by in no time at all. Pairs of songs are played through and the sound of the album casually bounces between hi-fi and lo-fi never settling on one or the other. Tape Deck Mountain never commits to a particular direction to explore and push the album to its limits, leaving Ghost doomed to sit on the fence forever.
Trial Track: “Scantrons”