Sunday 8 March 2020

Black Casino And The Ghost - Farewell Marshal Brunswick

Farewell Marshal Brunswick is Black Casino And The Ghost's third album and their first since 2015's Until The Waters Run Clear. It's a record that succeeds in pulling together many diverse ideas, styles and approaches and distilling them into an album that acts as a journey through its creators' minds.

Black Casino And The Ghost set their stall out from the start of the album's opening track Bag Of Bones, it's a glorious mish-mash of styles and instrumentation that come together to make it feel both like a chaotic improvisation, particularly the first half of the record, but also a band that's in complete control of the multitude of ideas running through their collective bones. Running through the whole album we get glorious brass, unashamedly huge guitar solos, vocal styles and treatments and then moments that are much more restrained yet no less impactful that help create the vibrant atmosphere that pervades the thirty-three minutes that Farewell Marshal Brunswick stays with us. Multiple listens just reveal the subtleties that lie within these songs as they unravel in front of you.

The first three songs hurtle by without pausing for breath - and there's enough in Bag Of Bones, Loreeta and King Of The Lost Boys ideas-wise for a whole record. It's an exhilarating trip they take you on, you can't just listen to these songs, you have to be prepared for them to sweep you off your feet and carry you along. It's something that Black Casino And The Ghost have done on previous albums - Until The Waters Run Clear and Some Dogs Think Their Name Is No - but here they seem to have found the crosshairs and hit dead centre.

They do slow things down, to give us time to breathe if not them, on Mama Moon and Dark Days Vincent, where the ideas don't dry up, but they're delivered with tension where there was previously adrenaline, the latter in particular creating a feeling of unease, particularly when Elisa questions "Vinny, have you got anything to say?" with a sense that she knows what she wants the answer to be and makes it clear to him.

Only To Look Good starts with muffled vocal samples, a solo guitar riff and Elisa half-singing half-speaking "I have to say cheery chat really makes me uncomfortable, I used to be a little better but now it's out of control" and the discomfort is accentuated by the wait for the song to kick in that you know is coming but never quite does, drums taking the place of the guitar. It defies your traditional song structures, as much of Farewell Marshal Brunswick does, but is all the better for it as it ends with layered vocals asking "how will I survive for another day? Waking on the hills I will survive"

There's a familiar feel but one you can't quite put your finger on to Charlie White Shorts, an edgy funky riff that grows in volume and intensity as the song progresses before dropping down and back again. It's very different from what's gone before, but this far into the album you're belted in, know you're safe in their hands, and let them take you on the next part of the ride.

Rubble is stripped back and urgent in the opening moments before accelerating both in the pace of the music and the way Elisa despatches the vocals, repeating the song's one-word title over and over again in the chorus. It jumps around, keeping you on edge, putting the foot down and taking in the thrill of the moment before throwing on the handbrake and braking frantically.

Or starts off angelically, soothing musically and vocally Elisa sounds like she's offering comfort as harmonies drift in the distance between lines. It's a gorgeous counterpoint to what's gone before, the impact heightened by the sense of anticipation of it taking off that never comes.  It's an approach continued in the album's title track, the instruments hardly there for the first minute with just Elisa centre stage musing "I'm just trying to catch a glimpse of you", before the dramatic yet very subtle and understated drums and synths come in underneath the vocals.

How Was The World, clocking in at just one minute thirty-seven seconds, closes the albums, the song's title reflecting the song's questioning of what is going on in the world we live in (and written even in the pre-Coronavirus days that are having such an impact in Italy where Black Casino And The Ghost have returned home to). It features eerie haunting vocals from Elisa set against an apocalyptic backdrop that casts the sound of impending doom.

Farewell Marshal Brunswick might have been five years in the making, but it's been time well spent in pulling together a mass of ideas that in the wrong hands could have ended as a incoherent mess. What the album does is in its faster moments is to take things right to the edge but never crosses the line into chaos, whilst its reflective moments are more soothing, warming and genuine. It's a fascinating journey through restless creative minds, fusing so much into something that feels like it's the perfect shape and form.

Black Casino and the Ghost's website can be found here and they are also on Facebook and Twitter.

The album is available on CD and digital from their Bandcamp.

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