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Video of the Moment #311: Holy Ghost!

 
By on Wednesday, 28th July 2010 at 6:00 pm
 

NYC’s Holy Ghost! have released a promo video for one of the tracks off the ‘Static on the Wire’ EP I reviewed in May. It features Caroline Polachek of Chairlift. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aJcyde1N9Y[/youtube]

 

Album Review: Holy Ghost! – Static on the Wire EP

 
By on Friday, 28th May 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Holy Ghost! is the electronic project of long-time New York City mates Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser. Friends since early childhood, they were members of a short-lived teen hip hop outfit called Automato, whose debut album was produced by James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) and Tim Goldsworthy, founders of the influential, independent dance label DFA Records. (So that explains the DFA / Holy Ghost! connection.) The hip hop group didn’t work out but encouraged by DFA, the two stayed involved in the music business and eventually got some suggestions on turning their music towards a more dancey, disco-ey sound that is now Holy Ghost!’s trademark.

Though their debut single and now dancefloor classic ‘Hold On’ was released in 2007 (which, frankly feels like a lifetime ago in music business terms), Frankel and Millhiser spent most of the time since as DJs and doing remixes for other high-profile artists (let’s name-check MGMT, Cut Copy, Moby and buddies LCD Soundsystem). So they were a bit preoccupied before they actually got round to a ‘real’ debut album. Which is what the ‘Static on the Wire’ EP is. As the first bunch of official songs to be released by the duo, they have a lot to live up; they are one of the most heralded acts in the New York dance music community. Regular readers of TGTF may recall my review of their 12″ split single with Friendly Fires from earlier this year, when Frankel and Millhiser deconstructed ‘On Board’ and put it back together, giving it a distinct Holy Ghost! stamp on it.

‘Static on the Wire’ is a nice collection of four original songs, altogether over 25 minutes of music. Remember, this is a DJ duo that until 2 weeks ago had never played with a live band. So of course their songs are going to be longer than the stuff you hear on radio. We’ve been programmed by mainstream radio format to only accept songs in the 2- to 3-minute range, but this EP is a good reason to forget old habits. Just give yourself over to the rhythm and dance. Frankel and Millhiser have been in the DJ business long enough to recognise what gets bodies moving. For the most part, the beats on these tracks are so ace, you cannot use the excuse of ‘oh, I can’t make it to a club’ – no, do yourself a favour and use them on your next workout.

The best of the bunch is ‘I Will Come Back’; on this one in particular, you can see why they and Friendly Fires are mates. Stunning piece of work. The title track, ‘Static on the Wire’, is another earworm for you to boogie to. Don’t confuse ‘Say My Name’ with the Destiny’s Child song of the same name; it comes with sparse instrumentation and tentative beats and lyrics. It’s the only disappointment on the EP, sounding otherworldly and maybe that’s why I find it the least warm of the four selections. The last track of the EP, ‘I Know, I Hear’, has lyrics sung in a vibe similar to Gorillaz’s ‘Stylo’, which I find very interesting (purely coincidental?). Let me know if you agree.

There is a definite nod to the ‘80s, the golden age of synthesisers, pervading the entire EP. That to me is an excellent thing; the best dance music has wicked beats and singalong lyrics to make you forget what’s outside that club. Getting people onto a dancefloor is all about creating atmosphere, and Holy Ghost! have done that with this debut EP. If the beats don’t get you up on your feet and into the club mindset, there is definitely something wrong with you.

9/10

The band just played their first-ever live show (as opposed to a DJ set) on 15 May at Under 100 in New York City. Special thanks to my mate anthoNYC for the heads-up on the gig, you can view his excellent photos and read about his star sightings (including birthday boy Ed Macfarlane of Friendly Fires) at the show at his blog Tastes Like Caramel. While we weren’t lucky enough to be present for such a special Holy Ghost! event, check out this video taken by ‘Sup Magazine of their dancefloor classic ‘Hold On’. If this video is any indication on what their live shows are going to be like, it’s going to be difficult for me to ‘hold tight’ and wait to see them next month.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/11777383[/vimeo]

You can order Holy Ghost!’s ‘Static on the Wire’ EP from DFA Records. The band is currently on tour with LCD Soundsystem in North America. They will be playing several headlining gigs on the East Coast of America in June and will go on tour with Chromeo in late July. At the time of this writing, the only UK appearances the band have on their tour schedule are the Manchester Deaf Institute on 08 July and Lovebox Festival in London on 18 July.

 

In the Post #49: Friendly Fires and Holy Ghost! Cover Each Other’s Songs

 
By on Tuesday, 16th February 2010 at 12:00 pm
 

One of the more unique songs to be reviewed recently on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable on 6music is Friendly Fires‘s reinterpretation of ‘Hold On’, the dancefloor hit by New York City electro duo Holy Ghost! It’s only one half of a split single to be released in early March: Holy Ghost! returned the favour by covering Friendly Fires’s singalong ‘On Board’. When asked about it previously by BBC 6music News, singer Ed Macfarlane said that they had definite desire to do a reinterpretation of the Holy Ghost! track rather than simply a remix like the painstaking one he did for Phoenix‘s ‘Fences’.

This is no doubt unusual, having versions of big hits by two heavy hitters of the current electro dance scene on the same single, but what I like most about these reinterpretations is that these were recorded in mutual appreciation of each other’s music. That is, one band was fully aware that the other was going to put their personal loving stamp on one of their tracks and vice versa. Both acts also did instrumental versions of the the songs they covered; Holy Ghost! provided a dub mix of ‘On Board’ as well.

Speaking on Monday to Steve Lamacq by phone from his band’s East London recording digs, Macfarlane further explained that the idea came about when Friendly Fires ran into Holy Ghost! in Corsica last summer (presumedly at dance music festival Calvi on the Rocks). Macfarlane is a massive fan of the NYC duo’s work, so when Holy Ghost!’s Alex Frankel suggested the idea of doing covers of each other’s songs, he jumped at the chance. He considers both songs to be “really old” (released in 2007 – that’s old?) and is really happy that the project came to fruition. You can catch the interview on iPlayer until next Monday afternoon, the 22nd of February, here (fast forward about an hour and 19 minutes into the show).

Friendly Fires’s take of ‘Hold On’ starts shimmery as their own holiday anthem, ‘Paris’. With the pronounced bass lines, bouncy synths and in-your-face percussion (more agogô, more cowbell!), there’s no mistake that this is from the St. Albans trio. If it’s even possible, the chorus of “and hold tight, don’t make more plans / and don’t talk, don’t say no words / and be still, now move like this / and hold on, until the kiss…” seems even sexier than it was in the Holy Ghost! original. And the Fires’s version feels tighter, about a minute shorter than the original.

‘On Board’ has been made much more dancefloor friendly by Holy Ghost! Their track features backup singers credited as ‘the DFA Celestial Choir’; perhaps one of their members provided the female laugh when the song starts, reminscent of the laugh at the start of Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’. I’m really liking the echo effects on the vocals, the repeated “don’t stop!“s from the choir halfway through, and the wickedly funky underlying bass lines so much that I almost don’t miss the cowbell. It should also be noted here that this song marks one of the last songs !!! and LCD Soundsystem‘s late drummer Jerry Fuchs played on before his untimely death in November 2009.

After the cut: If you’re unfamiliar with either original, we’ve got you covered. You can watch Friendly Fires’s humourous video for ‘On Board’, then listen to ‘Hold On’ (as Holy Ghost! apparently don’t have an official promo for it).
Continue reading In the Post #49: Friendly Fires and Holy Ghost! Cover Each Other’s Songs

 
 
 

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