Stray Ghost – ‘Losthilde’ (Highpoint Lowlife)
I’ve spoken of Stray Ghost before, mainly about his collaboration with Eugene Robinson of Oxbow fame, but his 2008 LP ‘Losthilde’ is the focus of this older review. This monumental record came from nowhere and snuck into my Top Ten of that year, no mean feat from an artist I had barely heard of. A lot of demos landed on my doorstep that year. The majority were usually competent, but generic and repetitive stuff. Stray Ghost was different; from the first moment I listened I was transported to another dimension. Some of the most expansive, all-consuming sounds I have ever heard. Like Godspeed doing drone, the symphonic nature of ‘Losthilde’ found Ant Saggers operating in a stratosphere of his own, read my review from 2008 below:
Highpoint Lowlife have provided a veritable feast of delights recently, particularly over the first half of 2008 issuing the likes of the electric “Magnetism” vinyl and the pulsating “Dubstoned Ep” by Dutch duo Funckarma. It is essential, though, that you get your jaws around the latest offering from the London stable. A simply colossal offering from Stray Ghost, in the shape of “Losthilde”.
The work of Oxfordshire avant-guitarist and sonic terrorist Ant Saggers, the four tracks featured here collectively clock in at almost seventy minutes, giving you an idea of the daunting aura surrounding this record. Saggers deploys an arsenal of crude programming tools and banks of effects pedals and field recordings to create a monumental sound that teeters between the waltz-like grace of Post-Rock legends Godspeed You Black Emperor and the solar winds, charged electromagnetic pulses and vast ambient clouds found on the Voyager Recordings series.
“There’s An Ocean Between Us, You and I” is wisely split into two sections. Even still, Part 1 runs as if it is a collection of three movements as Saggers directs the piece from a processed passage of ghostly symphonies towards a myriad of mystic, Middle Eastern textures via desolate, astrowind battered plains, over the course of its twenty-four minutes. Part 2 also impresses, starting as quietly as a whisper before developing into a volcanic roar, with the skull-shattering noise reaching Burgess style ‘ultraviolence’ levels.
“Suadade – Part 1” is equally as epic, kicking off with a twisted mélange of fire-flecked guitar, tempered percussion and disconcerting tones speckled with froth and hiss. interlocking sections of noise and dissonance bleed into melody and harmony to create a sound that is not of this world. Part 2 follows suit, the elegant majesty of Saggers constantly shifting sound rivaling past-masters such as Tangerine Dream. Its complexities, seemingly as vast as space itself, are awe-inspiring as strange atmospherics clash with industrial noise and ghostly sounds, like the evocative of being caught slap bang in the centre of a huge, all-consuming storm.
You may want to take a moment to compose yourself, pause for breath, or indeed scrape you jaw from the floor, after subjecting yourself to “Losthilde”. Saggers has created a truly cathartic piece that cleanses right to the core. “Losthilde” is a trip and a half. A trip of mammoth proportions.