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REVIEW: Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam (Brownswood, 2011)

A ghostwriter is someone who writes for and gives credit of authorship to another. A ghostpoet, we can infer, is that specific kind of ghostwriter whose work takes on a more creative, flowing, literative interpretation of events. Calling yourself Ghostpoet is actually pretty clever. It draws the focus on the music and not the musician, on the art and not the artist. It tells us to view the artist only as the pen, putting things together for the sake of the content, not the sake of the writer. It draws on the numinous of creativity, rather than the identity of it.

Also, it’s a pretty cool name.

It’s this juxtaposition between heady artistry and down-to-earth easiness that Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam presents us with. If he’s the ghostwriter, you’re the fence.

Obaro Ejimiwe’s Roots-meets-Skinner drone is caught precisely between languid coolness and insipid emptiness. His lyrics are simultaneously typical pop psychology and searing cynicism of everyday life – ‘”Run away. Be a real man and fight another day.” / I heard that in a TV program, so it must be right. Right? Right.‘ (Run Run Run). You’re left wondering, who is he disdaining of? Life’s runners, or the television generation, or is the sarcasm so encompassing that he’s actually making a comment on commentary itself?

Yet elsewhere this apparent cleverness goes missing. Who can see the subtext behind lyrics about pork pies and a chorus of “Round and round we go / where’s it gonna stop? / I ain’t been paid and I ain’t got a lot / but it’s us against whatever babe.” (Us Against Whatever Ever)? Then I feel a fool, because he answers me: “Look, I can’t be a retrospective rapper all the time / so I thought I’d write a simple song with different different lines like mine: / I know what I’m doing, but I gotta keep on moving / don’t ask me what my plan is / cos I’m not quite sure I planned it.” (I Just Don’t Know)

But where the album truly triumphs is in the beats. Claustrophobic and minimal, precise and yet as lazy and as slurred as the vocal, we discover an exceptional body of work in Ghostpoet’s debut. The lounge-swagger of Longing For The Night (Yeah Pause) is the perfect bedding for Ejimiwe’s rhymes, as is the dark house of Us Against Whatever Ever. The deep dubstep of Garden Path nails the template better than any other on Peanut Butter Blues…, mixing minimal ambience, deep bass, house-synths and a lazy down-tempo groove to compliment the self-aware bleakness of Ejimiwe’s lyrics.

James Blake has been cited as the face of a new post-dubstep movement. But post-dubstep should be more than deliberately minimal synths. Stretching across dubstep, garage, grime and experimental electronica, Ghostpoet might be the UK’s answer to Flying Lotus, and an exciting indication of dubstep’s impact on UK electronica.

8/10

Ghostpoet on Spotify

James TAE

By James TAE

James TAE is a Music and Tech Journalist, Editor for Spotisfaction, and writer for God Is In The TV and London Tour Dates magazine. Follow him @James_TAE

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