Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
The journey was one through a desolate, cold, empty space. With nothing but distant lights to warm it. It may be beautiful, but cripplingly lonely. Sputnik, was a key part of the story to space travel, celebrating it’s 62nd birthday on the release of Nick Cave’s latest album, which, coincidentally, is going to be a key part of Nick Cave’s story. In ‘Fireflies’, Nick Cave preaches sotto voce, ‘everything we need is just too far. We are photons released from a dying star. And we are fireflies a child has trapped in a jar. Then everything is as distant as the stars, and I am here, and you are where you are.’ Sputnik’s anniversary and this record ride parallel, both boundary-pushing, contemporary, and fantastically otherworldly.
Cave has retained the broad, overarching themes ever-present in all his work, particularly that of the previous writing in the Bad Seeds – Bible references are strung throughout the record, alongside those of love, loss, and mythology. Ghosteen is a triumphant return for the band - it is a glowing showcase of songwriting, containing all the hallmarks of traditional Nick Cave while also not losing touch with the current music scene.
While also containing streaks of popular classical artists (Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds and Erland Cooper to name a few), he paints a portrait of gentle, melancholic melodies. ‘Night Raid’ has a particularly ominous bell-like ringing through-out the piece. It clashes irkingly with the distant strings - like the sound of a distant ship in the dark, it looms eerily.
‘Leviathan’ is a stand-out, ‘I love my baby, and my baby loves me’ is croakily repeated to angelic choral replies and a multi-layered synth- all backed with almost exclusively bongo drums. ‘Ghosteen’ is a 12-minute epic, for the first half an oscillating synth is accompanied by strings billowing in-and-out. Towards the end, it adopts a more peaceable approach. ‘Hollywood’, another 12-minute epic has a palpable layer of threat to it, ending the record just where it should – a bass that threatens to launch into some sort of Birthday Party cacophony.
This is one of the most strikingly beautiful soundscapes of the year – composed of gentle, cosmic crescendos and massive waves of bass-y synth. This is the first time Nick Cave has flirted so gregariously with synths. It’s no Der Mussolini, but it fits comfortably among other modern entrances within the synth scene. Calling it an ‘instant classic’ would cheapen it, but is most definitely an immediate example of brilliance.
Listen to the album below: