Monolake – Ghosts review

Robert Henke’s music has always been blessed with a supernatural edge, personified by those ticks, glitches and slivers of sound that lend an extra dimension to his robust, muscular rhythms. On Monolake’s latest album, however, it feels and sounds like the spirits have taken over the show and are dictating how each arrangement should be played out.

This turning of the tables is audible from the get-go as the title track’s stepping, metallic rhythm is nudged into an eerie place thanks to the bassline’s understated menace. “Taku” sees the supernatural occupy more prominence as creaking doors, spooky whistling sounds and a percussive sample that sounds like a coin spinning around in a circle before crashing on a table prevail. Henke continues this obtuse approach on “Existence Of Time”, where tonal shifts and a fuzzy bass conspire to all but drown out the track’s clipped beats. But like a long shadow cast by the late afternoon sun, this tome’s fragility and transience is also a large part of its beauty.

Both “Hitting the Surface” and “Discontinuity” provide a more equal balance between Henke’s pitter-pattering rhythms and the otherworldly –  a parity that is most striking thanks to the chiming bells of the former – while the breathy melodies of “Aligning The Daemon” sees Henke in unusually mellow mode. These should not detract from the main focus of Ghosts however, and the flailing snares and abstract percussive ticks on “Unstable Matter” as well as the jittery hi-hats and gloomy bleeps on “Phenomenon” suggest that something unseen yet very real is powering Henke’s machines. Just don’t listen to this album with the lights off.

Richard Brophy