Dark Days and Canapés has a way of sounding monotonous.
There’s a long tradition of downtempo British music which appeals to those who love electronica and pop influences. From Tricky’s earliest recordings to the enormous Massive Attack, the combination of chilled out music and slightly south of normal approaches to production has made for some of the freshest music of the last couple of decades. Obaro Ejimiwe’s Ghostpoet has continued that tradition with a series of records which see him make gentle idea suggestions into a microphone over a combination of trip-hop beats, atmospheric sounds and jazz influences.
While his records are definitely innovative, his approach to performance on his latest record Dark Days and Canapés has a way of sounding monotonous. The inflections of his speech do not change in any way from the beginning of the record to the end. He simply speaks the lines, inflecting with an oddly unstable fluctuation at the end which sounds more like a pubescent boy discovering his changing voice than a deliberate attempt to sound cool or accessible.
The strength of Ghostpoet is in the music production. As an instrumental record, Dark Days and Canapés would really impress the same people who love Bonobo or DJ Shadow. Indeed there’s a very Ninja Tune element to the whole record. But again where it falls short is introducing the same vocal pattern in every track. It could best be described as a sort of artistic self-indulgence where Ejimiwe remixes the same song twelve times with marginally different but equally mundane samples and patterns. One exception is “Live>Leave,” which stands out as one track that boasts a little more musicality than the intro opener “One More Sip.”
It’s hard to know what to call this music other than to say that it’s dinner music for a party in which everyone has already given up hope. Perhaps at an end-of-the-world scenario, a track like “Karoshi” would inspire someone to dance around the room but I doubt it. It’s far more likely that the record is played at their funeral. There is some really interesting mounting drum patterns and it’s easy to see why the guy is taken seriously as a musician. But it must be stated that even though “Blind as a Bat…” is a beautifully sampled track, there aren’t enough martinis in the world to draw in the crowd. The jazz pianos in the latter half of the track are a distraction upon a distraction. “Woe is Meee” again features top-notch music production with a wobbly baseline and a sort of knocking percussion which can be heard from that locked basement you’re repeatedly told not to go into in the dark.
Everyone’s got a singing style, of course, and Ejimiwe’s approach is less about a style imposed on a type of content than a consistent and measured repeat of the same pattern ad nauseam. “Immigrant Boogie” manages to sound more energetic than some of the other tracks but then you realize he’s singing about the displacement of refugees. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a depressing record but when every poem or story is delivered in the same spoken-word meets vocal-fry style, it becomes relentless. By the time you’ve reached the end of the album, the idea of rewinding it simply means rewinding to the start. No track is so good that it shines above the rest and in general the experience is blander than it is heartbreaking and more bleak than just boring. While it boasts great production value, there’s little here that could be singled out for repeat play on its own virtues.