Intense and freeing mood-maker, Gentle Ghosts shares his stylistically emotional first solo DIY album, All I See Is Ghosts.
In his first solo album, All I See Is Ghosts, Gentle Ghosts is reminiscent of stylistic descendants like Bright Eyes and Elliot Smith and explores and joins the gaps between folk, grunge and emo sounds, layered with soul-testifying lyrics and fuzzy guitars.
Brandon Lampinen uses Gentle Ghosts as navigation into his psyche, allowing him to let the ghosts inside his head come out and be heard. Born out of a dark period in his life, where he was burying his feelings, the album has helped him arrive at a place where he holds expressing these ghosts as an important part of being alive: “We all have ghosts inside us: parts of ourselves we’re scared to let show. We push them down, further and further out of sight, but they never really go away. However, if we give them a voice, we often find that they don’t mean us any harm.”
He was stuck in the muddy mess of self-doubt for a long time, struggling to even pick up his guitar. A friend had seen this struggle and motivated him to just write something shit: “BRANDON… grab your guitar and play literally the worst song you can possibly play.” Playing some crazy cacophony for even a few minutes helped him let go of expectations and embrace a sense of freedom. One day at a time, it became a ritual to just be as he was, to just create whatever came out, good or bad. After a month, his buried emotions emerged into terrifying ghosts in the form of songs. These shadows were confronting but it became a ritual of self-exploration and birthed the album that friends have told him feels like “a message in a bottle.”
Gentle Ghosts starts his album off with the persona of a quirky ASMR YouTuber in ASMR Intro as he curiously fucks with an old AM radio that he stumbled across. His calming vocals are cut off with disruptive distorted radio noise and his music slowly intertwines within the fuzz.
Puzzled, an earworm crafted within obscure and primal distortive riffs, introduces us to the motif of static drowning. The twists and turns of the guitar bring a sense that he is giving himself to the moment and his sprawling vocals jack up his energy to get through the noisy thoughts and into a state of chaotic catharsis. Shifting between a crazy sense of joy that is heard through his morphing vocal ‘woahs’ and the scrapes of unleashed and glistening melodic guitar, he takes us on his heart-rendering introspective slump.
Gentle Ghosts softly cries through his tender expansive melodic vocals and backup vocals, in the third track Lose It All. He unveils his haunting feelings, murmuring through feedback and is lit with sadness, like a flame that is flickering. His emerging backup vocals possess this state and drag him through gloom alongside a sustaining bass and drums. Through tension and release, he explores this fragile essence in wordless harmonies and feather-light distorted voices. Cascading into a deep boundless pounding of drums, a blistering static wraps up the song, moving away from claustrophobic thoughts.
As a quick interlude, Breathwork continues the ecstatic, distorted guitar feedback vibes and fades into a sad finger-picking guitar that itches a scratch before fading into the next track About You. In this track, his sound becomes expansive and unhinged as he explores shades of love and existential shadow through melodic layered vocals and erupting amplified tough picking. Through these unbearable feelings, Gentle Ghosts explodes and becomes a theft of the melody he has designed.
As an evocation of nightmare-like emotions, the track Ghosts explores Gentle Ghost’s fixation on distortion to the extreme, with shrill radio static sampled throughout the track. With distant vocals fading into the song, this track delivers paint-stripping fragile rawness.
Want It All is a sonic stormy sound that invades pure vocal sequences, allowing Gentle Ghosts to use the spaces in between to yell fragments of emotions. Ringing low-end guitar and lyrical depth nod to the spirit of Brian Eno as his vocals and striking guitars meld into startling distortion. Blistering from the callouses of intense introspection, Gentle Ghosts ends the song in an unsettling sense of dread. With washed-up doubts and anxieties, the synth in the distant background feels ethereal and hopeful as it sweeps within the drone-like thundery sounds.
Breathwork II brings a stable guitar tone amongst the static sounds. A snippet of a podcast-like vocal brings about a sense of control through the words “breathe out through the mouth, focusing on that sensation, and it’s yours, this whole thing.”
In contrast, the next track requires a trigger warning as this song explores the feelings of suicidal ideation. Be Alive was performed by Gentle Ghosts at Petersham Bowling Club in August this year. It opened the audience up to his desire for vulnerable connection and truthful expression. A song about not wanting to be alive, lyrics representing a real-time, moves away from being cynical and teleports to places of transparency within difficult emotions. Through his crispy and raw vocals, he collapses into bashes of raw percussion and fuzzy high-wire licks of the guitar. It was shuttering to watch this live, to feel the restlessness of alienation and hear the carnage of emotions through his spiraling confessions.
In his second-last track, Fabric Soften, he returns to a soft cry and a static stormy atmosphere. Through rustling bird sounds, he is scattered within positive and negative self-assurance in a breathy and foggy atmosphere. The last track, Sacramento elevates over the static motif of his album and brings a jauntier, lighter feel to it. He fumbles through a spacey groove-like jaunt through his vocals and guitar riffs, ending in a mutated and choppy conclusion.
Through venturing through all these emotions that came with each of these incredible tracks, Gentle Ghosts shifts between light and dark shades of life. Embracing the changing cycles of life and the contractions of life that are mixed within beautiful and despairing emotions. Stream All I See Is Ghosts via Spotify below. Take a breath, feel the emotions, and take it all in.