Album Review: Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!




DFA Records – home to electronic outfits like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip (in the U.S.), and Hercules and Love Affair – has gradually earned a reputation as one of the prominent labels in new wave/nu-disco since its inauguration in 2001. Fronted by electro punk protege James Murphy and British producer/DJ Tim Goldsworthy, DFA (an acronym for Death From Above) has also had serious involvement in the Italo Disco revival that has emerged over the last few years.

In ’07, Murphy fronted fellow New York enthusiasts of synthesizers and spacey dance beats, childhood friends Nick Milhiser and Alex Frankel, who seemed to divulge all of these post-’80s compulsions with a single titled “Hold On”. As one that resonates a squeaky clean complexion, resembling European dance in the ’80s more than Chromeo’s recent Business Casual, the duo seemed to be a perfect fit with the label’s aesthetic. They would go on under the moniker Holy Ghost! (your love is like the Holy Ghost!) and with the help of DFA, attract a devout following of disco supporters and electro fanatics by remixing the likes of Friendly Fires, MGMT, Cut Copy, Phoenix, and labelmates LCD Soundsystem.

In the three years since “Hold On” was put out, Holy Ghost! has toured all across the globe, played several festivals, released a song for Mountain Dew’s emerging Green Label Sound, and dropped their Static On The Wire EP. With the release of their first proper self-titled full length, they contribute to growing post-disco fads with tracks that are chock full of soulful harmonies, backed with an unrestrained supply of drum machines, vintage keyboards, and bubbling synthesizers. Like everything else these days, Holy Ghost! is indubitably intended to yield a sense of wistfulness for anyone who grew up during the ’80s, and it does.

If you’ve seen them live, then you’ll know their repertoire is all-embracing; Holy Ghost! follows this blueprint, ranging from electric dance jams (“Static on The Wire”) to groovier exploits ideal for rollerskating, like “Some Children”, which some could consider the epilogue to George Clinton’s “We Want The Funk”. There’s a ton of that new wave obsession we’ve heard from acts like Cut Copy and Twin Shadow here, implemented profusely on lead single “Do It Again”, and the overly enticing “Slow Motion”. The most blatant genre eternalized, Italo Disco, dominates Holy Ghost!, with its lavish use of dreamy, spaced-out electro beats and prodding, slightly repetitive drum patterns. As previously reported, DFA drafted a handful of trained vocalists to contribute, including Luke Jenner of The Rapture, Chris Glover of Penguin Prison, and THE Michael McDonald of Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers fame. It works oddly well though, just like when Warren G and Nate Dogg used “I Keep Forgetting” as the basis for “Regulate”.

Holy Ghost! may not be a game changer, but it’s not redundant in an electro-pop scene increasingly dominated by progressive disco. Holy Ghost! caters to enthusiasts of old-school clubs and garage-style discotheques, though the songs are considerably lengthier (and hence not entirely mainstream friendly), sharing more in common with LCD Soundsystem jams than the routine pop sound that dominates vocally charged electronica.

On their official website, Holy Ghost! cite DJ Larry Levan as a major influence, a figure who revolutionized the post-disco “club” era, incorporating drum machines and synthesizers into live performances. As the DJ for New York night club Paradise Garage, Levan’s Saturday night sets were referred to as “Saturday Mass”. One must wonder if Holy Ghost! or fellow DFA mates The Rapture are named as a tribute to him. Regardless, it is indisputable that the duo’s bulbous nu-disco ethos found on Holy Ghost! stems from Levan’s revolutionary DJ sets.