If their name didn’t give something away, and the release date just before Halloween didn’t either, then the lady who speaks over a slow pulse at the start of the first track, does: “One dark and stormy night a light appears in the topmost window of the old house,” she intones. ”You decide to investigate. And you never return.”
It could be the opening of an episode of The Twilight Zone, or maybe a classic horror story. That archetypal imagery, conjured expertly across the LP through sampling, melody, and tone, keeps The Marshmallow Ghosts‘ self-titled album in line with the Halloween theme. This year’s release marks the third Halloween-themed effort from the group that acts as Graveface Records’ Halloween house band, comprised this time of Lady Lazarus, Dreamend, Hospital Ships, Casket Girls & Graveface kingpins, and Black Moth Super Rainbow. Here they’ve truly hit the mark, presenting a series of terse and emotional sonic vignettes.
Opener “Shrieks” is a perfect example. Beginning with a crackle like an old record player whirring to life, the song builds towards its center (a wheezing electric organ that pumps a twisted fair-ground melody) by meshing together a spooky goodie bag of sounds: some dragging chains, a shrieking cat, and, of course, distant howling.
The album is replete with chill-inducing moments. Eerie vocals, animal sounds, and quiet spoken lines emerge from under the tonal landscape only to submerge again. Not afraid to make use of effective silence, The Marshmallow Ghosts soothes you with its creepiness, and sings a lullaby of recurring loops and sustained tonal patterns, aiming to induce a kind of trance.
Written to be played alongside the film Corpse Reviver No. 2, it’s easy to see why this album deals in minimalistic arrangements and in disjointed themes and long segues. After all, for the film and the LP to work together in anything more than a cursory way, the music would need to abandon key principles. Those long, drawn out tonal pauses are a necessary inclusion on an album which has to benefit in some way from its relationship with an image.
That said, the album can work perfectly well on its own. Alongside those freakier moments, The Marshmallow Ghosts is light, even whimsical. Some tracks take on a basic pop formula, while the vocals are dominant, yet sensitive in a way akin to Sparklehorse. “It Won’t Be Long”, “Wait for the Day”, and “The White Stain Gown”, which close the album, act as a kind of crescendo or outro, and are infectiously catchy, as well as poignant in a way that makes this much more than a Halloween-themed release.
Essential Tracks: “It Won’t Be Long”, “Shrieks”, “Wait for the Day”