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Holy Ghost Party

Holy Ghost Party

Friends Records


We Don't Exist


Holy Ghost Party Holy Ghost Party (Friends) In which Dope Body guitar alchemist Zachary Utz gets to fully unleash. No, Holy Ghost Party, his project with fellow Dope Body member David Jacober, isn’t some massive showcase of shredding, at least not in any conventional sense of shred. Holy Ghost Party makes something vaguely along the lines of what gets tagged as chillwave these days—a mite stoned, beachy, all-around pleasant off-kilter pop music—and Utz dominates it in a way that’s more self-effacing fun and goofy than, well, dominating. At the core of his guitar lines is a fair bit of psych, prog, and even math, but you likely wouldn’t latch on to any of those things unprompted. The sounds are too bright, and there’s a playfulness to it of the sort that’s starting to emerge from the bedroom-pop world, which, as stoned and pleasant as it tends to be, is also wicked self-serious. See also Tune-Yards for a referent of ace virtuosity-cum-goofballery.

Among these sounds on Holy Ghost Party, you might pick out what could only be a banjo (on “Wait”), steely notes rising out of a hum of next-room-over vocals and a refreshingly bizarre drum pattern (set at the lowest volume a sound can possibly be while still being “clangy”). Note that a banjo—or something effected to sound this close to one—should have no business in pedal-pop, and it works not in spite of itself, but because its bearer recognized a new potential. Largely though, it’s all about guitar tone and doing right by it on the record, which does in fact on occasion resemble something like shredding, but doing that shredding with fistfuls of deftly handled luminescent crayons, sounding a bit more like warm-synth than electric guitar (an octave pedal perhaps?). Guitar-guitar does emerge at points, almost as if to remind you of what one naturally sounds like.

One imagines Utz could pull off a guitar-loop record a la Dustin Wong, but Holy Ghost Party’s a complete package. Vocals are generally of the reverbed/echoed sort you hear a lot now in trendier music, but occasionally they find good use, as on “Breakfast,” where voices pan around woozily, snaking/wafting around in the mix and generally making everything feel a mite drunk. “Shit House Luck” is certainly the album’s “single,” with a comparatively firm, or at least urgent, chorus that starts to sound less “stoned ghost” than guy-in-indie-rock-band. Drumming is as playful as everything else, setting up funky pseudo-hip-hop beats, weirdo fills, and the sort of anything-goes good times that fill out, nicely, the Holy Ghost Party package.

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Pala We Don’t Exist (A389) The earworm in metal is a funny thing. You know, when those angry clouds part for a quick break of blue sky in the guise of a chorus hook or good anthem or just a clear voice and a melody. Nowadays it’s frequently used for evil and nonsense in the hands of this or that metalcore or crabcore or blankcore whathaveyou, and making it work in noncheesy, noncontrived fashion is a beautiful thing—or at least a thing you have to recognize when it comes along. So recognize Pala, a Baltimore four-piece repping Pulling Teeth’s Chris Kuhn and a fair amount of other Baltimore heaviness in its family tree. And a band that can tease out the melodic and anthemic bests from hardcore-qua-metal.

Pala’s sophomore release—at eight songs somewhere between an EP and an LP—can punish just fine. “These Weights” opens with broken whisky-core growl over dark churn and mid-pretty riff and, like a big meaty paw slowly releasing your windpipe, it passes into a clean yet raw basement-punk anthem/break. It’s a break that builds and builds, though, shoving the listener back under in thrashy, crusty metal. It’s kinda awesome. “Sure to Burn” is We Don’t Exist’s epic, slowly simmering emotive post-hardcore.

Pala has a good number of peers in this particular corner of the universe. Of all things, Thrice has come up, and maybe it’s there insofar that Pala’s another band using melody and some amount of clean vocals, but that’s sort of the root of where Pala breaks off from that corner. There’s nothing “alt” or “nu” to be found here—find instead underground hardcore/metal dirt, and if hearts are on sleeves, they’re attached with something rusty and jagged and very heavy.

Pala plays the Sidebar July 23.

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