If someone isn’t into Ghostpoet, they may be confused as to why someone would choose to listen to him. It’s a dark, smoky sound with lyrics that are often delivered with a muffled drawl. Clicks, whirrs and an unnerving sense of self-awareness aren’t the party tipple of choice for everyone but it makes an interesting cocktail for those who think they’ve tried it all. You can spend ages winding up an aural path trying to find some sort of meaning only to be greeted by a dusty floor and some empty bottles. By that point it either makes sense and you’re willing to roll with it, or you’re not. That being said, there’s also gold in them hills and at the right angle you don’t have to look hard to see it glimmer.
A lot of it begins to make sense in the live setting. There’s elements of dance and more traditional dubstep without either one really smashing through to hog the limelight, they set the tone and let Ghostpoet do his thing over it. It doesn’t really aim to get you going fully buck-wild, but if you’ve got legs then there’s enough to move to. It would’ve been nice to see more of the Guildford crowd taking this opportunity, but for the most part a polite sway was all they were willing to offer. Vocally, he can be compared to Maxi Jazz from Faithless in the sense that on record he sings/speaks in a sombre, tired tone but ramps it up a bit when on stage. On more than one occassion he lets out a slight roar at the end of soft syllables, something that may not suit his recorded stuff at all. There’s still a lot of effects and echoes added to his voice throughout though, they help to add the ghost to the poet.
A euphoric back-to-back-to-back trio of ‘Survive It’, ‘Liiines’ and ‘Cash & Carry Me Home’ was the highlight of the show. Yes, they’re the main singles from his Mercury-nominated debut but they struck a chord with people for a reason. Thematically, you could argue that Liiines would’ve fitted better last but that would be very nit-picky and miss the point of a well-structured live show.
It didn’t quite scale those heights again. That’s not specifically a bad thing, it just means he’s written three tracks that are better than most artists manage in their entire careers. What was left was still of a high calibre, the murky new(ish) single ‘Meltdown’ caused pockets of dreamy skanking. An audience request of ‘Us Against Whatever Ever’ closed the show – they may have been planning it anyway, but some dude kept shouting it – and had moments that got a reasonable section of the crowd jumping.
You get the feeling that there’s something amazing to come with Ghostpoet. He’s shone brightly so far, but there’s definitely still another level he can go to. Some artists don’t do their best work until they’re on their 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th album, they develop over their careers instead of exploding and fizzing out. Dig in to what’s already out there, but keep an eye open for what he does in the future. It’s probably going to be worth sticking around for.
Ghostpoet’s second album Some Say I So I Say Light is out now.