Four years after dropping its first single, “Hold On,” Holy Ghost! drops its debut album, an overly cool soundtrack to nights out at the most chic unlisted basement lounges, American Apparel shopping sessions and films deliberately spoofing ’80s nightlife and all of the excess that came with it.
While the modern disco music made by groups like Hot Chip and Chromeo is a mix of dance music sounds of the past with modern, space-age-style electronica, Holy Ghost!’s version differs. House influences are present but hidden behind dark and brooding nostalgia. Ostinato guitar riffs and programmed bass lines rest beneath layers upon layers of Miami Vice meeting Steely Dan synthesizer noise. Simple falsetto vocal lines and two- and four-beat hand claps are sprinkled on top, creating a thick layer of grooving sleaze. Images of Studio 54 circa ’79 will immediately come to mind, whether the listener experienced it first hand or is basing that off of an image from legend and movie renditions.
The group’s influences are readily apparent. Nicholas Millhiser and Alexander Frankel, the group’s founding members, started off making remixes to the hits penned by Phoenix, MGMT and others. This past work leaves a big mark on the debut. Some blog-master could easily pass off “Jam For Jerry” and “It’s Not Over” as unreleased Phoenix tracks. Ironically, these two are also the album’s most upbeat songs. With the exception of a few, the rest have a dark twist, which separates Holy Ghost! from its peers. This isn’t happy-go-lucky music; these are sounds reserved for darkly tainted dance floors, where smiles aren’t a part of the dress code.