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Gravenhurst – The Ghost in Daylight

on May 02, 2012, 7:57am

Gravenhurst serves as the songwriting vehicle for British soundscapist Nick Talbot, who’s ending the longest hiatus of his career with The Ghost in Daylight. There’s always some added pressure after a long break between albums and it’s been five years since his previous effort The Western Lands, an album of feedback-drenched folk that showcased Talbot’s ability to achieve restrained grandeur while still sounding organic. Talbot aims for the former but abandons the latter on The Ghost in Daylight, an exercise in drab over-calculation.

Opening track “Circadian” is the template for every song on the album—it begins with unassuming acoustic finger-picking and ends with Talbot reaching for the aforementioned grandeur. But the buildup feels synthetic and lacks the twists-and-turns of his past work. It’s as if he spent four years meticulously layering these songs, rounding off any rough edges, and consequently losing touch with the personality of his music.

Talbot shines when he drops the theatrics in favor of concise, honest melodies (a trademark of pre-hiatus Gravenhurst). Lead single “The Prize” peaks through the contrived arrangements. Its ethereal chorus demands the listener’s attention, and at four minutes in length, the song knows when to end. The rest of the album does not follow suit. Multiple tracks descend into extended codas and meander long after reaching their emotional plateaus. Talbot attempts to recreate Radiohead’s haunting atmospherics, but that’s the whole thing—it sounds like an attempt to recreate instead of Talbot trusting the idiosyncrasies of his songwriting.

There’s a fine line between difficult and boring (just ask any classical music connoisseur), but a lack of engaging moments defines boredom. Talbot offers nothing to cling on to, a shame considering what he’s proven himself capable of on past releases. The Ghost in Daylight is ignorable background music and the lowest point of the Gravenhurst discography thus far.

Essential Track: “The Prize”