Hold the phone, what is this? Thirty eight minutes of awesomeness, that’s what. Suspend whatever preconceptions you might have, turn off the lights, close your eyes and let your imagination ride, because Dave Gahan and Soulsavers have come up with one of the most incredible records of the year. Forget Depeche Mode and think Nick Cave; here is a collection of beautifully constructed songs that play like a soundtrack to life.
The epic gospel feel of ‘Shine’ kicks things off with a slow burning spaghetti western style riff; there’s a big sound but its got a lot of space, the quiet moments actually increasing the impact of the individual elements. ‘You owe me’ follows, punctuating the soundtrack feel with its expansive guitar, conjuring up images of wide open landscapes in middle America. Dave’s voice is as strong as ever, but understated and brooding, though he opens up towards the end, the female backing providing an interesting balance.
There is an awful lot happening on this record with layers of hammond organ, orchestrated elements and the occasional horn section adding a massiveness to the sound that works beautifully, nowhere more so than on the sublime ‘Tempted’. The spacious atmospheric guitar and laid back groove, underpinned by some lovely organ work, make room for a nice hook; there is just the right amount of hurt in Dave’s voice, he doesn’t need to blow a gasket to hold the emotion as the track slow boils to a simmering climax. Superb.
‘All of This and Nothing’ is similarly atmospheric but more up-tempo, while the slow grinding ‘Don’t Cry’ offers up a rockier vocal and a harder edge; both are good tracks but there is something special sandwiched between. ‘One Thing’ is a dark piano ballad that is beautifully melancholy. It is deeply evocative, like everything feels wrong, the lack of percussion and insistent piano giving a sense of disquiet that offers up all kinds of images; like arriving home to an empty house that was once full of life, or hearing a familiar voice to look up and find you were mistaken – incredible.
‘Lately’ is also piano based and is also quite lovely, while ‘The Last Time’ picks up from ‘You Owe Me’ in terms of sound, like there’s a thread running through the record. Album closer ‘My Sun’ ties things up nicely though, incorporating all the elements wonderfully. Dave’s vocal is superb, the piano melancholic, the guitar strum wide open and it broods slowly to a defiantly understated climax on the back of subtle orchestration, organ and brass.
All in all ‘Angels and Ghosts’ is a wonderfully produced record of expansively evocative tracks of spectacular depth and texture. Dave’s rich baritone is solid throughout, adding darkness to the soundtrack vibe of the multi-layered instrumentation. There’s barely a hint of filler on the record and in ‘Tempted’ (with just the slightest echo of Depeche Mode) you get one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Excellent stuff.