Photo by Jessica Gurewitz.
Listening to Ghost King’s new record, Dunbar Swamp, is like cracking open a variety bag of technicolor candies—each individual piece may be different, but they are nevertheless united in the fact that they invoke joy, excitement, and a bit of mystery.
This point is where the differences come in: the tracks on Dunbar Swamp make the unwrapping process just as satisfying and decadent as consuming the treat itself. The tracks invite the ear to lean into the strongly-crafted unfolding of each and every one, all of which unveil new levels of dynamics that come to surface organically.
This manifests right off the bat within “Get Stoned,” Dunbar Swamp’s beguiling opener. The beginning and end of the track sound like two different songs completely, which is a testament to the degree of sonic evolution Ghost King can actualize within a singular track. For instance, while the opening thirty seconds offer a main course of verve paired with a side of sweetness, the concluding thirty seconds share a much more contrasting (yet equally as inviting) narrative. As the lyrics slowly become more and more nihilistic, reaching its culmination with the repetition of the line “I guess there’s nothing left for you,” the track plunges into a dizzying musical interlude that takes hints of darkness, peppers it with psychedelic sensibilities, and tops it off with a feeling of danger that you can’t quite put your finger on but are allured by nonetheless. What’s particularly noteworthy, though, is how seamless the transition between two entirely different tonal planes is executed. It’s not jagged, sudden, or abrupt. Rather, it occurs so smoothly that one may need to rewind to identify the exact point where the music changes – a challenging endeavor given the ease in which the contrasting sections bleed into each other.
“Labyrinth” unfolds similarly, in what can almost be described as transitioning from three separate realms: a dark and magnetic romp, a swirl of rhythm and guitar wails, and a trippier, hazier version of the former. It is also worth noting that each moment of the track is packed with gusto, each note striking the ear with simultaneous sense of authority and intrigue. This sensation, however, is a common theme among all the tracks on Dunbar Swamp. From the fun and fast resonance of “Toad Jam,” the breezy untwine of “Footsteps,” or the cutting introspection of “Slip Away,” each track emits a power that is fully its own while taking the ear along for a journey that will not soon be forgotten.
Ghost King play their release show Friday February 8th at Trans-Pecos. Tickets and details here.