The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – Midnight Sun (2014)

The current musical offering from the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger finds pop/psych/folk/garage troubadours Charlotte Kemp Muhl and Sean Lennon partnering with Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Invisible Familiars, combining their talents to take the group’s sound from deep minstrel forests into a swirling dissonance of psychedelic space.

Every song on Midnight Sun, available via Chimera Records on April 29 2014, contains some sort of musical anomaly that sends the listener on a sonic search to reveal more secrets.

A follow up collection to 2010’s intimate living room recording Acoustic Sessions, and the luminescent electrified EP Le Carotte Bleue, the new album begins with the stifling fuzzy pulse of “Too Deep,” a neon warning from Lennon to “keep holding your breath, because you’re already dead.” The song extracts a feeling of breathlessness from the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger vocal blend that rings itself out over the psych-soaked guitar mantra. The song is a powerful and dark opener that sets the table for the grand feast to follow.

Midnight Sun continues with “Xanadu,” a song constructed like a mystical crystal palace, backwards guitars, and hallucinatory keyboard orchestrations mix and match, while swirling and spreading out into new multifarious colorization’s of music. This new recording, taken in contrast to previous GOASTT excursions, is comparable to a new panoramic view of a multicolored alien landscape, which the listener was previously only allowed to glimpse through a cobwebbed keyhole.

The ravaging track “Animals,” is the recipient of an addictive melody, tripped out with funky drums and sunrise harmony vocals that slowly gain the horizon before basking in sunny glory during the expansive chorus. The group has recently released a must-see video for this song, properly conveying the hallucinatory nature and of the track.

The recognizable quirkiness of GOASTT, so apparent on their debut release, is abundant again in “Johannesburg,” where Muhl takes her first seductive vocal of the collection. This light funk travelogue has a luscious guitar break sweet enough to pucker the lips and is sprinkled with numerous sonic delights. Next, the title track becomes a delirious stumble into a smoky moist underground of late night ravers, trippers, hipsters and jet setters lining disorienting halls of sound. Wailing sirens and elongated organ flourishes illuminate the narcotic combined guitar/bass central riff.

A stage favorite of the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, the musically diverse opus “Last Call” is given a proper studio reading on this set. Rising from its humble beginnings the song flourishes by its well traveled conclusion, allowing the younger Lennon a moment to show off his soulful guitar prowess. “Devil You Know” is another thick slab of prismatic melodies enveloped in astral echo and reverb. The song develops like a painting being created in front of your eyes in shades of red, the dual vocals and conflicted descending guitar riff the songs pulse points.

“Golden Earring” follows, sounding like an ancient melody reverberating through time, gaining electrification along its travels. Lennon’s vocals elicit his mother’s vocal approach in timbre and attitude and slight vibrato. The song changes from its strange worldly verse into a set of swinging soul chorus changes. Similar to the aforementioned “Last Note,” Lennon again coaxes some gritty attitude from his guitar, enclosing the song brick by brick around an icy mellotron finish.

The trio of tracks leading to the albums close, “Great Expectations,” “Poor Paul Getty” and “Don’t Look Back Orpheus” stay closer to the archeology of the first collection of songs created by the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger in 2010.

“Great Expectations” is a breezy drift that highlights all of the songwriting strengths of Lennon and Muhl, illustrating a catchy chorus and a well thought-out arrangement. “Poor Paul Getty” has a nice power-pop groove and is possibly the most straight forward of the songs on the collection. Braided vocals and a tight arrangement highlight the dulcet quality of the song. Finally, “Don’t Look Back Orpheus” truly could be an Acoustic Sessions left over — and this is not a bad thing. The song is nestled nicely like a delicate flower among tall trees. Music box keyboards and transparent percussion ornately frame perfect Muhl and Lennon vocals. The duo sings as one, skipping through the carnival changes.

Midnight Sun concludes with the melting wax of “Moth to a Flame,” a maelstrom of piercing guitar effects, blinding white noise, dreamy slide and a very Pink Floyd vibe. The wordless sing song vocalizations that circulate through the static and madness, lend the song beautifully conflicting emotion. The song is a massive hallucination to close the album with and a fitting ending statement for the story of the record.

The alternative universe created by the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger here is filled with dark undergrounds, vaudevillian aliens, ancient cults and undiscovered worlds. Lennon and Muhl have again successfully combined art, commentary with diverse sonic accompaniment in an original way that subscribes to no genre except that developed in their own imaginations. With this display of new music, Lennon and Muhl have dipped their cups into the deep cool water of inspiration, disseminating a variegated miscellany of their collaboration.

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Stephen Lewis

A creative writing major at SUNY Brockport and freelance writer from Upstate New York, Stephen Lewis maintains a music-focused site called Talk From the Rock Room: thefrodisroomrockblog.blogspot.com. He has also written for UpstateLive Music Guide and Ultimate Classic Rock. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.