One of the most positive effects the introduction of the Internet has had on the medium of music is how it allows for a wide range of smaller artists to distribute their work in a more direct way. The benefit is twofold, as those passionate about their craft have new avenues to build a career, and listeners need only a bit of patience and persistence to find a goldmine of incredible music. This has bred a culture in which a group/artist from a small city in a country that most people couldn’t point to on a map can still reach you with minimal effort. The negative effect of this is, of course, the potential oversaturation of the market with mediocre and similar sounding music.
Now more than ever, the onus is on the musician to craft something unique and engaging to draw in potential listeners and give them a reason to pick up their work over someone else’s. This is exactly what experimental/prog band Ghost Toast – a four-piece instrumental group from Debrecen, Hungary- have managed to do on Out of This World. With a highly varied and tonally interesting batch of well-executed songs on their new record, they have crafted something that will surprise and engage you time and again throughout its near hour-long runtime.
The album starts off on a somewhat familiar note, not too dissimilar to something you would hear on an Outrun The Sunlight record. It creates a melodious and atmospheric tone that doesn’t hesitate to show off the abilities of the musicians involved. Restraint is often a tricky element to work into your music, but I feel it was admirably executed here; Ghost Toast allow the songs themselves to dictate the level of technical musicianship present, rather than simply wanting to show off their abilities. The second track (and leading single, “Gordius”) is much of the same in concept, but differentiates itself with many musical shifts, such as the bouncy mid-point with overlaid vocal effects, or near symphonic final bridge that leads to the post-rock-esque finale. This fearlessness to incorporate unique sounds and structural choices is perhaps Out Of This Worlds‘s greatest strength, one that becomes more apparent as the album goes on.
The first two tracks, while very much enjoyable, feel relatively safe within the current landscape of instrumental prog. It isn’t until the third track, “Alia”, that we begin to see the experimental side of the band come out. With a dreamlike atmosphere so thick it envelops the listener into its strange and deliberate soundscapes, it nearly feels like another album altogether. This does a great job of drawing the listener in and gearing them up to experience what’s to come. Be it the boisterous Spanish (apologies if that’s incorrect) speech leading into the cinematic fantasy of “The Dragon’s Tail”, the melismatic female vocals and Middle Eastern vibe of “Ishvara”, or the military chatter and musical drive of “Last Man”, the use of numerous cultural elements within each track not only help differentiate the individual songs, but also create an atmosphere that pulls you into every moment and feel every tonal shift all the more. The final song bookends the album in a way more akin to the first two tracks, albeit in a more grandiose fashion.
Highlighting weaknesses in a work like this is difficult, because much of that seems to be relegated to personal preference or taste. On a technical level, there are no significant examples of poor structural choices or moments in which the listener’s experience would be hampered in any meaningful way. On the contrary, the elements here are very thoughtfully crafted with a clear direction in mind. What would stop you from enjoying this, however, is a distaste for a particular chosen style (such as the aforementioned melisma of “Ishvara”, or the quiet reservation of “Alia”). While there is a definite throughline and set of motifs in each track, the narrative of the individual songs (save “Grodius” and “Kai Mai”) somewhat lean away from traditional approaches in the way these types of songs are usually crafted. Moreover, the variation in tone and cultural elements do arguably create a lack of cohesion between the tracks. For me, this was never an issue, and I can only see this being a problem for someone whose only real interest in instrumental music comes from acts such as Intervals or Sithu Aye, and nothing more.
Out Of This World was an album that surprised me. I went into it expecting to hear a standard fare instrumental album and was greeted with a wonderfully varied and thoughtfully crafted experience. Perhaps my low initial expectations have led me to having a favorable outlook on the album. But, even after a fairly long time with it, I still get a great amount of enjoyment getting lost in the various soundscapes and unique atmosphere of each song. Tracks like “Alia” and “Ishvara” are ones that I can see myself returning to time and again many months from now. This isn’t an album for those who prefer traditional structures or a heavier, more ‘metal’ sound, but if you enjoy progressive and instrumental music, this is something that you definitely shouldn’t pass up on.
Notable Tracks: “Alia”; “Gordius”; “Last Man”
FFO: Outrun the Sunlight, Nova Collective, Battles