Release Date: 14th February 2020
Label: Disintegration State
Format: DD / DSP
My initial thoughts upon listening to Chemical Rain were, ‘is this a compilation album?’ Ghost Halo has mined such a variety of styles and sounds across the sprawling breadth of this 70 minute album that it is difficult to believe it has all come from the hands of one man.
The next thing I was reminded of was the idea of Electronic Listening Music. A term coined in 1992 when Warp subtitled it’s first Artificial Intelligence compilation in such a manner. It purported to a brand of ‘almost’ dance music designed to be enjoyed away from the club space. Existing in between worlds so to speak. Chemical Rain falls deftly into this disconnect, with the man himself declaring that he is, “interested in that space between dreaming and waking, where sounds aren’t quite fully formed, things are foggy and diffuse and surreal.”
Fragmented could be an accusation levelled at this record, but Ghost Halo has flipped it on its head and employed it as a strong aesthetic, floating between genre’s and moods like an audio collage. At times reverent, at times malevolent, and at other times switching back and forth between the two without warning, this is a record that keeps you on your toes.
There are many moments throughout that speak to the essence of ‘Intelligent Dance Music,’ the disembodied vocal sample on the track Stripped Trees has a real air of Orbital. And the brooding, industrial techno of Murder Witness brings to mind B12. Yet the roots of Chemical Rain aren’t solely established in the past.
Ghost Halo also draws inspiration from more contemporary electronic artists. There is a Burial-esque static bed that surfaces throughout much of the album and the dark drones of Salem wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Burials more recent beatless work. Even the fact that the man himself likes to keep his identity in the dark echoes William Bevan’s attempts to remain anonymous. Then there is the use of percussion and the chiming mallets on Empire of Light, which reminded me that I need to give Pantha Du Prince’s Black Noise a spin again in the near future.
In essence, Chemical Rain is a one-man compilation album. And in my experience the thing that makes a good compilation is cohesion. The skill of creating a narrative from a set of tracks that at times can be wildly different from one another is something that cannot be overlooked. Ghost Halo has this skill. He manages to create an underlying identity to his work that belies the sheer variety of it. Often on MasterChef there is reference to there being ‘too much on one plate,’ and some may accuse Chemical Rain of this, but for me, it tasted great.