We’ve been waiting for this one for a while now, and I’m chuffed to say it was well worth the wait. The second Black Casino and the Ghost album, “Until the Water Runs Clear” is packed with great individual performances, but the great strength is the way they work together as a band. Elisa Zoot’s voice is stunning and Ariel Lerner’s guitar playing is faultless across a range of styles, but Paul Winter-Hart (drums) and Gary Kilminster play a huge part in the band’s sound, supplying the rhythmic pulse and some melodic and inventive basslines.
There are some influences which are woven through the album; there’s more than a hint of sixties pop, and a hint of psychedelia channelled through the trip-hop filter of Portishead and Massive Attack or the shimmering nineties pop of Saint Etienne and Morcheeba. So the obvious opening song is one which sounds like early English folk, isn’t it?
“The Pool” proves that Elisa can do the quieter, more reflective songs as well as the belters, starting with a finger-picked acoustic guitar backing and multi-layered backing vocals, adding shards of percussion, synths and slide guitar before dropping back to the minimalist guitar backing. After the trippy feel of “Age of Contagion” and the monster guitar riff of “Veggie Tarantula” (the two singles so far), it’s a bit of a departure but it’s very effective.
The sixties influence is clearest in “Soul Mall”, the bass-led “Sherry” where Elisa delivers the verses in a cool, almost dismissive style, and “Mr Puppeteer” and “Hoochie Coochie Lover” where Ariel plays in a clipped, precise style that’s very Hank Marvin, or maybe it’s just like Eddie. Apart from the obvious “Lucifer, Lucifer, Lucifer”, there’s a darkness and obsession suffusing the album, and it surfaces in lines like ‘Wish I could skin you, look at what’s in you’ in “Hoochie Coochie Lover”; it’s challenging and not always comfortable but, if comfort’s what you want, you should be listening to Smooth Radio.
There are still a few more stylistic twists and turns to the album; “Tarjeteros” has an Ennio Morricone feel, “Bitter Beast” contrasts a verse with a hint of Bjork with a wall of sound chorus, while the album’s last song, “Solar Storm”, closes the circle with Elisa’s controlled vocal over a sparse arrangement that builds with keyboards and backwards effect before fading into the ether.
I don’t think I’ve heard a better album than “Until the Water Runs Clear” this year; Black Casino and the Ghost have created an album that’s full of hooks to grab your attention, but is full of dark and mystical undercurrents to keep you enthralled.
If you want to see Black Casino and the Ghost live (and you really should), they’re playing at The Finsbury on December 8th and it’s completely free.
Following on from their debut EP “Falling into pieces” in 2011, this free download is the first release from Black Casino & the Ghost’s first album “Some Dogs Think their Name is No”, scheduled for release in September 2013 on Lucky Machete Records. Black Casino and the Ghost are Elisa Zoot (vocals and piano), Ariel Lerner (guitar), Gary Kilminster (bass) and Paul Winter-Hart (drums) and their songs are guitar-based indie/alternative which explore the darker, stranger side of human emotions and, in this case, alienation and a dysfunctional relationship.
It’s a song of two halves and packs in a lot of ideas in just over three minutes. The song begins with just Elisa’s voice and piano (and a little bit of guitar in the background) setting the lyrical scene for the song before the drums and bass come in at the halfway point and Elisa’s vocal moves up from breathy and intimate to powerful and punchy enough to cut through an anthemic kitchen-sink production of massed choral vocals and reversed instrumental samples peaking with the refrain “All we are is what we choose to hide from each other, tell me how you really feel or don’t even bother”.
This single demonstrates the dynamic range of Black Casino & the Ghost instrumentally, but particularly the vocal range of Elisa Zoot, which is exceptional. I’ve heard some of the tracks from the album and I’m not sure that this is completely representative of the band’s work, but it’s still very good and you can download it free, so why wouldn’t you?