The one thing you can definitely say about Black Casino and the Ghost is that whatever they do, it’s going to be interesting, and probably unlike anything else that you’re seeing or hearing. It’s two years since their last album “Some Dogs think their Name is No” was released and they’re back in the summer of 2015 with new material and live performances kicking off with the release of “Age of Contagion” on June 18, from the new album, “Until the Water Runs Clear” which is due to be released later in the year.
The song is dark, moody and bass-heavy, a bit like nineties Bristol trip-hop, which is the perfect backdrop for Elisa Zoot’s stunning vocal and explores the idea of transformation by ordeal and taking a step into the unknown. The accompanying video is pieced together from Peter Bogdanovich’s cult 1968 movie “Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women” and emphasises the sombre, slightly menacing mood of the song:
If you want to see Black Casino and the Ghost live, they’ll be headlining at The Finsbury in North London on Friday July 10.
I have previously reviewed Black Casino & the Ghost’s second single “Hoboland” (where you can find more details about this London-based band), and I settled in for a few listens to the album expecting a larger dose of “Hoboland”’s rocky, indie blues, but I was surprised and delighted to hear a much greater musical variety, including acoustic ballads and even a ghostly piano-led fairground carousel instrumental , (“We’ve Seen Nothing”) so it pays not to have rigid expectations…
We kick off with all musical guns blazing, “Boogeyman”, and keep the energy up for “Johnny Boy” before exploring ballad territory. The whole album does justice to Elisa Zoot’s clear and distinctive vocals, especially on the tracks she is not competing for space with the band, “Son of the Dust”, where she switches genders, and “If It Doesn’t Hurt” which features acoustic guitar. But when the band ramp up the tempo, Elisa can keep up without resorting to screeching at all, I suspect her voice would suit a variety of genres. She lets herself off the leash for the chorus of one of my favourites, “Been A Bad Woman”, then immediately reins herself in again for the pretty, “Son Of The Dust”: ‘I’ve been such a good Christian son/Said all my prayers/ joined your house and children every Sunday…, etc.’ Apart from vocal duties, Elisa also proves a competent pianist on the tracks that feature piano.
The drums are well recorded, which can be notoriously difficult and production credits go to the band as well. “Some Dogs…” has largely been recorded live which always seems to make a difference in immediacy to me, and hints at how well the band would play together live. Guitar alternates between searing and folkish as required and the bass throbs in all the right places. It comes across like any tensions in this band are purely creative. Another stand out track for me is the acoustic, “If It Doesn’t Hurt”. It begins, ‘if it doesn’t hurt it means it’s not working/ if it doesn’t burst it means it’s not burning enough’. Perhaps the lyric is a little gothic for some, but the beautiful tune isn’t. The lyrical content is typically on the darker side, but not depressing, that is to say, they take you on a visit to their visions without leaving you there. Topics on “Some Dogs…” include wolves, ghosts, sinners and bogeymen, but this is not some juvenile concoction; it’s a well crafted CD exploring these night themes and despite differences in tempo and arrangement the album hangs together well. It’s both immediate enough and has sufficient complexity to bear repeated listening; all this and the entire CD lasts just a little over half an hour. BC&TG deserve a wider audience than the underground ‘alternative’ scene and that’s why I’m awarding them an extra half star.
Out Monday September 2nd on Lucky Machete Records.
Black Casino And The Ghost are a London band formed in 2010, which surprised me as they have the kind of ‘swamp’ rock Americana sound that had me reminiscing about my old Cramps albums, although this is a layered sound with a more sophisticated lyric.
Black Casino and the Ghost are: Elisa Zoot (vocals, piano), Ariel Lerner (guitar), Gary Kilminster (bass) and Paul Winter-Hart (drums). “Hoboland” is the second single taken from their forthcoming September release, the intriguingly-titled “Some Dogs Think Their Name Is No”. This is a strong offering that gets my curiosity going for the album. “Hoboland” has been recorded live and captures that energy very well, but still remains more disciplined than many live recordings and it is self-produced, hinting at talent in the studio as well as with their instruments. It really sounds as if they are happy with the resulting three minutes of tight, bluesy rock they produce, and as a listener, so am I.
According to their press release, the song is about the moment ‘when dreams turn into obsessions and ambitions become consuming like a virus,’ as the singer looks in vain for Hoboland; although not all of the lyric is completely discernible, it is certainly dark and anthemic-sounding. It opens with menacing bass guitar and drums before the vocal comes in, ‘Nicotine days and nicotine nights, it might be a phase or just wait and sit tight…’. The vocal is distinct and unlike any other female vocalist I can think of. ‘Someone stole my love, like the eye of a scarecrow taken by the bird,’ bewails Elisa and she sounds very present and ‘in’ the story of this energetic song. The chorus is where the boys join in with ‘Whao-oo Ooh’, etc and is very effective to sing along with especially at their live gigs, if this is anything to go by. Definitely worth a listen, they deserve more than just indie success, or wait for their album and get both singles and more besides.
Out now as a download. It’s somewhere between 3 and 4 stars so let’s call it 3½.
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?