Black Casino TitleWe’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.

“Until the Water Runs Clear” is out now on Amazon and iTunes. Go on, treat yourself to an early Christmas present.

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.


Product DetailsNow this is a nice surprise. Original (and recently returned) lead singer of the mid nineties and hugely successful trip hop pioneers Morcheeba, Skye Edwards has made a completely electronic chamber pop album and very nice it is too. This is her third solo album and the first to break out of her alt folksy, ‘acoustic with a smattering of beats’ sound; it’s still introspective and quietly soulful but this newly found, machine-made thrust has given Skye a welcome edge if not quite the pop sensibility she may have been hoping for.

The powerful beat and synths along with the tribal chanting of opener “Troubled Heart” immediately confirms a new sound but the warm, uplifting spirit of Morcheeba is still alive, at least at this point, and it’s not really until the third track and first single “Featherlight” that this album really settles into itself and establishes a mood which serves Skye’s angelic voice beautifully. “Featherlight” has a taut pop melody and a sincerity and aloofness that are compelling and, my old argument, this is the kind of song would have, once upon a time, sold in decent quantities. “Nowhere”, with its synthetic strings frantically dicing up a dramatic tension, has some sublime upper range vocals and three different time signatures. “Little Bit Lost” sounds like a Richard X production; an indie very British lo-fi synth sound and “We Fall Down” is a duet with a vocoder (not the dreaded autotune, please let’s be clear about that) and it’s here that Skye resembles Moroder’s early work with Donna Summer; that sublime combination of steel and humanity.

Dissolve” is the album’s big song, sung in a rarely-heard lower register with Skye almost growling ‘onto knees we fall and search unto the sky as we crawl without a reason why’ and it’s great to hear her in such a cold, imposing and ever-changing electronic soundscape. The effervescent final track “Bright Light” is a meditative return to hope; ‘I’ll pull you out again, my rope will lead you there’ and sounds for all the world like a William Orbit production from Madonna’s definitive comeback album, “Ray of Light”. Time and again here the reference point I kept coming back to was turn of the millennium Madonna, in particular the Orbit and Mirwais-produced  “Light” and “Music” where Madonna was at her most riveting both creatively and lyrically . It’s interesting that Skye’s debut solo album “Mind How You Go” was actually co-produced and written by Patrick Leonard, probably Madonna’s best and certainly most returned-to collaborator (and time to make that call again Madge).

What Skye lacks maybe is that pop ‘wink’, the artifice and ridiculousness of Goldfrapp or Kylie, say; I’m not saying that this is her intention but I do wonder who exactly, bar the hardcore Morcheeba fans, this collection will appeal to and that’s a shame as subsequently this venture, sonically at least, could well be a one off. Many of the songs will stand up well to acoustic readings and performed live would incorporate well into a Morcheeba heavy set; I hope that this is exposure enough to enable Skye to keep on experimenting with her wholly exquisite voice and talent. Seek this one out.