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'A Ghost, A Beast'   

-  Label: 'Song, By Toad Records'
-  Genre: 'Indie' -  Release Date: '23rd February 2018'

Our Rating:
What ignites the creative spark is often conceived as a struggle burdened by self doubt and personal suffering. Matthew Winter, an Australian now based in Scotland, is ideally placed to put this theory to the test.

This debut release by the band he leads has a torturous background and was four years in the making. The result is dramatically described as having been "ripped out of the jaws of despair in a coup of brooding and discordant glory".

What started out as a relatively conventional Indie rock project was thrown off course after Winter was the victim of a violent attack. This rendered him unconscious and left him with severe head injuries and subsequent "attacks of neuropathic pain".

The re-imagined album could be regarded as part of the recuperation process and is full of cathartic rage implicitly directed at perpetrators of violence and dark forces conceived as angry poltergeists.

Most of the raw emotion is buried beneath oblique metaphors and impressionistic lyrics. Only the closing track, The Letters, a love song, was written more directly.

Atzi Muramatso on cello adds a extra dimension to the guitar-centred rock and the tightness of the band sound is well demonstrated on the instrumental opener : Out On The Deadly Hume.

This Town is a punk expression of "desperate escapism" and was the first song recorded as Zed Penguin. It provides hints of how the whole album might have sounded if it had been recorded in less traumatic circumstances.

As it is, Violent Night is full of discord and catharsis; feelings that also lie behind the title track. A Ghost, A Beast, the song, was recorded in one take and closes with a free improvisation that Winter proudly labels as an "elegant mess"; a description that applies fairly well to the album as a whole.

Less successful is the faux-mysticism of Ribbons Of Light (Hold Ya Heart High) while The Source Of My Dreams ends up as a psychedelic blob of noise despite beginning life as an a cappella folk song. It contains pretentious lyrics like "the sky did open beating my heart with its tears".

The prime cut is Wandering, a wonderfully distorted travelogue sung over a jagged two-chord arrangement.

The raw power and strong emotions behind this album are sporadically impressive but these are not sustained enough for it to be as great as it might have been.

  author: Martin Raybould

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ZED PENGUIN - A Ghost, A Beast