Ant Saggers aka Stray Ghost is a new name to me, but although this is his first physical release, it hardly sounds like the work of an optimistic young pup. Losthilde has the heavy weight of years of disappointment on its shoulders. It’s a kind of epic symphony of loss in four movements.
The opening ten minutes of the suite is funereal, with a mournful chord sequence played on what sounds like a guitar morphed into a cello. There is a distinct break halfway through the first piece as a babble of radio-static voices enter and fade into a stately, other-worldly guitar/cello and piano coda which swirls, ebbs and flows like a cosmic dust storm. The second part of “There’s An Ocean Between Us, You And I” starts with a crackle of electrostatic and gradually builds into an epic of controlled feedback, ending in a drawn-out drone of bass hum and the gently fading chime of a guitar chord.
Things don’t get cheerier through the two part “Saudade”, but they do get a hell of a lot angrier. Drums kick in, playing a slow march as great slabs of distorted guitar threaten to turn things into a Sunn0))) doomfest. But amidst the Sturm und Drang there are more reflective patches that are more akin to Loren Connors’ electric work. It never gets stuck in any particular groove for too long, but constantly shifts in tone and volume. There are plenty of drone-rock elements, but none of the “will this do” repetitive chord-bashing that makes so much doom metal (or whatever you want to call it) so dull. “Saudade Part Two” is almost like a summary of all that precedes it, with the melancholy drones of the album’s opening sequences splashed with drops of molten guitar and flashes of white noise. It splutters and creaks to a halt – no grandstanding epic finish here. Like most journeys, and most lives, the ending is anticlimactic.
Losthilde is an impressive work that manages to fill its epic length without resorting to the repeat-till-the-tape-runs-out excesses that some records of this ilk exhibit. It’s one of the most successful hybrids of quiet reflection and fierce noise that I’ve heard for a while, but never gets stuck in that quiet-build-loud-end cliché.
The album is available as a download and as a limited edition CDR from the Highpoint Lowlife website (see below). There’s also another collection, simply entitled Stray Ghost, on the site which is available for free. I’ve downloaded it, but not played it as yet.
01 There’s An Ocean Between Us, You and I – Part One 23:52
02 There’s An Ocean Between Us, You and I – Part Two 12:19
03 Saudade – Part One 17:11
04 Saudade – Part Two 14:29