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:Music Review: Mari & The Ghost – Superstitions

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Mari & the Ghost – Superstitions
Release Date: April 30, 2015
Label: BK3 ArtistLabel
Official Websites: FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube

Review by Maresa Whitehead

At first, the names Jean-Marc Lederman and Mari Kattman might seem unfamiliar to you. Upon further investigation, though, you’re likely to realize that you’ve been a fan of both of these respected artists via their various manifestations in electronic music.

Lederman, a Belgian composer who has produced video game music, is also known for his myriad bands including The Weathermen and Ghost & Writer (with Frank Spinath), among others. He has also worked with the likes of Gene Loves Jezebel and Front 242. The much-sought-after vocalist Kattman, a native of Massachusetts and formerly of the now-defunct Day Twelve, has been featured on tracks for iVardensphere, Aesthetische, Psy’Aviah, and many more.

These two prolific artists have now collided their impressive talents to explode synthpop sweetness onto the scene via Mari & The Ghost. The duo’s debut album, Superstitions, demands attention for Kattman’s lyrical poetry and strong and emotive vocals as well as Lederman’s atmospheric electronic arrangements.

On the whole, Superstitions maintains a serene composure. The album is down-tempo and delicate, but don’t confuse that with boring. To the contrary, it’s overflowing with Lederman’s intricately-layered sounds building to soothing melodies rounded out with Kattman’s unexpected harmonies. Kattman’s confidence in her unique vocal structures allows her to engage a range of choral expressions, whether the breathy sultriness found in “Love Greeds” or the emotive feminine power in “Unwounded By Storms.”

Album opener, “Satellite,” embraces its lyrical metaphor with synth loops that parallel a satellite’s regular, unhurried rhythms as Kattman’s glitch-like vocal rounds in the chorus pulse the track forward. And though much of the album seems quiet, “Wolves” amps up intensity through an almost-metallic lead into its catchy, singable chorus. Meanwhile, the step-down synth beats of “Love Greeds,” the glitchy drumline of “Unwounded By Storms,” and the more traditional four-by-four of “You Think I’m God” are perhaps the most danceable of the album. The main synthline of “Day Becomes Night” seems to come directly from Lederman’s familiarity with throwback video game sounds, and “I Will Always” will likely attract any VNV Nation fan. Alternately, the harp-like loop and muted effects on “The Drifter” draw listeners into a faraway mindscape—and it’s precisely Lederman’s downplayed spacey soundscapes and Kattman’s lyrical and vocal reveries that define Superstitions’ ambient atmosphere.

Album closer, “(Wash Upon) The Shores,” stands out with its darkness, evoked through the use of bassy, fuzzy undertones, and yet that darkness juxtaposed with Kattman’s dreamy vocals creates an intoxicating elixir that begs for multiple repeats. Such songwriting is thoughtful, and not a detail was overlooked to create an other-worldly soundscape fitting for the lyrics—lyrics that, throughout the album, are just as thoughtful, poetic, and expressive. The softness of each track can lull to peace during a superficial listen while the depth of composition can ignite the desire to deconstruct through intense study.

And that’s the beauty of Mari & The Ghost’s Superstitions—it occupies multiple spaces in a listener’s repertoire. Looking for a chill album to space out to on a long evening drive? This one is for you. Searching for an album that supplies newly-discovered structural intricacies with each comprehensive listen? This one is also for you.

Though some may find the album too drab on the surface, perhaps even a bit monotonous over the course of the 10-track journey (“Love in a Mist” comes to mind), no one can deny the unique sound Kattman and Lederman have carved out for themselves. Mari & The Ghost brings together two musical entities for the first time yet feels as if it’s a comfortable artistic pairing that has been producing for years. Lederman and Kattman each have room to contribute a distinctive musical voice, established separately through their other respective projects. Anyone familiar with Lederman’s previous orchestrations (such as those on Ghost & Writer’s Red Flags) will know without being told that he is the musical mastermind behind Superstitions. And anyone familiar with Kattman’s vocals on other tracks (such as iVardensphere’s “Tribes of Moth” off of Fable) will similarly place her voice beyond a doubt. The resulting blend is an ambient electropop dream, the likes of which stand out from the well-known and oft-emulated bands that currently dominate synthpop. So if you’re searching for something refreshing, Superstitions should certainly be on your shopping list!

If you’d like to check out more, watch the album trailer.

You can also find the official video for “Satellite”

and a teaser for “Wolves.”

The digital album is available for purchase at most common online music retailers, including Bandcamp and iTunes.

Track Listing:

  1. Satellite
  2. Wolves
  3. The Day Becomes the Night
  4. Love in a Mist
  5. Love Greeds
  6. The Drifter
  7. I Will Always
  8. You Think I’m God
  9. Unwounded by Storms
  10. (Washed Upon) The Shores

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