The Ghost Of 29 Megacycles take their name from a book from 1986 by John G Fuller which explores the possibility of recording the faint voices of ghosts. There’s a good chance that, given guitars, synths and a 4-track recorder, those ghosts just might make music that sounds like Love Via Paper Planes.
It may just be coincidence, but the 6 tracks on this, the first album the band have released via a label rather than on their own, are ordered from longest to shortest. This is a nice tactic, not allowing fatigue to set in, but still giving space for a track like the 15 minute opener, ‘The Cold Light Of Silence’, space to work its magic. And with the ethereal nature of the sound, a sprawling, growing ambience, talk of ghostly voices and actual voices both washed out in the distance and whispering their wordless melodies in your ear, magic is certainly an apt word. The tracks are each based on extended drones but, unlike much first take improvisation which works with drones, The Ghosts Of 29 Megacycles work with harmonic structures. It takes well over 5 minutes, but when ‘The Cold Light’s initial two chord suspended cycle finally falls onto the root chord, the effect is monumental, almost physically tangible. Elsewhere, ‘We Are The New Romantics’ has huge, ringing distorted guitar chords mixed low and embedded into their own reverb trail but, again, the chordal progression sets it apart from run of the mill drone. In this case, it’s a dead ringer for part of the chord structure of U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ and aims for (and achieves) the same level of grandeur, though, obviously, in a different sonic manner. Having said that, Eno-esque atmospheres abound across the album, if Eno were to embrace the lo-fi underground. Which is not to say this is particularly lo-fi, but it does away with the sparkle and sheen and replaces it with more muted timbres and also allows harmonic feedback loose in a way that a ‘proper’ producer might not allow, but is used in the title track particularly effectively.
All this may sound overly serious, but a small glimpse into process at the conclusion of ‘Dusted’ demonstrates the group’s humourous sense of themselves. Following two and a half minutes of typically languorous walls of sound, the decidedly non-ghostish voice of vocalist Karen de san Miguel can be heard to ask, “Hey, could you ask Greg, does he always play that quickly? Maybe a little slower would be better…Seems a little fast. Is that just me?” The fact that it’s been left on the finished work automatically renders it ironically amusing and adds a remarkable amount of human warmth to the cascadingly monumental music.
Love Via Paper Planes is a wonderfully immersive document. Rather than feeling like the progress sketches often associated with drone based work, these pieces are fully formed and, combined into an album, create a truly beautiful listening experience.