- Ryan Hunn hasn't been the easiest artist to follow. Since his debut in 2009, the Englishman's work has stubbornly resisted categorization. From the broken hip-hop of "Long Live The Plan" through the dubstep-inspired "Dreamstealin'" and the mercurial dance floor bomb "Titan," you could easily hear each of his releases as the work of a different producer. If there's anything that binds his discography together, it's a love for the broken beat of hip-hop, often cushioned with the midrange fuzz of late '00s dubstep and a meandering style of melody. But once he signed to Ninja Tune in 2012, all that seemed to go away, replaced by a taste for live (or sampled) instrumentation. For anyone familiar with his work on other labels, it could come as a shock just how delicate his debut album turned out.
With its film score strings and generally noir-ish mood, Ghosts Of Then And Now is an album that could soundtrack a trendy café. Its lifelike textures, such as the warbly organ and brushed drums on the title track, use the palette of vintage hip-hop but take all the edge off. In the right hands, this would make for an excellent downtempo record, but Hunn doesn't seem to know where to take his songs.
Would-be highlight "Sleeprunner" has the record's best bassline and some of the old Illum Sphere magic, but its mallet-heavy climax feels forced. Then it just stops three minutes in, as if someone blew out the candle. The melodramatic vocal tracks don’t feel any more substantial, and the album's drab pallor is numbing, sapping whatever impact these songs might have had.
Though it's never less than pleasant to listen to, most of Ghosts Of Then And Now just isn't all that engaging. It has beautiful soundscapes and bubbling synths, but it still sounds slight, as if Hunn couldn't flesh out his ideas once he got them down. He spent two years crafting the album, but it seems like he spent too much time tinkering with the aesthetics of the record and not enough laying the groundwork for concrete songs. As a result, Ghosts Of Then And Now is a parade of pretty sounds without much to hold it all together.
02. At Night feat. Mai Nestor
04. The Earth Is Blind - Prelude
05. The Road feat. Shadowbox
07. It'll Be Over Soon
08. One Letter From Death
09. Ghosts Of Then & Now
10. Love Theme From Foreverness feat. Shadowbox
11. Lights Out / In Shinjuku
12. Near The End
13. Embryonic feat. Shadowbox