- If you heard last year's "Left Hander," you'd know that Martyn's sound dipped into dirtier territory more influenced by house than anything else. While many producers have capitalized on the kind of garage/techno/dubstep melange he stewed up with debut album Great Lengths, on Ghost People Martyn has fully moved into this sound, a skewed breakbeat house that forgoes the elegance his earlier material in favour of tough dancefloor material. Here, the soundstage is scaled back from a warehouse to a toolshed, the jagged synths and sandpaper melodies feeling even rawer than before.
Brainfeeder is the home to Ghost People, and you can hear why with first single "Masks." It's one of the rudest tracks Martyn has released since his drum & bass days: a rough-and-tumble melody skirts down a rocky hill, shooting off arpeggios on impact until the whole thing is a swirling mess of bright melodies. Couple that with "Viper," two minutes of mechanical bristle and scratch, and it seems like Martyn might have lodged some crunchy gravel into his machinery. But it's sort of a fake-out: from then on some of the smoke clears, and we get slightly more familiar tracks like "Distortions" and "Popgun." They're still uncomfortably close, rough and impolite, but nimbler: listen carefully and you'll hear the creaky breaks of "Popgun" sneak out into junglist runs, while the 2-step -baiting "Twice As" feels springy even while caked in dust. On the other hand, the preference for stuffy sounds and breakbeat structures can just as easily weigh the record down. The title track feels like an unimaginative rehash of last year's single and by the time we get to "Horror Vacui"—bouncy beats propped up by a marching band—the monochrome fatigue renders the otherwise interesting tune a chore.
That's what the closer is for: the nine-minute "We Are You In The Future" easily compensates for any of the record's staid moments. An enveloping synth rapture—true hands in the air, rave throwback stuff—gives way to crashing breakbeats, Shed let loose on a rampage. If climaxing at least three times wasn't enough, it's all underlined by a chewed-up Reese bassline, a distracting spectacle that hints at his drum & bass days and brings the track well past the point of abandon. "Future" is a memorable ending, to put it lightly, and a powerful reminder of Martyn's remarkable versatility.
"Back to the roots," he says in an interview quoted by the press release. The roots of what it's hard to say—rave, garage, house, you pick—because it still sounds idiosyncratically Martyn. What his second album lacks in Great Lengths' sterling innovation it makes up for in confidence; Ghost People is the sound of Martyn cozying up to house music and mastering it, as close to focused and standing still as a restless artist like him could ever get.
01. Love And Machines feat. Spaceape
06. I Saw You At Tule Lake
07. Ghost People
08. Twice As
10. Horror Vacui
11. We Are You In The Future