R. B. Russell – Ghosts

Some books just beg to have a soundtrack. The dirty ambient created by the tales of scummy, urban decay that Bukowski peddled so well would sit well with many a jazz soundtrack (although he always had Chinaski play classical music records). The disturbing characters of Chuck Palahniuk work so well with Nine Inch Nails and I’m pretty sure Grails created their apocalyptic stuff with the less preachier side of the Bible (old testament, aka God envisioned by Michael Bay).

R.B. Russell‘s Ghosts is a perfect fit to his recent book, the collection of stories called Ghosts. There’s two types of songs in this atmosphere-thick album: the instrumental tracks that are made unnerving by the addition of found sounds and the ones with the ghostly voice of Lidwine, which are equally haunting, not only because of her mournful vocal delivery, but also because there’s enough real world samples (whistling, ghostly whirrings – the chilling ‘She Sleeps’) to give it a real sense, even if it’s mostly a soundtrack clearly for the paranormal.

After the hors d’oeuvre that is ‘Ravissante’, the mood continues to smoulder with the mesmerising ‘Ghosts’, a theme tune for the opening credits, surely? Overcast skies, fallen leaves and old estates in severe disarray. It’s the mournful tones of the vocals (plus that little electronic drone in the back – unnerving) that sells it. ‘Love (it is there)’ is more of an otherworldly dreamy section. Instrumentally, it’s similar to ‘Ghosts’ but here we have slightly cheerier voices (although the lyrical refrain of “it is dead” might say something different).

Interspersed with the sung ditties, there’s the other side of Ghosts, the chaotic sounds of many a tortured soul that left this world with unresolved issues. Straight out of the bat, ‘Vermiculation’ is extremely eerie, with sounds reminiscing to the abstract soundtrack of the superb videogame S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and a jarring chord that clearly signals that when there are no vocals, this will be a nightmare for all involved. Like steampunk stuff? ‘Perrier, Mildew, Loganberry’ feels like the soundtrack to that classy game, Thief : The Dark Project, which mixed magic, steampunk and medieval sorcery deftly. This song could’ve been perfect for a lost level. It fits perfectly with the supernatural heavy, atmospheric prose of R.B. Russell‘s book.

Now, don’t think all instrumentals sound like videogame songs (I’m keen on the genre, though) because of any lack of personality. These songs aren’t anything but wallpaper, they are easily that 25% bit that can enhance (or reduce) the quality of a reading. I always listen to music while reading and neither the vocal heavy or instrumental only songs distracted me, but actually gave it an extra value to the experience of the book (which we will review in detail next week).

A perfect fit to R.B. Russell‘s book, this soundtrack is quite a delight. The most captivating piece is, oddly enough, the one with not a single electronic bit in it, the piano-driven ‘Llanfihangel’. If you are unsure about a soundtrack like this working for a book, start with this one and work your way around, spiral style. Because that’s the shape we all are floating upwards.

Words: Sam

R.B. Russell Website.

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