Red Martian - 'Ghost in the Fog'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s Independent Spotlight, we’re focusing our gaze on a rather compelling outfit: Red Martian. The band released their latest studio endeavor this summer, ‘Ghost into the Fog.’ The album is an intriguing sonic landscape chock-full of innovative sounds and excellent performances. Before delving into eight tunes, though, let’s touch on some info about the band to provide some context to the piece.

Red Martian has been around awhile - about sixteen years. During that time, they’ve put out CD’s, vinyl records, EP’s - all on their own label. More so, they’ve toured all over the place internationally. They describe themselves as a group doesn’t care about ‘radio station politics, the press, musical genres, or a particular scene.’ That’s a pretty apt description. ‘Ghost into the Fog’ defies immediate classification, but rather, melds a bunch of genres into a hodgepodge of noise. That hodgepodge is, however, excellent. Plus, it’s all produced by Gordon Raphael, the man behind some pinnacle records from the likes of the Strokes and Regina Spektor.

In preparation for Independent Spotlight pieces, I always listen to an album a few times through. With ‘Ghost into the Fog,’ I found myself listening to it three or four times before even penning a word. Why? Well, it’s a record with an impressive amount of depth, both musically and lyrically. The opening tune, which is the title track, blends together some superb rock instrumentation, seemingly experimental noise, and peculiar vocals. It's a very rewarding introduction.

A supporter of the band describes them as the middle-ground between the Silversun Pickups and My Bloody Valentine. That’s a fairly decent classification, but I’d argue there’s even more to it than that. Each of the tracks is tinged with garagey rock and roll and atmospheres akin to Joy Division. The band actually cites the Velvet Underground as an influence - I’d argue Lou Reed would be right behind this kind of rock and roll. It’s messy and distorted, yet articulate. That’s something Reed championed to the extreme.

Going along with that Velvet Underground comparison, ‘None’ is certainly within that realm. It’s quite a romp, one that really drives on a superior sound system. It embraces some of those early Velvet Underground sonic intricacies. The production job Raphael has done on ‘Ghost in the Fog’ is consistently impressing. ‘みなぞう’ embraces a very droning nature. I dig that about it; it’s a dark and brooding escapade through feedback induced soloing and sparse vocal melodies.

‘Undertow’ is the highlight of the first half of the EP. It feels a bit like a Pixies tune - I love the vocal style that croons throughout it. It’s important to note the band is often classified as ‘nu gaze,’ which is essentially a combination of shoegaze influence and alternative rock. The band excels in nu gaze delivery and performance. Now, I’d argue shoegaze isn’t the most accessible genre. ‘Ghost in the Fog’ does, however, house plenty of opportunities to dip your toes into it. ‘Use’ is a very user-friendly, accessible song that may be a good entry point for someone less enthused or versed in Red Martian stylings.

Shortly after the halfway point of ‘Ghost,’ the only issue I had with the album emerged. While Red Martian masters and owns their sound in a wonderfully unique way, their sound does blend together after a time. ‘Wont’ felt like an extension of ‘Use,’ not particularly bringing anything new to the table. There are other microcosms of this as well throughout the album. With that said, the album is incredibly enjoyable, and for the most part, crafts a variety of experiences. There are instances, however, where ‘Martian’ falls into droning obscurity. (Though, that may be the idea.)

Gordon Raphael brings an interesting element to the album's production.

Gordon Raphael brings an interesting element to the album's production.

‘Ingenting’ rescued the latter half of the album for me when I felt that ‘Wont’ was a bit of a lull. This track is incredibly inventive and I adore the band’s usage of synthesizers and even a brief acoustic guitar that slowly succumbs to the mix. ‘Ingenting’ is arguably the highest point of the end of ‘Ghost into the Fog.’ Its successor, ‘Ago,’ does have its merit, though. It’s a joyful event through noise and eccentric guitar riffing - one that ends the album on a great note.

‘Ghost into the Fog’ does owe a debt to Raphael’s producing. He did a fine job capturing the essence of Red Martian in an exciting, consistently well produced fashion. That production can only go as far as the band does, however, and they've hit a home run. Though I think there is a bit of a mid-album lull, the collection is widely successful in nearly all its pursuits. For those at home with shoegaze and this type of crazy, even experimental music, there will be plenty to love. For those not acclimated to the genre, stand outs like ‘Use’ and ‘Ingenting’ will make the transition worthwhile and rewarding. Thus, consider ‘Ghost into the Fog’ marked with the Independent Spotlight’s stamp of excellence.