Most of us are much the same, whatever our perceived differences. Zoom in closely enough on the matter that makes us – our bones, blood, skin; our souls – and, really, we’re very alike. And we all go through our share of bad situations, whatever our today might encompass. But we still have another thing in common: tomorrow can be whatever we want it to be.
‘Shedding Skin’ is tomorrow, today – for its maker, it’s the manifestation of a new challenge, of fresh thinking, after a preceding album of necessary catharsis. If you think you know multifaceted musician Ghostpoet, think again. While the past is important, this singular artist’s third studio album is a brave, confident stride into previously unexplored methodologies and untapped inspiration – it’s a reboot of sorts, the reinvention and distillation of traits that have so far made the man’s reputation. Nothing here sounds like a style stuck on repeat.
Explicitly personal insights have become wider perspectives: after 2013’s ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’ LP purged London-based Obaro Ejimiwe of lingering spectres born of a relationship breakdown, ‘Shedding Skin’ allows him to refocus on what he loves: sitting, observing, processing, creating. In some respects ‘Shedding Skin’ harks back to Ghostpoet’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut of 2011, ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’, in its assembly at least: then, he was free of baggage, loose-limbed and able to capture a moment and spin it into a song; now, he’s in a comparable place, but has skilfully circumvented potential complacency by opening the door to creative collaboration while also placing strict conditions on the recording process.
More so than either previous LP, ‘Shedding Skin’ is a warm, organic, alternative offering, crafted with a traditional live set-up by the musicians who have become ingrained in the Ghostpoet programme. Ejimiwe is flanked throughout by his touring band: Joe Newman on guitar; John Calvert on bass, who also co-produced the album alongside the man with his name on the sleeve; and John Blease on drums.
Of this approach, Ejimiwe is clear on his intentions: “I wanted a consistent sonic direction throughout the record. I was definitely seeking coherency. And I wanted my mates!” Also featured are guest vocalists including Lucy Rose, Etta Bond, Nadine Shah, celebrated Belgian singer Melanie De Biasio, and Maxïmo Park frontman Paul Smith.
The live set-up made for a far quicker recording process than ever before: from demos to mastered material in four months. “Brian Eno told me, when I was in Mali participating in African Express, that it was always best to record an album quickly, and then move on. That philosophy really stuck with me, and I brought it to the fore when making this album.”
Neither of Ghostpoet’s prior albums exactly lacked for coherence across their tracks, but ‘Shedding Skin’ really is a definitive embracing of the format: 10 songs that are clearly designed to sit beside one another, to work as a whole. Tonally, it’s a set that runs through bright peaks and dark shallows, its topics including the tackling of domestic violence (‘Yes, I Helped You Pack’), the gut-wrenching encountering of an ex-love with their new beau (‘That Ring Down The Drain Feeling’), the awkwardness of the morning after a one-night stand (‘Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me’) and the perception of the homeless (the title track). Heavyweight emotions, but always articulated with distance enough for the overall effect to be thought provoking, rather than choking.
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