Personnel: Jem Marie (vocals, guitar, keyboards).
Raw is the Ghost Ease's second album, but it's the first one recorded by the trio lineup of guitarist/vocalist Jem Marie, drummer Nsayi Matingou, and bassist Laurence Vidal, as well as the group's first release distributed by K Records and produced by Steve Fisk. The Ghost Ease's sound lives up to the album's title, and the recording does an excellent job of capturing their dreamy yet slightly aggressive sound. Jem Marie has a careening, fluid vocal style that often takes form as a gentle coo at first, but bends and transforms, rising up when necessary while never quite reaching the point of shouting. Similarly, the group takes the standard guitar/drums/bass lineup and sculpts a feedback-laced sound that can be tense and slowly paced, but can also erupt into raging punk when necessary. "Neptune Sun," the album's longest track, softly crawls for three minutes before Jem Marie gently intones "I explode," at which point the band furiously releases tension for the song's final minute. "Alight" tips more toward the group's aggressive side while still restraining itself a bit, but it's followed by the direct blast of "Pareidolia." Even as the album's most straightforward, forceful song, it doesn't feel like a one-dimensional expression of rage; Jem Marie's vocals are as eloquent and wide-ranging as ever, with a slight bit of distortion serving as an appropriate emphasis rather than unnecessarily overpowering her voice. "For Naught" is the album's most celebratory song, with joyous backing vocals and clapping, as well as sentimental, thankful lyrics. The album ends on an unexpected note with the hazy, somewhat dramatic instrumental "Bye, Love," which features end-credits piano along with cello and gauzy synthesizer. Raw is an intriguing effort that demonstrates the Ghost Ease's versatility as well as their enthusiasm. ~ Paul Simpson