United Ghosts At The Silver Lake Lounge, Thursday May 30th 2013
On Thursday night, United Ghosts, a Los Angeles-based indie band which recently toured England, was ending its month-long residency at the Silver Lake Lounge. I had seen them at the Satellite a while ago, and as singer Sha Shabi had nicely invited me to their residency, I decided to check them out again. Since that time, they have released a self-titled debut album (last March), a few videos, and especially, got noticed overseas.
The quartet was using smog machines during their set, probably to reinforce their ‘shoegazery’ of their hazy guitars and their music’s hypnotic effect – they have a song called ‘Unhypnotized’. Shoegaze is certainly a word you will read a lot to describe their sound, but what I actually heard first in their music was its poppy side, a sort of British pop via Silver Lake, as well as the girl-boy harmonies galore that brighten their songs.
Guitarist Axel Steuerwald and bass player Sha Shabi – so much for Courtney Love’s recent declaration about not being able to find a female bass player – were combining their perfectly-fitting vocals into lush harmonies, over glowing and pulsating tunes, which were going crescendo and developing a languorous groove, in a krautrock-y sense of the term. Steuerwald has said to be a fan of Neu and My Bloody Valentine, so this makes perfect sense, but United Ghosts’ hybrid sound was varied with some songs like ‘Holes into the Night’ (their single) embarking the crowd into a fast but smooth road trip accompanied by dreamy ‘hahaaaa’ vocals and even a touch of 70s psychedelia.
Despite the numerous influences, which seemed to be all over the music map, their sound had a real uniformity and their compositions were silky, introducing just enough experimentation to keep you interested without forgetting about the melodies and the poppy hooks. I see so many bands, I had a little forgotten about United Ghosts’s music, but song after song, from ‘Sparks from a cold star’ to ‘Echo Lake’ (a song inspired by the neighborhood lake that was recently drained and revealed all kind of junk) I was trying to determine which element was dominating, the shoegaze jangling guitars? The psychedelic jams? The kraut-hypnotic electronic background? Or the ethereal vocal harmonies? It was simply the whole package, played effortlessly and even ferociously at time, pleasing the Silver Lake Lounge audience for the last time this month, but certainly not the last one ever. One last thing Axel Steuerwald has played with Frank Black and the Brian Jonestown Massacre among others, so at least I know at least where the psychedelia comes from.