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Holy Ghost Party, 'Weather Channel' (Friends)( Handout )
DOWNLOAD: Holy Ghost Party, 'Weather Channel'
RATING: *** out of 4
In the abrasive, post-hardcore Baltimore act Dope Body, drummer David Jacober and guitarist Zachary Utz wildly contort their instruments to create skull-rattling backdrops. The results are often sweaty, exhilarating and exhausting, so it makes sense the two players would head in a less violent direction for a side project.
Holy Ghost Party, the duo's atmospheric pop act, released a self-titled debut album in September 2011 that threw countless genres against the wall and benefited from a relaxed unpredictability. The band's latest EP, "Weather Channel," is more refined than its predecessor, and it proves Jacober and Utz are just as talented at crafting tropical chillwave as they are making brash punk songs.
After a spooky, nearly two-minute interlude that sounds like ghosts communicating, "Treasure Chest" quickly establishes "Weather Channel's" tranquil mood with a smooth, danceable groove. On many tracks here, Rod Hamilton, a featured guest, plays vibraphone, which adds brightness to Jacober's ethereal vocals. Utz's understated guitar playing -- which slinks its way onto tracks without taking up all of the air -- adds a necessary heft to songs that could have been too lightweight without it.
This is experimental pop music that is sure-handed even as it retains mysterious qualities (closer "Keep Coming Back" sounds submerged, thanks to guitar picking reminiscent of Minus the Bear and distant vocals). By trimming the fat from their all-over-the-place debut, Jacober and Utz prove they're smart songwriters who are still improving.
The best moment is "Dad Vibes," which pushes its longing vocals to the front of the mix. There's a dreamlike, hazy quality to the song that would have been fine to milk for all its worth. But toward the end, a forceful, reverb-heavy guitar comes through like a thunderstorm, elevating the short song to greater heights. As the instrumentation gets busier, Jacober keeps singing because it feels right in the moment, like running into rain to feel alive. -- Wesley Case