ghost music cvrGhost Music - Michael Plater (Hypostatic Union)

Now, you may know that I've written about Michael Plater before for The I-94 Bar, and I know some of you have gotten out to see him play live, which is where I first saw him. The very first night, I wasn't sure. The second, with little difference between the two gigs, I absolutely was. In fact, I was bowled over. More or less accidentally I made the chap's acquaintance, to the point where I'd now call us friends.

I've tried to attend every gig the man's played here in Adelaide, and managed to see him in Melbourne and Sydney as well. I have a set-list covered in his blood (because, in case he's ever run over by an omnibus, I'm going to get the bugger cloned).

Should pals review other pal's records? Well, more to the point, does it present a conflict of interest? 

To some, certainly. As The Barman knows, if I'm presented with something I don't like, or can't review, I tell him, and I don't touch it. Also, if something isn't really getting me excited, there's no point in going further. If anything, I am more timid and trepidatious about approaching a chum's record. 

I mean, apart from not reviewing it (or doing a bad review - I don't like doing bad reviews unless I think the outfit really deserve it), I'd have to confess to my chum, “Er. I didn't like it.” Or, worse, “Sorry, mate, but it's shite”. Like Neapolitan ice cream when all you want was chocolate, or lime ice cream with liquorice swirls. Alright for some, I'm sure, but bleurgh.

So here I go. Wish me luck.

Expat Australian Plater is currently in England, about to tour Portugal, then UK. Every gig is different, allowing him to develop his songs. Recorded versions of his songs ... well, let's just say that there's an evocative lushness about the music, and the kind of quiet dread to his delivery which implies reluctance. That is, the songs are dragged out of him, it's not an easy row, and your empathy is instantly engaged. Like Leonard Cohen at his best, there's a world within which warily appears, and as it does, your mind begins to spin a little as you discover broader, yet more intimate implications.

I should point out that in UK, and further afield, there is a growing underworld of what might be termed “dark folk” with, I'm sure, many different self-regarding tendrils of definition.

Michael Plater, really, defies definitions like this. As far as I'm concerned, a new LP of his songs and music constitute a major event.

“Gathering Feathers” is the opener, which slowly grows in intensity and pace, leaving us high on the altar, eyes wet and not at all sure how we got into this state.

“Waking Dream” has appeared before - yet this interpretation must be the best, if there ever will be a best. Plater's understated delivery is clear, and the music gathers him up ... aside from Plater's own guitar, Stafford Glover plays a variety of evocative instruments here, from bass guitar, drums, guitar, drums to autoharp, what they call “percussion”, and synth. Yet the music isn't 'busy' or cluttered, but simple and profoundly moving. 

If I thought “Mythologies” was a mature LP, “Ghost Music” is not merely mature, but transcendent. The late Essex engineer John Hannon had much to be proud of, his achievement here is magnificent. It takes a hell of a talent in an engineer to use restraint when presented with so many toys to play with, and a lot more to use those toys sparingly. Also, he's captured so many nuances of Plater's voice that it is ghostly, uncanny, astonishingly intimate.

There are several tracks here which I would think should turn up in Netflix series or films; “The Alchemist” for example, is utterly driving and hypnotic. Following this is 'Katie King', which (to me) instantly recalls a number of old folk tales about the danger of ... well, mustn't spoil it. 

Starting Side Two is “Your Family Ghosts”; I find myself wondering if his stay in Cornwall had an impact here; after all, he's "drawn to folklore, occult history, and anything vaguely supernatural"... 

“Saint John's Eve” is another familiar song, but again, the rendition here beggars belief. In fact, it's superb - and another of those songs which deserve to live on via Netflix or Columbia. Live, Plater builds tone and counter-tone, and here, Plater and Glover build on each other, a hypnotic beauty keeping us ashiver while Plater's vocals drag us along... then ... well. The orchestral nature swings in, then ... yeah, you can tell I don't want to give much away.

There's a raw, unearthly power here, and played loud (as I believe this apparently quiet record is intended to be played) the world becomes a different, more exquisite and disturbing place.

There's two more songs; “The Lost Keepers”, and “Burning Windmills”. But look, this is about discovering music... 

I confess, alright, that if you don't get Michael Plater's songs, you may never do so. That's okay. Not your fault. It was only by chance I saw him live the first time, and the second. And it was the second viewing that confirmed my interest. 

Nah, it's more than interest. Look, I'm terribly fond of Michael and his partner Fawnia. And if this weren't a very good release, you'd never hear about it from me. 

But “Ghost Music” is bloody magnificent. Play loud. 

Find out why Michael Plater (and Stafford Glover) is worth cloning and get “Ghost Music”, and Plater's other releases, here.

fiveoneone - Essentially a five-bottle LP in anyone's book. But fuck that. Seven.