Release Date: Aug 27, 2013
Record label: Flying Nun
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, New Zealand Rock
It’s almost uncanny how much great guitar pop has come out of the relatively small country of New Zealand over the past three decades—not only that, but how far-reaching it is. The Dunedin Sound is alive and well worldwide, even if not everyone is privy to it. You can’t talk about Ghost Wave without discussing what has come before. The Auckland four-piece keeps in the tradition of Flying Nun bands of yore without resorting to aping them.
From their beginnings, New Zealand indie-psych unit Ghost Wave took considerable influence from the classic college rock bands of the late-'80s and early-'90s Flying Nun roster. Their debut full-length brings that influence full circle, both in its release on Flying Nun and their collaboration on the mixing and recording of the album with Thomas Bell, member of genre-defining kiwi pop band the Clean. While the tunes on Ages definitely owe part of their makeup to the minimal, melancholic pop of acts like the Clean and the Verlaines, or the airy vocal delivery of the Chills on tracks like "Country Rider," theirs is a far more psychedelic and expansive approach to pop than the often ramshackle shuffle of their Flying Nun predecessors.
Ghost Wave are from Auckland, New Zealand, and not, as it may seem, an Indie Band Name Generator c. 2008. They arrive stateside smelling of sunscreen and sativa a couple of months after their debut LP Ages was released in their home country on Arch Hill. For their U.S. and European release, the ….
The psychedelic garage rock subgenre is a dicey one, in the sense it’s so specific and self-limiting. To be in that mold and still stand apart from the pack, a band has to finagle some way to implement a degree of innovation. But go too far into left field, and you risk not being considered part of the typically minimalistic form at all. Thus, any new group is almost certainly tasked with using the same building blocks of their progenitors and tying to invent some new manner of organizing them.
Ghost Wave’s debut album, Ages, spins like a time machine caught in endless loops, sandwiching the liberating freedoms of the ’60s and the hazy psychedelic rock of Flying Nun Record’s ’80s catalog to manifest a lush rock ‘n’ roll force. While their first showing proves to appeal enough for a surface-level listen, it fails to pursue past that base enjoyment. In an effort to make their retro-leaning rock relevant to today’s standards, Ghost Wave drives their instruments through distortion recalling modern, noisy psychedelia like Deerhunter, penning groovy jams that could last for hours.
Ghost Wave, out of New Zealand, balances jangle pop with pulsing unease, bright dual guitars with a penumbra of rhythmic murk. Ages, the first full-band LP for this bedroom-project-that-grew, is noticeably darker than early single “Sunsetter,” grounded in a subterranean buzz that is more Jesus & Mary Chain than the Clean. Ghost Wave started as the solo project of one Matthew Paul, a guitarist and singer whose first addition to the line-up was another guitarist (who also sometimes played bass) Rikki Sutton.