It was one of those gigs where you don’t really know what to expect, you haven’t had much time to research the band or listen to their songs, and then you turn up and…wow.United Ghosts blew me away with their, excuse the pun, haunting performance and as soon as I got home I just wanted to listen to their songs over and over.
The support band, on the other hand, I knew quite a lot about – the guitarist being one of my journo buddies and writer for Critical Wave, Cai Trefor. Brighton-based Classic Plastic formed only last summer but they have been relentlessly gigging in and around the seaside town. They’re even due to support Bloc Party and Everything Everything at Scala this week.
The Beatles-inspired foursome played a strong set of melodic indie tracks, kicking off with ‘Fun Fun Fun (On The Reservation)’ an upbeat little tune about the American Indians being relocated. ‘Her Face’ was a personal favourite with its chilled out vibe, echoing guitars and of course front man Alex Hill’s stunning vocals. Radio and Youtube hit ‘Bucket and Spade Escapade’ soon followed with mischievous guitar riffs and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, while the catchy ‘Not The End of The Film’ would have fit perfectly into an episode of The Inbetweeners. These guys are definitely going places and if you’re a fan of The Smiths, Blur or Pulp, then their Britpop-esque style will be right up your street.
On came headline act, United Ghosts, an LA four-piece whose style has a myriad of influences from Kraut-rock and electro to psychedelia and shoegaze. But by no means did they just gaze at their shoes. The band formed of Axel Steuerwald (vocals, guitars), Sha Sabi (vocals, bass), Jason O (guitars) and Sean Burgess (drums) brought waves of energy to the gig, filling every nook and cranny of the intimate venue with their dream pop sound.
Beginning with album opener ‘Echo Lake’, inspired by a lake that was drained in their area, they set the tone for the evening as its dreamy atmosphere washed over. The rocked-out ‘Sparks From A Cold Star’ was like a road trip adventure, while things got eerily electronic as they played ‘The Revolution Waiting’ with its pitch-bending synths and ‘Modern Crime’ with its mysterious droning loops.
Throughout the set, founding members and co-vocalists Axel and Sha complemented each other perfectly with their mesmerising male-female harmonies. Effortless and balanced, this is something that they have sustained from day one – Axel said that the first time they met and played music together they instantly gelled.
A standout track was ‘Unhypnotized’ which starts out as simple yet infectious bass riff, reminiscent of Muse’s Knights of Cydonia, before layering on the equally catchy deep guitar notes and twinkly undertones, until it becomes an ethereal resonance. Sha and Alex took a verse each before uniting in the chorus for a chilling display of their vocal chemistry. No one could have unhypnotized the audience.
Next up was their first single ‘Holes into the Night’. Released in 2011 it was an instant radio hit and gained so much positive response that it propelled them into creating their 2013 self titled debut album. With the propulsive beat, heavenly melodic textures and satisfyingly crunchy bass, I can see why. They ended with ‘Mainline To The Sun’, the B-side of the previous track which juxtaposed a sinister baseline drone against a hazy, laidback rock tune.
Overall it was like listening to alternative bands on the radio in the 90s but with a euphoric electro twist. Watch out, these guys will haunt you.
– Published on Critical Wave