The first hint that My Great Ghost might be quite special comes when you hear how they met: at the New York studio of Philip Glass, where Trevor Gureckis works as Glass’s musical assistant and Drew Smith at his publishing company. Musical assistant to one of the most respected and influential living composers? Yeah, probably a good thing.
Admittedly, the two aren’t making music that you would immediately jump to compare to that of Glass; instead of minimal repetition, they stick to more conventionally pop-oriented electronica. That said, it’s definitely in the more thoughtful, elegantly constructed bracket; sure, it’s approachable and appropriately glossy, but it’s not disposable nonsense. Far from it, in fact: it’s dense and deftly balanced in its construction. Being a genre that anyone with a laptop can get stuck into, electropop often comes under fire for lacking a degree of sophistication; that’s not a charge that applies to these two.
Their self-titled debut EP was released last month, and is a convincing effort. In particular, it achieves that unusual quality in an EP of having a discernible musical arc, rather than feeling like a collection of unrelated tracks. There is a stand-out, though: a stellar cover of Deerhunter’s “Helicopter”. It helps that the original is a track I could listen to endlessly, but there’s no doubt that My Great Ghost infuse enough of their own distinct approach for their cover to stand on its own feet.
What really stands out in terms of explaining how Gureckis got his current position is the harmonies on the vocals. The whole EP is a pretty good demonstration of this, although the chorus of “Means To An End” - the strongest of their own tracks - is a particularly forceful exposition. They often achieve this through the use of vocoder, which is in real danger of becoming dated yet again as a technique, but it’s done with enough sensitivity here that it shouldn’t bother you unless you’re particularly averse to any ’80s influences. In which case, you really have to ask why you’re listening to contemporary electropop at all.
Appropriately enough, the duo are contributing to the Beck-spearheaded 75th-birthday tribute remix album for Mr Glass, which will see them listed alongside such heavyweights and rising stars as Amon Tobin, Battles and Memory Tapes. Keep your eyes out for that, and in the meantime you can stream and download “Plain Sight” and “Means To An End” below.