As Californian outfit Ceremony continue to search out and explore the next evolution in their creative voice, they have sparked one treat of an itch to get under the skin in recent times. In The Spirit World Now is one of those encounters which immediately infests attention and proceeds to haunt it thereon in, ensuring returns to its contagious body are not only inevitable but inescapable.
It seems some people still compare the Rohnert Park quintet’s early voracious hardcore sounds to each new offering as if they have gone off course. Every artist though needs to follow their instincts and hunger to grow, something Ceremony have relished and flourished with for our thoughts. It has not been quite as a dramatic shift as that Ministry undertook and undoubtedly blossomed from but step by step it has been certainly marked and as In The Spirit World Now proves, compelling.
Moving on from but also drawing in some ways from the Joy Division-esque captivation of last album, The L-Shaped Man, Ceremony embraces the breath and virulence of eighties post punk and new wave within its successor. Whether by chance, coincidence, or deliberation there is a potent Devo influence to the sound making up its collection of infection loaded tracks, stronger in some than others, yet it only goes to accentuate the band’s own imagination and individuality.
The Relapse Records released, Will Yip (Title Fight, Circa Survive, Turnover) produced album opens up with Turn Away The Bad Thing. An immediate synth draw is quickly joined by the resonating drawl of Justin Davis’ bass. In little time the vocals of Ross Farrar are striding across the wires cast by guitars, the confidence indeed swagger in his tones a magnet into the melodic web of sound growing with potent catchiness. Crystalline shimmers interrupt the boisterous motion to calm the senses but it only adds to the lure of the song especially with the female voiced caresses which glide forward to seduce. All the while emotional tension builds until the track again bursts into creative animation.
It is a strong and pleasing start but for us only a teaser to greater moments starting with the album’s stirring title track. With something of a Modern English meets John Foxx era Ultravox breeze across its spiky but fluid motion, the track has a wealth of hooks and melodic wiring at its disposable courtesy of the imagination of guitarists Andy Nelson and Anthony Anzaldo with synths just as skilfully manipulative before Further I Was reaps the temptation of both for its own body of virulence. One of those moments when that Devo reference is most keen, the song strolls along springing new wave contagion and post punk dynamics, the angular delivery of Farrar matched by the jerkiness of riffs and rhythms with the swinging beats of Jake Casarotti alone a rousing incitement.
Presaging The End prowls ears next though its presence is all invitation, its melodic romance draped in dark shadows and melancholy, the latter carrying a slight Skids like essence while Say Goodbye To Them brings unbridled pop insistence through its gait and dynamics. Even so there is a restraint which only adds to its easy infestation of appetite and imagination; an invasion with the richest rewards as another irresistible moment within the release is uncaged, one swiftly echoed by the punk feral We Can Be Free. Scuzz lined, hook throwing guitars collude with the melodic tease of keys, rhythm egging on their mischief and the movement it is hard not to offer from the outside.
Through the quirk pop stomp of Years Of Love and Never Gonna Die Now with its Devo/Wall Of Voodoo like creative drama and sonic gesticulation, In The Spirit World Now just stepped up another level, the second our firmly favourite track. Song by song, the album took a firmer grip of our greed, simply becoming more captivating as echoed by I Want More. Again in many ways punk instincts drive its holler, vocals, riffs and the great bass nagging especially coated in that irritability but all tempered and bound in the led synths dance.
From Another Age provides a riveting quick footed incitement next, rhythms jabbing as synths and guitars duel with mutual temptation. In the midst Farrar adds his own pugnacious but welcoming agility, it all galvanic persuasion.
The album concludes with the intrigue coated post punk theatre of Calming Water where rhythms almost stalk ears as they provoke feet, wiry hooks and acute melodies further intoxication as the song sends the release away on a high. Not that its absence proves long as In The Spirit World Now is a record which so far is proving impossible to stay away from.
With a few moments of poetic intimacy between some songs, the album has thoughts as animated as body, spirit and pleasure. For us Ceremony just keeps getting better and more fascinating.
In The Spirit World Now is out now via Relapse Records; available @ https://ceremonyrohnertpark.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 11/09/2019
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