The quiet string section opening of TV Ghost’s third full length, Disconnect, sets the tone for something really immersive and cinematic. The album cover, a photograph of an ostensibly insane woman painted green, aligns it with a tradition of awesomely questionable sci-fi movies. The music that follows doesn’t exactly disappoint these expectations: a mix of spacy textures, robotic melodies, and wildly dramatic vocal delivery renders this album a sort of post-punk horror show. Apart from certain Icarus moments in the vocal performance (“Dread Park” has the vocalist going for something between Dracula and Engelbert Humperdinck), this album shows TV Ghost on a continued trajectory away from the frantic mania of their first full length and towards something more scripted, measured, and performative.
This album’s best melodies are the subtle ones—“Siren” and “Cloud Blue Moments” stand out particularly. That said, the album’s strengths are mostly textural. The intro to “Placid Deep” creates a real strong sense of space, like a moment in a movie where a cave opens up into a thriving underground city. In this vain, I think the album’s greatest success is “Elevator.” The descending chromatic intro opens up into a sharply textured tunnel (elevator shaft?) that is ultimately far more effective in the “spooky” department than any of the album’s Dracula moments. There’s a really cool interplay between the ambience of the synth, the minimalist guitars, the intermittent feedback, and the driving drums. And the unexaggerated fullness of the vocals seem better aligned on this track with the rest of what’s going on instrumentally. Even though the lyrics don’t come through very clearly, I feel like I’m being communicated to, rather than being spooked at my neighbor’s Haunted House.
Speaking of my neighbor’s Haunted House, the next track, “A Maze Of Death,” is about that caliber of an experience. The instrumentation reminds me of church basement shows in junior high, around the time I was listening to Interpol (dark times indeed). The vocal line comes in predictable bursts, and the lyrics are a guided nightmare spookout a la Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath”: “In your head now, there’s a stage/ where your goblins sit and wait/ you’ll find me there overhead/ with a hanger for your skin.” If only Ozzy was there to scream “Oh, nooooooo!” The redeeming part is the 10-second squeal of noise at the end. I love squeals and I wish this one went on for a little longer.
The album ends on a strong note. “Others Will Be Born” manages to bring back some of the mania that I loved on TV Ghost’s debut, Cold Fish, albeit in a more controlled manner—with its steady rhythm and subdued but punchy vocal chant, it’s more Psycho than Sharknado. Or maybe it’s more like the devil-rape scene in Rosemary’s Baby. “Siren” updates a Pink-Floydian interplay between the lead guitar and the vocals, and showcases the same attention to texture as the album’s other highlights. The grand finale consists of thirty seconds of silence, followed by a video game-ish coda that I feel like I should be able to spot—is that from Donkey Kong? In any case, it indicates that some of the preceding album was delivered with a sense of humor. Thank god.