In the Spirit World Now

BY Brad GarciaPublished Aug 21, 2019

Genre is a fickle thing. When it comes to certain fan bases, the bands who hold a staple-status are often ostracized for wandering beyond their scope. Then there's Ceremony — the Rohnert Park, CA-bred quartet who have built a reputation for never doing the same things twice. Realistically, few bands have remained as distinct throughout their many transitions.
As history has shown, their influences are far wider-reaching than one would have assumed in their earlier years. Recently, the group have worked and reworked the sounds of new wave, favouring crooned lilts over the thrash and brash nature of powerviolence. And their latest offering is undoubtedly the boldest departure from their former selves.
In the Spirit World Now captures Ceremony manoeuvring through electronic instrumental arrangements (primarily synths), evoking movement in varying degrees. For example, take the dance-y track "Further I Was," which bounces along in staccato, or smooth groove "Presaging the End." The latter shows a side of Ceremony that is both confident and cohesive in their experimentation — the distorted bass line drives through a hefty fog of pulsing arpeggios and chiming guitars.
On the other hand, there are results that feel far less premeditated. Ceremony are no stranger to abrasive choices, though certain melodies are so unflattering they distract from Ross Farrar's musings, which would otherwise be the focal point. (The three spoken word interludes are particularly arresting in their own right.) In many ways, Farrar is the glue bridging each album to the next; the idiosyncrasy that triumphs instrumental overshoots. The same can be said for In the Spirit World Now.
Although new listeners may find this brand of new wave revival frivolous in such an oversaturated pool of sound-alikes, longtime fans, or those who listen close enough, will hear a band who has a little more weight beneath the surface than their contemporaries. Songwriting that isn't always complementary, but bold nonetheless. Because at the end of the day, Ceremony have always been the oddballs, the freaks, the artists who likely couldn't give less of a shit about what anyone thinks, you and I included.

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