AMN Reviews: SUSS – Ghost Box (2018; Bandcamp)

Ambient country music? I know, right? But somehow SUSS lives up to that label and manages to exceed initial expectations of what such a genre might entail. Consisting of Bob Holmes, Gary Leib, Pat Irwin, Jonathan Gregg, and William Garrett, these accomplished and acclaimed city-dwelling musicians set forth to construct a cinematic sound world that evokes the American West, at least as depicted in the popular media.

The seven short tracks of Ghost Box feature long warm drones, twanging six-string and steel guitar themes, long-held, distorted notes, whistling, harmonica, and subtle bass lines. Percussion is minimal and singing is absent, while the tempo is deliberate and contemplative. SUSS alludes to their music answering the question of what a collaboration between Brian Eno and Ennio Morricone would sound like. That is an apt way of contextualizing this release – a postmodern take on country-western that is tongue-in-cheek and serious at the same time.

Thus, while Ghost Box is not a truly avant-garde release, it is weird, interesting, and strangely compelling. Furthermore, it is one of those rare releases for which I can honestly say that I’ve never heard anything quite like it before.

In a time where the rural / urban divide in the United States is a point of frequent debate, it is refreshing for a bunch of New Yorkers to provide their take on a genre not usually associated with skyscrapers and latte-sipping. But any cultural significance aside, the music is just darn good and stands on its own.

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