Ghost Dance Collective’s self titled release from 2018 was a joyously retro affair. Its mix of 60s riffs, reverb and haziness combined with a late 80s indie cool created a great sound. Their all-round retro cool and occasional Byrds-ish jangle would almost certainly appeal to lovers of the classic output from Creation Records, and although traces of bands like The Brilliant Corners could be heard, it was more than clear that this was a band with more than enough of their own talents.
Plans for a follow up release in 2020 were thwarted by the Covid-19 global pandemic. On top of that ithe band found themselves without a drummer (a man “last seen in Angel”, according to reports), but undeterred, the Collective ploughed on. They eventually emerged with four stripped down numbers which relieved the boredom of lockdown and also kept fans entertained until some kind of normality could return.
It might not be exactly what they had in mind, but the ‘Getting By’ EP is just…lovely and the title track captures the acoustic side of the band rather well. Adopting a lilting style, the guitar part at first sounds as if it’s reworking an old folk tune from an episode of Bagpuss, but soon enough, that easy melody branches out to include shimmering electric sounds, atmospheric cymbal work and a keyboard sound that recaptures the band’s retro roots. While a soft pop-folk melody takes the weight of the arrangement via Liam Payne’s vocal, keys man Ross Lynchehaun does his best to add an interesting twist by throwing out brief musical interludes that sound rather more like something from an old Focus LP. It may all be as minimalist as possible, but there’s enough here for fans of the previous album to be drawn in instantly, even though there’s much better material on the horizon.
Working around a live sounding acoustic guitar and tambourine, ‘Rainy Night At Toll X’ isn’t shy in flaunting an influence from The Beatles’ classic ‘Norwegian Wood’ throughout its core. It manages to elevate far above being a straight rip, though, thanks to some great vocals throughout – and across three minutes, Liam, Ross and bassist Alan Bragg share some of the finest harmonies ever. Always drawing from a rich musical past, they bring a timeless feel to a terrific sound that falls somewhere between Simon & Garfunkel and early Fleet Foxes. This alone makes this stop gap EP a must hear. The same approach is taken on ‘Here Comes The Rain’ and although the song isn’t quite as good – feeling somewhat like an old Teenage Fanclub b-side – once again, the performance is absolutely flawless. Between an unfussy simplicity and intricate three part harmonies, the main hook is at least given a marvellous send off even if this is more of a basic strummer from a musical standpoint.
Rounding out the release, a number entitled ‘Clouds’ appears in an alternate mix (despite the “regular” mix not having appeared anywhere) and by opting for more of a psychedelic mood throughout, it manages to showcase a different side to Ghost Dance Collective, even in a stripped down format. Shimmering guitars lay out a strong, 60s inflected melody which is complimented by much bleaker vocals than before. What’s most impressive here is that despite the maudlin sound, the trio’s harmonies remain so, so tight and whether intentional or not, the lads end up sounding like a weird hybrid of The Moody Blues and Gregorian chanting. Factor in various neo-psych keyboard flourishes and this number – although not always as broad in appeal – soon begins to sound like a lost classic from decades gone by.
Very much a release to capture the mood in which it was created, at the time of release, the band stressed it is not as much a “new release” as one which features material that “might resurface in a different form”. Whether or not there were bigger plans for these songs almost doesn’t matter; when faced with a crisis, GDC have given this quartet of retro gems the best possible send off under the circumstances. In many ways, these minimalist recordings are just lovely as they are – any further tinkering might even spoil their charm. If you’re a fan of the self-titled long player, you really can’t afford to miss this.