Dustin Tessier did the job. If you read a bit about his Timbre Ghost project, it’s clear that this is the avenue to exorcise a lot of emotions. He seeks to make music that blossoms from the ashes of all of life’s challenges that have come before him, and he has a determination and drive that clearly shines through in his interviews, promotional materials and social media posts.
Of course, as anyone reading this column knows, we’re trying to focus on the music – and the music alone – here. That’s not to say there aren’t things in people’s lives that can help shed light on their art or help understand a little better where an artist is coming from. It’s just to say that the music should ideally be able to stand on its own, without the need for additional information. So the question is, does “Life, Death, & Disintegration” exist successfully, without any backstory?
The answer: heck, yeah. What we have here is a guy who makes simple, relaxing guitar music. Three agreements and the truth. Going further, it’s stuff influenced by (or similar to) artists like Neil Young and Will Oldham, and even people like Radiohead and Trampled by Turtles. The eight songs “Life, Death, & Disintegration” (we’re not going to count unnecessary “radio edits” of two album tracks that are pasted at the end) are about simplicity, humanity, and straightforwardness, at least in its sound.
A song like “Melody” has its own role on the record – being a kind of stripped-down marriage of Jackson Browne and the Beach Boys – and it doesn’t really sound like the other songs around it, but it just fits in very well with them because of its structure and approach.
“Empty Sky” is a Crazy Horse/My Morning Jacket hybrid, with Tessier’s crisp vocals soaring over it, painting images of open roads, starry paradises, new beginnings and worlds in ruins. It’s nice and softly grooving, with harmonies that reinforce the main melodies very well. (There are, in fact, plenty of solid but subtle hooks on this album.)
“Pay No Mind” is built around a drone and guitar lines à la Andy Summers. It’s practically begging to be put in a movie where someone, determined, drives through pouring rain with a furrowed brow. The only problem with this one is that it never really opens up and goes wild with the deluge that’s won – after more than three tense minutes the song is unceremoniously muted with the sound of a tape recorder churning out. ‘stopped .
That’s perhaps the only real criticism of the record as a whole – it’s sometimes a bit too shy to go to the really fantastic places it actually seems to want to go. “Lay Low” could benefit from a few crisp guitar overdubs here and there, “Coming Down” just calls for a few melodic strings sawing in the background, and the hypnotic “Alone” (which features vocals and piano from the Tessier’s former colleague, Duluthian Mary Bue) could certainly be psychedelic, especially as the outro gains momentum through repetition. A nice tremolo guitar, for example, would have added a bit more movement and drama.
So, it lacks some spice, and there are times when Tessier’s vocals are a bit buried in the mix or sound too hesitant. But, overall, it’s quality stuff. Tessier definitely has something here, but he still has plenty of room to flesh out his Ghost more in the future.
Artist: Ghost Stamp
Album: “Life, Death and Disintegration”
Recorded at Blue Bell Knoll Studios, Minneapolis
Produced by: Dustin Tessier
Staff: Dustin Tessier (vocals, guitar, drums, etc.), numerous guests in various capacities
Upcoming show: 8 p.m. Saturday with Sarah Krueger and Superior Siren at Blush, 18 N. 1st Ave.
Tickets: $7, 21 and over
Click here to listen to the album.