Dustin Tessier got the job done. If you read a bit about his Ghost Stamp project, it is clear that this is the avenue for exorcising a lot of emotions. He seeks to make music that blooms from the ashes of all of life’s challenges, and he has a determination and motivation that comes through clearly in his interviews, promotional material, and social media posts.
Of course, as anyone reading this review knows, we’re trying to focus on the music – and the music alone – here. That’s not to say that there aren’t things in people’s lives that can help shed light on their art or better understand where an artist comes from. This is just to say that the music should ideally be able to stand on its own, without needing any additional information. So the question is, does “Life, Death, & Disintegration” exist successfully, without any history?
The answer: hell, yeah. What we have here is a guy who makes guitar music easy and relaxing. Three agreements and the truth. To take it a step 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 won’t count the unnecessary “radio edits” of two tracks from the album that are nailed down at the end) speak of simplicity, humanity and frankness, at least in its sound.
A song like “Melody” has its own role on the record – being kind of an outright 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 fiery Crazy Horse / My Morning Jacket hybrid, with Tessier’s crisp voice hovering over it, painting images of open roads, starry skies, new beginnings and crumbling worlds. It’s nice and softly groove, with harmonies that reinforce the main melodies very well. (There are, in fact, a lot of solid but subtle hooks on this album.)
“Pay No Mind” is built around a drone and a few lines of guitar à la Andy Summers. It practically asks to be put in a movie where someone, determined, drives through a rainstorm with a puckered forehead. The only problem with this one is that it never really opens and goes wild with the flood that is won – after more than three minutes of tension, the song is unceremoniously muffled with the sound of a tape recorder sounding out. ‘stopped .
That might be the only real review of the record as a whole – sometimes it’s a little too shy to go to the really fantastic places he really seems like he wants to go. “Lay Low” might benefit from a few crisp guitar overdubs here and there, “Coming Down” only calls for a few sawn melodic strings in the background, and the hypnotic “Alone” (which features vocals and piano from the former Duluthian Mary Bue de Tessier) 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, a few spices are missing, and there are times when Tessier’s voice gets a bit buried in the mix or seems too shy. But, overall, it’s quality material. Tessier really has something here, but he still has plenty of room to flesh out his ghost more in the future.
Artist: Stamp ghost
Album: “Life, death and disintegration”
Recorded at: Blue Bell Knoll Studios, Minneapolis
Produced by: Dustin Tessier
Staff: Dustin Tessier (vocals, guitar, drums, etc.), many 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 more