Not All Of Us Are Human: the Ghost Writer Review

When I am asked to review an album, I often think about what makes my job as a blogger different from say Ed Masely’s job as a music critic over at the Arizona Republic. The first thing that comes to mind? A paycheck that does not depend on shares and likes {IE he gets paid regardless of people liking what he writes}. That may seem silly, but it is perfectly relevant. Why would a blogger, especially one who is relatively new, more of a fan than a journalist, and using the blog to also get his/ her own work and name out in the world….. why would this person write a negative review? Why would the requesting band share it? The reason I bring this up, is because as a writer, and one who is trying to maintain legitimacy, integrity, and build a viable audience through having that respected opinion – this creates a bit of a Catch – 22. If all of my reviews are glowing…. well, wasn’t it The Incredibles that tried to teach us that if everybody is incredible, eventually nobody is? Yeah…. I think we missed that lesson on a whole bunch of levels.

Anyway, the point is…. I want to maintain integrity as an opinion writer. I also need to please the folks that are asking for my review, if I want that review to be shared and put out into the world. I tell you this, so that you can see that for me, it is much easier to simply not review what I do not like, rather than spend time away from writing fiction to write a review that will not have any legs.

 

 

 

So…. finally…. onto the review of I Am Hologram‘s new record, Not All Of Us Are Human. Which incidentally, I really enjoy… and thus would love to spend some time writing about it. See how this works?
Track 1 Frequency 972

There are several instrumental sonic interludes on this record, and they showcase one of the things I like the most about it: the variety of influences and stylistic allusions that come to mind while listening to it.

This song brings a lot of those highlights together in a short introduction. Richard Nihil {aka Hologram} layers Eastern and Middle Eastern tones and rhythms with overlapping guitars and indistinguishable space radio traffic, to create a mood, a head-space that ushers you into the themes and sounds of the experience.
Track 2

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With lots of reverb and echo and guitar riffs that shoot back into space like a Star Wars Introduction crawl, this song comes at you full of Rush, Coheed and Cambria, and Pink Floyd. And when we discover a wormhole, just to launch into the powerful heart of the song “I think about you often” the song takes us down that black hole of thought in space, which is exactly the point of this kind of sonic journey. With clear, crisp rock lyrics, that are not heavy, not metal, not industrial growl, but also not necessarily perfectly on pitch, Richard/ Hologram creates songs that feel passionate, emotionally honest, and provocative that are delivered almost as an understatement to the accompanying vocal of his guitar. Definitely my favorite track on the record.
Track 3 The Architect

Another short instrumental interlude with beautiful clear acoustic guitar tones. This song feels very Mystic River or The Trees speaking of Rush…. but with a title like The Architect, I was already headed down that progressive path of delights anyway. The cool thing about these kind of songs mixed into an album like this is that it creates a relationship between the title and our imagination, in a way that allows us to create and dream that lyrics and spoken themes do not. I Am Hologram is very good at creating this mental space.

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Photo Credit: Bill Goodman

Track 4 Once I Was

I often think about comparisons as a reviewer/ critic. As an artist myself, I understand the frustration of always being compared to someone else rather than being able to stand on your own merits. However, that said, the first question anymore, ever, people ask me when I get talking about music is, “Who do they sound like?” So… I think the magic is using the comparison as a valid way to bridge into talking about the artist in question. It makes sense to start from a place of common ground before plunging onward into something unknown.

Vocally, Richard Nihil is true. The human voice is powerful. It is raw. It is emotional and provocative. What it is NOT is controlled when it is channeling these energies. That control comes from the studio, often, and it is one of the most magical things about live music. Watching someone get as close to that studio version without the help of anything… but the crowd and their instrument and their band. But corporate radio and auto-tune have made us all afraid of the beauty that comes with that transparency.

This second lyric track brings to mind the vocal range, and imperfections, of Jared Leto, lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars. If one listens to a selection of that bands music, across their discography, one gets a sense of what Leto is trying to achieve, and capable of, with his voice as an instrument, or as a weapon, to add to the arsenal of his message. That comparison rings true with Richard as well.

As I listened to this track, I found myself waiting, and wanting, the song to rip wide open like an 80s rock anthem. This desire, might I even say scripting of expectation, colored my first impression of the song. I found myself underwhelmed at times, or might I even say disappointed. But…tonally as the song shifts down a gear at these points rather than exploding forward with my expectations – I think, I like this more. I find myself digging my teeth and nails into the building layers of guitars waiting to see if he is going to take me where I expect to go or keep veering to a slightly parallel side road at the very last minute. This game… of where are we goingwhich way will you take me…. kept me engaged with the song. Even when I found myself slightly disappointed against my expectations, I am even more interested in listening to the song again without those expectations.

I really liked this one…. but I had to keep thinking about it. And that is never a bad thing.
Track 5

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When you first listen to Not All Of Us Are Human each track is a bit of a guessing game. The record feels unified, sonically, but each song blends different inspirations, tones, and influences. For instance, this track starts off feeling pop. Then, is it going to be rock? For a minute Michael Jackson even danced into my mind as a possible inspiration, but as the song finds its grove at about 45 seconds in, and that guitar comes in with a beautiful clarion purity that takes me to a place that I very much like to go, I found myself once again leaping into those thoughts of… who does this guy remind me of? Hologram’s voice takes me back to 80s rock, but not the hair of it. Back to the rawness of the 90s, but not the grunge of it. He resonates Bob Seger, Billy Joel, Billy Squier, maybe even a little Elton John, and harmonizes with that voice with guitar lics that are a bit Santana, a bit Bonamassa, a bit David Gilmore.

A lot of what I love about music right now is this incredible nostalgia that immediately makes comparisons come to mind… but once you settle on one. Okay, this guy is Bob Seger with Santana guitar work….. but then maybe he is a bit Lenny Kravitz…. but wait… there is that undercurrent of Pink Floyd…. but the mixture of it…. the Ninja Blending if you will…. is what makes it so fresh and modern.
Track 6 Not All of Us Are Human

Before SteamPunk {well, not really, but before it was a thing in Pop Culture} there was Young Guns II: a western with a rock n roll {well, okay, Bon Jovi} soundtrack. This blending of expectations, Westerns and Rock, Space and Bowie, Dance-able Darkness ala Harper & the Moths, Paper Foxes and Fairy Bones, is one of the things that makes the journey of this album exciting.

I love that Hologram does not disguise a lack of guitar skill with his use of the petals and distortion knobs on the board. They are an enhancement. In this way it is very much like Pink Floyd. Nobody would argue Gilmore couldn’t play and needed the sonic pulses to disguise lack of talent. The same is true here. And what begins as a spacey sojourn reminiscent of that earlier wormhole, leads to a dark place. We are transported as travelers from a place of dreamy beauty to a place of nightmarish shadows. Once again, the song leaves us haunted by the meaning of its title and its importance to our exploration.

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Photo Credit: Ghost Writer

Track 7 Paul is Dead

The laugh track, a sampling of an interesting comedy sketch….. and the shredding over it… forces a juxtaposition. Our voyage takes a twist towards the surreal. A listener is forced to think about these elements separately, but it is difficult to do so as they inform each other.

 

 

 

“Paul Horner was a local comedian. I dressed up like a giant dolphin on stage that night during his performance. He’s passed away, and he was a very close friend of mine. This was the hardest track to make on the record. – Hologram”

We ask questions such as, “what is that guitar’s commentary on that particular joke or reference? what is the comedy’s satirical response to the darkness and echo of that sonic explosion?” All while simultaneously asserting, I am going to leave everything out here. There is no gimmick under this facade. Just a dream. Just a vision. “What you see is what you get.”
Track 8 Null Void

Lyrically I like this song a lot, but unlike the other songs with lyrics on the record I find myself distracted from them by the music. At least until the last 30 seconds of the song where the tension of being Null and Void seems to be turned up, but the song leaves me wishing it had been more compelling. It is in a field of heavy thinking songs…. this song feels like the Journey cover on a Floyd record, and because of that, it doesn’t engage as much as the preceding tracks.


Track 9 I Beg To Differ

This song, with an undercurrent of sampled material and industrial techno grind, almost lights our way with a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult flashlight. If there is a track on this record screaming, “DJ, Please Remix Me!” It is this one.
Track 10 Silentium Na’Ah

Back at the start, I mentioned influences. This is another short, sonic interlude of a track: a rest stop on our highway, but its variety and range from the others, while still obviously showcasing the same guitar talent, is what brings this example to mind.

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Photo Credit: Bill Goodman

My father listens to music all of the time. Four artists pretty much. Loreena McKennitt, Chet Atkins, John Michael Talbot, and R. Carlos Nakai. He loves the ambiance they create. He becomes distracted by lyrics and trying to focus on hearing the words over the emotional mindscape the music paints. So…. everything from Nature, to Christian Acoustic Folk, to Old Country, to Native Flutes…. and I think he would add this album to the rotation.
Track 11 The Ghost Who Breathed

This track comes in heavy with thick drums, but they exude tribal rhythms, heartbeats, hurrying pulse, and there is something about it that reminds me of something that would be on an early Beggars Banquet album. It’s a bit Love & Rockets, a bit Southern Death Cult, a bit The Three Shadows but more Parts I and II, certainly not III.

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For a guitar driven sonic highway of an album, this is much more of a progressive blending of styles rather than a slug fest from an ax wielder. As I listened to it, I was continually reminded of bands that I love, but who are not necessarily remembered for a lot of their heavier, atmospheric, instrumental work. Songs like Carnage Visors, Fear of Ghosts, or The Kiss from The Cure or Phantom by Sisters of Mercy come to mind as neighbors on an I Am Hologram playlist.
Track 12 God Speed John Glenn

Probably my least favorite track on the album, but the reasons why I think make the entire reason we do this crazy art thing obvious. Pardon the aside. When I sit down and read some of my previously released work, sometimes I cringe wondering what ever possessed me to release that on the world. But, then I rethink, every piece of work we release is a step on our evolution, and the beauty of being independent is that we are free to write that experimental song or story that nobody else would take a chance on. There is validity in that.

This track is long, it is instrumentally repetitive and not altogether interesting for the songs length. Vocally, if there is a negative to be said about the vocals on this record or that some keys and pitches are missed, or slip…. that is probably the most pronounced on this song. BUT…. where this song may fail as a single on a recorded record, I can see it being a very cool first or last song on a live setlist. It has huge areas for sweeping, live, improvisations on the guitar, and the song could be lengthened or shortened depending on venue and crowd. Its screaming, raw, edgy vocal would work well live, especially at the end of a show where the crowd is driving that finale energy and the guitars are surging and there is nothing left of the night but to leave it all on stage.

In that scenario… this song excels in potential.

Final Takeaways

Buy it. Stream it. Not All Of Us Are Human is a great experience. It will set the mood to your evening. And really, that is what I was trying to bring to fore here. Once upon a time, sitting around a table in a dimly lit room with dice and candles and goth friends, we wove the tales of supernatural creatures in a fantastical world. We created mix tapes to set the mood, and make our dream worlds real.

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I Am Hologram would be on that mix-tape.

Keep the Greasy Side Down, my friends.

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Published by Gho5tWriter

Arizona Enthusiast. Writer. Rider. Dreamer.

One thought on “Not All Of Us Are Human: the Ghost Writer Review

  1. Loved this review! Looks like a great album, or whatever the masses are calling a collection of songs these days! Great cover art, great titles, I felt in tune with it from the get-go. The fact that you mentioned Seger and Santana in the same sentence, yeah, that put it over the top and sold it for me. Thanks for all you do, and all the miles you ride to enlighten us on the things we might not have the chance to experience in person. You’re a good man! Stay safe! Karen Dale Trask

    Like

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