Ryan Merry’s first release as Ghosts on Tape immediately solidified the producer and the label’s reputation as a serious contender within the house community. Nature’s Law was a fiercely aggressive track that stuck a finger up to House music’s bourgeoisie as it brought a harder edge that was missing from the genre. It was a perfect change from the deep, over-produced, UK variation that was dominating House at that time and it introduced both Icee Hot and GoT to the world as a serious contender on the scene. The label has gone on to define a sound that was desperately needed amongst the provocateurs of House, with the likes of Bobby B in tow while Ghosts on Tape has also only featured one other time in its catalogue. The artist is back however by way of a release that has softened the exterior but not expelled what’s at the heart of Merry as Ghosts on Tape.
Both Snake Box and Only Now still have that grimier side that’s featured progressively in every GoT release, while the latter is very similar to debut Nature’s Law. An arpeggiated synth dusted with a very bouncy rhythmic delay makes a hot bed of percussive elements on which an ominous vocal line intermittently falls. The drums are as huge as ever, but the release feels far more rounded at the edges and offers a far more uniform delivery from previous releases, in terms of production.
Snake Box continues along these lines with a gargantuan kick hitting a steady 4/4, displaying the subtlety of earth moving equipment. The processed vocal sample offers a bit of introspection as it twists and reshapes itself, eternally piquing the listener’s interest, without getting too serious about itself. That’s what’s at the heart of Icee Hot and Ghosts on Tape for me. There’s a sense of fun and good humour about their releases and even though they occupy the serious dance collector’s shelves, they do so with a tongue firmly in cheek. On this particular release it is achieved with a couple of kitsch elements on both tracks. Only Now, with its cheesy fake trumpet, and Snake box, showcasing some overbearing bongo rhythms, both stand out as amusing little references to the more tawdry side of House. Their processed and masked existence – the trumpet sounds like it came from an old casio synth and the heavily tweaked bongos are always overshadowed by that big kick and snare – don’t entrench the tracks in the very aspect they allude to however, and instead pulls them off in the direction of something far more engaging. Ghosts on Tape and Icee Hot are all about fun and this release is no different. The only serious addition comes by way of Interspace Halflife and a very Techno orientated remix of Only Now.
Although this release isn’t as overwhelming as that first, which is to be expected on their eighth release, I am glad to see that both Ghosts on Tape and Icee Hot are continuing on the path they first set out on, defining that distinct sound on release after release.