The easiest way for me to talk about the debut album from Ghost Mutt – titled “Perro Fantasma” – is by pulling a quote from a review I did of Annabelle Bingley’s other band Papperbok for their debut album “Girlk” which was released in October 2016 – the quote is as follows:
“The real star of this album however is Annabelle Bingley whose vocals create such a spooky yet beautiful atmosphere. It doesn’t matter whether she is on lead vocals or providing backing vocals, she is a truly creative force and provides fresh, interesting and dynamic melodic passages that lift these songs to some out of this world places. Her voice is pure escapism and carries with it equal amounts of beauty, despair, angst, heartache, humour and celebration. Any dull rock n roll or pop song cliché displayed by the band is instantly washed away the moment her voice elegantly arrives on any of the tracks.”
When I wrote this paragraph I was in the early stages of my friendship with Annabelle and it was around this time that I asked her if she had any plans to write and produce her own music either as a solo artist or in a band. In the Papperbok universe it was largely her brother Bill who architected the aesthetics and direction of the group, so my curiosity always made me wonder what Annabelle would create if she was the one who wrote and directed all of the music. Her answer was always in the “maybe one day” realm but I remained hopeful that we would eventually live in a world where Annabelle would have her Main Character moment.
That is the one of the best parts of being friends with creative humans, you get to see the journey of their art unfold. When I hear the end product of “Perro Fantasma” I am honoured to have been able to witness the creation of these songs from demo to the final big budget songs they have become. This is why I feel an overwhelming sense of joy when I experience the record, because I was trusted by its main sonic author to preview these songs from sketch to full band arrangements and I felt like I was watching history in the making from my new favourite band.
What an opening statement it is as well – a classic debut album in every sense of the word. Ghost Mutt have carefully created a unique set of songs that illustrate their diverse musical influences but still keep a disciplined focus on making a cohesive mood and atmosphere link each track together. It is a sound that is uniquely theirs and borrows from many but sounds like no one else. The even mix of pop skills and rock n roll dynamics shape the fierce yet spacious glide of “Perro Fantasma” making it move forward with purpose. Whether it was by pure design or a series of happy accidents, the record feels like it is telling a bigger emotional story with each track cleverly placed side by side in order to give context to the ache shivering out of the melodies and walls of haunting vocals which help guide you the listener to a place of pure escapism.
The production leans into the boom and crunch of Dave Fridmann bringing to mind his work with The Flaming Lips. This gives the more psychedelic moments room to glide, yearn and attack with a sense of whimsical weirdness while making sure the suffocating nature of any existential dread is calmly and gently ushered in and out. This gives the songs room to breath and not be weighed down with dread allowing for the crescendos to shake with joy instead of despair. There are hints of sadness and reflections on loss but it remains anchored to hope and the triumphant security of feeling seen and loved. To have the production mirror this brightness and bleakness means we the listeners get a masterclass in modern pop music. In short, the songs are expertly understood by the production team responsible for capturing it which is why the songs move so beautifully as one cohesive piece of communication.
There are standout performances from everyone in the Ghost Mutt group but the strength of each individual player is that they serve the song before their own creative ego. There is no one attempting to dismantle the mood by overplaying or filling frequencies pointlessly. Instead there is a degree of care in which the members of the band nurture this piece of art by carefully listening and considering what each song needs in order to be amazing. That kind of creative discipline requires a lot of love and trust between those performing and creating the music which makes for a divine listening experience. You can tell when music has been born from a place of communal love and respect and “Perro Fantasma” is a monument to the unique kind of love you need to participate in when you enter a creative relationship with another human being. That’s why it resonates with its audience so effortlessly because despite this music being funded by some complex human emotions, equal parts dark and light, it is rooted in love – a love of your friends, family and broader community but also a love for music and art.
This brings me to the songs themselves and their main author Annabelle Bingley who has crafted her masterpiece with this record. Anyone lucky enough to be friends with Annabelle knows she is a masterpiece of a human being who has a deep capacity to care for her friends and family. She has more community spirit than any artist I have been friends with and it is her ability to bring people together that makes her art so powerful. In her friendship circle she is iconic for being the shining light that people depend on and that alone makes her a fucking rockstar to so many of us. It is also why her music and art is so incredibly unique.
Great music is always shaped by artists. The musician interprets the art whereas the artist breaks the rules set in place for the musician to follow. An artist’s success lays in their ability to consistently release interesting and timeless material that accurately represents individuality and will live on forever because of its unique level of communication. I’m extremely confident in saying that Annabelle Bingley is a true artist and I’ve watched her build a career out of being a forward thinking human who soaks everything she does with a unique take on what pop music in the 21st Century should be.
During her early releases with Papperbok It was quite clear that she had an original voice and a unique imagination that was both open and mysterious. This was given a chance to bloom as Annabelle started to write her own music with her main group Ghost Mutt. Deep inside her creative muse there is a life time of hurt and with her pinpoint comedic timing she charms both friend and stranger time after time with her songs. Being invited into Annabelle’s world is a journey that can be simply described as pure escapism.
As a songwriter, Annabelle reminds us why we need the artist to bravely communicate what so many of us are afraid to feel which is that to be alive we must be stuck in a constant state of dealing with loss and the cycles of grief. It is the sound of duende in full flight and that is why it succeeds because it is the perfect dichotomy of joy and suffering. The songs are scientifically world class, if we are talking about the more traditional hallmarks of song composition analysis, but they are also performed and expressed with a deconstructed use of established genre rules and regulations which makes them sound both aesthetically pleasing but extends the arrangements beyond the stiff nature of by the numbers pop music. It echoes the spirit and diverse careers of Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Cocteau Twins, Warpaint, Julia Jacklin and Beth Orton who are some of the artists that spring to mind when I hear Annabelle’s songwriting.
It is this journey from those early sketches to Ghost Mutt that makes “Perro Fantasma” one of my favourite records ever. I got to witness it’s birth and now I look forward to not just how Annabelle but the entire band evolve from here, because despite my connection and friendship with Annabelle, Ghost Mutt is a band and now that they have arrived with their debut record I feel confident that it will take on new and wonderful forms moving forward.
If I can leave you with one thought it is this, Ghost Mutt is the future and if I was to point to positive human role models in our community for young humans to look up to it would be them. Mix their music with their passion for social justice and making the community a better and more inclusive space for humans to exist and you understand why Ghost Mutt should be the main characters you cast as your next favourite group of artists.
Words By: Daniel James Newton
Recording: Bill Bingley
Producer: Bill Bingley
Mixing: Bill Bingley & Ali Richardson
Mastering: William Bowden
Recorded at the beautiful Swan Pond Studios on Yuggera Ugarapul land
Band Photography – Lisa Kelly
Album Cover – George Levi
Annabelle Bingley, Madeleine Postle, Torian Brewer, Rodrigo Paredes Escalante and Dylan Kidd
Ghost Mutt – https://linktr.ee/ghostmutt
Papperbok – https://papperbok.bandcamp.com
Bill Bingley – https://www.billbingley.com/
Alistar Richardson – https://instagram.com/zeferelimusic
William Bowden – https://www.facebook.com/KingWillySound
Lisa Kelly – https://www.lisatrankelly.com
George Levi – https://instagram.com/georgelevi___
Heavy and Weird acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work, the Jagera and Turrbal people. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
Thank You for your support and please go and support these artists that I share – don’t just stream them – buy tickets to their concerts when you can, buy their merchandise and buy their albums on a physical format – respect the artists you consume by paying for it