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Shedding Skin

Ghostpoet’s arrival on the UK hip hop scene in 2010 caused an entirely justified bubble of excitement. Backed by claustrophobic, dense glitches, he revealed a performance style that was part rapper, part performance poet, part itinerant storyteller. Sold out tours, widespread plaudits and a Mercury nomination followed. His pursuit of a truly original sound and obvious desire to push boundaries within the genre made it clear that he was no average MC, so I was disappointed when his second album, 2013’s Some Say I So I Say Light, revealed a rehash of many of the same ideas. It wasn’t a bad album by any yardstick, but I had never expected him to stay still.

Fortunately, instead of producing a difficult third album, Ghostpoet has returned with his most courageous and confident work yet, and once again he sounds utterly unique. The most obvious musical change is also the most significant - replacing the heavy Burial-esque electronica with his touring live band. I remember from his 2010 tour this band being one of his key strengths, fluid toms and effects-driven guitar bringing both energy and depth to the performance. Giving them free reign here has allowed a vast increase in the diversity and sonic interest of the album.

Clearly highly talented musicians, they are as at home with the bright indie of lead single ‘Off Peak Dreams’, the oppressive Spiritualized-esque acid of ‘Yes, I Helped You Pack’, or the beautiful, wide-open spaces of ‘Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me’. The multiplicity of styles makes me wonder how much this album can even be called hip hop. Ghostpoet’s characteristic narrative delivery remains, though, speaking of lost dreams and failed relationships, but as the album develops, a new positivity emerges, beautifully rounding off a forthright and assured dive into new territory.