“Wrong Airport Ghost” is all about transformation and transfiguration, of building and reconstructing new sounds out of the old. Life itself is transient and change is unavoidable. Change happens as regularly as a chord change in a progression, so the same is true in music. Sam Slater’s music is in a process of metamorphosis, and this process is taken to extremes with his “Wrong Airport Ghost”, which works with a single instrument and a single string.
In 2016, Slater was in Rajastahn, working with musician Krishna Bhopa. While he was there, the pair explored the deep mechanics of the stringed instrument, pulling it apart, stretching it to breaking point, placing it under duress, and putting it through its paces. In testing out its capabilities, the cogs of change were already turning. Deconstruction was not just a twinkle in the eye or a possibility; it had already received the green light. The process had already begun.
All sounds come from a single source, as does life and being. At the time of the Big Bang, everything was united. A billion baby stars were nestled in a single pulse of light, only to then become separated at birth, unable to see each other thanks to the unreachable gulfs of the cosmos. Deconstruction lives at the heart of the record – it can’t exist without its breaking and decomposing, but a renewal comes out of its death; an endless cycle of inhalations (constructions and creations) and exhalations (deconstructions and endings), emerging from the collapse of what has gone before, deflating like the fall of the chest after a deep breath.
Rather than use an orchestra with multiple sources of sound, Slater chooses to push a single instrument to its full potential, tirelessly contorting and manipulating the source until it’s been thoroughly explored. Alien sonic avenues and slanted angles bravely demonstrate a strange new kind of geometry. Mutations emerge from the frothing amplified notes and the screaming overtones, which are sometimes garbled and sometimes reminiscent of a dinosaur’s roars. Jagged to the point of being metallic, the string’s vocalisations hint at huge mechs or an invasion akin to Mars Attacks!.
In truth, though, the music is much closer to home. As soft as it is oddly menacing, “Wrong Airport Ghost” is a pit of black noise, but its glimpse of warm light peeks out from the rounded edges of morning sunlight, and its sound drags itself over previously fresh, untrodden ground.
Nobody’s been here before.
Warmer tones, born in something like a strange paradise, bring a striking contrast to the set, but alien sounds lurk within its deep well of sound. From death comes new life.