Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth is the crowd-funded reunion album from the incredible Seattle Progressive band Rishloo. Its their fourth full-length album overall and sees the band back together now that singer Andrew Mailloux has returned to the fold and the other bandmembers changed their separate crowd-funded new instrumental band The Ghost Apparatus back into Rishloo. Its been an interesting wait as a fan, but I won’t bury the lead… that wait was well worth it!
Consisting of just eight tracks with no intros, outros or hidden bonuses, this is the bands most succinct and concise offering to date, but you can file that under fat-free and lean rather than skimping on extras.
Stylistically; if you haven’t heard the band before, they are often compared to bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Coheed & Cambria, The Mars Volta, Porcupine Tree, Soen, Dredg, Fair To Midland, Jurojin, Cog, Karnivool, Circe, The Mayan Factor and others. No single comparison there really does justice to what you can actually expect, but if you understand the sort of common theme between all of those bands you can at least expect the right ballpark. On top of that, Rishloo are also constantly developing and evolving, and no two of their albums sound that much alike because they progress and change over time (while always retaining a certain core identity where you can still tell its them straight away) so even their own catalogue doesn’t necessarily train you for what to expect here. This album is stylistically a million miles from their 2004 debut Terras Fames, but in a way that makes sense and feels logical.
In that spirit, Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth is no simple retreading of their back catalogue, nor any attempt to sound like someone else. On this album Rishloo sound like nobody but Rishloo. Even the previous Tool comparisons bounce limply off this album like wooden arrows off a tank. Hints is all you get, the rest is new. This record sees the band mix things up even more and explore different sounds, textures and combinations. Drew tries out new voices and styles he hasn’t used before, such as the deranged sounding heavy vocals in the middle of ‘Winslow.’ There are guitar styles a past fan wouldn’t expect. Things that only came up once on a previous album are given more time.
The rhythms are more disjointed and jarring. There’s even more playing in uncommon time signatures and switching between tempos; opener ‘The Great Rain Beatle’ is particularly jagged, its unhinged and yet hypnotic like some psychedelic nightmare and makes Mars Volta comparisons more understandable… its like the most jagged parts of ‘Scissorlips’ made into an entire song. So too is the jazzier single ‘Landmines’ in its heavier sections. Although that being said, towards the end from the guitar solo onwards that kicks into some beautiful, straightforward head-banging energy.
There are also more hints of classic ‘70s Progressive Rock here than there have been on previous albums, to the point where (deep and hidden) you get feelings of almost Tales Of Topographic Oceans era Yes sounds at some stages (such as the middle of ‘Dark Charade’), and the intro to ‘Salutations’ reminds me a little of Pink Floyd’s ‘Hey You’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ updated through some Radiohead and Deftones filters. There’s also five-second bursts of King Crimson influence all over the place in spidery Fripp-esque guitar runs crammed in there every now and again by the underrated Dave Gillet. None of it is overt though, its subtle, bubbling under the surface. Hints.
Its difficult to pick album highlights in such a well-crafted, concise and consistent body of work; ‘Dark Charade’ for example has THAT riff, and afterwards kicks off into an exciting build-up that feels like the sequel to ‘Downhill’ off of the previous record and ‘Dead Rope Machine’ is just so unique, its like every song has its own identity and something completely singular to offer. Gun-to-my-head I’d have to recommend that you check out ‘Winslow’ (which people who followed the whole Ghost Apparatus period might recognize) and ‘Just A Ride’ as your tester-songs to see whether or not you’d like the album. Jesse’s drums on those two are particularly excellent. ‘Just A Ride’ is the absolute perfect ending to this roller-coaster of an album and features the defining lyrics of this whole saga. That said, the whole thing works so well as a single journey that I almost feel bad picking favourites.
There are some things you can always count on Rishloo for; Firstly – interesting, poetic, provocative, intriguing lyrics. Secondly – powerful, emotional, evocative vocal performances. There’s also always interesting, spiraling, unexpected music that will defy initial expectations but feel ‘right’ once you’re used to it. Furthermore you can count on a certain arty air of mystique and most of all, quality songwriting depth that means you never get sick of the tracks, they just get better and better with each listen. Considering all these aspects, this new album is no exception to the rule, no misstep and no weak one in the set. This album has it all; whimsy, brooding, passion, intensity, subtlety, power, aggression, chilled out moments, virtuosic moments and scaled-back serve-the-song-not-the-player moments. Its got a strong sense of diversity yet feels like one cohesive whole throughout and a single journey (or ‘ride’) from start to glorious finish.
If you are a fan of the band then you unquestionably need this satisfying grower of an album. That may be a bit of a redundant sentiment but it’s the absolute truth; I know that if you are an existing fan of the band then you probably crowd funded The Ghost Apparatus or pre-ordered the record already and got rewarded with early access downloads, so recommending it to you seems like preaching to the choir… but if you haven’t checked out the band yet, or were waiting for the reviews then by all means please do give this a chance. This album is just as good as their previous work and if you give it enough spins to reveal its subtleties and hidden depths you will be greatly rewarded.
Oh, and if you enjoy it make sure to go back and check out the rest of their records too!