Founded and led by multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer Seth Applebuam, rising New York-based psych rock/psych soul outfit Ghost Funk Orchestra initially began as a lo-fi, solo recording project back in 2014 with a unique sound featuring tape-saturated drums, spring reverb, surf rock guitar, Latin-styled percussion, odd time signatures and Spanish language female vocals. Since then, the project has become a full-fledged band with as many as 10 members — while crafting a unique sound that draws from even more eclectic and diverse sources, including salsa, Afrobeat, classic soul, film soundtracks and more.
Ghost Funk Orchestra’s full-length debut, 2019’s A Song for Paul was conceived as a tribute to Applebaum’s late grandfather Paul Anish, who played an immense role in his life. Although the album’s songs don’t address Paul Anish directly, the album’s creative direction specifically conveys what Anish’s presence felt like — and was — for Seth, a tough but kind, music obsessed, native New Yorker. For Applebaum, accurately capturing what his grandfather’s essence meant to him forced him to expand the band’s arrangements and sound further than anything he had done to that point, including writing much more comprehensive horn lines and working with a string section.
Their sophomore album, 2020’s An Ode to Escapism saw the band further expanding upon the sound developed on A Song for Paul with the album’s material featuring much more intricate arrangements, unusual time signatures, rapid tempo and time signature changes within songs, heavier drums and vocal harmonies that soar over the entire affair. Specifically written as an invitation to the listener to close their eyes while listening and delve deep into their own subconscious, if they weren’t too afraid to do so, the album thematically touched upon isolation, fear of the unknown and the fabrication of the self-image.
Written during pandemic-related lockdowns, Ghost Funk Orchestra’s third album A New Kind of Love reportedly feels like the soundtrack from an imaginary movie — with the album’s songs easily being part of the score of a romantic drama, an action thriller or a modern twist on film noir: Spare, cascading vocals accentuate the lush instrumental arrangements composed, arranged, performed and produced by Applebaum. Sonically, the album’s material draws from mid-20th Century exotica, 60s and 70s orchestral pop, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and Antibalas among others, as well as his experiences as a young filmmaker. Sonically speaking, the end result is an album that encompasses a loving reverence for the past without attempting to recreate it.
The 12 song album sees Applebaum exploring the complicated, confusing and conflicting realm of love, with the album’s songs capturing the emotional notes of love going well and love gone sour, as though manifesting love songs based in ghostly affairs.
Earlier this month, I wrote about A New Kind of Love‘s first single “Scatter,” a cinematic affair that pairs Romi Hanoch’s sultry and ethereal delivery with an expansive, lush and downright trippy arrangement that’s one-part film-noir-like spy movie, one-part classic rom-com, one-part Blaxploitation — with a wild late-period John Coltrane-like saxophone freak out of a solo. But if you pay close attention, the song captures a narrator reeling from a love gone disastrous wrong but with the knowing self-assuredness and confidence that she deserves — and will get much better soon enough.
A New Kind of Love‘s second and latest single “Why” is a spectral and slow-burning bit of psych soul with Latin-influenced percussion paired with powerhouse vocals. The song manages to capture curiosity, obsession and desire with an uncanny psychological realism.
The accompanying video for “Why” was shot on Kodak film –and manages to seem inspired by nouveau vague yet surrealistic.
GHOST FUNK ORCHESTRA 2022 TOUR DATES
10/15/22 – Peekskill, NY – Peekskill Brewery w/ Christine Chanel
11/17/22 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg w/ Marco Benevento
11/18/22 – Hamden, CT – Space Ballroom w/ Marco Benevento
11/19/22 – Holyoke, MA – Race Street Live w/ Marco Benevento
[additional dates to be announced]