Tamar Valley-based Gareth Koch (in lutruwita/Tasmania) has released an sparkling album of instrumentals entitled ‘Ghost Stories’ and it takes you on a magnificent journey. Koch has, of course, impressive form – he has collaborated with Steve Kilbey (The Church) and Martin Kennedy (All India Radio) in the past in a sort of triumvirate of sonic excellence as the three artists have made impressive music together. We have loved these meetings of style – empiric pop meets classics in albums like Chryse Planitia (with Kilbey) and Music in the Afterlife (with Martin) – both immense releases.
Koch’s valuable contribution is his encyclopedic musical expertise. He was born in Milan, and began his musical studies on piano and clarinet. At the age of 12 he was accepted into the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He received his Bachelor of Music degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music before winning scholarships for advanced guitar study at The Royal Madrid Conservatorium and the Vienna Academy of Music. He holds a PhD in Music & has lectured in music across Australian & European universities.
Impressive credentials for sure, but beyond technical and academic brilliance, Koch has an ability to write music that is grand and theatrical, ethereal and spiritual, filled with a panoply of instruments that sparkle and shine. His new solo album ‘Ghost Stories’ is a fitting indication of his creative expression and sonic style.
‘Ghost Stories’ consists of nine mesmerising sonic tales filled with a stunning range of instruments and sounds, which coalesce in a thrilling series of vignettes that evoke faraway lands, visceral emotions and exciting, thrilling moments. There is a perfect mix of heady psychedelia and medieval grace, sixties folk jangle with prog rock genes.
A collection of nine instrumentals, this is a gorgeous expression of Koch’s musical prowess that seemingly fuses a medieval classicism with modern presence – a range of beautiful instruments that throw jingle jangle pop aestheticism in with the thrills of another age. Indeed, this is an album that seems to transcend genre and time, flowing seamlessly between centuries and sounds.
Opening track ‘Redemption’ starts with shimmering jingle jangle guitars in a track that would slide into any The Church album – arpeggiated and striking notes that adds a classical guitar delicacy before heavy metals guitars shoulder their way in – reaching a thrilling crescendo and ultimate release.
The album segues into ‘Old Church’, a more reflective piece with layers of different guitars and a liquid, ambulatory bass that snake underneath the flow. ‘Dance of the Unblessed Spirits’ is a wild ride – ebbing and flowing like the untamed sea with different moods and layers throughout, while ‘Catacombs’ has a Spanish flounce with it dramatic classical guitars and sky-scraping chords.
These are tales that bring different tastes and colours to the fore. ‘Benedictine for example has an almost oriental feel whereas ‘Amadeo’ is a pop song without lyrics – a thrilling, flouncing piece that spins and twirls with abandon, freewheeling and euphoric. ‘Longing’ is quiet and contemplative, lute sounds are dappling and dreamy. ‘Succubus’ has hints of Indian music in its genes, off-kilter twists and turns.
The album ends with the hauntingly beautiful ‘She Moves Through The Fair’, crystalline guitars and a sonic edge that creates a mesmerising drone in the distance. Bird song bookends the track that leave you in a trance. Quite epic, quite beautiful.