Here at Backseat Mafia HQ we have been following synth pop duo The Ghost of Helags for a while – covering a series of extraordinary beautiful dreamy singles and even capturing a live session of single ‘Chemistry’.
The Berlin-based Swedish duo have collected all the singles together and added more tracks to release an exquisite and stately album.
‘We Came From the Stars’, as the title suggests, is indeed quite celestial. Ethereal vocals float across a bed of soft syncopated synths and beats – infused with the strongest melodies that are mesmerising and immersing.
There is a common thread binding the album that connects late night journeys, international travel, neon lights and a melancholia born from loss and isolation. Pain and beauty captured in a soft silken fold.
The album sweeps in with ‘Chemistry’, captured live by us last year – a sensuous slinky slice of electronics with singer songwriter Teresa Woischiski’s gorgeous vocals perfectly reproduced in a live setting:
According to Woischiski, the track was born out of a night time journey:
The song was written in January this year on a foggy late night drive from Vienna to Prague. We didn’t meet many cars and it was a very dense fog so it felt a bit like driving through outer space.
There is certainly a Lynchian feel to the atmospheric sounds – bringing to mind artists like M83 or Air.
Second track and single ‘Mary’ (reviewed by me earlier this year) is haunting and melancholic – an absolutely gorgeous, deeply yearning song with glitchy bubbling percussion and repeating melody:
‘In the Dark, Honey’ puts Woischiski’s voice upfront over delicate harmonies and a sombre piano and keys. It’s a haunting and atmospheric tune – another return to Lynchian tone filled with regret and loss:
‘In The Dark, Honey’ is our favourite sad song on the album. It is hard to put in words how we feel about this song. The minute you put it on, it just catches you and leads you to an emotion inside of you, can be different for every person. The wonderful Hayley Ross collaborated on it with us. It was pure bliss to work with her.
According to Woischiski, ‘Bye Bye Tokyo’ was written on the airplane on the way home from Japan:
While everyone was sleeping, there was this unreal vibe of being amongst hundreds of silent people in a bubble of sound high above the clouds.
Again the music is delivered through the most exquisite and indelible melodies – wistful and reflective as the singer wonders about the people around her. It is really spine-chilling and elegant music.
‘Night Summer Waiting’, another single, is a swift flowing and nuanced track:
The song was written in the heat of this small mountain village on top of a hill in Italy. Completely isolated from society, only reachable via heavy serpentines, almost dangerous to drive in the rain, as the narrow streets get flooded. The only contact with people was the local bar, but everyone wore masks and human contact was almost impossible. There were no visitors, only a few locals who live there. Between Espressos, red wine and the almost unbearable heat of the South, this track emerged. As an outcry. In a feeling of vertigo, isolation, exhilaration and haziness from the heat. From the pain of being denied human touch and belonging.
It has a delicacy of melody that is haunting and enigmatic with Woischiski’s voice providing a gorgeous expressive sheen over the synth pop spine.
Repeating the title throughout in the background, infused with a sense of deep yearning and a sepia tinted nostalgia, the song seems to capture a sense of loss and despair before concluding suddenly, leaving you hanging in hope. The track perfectly captures the plight of the isolated and afraid during the COVID 19 crisis.
‘Anthem – We Came From The Stars’ is both physically and metaphorically at the heart of the album. Frenetic syncopated beats underpin the vocals and form an antithetical contrapuntal beat to the swelling synths. The song almost collapses as it builds up the pace and emotion and ends with the repeated refrain over weeping strings – you will be mine.
The album moves to the almost acapella ‘Unconditional Love’ – a warm and optimistic paean to love and devotion, open spaced and utterly romantic.
‘Skin’ and ‘Rain’ are both sparse and statuesque tracks – perfectly beautiful melodies infused with emotion and a quiet power. The repeated lines of the latter – nothing can stop the rain from falling down – simply breaks the most hardened heart with its strength and beauty.
‘Parallel’ is a gorgeous ambient-filled track and a wake up call after its predecessors. It is a shimmering slice of euro-disco electro-pop that thrums and vibrates with an insistent rhythm and driving force.
According to Woischiski, ‘Parallel’ was inspired by the power of live music:
We were in a studio in Antibes on the French Riviera working on new material, where one night we happened to stumble upon an open air concert in a park in Juan les Pins from The Chemical Brothers. It was super inspiring watching these two gentlemen showing everybody how it’s done. So inspiring, that we went straight back to the studio, right after the gig, and started messing about with the loop that eventually turned into ‘Parallel.’
The long intro is hypnotic with its synth bass chops and arpeggios, building up the tension before erupting onto a sweet pop reverie that evokes a sense of endless outdoor raves in the summer: a warm embracing nostalgia in the current era.
The spiritual church organ start to ‘Wicked Wind’ provides a respite with the vocals a delightful salve. Woischiski’s voice is arctic and chilling.
‘Autobahn Lullaby’, as the final track, is a fitting exit on this super highway of an album. Dreamy and mesmerising, it is an elegiac farwell.
“We Came From The Stars’ is a magical album that leaves you quite overcome with emotion as you reach for the replay button. End to end, beauty and pain is captured in twelve shimmering and celestial tracks. The consistency in quality of songwriting is quite breathtaking: this is an album with a vaulting ambition that exceeds its reach to the firmament.
Get it directly from the artist through the link below from 12 March 2021.