“Damn, the new Wilco album sounds like the seventies,” a friend recently complained to me. “And not in a good way. It’s like Tweedy discovered the cosmic Bowie vibe, a bit of glam rock, and some pseudo-jazz shit and is trying to concoct something new. But I just can’t tell what’s really new.”
Simon Reynolds would probably agree. In his fantastic book, Retromania, Reynolds laments the demise of originality and innovation in today’s music: “Could it be that the greatest danger to the future of our music culture is …its past?”
Perhaps we’re simply slogging through a purgatorial era of the eternal recurrence of past styles and sounds until we can no longer separate the vintage from the retro and we yearn for, and create, the next tectonic shift in music culture. Until that apocalyptic moment, we have Nick Barbery’s blog, ghostcapital, to guide us through some of the quarries of past music cultures, sans condescending irony, to (re)discover music that has been lost, forgotten, or altogether ignored—music that has thus far escaped the perils of retrofication.
As Aquarium Drunkard blogger Justin Gage remarks, ghostcapital exposes the “secret shafts of psych, folk, blues and beyond.” With the likes of Syl Johnson, Karen Dalton, Blackrock, and Judee Sill, these "shafts" tunnel through the sound and soul of so much contemporary music. The difference is that these musty crawlspaces feel groovier and grittier than today's ersatz sounds.
The magic of ghostcapital lies in its juxtaposition of the old and the new, the unknown and known, challenging listeners to expand their own musical comfort zones and perhaps draw some connections—musical, emotional, or otherwise—between seemingly divergent styles. This is especially true of the bizarrely sublime mix tapes ghostcapital curates, either solo or with the likes of Holy Warbles and Aquarium Drunkard. You might not dig all the obscure shit ghostcapital & co. unearth for these collections, but you’ll be taken through a genre-bending kaleidoscope that can awaken your senses to new musical realities.
So if you're jonesing for some seventies Norwegian folk jazz, smooth Ethiopian soul, vintage German punk and wave, Korean downer-folk, early electronic music (from the fifties!), or the folk sounds of a Paraguayan string band, ghostcapital can help fulfill some of your esoteric musical fantasies—and perhaps lead to some new ones.