A two-piece made up of brothers Oscar and Thomas Flores, Mother Ghost have gone through a rough period in the last few years, and it shows on Somnámbulo. First there was the tragic passing of producer James Vehslage midway through recording, and then the pandemic destroyed plans for a release just as they were gearing up for it. Remarkably, the brothers pulled through, and their post-punk/electronica hybrid was well worth the wait.
Somnámbulo is an album with a message: immigration, economic inequality, and drugs are all recurring themes. That dark and edgy quality fits neatly with the ’80s/’90s acts that heralded the style—think Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails, New Order, etc.
The title alone of the first track should have you curious: ‘Hiding in a Dumpster Waiting for Ice Agents to Leave I’ starts things off with a fuzzed-out, synthy wash with an obviously political slant. Boisterous guitars spice up the punky overtones along with scathing lyrics regarding the Trump office and his election. It’s a refreshing blend of ideas, and it shows off a keen sense of melody and structure that continues throughout the album.
Next is ‘Ungrateful’ with its more New Wave-oriented sound. The atmosphere builds slowly on this one, fit with reverb-laden synths and booming drumbeats that provide that industrial energy. Vocals don’t even come into the picture until halfway, allowing plenty time and space to get sucked into the vibe first.
Later on, things get more experimental and out-there, and there’s even hints of more standard rock sounds at play in Mother Ghost’s heavy sound. The unforgiving ‘Criminal’ shifts jaggedly in a putrid atmosphere based on a driving sound that just won’t quit. ‘Avarice’ heads back into the political sphere with greater rage and disgust, as amplified by the wacked-out, gnarly bass sounds and harsh drum and vocal textures.
Somnámbulo is a relentless and intense record that mostly achieves its goal of capturing rage against groove, though there are the odd clearings dotted in between. Some ideas don’t quite make their mark, but overall the sentiment and production on here are brutally honest and genuine.