Poltergeist, ‘Your Mind Is a Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder)’ – Album Review
Poltergeist is the new project from Echo & the Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant, who, along with ex-Bunnymen bassist Les Pattinson and drummer Nick Kilroe, delivers a sonic blast with this full-length debut.
The band’s approach is rooted in everything from vintage Bunnymen-like guitar licks to early-’70s prog-rock, with appropriate nods to bands such as Pink Floyd, Neu! and Amon Duul II. “Poltergeist was formed in my head as a schoolboy in the ’70s,” Sergeant said in a press release for the album. “Around that time my mind was awakening to music.”
Poltergeist is an all instrumental affair, which serves the music well, especially on tracks like album opener ‘Cathedral,’ and the boastful title track. Sergeant’s signature guitar style is in full bloom here, and Bunnymen fans will no doubt be in heaven to hear him cut loose on more than one occasion. The songs here are fully realized instrumentals, and this is not simply a batch of tracks with no vocals, though one wonders what a song like ‘Dreamer Dreams Of Spectrums’ would have sounded like with a nice vocal from Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch.
Not that this approach is new for Sergeant. Over the past 15 years, he has released three discs under the name Glide that occupy a similar territory. Those were essentially solo outings. The thing that separates Poltergeist is that this sounds more like a genuine band doing its thing, not simply a side project.
Aside from Sergeant’s superb playing, the secret weapon here is former Bunnymen bassist Les Pattinson, who really pumps the life into these songs. His bass playing, both driving and melodic, was a very important part of the Bunnymen sound, and his presence is very significant here. The production is sharp, simple and direct — well suited for the exploratory nature of the material. While there is definitely an improvisational aspect to things here, the band adheres to structures that help the songs take root. The sonic landscape is colored with Sergeant’s shimmering guitars as well as mellotrons, fuzzboxes, backwards loops and other atmospheric tricks of the trade. Psychedelic? Yes, but it never heads so far skyward that it forgets to come back down to earth. Its relentless pulsing makes for some great driving music.
Echo and the Bunnymen, currently at work on a new album with Killing Joke bassist Youth producing, may still be his main focus, but let’s hope Poltergeist turns out to be more than a one-off affair for Sergeant. He certainly sounds like he is enjoying being able to cut loose here and let his more experimental side shine.