The members of the band SUSS describe the music on their album Ghost Box as "psychedelic ambient country instrumentals." Fair enough, but ambient music fans will certainly recognize the sound from the country-influenced tracks on ambient pioneer Brian Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (E.G. Records, 1983)featuring Daniel Lanois' pedal steel guitar playingas well as Lanois albums like Belladonna (ANTI-, 2005). The goal was to create ambient music using mainly traditional instruments: guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar, keyboards and synthesizer (they did say "mainly.")
"Witchita" opens the album with a contemplative guitar theme before introducing atmospheric loops which seem to stop timebroken up by recurring mournful pedal steel guitar. "Late Night Call" begins with a gently pulsing loop. A haunting whistled tune (like the ones in composer Ennio Morricone's Western soundtracks) establishes the mood, joined by arpeggiated guitar chords and more pedal steel. "Big Sky" introduces another familiar ambient sound: the floating overdriven "skysaw" guitar of many Eno recordings. When a twangy electric guitar finally introduces the theme it's a quiet dramatic moment. "Gunfighter" adds a number of new sounds to the mix: distant voices, runaway echo effects, distorted harmonica, and a mournful Dobro. Closer "Canyonlands (Return to Wichita)" is a partial reprise of the opener, employing the same guitar theme and harmoniesa lovely way of bringing the program full circle.
At just over 35 minutes, Ghost Box is a bit short by current album standards. But it is a beautiful experience that feels complete: every "high lonesome" sound is perfectly placed.
Wichita; Late Night Call; Big Sky; Rain; Laredo; Gunfighter; Canyonlands (Return to Wichita).
SUSS is: Bob Holmes, Gary Leib, Pat Irwin, Jonathan Gregg and William Garrett.