Hailing from Derry, Soul Plateau is the one-man vehicle of Scott Walker, with ‘Concrete Ghosts’ his début release. Previously going under the name Bravo Columbo, Walker is mining a vein of dark electronica not dissimilar to Carlow’s The Holy Roman Army. If at first listen the lethargic beats and delays can feel samey there is in fact a cohesion to the album that reveals itself gradually, with melodies and sounds emerging and becoming clearer with each listen.
A warm organ-like synth leads into Suntory until the drums push it along, with Walker singing of a heavy heart. It’s a theme he returns to time and time again – “My heart is aching” on Lock and its multi-layered vocal telling “I’m lonely.” The soulful vocals carry these weighty admissions with authority, that voice gradually transforming into a synthesised approximation of humanity as it runs straight into Cut Free. Then, shards break off, bristling into a crescendo as it undulates in volume towards the close.
The echo-y, Edge-y guitar of Contemplated seems a bit of a misstep despite its trip hop foundations, detaching it from the overall tone of the album. Things are back on track for the latter stages though. The vocals of Firing delay and recede into the distance – “It’s come to that time again/ Solitude stings” – while the isolation theme comes to the fore once again. A background hiss dominates; a canvas which other sounds are peppered against before the vocal comes back, developing into a lingering drone that he then sings over.
The chiming intro of Schwimmend – ‘floating’ – fades completely then completely transforms, resurrecting itself as a pulsing, bass-bouncing dancey affair. Every so often on the album a hiss of static or fuzz surfaces, like a tinnitus flare up that is a constant background presence; not the hiss of a recording in low-budget lo-fi, but lo-fi added after the fact. This is put to best use on the nice, repetitive drone of final track Clarity, before the fog of fuzz clears somewhat by the end. ‘Concrete Ghosts’ is certainly an ambient journey, and solitude may sting, but Walker has swathed himself in enough warm tones to allay the effects.