BOY VS. GHOST | Return Trip to The Moon - 2021| EP REVIEW
By Andrea Coloma
Boy vs. Ghost is a New Jersey-based one-man-band performed by Justin Ortiz. He captures the genre he identifies himself with, such as Alternative /Psycho Rock/Retro Rock, including mixed sci-fi tones; you get to hear right off the bat in the EP. "Return Trip to the Moon" was released in January 2021. Recorded on September through December 2020, there is no doubt that Justin devoted himself to creating a well-polished and solid EP during those three months. He executed every instrument and including his vocals; in addition, Justin produced, performed, mixed, and designed the visuals. He unquestionably was diligent, and the result of this EP undoubtedly reflected his dedication and time. Justin describes his EP's title as "loosely based on dead molecules and spirit returning to their universal home."
The start of "Return Trip to the Moon" opens up with 'Drain Yer Brains,' an ambient with subtle noise in the background; this creates an atmospheric intro to what eventually transforms to the dynamic genres Boy vs. Ghost performs. Plus, the sci-fi sounds add a nice touch to the song; it reminisces sounds like Man or Astro-man? The astral sounds are minimal but a very cool feature. You also pick up elements of noise you hear in experimental/psychedelic/noise band Spacemen 3. The opening transitions then continue with light while hearing heavy notes. You might think you know what's coming, but you are in for a surprise.
The tonal is diverse throughout the EP while supporting the technique he produces. Each song is distinct, but I find this more in my favorite song, 'Dead End.' I recognize the art/alternative rock side of his music; it's just exceptional. Especially since this is the type of music, I've been indulging in lately. The vocals in this song stylize and compliments the harmony and the rough textures of the song.
Justin explains his view in music like:
"...we live in such a loop, we have undoubtedly all become hauntologists
picking up bones and fragments from the past and reviving them
with new stories and conjecture."
This sentiment holds to be sincere in his music.
I found it riveting that at the end of this EP, Boy vs. Ghost covers Silver Apple's "I Have Known Love." Boy vs. Ghost managed to make his original rendition while maintaining true to his technique in music. You hear two different compositions throughout the cover; a contemporary approach while echoing a similar sound and sensibility of the song's original body but in an affable manner. It is an exciting approach since Silver Apples exhibit a minimal electronic sound in this song, which Justin performs in a very different style. I can't help to hear a post-rock touch towards the end. It generates a very misty noise and represents a genuine nod to Silver Apples' Simeon Coxe, who passed in September of 2020. It ultimately results in an excellent cover.
It is sure to say that this EP is quite experimental. Boy vs. Ghost certainly accomplished that, and I am amp'd to hear Justin's future projects!
Interview with Boy vs. Ghost
by Andrea Coloma
A: Thank you, Justin, for taking the time to answer some of my questions. I am intrigued to know more about your recent EP release of "Return Trip to the Moon." So, let's get started! When did it all begin?
BVS: Word has it in 1969 before launching Apollo 11, a single dose of Orange Sunshine LSD latched itself onto a NASA jettison bag heading straight to the moon. Some sixteen years later that same space sauce made it back via a refugee ghost traveling from Jupiter to Earth. The haunted Orange Sunshine then made its way into the blessed water of a Cathedral in Newark, NJ which was used in three baptisms, one of which was my own (::sticks tongue out and forms ring around left eye with pointer finger and thumb). Ok but really, I grew up surrounded by a love of art music and writing. I dabble in all three but have always found music as my go-to therapy, friend, and defense in life. Besides math and science, it’s the only other universal language we all speak. There’s nothing else I’m as interested in.
A: Why Boy vs. Ghost? What does the Versus mean?
BVS: It can and does mean anything one is up against; any struggle, plight, opponent and the unwavering fervor to persevere. When we’re young we learn of boogie things & ghosts and have a tendency to demonize them but it’s imperative to learn from those fears and weaknesses. The versus I suppose is the initial recognition that one is up against something seemingly bigger than themselves until they overcome said thing. I beat cancer when I was two without knowing what it was so if anything it just means recognize the next blockade and kick its fucking ass. A: How was the process of your EP release? Are we expecting a record release?
BVS: I’m always trying new things, as a musician, songwriter, and producer. The last bunch of albums just gave me more confidence to build and use what works and toss what doesn’t. Upgrading all of my equipment recently enabled me to reassess what and how I used recording techniques. This time around I spent more time getting the sound I wanted before hitting record.That and learning how to use compressors in a musical way. I have a room full of old musical instruments and my aim is to use them in some shape or form to provide textures and conjure old memories or even childhood memories people can form joy clings to. Music should invoke the parts of our brain that form better relationships with ourselves and others and I’m trying a lot harder to get that down on tape (digital) lately using whatever means or stompboxes I have at my disposal. There’s so many tools out there (digital or physical) that do a really great job of evoking sense memories and telling a story by putting an everyday instrument through. I think it’s important artists and musicians spend more time playing and enjoying the act of playing so to call upon or recall those evocations more easily. As far as record release, unfortunately I’m not doing the normal routine of booking a local show and selling the cassettes/CDs but everything I have in physical form
(cassettes/CDs/pins/stickers) are available on Bandcamp.
A: While executing this EP, was there a particular band/artist that influenced you along the way?
BVS: Whatever I’m listening to at the time is pretty apparent in the songs. My usual love for the Velvet Underground, Guided by Voices, Sparklehorse, Nirvana, Spacemen 3, Black Sabbath, Brian Jonestown Massacre, 13th Floor Elevators, Current 93, the Rolling Stones and Nick Cave are always there. Somehow going through old records and CDs from my past reignited my interest in Saves the Day which reminded me how strong Chris Conley’s lyrics had influenced my mind and guts to write better lyrics. The Stooges popped in a bit as well as I was listening to their first two records non-stop this past summer. Of course, the universal longing for connection, touch, and loss we all felt in 2020 played a big role too.
A: Can you tell us a little bit about the cover you made of Silver Apple's "I have known Love?" BVS: When I first heard that song, I thought Is this a cover? It sounded like maybe something Donovan wrote in the mid-sixties. Psych folk that Simeon added his repeating oscillators over. But no, Simeon wrote it. Plus, Silver Apples also played the Apollo 11 Launch Party in Central Park 1969 which I'm pretty sure is where that Orange Sunshine acid blot came from. The words to that song hit me deep, even as naïve as they may be to some. When a lot of songwriters start out, we tend to write from the woe-is-me point of view, which gets the feels out and all but eventually we may prefer to counter that and reflect on what we’ve contributed or not contributed to ours and others experiences. I feel as though this song is a poetic reflection. Possibly written at the end of one life before crossing into the next. Oddly enough Simeon passed away last September while I was recording that cover. And then a close friend of mine also passed in November which led me to end the album with the title track and I Have Known Love as the closer. Just to help get out the immense heaviness of 2020. With all the grief the world has been feeling I wanted to try to encapsulate it into sounds, marking the end of something, thus allowing us to cross over; whatever crossing the listener or artist needs it to be.
A: Any tour plans for 2021?
BVS: Not so much. I’m much more interested in developing my songwriting and producing skills even further. I’m working on a few recording projects with other bands and songwriters and am very interested in recording and producing songs for other artists in the near future. I do however look forward to eventually playing live again with a bigger band to fully represent the bigger wall of sound I’ve been putting on the last few records.
Boy vs. Ghost recently dropped his EP in cassettes. Make sure to cop one! You can purchase one here: the return trip to the moon ○ (EP) | Boy vs. Ghost (bandcamp.com)
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