Ghostpoet review – claustrophobic and utterly compelling

Chats Palace, London
The rapper’s brittle, anxious interior monologues should see him cross over to a wider audience

There are many reasons why people make music. One of the most rare, and beyond question the most exciting, is when an artist does so as a means of working out exactly who they are, what they want and what they are all about.

Obaro Ejimiwe, aka Coventry MC and rapper Ghostpoet, says his imminent third album, Shedding Skin, is “a guitar record”. It’s certainly more indie-rock-inclined than its two glitchy predecessors, and tonight he previews it backed by a very conventional-looking lineup of guitar, bass, drums and a siren-voiced female vocalist cooing behind keyboards.

Yet this is misleading. Ghostpoet’s musical territory remains brittle, anxious interior monologues twitchily externalised and set to superbly textured soundscapes. As this shaven-headed, bearded figure prowls the stage during Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me and X Marks the Spot, he could be Tricky minus the attitudinal abrasiveness.

In a resonant baritone, he recites words about striving to maintain a personal equilibrium and to find a way forward. Guest vocalist Nadine Shah joins him for That Ring Down the Drain Kind of Feeling, a song about bumping into an ex-lover and spiralling into psychological meltdown. Yes, I Helped You Pack candidly details the death throes of a relationship so dysfunctional that it verges on the homicidal.

His needling, nagging thought-spasms are claustrophobic and utterly compelling throughout. The encore of Liiines finds a rueful Ghostpoet pondering his failure to cross over to a wider audience: “I keep on writing, writing, but them folk ain’t biting, biting.” On tonight’s evidence, this shortcoming may be rectified in very short order.

• On 16 February at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh. Tickets: 0131-668 2019. Then touring.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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