Ghost Funk Orchestra: A Trip To The Moon [Album Review]

Ghost Funk Orchestra
A Trip To The Moon
Colemine/Karma Chief Records [2024]

The Fire Note headphone approved


Album Overview: A Trip To The Moon is the fourth full-length album from Ghost Funk Orchestra, the brainchild of producer and multi-instrumentalist Seth Applebaum. An immersive and playful song-cycle inspired by moon missions past and present, fact and fiction, the album adds new elements to their already diverse sound while retaining the funky, jazzy psych-soul sound that makes them one of Karma Chief’s most exciting acts.

Musical Style: The album builds on the sound of the previous trio of GFO records: dusty break beats, fuzzed-out guitars, and funky electric piano and organ lines form the core of each track, punctuated by soulful horn charts and the sultry vocals of long-time collaborators Romi Hancoch and Megan Mancini. GFO’s uncanny ability to seamlessly blend numerous genres—psychedelic soul, jazz-funk, prog rock, chamber pop, even hints of surf and exotica—is their secret weapon, one that seems to only be getting better with each album.

Evolution of Sound: As its name suggests, A Trip To The Moon draws inspiration from space, most obviously in its use of audio samples taken from actual NASA archival audio of lunar missions. These act as transitions between some tracks and get incorporated into others, providing a through-line that ties the album together. But there are hints of “space age pop” too, which add a new texture to the GFO formula and give the album a slightly more lighthearted feel compared to their last couple records.

Artists with Similar Fire: Applebaum’s influences include classic 60s and 70s studio whizzes like David Axelrod and Quincy Jones, but fans of modern psych-soul acts like Sven Wunder, Surprise Chef, and label-mates The Ironsides will find plenty to love.

Pivotal Tracks: “Eyes of Love” is a fun early highlight, with jazz flute flourishes and vocals that ping pong between the speakers in conversation atop shifting time signatures. “Helios” kicks things up a few notches with its James Brown-style funk arrangement, its frantic beat and distorted guitar solos juxtaposed against understated vocals. “Again” is another highlight, starting out with a jazzy, Latin-tinged arrangement before ramping up the intensity with a powerhouse vocal performance from Romi Hanoch, while “Totality” sets up the end of the album with an arrangement that perfectly encapsulates the GFO signature sound. The instrumental tracks are great too (of course), from the burbling electronics, string swells, and clarinet soloing of “Achluo” to the off-kilter, uneasy feel of “Into the Abyss.”

Lyrical Strength: Like many of GFO’s songs, the lyrics on A Trip To The Moon deal with anxieties, doubts, and the uncertainties of relationships. But in line with the space theme, astronomical motifs pop up in just about every track—references to the sun, moon, stars, atmosphere, floating, and empty spaces subtly tie each track to the album’s overarching aesthetic and give the record a sense of cohesion.

A New Kind Of Love (2022) / Night Walker/Death Waltz (2022) / An Ode To Escapism (2020) / A Song For Paul (2019)

Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp | Karma Chief/Colemine Records

Simon Workman

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