ere’s a curious situation—this collection of early Ghost Dance singles doesn’t actually exist any more. At least, not in this form. Recently self-released on CD-R by prominent Ghostie (and ex-Sisters of Mercy guitarist) Gary Marx, it has subsequently been removed from public consumption. We shall presently explore the reasons why. Should you still desire a copy, I can only recommend heading to Ebay with a disposable income, a steely sense of resolve and a love of disappointment.
Doesn’t the above information make this review a bit, well, pointless, then? Maybe not entirely. Lost in La Mancha documents a cinematic vision of Don Quixote which never even approached completion, but still manages to be a programme rich in value. Now, I’m not Terry Gilliam. Clearly. You can tell because I lack a never-say-die attitude in the face of insurmountable odds and an infectious giggle. Nonetheless, the events surrounding this eventual non-release raise some interesting issues regarding catering to a dedicated internet fanbase and, indeed, the very nature of web ‘communities’ holding closer proximity to their favoured bands than ever before.
Whether via nostalgic craving or some ominous alignment of the stars, a cluster of Ghost Dance lovers have gradually congregated at the official site where they are periodically treated to a variety of interesting rarities and live titbits. This is something only the internet age could bring. A central hub where artist and fans can be reunited through discussion, feedback and unreleased material—the overriding strength of which is the personal and friendly level that this all operates on. However, this same factor would appear to be what ultimately led to Gathering Dust’s unfortunate discontinuation.
Through close interaction comes the inevitable sting of emotional investment. After an investigation of the Ghost Dance forum so cursory that it would have shamed Columbo, I was able to ascertain that amongst the devotees happy with their reissued collection there were a number of dissenting voices. Dissatisfaction loosely alighted upon three things; the CD-R pressing, a lack of snazzy packaging and questionable remastering. The first of these concerns seem a little churlish—expecting glorious aesthetics from an obviously low-key print run is a tad unfair, and it’s entirely understandable why the inlay booklet wasn’t stuffed with super-rare band photos and journalistic guff. More to the point, although peripheral prettiness can be perfectly lovely it’s always going to be what’s actually on the disc that counts.
And what’s actually on the disc is fairly spiffy, which makes the whole withdrawal saga all the more galling. The doubters may have had a point regarding the remastering—there’s a definite lack of sharpness to the recordings, but they’re infinitely better than the mud-coated mp3 versions I owned before. Anyway, a decent chunk of the 1980s Leeds ‘goth sound’ is based on approximations of what a performance from the bottom of a well might be like, so tutting for too long at the production values is ultimately fairly futile.
Tune-wise things are much brighter—perhaps curiously bright for a band with a penchant for gloomier imagery, partly due to a sprinkling of b-side covers throughout the collection. Aside from these interesting and somewhat unexpected choices (“Heart Full of Soul,” “Can the Can,” and “Radar Love”), there’s much lace-and-cobweb guitar gothery to be found. Anne-Marie Hurst, of Skeletal Family fame, provides a borderline Siouxsie-esque demonstration of how to surge between husky and howling with consummate ease—occasionally yelping as if a rogue spirit has materialised behind her and delivered a cheeky poke to the ribs. Why tracks like “River of No Return” or “Last Train” never pop up on one of those Darkling Demographic: Bloodstained Hits of the 80’s collections, I’ll never know. Perhaps the group have more integrity than that.
Gathering Dust’s untimely death is unfortunate; most obviously, it was a decent collection which plugged a gap in the band’s catalogue. Moreover, the model of print-on-demand self-releases is one which I wanted to see succeed in the hope that it would be taken up by other artists providing for more compact fanbases. This may yet still occur, and in truth is probably already occurring in places I’m unaware of. Although this experiment may have ended early, a recent upload of video footage shows there’s still mileage in the greater Ghost Dance project.
A minute’s silence, though, for the brief lifespan of this particular release.