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CD Review
The The Ghosts of Laura Palmer - Blackbird

The Ghosts of Laura Palmer

Record Label: SFP Recordings
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Review by Geert Driver
March 2011

Twin Peaks creator David Lynch should be proud. The eclectic director, best known for his quirky films (Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, Lost Highway, etc.) made history in the early 1990s when he created Twin Peaks with Mark Frost. The series followed the investigation of a brutal murder of the town’s homecoming queen, Laura Palmer. This series was so iconic that the question “who killed Laura Palmer” became synonymous with mystery, and made the show one of Time Magazine’s “best shows of all time.” Far from the series’ Northwest setting is Milwaukee, Wisconsin – home to two like-minded DJs whose affinity for deep soul and eclectic funk would eventually launch an edgy, ethereal project. Those DJs are Andy Gulotta and Mario R. Martin. Their moniker is “The Ghosts of Laura Palmer.”

There is a story here, as with most musical collaborations; a history if you will. Gulotta, a trained blues and jazz guitarist, had forever been linked to musical projects in and around the Milwaukee area. Most recently, Gulotta can be heard as one of the contributing guitarists for Will Phalen and The Stereo Addicts. His ear for the obscure is unparalleled, but more importantly, spot on. Martin, however, is a bit more elusive in this department. A trained pianist, Martin’s involvement with music was more on the corporate side. A former publicist for the record label Narada Records (Virgin/EMI North America), Martin learned more about how to market music than how to play it. Nonetheless, together the duo embarked on a short-lived instrumental project before Martin moved to Los Angeles, and Gulotta continued to contribute to projects in the Milwaukee area.

Let’s skip through any more back story though. Let’s forego any more info on Gulotta’s bands. Let’s refrain from any more on Martin’s publicity apex, Soulfunk Publicity. Enter: Blackbird.

Upon Martin’s prodigal return to the Midwest, he quickly reconnected with Gulotta to form what is currently known as The Ghosts of Laura Palmer. The duo set out to bring the most obscure classics to the mainstream. An avid record collector, Gulotta is a wealth of knowledge in the soul and funk genres. The duo shared affection for these genres. Martin pushed the duo to begin the project as a live venture. Playing a myriad of classics, the Ghosts would soon find their niche in analog soul and funk. Straying from what so many others would polish, the Ghosts would strip down sounds in order to present a pure analog sound unlike any other sound heard in and around the area.

Blackbird, named after the famed club located in Milwaukee’s eclectic Bay View neighborhood (and the first place the Ghosts performed live), represents an amazing collection of classics. It is as intriguing as it is seamless. Taking from an actual live set compiled by Gulotta himself, the limited edition record was one of the first times many of the tracks would ever be heard digitally. In an attempt to keep the authenticity of the sound, mastering would prove to be an arduous process through engineering and mixing analog sounds.

But what about the imagery, though? Martin, ever a fan of contradiction, refused to be pigeonholed into a look or feel. First, by choosing a name unrepresentative of a DJ duo, and later, by overseeing all aspects of art direction, Martin set out to stray from the passé and delve deeper into a look more reminiscent of black metal than soul. The result is a strangely cohesive concept that blends post-modern artistry with classic sounds.

Blackbird (from SFP Recordings, the first release under the umbrella of Martin’s own Soulfunk imprint) is a strong debut mix from a duo trained in the classics. They turned out a fresh take on old analog sounds having lived through musical highs and lows. The inclusion of staple tracks like “Working Day & Night” by Michael Jackson, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince, and “If There’s A Hell Below” by Curtis Mayfield keep those unfamiliar with the genre satiated. All the while, the Ghosts stay true to the concept of deep soul and quirky funk by utilizing tracks such as “Cosmic Slop” by Funkadelic and “You’re Going to Thank Me Woman” by Joe Tex. Other stand outs include tracks by Bogis Chimes and Bill Coday.

The Ghosts of Laura Palmer would make David Lynch proud. Carrying the torch for the brooding sounds that accompany visual concepts, the Ghosts succeed and fulfill their mantra (found on the back of the record): “Dedicated to the preservation of soul, the protection of funk and the shaking of asses.” Once again, David Lynch would be proud.

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