Live review from Social Media Week Underground #2:
1. Chinese Families
2. Believe & Become
3. See Through You
After a long period of being away from The Underground, that involved hiatuses, regroupings, solo projects and a second EP, local indie mainstays Hungry Ghosts finally returned to our stage to immerse people in their music. And I use ‘immerse’ wisely, I feel, because to watch them live is to be thrown into a rich and powerful ambience, an atmosphere laden with theatrical, meteoric yet soothing guitar effects, a lightly funky bass sound thick as jelly and distinctive, and remarkably dynamic percussion. The force of their music is palpable, and yet it is one achieved without over-reliance on distortion or gain (an altogether overused ploy), manic drum work (as is this) or wanky shredding (and this). What you have instead is a delicately created canvas of sound, filled in with judicious and subtle use of effects that craft the relatively minimalistic notes played into sparkling shape. Lesser bands would have come off as too cute, precocious or just reaching beyond their collective talents; what this group is, however, is an immensely capable group of people who are as good composers as they are musicians.
Indeed, I have had a personal fondness for the group, since they were the very first I had the good fortune of watching live in HK, at Girls with Guitars #1. So blown away was I by the obvious quality of the songs and performance, that I have been hopelessly addicted to the local music scene since then. And there is good reason for this – Hungry Ghosts represent that best ilk of indie bands that have more talent than talk, an inescapable sincerity in their sound, and something genuinely interesting to say, much like Pavement. There is also a palpable math-rock element to their sound, but that, to me, is far less close to an accurate description of their overall sound than a blanket description of the general tones the two guitarists tend towards using. Their compositions better resemble those of early R.E.M., with their chugging rhythms, and small but deft touches of guitar textures.
They started off by bringing back a personal favourite, Chinese Families, and the familiar vocal dynamic between Luke and Tiffany slotted in perfectly, with Luke’s overpowering, almost droning voice being held up by Tiffany’s sweeter croon. It was immediately obvious just how much of the lifting was being done by the drums – much reminiscent of Barrett Martin from Skin Yard, especially with an identifiable tom technique. See Through You, a newer song, started off with a jazzy fake-out, and was probably the best demonstration of the newer sound of the Hungry Ghosts – alternation between chugging and stretchy rhythms and increased vocal contribution from Tiffany (an excellent trend). The energy was upped with the almost headbangable Survival, and ended with the poppy-yet-plodding glory of Stay. A welcome return to the Underground by a terrific band on great form – watch out for these guys.
– Shashwati Kala
Live Review from Girls with Guitars #1:
Next on the lineup is “Hungry Ghosts”. Band members are Mike on drums, Luke & Paul on guitars, and Tiff Laue on bass.
I do enjoy watching “Hungry Ghosts” perform live. Their powerful performances to every song brings out the passion for their music that can be lacking in some bands.
I would describe their music as Pop Rock with a quite a few chord changes and melodies, my Scottish friend “K” seems to think there’s way too much of it. Didn’t they say the same thing about Mozart’s music?
Tiff Laue plays an intro to their fourth song which is an instrumental piece that’s atmospheric and emotional. Well played.
A combination of excellent riffs and a tightness to their performance, “Hungry Ghosts” is, in my opinion, one of the best indie bands in Hong Kong.
Live Review from Underground 69:
We were meant to see New Hair Hong Kong City, but their gig was called off. The replacement band I was delighted to see – Luke Chow in his band Hungry Ghost. It must have been a short notice but his fans were fast and swarmed to the front when they started. I saw Luke play by himself a couple of times and it’s the first time to see him play a guitar-driven full set (except those days when he was in Firefly Conspiracy as the bassist). An attractive lineup: Luke on turquoise Strat, Tiff on Firebird bass, Paul on Danelectro guitar, and Mike on energetic beats. Really energetic, as heard from some audience’s comments, “A real drummer has always got the drummer charisma when s/he drums. Mike’s got it.” True, made me think of Sparta’s drummer. I could smell the air with Luke’s acoustic sounds way back then in the HG songs, always chill, uplifting, and emo-influenced. They had an instrumental towards the end of the set. A nice build up on the wall of guitar sounds from jangling distinct notes. I was humming their songs in my head, with a song by the ex post-rock band from Cambridge, “Gweilo”.
Click here to watch Hungry Ghosts playing their original song: Crowded Places!
Live Review from Underground 68 (whenever it gets here):
Click here to watch Hungry Ghosts playing their original song: White Bee!
Live Review from Underground 58:
- 1. New Song
2. You and Me
3. Five Year Plan
4. Modus Vervendi
5. Chinese Families
As Shaun from the David Bowie Knives, who was milling in the audience, said, ‘The best bands have lady bass players.” He would know. His band has Clare. Hungry Ghosts have Tiffany. This is one of those exceptional bands who can mix up great playing, songwriting and use of voice into one great big dirty subterranean combo. They’re tight in a cool, understated way. They don’t have to try hard at all to be original and eclectic. They just do it naturally whether they realize it or not. Lead guy Luke is a bit gonzo and witty in a laid-back kind of way, which is all the more amazing after Tiffany told me all the songs were new (and named as such.) They didn’t even look slightly panicked.
“He looks like John Mayer!’ cooed a pretty girl in green. Paul tells me later this is a bit of an in-joke with the band. Looks like him. Sings like him… Charming like him, too when he complimented my red dress. Anyone who compliments the reviewer gets a good review. That’s the undisputed law of corruption and nepotism. Cash bribes are very, very good, too.
Their songwriting is original and Paul cites a mash of influences, such as Death Cab for Cutie, Minus the Bear, Brazilian CSS (Cansei der Ser Sexy) and Canadian indie stuff, like Broken Social Scene. Yeah, I had to check out TouTube for some of these, too…
This band emanates an uncommon radiance in this here shadowy underworld of alternative music.
Isobel S. Saunders