For those unacquainted with the man known as Ghostpoet, he’s like a more reflective, melancholy Streets, or like Roots Manuva off a few downers. Coming only a few months removed from his The Sound of Strangers EP, Peanut Butter Blues is a natural extension of the palette and mood of those four songs — more explorations of post-modern malaise and rambling reflections over minimalist beats.
Poet’s not quite rapping exactly, but unfolds a kind of endless logorrhoea of words. His vocal presence resembles the work of dub poets like Linton Kwesi. His voice rarely goes beyond a gentle murmur; it’s an instrument never heard unadorned, either dubbed out with reverb or distant and spectral-sounding. Poet’s production touches on U.K. electronic music from the last three decades, from grime to dubstep to garage: “Finished I Ain’t” floats on skipping drums and strummed guitar and “Garden Path” combines bird sounds with dubstep drums and bongos. There’s a tremendous diversity of sound on display here, and Poet uses it all to advantage.
“Liiines” sets up a live band sound, rousing guitar riffs and drum rolls building behind Poet’s voice as he strives to find a cause for writing. It’s a encapsulation of every issue a writer has had to deal with. He transcends finding the right line, and begins to seek a purpose for his lines to exist. “Us Against Whatever Ever” is all throb and radio hum as Poet contemplates the circular motion of modern romance, even as his satellite drifts him further out of bounds.
The album does sag at points: “Survive It” should be excellent, Poet’s eyes-down storytelling and the itchy shakers merging with organs flaring and rising like breath in your chest. Yet that terrible nagging chorus kills the verses’ momentum dead. “Finished I Ain’t” feels slightly redundant within the context of the rest of the album, one too many songs that preach the benefits of self-determination.
“I Just Don’t Know” is the closest the album gets to upbeat, an almost motorik pulse and rolling cowbells point Poet toward finding a cause in daily life. He laments “two pints, that’s your lot/a few more open shuts” but ultimately delights in the newfound possibilities of each new day. “Gaaasp” is the album’s emotional center, over 5 minutes of dark contemplation over whistling synths and drones. Poet ponders his direction in life, following the path of the dry, ringing drums: “where should I go, where should I navigate/a finger in the air, checking stars to navigate”. He’s just trying to find that next stepping stone, the one that’ll put him on the right path forward. A bit like a motivational speaker, granted, but Tony Robbins never got production this tight.
The album takes a few listens to really unfurl, calling for a quiet night and decent pair of headphones to parse a thick London twang. But when it becomes clear, it comes as a discovery – Obaro Ejimiwe is a drunken bard, the talkative taxi driver coaching you and counselling you after a night of carousing and vodka shots.