You don’t have to be from a foreign country to be a refugee: Obaro Ejimiwe, the man who’s worn the Ghostpoet name for almost a decade, moved from London a couple of years ago to rustic Margate on the coast. Wanting more space and time to draw a moat around both his performing and real lives, he set up a multi-purpose shop, café and radio station, part of an arts renaissance which the seaside town has either enjoyed or suffered recently, dependent on your outlook.
Since coming to prominence in 2011 with the Mercury-nominated Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam, Ejimiwe has spent more time than is reasonable grappling with constant references to his production envelope as trip hop (incorrect) and/or being a bit gloomy (the cap fits better here). The debut was a largely electronic take on glitchy, post-club comedowns, but by his last release, Dark Days & Canapés, the instrumentation was real, even if the angst remained.
I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep follows this later pattern without straying too far from the familiar keynotes: opener Breaking Cover toys with post-rock textures as over a scratchy guitar loop verses like, ‘It’s too much noise/I can’t turn it off/Panic attacks/I need a break’, circle back around well-established themes of disenfranchisement and venal modernism.
Ejimiwe has spoken in the past of being a member of the last generation who grew up without the internet as nanny, counselor and best friend. His contempt for the newer world where, ‘People are more interested in being online than in real life’, manifests itself in the weary dread of closer Social Lacerations, which eviscerates the adrenaline rush of having to be owned by strangers: ‘Pick at my bones/I won’t need ’em neither/Selfie away, make sure you use all the filters/Crawl over me’.
This powerless anger is a default, the grayscale Concrete Pony stooping under its weight, while the title-track addresses everything full on, the jagged discord plugged straight back into a mind desperate to live off society’s grid. Elsewhere, some of the tributaries towards this mess – the seemingly unstoppable rise of the far right, the ability to hate from the anonymous safety of a screen – are addressed on Rats In A Sack and This Trainwreck Of A Life respectively.
Whilst broadly traversing many of the same mental and musical arcs of former releases, the one real deviation lies in Black Dog Got Silver Eyes, a chillingly paranoid cocktail of distorted synths and mangled trumpet, more performance art than the work of a man looking for answers in unfamiliar surroundings.
Perhaps in such confusingly loaded times this is the refugees’ lot, to turn their reality into visions for others. I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep is Ghostpoet writing a letter addressed to himself made from cut up letters sent before, but it’s no less powerful for it.