Illum Sphere, Ghosts of Then and Now

Sharon O'Connell

By Sharon O'Connell

on 02.12.14 in Reviews

It was as cofounder of Manchester’s esteemed Hoya: Hoya club night that DJ and producer Ryan Hunn established his reputation for disregarding boundaries, underlining it with imaginative remixes for the likes of Radiohead and the Invisible and a clutch of shape-shifting EPs released across different imprints.

Seductive in its sweep while never descending into retro

His full-length debut is no less wide-ranging. The title, coupled with the producer’s mystical alias, suggests a work along Burial lines, but for all its brooding and noir-ish introspection, Ghosts of Then and Now does not play the hauntology card. Instead, it works within a ’90s hip-hop framework (the spirits of Massive Attack, Portishead and J-Walk hover in the distance), although Hunn has radically loosened its bolts, admitting jazzy electronica, horror movie soundtracks, deep vocal house, down-tempo synthscapes and even (briefly) bossa nova into the frame. The result is seductively cinematic in its sweep while never descending into retro.

Hunn’s fondness for the darkly compelling is shared by guests Mai Nestor (aka Gothenburg resident Scout Klas) and Shadowbox (Brooklyn’s Bonnie Baxter), who bring a hushed, Julee Cruise twinkle and deeply soulful yearning to “At Night” and “The Road” respectively, the latter track’s subterranean bass whack — which also steamrollers through “It’ll Be Over Soon” — a potent reminder that its maker is a UK modernist, his spirit guides very much more “now,” than “then.”