Vengeance Tenfold, an engrossing presence on Sferic Ghost Transmits, has worked with Shackleton before. In 2011, they surveyed the North and South Devon rail routes with a pair of sparse, longform tracks. Three years later, Vengeance Tenfold appeared on Shackleton's Music For the Quiet Hour / The Drawbar Organ EPs. In both cases, his words had an omniscient authority. ("Seems that in the future," he said on "Music For The Quiet Hour Part 4," "there are people who are called memories.") But on Sferic Ghost Transmits, he seems at less of a remove. On "Before The Dam Broke," he chants the phrase "pray for the real world," grinding out the last two syllables from the back of his throat. When he sings "Standing in this cold rain / I did not expect that I'd be getting on this ghost train," he sounds like a despondent gunslinger. No longer the dispassionate observer, Vengeance Tenfold is part-drifter, part-shaman.
Like every Shackleton record, Sferic Ghost Transmits demands total immersion, but getting lost in it isn't the same as committing to it. On the more constant rhythms of "Man On A String Pt. 1 & 2" and "Deadman," the music escorted you through its cobwebbed corridors. Here, you feel as if you're staring, awestruck, at the maze in its entirety. As it collects bell spirals, synth flares, dripping kalimbas and so much else, "Five Demiurgic Options" takes on a planetary scale. "Then we made a world," says Vengeance Tenfold after six minutes, "and then we taught all mankind with pen." "Sferic Ghost / Fear The Crown" conveys a world, too, but one known only to the sferic ghost that declares itself as a "voice out of the void." It's this voice that compels the album. As much as Shackleton and Vengeance Tenfold play with the sound and language of mortality, they seem even more enchanted by whatever's going on beyond it.
Is this club music? Shackleton might say so. Tracks like "Seven Virgins," a dirge of war drums and quasi-Gregorian chant, take more heed of a duo like Coil. John Balance once said Coil's music "has to vibrate," a sensation that Shackleton and Vengeance Tenfold seem intent on achieving as well. Sferic Ghost Transmits is preoccupied with ideas of ritual and religion, but it seems to mine them more for their imagery than their meaning. Perhaps the best way to make sense of the intangible is to explore it on your own terms. That Shackleton and Vengeance Tenfold have grasped this so well is what makes Sferic Ghost Transmits such a trip.