Deviating from their usual sound, Ghost9 have released a summer album filled with youthful energy and pastel vibes. Rather than their characteristic dance/house/technopop sound, Ghost9’s NOW: When we are in Love explores more straightforward, summer pop samples and textures. The album is evocative, fun, and carefree while still retaining some characteristics of their established sound as of now.

The songs can generally be divided into two groups: pop-centric summery tracks and more characteristic technopop listeners are familiar with, having the intro “On And On” bridging the gap between both categories. “Up All Night” and “Antenna” are more pop-centric and light while “Double Click,” “Trampoline,” and “Runaway” are darker and synthesizer-forward.

The first track of the album “On And On” sounds like a mix of Ghost9’s previous releases. This can also be said of “Up All Night,” the title track for this album. The melody is fun and bright, with a good mix of auxiliary digital noises in the background of the sound field. The chorus is especially evocative, contrasting with the busy instrumentals and setting the mood for the rest of the album.

“Up All Night,” this comeback’s title track, opens with Prince hyping up the listener overtop a fun, guitar ostinato that weaves in and out throughout the verses. While it is different from what I would expect from Ghost9 (especially opposite “Seoul” and “W.ALL,” their last two title tracks), it is a fun and evocative summer song that provides a nice contrast to their current discography. The rest of the songs on the album, excluding “Antenna,” are sufficiently electronic sample driven to balance how jarring “Up All Night” is.

“Up All Night” is a typical summer song that asks listeners to come along as they fall in love and bask in the carefree summer sun. The members are seen playing on the beach, exploring a colorful city, and embracing each other in joy. Cool and chic, it is a simple but effective track. It reminds me of a more modern, colorful, and fresh take on One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” (Please don’t come after me Directioners.) One fun feature are the brass instrumentals that punctuate the chorus and imitate the vocals at the end of the phrase. It gives the song more of a playful, fun timbre.

The last track of the album “Antenna” is a complete contrast to all the other songs on the album. With piano and soft vocals at the forefront, it hopefully serenades the listener, comparing Ghost9 to an antenna that serves the purpose of receiving their love’s (and their fans’) signals. The group vocals in the background and members’ well-balanced mid-range make this track especially alluring and emotional. It rounds out the album nicely, even if it is a bit left field of the rest of the tracks.

The three middle songs on the album “Double Click,” “Trampoline,” and “Runaway” sound much more like what one would expect from a Ghost9 release. Electronic sampled sounds are mixed in each part with bouncy vocals and an overall busy background texture, but with more upbeat light sounds rather than darker, chic ones like in “Seoul.”

“Double Click” is the most musically interesting track on the album, especially in its production and composition. The beat is fun and addictive, heavily leaning into syncopation in the piano and drum samples. The addition of the water drop sound sample adds a fun extra pop of contrast to the texture created throughout the song. This is probably my favorite song on the album, personally.

Of a similar intensity is the following track “Trampoline.” Upbeat and busy, the production is the same as “Double Click.” However, it is more straightforward in its structure and production, like a hybrid of “Up All Night” and “Double Click.” Interestingly, the theme of up and down and falling repeat throughout the song, paralleling the feeling of push and pull (or back and forth) in a romance. As the members fall (down) in love, they simultaneously jump “up to the sky” feeling high on love.

The penultimate song “Runaway” is more laidback with more understated percussion tracks and a softer texture. The members’ vocals take more of the forefront on this track, urging listeners to let their cares fall away and run away with them. This song is fun because it is chic and chill, but with Ghost9’s characteristic production polish that makes all the textures and layers of sound seem effortless and feel-good. It creates a nice downshift to “Antenna,” the last track on the album.

Although Now: When we are in Love is a bit of a left turn from what one would expect from Ghost9’s sound since debut, it is an enjoyable and summery album that contrasts much of their current discography. It would be nice if the sound of the title track was more similar to the middle tracks on the album with the characteristic production prowess I’ve come to expect from Ghost9. Regardless, it is nice to see the group experiment with new concepts and colors, especially as the weather turns warmer and many countries begin to slowly open up and allow gatherings and live music to resume. Personally, I look forward to seeing where Ghost9 goes from here: back to their darker, technopop roots or forward into something else entirely.

(YouTube [1][2][3][4], Sample Focus,  Images via Maroo Entertainment)