Ari Liloia’s “ghost town,” A Brief Review

Almost exactly one year ago, Ari Liloia ’21 released his first album, a tight twenty-five minute ASMR-ambient masterpiece entitled “ghost town,” which can be listened to on Spotify, bandcamp, and SoundCloud. In sixteen tracks, including “charged places 1” and “host town,” Ari skillfully moves between song and eerily soothing ambient scratches, wind chimes, and pulsing whispers without loss of rhythm or clarity. While the tone of his work remains dark and at times mystical, there is an early established closeness that steadily morphs into intimacy, and ultimately sensuality, throughout the album.

Created over the course of five consecutive weeks, “ghost town” was the main focus of Ari’s January and February 2021, during which time he consolidated and worked over each track multiple times, mostly using the Online Sequencer website.

“It was a really damaged process,” he joked, noting that lots of the songs are a conglomeration of work from years before along with new, sometimes scavenged sounds. He remembered that on the night he planned to finish the third to last track on the album, “grief timeline,” he became so frustrated that he took an evening walk to record sounds in the quiet residential areas surrounding Swarthmore. When asked what his favorite track on the album was, he said he didn’t know, concluding, “They’re all fucked up in their own way.” 

From further conversation with Ari coupled with my own emotional interpretations — and perhaps impositions — I’ve come to understand that “ghost town” explores grief, loneliness, and fear. This unique-yet-comforting affective convergence is met by undertones of lighter melodies and paradoxical titles like “benign haunting” that signal subtle presences of joy and peace. Ari’s abstract style presents the beauties of emotional dissonance as musical resonance. I often find ambient music chilling and suspenseful (see: Loscil’s “First Narrows”); it heightens paranoia, but Ari’s work builds natural momentum that feels more like gravity than it does constrained breath or rising sea levels. 

I continued listening to “ghost town” throughout last spring, and I felt a similar emergence of  weightless and gleeful moods in the changing of the seasons. I look forward to walking in Swarthmore during the first weeks of spring, on soft ground through fluffy, wet air. Ari’s album became a nice soundtrack to these walks, as well as calming bedtime listening. 

“ghost town” has already reclaimed a spot in my top albums of this month, and I suspect it will remain there through the spring. So when you feel you’d rather lie in the sun or go for a long walk instead of going to class — when those ankle-height purple and white flowers start blooming for the first time — I encourage you to give it a listen. 

Since the release of “ghost town,” Ari has put out several collaborative tracks, including one with fairy pop artist, princess ketamine, called “Head Bandage.” If you’re interested in other Swarthmore alumni musicians, check out Gravy Runs’s “Rockstar” and “Sleep in the Office,” and Calypso Baby’s “Liberal Arts Tool.”

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