Sarah Houle and Shane Ghostkeeper are originally from Metis settlements in Northern Alberta. They are from families familiar with each other, who always believed the two should meet “…“because apparently we are perfect for each other,” as Houle recently told the Calgary Herald. Whatever reasons their families may have had for thinking they were a good match, the pair’s three albums as Ghostkeeper are evidence enough of their chemistry.
Ghostkeeper’s latest, Sheer Blouse Buffalo Knocks, mirrors real life through its narrative concept: Houle and Ghostkeeper play the roles of Sheer Blouse and Buffalo Knocks, respectively. She is a “spiritualist/explorer of realms”, he a “benevolent warrior”, and the album that bears their name “…[chronicles] their battle against environmental destruction and the burden it places on their homelands in Northern Alberta.” Both performers and their personas are warriors up against incredible odds, taking on an entrenched establishment in hopes of reversing unspeakable damage to preserve the world for generations to come.
Despite the urgency of its subject matter, Sheer Blouse Buffalo Kocks is a record of wildly romantic music. The Houle-led songs “Oceans” and “Cold Hands” are what 60s doo-wop and girl-group pop would have sounded like if everyone back then was on MDMA. I imagine “This is Our Love” and “Muskeekee” are the kind of songs that would have appealed to the makers of the doomsday clock, both showcasing Ghostkeeper’s warped pop sensibilities.
Sheer Blouse Buffalo Kocks is spiritual music in the loosest, most abstract sense of the word. Its geographic centre may be Northern Alberta, but its mystical core can’t be found on any mortal plane. Along with drummer Eric Hamelin and bassist Ryan Bourne, Houle and Ghostkeeper subsume traditional pow-wow music, electronica, African pop, and North American indie rock to create music that is highly stylized, deeply political, and fiercely idiosyncratic. Like the partners at its core, Ghostkeeper’s disparate musical elements form an unparalleled and formidable combination.