Ethan Gold’s debut, Songs from a Toxic Apartment, began as a 75-song epic recorded in a dilapidated apartment that was literally toxic. Though he vacated the unit when it was condemned by the health department, all of the grime, restlessness and despair remained intact in the 12 songs that made the final cut.
Songs from a Toxic Apartment is an eclectic mix of musical styles, themes and emotions that combine to form a jumbled narrative contrived while hallucinating from exposure to mold and asbestos. Gold sings of the loneliness and depression of being an outsider. “I want to slurk where I won’t be spurned,” he sings over the 80’s-style dance music of “Nonstop.”
Gold paints a portrait of a man who suffers from self-doubt brought upon by unrequited love. “Will you remember if I kiss your face?” he asks on “Are We Recording?” On “Tonight,” Gold shows the self-handicapping of a diffident lover. “It’s okay if you don’t want to,” he concedes, “it’s getting late, anyway.”
Gold’s tales of isolation and angst are woven into acoustic ballads, industrial rock, punk and dance music, sometimes within the same song. The weakest aspect of the album is Gold’s voice. Gold is not blessed with a lot of vocal range, though his scratchy monotone usually fits the melody.
Songs from a Toxic Apartment combines natural and electronic sounds, string sections and synthesizers. Even the pop songs, however, still have that aura of grime. In “They Turned Away,” Gold confesses “I showed you the spark of evil in me so you’d blow it out.” Though there are no hints of evil in the album, it is clear that Gold’s experiences, including recording in that toxic apartment, have left him haunted. That may be bad for Gold’s health, but it’s good for his music.