Captain Future is the alter ego of Alex McGowan, record producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire. When not holed up in his London studio Space Eko East recording roots and rock n’ roll bands such as The Urban Voodoo Machine, Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind and Son Of Dave, Alex devotes his time to his gospel-driven rock n’ soul band The Future Shape Of Sound, a 9-piece collective of musicians, soul divas and performance artists who are renowned for their explosive, colourful and energetic live shows at festivals and seedy dives country-wide.

When Covid put pay to live music 12 months ago, Alex retreated to his studio to finish his long worked on and overdue solo album. And you could say this album is a departure from the raucous, party gospel that The Future Shape of Sound deliver. Let’s get one thing straight, ‘Ghostman’ is not a party album, this is an after-party album. A chilled out, dub heavy collection of hypnotic beats and surreal, lazy vocalisin’, just what the witchdoctor ordered!


First single and album opener ‘Holy Waters’ sets the scene. Bluesy, downtempo dub fills the speakers. The captain’s deep, husky vocals are juxtaposed with haunting female vocals over minimal instrumentation, as the band just let the rhythm flow naturally. I say band, but in reality Alex handles most of the instruments on this album with a little help from a few of his friends in the vocal department.

Tribal beats and lazy percussion hypnotize the listener before descending into well trippy territory. Wait…did someone slip me and edible or two? Things sure feel weird in here! No, we’ve just segued into track 2 ‘Zombie Lover’. This is ‘Guns Of Brixton’ in dub, with deep, throbbing bass, ska guitar and an almost Spanish guitar infused acoustic interlude that takes things to another plane. A hyper, voodoo video is currently in the works as I type, and I’m sure it can only enhance the experience.

And so it goes on. Blurring the lines between Primal Scream, Alabama 3 and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy with lush female gospel vocals, tribal percussion and minimal instrumentation creating space for the music to breathe and creep deep into your subconscious.

‘As Soon As I CU’ is the house band playing the blues at 4am. A 7 plus minute smokey jam, played out when the party people have left the building, all the rum has gone and reality is desperately trying to kick back in. Talking of rum, ‘Rowing To The Pub’ is an anthem for street pirates the world over. If you were yearning for a pint before, you will be gasping by the time the trip hop beats have ceased to…beat. “Let’s row to the pub” croons the Captain, as subtle instrumentation and understated backing vocals create a hypnotic state. Row? Hell, I’ll crawl on my hands and knees brother!


Fans of The Future Shape Of Sound will hear a few familiarities as the deep, dub infused cuts are interspersed with gospel-tinged blues, it’s just all a lot more chilled out, man! In fact, ‘Oh People’ is a re-working of a Future Shape Of Sound tune complete with killer bongos and a cool organ refrain. Elsewhere, Son Of Dave lends flourishes of dirty harmonica to the likes of ‘Move On’ and ‘Ghost Woman’, with ‘Wrong As You Like’ coming on like a ‘live in the studio’ blues workout.

The eerie, cinematic vibes of instrumental ‘Sad These Rest’, augmented with bursts of brass, brings to mind The Urban Voodoo Machine at their most sombre, which sure ain’t a bad place to be. And In complete contrast, album closer ‘I Liked You When You Were Gone’ has an uplifting Alabama 3 meets Primal Scream vibe.


While the ceasing of all live entertainment has been a major disaster for most musicians, for many it has also been the chance to find new ways to be creative, and to take the time to write and record at their leisure. For Alex McGowan, it has given the man a chance to complete an album that has been on the backburner for a while.

‘Ghostman’ shows a different side to Alex McGowan’s work. Dub heavy and full of trip hop beats, it broadens the horizons past The Future Shape Of Sound and shows the influences of his past clients such as Jah Wobble and Tricky. As with his day job it’s a very ‘London’ sounding album, steeped in 90’s indie and dance nostalgia, while still retaining elements of what makes his music so fresh and exciting.

Gypsy Hotel 

Author: Ben Hughes