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Ghost - In Stormy Nights

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Artist: Ghost

Album: In Stormy Nights

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jan. 31, 2007

In Stormy Nights is a monster, both in style and length. Acid folk rambles share space with flights of improvising fancy and stomping crucibles of world-angst, making for an hour of willful genre-melt and satisfying ear-burn. The two sections of “Motherly Bluster” mine the modular composition and simple melodic phrases for a deft opener, a nimble-footed romp that primes a listener’s eardrums. The second track “Hemicyclic Anthelion” is another beast altogether. For nigh on 30 minutes, electro-acoustic and acoustic improvisation alternate, sometimes overlapping, sometimes disintegrating and reforming. Then comes another stylistic gearshift, as the next three pieces beat martial drums of war, accompanied by noisy proclamations of jury-rigged electronics and pinpoint guitar mangling. The album closes with a return to the template of “Motherly Bluster.” Exhausting, energetic and bold – all adjectives apply - except for one hang-up: Ghost has done this all before on their previous album, 2004’s Hypnotic Underworld.

The root of the problem lies with “Hemicyclic Anthelion.” It’s 30 minutes of in-concert improvisations patched together into an ad-hoc suite. And that’s exactly how it sounds – like someone trying to impose order where there is none, a contrived attempt at experimentation. Ghost certainly has admirable breadth of vision, plus the imagination and chops to pull it off, but I just don’t need them to remind me in this way on successive albums. No matter how hard one listens, “Hemicyclic Anthelion” will always sound bloated and forced; it’s more about the idea of experimenting than creating something interesting. It’s a lackluster tour of the 20th century avant-garde and underground experimentation; you’ve heard it all before and you’ve heard done it better.

”Hemicyclic Anthelion” threatens to envelope the whole album, like an inescapable black hole, so powerfully does its mass drag. All of the piece’s experimentation with acoustic and electric textures emerges later, in more crystallized form, in the three-song stretch that is this album’s heart. “Water Door Yellow Gate,” “Gareki No Toshi” and “Caledonia” storm the proceedings with evil, undeniable energy. The first two update the mechanistic piano march of Morricone’s “Battle of Algiers” theme. “Caledonia,” a cover of the lead track on Cro-magnon’s ESP release, is relentless. Who knew tympani, recorder and a wall of guitar fuzz could sound so insanely good? Everything Ghost does so well, the way they absorb, transform, synergize and re-energize multiple styles, is packed into the five-and-a-half minutes of “Caledonia.” It’s a perfect track on an imperfect record.

By Matthew Wuethrich

Other Reviews of Ghost

Hypnotic Underworld

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