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29 September 2009

Masaki Batoh - 'A Ghost From the Darkened Sea' (The Now Sound)

This lovely mini-LP blows away most Ghost recordings, in my opinion, but major gas face to the label for not marking the 45rpm speed anywhere. Because, this opens with a thumping, acoustic cover of Can's 'Yoo Doo Right' with deep, breathy Japanese singing -- and it sounds great at either speed, just more guttural at 33. So it's not until track 2, a cover of Cream's 'World of Pain', that it becomes clear that it's a 45rpm record. Both songs are great reworkings that show the gentler side of Batoh, though there are still very dark winds blowing. 'Sham No Umi' closes the first half with some shimmery beach acousticness, still out there enough to qualify for the psych prize. What I love about these acoustic treatments is how he will subtly accent some chord changes with a spare organ or harmonium note, or perfectly underplayed percussion. The massive wall of sound psychedelic guitar monster stayed home for this one. 'Spooky' opens side 2 and it's not a cover of the Classic IV standard but a steel drum repetition that can't help but make me think of Steve Reich or 60s minimalism. It's cut with some dissonant howling and fades into 'Tuchigumo', the most experimental piece on the record. Here, rubbing and bowing sounds build up into a soundscape, not unlike Nurse With Wound at times but holding back from the balls-out juxtapositions. There are some great reversed sounds in the background but it's not overwhelming. The last track is where you hear the 'hardy gardy' credited on the sleeve, and it's a dense wall of thick drone that lets light in, but only in glimpses. The track, like the whole album, is a gem.

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