Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue

Reviews > CDs

Published: 2004/01/27
by Chris Gardner

Hypnotic Underworld – Ghost

Drag City Records 248

They call it space rock, and few names could be more appropriate. One

imagines oneself suspended and weightless as the music happens on all sides.

The disc opens in a de-centered miasma, a waking dream where often

unidentifiable sounds whirr past and careen into the distance. More

familiar sounds – muffled drums, spare bass notes, hammerings on piano

strings – decorate the landscape, but it is the doctored horn, effected

guitars, and unidentifiables that lend the twelve minute opener (part one of

a four song cycle) its other-worldliness. Rhythm, when it exists, is

spacious, and the sounds have few ties binding them together. The steady,

fuzzy bass and percussive guiro that root the second segment are almost

jarring after the drift, but the saxophone and piano stay delightfully "out"

- dancing with the whirrs, squeals, and whawhawhas on the exterior. Section

three then gets downright mean – guitars bang and clatter, pounding out a

one-note rhythm when, for no apparent reason, a choir falls in with a

vocalist hot on its heels. The voices drop into silence, a crushing five

note hammer falls a few times, and the whole bit spirals out of control as

the fourth section wheels toward a rapid and abrupt release. It's an

affecting introduction, though the nature of the effect isn't entirely


But even this sprawling statement doesn't paint the whole picture. Ghost is

as much a psychedelic outfit as a space rock quintet, dedicating nearly half

of the album to swirling vocal tunes. Their psychedelia has often weighty

prog-rock leanings, but it also harbors moments of delicate beauty. The

cover of Syd Barrett's "Dominoes" – over acoustic guitars and under flute –

has an easy beauty before it resolves into the album's organ heavy outro

whose wavering, removed vocals pay the remainder of their Floyd debt. Toss

in the reverberating, Japansese spoken-word number (replete with water drops

and a plucked lute) and "Ganagmanag," an intrepid ten-plus minute shifting

jam built around a simple, jazzy circlet, and the listener is left shaking

off confusions.

Hypnotic Underworld" is a very well-produced, always accomplished, and

often fascinating album that slowly reveals its considerable depth through

repeated listenings, but the disparate parts are often difficult to

reconcile. The instrumental pieces are frequently exceptional, and the

difficult to define vocal numbers often don't measure up. It seems at times

to be the work of two very different bands and doesn't cohere the way a

great album should, but its true worth may lie in the the simple fact that

something about it leads one to compare it to great albums.

Show 0 Comments