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The Silence (Masaki Batoh): The Silence

Track List

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Album Notes

Personnel: Masaki Batoh (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Kazuo Ogino (tambura, soprano recorder, piano, electric piano, organ); Makoto Akiya (viola da gamba); Ryuichi Yoshida (flute, baritone saxophone); Jan Stigter (bass guitar); Okano Futoshi (drums).

Audio Mixer: Yoshiaki Kondo.

Recording information: Gok Sound, Tokyo, Japan (06/2014-08/2014).

Photographers: Minoru Tsuyuki; Purpleyuko.

Arranger: Kazuo Ogino.

Ghost's founder Masaki Batoh disbanded the group in the spring of 2014 after a seven-year hiatus, but wasted no time forming the Silence a few months later. The band comprises former bandmates Okano Futoshi (also late of Acid Mothers Temple) on drums, and Kazuo Ogino on keyboards. The latter (who arranged and produced this recording) then recruited bassist Jan Stigter and flutist and saxophonist Ryuichi Yoshida. Batoh's music comes full-circle on The Silence. While his last solo album (Brain Pulse Music) was a gentle, holistic series of improvisations on traditional Japanese instruments and electronic music based on a machine of his own creation, here a collaborative partnership and formal songwriting from established sources are the norm. Recorded, mixed, and mastered completely to analog tape, the sound on this record is remarkable in its warmth. Its nine tracks include seven originals and two audacious covers that cross through the terrains of dreamy pop, psychedelic folk, and spaced-out rock. "Lemon Iro No Cannabis" commences with a crescendo of rolling snare and wafting Baroque organ before saxophones, electric guitar, and a rumbling bassline slide in to create a hazy, Baroque pop melody, tastefully hued with lush piano and flute. The striking beauty in "Gotter im Exil" pays indirect homage to the songwriting of Alan Sorrenti (circa Aria), Syd Barrett and Kevin Ayers. This version of Can's "Tango Whiskeyman," illustrated with harpsichord, upright piano, acoustic guitars, and minimal drums, walks a tipsy line between early Soft Machine, Tom Waits, and Brecht/Weill cabaret, with a skronky tenor saxophone solo carrying it out. "Jewels in Tibet," a modal ballad worthy of Tim Buckley, reflects the unflinching vulnerability in Batoh's vocal. A nearly seven-minute reading of the Celtic standard "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" crosses through vanguard folk, airy chamber jazz, and driving psychedelic rock. The instrumental "Triptykon" features abstract Eastern modes woven through gentle dissonance toward open-ended English folk. "Nana No Open Back Banjo" contains a tranced-out repetitive bassline and elliptical drumming. A reverb-drenched glissando guitar plays serpentine lines while Batoh sings hypnotically into the elastic drift. It picks up steam as a Doors-esque organ and flute float up through the center. The stinging guitar break is backmasked. "Pesach" is a punchy drum and guitar groover, its dark intensity tempered by skittering breaks. Throughout, The Silence doesn't rush but slowly emerges; it is seductively heavy due to spaciousness in the mix. And while it's true that this date bears Batoh's signature as a multi-dimensional musical traveler, it also portrays the sound of a band whose members psychically lock onto one another in order to explore inner space. ~ Thom Jurek



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