Personnel: Masaki Batoh (vocals, guitar, banjo); Jan Stigter (vocals, acoustic guitar); Kazuo Ogino (vocals, tambura, keyboards); Ryuichi Yoshida (vocals, flute, baritone saxophone); Okano Futoshi (vocals, drums, timpani, gong).
Recording information: Gok Sound, Tokyo (2015).
Photographer: Minoru Tsuyuki.
On their second album in just seven months, the Silence, headed by former Ghost mainman Masaki Batoh, offer a different aspect of the persona revealed on their self-titled debut. That record blended electric and acoustic instruments in more or less spaced-out but organic song forms. As fine as it was, it only hinted at the band's potential for jamming. On Hark the Silence, Batoh and bandmates offer looser, heavier, longer, and more intuitive performances. Batoh plays guitars (lots of electric this time), banjos, and provides (most) lead vocals. His bandmates are Kazuo Ogino on keyboards, Ryuichi Yoshida on reeds and woodwinds, Futoshi Okano on drums, and Jan Stigter on bass and acoustic guitars. "Ancient Wind, Pts. 1 & 2" begins with a lone wafting jazz flute, a doomy single note, and a two-beat bassline. It builds with a slow drum shuffle adorned with gongs, glissando guitars, and piano. The traverse into the second part is easy to detect; the Silence head straight for the stratosphere, increasing the tempo, adding bleating saxophones, stinging electric guitars, and clattering tom-toms. The bassline still rattles in the foreground as the tune's title is group-chanted mantra-like by the band -- there's even room for a brief drum solo. In the final part -- "Ancient Wind, Pt. 3" (these tunes take up the entire first side of the LP version), Yoshida's flute returns, but Ogino's organ roars to the front. The first single is a cover of Damon & Naomi's "Little Red Record Company." Batoh's iconic singing carries the melody, but the Silence add layers of massive (yet melodic) power with a crying, wailing baritone saxophone leading the charge. The set's pinnacle is "Galadasma." Almost 14 minutes long, it emerges as a trippy blues with Batoh spirit-singing above a whomping bassline as biting acoustic guitar, jazz flute, and organ waft in. After four minutes, that all changes. The first traces of turbulent electric guitar enter the fray and the tempo gradually increases. Saxophone and flute vie for dominance above the free jazz drumming and spiky six-string fills. It becomes a pile-driving jam, though the blues feel is never quite forsaken. (Parts of this tune recall the quality of Batoh's other former group, Sweet & Honey.) Two more long jams, the droning, modal "DEX #1" and the spiraling, space cowboy "Fireball" (the latter recorded live) close Hark the Silence. In one year, the Silence have risen from the ashes of Ghost to become a distinctive post-psych powerhouse. This album offers even more proof of their staggering musicality and improvisational groupthink. ~ Thom Jurek