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  Damon & Naomi with Ghost  
  Damon & Naomi with Ghost  
  Sub Pop  
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I was very intrigued when i first heard the title of this release: Damon & Naomi with Ghost. It sounds as if it describes some state of metaphysical expectancy. As if rather than having children, Damon and Naomi are going to bring some new undead spirit into the world.

I would bet that this spirit would be largely quiet and vaguely mopey, much like Damon and Naomi.

However, that's not what the title means. Rather, Ghost is the name of a Japanese band who Damon and Naomi are working with for this recording. Now, Japanese music frightnes the crud out of me: it's either bizarre caricatures of normal Anglo-American music (Pizzicato 5, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, Shonen Knife) or totally out there wierdness (Ruins, Acid Mothers Temple, Merzbow) So, this "Ghost" scared me.

But i like Damon & Naomi. They make very nice, delicate pop songs that are pleasant and not all harsh on the ears. Perhaps the combination of them working with Ghost would be fruitful....

It was only after a rather long internal debate that i picked up this album. And i am glad that i did. I don't know if Ghost are a normal (i.e., not "experimental free jazz" or "avante electronica") type of band or if Damon & Naomi served to ground them in listenability, but the end result is a beautiful album of light, 70's influenced pop music.

That's my main impression of this disc. It's all light guitar, piano or organ, and delicate vocals. It reminds me of Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, or Nick Drake. The guitars are almost folky, and the voices softly speak their lines. It is music that is enjoyable, yet tinged with a slight melancholy.

Maybe that's why i enjoy this album so much: it reminds me of the music i heard on the radio as a small child. Ii know that not everyone has fond memories of the 70's, but even so, this is light classic pop that i think anyone could enjoy.

The entire album is nice, but my favorite track on it is Judah And The Maccabees. It's a simply wonderful little song featuring some of the albums best piano work, and Damon's most expressive singing. In the background lingers a theremin and Naomi's harmonizing vocals. The song also features drums, which is a rare thing on this disc. I find it intolerably catchy, so much so that i sit at my desk and hum it.

The Great Wall, I Dreamed of the Caucasus, and Don't Forget are noteworthy for their extremely 70's sound. I Dreamed of the Caucasus starts with a Deep Purple organ intertwined with a trebly early-Styx guitar lick over which Damon and Naomi harmonize. Both The Great Wall and Don't Forget feature lead guitar solos that seemed ripped out of a Dan Fogleberg or Kenny Loggins tune. And yet somehow Michio Kurihara, who played the only electric guitar on the album, pulls it off without sounding too cheesey. The slow, clear, and high-pitched notes seem to be the perfect mournful accompaniment for Damon's quiet voice. It really works. It harkens back to the light sound of the 70's, without seeming to wallow in flared jeans and flowery shirts. It is as if these elements of 70's pop are taken and updated.

Then again, it just might be that the quality of the musicianship here is quite high. Each person seems to know exactly what they are doing, they are produced clearly, and they work well together. Which, when you get down to it, is quite amazing. According to what i heave read online -- Ghost recorded their portion of the album in Japan, and Damon and Naomi recorded their parts in Massachusetts. And it still all mixed well together. That is an amazing job. Kudos to Damon, Naomi, and Masaki Batoh, who are all credited with production.

I also want to mention Tanka just briefly. Another wonderful song, this time with Naomi singing the lead. This song starts with a slow staccato piano accompaniment to her voice and odd percussion in the background. For four minutes it builds, until it explodes with drums, insistent bass, and another of Kurihara's great guitar solos.

This is a fine album of light tunes. It's not challenging, but it's great music to sit and listen to while you sip a cup of green tea and watch the twilight.

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