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
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.