Overture: Live in Nippon Yusen Soko 2006

Drag City

Just like its elemental cousin free jazz, improvisational music has to be one of the most divisive genres of music. For some, the aimless, deconstructed wanderings of notes and tempos is limitlessly engaging. For others, it’s endlessly grating. Depending on which side of the issue you stand, you’ll either love or hate Ghost’s Overture. The album consists of one song, a 55-minute live performance recorded in an abandoned warehouse in Yokohama, Japan. The space’s plentiful natural reverb soaked the group’s sound in a deep ether, evoking both the haze of dreams and the liquidity of the ocean. Little forethought was given to the arrangement of this work, with each musician secluded from the rest of the group and allowed little more than the echo of the other players to guide them in shaping the direction of the song. Different sounds and textures dominate the composition from minute to minute; acoustic guitars, a skronky saxophone, sleigh bells and flutes, among others, vie for their chance to tell their story. The sound moves from sparse and silent to tense and claustrophobic in a few seconds’ time, wending both gently and abruptly on its journey. There’s a level of mastery in Ghost’s command of experimentation, where they can flit between folk, psychedelic, jazz, post-rock, and electronica with deft precision, melding them into a sound that is uniquely theirs.

Accompanying the CD is a DVD featuring the entire night’s performance and the visual show that complemented Ghost’s sonic wanderings. The film draws heavily from static shots from the audience’s perspective of the revolving psychedelic light show emblazoned on the warehouse walls, but it also captures the band members isolated from the audience behind curtains and completely engrossed in their contributions to the overall production. There isn’t a single rock star moment of unnecessary flashiness from anyone involved, which is fitting since the end result trumps anything a standard rock musician would ever think about committing to tape.

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