Robert Walter continues to balance on twin peaks of dance and jazz cultures with Giving Up the Ghost, whose breezy grooves cool sizzling keyboard and sax lines down to a simmer. The band includes alumni from Black Eyed Peas, T.J. Kirk, and Walter's own Greyboy Allstars, which means that the playing is consistently top-notch. There's enough angularity in the arrangements to bear occasional comparison to Medeski, Martin & Wood.
Eric Gales was hailed as the second coming of Jimi Hendrix when he first hit the blues circuit, an anointment that carries with it impossible pressures, and while Gales is a wonderful guitarist (naturally right-handed, he was taught to play the guitar left-handed, an odd thing, but again, Hendrix-like), he isn't Hendrix, nor will he or anyone ever be. Working out of the power trio format, Gales has more than proven he can play on his many albums, but his voice is average at best, and his songs tend toward the generic, often more like vehicles for guitar leads than actual songs that are crying out to be sung. That's why Ghost Notes is so intriguing, because it's Gales' first all-instrumental album, and therefore it bypasses his weaknesses as a performer and plays to his strengths – the man sure can play guitar.
This 65 minute LP weaves themes of love, heartbreak, and betrayal into monolithic synth-driven space-rock, with inspiration as diverse as Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Ros, Vangelis and Pink Floyd. Writer and producer Christopher Bono utilizes his classical background to sculpt this expansive and engaging series of compositions, contrasting heavy walls of sound with ambient passages, contemporary classical and experimental electronic influences. Bono collaborated with Thomas Pridgen, whose drumming credits include the likes of The Mars Volta, Trash Talk, Suicidal Tendencies and Memorials.
Ghost announced Phantomime in early April. The 5-track EP features covers of songs by Television, The Stranglers, Iron Maiden, Tina Turner and Genesis' "Jesus He Knows Me," which was released when the set was first announced. Frontman Tobias Forge told NME last month that the EP could “cast a glimpse as to where I want to go with the band now… It just means that there are practical things in there that have inspired me to record this EP in a slightly different way than I have done previously.”
After expanding his intimate indie folk sound about as far as it could go on the last Iron & Wine album, Kiss Each Other Clean, Sam Beam (and trusty producer Brian Deck) take a step back on Ghost on Ghost and deliver something less suited for large arenas and more late-night jazz club-sized. The arrangements on that album were stuffed with instruments and seemed built to reach the back row; this time there are still plenty of horns, violins, and female backing vocals in the mix, but they are employed with a much lighter touch. Working with jazz drummer Brian Blade and a standup bass and mixing together elements of country, jazz, indie rock, and soft rock, the album has a much more intimate feel that suits Beam's quietly soulful vocals much more naturally.
The intoxicating debut from Frozen Ghost commingles Great White North album-oriented rock with a classy new wave chill worthy of their mysterious moniker. Not as artsy as Duran Duran, not as emotive as Ultravox, this pair may be the Canadian answer to Tears for Fears, only better than that sounds. Opening minor hit "Should I See" might as well be the Fixx, but it's actually brainchild Andre Lanni establishing his way with ruminating rhymes and mechanical melody. He came from Sheriff, where he wrote their posthumous smash "When I'm With You" and, after three fine FG works, went on to become a powerhouse producer (King's X) and mentor (Our Lady Peace). Except for the radio number mentioned above, Frozen Ghost fell off the face of the planet instantly. A shame, as the world missed out on the mysterious stranger lurking in "Yum Bai Ya," the military melancholy of "Soldiers Cry," and "End of the Line," a flat-out great pop tune not related to the Traveling Wilburys hit of the same period or even the Roxy Music song (though Roxy roots appear elsewhere). Actually, every track is rock-solid and probably gone forever, further adding to the mystique of one of the all-time should-have-beens.
John Ghost is ingenious and exploratory, often described as a symbiosis between the sounds of Steve Reich, John Hollenbeck, Nils Frahm and Jaga Jazzist. Created around the Ghent guitarist and composer Jo De Geest, the Belgian sextet draw on influences from jazz, rock and post-classical music, where minimalism, electronics and a cinematic atmosphere characterize their instrumental music.