Ghost 'Hypnotic Underworld' album review by Richard Foster

"God, did I enjoy listening to this"

God, did I enjoy listening to this. In fact I enjoyed other things about this album even without having to listen to it. Such as? I hear you, (my three readers), cry. Well, harken to the blatant and proudly up-front Amon Duul  influences; (for "Hypnotic Underground" read "Psychedelic Underground", and look at those bloody song titles). Check out the classic Kuniyoshi artwork. Try the fact they "reassembled" Syd Barret's "Dominos" and Earth & Fire's "Hazy Paradise" to the point of this listener's incredulity. Bloody hell.


The opening track, "Hypnotic Underworld Part One" sees Ghost stalk warily into town, like the sons of Damo Suzuki; meditative and quiet, but intent on staking a claim to dad's throne. It does sound like Can, in the way that the music seems to be born without any premeditated idea; rather, it is content to exist in its own space, not needing to question or explore non musical diversions. But you know what? It's not often a band can deliberately take on Can's muse without getting burnt.


"Escaped and Lost Down in Medina" opens with a fuzz bass and wailing oboe straight outta the Roxy archives; offset by jazzy piano and a very angry sounding guitar. Drums kick in intermittently, as if warning of an approaching storm. Fuck, this is good.  But still no vocals. It's as if we are being ushered, poor listeners that we are, bound and gagged, twixt sullen horsemen, into the presence of some medieval warlord. The castle doors open, (as do the vocals), on "Aramaic Barbarous Dawn". And suddenly, we're in Cecile B De Mille territory, all Amon Duul, sub-gothic, sweeps and swoons. Then, as if to bring us round after an over-dose of patchouli oil, "Leave The World" brings this first song cycle to an end with a ferocious drum cascade.


Actually I'm sick of describing this album. I'm sure you are sick of reading about it by now; as all I can do is quote my favourite bands; for instance, "Hazy Paradise" is like The Cocteau Twins hanging out with the Seeds and deciding they'll all pretend to be a Goth version of Tim Buckley. I'm going to get shot for writing that.


Alright, one more then. "Kiseichiukan Nite" is a gorgeous spoken word meditational piece featuring harp, flute and bass. I daren't waffle on about "haunting flute"; it's such a cliche, but this is such a beautiful piece of music. Fuck it, I'll carry on. You don't actually have to read this, do you?  "Piper" is a full on stop-start stomp, pretending to be all mushy, then racing off in full 1966 hippy Iron Butterfly or Electric Prunes style, whilst "GanagManag" begins as if  Popol Vuh and Traffic have just turned up, and carries on as if Popol Vuh and Traffic have just decided to stay. In contrast, "Feed" sounds like a "Fried" AND "Interpreter" era Cope, who has just decided to join Mercury Rev. Just how nuts is that?


Shit, I've only got two songs left to describe; just as I was getting into my stride. "Holy High" is a flute led romp with a Crime & the City Solution feel. The vocals remind me of Mick Harvey, though why, precisely, I don't know. And don't care. It ends abruptly; tipping the Harvey/Cave muse into a ditch, and leading us thankfully, (before everything in my studio turns purple), to the final track. And, just like your mummy used to tell you, I've saved the best till last. Barrett's "Dominos" glides along beautifully, like some stately galleon with a swan's head, rowed by elvish folk. A door slams, and we are summoned out of our daydreams courtesy of a cyclical organ riff, which builds up to a suitably High Church ending. Right. Enough. I'm knackered, and you can all go home and lie down.