My heart should know better, but it’s gone and fallen in love again. And with a really difficult companion this time. I mean really difficult. Who is it? It’s noise rock. With last year’s great releases by Comets on Fire and Charalambides and now the new album from Japanese psych powerhouse Ghost, the genre is really getting its hooks in me. It would be so much more logical to love the simpler, catchier sounds of, say, the Shins. But, no: Damn ticker’s gotta be difficult.
In Stormy Nights, at just six songs, is book-ended by two relatively lovely listens. Opener “Motherly Bluster” isn’t as vitriolic as its name suggests. Instead, it features slippery guitar chords and airy flutes, a tick-tock chorus, and a thickly orchestral ending fleshed out with cellos and wind chimes. The same rustic, rural, simple sound comes back on closer “Grisaille,” on which lead singer Masaki Batoh laments, over skillful acoustic guitar work, “You know that time fades away.” The song ends with an astral electric guitar solo and swirling synths.
In between those two, it’s a whole other story. “Hemicyclic Anthelion” is a half-hour-long musique concrete opus of electrical dissonance, alarms, spazz-out drumming, guitar feedback histrionics, skronking horns and randomly leapfrogging piano chords. It isn’t exactly something you’ll hear on FM radio any time soon but, as with longer Eno compositions, after enough listens certain motifs start to show and you’ll realize that the track isn’t just random noise.
The three songs after that all build on each other’s no-holes-barred zaniness. The band’s favorite planet must be Mars, because the songs’ point of departure seems to be Gustav Holst’s piece of that name from his Planets suite. “Water Door Yellow Gate” starts out with hard-charging percussion and piano with a ghostly synthesizer chorus in the background, then becomes more plodding at the end, with cymbals crashing like waves. “Gareki No Toshi” picks up right where that leaves off, speeding up the pounding piano chords to a pace so aggro it makes you want to get your war on. Batoh throws in random howls as massive gong crashes reverberate. And “Caledonia,” a cover of a song from ultra-obscure ’60s noisemakers Cromagnon, is an amped-up highlands stomp, with a catchy flute line and Batoh shredding his pipes again.
Difficult. All very difficult. But cheap dates get old quick, don’t they?
“Caledonia” MP3: http://www.dragcity.com/mp3/dc313_gc.mp3