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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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Masaki Batoh
Collected Works 95-96
Drag City

In the mid-'90s, back when Ghost — his grand band of spectral space cadets and psychedelic hippies — were in the midst of a prolific period, Masaki Batoh went solo. Initially undertaking his lonesome recordings as a way of working out new Ghost material, the free spirit found himself unable to resist the freedoms of compositional and artistic independence, in which he could explore the reaches of his musical spirit in less precious detail. Ghost, like so many Japanese bands, are renowned for their contemplative, deliberate approach to recording, where the elements of songs and mixes and the album as whole are discussed, in depth, over the (ongoing) process. It's no surprise, then, that Batoh's solo forays — two vinyl-only longplayers, 1995's A Ghost From the Darkened Sea and 1996's Kikaokubeshi, recorded in Ghost's Lama Rabi Rabi era, when they, as band, were at the peak of their communal powers — found him exploring ideas and ideals that didn't fit his rock band's considered whole; these outings, thus, were the outlet where Batoh felt he could function in a more "free" fashion. With both albums now compiled onto compact disc all these years down the line, the clarity of hindsight makes it easy to identify three basic Batoh "modes" herein: off-the-cuff covers (a kooky take on Can's "You Doo Right", a flowery spin through the circumvolutions of Cream's "World of Pain"), gentle instrumentalism (including marimba playing that foreshadowed the tuned-percussion workouts surfacing later on Snuffbox Immanence), and many a freaked-out drone. Given Batoh's unwashed aesthetic, it's no surprise that his drones have more in common with tribal incantation than modernist minimalism; he uses the foot-pumped harmonium and the hand-wound hurdy-gurdy to wind up droning tones that he dresses in wordless throat-singing and deadzone voodoo drumming, his only concession to the modern age, in such, being the use of a Moog at various points. Though his man-as-island making of these records means the innate qualities of this pseudo-tribal music are isolationist, as opposed to music growing from the communal power of the gathered tribe, there is still a beautiful sense of earthy, earthly expression herein. Which is no surprise, given that Ghost have long been considered the band that gives hippies a good name.

by Anthony Carew

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