After the – barely organized – mess Deconstruction, had to offer, it’s time to concentrate on the last chapter of the Devin Townsend Project tetralogy. Aside from a statement according to which the album was a sort of “ambient new wave”, and “not dark at all”, the master gave very few elements on the subjects, as opposed to the various crazy descriptions its twin brother was saddled with. Maybe because there was simply no extra information to give. Contrary to Deconstruction, what was actually unveiled was the cover. In short, these two albums seem to be opposed in every possible way – which will only be confirmed at the end of this report. With its pastel colors, its crepuscular landscape et its waves caressing the rocks like so many music notes in our ears, said cover is on the same wavelength as the content of the album.
So sit back and relax. If you can’t listen to the music itself, you can at least read the description of what this mysterious ghost is made of.
A flute rings out and softly prepare the ground for clean guitars chiming out alternatively with low and high notes. A blissful feeling immediately takes over the listener, giving out a feeling of perfect well-being. Devin’s singing is barely whispered, surrounded by subtle keyboard layers and topped by discreet synth sound like so many little fireflies. The drums, light and smooth, are played with brushes. The entire track evolves slowly around this base. At 2’33’’, a delicate feminine voice rises like a light breeze.
Heart Baby (5:55):
This song starts with very slow acoustic guitar arpeggios, with a few interventions by panpipes and a mellotron here and there. Devin appears progressively from 1’20’’ on, first whispering vocalizations, then singing very softly while several reproductions of his voice ring out delicately. The song takes a little more substance mid-track, but there are still no percussions to be heard. A little later, his voice starts flowing in a crescendo like a fountain. The song then loses its substance and ends with a flute only.
The flute ushers the listener into this third track, then makes way to an acoustic guitar arpeggio, more or less in a similar spirit as the piano theme from Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home” (don’t worry, this is really the only the connection that can be made with the glam band from L.A.). The flute reappears, accompanied by light drums, a far-off vocal rhythm and Townsend’s high singing, before the man switches back to his medium range. Shortly after, Devin’s high voice and a feminine voice tangle, then the complete theme returns, with a piano added to the guitar arpeggios. Close to what Anathema can do nowadays, the song develops mainly around rich vocal parts and the game between Devin’s voice and the female vocalist’s, until 4’50. At this point, everything stops to make way to a seaside atmosphere. In the distance, a soft piano melody fades in, along with the drum brushes and a keyboard melody. Then the piano and keyboard fade away to make way to the softly whispered feminine voice. From then on, the song is built around this foundation, sprinkled with a few interventions from the piano, the acoustic guitar and the flute. From 8’30’’, everything starts to fade out. The song ends with a series of dreamy atmospheres, sustaining the melody that comes from a kind of xylophone: first the sound of the wind, then a sweet spring rain, and a discreet voice layer.
Sharp guitar chords and Devin’s still delicate voice make for a sharp way to wake up. This is a short ballad (less than three minute-long), full of innocence and performed by a guitar and voice, with a few discreet piano/keyboard arrangements.
A wave of mellotron and ghostly voices whispering hopeful melodies – that’s how this song starts. Then come light, swinging drums in shuffle rythm, still played with brushes, with male and female voices. The spirit is extremely 60s, notably with the “pada padam” sung in time with the drums. These elements make up most of this rather simple track, which concludes peacefully with a minute-long organ layer.
The organ fades out while frog croaking appear. Discreet acoustic guitar chords ring out, then comes a lively drum rhythm with superimposed banjo and guitar chords. Once again, Devin sings a duet with the mystery female vocalist (at the time of publishing this, that’s what she is). The banjo naturally gives a nice Southern feel to the whole thing. This is also a simple track, but the voices flesh out progressively. The instruments are also played with increasing ardor.
This track is an atmospheric instrumental where a flute melody and slow acoustic guitar chords mingle, on a background of echoing keyboard layers. The atmosphere is both peaceful and bright. Just the kind of thing you could hear in any nature shops out there.
Dark Matters (1:57):
In the same vein as the previous song, a synth arpeggiator – which Arjen Lucassen himself would stand for on his Ayreon project – appears, while Devin whispers his vocal lines once again. Towards the end of the song, the voice makes way to the flute. A sort of transition title, the shortest of the album – a little under two minutes.
The song starts with a mix of a kind of modern clavinet and guitar arpeggios. The biggest part of the track is built upon this foundation, with various voice layers evolving as the music goes forward. The general atmosphere thus created is almost innocent and childlike in its naiveté. Devin’s singing is very reassuring and long notes stretch out, which only reinforces this feeling. So does the feminine voice, which appears at 3’40’’, sounding like a mother talking to her child. The music fleshes out progressively through new layers of keyboard sounds and voices adding up. The rhythm intensifies little by little to reach its climax at around 4’30’’ – the most “intense” moment of the whole album. Then the music subsides slowly; the keyboard sounds, the guitar and voices fade out to reveal a soft flute melody on a light background of synthesized rhythm, ethereal sounds, very discreet toms and a few notes on an acoustic guitar. Even farther in the background, if you strain your ears, you can hear someone speaking a Latin language. In the end, everything fades out completely to conclude the song in the softest possible way.
The song starts with a campfire atmosphere, namely acoustic guitar chords and the sound of the wind in the background. Then comes Devin’s intimist voice and opening “I love you”, followed by a discreet synthesized sound. On this song, a drum machine seems to overtake the acoustic drums. Very subtle percussions appear at around 2’48’’. Various discreet interventions from the flute, acoustic guitar and keyboard sounds come up here and there, making the global atmosphere all the richer. The evolution of the song is mainly to be found on the voice front, which evolve on several layers, giving the whole thing a very dreamy aspect.
Infinite Ocean (8:01):
This is an instrumental track. All through this eight-minute song, breathing effects ring out in time with the drummer’s brushes and the guitar in the background. As for the rest, it is made up of soft keyboard layers, along with a few interventions from the flute, an acoustic guitar and ethereal vocalizations.
As You Were (8:47):
Guitar arpeggios, followed by harmonics, ring out against the fleecy background that is Devin’s whispered voice. The track gives out a hypnotic feeling, with the delicate drum rhythm that follows Devin’s mantra, “Money, Honey, Bloody Mary, Money, Honey”. The music ends at around 4’50’’; at that point, the remnants of the guitar arpeggios fade away and are replaced by the sound of waves and seagulls for a minute and a half. Then come the voices, tangled with various bright sonorities, which in turn fade and make way to silence.
Ghost ends in the most peaceful of ways, just like it started. The global atmosphere of the album remains relaxing and reassuring, in perfect contrast Deconstruction’s chaotic instability. The changes happen in a most progressive way, allowing the listener to follow every detail attentively. Because, as calm and apparently simplistic as it may seem, this album is also extremely rich. Let’s mention that the drums are played almost exclusively with brushes, which gives the songs a subtle, smooth jazz feel.
Truth be told, Ghost is the perfect sequel to anyone who wants to lick the open wounds inflicted by Deconstruction. These two albums might be polar opposites, they also turn out to be perfectly complementary. Listening to one will make you want to listen to the other, and vice versa. For it is clear that the excess of softness Ghost has to offer – almost exaggerated, if not exasperating at times – can make the listener completely lethargic and in need of a good smack in the face. In addition, Deconstruction’s very calm overture and progressive evolution both guarantee a perfect transition with Ghost, and everything comes full circle.
This post is also available in: French