It is incredible that both Deconstruction and Ghost album were created by the same artist. They are so vastly different it is truly amazing. Deconstruction is easily the heaviest album of the four Devin Townsend Project discs into which Devin channeled the most ridiculous levels of his psyche, complete with jagged and abrasive sections culminating in off-the-wall passages, aggressive vocal parts, and mostly humour-driven lyrical content.
Ghost, on the other hand, is marked with a droning, meditative atmosphere throughout. The songs are defined by lofty passages filled with finger-picked acoustic guitars, a lot of flute sounds, and subtle landscapes of sound layered on top of each another. The melodies are strong, but they are infused into the winding, labyrinth-like song structures. As a result, the hooks don't hold for a while yet it is still a fascinating experience listening to the whole disc. About five plays in, I was totally blown away by the album, especially when I realized how all the songs, despite not having much structure, come to a theme and stick with it for a few phrases and build on it before moving onto the next one.
The melodies are among Devin Townsend's finest, perhaps since Terria. Listening to "Feather" has been one of my most rewarding musical experiences ever. Townsend employs an elevation technique when a melody starts on the low and then keeps climbing throughout the song. This way, the 11-minute piece keeps you alert, excited, and even close to tears -- the very quiet and soothing middle section with hummed female vocals and sparse keyboard tinklings becomes all the more emotive as the melody is built to its full potential and allowed to take over.
Though each song is given a title, most of them just flow into each other seamlessly. There really is no way to figure out how the brief yet indescribably beautiful "Kawaii" segues into the curious title track (whose verses Devin heard in a park in Vancouver and has used without changing). The doubled male and female vocals in the intro are so beautiful that I had no idea they were actually singing lyrics the first time I heard it. I had to check the lyrics sheet to be sure. Otherwise, I would have thought it's a song with some of the most enchanting and melodious humming to be committed to tape.
Birds singing in the beginning of "Blackberry" belies the otherwise upbeat melody of the song, given the use of female vocals. Townsend actually performs more as a back-up singer to Katrina Natale. Her voice is not as assertive as the female vocals on Ki or as centre-stage as Anneke's vocalizations on Addicted! Neither does she go for the operatic vocals of Floor Jansen on Deconstruction -- she has her own thing going, and honestly no one else could have sung these songs better.
"Monsoon" is arguably the greatest instrumental song Devin Townsend has written. The acoustic guitar tone, the constantly rising synth modulations that evoke Sigur Ros, the gentle flutes are all interwoven into a cohesive whole, and the end result is goose bumps over goose bumps. When I first heard this song, I could hardly hold back my tears.
Though one may feel the whole disc blends into the background as the songs are too alike thematically, this assessment could not be further from the truth. The way Devin Townsend sings over a wicked synth throb in less than two minutes before the album's other mammoth number, "Texada," kicks in is one of the many highpoints only. Thick soundscapes foil his restrained yet heartfelt voice whilst a multitude of background noises get more prominent, but you are never quite sure where they are coming from or what the source is. In a sense, this reminds me of his first masterpiece, Ocean Machine, where he used a lot of voice samples in the background -- a constant stream of voices running beneath the central instruments. Listening to this at night is like hearing things drifting around you like fleeting whispers of a ghost.
To make the whole four-disc concept (whose focus is catharsis) come full circle, the final moments of "As You Were" reference the opening song "A Monday," off of the first album. It makes you want to go back and hear Ki from start to finish. Brilliant.
Ghost is Devin Townsend's most atmospheric musical statement. It is subtle with zero aggression yet it is one of his finest achievements musically with unbelievable sonic clarity, production values, and artwork (designed by Travis Smith). This man is the most dedicated modern artist of whom I am aware. If you're a fan, support him and accept no substitutes.
- 1. Fly
- Heart Baby
- Dark Matters
- Infinite Ocean
- As You Were