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Townsend, Devin: Ghost

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.

Tracklisting

  1. 1. Fly
  2. Heart Baby
  3. Feather
  4. Kawaii
  5. Ghost
  6. Blackberry
  7. Monsoon
  8. Dark Matters
  9. Texada
  10. Seams
  11. Infinite Ocean
  12. As You Were

Added: August 21st 2011
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Score:
Related Link: Devin Townsend website
Hits: 2698
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Townsend, Devin: Ghost
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-08-21 11:56:38
My Score:

Devin Townsend has always been one to experiment with different styles in his music, especially in his own Devin Townsend Project. Ranging from crazy extreme progressive metal to pop, atmospheric rock, and now ambient, this project has shown the eclectic and multi-faceted musician that "Hevy Devy" truly is. Ghost, the fourth and final installment in the Devin Townsend Project, is radically different than anything else the man has ever done - even by Devin Townsend standards, this album stands out substantially from the rest of his work. Rather than using rock or metal influences, Ghost is almost entirely based in extremely calming and tranquil ambient/new age - quite a contrast to the wacky extreme prog metal of Deconstruction! This album is filled with lush atmospheres, pastoral instrumental passages, and soothing vocals, topped off with an excellent production and calming soundscapes. Ghost isn't flawless by any means, and I think Devin Townsend could've succeeded a bit more at an approach to ambient music, but this is generally a beautiful album that I'd recommend.

Musically, Ghost is focused on long, drawn-out ambiance, rather than complexity or technical prowess. For the most part, I think Devin succeeds tremendously at creating lush atmospheres and beautiful compositions. The spacey synths, pastoral acoustic guitars, jazz-oriented drumming, airy vocals, and flute passages give the listener a feeling of relaxation, and the light-hearted compositions make the relaxation even more inevitable. Although Devin Townsend's ability to create fantastic arrangements is ultimately the finest asset of Ghost, the songwriting does take a bit of a dive about halfway through the album. It may be partially due to Ghost's insanely long running time - over 70 minutes of music this simple and relaxing is bound to get a bit boring - but it also seems that some of the later tracks lack the memorability of "Fly" or, my personal favorite, "Feather". Ghost feels a bit too drawn-out for my tastes, and occasionally induces boredom towards its second half - something that could've been easily eliminated if the album were trimmed down by about a half-hour. Despite my complaint about the album's running time, the lush atmospheres and crisp production do remain excellent throughout all of Ghost, and keep any of the songs from coming across as completely disposable.

Ghost is probably the definition of an "acquired taste". People who love ambient and new age music will undoubtedly find plenty to love here, but I can't shake the feeling that it feels too drawn-out at times, despite being extremely beautiful and relaxing. Devin Townsend really took a risk with Ghost, and although it isn't perfect, the fact that he ended up creating a very high-quality album is applause-worthy. I wouldn't say this is a good entry point into Devin Townsend's music, but it has enough worth to justify a purchase from any fan of the "mad scientist of metal". 3 - 3.5 stars are well-deserved here. I'm glad I heard Ghost; I'll certainly take it out again when I'm in the mood for a well-produced new age album.

Townsend, Devin: Ghost
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-07-07 16:23:04
My Score:

Ghost is the fourth installment in a 4-part series by the Devin Townsend Project, and actually maps out pretty well with the opening entry Ki in that it is a mostly lush, atmospheric work that is pretty different from just about anything else that Devin Townsend has produced to date.

Does it work, however? That is ultimately going to be up to the listener. There's no doubt that Ghost was a massive undertaking for Townsend, as the layer upon layer of acoustic guitars, flute sounds, keyboards, and quiet vocal tones all weave and mesh with each other, creating this dreamy, drifting wash of sound that is totally unexpected from the veteran metal rocker. Strapping Young Lad this is certainly not. While I can appreciate the lush melodies and near perfect production values here, after repeated spins of Ghost, it just doesn't seem like something that I'm going to revisit often. Hevy Devy doing his New Age thing, while admirable and certainly impressive, just doesn't warrant repeat spins. As lulling background music? Sure. But do we really want to listen to Devin Townsend as meditative music to go to sleep to? Not in my book.

I'm going to give Ghost 2.5 stars, with most of the props going for the overall effort, but losing points on the CD as a whole as having limited staying power. In the end, Deconstruction and Addicted just overpower Ghost and Ki, but somehow I think that's just what Devin wanted, as he shows us a lot of what he is all about in four little packages.



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