GHOST Channeling sounds from a higher being.
Ghost,
Six Organs of Admittmance
Fri Oct 1
Berbati's Pan
10 SW 3rd

Folk music has been getting dosed by hallucinogens for nearly 40 years--it only seems right and natural for a music that has roots in pagan cultures to be influenced by mind-altering substances. It's been hypothesized by people with advanced degrees that drugs were catalysts for religion and art. That's not to imply that our protagonists, Ghost and Six Organs of Admittance, gobble psychedelics, but their music sure sounds as if it were created under their power.

Led by guitarist/vocalist/acupuncture enthusiast Masaki Batoh, Japan's Ghost create songs that possess the aura of ancient rituals, but remain thrillingly relevant and vital today--even as they employ archaic tools like Celtic harp, bouzouki, tin whistle, lute, and tabla. Over their six studio albums (excluding a live disc and a 2000 joint release with Damon & Naomi), Ghost have erected an ornate temple of folkadelic splendor that has only accrued value with age. Their latest album, Hypnotic Underworld, is Ghost's most melodically complex and stylistically diverse work, moving from tranquility to turbulence and from austerity to baroque excess with balletic grace.

Five years passed between Ghost joint-releasing two albums--Tune In, Turn On, Free Tibet and Snuffbox Immanence--in 1999 and Hypnotic Underworld, yet the hiatus didn't diminish the group's creativity. Rather, the new disc sounds like Ghost's most fully realized effort. What led to such impressive results?

"Acid Guru/Taishi Takizawa was back to Ghost," Batoh writes via e-mail in charmingly broken English. "He had been absent for us for 10 years. He has been our producer and most important music core. I just write songs, but cannot arrange or produce them."

Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple, another Japanese bandleader conversant with tripped-out music, claims that his songs manifest in him after being channeled from sounds beamed down from a higher being. Does this ever happen to Batoh?

"I agree with him," he says. "Music falls from highest sphere. We don't make music. It's born naturally."

Ghost are famous for playing temples, churches, ruins, fields, woods, caves--places far removed from the tobacco-poisoned and booze-soaked dives typically haunted by rock groups. When the group ventures to North America, they can adapt to the less-than-sanguinary conditions. "Most important thing is not the place," says Batoh, "but if they have their own living atmosphere or not."

Six Organs of Admittance (which is northern Cali musician Ben Chasny's solo project--he also plays with psych brutes Comets on Fire) shares the bill with Ghost, and has a similar vibe of living atmosphere. After emerging as a primal folkadelic force in the late '90s, Chasny uses acoustic and electric guitars, hand percussion, bells, and electronics, to evoke medieval Britain's misty moors while avoiding hokey Tolkien associations. What elevates his songs above the fey fairyland frivolity that sometimes tarnishes Tyrannosaurus Rex and Donovan (two influences on Chasny's sound) are his application of the mesmerizing mojo of drones and ragas.

"I originally started because I would order records, and... they were never quite as psychedelic or freaked out as I had hoped," says Chasny, who's recently signed to Drag City after issuing seven stellar albums for several minuscule imprints. "[So] I decided to just make the freaked-out record that I wanted to hear."

Six Organs' new album (tentatively titled School of the Flower and due in January) is poised to raise Chasny's profile and sound. It was recorded "in a badass studio, instead of on a 4-track at home," he notes. "So instead of having an old beer-soaked SM 57 propped up in a six-pack for a mic stand, I had a couple thousand-dollar mics on my guitar. So there's a whole rainbow of colors and subtlety that was never apparent [before].

Chasny largely credits psychedelic folk's resurgence in popularity to Devendra Banhart, whom he calls "not only one of the most gifted songwriters around, but [someone who] is also very charismatic. That always draws more attention. Then the ugly old folks like [me] can sneak in there and get a few shows, as well."