Ghost in the Clocks | Anoice
Ricco (LP, CD, DL)
From Anoice (care of Ricco Records – Tokyo) comes the 5th installment of a cinematic instrumental post-rock saga of their own creation. Members of this super-group have since made worlds of their own as solo artists but ‘Ghost in the Clocks’ is announced as a follow-up to the 2012 album ‘The Black Rain.’ In the between not only a 4th album but solo projects from Takahiro Kido and Yuki Murata, and side projects RiLF, Films, and Mizu Amane. These paths are tempting tendrils to trace. Nevertheless, when taking this assignment I knew it’d require some degree of seriousness. I wanted to focus on the narrative – the imaginary structure established in a world returned to after seven years. Furthermore, Yoko Shinto returns to make the album art and bridge a continuance. So of course, I started with ‘The Black Rain.’
It’d be nice to spare the details of my engagement. Nothing so pathetic and dramatic as taking a Tramadol (I’m recovering from a tooth extraction) and laying in the dark. However, this is exactly how I began my journey – and not without pouring a modest portion of absinthe first. While my effects set in, so did the music and atmospheric space. One of my first take-aways is that there is a strong patience and tentative durationalism within the overall aesthetic of rock-opera. One doesn’t listen for hooks and catchy beats here. Thankfully, these elements are foregone, non-present. What takes their place is a bold piano and strings combination. These elements alternate over the course of an album. Some compositions tend to feature a heavier hand of one than the other in the mix. Occasionally, the faintest diminished electronic loop or static crinkle enters the fabric. Overall though, these are pages of songs. One can ruminate on a single passage and get lost in it, feel its lifespan, and continue on – putting it into a greater context.
The title taken into consideration, ‘The Black Rain’ communicates, in a literary sense, an exploration of self (the album starts with the track ‘self-portrait’) and experience with the surrounding realm. The plot is intuitive, devoid of character – the listener is given peculiar visual clues as to what to ponder during the pensive tentatively evolving songs. What unfolds is a romance between self-awareness and self-loss drawn from imaginary settings. There is cold. There is a stirring commotion. There is a cat and paper, then, an ending. ‘Finale’ charges the entire album as a storm – enter fuzzed guitar and strong bass. Then sleep.
I took coffee and resumed my usual critical position after riding out an attentive listen of ‘The Black Rain.’ Instead of laying on my basement studio couch in the dark, I perched at the upstairs kitchen table before a word processor. The serenity of the classical elements of Anoice do anything but calm. There is suspense and tension tactfully arranged. One may be seduced with the ambient slowness while at the same time become unnerved with the melodies. Of course, I needed a cigarette intermission which accompanied ‘after the rain,’ the first track of ‘Ghost in the Clocks.’
The piano’s rapid rhythmic pattern of melodic descendent-unto-ascent rolling and a thick percussive entrance quake the listener through the second track, ‘time.’ It ends with an audio interpretation of something mechanized – presumably we encounter the clock within which there is a ghost. Hence, ‘missing’ heralds strings and a recollection of rains past. Everyone loves a tragedy and that maxim empowers the memory or longing for whatever mysterious direct object relates to that which with the song refers. ‘Room with nobody’ tenderly grants the space to be alone. ‘heroes’ rises; a drawn-drone over powerful swells. By the final measures (piano solo), one may certainly be inspired with pride and a confidence as elicited with an inspiring character.
We are reminded of the clock before ‘it’ lingers into the story. Whatever this ‘it’ is the piano-oriented ballad implies a sense of wonderment and sorrow. The last three tracks spell an ominous spaced-out brilliance. No spoiler but the culminating climax is satisfying. As someone who appreciates the symphonic, experiments in electronics, meddles on guitar – one thing that tickled me about this album are the parallels it holds to its predecessor album. Also, there is a cyclic use of thematic modalities which orients the listener to the conceptual core, a clock. Somewhere in my memory there’s a quote about music being a unique art form as it is immaterial, dependent on the passage of time, imaginative. It must be Bernstein of Einstein… regardless, what Anoice has arrived at with Ghost in the Clocks is all of these – an unabashed contemporary ‘future-classic.’