Ghost Rhythms – Imaginary Mountains (2020)
Few bands can move so comfortably between the lines of progressive rock, fusion and minimalism and yet retain a versatile and homogeneous orchestral line-up like the French Ghost Rhythms. No matter the size of the this ensemble, they meet the same outcome whether they are recording an imaginary soundtrack or a live gig. At the end their music has a very unique flavor that masterfully balances wistful melodies, angular polyrhythmic grooves, aggressive rock orchestrations with groovy fusionesque tainting. Then it’s easy to expect that their new release Imaginary Mountains could all but not show all those aspects and provide some exhilarating moments.
After the attention they raised with the double album Madeleine, a cinematic masterpiece of orchestral progressive minimalism, and the unrestrained Live at Yoshiwara, the ensemble comes back with an heterogeneous set of tracks, two of which pivoting over the 10 minutes duration. The duo made by drummer Xavier Gelard and pianist Camille Petit is still the core and the main engine behind the band. Still this time it’s the hard edges of guitarist Tom Namias taking often the reins, not to mention other keys players in Ghost Rhythms‘ music, such as Alexis Collion at accordion or Gregory Kosovski at bass.
Take one of the first tracks the band prepared in a remote exercise of recording: Sierra de Tamuraque is a minimalist exercise, with Camille Petit building a pattern of ascending lines that a metal guitar and a flute duplicate in a tight counterpoint. Many sketched tracks interlap the two major epic ones. The first, Tumuc Humac, starts with a clapping that bounces back and forth between a rhythm in 2 and another in 3. That’s just the preparation for the piano to introduce the main theme articulated in bars in 2 + 3 + 2 + 2. Evetually guitar, sax and flute harmonize it in counterpoint. After the long intro, a more angular progressive bridge prepares for a prolonged plateau, that Gelard masterfully drives with a backbeat. Petit enters the fray again with the repeated main theme at around the fourth minute mark, blending it with a variation of the initial counterpointing harmonization.
Ghost Rhythms love to dig into the mysteries to draw inspiration for their tracks; so it is for Tumuc Humac, which borrows its title from an unexistent place, believed to be in Guyana. The middle part of the piece is full of mystery and again shows how masterfully the band can swiftly move from energetic moves to eerie and poignant soundscapes. After the guitar solo, the powerful closure is an intricate riddle of orchestrated lines that balance metal, chamber and brass elements, when eventually collapsing in an haunting finale where instruments bounce back and forth in counterpointing each other.
The opening three minutes of Horizontal Ascension, the second epic track in the records, veers around a bombastic wall of sound, with shifting accents and harder edges, which still creates the ideal ground for the poignant melody on the top. For the first time the instrumental band is joined by a singer, with a text inspired by René Daumal’s esoteric novel that inspired Jodorowksi’s Holy Mountain). In the following two minutes violinist Augustin Lusson entertains the audience with a juicy solo that moves quickly the track into the territories of 70s fusion -it could have been easily inspired by Jean-Luc Ponty. The tension abruptly decades, with a prolonged and intense section made of shifting counterpoints with punctuated ascending lines by guitar and piano. But Ghost Rhythms always love to create the ground for sweet and singing melodic detours: so it is in the second part of the track, with the slower tempo paving the road to the melodramatic comeback of the opening theme.
Imaginary Mountains is divided in overstructured tracks, like the two epics, and atmospheric interludes that explore rhythmic or melodic ideas in the form of short etudes: probably the only exception is the gorgeous twisted Coudreau’s dream. The groovy track aptly mixes brass fantasy, driving guitars, playful and confusing accents and a masterful and ironic use of the accordion. But what’s unexpected is that the piece originated from a drum track recorded for another project: a true xenochronic experiment, like the band suggests.
Ghost Rhythms are always blasting and fun, melodic, yet creating complex music thanks to advanced orchestration, a thirst for extending the realms of progressive, chamber and fusion music; and yet Imaginary Mountains makes no exception.
- Path to Oyapock 03:35
- Tumuc Humac 11:26
- GR 1 00:40
- Sierra de Tamuraque 02:02
- Oayana Circles 04:07
- GR 2 01:03
- Horizontal Ascension 10:39
- Le Mont Analogue 03:38
- GR 3 01:05
- Coudreau’s dream 05:13
- Vie de Raymond Maufrais 03:31
accordion (and sounds) : Alexis Collin
e-bow, drums, guitar chorus on Coudreau’s dream : Xavier Gélard
violin : Augustin Lusson
cello : Nadia Mejri-Chapelle
bass : Gregory Kosovski
guitars and viola : Tom Namias
keyboards : Camille Petit
saxophones and flute : Maxime Thiébaut
harpsichord : Darja Zemele
flute on Tumuc Humac and Horizontal Ascension : Julien Bigorgne
guitar chorus on Tumuc Humac : Guillaume Aventurin
voice on Tumuc Humac : Sarah Baroux
voice on Horizontal Ascension : Sonia Bricout
plucked piano on Tumuc Humac : Samuel Collin