Review of Damon & Naomi with Ghost
November 30, 2000

When I first saw this CD, I thought the phrase "With Ghost" was its title. It seemed a play on words, a reference perhaps to the somewhat archaic phrase "with child" designating pregnancy, and implied a morbid sort of intimation that we are all, all of us, "with ghost," bearing death inside us. (Apparently, I need to lay off the Bergman movies just before bedtime...)

Instead, the phrase turns out to be literal and a reference to the Japanese acid-folk band Ghost, who accompany Damon & Naomi on this release. Their presence blends subtly with Damon & Naomi's typical sound, a delicate mesh of acoustic and electric guitars, a diverse array of keyboard embellishments, and Naomi Yang's distinctively melodic, arching basslines. "The Great Wall" provides a typical example: there's no bass at all until a minute into the track, and then when the chorus comes in, Yang plays a high-register countermelody to complement the vocal line rather than the more obvious thumping chord-root notes. Damon Krukowski continues with the spare, minimalist drumming that made Galaxie 500 so distinct, taking full advantage of the interplay between sound and silence. Ghost's presence is most obvious in the chanting and percussion on "The New World" and in the slow-burning guitar fuse that lights up the eight- plus minutes of "Tanka" (and perhaps in that song's title, which refers to a Japanese verse form). The combination of the two acts works well, and "Tanka" is a high point. It begins with acoustic guitar and piano and double-tracked vocals from Yang, builds through Krukowski's increasingly assertive drumming and Yang's surefooted bass-playing into a crescendoing volley of pungently distorted guitars in a nearly Television-like display of architectonic structural development.

Other highlights include the yearning falsetto chorus and mellotron backdrop of "The Mirror Phase" and a gorgeous cover of Big Star's "Blue Moon," whose haunting mood of resigned despair colors much of this CD--perhaps making the CD's title more apt than mere description.