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Songs: Ohia | Ghost Tropic (Secretly Canadian)
On his fifth full-length release, Jason Molina, who, for all intents and purposes, is Songs: Ohia, has abandoned the skewed angularity and repressed rage of his previous work and created a master-class in mood and menace. A record that slowly creeps into your consciousness, lulling the listener with its hypnotic pull into a dark landscape of crushed and abandoned dreams. It begins with only a bare percussion riff, like a skull being pounded on by bones and then Molina's voice, surprisingly deep and rich, intones "There are no guides/ It is a separate world." From there on, the record slowly unfolds, each song building gradually, often starting with nothing more than a strummed guitar as layers of piano, glockenspiel and organ are slowly deployed. This is Molina's journey to the end of the night, the still point of calm before everything breaks apart. Chords hang in the air, there is little progression, just the ebb and flow of the rhythm, over which Molina sings the sparse, imagistic tone poems in a voice wracked with doubt and fear. There are so many great moments on this record, like the ominous introduction of the piano in The Ocean's Nerves, the slowly building chorus of The Body Burned Away and the bird calls and jungle sounds of the title track. But, it is on the two 12 minute epics that Ghost Tropic reaches its zenith. Not Just a Ghost's Heart slowly percolates, lulling you into its gentle sway, until at 9:49, dissonant guitar chords come crashing down and it sounds like the whole world has just been rent apart. This is followed by Incantation, the end of the line. Molina's voice becoming increasingly forlorn and desperate as he repeats "Speak to me/ Work it out with me" over a sinister organ underpinning, slowly winding the album down until there is nothing left but Molina's voice and then, not even that, just the faint wash of chords fading away.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001