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Masaki Batoh / Sweet & Honey | Collected Works 1995-1996 / Live at Your Cosmic Mind (Drag City)
The critical praise emanating from the more astute ears of the overground press was nigh on staggering for Ghost's last album release, Drag City's 'Hypnotic Underworld': an impressive feat for an uncompromising commune of Japanese shamen, merry pranksters and psychedelic psychonauts.
Maybe Masaki Batoh's band of lysergic libertines aren't quite ready to give their Chas and Dave inclined namesakes a run for their money at the top of the pops, but the increased awareness of the translucent world of Ghost makes these two reissues all the more timely.
Batoh's 'Collected Works 1995-1996' compiles two limited edition albums, 'A Ghost from the darkened sea' and 'Kikaokubeshi', both realised around the time of Ghost's 'Lama Rabi Rabi' album. A more personal affair than the Ghost canon, although various members of Ghost contribute to the proceedings, the 'Collected Works' showcase Batoh's formidable skills as an improviser, multi-instrumentalist and troubadour. Batoh runs the gamut of bleak, twisted folk, lengthy vintage synthesiser drones and fractured world music, highlighting his love of the wildly experimental music exploding from the 1970s Teutonic underground. Indeed, a cap is doffed in the direction of metronomic masters Can, as Batoh reinvents Yoo Doo Right as a hauntingly claustrophobic acoustic workout, complete with an "upstairs, downstairs" refrain referencing the occasion of singer Malcolm Mooney's breakdown. 'Collected Works' is the musical equivalent of hidden, magical texts and arcane lore, languishing on academics' dusty, creaking shelves.
Although operating in the shadows, Sweet & Honey were clearly more of a good time proposition. If by a good time, you equate fast drugs, high volume, swampy production and full on, full throttle acid rock, that is. The quartet, active at the cusp of the late '80s/early '90s and including Batoh in their ranks, belched forth a propulsive caveman roar of guitars, percussion and Space Ritual blasts of primitive Hawkwind synthesisers. 'Live at your cosmic mind' is a gargantuan space-rock supernova that assaults the senses with an MC5 mainline of raw energy before becalming the nerves with a gentle capsule ride down to Earth on trajectories mapped out by Pink Floyd, circa 'Live at Pompeii'.
Two fascinating peeks into Ghost's communal psychedelic wardrobe and not a sight of the Emperor's new clothes.

Simon Berkovitch
November-December 2004

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