Litany Reviews: cEvin Key's The Ghost of Each Room - by Corey Goldberg
cEvin Key's previous solo outing, "Music For Cats", was an eclectic collection of orphaned pieces of music spanning a number of years. The tracks were those initially deemed too weird to fit within the context of other projects. The disarming result, though rewarding to dedicated listeners, was not easily accessible for some. "The Ghost of Each Room", however, is a different animal. Instead of the 'mix-tape' feel of "Cats…", the tracks on "Ghost…" form a stylistic and conceptual whole. The record is far from repetitive, however. Aided by the wide range of collaborators, each song offers a new flavor. Yet each is merely one course of a large and satisfying meal. With a prevailingly dark atmosphere, the album is aptly titled. This record is not dark in a grim and gloomy sense, but evokes a more playful spooky character. The ghosts which populate these rooms are not so malevolent as they are mischievous. The result is a tone somewhere between Skinny Puppy's "Remission" and Doubting Thomas's "The Infidel".
"Bobs Shadow" sets this tone with Frankie Pett's theremin work, instantly recalling the soundtracks of classic horror films. Couple that with an absolutely classic cEvin bass-line and you have an exemplary track brimming with feeling. This is not electronic music for electronic music's sake.
"TAtayama" (a track originally released as a remix by cEvin for a Sonic video game) is another highlight that shows what cEvin can do when manipulating horns. This song makes me wish cEvin would work with them to a greater extent on a future project.
"Horopter" is a rhythmic tour de force with a warm bass-line anchoring a paranoid drum track that continues to collapse into effects and then re-coalesce. Eventually, cEvin's spacious acoustic drumming replaces the electronic track. This cleverly opens up a new angle of the track simply through the drums.
"15th Shade" features the vocal talents of cEvin's Tear Garden collaborator, Edward Ka-Spel. Edward's vocals are in the creepy, half-whispered vein of "Empathy with the Devil". The real highlight of "15th Shade" is hearing cEvin playing guitar and acoustic drums in this format, vaguely reminiscent of what the Tear Garden album might have sounded like had it remained a duo project. Of course, one cannot overlook the groovy-beyond-belief bass of Bill Van Roy.
"Sklang" comes from further to the left, with a downpour of delay FX coating the beginning of the track. As it progresses, however, a crunchy, nervous rhythm appears. Distant sounds and atmospheric synths summon forth the spectral imagery of the album title.
The most oft-discussed and highly anticipated track is doubtlessly "Frozen Sky", which reunites Ogre and cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy in the studio for the first time since the ill-fated "The Process" album. The track also features Ken Marshall, who worked on a number of Skinny Puppy recordings. It may be pointless to review this song, as almost anyone who would be reading this has probably already listened to it a thousand times, but I feel it worthwhile to discuss anyway. Some have expressed disappointment in "Frozen Sky" in that it is not innovative enough, that it doesn't progress beyond ground that Skinny Puppy have already covered. While there is certainly some Skinny Puppy flavor here, I feel that "Frozen Sky" ups the ante a bit. Ogre has come a long way vocally since the original recordings of Skinny Puppy (as the Doomsday CD attests) and it shows. The music seems to have evolved as well, in particular the guitar is integrated more successfully than on most Skinny Puppy. While Dwayne is of course not present on this song, his influence can heard throughout the track. The result is a quality track which, while it may not be a huge leap for them, shows them re-lighting those old pathways and testing the waters of working together again. I think "Frozen Sky" is not only hugely successful in that respect, but bodes very well for any future collaborations. It proves that the combination of cEvin, Ogre, and Ken Marshall can succeed in producing music that is still miles ahead of the rest.
"Aphasia" is without a doubt my favorite track on the album. Somewhat reminiscent of Doubting Thomas, it is a carefully constructed and well developed tapestry of analogish sounds that recall some of the earliest electronic bands. Constructed of hinting gestures more than full melody, it has a breathtaking emotional power and depth. The subtle application of strings is enough to bring you to tears.. A stunning example of the high potential of electronic music, I think "Aphasia" is hands-down one of the best tracks cEvin has ever done.
"Klora" is laid back reggae influenced groove betraying the Jamaican origin of the dialogue samples. cEvin is heard on acoustic drums here, making this track a real treat.
"cccc4" is another superb track. Melodically strong, yet brimming with insane percussion, this song illustrates cEvin's potential when working with structural formats beyond the cliched looped phrase repeated ad nauseum.
"A Certain Stuuckey" features Ka-Spel as well as most of the other Legendary Pink Dots in an album-ending extended experimental jam. Colored with ethnic/world percussion, it sounds like one of the improv tracks from "Sheila Liked the Rodeo" crossed paths with "Effector".
Coherent yet varied, eclectic yet unified, this CD is a must for all listeners of Skinny Puppy, Download, Tear Garden, et al. Even the casual SP fan who hasn't yet gotten to the various satellite projects will want to pick this one up immediately. "Frozen Sky" is a Skinny Puppy track in all but name and will thrill anyone who yearns to hear cEvin and Ogre collaborate again. "The Ghost of Each Room" is a fine album that is not to be missed.