BAND OF THE WEEK: GHOST BOX ORCHESTRA + THOUGHT FORMS

20 May

The threads the connect Ghost Box Orchestra – the Boston-based group that just recently appeared with an extraordinary second LP, entitled “Vanished” – with Thought Forms – their contemporaries from across the pond, who not too terribly long ago scaled great heights on a stunning album called “Ghost Mountain” – are arguably so thin as to be invisible. Some might even say these threads are ghost-like.

But then again, couldn’t the same be said about all that connects us? We’re all one, dude.

Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Both of these bands circle around a label we’ll define as somewhat indefinable, mowing down a large, multi-colored swath from a very large field of influences in order to create something quite striking, something quite memorable. And while neither band is strictly vocal-free, the voices here seem greatly intertwined with the music, as opposed to soaring above it, and both bands are comfortable and compelling when they choose to set the controls of their musical machinery for instrumental overdrive.

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Thought Forms ride along a wavelength that, solely by description, sounds like something approaching madness. While built from a highly improvisational foundation, Thought Forms are comfortable taking cues from distant ends of the sonic spectrum. Certain peaks and plateaus of “Ghost Mountain” (like the opening missive, “Landing”) could be mistaken for something like the punishing sludge of Thou, while other points of the audio ascent could be mistaken for unreleased Lush b-sides. Thou art in for a spooky night on “Ghost Mountain” – as evidenced by the haunting howl that opens the album’s centerpiece, “Burn Me Clean,” a thirteen-minute purification-via-amplification ritual that’s equally threatening and transcendent.

In contrast to the way that Thought Forms sculpt their sound through panoramic peaks and valleys on “Ghost Mountain,” Ghost Box Orchestra have delivered on “Vanished” an album that positively bursts with impressively microscopic detail.

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The vision here is largely refined, streamlined and precise – the complex geometry of fractal mysticism given life in song. Yet for all the precision on display throughout “Vanished,” from the bad-ass bass-rumble that opens the album with an imperial march of “Vader” to the cosmic cowboy closing of “Desert Lights,” the band never sounds anything less than human. Not to put too fine a point on it, but “Vanished” is never in danger of disappearing up its own ass. Driven by a precise yet human heartbeat, the band can recall the best moments of the kosmische sounds that inspire our devotion. A case in point: “Rhythm of the Hills,” all steady beat, wordless, echoing chants, oscillating guitar lines and fabulously freaked-out synth stabs.

Do we believe in ghosts? No comment. But for the time being, we’re confident in declaring a strong belief in Thought Forms and Ghost Box Orchestra.

“Vanished” is available now via Ghost Box Orchestra’s Bandcamp page.

“Ghost Mountain” by Thought Forms is available from Invada Records.

“I think fear is a result of impurity. And impurity means, thoughts that define oneself in a ‘profane’ sense, that is, thoughts which define oneself as separate. As long as you are attached to those thought forms, you are going to fear, because it involves the extinction of that separate being, that separate conceptual entity … In the Tibetan literature they say, ‘Embrace your ten thousand horrible demons and your ten thousand beautiful demons.’ You’ve just got to take it all and keep going. All your fears have to be embraced, entertained, honored, and you go on with them.”

– Ram Dass, “Embracing Fear

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