BEFORE THEN - Part 1
(tracks 1 - 2)
ALONE, ALONE - Part 2
(tracks 4 - 8)
NO WAKE - Part 3
(tracks 9 - 13)
With little more than a change of clothes, their instruments and a phone number to call when they got there, the naïve band of youngsters arrived bleary eyed late one night after a long-haul flight from Oz on the doorstep of Steve’s office in Hoboken, NJ. “Oh cool, you made it. Where are you guys staying?” “errr… <nervous laughter> Here?” With no management or guidance, in all their youthful enthusiasm, they’d managed to overlook some of the basic essentials. Huh. Thankfully, through the kindness & generosity of Steve’s label assistant, Rich Zerbo, the three piled into Rich’s small apartment for the next 17 days. (Oh dear, how embarrassing.)
The NYC Ghosts flower
On the first day of recording, the trio rode the ferry across the Hudson River from Hoboken to Manhattan Island and noticed a sign on the bank, that read “NO WAKE”. Hmmm, what did that mean? It was quickly explained that it was an instruction to the drivers to keep their speeds down to not cause damage to the banks by causing waves to lap at the shore. Ha! Of course, though Shilo took the words (outside of their intended maritime meaning) to be “a sign” as they applied to the mood of a group of pieces that had been written for the recording session about “floating in a coma”. These would be the first tracks to be recorded that day.
Upon arrival at the studio the Ghost trio were introduced to their engineer Luc Suer, a tall, gentle Dutchman who would immediately make them feel welcome & along with Steve was crucial in helping to capture the sounds that would make up the <Alone, Alone> album to 2 inch tape. After receiving blessings from Lee & Thurston to use whatever gear they liked, they were led like kids through a candy store into Sonic Youth HQ. Walls lined with guitars, rooms full of vintage amplifiers, percussion rooms, tape archive rooms. What a treat. Each guitar had the tuning written on some tape stuck to the headstock to indicate which songs were played on them. Remarkably, a quick strum proved that to be the case, that indeed sounds like Kool Thing, this one sounds like Expressway to yr Skull. If you licked the wallpaper the Snozberries definitely tasted like Snozberries 😉
“We are the Music-Makers, and we are the Dreamers of Dreams”
The Ghosts set up in the main live room. Shilo deciding upon a beautiful old Super Reverb of Ranaldo’s with the famous Jasper Johns target to play through. Another “sign” of fortuitous synchronicity that seemed auspicious was that the Jazzmaster that was leaning against the amp was in exactly the same obscure tuning as the “No Wake” pieces that had been prepared for the sessions that day.
Right place- right Time!
After an initial bed of shimmering cymbal rolls and whirring slide was made, conjuring up a timeless sea of weightless candy-floss clouds, high above the honks and bustle of Downtown Manhattan, The Ghosts proceeded to “Float” their way through day. The numb honey buzz of a vibraphone here, the plink of a guitar like an ECG heart monitor there. They made musical anaesthesia. Melodies formed into songs, with Eno-esque oblique-like strategy titles ~~ Play like “Nothing Has To Happen” … inevitably “something” always does. The emotions pass through and across the tracks like clouds across a sky. The light dances on the ripples on the surface, though the weight of the innate state remains calm.
The electrified ambience of The Ghosts conceptual and minimal meanderings however were always strangely counterbalanced by an underlying classical, almost Romantic European Folk element, possibly due in part to their use of the traditional accordion & violin in many of their tunes, an element which therefore made it difficult to pigeon-hole this group into any specific genre, except for vague sweeping terms like, “Instrumental” or “Post-Rock”. This gave their records a “timeless” quality and far more eclectic , like “Soundtrack” though the films had seemingly not been written for them yet – and strangely, even to this day, Hungry Ghosts’ music has not graced the silver screen.
“I Don’t Think About You Anymore But I Don’t Think About You Anyless” is one prime example of this strange European Folk mood they so deftly conjure. It is instantly filmic, yet somehow exists purely in the imaginations of its audience. Employing piano accordion, violin, acoustic guitar & vibraphone, the music has obviously struck a chord since its inception last century. Now in the 21st Century, since the introduction and widespread use of the Internet with platforms like YouTube, this stirring piece has gained much attention, over 11 and a half million views on one particular upload. One need only scroll down the thousands of comments, to see how it has triggered peoples’ imaginations with long slabs of poetry & prose.
released June 20, 2000
All music by HUNGRY GHOSTS
J.P. Shilo/ T.J. Howden/ J.G. Boneham
Recorded and engineered by Luc Suer in NYC at the Sonic Youth studio June 3-5 1999
Produced By Hungry Ghosts with Steve Shelley and Luc Suer
Steve Shelley appears on tracks 2,9 & 14
Alone Alone symbol by J.P. Shilo
paint by T.J. Howden
With thanks to Steve Shelley, Luc Suer, Sonic Youth and Rich Zerbo
Originally released on CD on Smells Like Records slr-039
Culled from unreleased recordings from her recent "Light Sleep" and "Voice Hardcore" releases, Hiromi Moritani's latest showcases the softer, less harrowing side of Phew’s sound Bandcamp Album of the Day Sep 2, 2020