Music Reviews

Artist: Sonic Area (@)
Title: Music for Ghosts
Format: CD
Label: Ant-Zen (@)
Rated: *****
Sonic Area is the project name of electronic-industrial music artist Arnaud Coëffic (aka Arco trauma) from France. Sonic Area has been active since 1997-98 with a number of previous releases I haven't been exposed to, mostly on the Audiotrauma label. (This one is a joint Ant-Zen and Audiotrauma release.) 'Music for Ghosts' isn't just music for any old ghosts, it is music for certain types of ghosts, those that seem to have some style and creativity, if the music (or the cover) is any indication. Beginning with a brief series of sound effects, the album moves quickly into a slow, unworldly theme, light and mysterious at first, then heavy and ominous as it moves along. The listener is then presented with some dialogue about spirit manifestation taken from the final Houdini séance.

'The Living Carousel' is demented calliope music dredged up from some long decayed and abandoned amusement park with touches of Danny Elfman fairy dust. 'The Infernal Clockwork' screams STEAMPUNK, but yet something more. 'The Endless Staircase' has a stuttering beat and melody and no matter how high you climb, you never reach the top, always back where you began. Real or illusion? Who can say? 'Eureka' has maniacal cartoony orchestration and we're back in Elfman territory again, maybe scoring for some Tim Burton animation. That's 5:37 of crazy intensity! After a brief interlude ('Dead Muse') that sounds like an old phonograph recording, the listener is thrust into the thick of the spirit world with 'Inframonde' ' lots of wordless voice choir, sequenced electronics and orchestral backing. Very dramatic. If you thought that was fun, just wait until 'The Haunted Hall Motel Ballade' which follows ' a stately, ghostly march, Ennio Morricone style!

More heavenly (or ghostly) choir with grand orchestration follows on the brief 'Those Eternal Seconds,' leading into 'The Magic Storyteller,' a pastiche of card-shuffling, disembodies strange voices, snake-charmer music, orchestral stabs and accents, broken themes, percussion and more over relentless sequencer loop. The basis for 'Once More into the Breach Dear Friends' is an unconventional concertina sequence built upon by strong percussion, bass and orchestration, and eventually, those ghostly voices. It sounds a lot heavier and more industrial than you'd imagine, yet there is a melodic theme woven throughout. 'Middle Night Ballet' could be some ghost plunking out some lost tune on the old piano in a cobweb filled room ending with (wood) creaking and echoes of a long gone vocalist and orchestra down the hall. Leading into final track 'Funeral March for an Empire' are vocoder vocal, a transmission from the spirit world. The 'Funeral March' itself although nicely done with harpsichord, strings, bass, percussion, and more elaborate orchestration and voices toward the end, was not as compelling as I'd hoped. It ends with a dialogue sample from 'The Twilight Zone' ('Walking Distance,' 1959).

There are parts of 'Music For Ghosts' that are absolutely stellar, and parts that are just okay, but taken as a whole (as it should be), this is one very engaging work. Not just for Halloween, but it wouldn't be out of place on October 31st.

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