The most mature album by David Sylvian et al's former band is full of colour. Here their Oriental fetish is made more explicit than ever. Apart from the lyrical themes, Richard Barbieri's keyboards are a major ingredient in decorating the music with Chinese brushstrokes. Although the band's quirky-jerky noodling can make a lot of the material seem cold. While the twisty cross-rhythms can be interestingly funky, as on "Still Life in Mobile Homes", Talking Heads did this sort of thing with more confidence.
But there's many signs of the more interesting (if obscurer) solo stuff that was to come later. It might be the done thing to diss Ghosts for being too well-known, but it's much more than a routine ballad. On this wonderfully atmospheric song, Sylvian shows off his voice properly, accompanied by some very subtle, tasteful electronics. The quietly gothic "Sons of Pioneers" is driven menacingly by Steve Jansen's tom-tom beat. Mick Karn does unspeakable things as ever with his fretless bass, fuelling their funky sound and even imitating a whimpering dog on the cute instrumental "Canton".
January 20, 2005