Sunday, January 3, 2016

Songs: Ohia - Ghost Tropic

Album number five by Jason Molina under the name Songs: Ohia was released in 2000.  It's an odd, unsettling album but to my mind it's Molina's first great album.  Rather than announcing itself, it oozes through your speakers with Lightning Risked It All.  Ramshackle percussion and guitar provide the backdrop for Molina to gently moan about "the broad luck of blood on the water".  It's kind of spooky and mysterious, a mood that lasts through the album.  With the most minimal information on the album cover, it's hard to get what is being played on tracks like the old-timey, shimmering The Body Burned Away there appears to be a banjo with the merest of piano and a plucked guitar.  The music is almost impressionistic, it's hard to explain or replicate what;s going on.  If anything approximates an 'old school' Songs: Ohia track, it's the sparse, snail-paced No Limits On The Words, where a guitar twangs gently and Molina mumbles morosely, though seldom at the same time.  

A feature of this album are two instrumental title tracks, both featuring tropical birds.  They differ musically, the first is pedal-steel based and drifts along with a sort of lonesome melody, while the second has a gloomy keyboard, but both add to the mood of the album.  The darkest yet possibly loveliest number is The Ocean's Nerves.  Introduced by a shuffling beat akin to a death march, a guitar picks out a gently descending melody on what is the most conventional sounding track here.  Molina doesn't sound bitter, merely resigned singing "I am a red flame hanging low to be close to it, hanging low to be close to you".  The remaining two tracks are the longest at 12 minutes each and not a lot happens throughout.  Not Just A Ghost's Heart drifts by till nine minutes in, the guitars erupt into noise.  Incantation is a fitting title for the final track, on the verge of drifting into nothing for the entire length of the track.  It's undeniably a strange album, but a highly addictive one.