Ghost are the premier Japanese psych-folk-prog rock group, led by singer Masaki Batoh and brought to ecstatic, piercing life with guitarist Michio Kurihara’s electric wizardry. In 2004 they reached a career apex with the release of Hypnotic Underworld to near-universal acclaim.
Starting with the four part title suite, the album kicks off in true old school progressive style. Building through a darkly ambient jazzy labrynth before upping the ante in part two with flitting woodwinds and jangling percussion, the track explodes with buzzing, agressive guitar work and pounding rhythm until – just when it seems to be running out of steam – Ghost hit the afterburners and take off with the appropriately titled, 22 second, coda: Leave the World! Regrouping with the hypnotically beautiful Hazy Paradise, the album shifts into a more standard structure with tracks exemplefying their uniquely accessible blend of psychedelic otherworldliness. Ganagmanag, an exotically percussive jam at the album’s center is a clear peak after the opening behemoth; expansive and inviting, it’s the sort of song which, when the excitement and focus ramps up well over halfway through, it’s surprising to realize almost 10 minutes have passed – and disappointing that there aren’t 10 more. Ending with an unrecognizable cover of Syd Barrett‘s Dominoes, the band drifts out on a quintessentially classic psychedelic note.