I have been going through Monolake’s back catalog since discovering the excellent Reminiscence from 2003′s Momentum release in the summer of 2011. After getting started in a style closer to Dub Techno on the venerable Chain Reaction label, they subsequently have gone through some different styles. After the transitional Interstate followed a set of four LPs (Gravity, Cinemascope, Momentum and Polygon_Cities) which showed a minimalist approach to Ambient Techno with dubby elements. These four LPs show a steady move toward darker atmospheres, leading to the phase Monolake now occupies, which consists of Silence and the recently-released Ghosts.
We are told that Silence and Ghosts are the first two of a trilogy of works. Ghosts shares with Silence a focus on quality of sound rather than composition. Not that there is no composition at work, just that it seems subservient to the sounds themselves.
The eleven tracks are all shorter than 6 minutes, with the exceptions of Phenomenon (at exactly 6 minutes) and Hitting the Surface (at almost eight minutes). The pacing keeps things moving along, seldom giving the feeling of stagnation.
The opener (also the title track) is a solid bit of industrial-sounding techno, which sounds more like the music on Momentum than Silence or the rest of Ghosts. I found myself disappointed when the album slid immediately afterward into the less structured Taku. Taku does have a beat and bassline, but layered on top is an incoherent jumble of Aphex-like bouncing ball sounds. This track appears to be largely a showcase of some very formidable engineering skills.
The next four tracks strike a midpoint between the two preceeding tracks’ styles, with brooding atmosphere and more structured compositions. The female computer-voice returns in Hitting the Surface, which has been a trademark of Monolake’s work for some time.
Next up, Phenomenon returns to the avant-noise style of Taku, then Unstable Matter drops beats and basslines entirely for another showcase of seemingly random sound effects. While I find the cacophany of sounds paints an odd (and potentially interesting) picture in my mind, I find the album drags during these two.
For the final three tracks, we are returned to stronger structure, though the established tone and focus on odd sound effects remains. Aligning the Daemon includes an interesting use of a pipe organ, which for some reason fits in very well.
Foreign Object comes close to the opener in style. I get the feeling Monolake are aware of the challenging nature of this record, and want the first and last experiences to be the easiest to digest.
On the whole, Ghosts is a very coherent and well-engineered set of tracks, with contrastingly inchoherent elements used within some of the music. My personal preference is for Monolake’s work on Momentum and Cinemascope, but I do not consider Ghosts a poor release. It is a must-have for any fans of Silence, as it is an expansion of that album’s sensibilities.
Here are two greatly contrasting samples from Ghosts: