Artist: In Love With A Ghost
Release Date: 2017 Apr 07
Genre: Bedroom Pop
License: CC BY
Label: Z Tapes
[Note: This review has been retracted due to the artist / label changing the license on their release.]
Introduction Some days you just want to chill. In Love With A Ghost: Healing is a work that goes well on a Sunday morning, or after you’ve been out all day and want to kick back and relax. But there is an underlying curiosity to this work too.
In Love With A Ghost: Healing A couple of years ago I sought out Japanese netlabels for a friend. It was a surprisingly difficult task, but extremely rewarding. The range of music on Japanese netlabels is impressive. Japanese electronic pop is not like the music that we produce in the west. First there is a lightness to it: the melodies are distinct and pronounce. Frequently the are light and bouncy, while only occasionally drifting into melancholy, pensive or introspective feelings. It’s uncommon to find dark or evil overtones in Japanese pop music. Take Baby Metal’s big hit “Gimme Chocolate,” even with the metal trappings it’s wrapped in, it’s not a really dark song. I am not a J-Pop music expert, but what I do know has lead me to some insights into Healing. I hear the music of In Love With A Ghost falling into three broad categories: (1) pure J-Pop, (2) homages to western culture, and (3) a fusion of J-Pop and other styles. Tracks like Healing and I Was Feeling Down When I Found A Nice Witch And Now We’re Best Friends are examples of pure J-Pop music. Light melodies and simple structures make rather infectious listening. In some cases these structures could have been a negative, they could have gotten old after a few listening sessions. But they are not tiring in the context of this recording. They are pieces that help shape the overall experience and story of this album. Songs like Welcome at Azerty and Qwerty’s Home and Qwerty Enchanted The House and Now It’s Attacking Us are examples of paying homage to western culture. The first being similar to the Cantina Band style of jazz imagined in Star Wars, while the second is a straight jazz style piece. The fusion here takes the form of mixing old 8-bit video game style music with the J-Pop influence. For example Introduction and Chilling At Nemu’s Place contain strong 8-bit lines, either alone, or with rhythmic settings / instrumentation that are uniquely J-Pop style.
Music Story and Metaphor This album is the story of a young girl (boy?) that is sad, and comes across a witch in the woods. They become friends and have an adventure together. The titles of the pieces lay out the story line. The sequencing lends itself to use as the soundtrack for an anime or video game. An interesting point is the names “Azerty” and “Qwerty”. They are the names of typewriter key layouts. Azerty (also known as the Dvorak keyboard) originated in France, although the inventor is not clear. The Qwerty keyboard is the standard American keyboard layout. Musically, Azerty and Qwerty are represented by Jazz music. Jazz music originated in America. France has a strong history with a Jazz scene originating in the 1920’s. Many American jazz musicians performed in Paris during the 1930’s-1950’s. For the purpose of Healing, the introduction of conflict into the work in the form of Azerty using enchantment indirectly against the protagonists appears to be a metaphor of sorts. At a minimum it is a representation of the difference between eastern and western cultures. At it’s most extreme, it could be seen as an interpretation of western culture being an evil. My feeling is I doubt that the choice was to represent evil. It is most likely a representation of the widening gap between the cultures given the context of recent social and political events. It is an interesting nugget buried in this recording.
Conclusion This is an interesting work on many levels. At first, it appears as a small piece of J-Pop infused music that could be an imaginary sound track for an anime or video game. The listening experience is fun and fits well with a relaxing day. Scratching the surface the story element adds another layer of interest to the work. Then looking a bit further at the metaphor contained within the work is an interesting point to consider. The idea of representing western culture through Jazz music as a negative force places this work onto another level. However, the lack of a bigger context for this perception of western culture leaves things in a vague state. It is like being accused of something, but not knowing the charges.