Ghost Rhythms - Imaginary Mountains

“Here are several pieces about imaginary mountains found on old maps.
It is dedicated to all who tried to climb their inner mountain, especially to Xavier Garnerin, writer, and friend.”

This is the fifth full-length from this fabulous band from Paris, who, for my money, are consistently one of the most exciting and interesting mid-sized, modern, electric jazz / jazz-rock ensembles out there. The writing and the playing from these folks is consistently exciting, engaging and tuneful.
This one is self-released by the band in an edition of 300 CDs.

Hugely personally recommended.

"Imaginary Mountains​’ music was born in the middle of the french lockdown in March 2020 ; as the COVID spread in the country of France and all over the world, everyone was quarantined, gigs cancelled, and weekly rehearsals became impossible.
So Camille Petit and Xavier Gélard, ​Ghost Rhythms​’ leaders, decided to try to make, like many musicians, music even if distance complicated things, and to record at home.
This was a premiere, as all of Ghost Rhythms’ music until then was recorded in a studio environment, and therefore no home studio recording processes prevailed.
It was not quite possible to record drums properly, so the pair agreed to work on short scaled compositions that involved the orchestral side of the band : accordion, cello, flute, sax, guitars, bass and piano. Those instruments were heavily featured on the first tracks to be made, ​Sierra de Tamuraque​ and O​ ayana Circles​.
As weeks passed, things became serious, as guitarist and sound engineer Tom Namias gave the tunes a proper sound and a depth that were very inspirational. Soon more short-scaled compositions emerged, ​Path to Oyapock, le Mont Analogue ​and Vie de Raymond Maufrais​, that showcased the band’s ability to produce a multi-layered but nevertheless cohesive sound.
So it’s no surprise that the planned EP turned into something bigger, ambitious, that became Imaginary Mountains​.
One composition was pivotal in that process. ​Coudreau’s Dream​, written with no drums in mind, was edited and mixed with drums recorded for another project. This xenochronic experiment (as Zappa, perhaps, would have said), mixing two different times, two different pieces, and two different frames of mind, did trigger a thirst for larger-scaled compositions, with Camille Petit and Xavier Gélard as writers and Tom Namias as a very able sound expert.
The short scaled compositions prepared the band to try to assemble larger pieces, and they were up to it since recording drums in a studio became possible again. The first of these “epics”,​ Tumuc Humac​, proved to be one of the most complex the band had to offer.
Its oscillation between binary and ternary rhythms, hard rock and chamber music, and the perceptive ambiguity on which it is based makes it a great challenge for musicians to play and a new step in Gélard and Petit’s work around long forms.
The piece borrows its title from a geographic aberration: in the 1800’s, some cartographers were certain mountains existed in Guyana ; they thought so, as every land needed natural frontiers. So they made maps that included Tumuc Humac mountains, even though those were merely hills, and explorers soon sought the Tumuc Humac mountains in the area, a search that soon became a mystical one, as was the Eldorado.
This slight frontier between imagination and reality - as more that one explorer, like the young Raymond Maufrais, devoted his life to find those mountains, that only existed on paper - proved to be a perfect frame for Ghost Rhythms’ new compositions, which were to explore the way dreams, thoughts and concepts shape our reality.
The Tumuc Humac “line” gave most of the compositions their title (Sierra de Tamuraque, Path to Oyapock, Oayana Circles, Coudreau’s dream, Vie de Raymond Maufrais and of course Tumuc Humac took their name from the narrative surrounding Tumuc Humac’s legend), but another “line” grew as the project of an LP took shape.
The broader scope of the imaginary mountains, which stood for all imaginary places we travel to and imaginary ascensions we make in our lives, gave birth to Le Mont Analogue (a title borrowed from René Daumal’s esoteric novel that inspired Jodorowksi’s ​Holy Mountain)​ and to ​Horizontal Ascension​, a 10’ epic whose rhythmic changes and violin solo are much indebted to both Mahavishnu Orchestra and Nik Bartsch. For the first time in the band’s history, some lyrics blurrily appear in an otherwise instrumental context. The french words, in a mystical vein not so far from René Daumal’s esoteric approach, treat mountains - and in fact, all that exists - as waves.
The interludes, named “​GR​”, are a pun on “Ghost Rhythms” initials, but also on french names for trekking ways (“GR” stands for “sentiers de Grande Randonnée” i.e. “Long Hiking Trail”). Those atmospheric interludes, a tradition in the band’s recording history since ​Sept Cercles (2008) were done last, by manipulating sounds that were used in the record, and saxophone solos specifically made for that purpose.
As a record, Imaginary Mountains signs Camille Petit and Xavier Gélard’s collaborative writing return. Their work was highly praised when their cinematic album ​Madeleine was released in 2015. The pair’s strong interaction shows again in the variety of musical forms, choice of timbres, and cohesiveness.
  • LabelLEM
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