Ghost Harmonic is the result of some particularly productive sessions in a recording studio in Shoreditch. Said studio belongs to Benge (Ben Edwards), and is often visited by John Foxx (with whom Benge has recorded as John Foxx And The Maths) and classical violinist Diana Yukawa. The five-track album Codex is the product of their improvisatory sessions, casting a soft sonic glow into any room in which it is played.
In a sense it is an appropriate companion piece to Foxx’s recent limited edition solo release, London Overgrown, for it occupies a similar emotional and textural space. There is very little in the way of bass in either album, the music floating through the air, but in the work of Ghost Harmonic it is the violin of Yukawa that elevates the music close to a spiritual plain.
There is no music of pace here, and instead everything is allowed to unfold in its own sweet time. It explains why The Pleasure Of Ruins and When We Came To This Shore are allowed to run on for a quarter of an hour each unhindered, the slowly shifting analogue loops from Foxx and Benge setting a canvas over which Yukawa can improvise.
To her immense credit she resists the temptation to play too many notes, keeping a certain classical poise to her playing but never imposing any constraints on it. While it would be difficult to call her interventions melodies that stick in the head, they do nonetheless project beautifully and sound right, surely the prerequisite of any improvisation.
The slowly shifting pitches of A Green Thought In Green Shade have a calming effect, though as it begins to move towards The Pleasure Of Ruins there is a brief uneasy chill in the air to keep the listener slightly on their guard. There are some lovely moments, however, such as when the music dies away at the end of When We Came To This Shore, where the shore itself can still be heard in Benge’s vivid evocation of the waves crashing. When some bass notes do finally materialise, in the closing title track, they bring a consoling depth to complement the soothing harmonies.
As John Foxx said, one of the pleasures of hearing this music is the combination of a classic acoustic instrument, the violin, with some of the analogue delights of Benge’s studio – with keyboards so diverse and specialist that he once made an album with a track for each instrument. Yet here the trio also use the background of the studio for their sonic backdrop, the ‘Ghost Harmonic’ being a kind of white noise that surrounds the music in a comforting glow. It eases Dispersed Memory into the consciousness before a low and initially uncertain entry from the violin.
This is music of pure ambience, offering a refreshing alternative to the busy city environment in which it was written. The three musicians take their lead from each other, making a record of easy consistent pleasure and intimacy.