Michael Foster: tenor and soprano saxophones, tapes, samples
Henry Fraser: double bass, tapes
Connor Baker: drums, percussion
Without out a shadow of a doubt, this is revolutionary new fire music. Saxophonist Michael Foster’s trio The Ghost have repurposed the battle cry of seminal free jazz and its links with the civil rights movement with a lesser represented new politic which aims a sure and unwavering fist right into the disgusting stomach of homophobia and anti-LGBT sentiment. This is dissent in dissonance. The album opens with a disturbing and revolting newscast from CBS presenter Mike Wallace, broadcast in 1967, who gravely intones “A majority of Americans favour legal punishment, even for homosexual acts performed in private between consenting adults.” The Hole’s premise could not be any clearer. As if in reaction, the opening piece ‘Certain Scars Appear’ is a sustained practice of dread. Mechanical objects and prepared saxophones whirl around heaved, sexualised sighs and extended techniques from both the percussion and double bass, which creak in a quiet but detectable malice. In places, it almost sounds industrial due to the mechanised hum of tape machines. It is in these more textural experiments where The Ghost work really hits like a sledgehammer. By contextualising their music with some pretty horrendous samples of anti-LGBT rhetoric, including a rabid preacher frothing about ‘demonic sodomites’, these deeper passages are charged with an air of malevolence so thick you can literally feel breathing on your neck. Every bass bow, every multiphonic squeal, every drum thud, every clangour of cymbal becomes fraught with a tension so thick you couldn’t carve with a buzzsaw. It immediately elevates this music beyond the practice of so much textural improvisation and into something I personally haven’t heard in a long time….Improvisation that has a clear and distinct message, which is telling a story (a very disturbing one at that) and that commands your attention whether you are willing or not. The Ghost also excel at going straight for the jugular, a fact I’m of course hugely fucking into. ’Apply Pleasure’ sputters venom with hefty spasmodic drumming, snarling bowed bass and Michael Foster’s banshee like wailing through the upper registers of the saxophone, sounding like Ayler being dipped in acid. ‘No More Hangers’ is another brutal workout, nearly sounding grindcore-ish in its ferocity. The closing track ‘In Such Mad Worships There Is Peril’ shows that this trio can really stretch out their intensity. Connor Baker’s work behind the kit in these sections is incredible, shunning the tired, flimsy delicateness of many free improv drummers and actually whacks the fuck out of the kit in staccato bursts of power, thundering around the toms and snare. Henry Fraser anchors it all with hugely deep playing that rumbles even when he isn’t striking the hell out of his double bass. All three of them howling with real passion in justifiable anger. Inspired primarily from Jean Genet's writings and, in particular, his film ‘Un Chant D'Amour’, which is directly referenced in Lewis McLean’s stunning artwork, The Hole arrives in the wake of a none to creeping fascism in the USA. It’s a direct attack to those who cannot accept, due to their own fucked up prejudices, anyone who is remotely different. Tombed Visions is immensely proud to stand firmly shoulder to shoulder with The Ghost with a fist raised in solidarity. This is the new Queer improv and it is unreal how fucking good it is.
"As Tombed Visions put it, "This is the new Queer improv and it is unreal how fucking good it is." Led by fiery saxophonist/electronics ace Michael Foster, this second cassette by Brooklyn-based improv trio The Ghost is intensely striking. Framed as a reaction to homophobia and the perennial evil of prejudice, The Hole opens with an audio snippet of an American news presenter in 1967 declaring "A majority of Americans favour legal punishment, even for homosexual acts performed in private between consenting adults." The ensuing electroacoustic clatter assembled by Foster with double bassist Henry Fraser and percussionist Connor Baker veers between sorrow, anger, and provocation. The trio just as often deploy hissy tapes and samples as they do bass bows and sax parps. ‘Certain Scars Appear’ sees murky sex sighs and electronic drones hum along fearfully until the trio pick up their instruments to add hushed creaky vibrations. The sense of dread and fear following the despicable news broadcast turns into something far more aggressive on ‘Apply Pleasure’, with Baker going postal on his kit and Foster blows his sax furiously, channelling Albert Ayler at the summit of Spiritual Unity. ‘Apply Pleasure’ also has BDSM sounds either side of it, one man yelling at another between spanks and cries of pain, "Don’t you fucking come!" Some enormously deep bowing from Fraser chucks the entire trio into a dungeon on ‘Under The Teeth Of Dogs Or Upon The Wheel’, somewhat resembling drone doom’s bleakest moments more than anything related to jazz. The entire comes to a head on the cresting intensity of 12 minute finale, ‘In Such Mad Worships There Is Peril’. After a bass intro sounding like a worn bike wheel in need of some serious oiling, drums begin to pound and the group work their way to the most intensely angry moment on the record. Tying such solid meanings and intentions to free jazz recordings can often seem like little more than an afterthought strapped on to some improvisations, but The Hole really seems like a cohesive and powerful statement (that statement being "fuck fascists and homophobes"). If there’s one emotion free jazz was practically purpose built to portray, it’s sheer anger."
- Tristan Bath, The Quietus