Record review: Burning Ghosts, "Reclamation" (Tzadik)


Progressive anger can blast down some ugly walls, and Burning Ghosts' new recording shows how to do it without saying a word (or firing a shot).

This hard-jammin' quartet has jelled. Last year's debut raged with energy, but a span of seasoning and an appropriate alignment with John Zorn's avantist Tzadik label (Naked City, Secret Chiefs 3) have left the Ghosts focused and ready to dominate.

Most of the band's tension derives from the contrast between Daniel Rosenboom's lyrical trumpet and Jake Vossler's abrasive guitar; now the arrangements have balanced those poles into dramatic narratives of political and martial conflict. "Harbinger" opens like a movie soundtrack panning across the massed spears and chariots of Pharaoh's army before getting on with the gouge & plunder. The moody "The War Machine" staggers along like a scheming Richard III behind Aaron McLendon's drum paradiddles, eventually tapering off with ensemble-honed skill into metaphorical ineffectuality. "Radicals" mixes up rhythms and tempos to stirring effect, highlighted by Richard Giddens' pushy upright-bass solo; even amid the searing intensity of the conclusion, Rosenboom's trumpet maintains the humanistic leavening of simple melodic beauty.

"Reclamations" ends with a suite, the last five tracks sliding naturally from one to another despite severe changes in tone: Ornettish Iberian balladry à la "Lonely Woman," aggro horror riffing, desolate mourning and, finally, juggernaut rock complete with Danzig-style guitar squeals. We're left feeling knocked back -- but knowing this is power we can share.

Touched with Aylerlike churn and serene Coltranian confidence, "Reclamation" harks back to a time when revolution sprang directly from phonograph grooves into the hearts of millions. If you're wishing for this decade's most potent way of declaring "We're not gonna take it," look no further.

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Burning Ghosts celebrate the release of "Reclamation" at the Blue Whale on Saturday, July 1.