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Thuja - Ghost Plants (2002)

Consisting of a baker's dozen of untitled tracks, all of which sound like snippets from various jam sessions -- the recording dates stretch over two years -- Ghost Plants is, unsurprisingly, more moody psych-inspired zone-outs from Steven R. Smith and compatriots. Smith's seemingly ever increasing productivity hasn't yet tripped up his quality, and if Ghost Plants is more an extension of various styles than a reinvention, it's still on the ball when it comes to its stated brief. The quartet's ear for ready blends of styles is its core strength, which is why sheets of droning feedback and organ can nestle carefully with what could almost be a glitch-gamelan groove, to note one example. The doom-laden open guitar strums on the second track suggest everything from Sonic Youth to Main to Roy Montgomery, all while keeping its own particular dank spirit. In contrast, the tenth song is much more warm and immediately inviting, fading up from a low start like a sunrise through fog, piano, and guitar parts subtly starting and stopping in the mix. The sixth track is more or less the album's center, an eight-minute-long meditation mixing scattering percussion clatters soft in the mix with cyclical drone melodies and understated guitar moans and chimes. It's got all the gently drugged-out power of any number of space rock compositions past and present, slowly evolving into a lovely piano part against minimal buzz and fuzz for a conclusion. Wrapping up with a piece as much guitar skronk as it is soft tones landing on a feedback loop like rain on a lawn, a blurred vocal sample from somewhere fading up and then away just as quickly, Ghost Plants certainly lives up to the first part of its name. (Ned Raggett)

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