7 Songs, 41 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

When Masaki Batoh isn’t fronting the Japanese experimental band Ghost, he’s creating music with his mind—literally. A longtime practitioner of acupuncture with his own Tokyo clinic, Batoh obsessed over the idea of creating sounds with “extracted brain waves.” He hired an electronic engineering company to fabricate an extra-sensory EEG-enabled headset that connects to a grid; it transforms brainwaves (from the parietal and frontal lobes) into audible radio waves. What’s crazier is that he sells this instrument for $700 on the Drag City website. “Kumano Codex 1” opens Brain Pulse Music with sounds that resemble glass windchimes playing randomly to something that sounds similar to a melodica/accordion hybrid. “Eye Tracking Test” emits a more haunting ambience, layering shrill electronic tones over fluctuating bass drones to create something that sounds like early Brian Eno taking on contemporary witch house textures. “Kumano Codex 3” is a standout, where Japanese woodwinds, chimes, and hand drums accompany reedy trills formed from meditative thoughts. “Aiki No Okami” closes with more than 10 minutes of innovative psychedelia.

EDITORS’ NOTES

When Masaki Batoh isn’t fronting the Japanese experimental band Ghost, he’s creating music with his mind—literally. A longtime practitioner of acupuncture with his own Tokyo clinic, Batoh obsessed over the idea of creating sounds with “extracted brain waves.” He hired an electronic engineering company to fabricate an extra-sensory EEG-enabled headset that connects to a grid; it transforms brainwaves (from the parietal and frontal lobes) into audible radio waves. What’s crazier is that he sells this instrument for $700 on the Drag City website. “Kumano Codex 1” opens Brain Pulse Music with sounds that resemble glass windchimes playing randomly to something that sounds similar to a melodica/accordion hybrid. “Eye Tracking Test” emits a more haunting ambience, layering shrill electronic tones over fluctuating bass drones to create something that sounds like early Brian Eno taking on contemporary witch house textures. “Kumano Codex 3” is a standout, where Japanese woodwinds, chimes, and hand drums accompany reedy trills formed from meditative thoughts. “Aiki No Okami” closes with more than 10 minutes of innovative psychedelia.

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About Masaki Batoh

Masaki Batoh is best known as one of the founding members of Japan's longstanding experimental (and mysterious) rock band Ghost. He is the group's vocalist and rhythm guitarist, and plays several traditional Japanese folk instruments as well. He is widely regarded as Ghost's spiritual leader. Batoh was born in Kyoto and attended a private school there. It was during his school years that he first encountered the music of Japanese bands such as Taj Mahal Travellers and Flower Travellin' Band; through them, he discovered the Velvet Underground, Can, Faust, and numerous other freewheeling psych and hard rock groups.

He helped found Ghost in 1984; the band lived a nomadic existence for nearly a decade before settling near Tokyo. While Ghost have released ten albums since their inception, Batoh's solo offerings have been few, but are quite diverse. His first album was actually a long EP entitled A Ghost from the Darkened Sea, which appeared in 1995, and was followed by Kikaokubeshi in 1996. Both albums were compiled for Collected Works, 1995-1996, and released on Drag City. Batoh didn't record on his own again until he collaborated with Espers' Helena Espvall on a jointly titled album for Drag City in 2008.

Batoh spent much of his time running his own acupuncture clinic in Tokyo and researching a way of making music with "extracted brain waves." To this end, he commissioned a company called MKC Inc. to develop a machine to do exactly that. The "performer" of the machine wears a special headset connected to a computer motherboard. It records waves from the brain's parietal and frontal lobes, then converts them into radio waves, and sends them back. There, they are converted into wave "pulses" that yield actual sounds. According to Batoh, he can record "the second-by-second reflection of our mental state [that] renders itself as sound and we hear it instantaneously." Batoh's goal in creating such a machine was to "aid the anxieties of those all around him" and interconnect body and soul with music as equal parts of a single universe.

His original conception was to record an entire album of music made directly from his mind, but his plans were put on hold when the 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. Batoh and his family were evacuated from their home in Tokyo. When he returned to his acupuncture practice, he treated people who had experienced severe trauma. His idea for the album shifted to one where he could create music that aided in calming the mind. Using some traditional Japanese stringed instruments, pipes, flutes, and wood blocks, alongside the sounds produced by his Brain Pulse Machine, he created the seven-track Brain Pulse Music, which was issued in early 2012.

In 2014, Batoh announced that he was disbanding Ghost after more than 30 years. Shortly thereafter, he formed a new band called the Silence with former bandmates drummer Okano Futoshi and producer, arranger, and keyboardist Kazuo Ogino. The lineup also featured bassist Jan Stigter and saxophonist/flutist Ryuichi Yoshida. Their self-titled debut album was released by Drag City in 2015. ~ Thom Jurek

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