Various Artists – C/CII

Ghostlight curates a collection of tracks that bottle a sense of beautiful mourning on their second Christmas compilation.

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Artist – Various
Album – C/CII
Label – Independently Released
Year – 2016
Website – http://ghostlight-jp.flavors.me/

It’s all there on that evocative cover. A solitary individual looking off into the distance, not necessarily sad, but certainly not joyful. One can’t help but look at the album, the tracks, and that cover from the context of Christmas. This is the second Ghostlight compilation to be released on Christmas day, and it captures the same mood as the cover, not necessarily sad, but certainly not joyful. And that’s fitting, as adults we can’t recapture the feelings we had as children about Christmas. Without memories, we can’t understand the present, but with those memories, we can’t help but feel loss. When we are children, we thrill over the joy of receiving gifts. When we are adults we mourn over the loss that receiving gifts can’t really bring lasting joy. And that’s for the better, shouldn’t we outgrow that selfishness? On C/CII Ghostlight has brought together nine different artists, but together they all manage to capture that feeling.

The fact that this consistency is achieved on a compilation is remarkable. In my youth compilations were mostly in the nature of cheap CDs put out by indie/punk labels to introduce you to their roster. The biggest names would contribute a dreadful outtake or “ironic” cover that was clearly not up to par for their albums, while the lesser bands would put their best foot forward, which were, unfortunately, not as good as the aforementioned dreadful outtakes. Even at $5.00 buyers wouldn’t feel like they got a good deal. What was the problem? Well aside from a lack of quality, there was a lack of consistency, a lack of theme. “A bunch of bands signed to our label” is not a good theme.

C/CII, by contrast, is remarkably consistent. First, it’s got a consistent mood among the songs. In 2010, one of the finest films ever made, Confessions (告白), was released. While thoroughly dark, drenched in murder and revenge, there is a remarkable moment where the doomed love interest walks towards her equally doomed lover in the moonlight. “…And, I Want” by Boris plays in the background. The context, the lighting, the music work together for that mystical alchemy where an instant of breathtaking beauty is achieved in an otherwise disturbing movie. The songs on C/CII sound as though Ghostlight asked the artists on the album to come up with alternate soundtrack for that scene.

All the artists on the compilation are working in the area of electronic / synthy / ambient / pop. The pendulum swings between ambience and pop track-to-track, but Ghostlight wisely imposed a limitation on the diversity of sounds. More than genre, there is also an emphasis on trebly, plucked strings that give things almost a music box quality. Those sweet sounds combined with the electronic undercurrents many of the songs give the impression of a lovely memory fading away, being overwhelmed by adult life.

There are numerous highlights, but what is more remarkable for a compilation album is that there are no lowlights. NOGAWA kazune, whose recent album, Reflections, is almost impenetrably dark, lightens up and puts a haunting simple melody above ominous bass. On “Tonttu” Takashi Yoda uses what sounds like harp and a melodic theremin to create a mood that is like the soundtrack to Arrietty as recreated by a dream. Ghostlight veer closest to rock territory by using what is recognizable as a guitar, but their song still cut from the same gorgeous cloth as the rest of the album.

Overall, Ghostlight compile C/CII out of the park. So grab your cigarette (actually, please don’t), stare out the window, and contemplate on beautiful melancholy.

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