Smile Jesus Loves YOU is the fifth solo album by Japanese musician Masaki Batoh, formerly of psychedelic rock band Ghost and The Silence. It’s his second album in two years following a seven year period which saw him concentrating on his band The Silence. This album sees Batoh playing guitars, mellotron and shenai and is backed with sax, flute, piano, lap steel, bass and drums. Every note is played by human hands and is recorded to tape.
Vinyl LP £26.32 DC757
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CD £11.49 DC757CD
CD on Drag City.
At the core of Masaki Batoh’s new LP ‘Smile Jesus Loves YOU’ is the notion that high-falutin art-music can mix it with the sounds of the people. This outlook is derived from a long and noble psychedelic tradition - it’s there in everything from ‘The White Album’ to ‘Odelay’ - and leads to a playful record, one that isn’t afraid to unholster a sense of fun to further the case of the loftier numbers.
Batoh’s album is at once widescreen and intimate, earthy yet full of astral musings. The feelings push and pull throughout the record, with expected uses often inverted - ‘Speculum’ and ‘Pobrecito Mi Cigarro’, which run to six/seven minutes but contain little more than lustily-plucked acoustic guitars and Batoh’s multilingual lyrics, look outwards to the cosmos, while the full-band bulletins that bookend ‘Smile Jesus Loves YOU’ come off with the homeliness of backroom hoe-downs.
There’s also a considered wackiness to ‘Smile Jesus Loves YOU’ that makes it very relatable. ‘Banjo Suite’, a sort of Laurie Anderson-esque reimagining of the famous 'duelling banjos', will surely invoke some wry smiles - but, once the amusement has passed, there is real gravity to be found in these gnarled soundscapes. Even the more grandiose elements balance sombre stateliness with a kind of whimsical invocation of ancient modes - and, in the case of ‘Shrine Coke’, some genuinely silly screeching lead-lines.
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