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Lee Negin ‘Hungry Ghosts’

Lee Negin is an eccentric genius. Not content with just (!) being a university professor and a globe-trotting life – Negin has lived in Japan, India, Poland and, currently, South Korea, since leaving America 21 years ago – he has spent over three decades producing experimental music to the point of (near) perfection. His new album ‘Hungry Ghosts’ – released February 7th – is a mad masterpiece.

Considered by many as a pioneer in the new-wave era of the 80s – he is listed as an influential artist in ‘The International Discography of the New Wave’ – his musical voyage began with the 1979 release of his single ‘Wired for Sound’. Negin’s music is entirely his own – an extended part of his person – and has been from the start; he handles all aspects of writing, production, instrumentation, engineering and, occasionally, the vocals.

‘Hungry Ghosts’ is the first of two albums – the second being ‘We Wei’ – Lee Negin plans to release this year through his own label Passing Phase Records. Thirteen atmospheric, leftfield compositions ranging from electronica and rock to world music, all fused with a unique ambience. It’s so unconventional that according to Negin’s website NME declined to review the album, claiming it was “a bit too off the wall” for them.

After kicking off with an intro consisting of disturbing noise, ‘The Saga of Cheeze’ introduces the listener to the Lee Negin’s fantastical musical landscape – an erratic, grumbling funk number. The album features an eclectic mix of styles – there’s the minimalist 80s vibe of ‘Let Go’, the haunting Indian instrumentation of ‘Not Knowing Mind’, and the operatic vocals and understated orchestration on ‘Siddhartha’s Smile’.  The two tracks featuring vocalist Sulene Fleming – ‘Pas De Deux’ and ‘Mahayana’ – are arguably two of the more accessible tracks available, but they come with their fair share of quirk, particularly the latter – a song that shifts from pop ballad, to electro rock, to what can only be described as noise.

There are a few heavier moments on the album, such as the robotic electronica of ‘One & Only True Manhood’ and the pumping German techno of ‘Cheeze Takes On The NAN ites’, complete with yelping Japanese girls. ‘The Dance’ is an electro club-banger with a middle-eastern guitar sample intertwined throughout. There’s even a hint of Massive Attack on the trip-hop laden title track, which closes the album menacingly with nightmarish whispers. The standout is perhaps the boundary-pushing ‘Masks’, where hypnotic, industrial metal meets an oriental mid-section – think Trent Reznor’s instrumental work Nine Inch Nails mixed with Asian instruments.

‘Hungry Ghosts,’ however, is not an album that’s designed to be split up into different components. The majority of the tracks don’t really work as individual songs – it’s only when they are listened to in the broader context of the whole, sonically layered album that their ingenuity is comprehendible. Negin’s production and engineering skills are faultless, but the one area that could be improved on is his singing – his vocals aren’t all that inspiring, and he really doesn’t add anything to the few tracks he lends his voice to.

In his press release Negin stated “This is new world music”. Although that’s a rather pompous assertion, he may be onto something. Despite NME’s dismissal, ‘Hungry Ghosts’ isn’t an inaccessible record. Negin’s trick is to lull you into comfort with one genre then shock you by changing the tone and tempo. It may all be a bit chaotic and uneven, but his experimentalism is never unlistenable or frustrating. Quite the opposite – it’s addictive and blissful.

Originally published by AAA Music here

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~ by cliveparisrozario on February 7, 2011.

One Response to “Lee Negin ‘Hungry Ghosts’”

  1. Fabulous review! It’s about time your prodigious talent is discovered and acknowledged. Thanks for being the “Consummate Artist” in a world of chaos.
    Warmly,
    Bobbi Cowan

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