Too Many Ghosts
Too Many Ghosts, the latest title from renowned guitarist Woody Aplanlap, is the second project from what he’s dubbed Bonsai Universe. It’s a beautiful mess. In other words, depending on your mood his inventive psychedelic sounds can joyously transport you but if you’re looking for something more cohesive and a bit more predictable, you won’t find it here. If Hunter Thompson was the king of gonzo journalism, Aplanlap may be the musical equivalent. Aside from three of the fifteen tracks that are “all Aplanlap”, each of the other dozen are comprised of a different set of accompanists, delivered in trio or quartet formats, some with vocalists. This diversity befits the guitarist who has worked with a wide array of artists from Bobby Womack, Lauryn Hill, Nels Cline, Thomas Mapfumo, and more.
The album was produced, engineered and mixed by Aplanlap and mastered by Tony Austin, one of the twin drummers in jazz giant Kamasi Washington’s band. Austin plays drums on the opening “It’s a Shame” alongside the bassist in Kamasi’s band, Miles Mosley. Aplanlap went to college with Mosley and hasplayed in about five or six bands together with Austin. That is true for many of the other players on the record. They are compadres of sorts, many with glowing resumes, in his mission to deliver his cosmic mission. Aplanlap provides details and some anecdotal information in the credits.
Upon further inspection, the music is not all of the dreamy variety. “It’s a Shame” is nod to Bobby Womack, one that Aplanlap calls “disappointment blues” which is a twist on Womack’s famous “It’s All Over Now.”The closer, “My Little Corner” is a song from 1960 by Anita Bryant but he describes his cover as being closer to that of Yo La Tengo’s version from the ‘90s. “Beepsy,” though, is a hypnotic electro-pop tune written for his cousin of that name. The title track Is one of the dreamy ones, a melancholic lament for impressions left behind.
There’s a California thread running through the album, as Aplanlap resides in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and is an avid cyclist. “Walnut Grove” echoes nostalgic memories of growing up in Rosemead, CA. “Altadena” nods to one of his favorite cycling routes as does “Ode to Ridge Road.” “Crumbs” is a funky tune, inspired by the constant droughts in the Golden State.
At times you’ll feel like you’re in a time warp, back in the psychedelic haze of the late ‘60s or early ‘70s but soon you’ll realize that few, if any, artists had this kind of technology at their disposal. Then, you may not be quite sure what reference point can guide you. Not only may you feel that way about the album, but may feel it from track to track, each its own little bizarre universe.
- Jim Hynes