The last representation of Devin’s four-album suite over the past three years amounts to a jilting of his general elements for Ghost is, or tries to be, a new age/ambient/folk album and that means no walls of sound. This is not new territory overall - lots of his solo work moved within softer walls - but Ghost dyes itself one color, and while this should work in theory, the outcome exhibits surprisingly unexceptional experimentation and lack of distinguishing within itself.
The great things about the albums that Ghost is influenced by is that they are fleeting but still enveloping; they are also rather varied. Not here. Ghost overstays its welcome around the 35-minute mark, during “Blackberry”, a banjo-driven ode to ribbits, and while it has one or two moments of variation, there’s not nearly enough nor enough arrangement of such within the 70-minute runtime. “Dark Matters” is an electro-arpeggio interlude, serving as one of the only points of the album where you can recognize it’s a new track, but “Texada” turns it around into a faux-progressive polyryhthm track, not working off its own minimalism but instead moving from one atmosphere to another, all irrelevant to each other. The folk material alone is exemplum of mundanity, and no, adding world percussion and lo-fi synth to the same chords and rhythms every adult-contemporary band knows doesn’t count as branching out the sound. Speaking of, the flute is overused, and its only overused because the arrangements and pitch are rather stereotypical, almost to the point of theft of Asian music stereotypes. It couldn’t hurt to try out an alto, or even a different instrument, instead of lazily relying on cognitive reflexes from timbre.
Much like its brother album Deconstruction, Ghost’s arrangements are interminable. You would think that with these types of sounds it would be relaxing and the time wouldn’t matter, but there’s just enough going on to where paying attention becomes the death of the tracks as they meander on towards nothing in particular. The last two tracks, “Infinite Ocean” and “As You Were”, both eight minutes, are almost reminiscent of Animal Collective’s obsession with noticeably repetitive sampling in tandem with obnoxious vocal melodies and not much else to speak of. By then, the same timbres of the synths and undercurrents have gotten to be homogenous to the point of irony against the relaxing function, and even after multiple listens nothing stands out in large part because of this.
No one would criticize Devin for trying to branch out. In the same token, no one should claim “masterpiece” because he did. Experimentation will always be an important function in art, and as one should know when it comes to art, there is a fine line between being genuine and mundane emulation. I find Devin has encountered the middle ground here in that he did try to make a good album but it ended up have nothing more than a glimmer of the fervor of its influences.