Essential New Music: The Silence’s “Electric Meditations”

When musicians revise their practices to achieve a new normal post-pandemic, they might want to take notes from Masaki Batoh. While his old band Ghost toured the world on multiple occasions, he’s adopted a new playbook since retiring that combo. Although it requires certain sacrifices, the results speak for themselves.

Instead of expending various resources and accruing carbon guilt, he stays at home in Tokyo, where he runs an acupuncture practice, records solo albums and convenes his rock band, the Silence, once or twice a year to either make a record or celebrate one’s release. The MO seems to be this: Do what you need to do, whenever you need to do it, and don’t do any damage that requires people to clean up after you. Since adoting it, Batoh’s musical productivity has increased exponentially, and his recent records are among the best of his career. 

While Electric Meditations was not recorded with the pandemic in mind, it’s the right album for this time. It is an electric-blues record, imbued with the essential blues mission of not just saying what’s wrong, but describing how you live through it. Batoh sings his prescriptions in both English and Japanese, and even if you don’t know a word of the latter language, his commanding tone puts the message across. This message is one of immediacy; whether you’re dealing with cycles of sin and redemption or the nature of humanity, all you really have is the present moment.

The music on Electric Meditations drives that message home with heavy, lurching grooves and no-quarter exchanges between Batoh’s guitar and Ryuchi Yoshida’s baritone saxophone. But immediacy does not preclude memory, so Batoh and crew also channel Ghost’s cosmic side to superb effect on “Improvisation,” a spaciously psychedelic instrumental. Whether you need to blow your blues away, recenter your consciousness or do a bit of both, Electric Meditations is at your service.

—Bill Meyer