Ghost Funk Orchestra is the brainchild of the NJ/NYC native Seth Applebaum, a highly skilled craftsman of finely constructed, wholly unique music.
Ghost Funk Orchestra’s compositions are nothing short of genre defying and impossible to pin down. As soon as you start to get a sense of where one of his albums might be going, he takes a sudden shift into a totally unexpected direction. His sound is rich in atmosphere and is highly detailed with a grand scope. It’s like standing still on a busy downtown city corner for a while and being mindful of every single vibration, from the rumbling of passing garbage trucks and the din of foot traffic to the quietest pecking of pigeons on the sidewalk, all at once.
This album feels like the soundtrack to an urban vision quest. Through a kaleidoscopic combination of reverb-drenched guitars and trumpet on top of hypnotic Afro-Latin rhythms provided by a whole cornucopia of percussion instruments, the listener feels as though the sound and vibes of entire city neighborhoods, hole in the wall bars and metro trains are gliding past their face in a single effervescent blur.
As previously stated, the music here is as diverse and eclectic as possible. Take “Brownout” for instance; bongos and other percussion instruments thump out a tight, grooving rhythm under mellow, acidic guitar and mesmerizing vocals that even make your soul want to get up and dance before the track drifts into a trumpet-lead, psychedelic jam that could last for hours without getting old. The entire piece comes off sounding like a sweetly stoned Mulatu Astatqé jamming with Gilberto Gil. Much like the rest of the record, this track is as hazy and sultry as the mars-red cityscape on the cover.
Elsewhere on the album, “Dark Passage” is a hallucinogenic journey that safely takes you to the heart of darkness and back into your own skull in under two and a half minutes and “Demon, Demon” is a spoken word track that is almost like Ken Nordine being backed by Föllakzoid.
As a whole, Night Walker is beautiful in its own soulful, misty and vaguely haunting way. If you play this over 100 times, I’m sure you will find a different reason to enjoy it each time.
Compared to Night Walker, Death Waltz is a more melancholic affair with slightly jazzier leanings. The entire album has a smoky, 3A.M. vibe to it like an early Gil Scott-Heron or a Grant Green record, combined with a heavily psychedelic sheen. An unexpected combination, but it works incredibly well here.
Again, you can never predict where the album is going to go. For instance, “The Haunt pt. 2” glows with acid-surfer guitar and eerily phased vocal samples and nicely floats on a super laid back rhythm which together conjures up a garage space rock band like Holy Wave but then the next song, “Lost Soul” is a poetic spoken word piece set to a sax and flute-laden funk groove that sounds straight out of a ‘70s cop B-movie soundtrack. It’s a definitely a contrast, but they flow into and compliment each other just perfectly.
The production on this album is so thick and atmospheric; every track feels absolutely alive with sound. This is the kind of music where there is so much going on in every song; you tend to notice something new every time you play it. In my mind, all music should be like this.
Again, much like Night Walker, this is a real beauty of an album and should not be missed.
Seth Applebaum has many musicians accompany him on each of these records, but you really get the sense that he’s the total auteur here. Every GFO album is his true vision, his baby from start to finish. With this being the case, we all need to keep an eye on him from now on because he is surely bound to carve out a lifetime rich with musical masterpieces in his wake.