With a slightly reshuffled lineup, Ogino now clearly became Batoh's chief collaborator, while new percussionist Setsuko Furuya accompanied the returning Kurihara, cellist Hiromichi Sakamoto, and two brass players for Snuffbox, another striking, beautiful Ghost album. With its sense of fusion firmly grasped, able to slide from trumpet and flute-accompanied folk on the opening "Regenesis" to the initially acoustic then ragingly electric "Sad Shakers," Ghost achieved levels of inspiration that easily equaled many of Batoh's original role models. One of those early sources gets saluted in a sharp way -- the Rolling Stones' "Live with Me" gets a piano/vibe-heavy remake here, with Furuya getting to showcase his abilities in particular. Another neo-psych masterpiece is the title track -- Batoh's truly cool, spaced-out lyric gets backed perfectly by Ogino's harpsichord, his own acoustic and crunching electric guitar work, and plenty of production effects and tweaking for effect. The at-times underrated sense of playfulness which crops up in Ghost's work gets some airing here. "Soma" ends by shifting from a gentler flow to a quicker ending led by Batoh's banjo, while "Fukeiga" has similar fun with the vibes and Batoh's electric soloing offset against his clear acoustic work. Still, though, it's the sense of spiritual power and mantra-based music and performance that comes through the strongest on Snuffbox, a mostly calm and understated affair for its length. The fine instrumental "Daggma," with Ogino and Furuya's combination of keyboard and percussion instruments backed by Sakamoto's cello, is at once melancholic and uplifting. Batoh also clearly feels thoroughly comfortable with switching between his native tongue and English, splitting the amount sung in each language down the middle. "Hanmiyau" closes Snuffbox with a flourish, piano, guitar reverb, and more, Batoh's serene lyrics echoing up from the depths. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi

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