The Red Masque
(All Album Reviews by The Red Masque)
Ghosts of Pompeii is a one-man band that has been getting a lot of attention as of late on this forum. In listening to the album, A Fistful of Smoke and a Pocketful of Promises, the diverse influences that composer Joseph Shingler brings to his work (from Latin music to Baroque to Tangerine Dream-esque electronics to ELP style keyboards) is refreshing to listen to when confronted with many so-called progressive acts that stay safe within their Genesis/Yes/Gentle Giant roots.
In A Fistful of Smoke...., Shingler's compositions would work very well as soundtrack material, as his expressive use of keys range from madcap organ to spacey atmospherics to analog-sounding experimentation. The keyboard/synth playing on this album is excellent; soundwise, Shingler uses the gamut of analog to synthetic sounds--perhaps to make up for the fact that the album sound palette consists entirely of keyboards, sampling and drum machine. While I personally prefer more analog and "organic" sounds from keyboards, Shingler utilizes his sound textures quite well and his use of more synthetic sounds should only bother the technophobes.
My only real compliant about this album is the use of canned drums. Being a one-person project, Ghosts of Pompeii suffers from the lack of a real drummer to either a) play real drums or b) program less repetitive drumbeats. However, that being said, Joe Shingler did a remarkable job for what he had to work with. Perhaps in future recordings, he could intermix the canned drums with acoustic percussion instruments (djembes, tambourines, bongos, etc.), which would help alleviate the "tinny" sound of the canned drums. Also, I have to admit this is a personal preference on my part as I dislike electronic drums. Those who don't mind electronic drums may not have a problem with them on this album.
For all of this, however, this album shows some inventive and fresh compositions. Fans of Tangerine Dream, ELP, or electronic or classical music would do well to purchase this album. On Fistful of Smoke and a Pocketful of Promises, Joe Shingler delivers his end of the bargain: damn good music.