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Photographs 5-6 by Philippe De Sablet.
Photographs 7-8 by Paul Rodriguez.

RELEASES

'NEW LOVE.'

Chin Up

UTR045 | CD / LP | 13 tracks, 47 mins | October 2010

Music as the relief, yet also the reminder of the need for relief. If only there were some word that meant both cure and poison. 'New Love.' It's two words, but one title. New love is a cure for the heartbreak and jealousy of the past, but a beginning to a new obsession - the search to replace the old love.

This obsessive search radiates through the entire album. Freddy Ruppert's newest collaborative project is as much an emotional obsession as it is an obsession with sound. The new album is poppier, cleaner, more seductive, sweet, charming, but more bitter. The claustrophobic reverb from the last album has been replaced. The syrupy, entangling wash of sound has been hollowed out and exploded in size.

'New Love.' listens hollow, empty, endless. Like a spacious landscape, frightening in it's expansiveness. This landscape is populated at times sparsely, and at times densely, with a broader use of sounds - guitars, treated piano, glitched out rhythms and beats. The entire sonic experience neurotically crafted - an entire world hand-carved with complete surgical control over every sound.

Throughout the album, Ruppert's vocals feel pressed against you, almost uncomfortably close. And yet at the same time, you're left alone for a larger portion of the album. No longer is a voice constantly guiding you through the cacophony. Your sad, frantic companions leave you alone in shallow depressions that litter the album. Spaces between songs, spaces within songs, all harboring marshy pockets of sound. Small bogs, marring the poppier expanses of what seem like exuberant or triumphant anthems and fanfare.

"Chin Up" is an excellent example of this duality which seems to mimic the mood swings of frustration and relief in extended heartbreak. Roza Danilova's vocals play somewhat like Cyndi Lauper if she were doing the soundtrack to a suicidal, degenerate band of Goonies.

But as bleak and expansive as the new album is, the engine that propels it forward is obsession - an obsession over loss of love, over jealousy, over Ruppert's inability to move on from the past - and not simply a loss of love, but a love of loss. The vast sense of space in the album doubles the feeling of being on the outside of a relationship - of being the third unrequited member of a romance between a couple oblivious to your heartbreak - outside the feelings of someone who has, long ago, fallen out of love with you.

Maybe, in this way, the female collaborators on the album - Nika Roza Danilova of Zola Jesus and first-timer Yasmine Kittles of Tearist - materialise more as simulations, stand-ins or memories of lost loves than as simple musical partners. Roza Danilova's intense, operatic style and Kittles' softer, coquettish beckoning surround Ruppert as the core, writhing, masculine presence in an open, chaotic album.

Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu. He's in there. Sneaking around. You'll find him. Adding percussion, wrap-around synths, extra-textures. Another male voice, most noticeably on the album's solid pop number "New Orleans". Just like new love, "New Orleans" offers the same yearning for the new, the change, that will turn life around. That refreshing spark, that promise of a new beginning.

'FLEURS'

Hold On | The Bull And The Ram

UTR035 | Digipack CD / LP | 12 tracks, 47 mins | November 2009

When Freddy Ruppert first put a copy of Former Ghosts's Fleurs in our hands, he wouldn't let go. He told us, "I need to tell you something." He said that he had performed a little experiment when he had finished recording. He said that the album was drenched in reverb and he had gone out of his way to measure it. He measured the amount of reverb on a few percussive hits, the sustain on a few single synth notes and chords, and long echos on the vocal tracks. He told us that after doing some calculations, he predicts that if you were to clip out the actual sound from the instruments on the album, leaving only the reverb, and then lined each track of reverb up, one after another, the reverb should stretch out for 8 and 3/4 years. He said "Think about that." Over eight years of music folded, stacked, toppling and dripping down over itself. An album dense, not just with sound but emotion - an album so heavy, that the disk itself almost seems to weigh five pounds.

And this isn't just talk. He wasn't just trying to psych us out. With 'Fleurs', Freddy Ruppert, Jamie Stewart and Nika Roza - known collectively as FORMER GHOSTS - have created an album so intense that we sometimes find it hard to listen to. And we say this in an effort to compliment them - their ability to render the themes of the album - heartbreak, death, love, needing, wanting - so sonically accurate that they replicate those feelings in the listener.

The album sweeps through you with its sweet melodic side, sprinkling in sharp, chaotic, discordant moments - as if to punish you for having enjoyed yourself, for having let your guard down. "Dreams" plays through with melodies and textures reminiscent of early synth-pop, kept alive with the warm heart-like thumping of the synthetic kick drum. Freddy's (This Song is a Mess but so Am I) vocals crawl low through the hallucinatory soundscape, led on by the gentle buttering of Jamie's (Xiu Xiu) back-ups in the chorus.

Nika (Zola Jesus) enters the album on "In Earth's Palm" - picture Barbara Streisand laying in the street at night, covered in hot tar, with her legs broken, still managing to sing powerfully, beautifully. The intensity and virtuosity of her voice torques the dynamic of the entire album into an unexpected shape. And it's here, as a powerful feminine counterpart is added to the vulnerable male figures at work, that the fragmented sensation of having more than one lead singer plays out. Love is the most emotionally tangible embodiment of all things delicate - love is confusing and violent. The multitude of voices are both a reflection of and a creation of the themes of loss, confusion and unexpected joy - they are sensations as disjointed, multi-vocal and diverse as the emotional experiences offered here.

Jamie's influence on the album enters obliquely, buttering some of the albums harder edges, organising the sometimes disoriented moments of glitch and electro-mania. He plays an unfamiliar role - softer, more understated (in his particular context) - but in his familiar style. Starring solo on "I Wave", you're drawn into the springy synths, cushioned by his smooth voice - the track is almost a reprieve from heavier textures found elsewhere in the album.

We're glad that Freddy told us what he did before we listened. To be warned that time would seem distorted as we took in 'Fleurs' kept us from believing that we were falling into psychosis, and let us know that we were simply writhing in musical ecstasy.

LINKS

www.formerghosts.com www.myspace.com/formerghostssleep www.freddyruppert.blogspot.com

PRESS

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