Review : Former Ghosts - New Love
PitchforkNews stories about Former Ghosts, the group/collective led by Freddy Ruppert, usually make a point of mentioning the involvement of Xiu Xiu and Zola Jesus. While invoking the names of both a long-running, well-respected, uncompromising underground group and an up-and-coming performer is a great way to sell prospective listeners on an unknown project, it's not really accurate as far as what Former Ghosts is. The best way to think of Former Ghosts is as the newest work from the man previously known as This Song Is a Mess But So Am I, a one-man group created by Ruppert as a coping mechanism for the untimely death of his mother. As A Mess, Ruppert offered listeners a Casio-tonic take on Xiu Xiu's caustic and restless aggression, coupled with vocals that either paid slavish homage to Ian Curtis or adopted the fragile quiver found in Conor Oberst's more vulnerable moments. For better or worse, the music made as A Mess often lived up to the name of the project, coming off like a primal scream therapy session set to noise. Clearly Ruppert wasn't interested in creating music listeners could enjoy as innocuous background noise; he aimed to be a provocateur, creating sonics that matched his own inner turmoil.
Former Ghosts started in part as an excuse for Ruppert and Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart to hang out and make synth-pop together; Nika Roza Danilova (aka Zola Jesus), whose work Ruppert admired (and vice versa) entered the fold soon thereafter. There's a definite edge to New Love that feels distinctive; the drum machine hits and synth stabs have a five o'clock shadow showing beneath their New Romantic veneer. The less-than-flattering fidelity helps in that regard as well, presenting the image of new wave as conducted through the Tesla coils and Van de Graaff generators in a mad scientist's laboratory. In the hands of his charismatic guest vocalists-- for New Love, Danilova and Tearist's Yasmine Kittles-- these backing tracks come to life (when Jamie Stewart sings, it's in a back-up role). On her two turns at the mic, Danilova doesn't sing so much as dominate, her forceful vocals laying waste to whatever's in their path. Kittles, a type of singer decidedly different from Danilova, takes another approach on her two tracks: She emits intermittent whispers and hisses like a subjugated trip-hop diva, instead letting the music take precedence.
Given Ruppert's past predilection for dramatic singing, one would think his vocals would be a perfect match for these backing tracks. Unfortunately, he often doesn't rise to the challenge. The duet he performs with Kittles on "Winter's Year" bears this out; where she sounds at ease and at home, Ruppert seems to be fighting against himself to get the words out. On aggressive tracks like "The Days Will Get Long Again", his Oberst-esque warbling gets subsumed by the hum and spark of the backing track. During more contemplative sections (like the beginning of "Winter's Year"), his singing smothers any prettiness in the instrumentals. Unabashed pop tunes like "And When You Kiss Me" and "Right Here" need a gentler touch than Ruppert's tin-can singing can provide, while dirges (such as the appropriately titled "Bare Bones") are actually undercut by his tendency to overemote....full text
TinymixtapesFormer Ghosts is the brainchild — or, rather, the bleeding-heart-child — of Freddy Ruppert, shored up by the inimitable talents of wormwood-rising star Niki Roza Danilova, a.k.a. Zola Jesus, and the deft old hand of Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, both of whom independently stole the show during the joint tour of all three groups. While the latter blitzed with stellar performances at London's XOYO, Ruppert blamed his excessive 'rocking out' for a set marred by malfunctioning technology. Either with an irony so fatal it was intangible or with no irony at all, Ruppert spoke into an awkward silence to apologetically praise the (shuffling, not rocking-out) crowd for its understanding and lack of awkward silence. Cue awkward silence.
It's clear that an attitude of staid — or, if you're sympathetic, profound — earnestness rather than dry-as-a-bone humor informs New Love, and this sobriety is most apparent in lyrics that would be far more tolerable if their unremitting affectation of content and delivery were married to a poetic sensibility that was less grating.
Musically, it's fine that 'rocking out' in any traditional sense is something New Love rarely invites. What self-respecting fan of the coldwave sound, whether in its past or current incarnation, would describe their use of such music in these terms? It's fine that New Love doesn't deliver in that sense, because neither does the very similar Cold Cave's gothic-electro-disco sleeper Love Comes Close. The difference is that Love Comes Close is so much more a joy, even as it also, to quote New Love's PR bluster, expresses the gothic majesty of the "love of loss."
Though I'd like to like New Love, and though on occasion it elicits a spinal tingle, I'm subsequently spurned, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Like such sentiments, Former Ghosts' second release just seems a little sophomoric. Then again, perhaps this impression is a triumph, if falling slightly short and feeling denuded and jejune in the face of failure is one of the album's messages.
This may be the case, because this collection is clearly a profoundly heartfelt series of statements about heartbreak, jealousy, and return; the lyrical content is direct and clear, New Love the theme. I can't resist returning to the lyricism again, and there's the crux: unfortunately, it feels that a little indirectness would go well to temper the unbridled honesty of these lovelorn poems. While the confessional quality of these songs draws comparisons to Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, they read as (even more) earnest or trite in the utter absence of CFTPA's humor — dry, gentle, or otherwise....full text
BbcWhether it’s the legacy of The Knife, or a whole lot of Cure fans coming of age, flavour of the month seems to be a kind of updated electro-goth. Freddy Ruppert may be a new name to most, but his collaborators here include one of the most deservedly hyped artists of the year, Nika Roza Danilova (AKA Zola Jesus), and the inimitable Jamie Stewart (AKA Xiu Xiu) – responsible for two of the year’s best albums. Expectations, then, are high for Former Ghosts, and with all three touring together this autumn, the gigs promise to be fairly momentous.
With its slow-buzzing synths and dry beats lacerated by Autechre-harsh shrieks and squeals, The Days Will Get Long Again opens the album in fine style; plus, it’s dead on trend, alongside Cold Cave and Salem. A run of slightly prettier tunes follow, not far off Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, but with a near-subliminal layer of synth-choir drones, and artificial distortion rather than the warmth of lo-fi recordings. Across the first few tracks, the contrast is striking, and effective – behind the mask, Ruppert’s a romantic like all goths, sounding heart-broken, on the verge of tears. By the halfway mark, doubts start to creep in: the trembling voice is more a sign of technical weakness than emotional vulnerability, and you almost wish he’d cover it up with effects, like Blank Dogs.
Disappointingly, the Danilova-sung tracks add little, and none are duets; in fact, her (usually devastating) operatic voice is reined in, and either she lacks the subtlety to match Ruppert’s arrangements, or she seems to have been deployed to compensate for the weaker tunes. Stewart’s occasional backing murmurs (let’s not call them vocals) likewise leave you wanting more. Not that Stewart doesn’t add something: the nocturnal ambience and distant, unsettling sounds have his fingerprints all over them. In a sense, Danilova and Stewart are respecting the intended intimacy of the record, but this could have been so much more had they let themselves bring a dash of Zola Jesus and Xiu Xiu, rather than phoning in their parts....full text
Former Ghosts Album Reviews
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Former Ghosts Lyrics
- 1. Dreams
Do you belive that you truly hate someone?