When Freddy Ruppert first put a copy of Former Ghosts' Fleurs in my hand, he wouldn't let go. He told me, "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 me 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 me out. With Fleurs Freddy Ruppert, Jamie Stewart and Nika Roza -- known collectively as Former Ghosts -- have created an album so intense that I sometimes find it hard to listen to. And I say this in an effort to compliment them. To authentically present the themes of the album--heartbreak, death, love, needing, wanting--and to render them sonically accurate should replicate those feelings in the listener.
And they do. The album sweeps through you with it's 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 back-ups in the chorus.
Nika (Zola Jesus) enters the album on "In Earth's Palm" -- picture Barbra 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, unexpected joy; they are sensations as disjointed, multi-vocal and diverse as the emotional experiences offered here.
Jamie's (Xiu Xiu, etc) influence on the album enters obliquely, buttering some of the albums harder edges, organizing 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.
I'm glad Freddy told me what he did before I listened. To be warned that time would seem distorted as I listened to Former Ghosts kept me from believing that I was falling into psychosis, and let me know I was simply writhing in musical ecstasy.
"Fleurs" out October 20th on Upset The Rhythm CD/Vinyl/Digital Download
01 Us and Now
02 Hold On
05 In Earth's Palm
06 I Wave
10 The Bull and the Ram
11 Hello Again
12 This Is My Last Goodbye