Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Love - Former Ghosts

New Love

Former Ghosts
Upset the Rhythm Records.

SCQ Rating: 83%

Few sensations can be as scary and self-effacing as falling in love. Every action and reaction committed by your love interest feels subliminal to something deeper, creating anxieties whether you choose to perceive such gestures as romantic or casual. So many doubts: are you both on the same page, does he/she feel the same, and - most terrifying of all - are you in this all alone? In the case of Freddy Ruppert last year, that fear had been realized and chronicled for Fleurs, a devastatingly detailed post-break-up record that enriched Ruppert’s loss in a reverb that simultaneously sought to bury him.

So while this new LP bears a title suggesting a reinvigorated chance at happiness, its thirteen songs thrive and thrash like the stream-of-conscious sentiments of an unsure lover. Pounding mid-tempo assertions set up Ruppert’s quiet confidence in ‘The Days Will Get Long Again’ but dissipate into wintry despair for ‘Until You Are Alone Again’ with a suddenness that borders on bipolar. His brittle emotions make for compelling listening, as the inspired rush that romances ‘New Orleans’ almost feels disillusioned in hindsight once we’ve heard ‘Bare Bones’, a plodding epitaph that finds Ruppert breaking down by the thirty-second mark. Quelling the emotional rollercoaster is Nika Roza Danilova of Zola Jesus, whose seismic vocal presence punches out two club-worthy highlights, but ‘Bare Bones’, while at first unlistenable, leaves the longer impact with a melody so peculiar it should be restricted to one’s subconscious (nevermind the unforgettable vocal performance).

None of this is meant to imply that New Love isn’t lighter, at least sonically. By dropping much of Fleurs’ moody reverb, Former Ghosts reign all of this rediscovered aural real-estate by embracing pop structures. Both ‘Winter’s Year’, which introduces Yasmine Kittles into the collective’s fold, and ‘Right Here’ breeze effortlessly on shimmering synths and a post-punk beat, providing the requisite balance to keep the record’s darker moments at bay. The cleaner production exposes both a glitchier aspect to Former Ghosts’ sound as well as a textural one, its odd rhythms permeating the title track like noises in a foreign bedroom at night. Somewhere behind the electronic curtain, Jamie Stewart can be felt tinkering around.

New Love seems burdened not by the countless anxieties that play into a relationship’s awkward beginnings, but by Ruppert’s self-acknowledged lusting, which treats each romantic possibility as a new obsession to fall headlong into. “When you kiss me / it seals my fate,” Ruppert sings at one point, confirming how vicious New Love’s cycle really is. Slick songwriting overcomes even this fated-to-misery narrative, resulting in one of 2010’s most unnerving records.

Former Ghosts - Winter's Year by L-TrainPDX

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