Former Ghosts


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Freddy Ruppert is the founder of Former Ghosts, but listeners might be more familiar with the other two-thirds of the band, Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart and Zola Jesus' Nika Roza. While the trio's debut album, Fleurs, isn't quite as severe as Xiu Xiu or as unearthly as Zola Jesus' music, its harsh beauty and vulnerability is certainly of a piece with those groups. Like these bands, and contemporaries such as Cold Cave, Ruppert and his fellow Ghosts reinvent and deconstruct synth pop by contrasting and blurring overtly mechanical, detached-sounding electronics with highly emotional melodies and topping it all with heroic doses of noise. The damaged 8-bit tones on songs like "Hello Again" whip up more pure distortion than a guitar, while the quivering synths on "Choices" match the shaky voiced intensity in Ruppert's voice when he sings "When will your choice be me?" His baritone adds an extra weight to these songs, which are often anguished but surprisingly wide-ranging, spanning "Mother"'s hard edges and "Dreams"' brisk, brittle pop. The interplay between Ruppert, Stewart, and Roza also helps keep Fleurs fresh. Roza sings "In Earth's Palm" and the Siouxsie Sioux-like, klaxon oddness to her voice is the perfect fit for the abrasive textures around her; later, on in "The Bull and the Ram," her piercing vocals make her lament that much more keenly felt. Stewart takes the lead on "I Wave," which features creepy, childlike vocals and, not surprisingly, sounds a lot like early Xiu Xiu's mix of simple sounds and complex emotions. However, it's Fleurs' most collaborative moments that are among the most memorable, in particular the anthemic Ruppert/Stewart duet "Hold On," which is one of the few candles in the album's dead-of-night darkness, and Roza and Ruppert's "This is My Last Goodbye," which closes the album with the echoing question "Who is going to love you like I do?" Asking questions like that (and leaving them unanswered) means that Former Ghosts evoke isolation with a fearlessness that few of their peers can match.

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