Madison's Nika Roza Danilova has been very busy with music the past couple years. She has released solo recordings as Zola Jesus, and another album featuring Danilova appeared in October on London's Upset the Rhythm label: Fleurs by Former Ghosts.
Former Ghosts' synthpop is spearheaded by Californian Freddy Ruppert. Like Danilova, Ruppert has experience recording as a one-person electronic band with his earlier project This Song is a Mess but so Am I. In Former Ghosts, Ruppert mans the synths and programming on most tracks, aided at times by Jamie Stewart, mastermind of melodically noisy genre-crossers Xiu Xiu. Stewart also takes lead vocals on one song and Danilova on a pair, with both contributing backup vocals on various tracks.
"Freddy approached me, told me he really loved Zola Jesus and wanted me to sing on one of his tracks," says Danilova. "He liked the vocals so much he then asked me to join the band with him and Jamie."
Former Ghosts toured all of October, but Danilova wasn't able to join them this time around. "I'm a student at UW-Madison right now, so I'm unable to tour much. But with much hard work I will be graduating next summer, and we will do a European tour in October, with [Former Ghosts] and Zola Jesus."
The sound of Fleurs is a bit smoother overall than what I've heard from Ruppert's one-man band days; many songs feature a combination of techno and industrial-style beats juxtaposed with calming, almost new-agey keyboards. That's not to say there's no room for dissonant squelchiness and harsher sounds when they fit with the melancholy themes Ruppert expresses through his hypnotically monotonic lead vocals.
"Hold On" features backing vocals by Danilova. The lyrics are vague enough to keep the listener wondering about the full story behind them, but the anguished wails during the song's outro leave little doubt that the title's directive was not achieved. At times, the harsh keyboard tones create a wailing effect of their own as a counterpoint to the vocals.
There is also a video for "Hold On," directed by Amir Shoucri, that premiered last month on the music blog Stereogum. The clip's alcohol-fueled nature gives the song an entirely different context.
An MP3 of "Hold On" is available in the related files at the right of this article. More music by Former Ghosts is available on its MySpace page. The band does not have any dates currently planned for Madison.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.