CD REVIEW – Kristoffer Gildenlow – Let me be a Ghost

Isn’t it often the case that an individual remains best known for their initial impact and not the body of work they’ve put together since. So it is possibly with Mr Gildenlöw. Perhaps best known for his eleven year career (1995-2006) as bass player for world-renowned Swedish band Pain of Salvation (PoS). From ‘Entropia’ in 1997 and in particular second album ‘One Hour by the Concrete Lake’ (OHBTCL) in 1998, and after they had signed to InsideOut Music in Germany, PoS became one of the most popular bands in the genre. ‘The Perfect Element, Part I’ (2000), ‘Remedy Lane’ (2002), ’12:5′ (2003) and ‘BE’ (2004) were consumate releases, but in 2005, after Pain of Salvation toured the ‘BE’ album world wide, the band and Kristoffer decided to part ways. Kristoffer had moved to The Netherlands in 2003 and it was getting harder to keep the situation working as a band.

There was six years for him to focus on creating his first solo album. But he also remained active in the music scene, recording bass, double bass, cello and vocals for various artists and bands all over the world. In addition to studio recordings, Kristoffer has remained in high demand for his bass skills as a session musician for live performances and touring. As session musician from 1995 until present day, Kristoffer has performed on over thirty studio recordings of many prominent artists and bands and alongside his own career, he is still an active session musician. You may have seen his name on numerous recordings, including most recently Kayak.

In terms of his own musical releases, his career as an independent artist took flight with the release of his debut album ‘Rust’ (2012), with a wide range of music and guest musicians ( 27 guests on the album including Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation), Fredrik Hermansson (former Pain of Salvation), Ola Hedén (former Flower Kings) and Wudstik (For All We Know, Ayreon) ). “Fragile, dark, melancholic and soothing” – the theme of a sentimental journey through memories and dreams, dealing with youth, growing old, death and finding peace in life. The music, a personal emotional journey with a singer songwriter feel, ambient art rock moods and even touches of folk.

In 2016 Kristoffer released his second album The Rain, with guest musicians such as Fredrik Hermansson (former Pain of Salvation) on piano, Lars Erik Asp (Gazpacho) on drums and percussion, Paul Coenradie (Valentine) on guitar, Anne Bakker (Blaze Bayley) on violins and vocals and Maaike Peterse (Ayreon, Kingfisher Sky and Kovacs) on cello. “It’s about the struggles and life of a man with dementia – Alzheimer’s disease. Each song deals with different stages of the illness, emotions and ideas of the character and this creates a good bone structure for the whole concept of the album.” And then, in pandemic-ridden 2020, Kristoffer released his third album Homebound. A somewhat more acoustic approach took the listener on a journey through life itself.

So we come to this album, and Kristoffer says: “One of the reasons ‘Let Me Be A Ghost’ came to life in the first place, was because the album ‘Empty’ got postponed. I can’t switch off the creativity or my need to make music and so the new songs were created. And so I’ve kept on making new music after the EP was mixed and mastered and ready for production. Being given a few extra months, I have decided to “upgrade” ‘Let Me Be A Ghost’ from an EP to a full length album, adding 6 new songs to the concept.”

It’s the former Pain Of Salvation bassist’s darkest musical journey so far and lyrically explores contrasting themes about giving up or carrying on, falling down or standing strong, and choosing between life and death. On his fourth album, the Swedish musician takes musical inspiration from Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Roger Waters, David Sylvian and Blackfield. But more of some of those, and others, later.

The title track and album opener is the first of a three-part song split across the album, each an elegiac ode that is individually and taken as a whole both naturally and achingly beautiful, melancholic and haunting. His warm voice, slightly reminiscent of his brother or Riverside’s Mariusz Duda , enhances the atmosphere, thoughtful and heartfelt lyrically. Part 2’s guitar is sublime, and each section is wonderfully constructed, especially the lead into the rockiest section of Part 3.

That melancholic air occurs in ‘The Wind’ and ‘Still Enough’, the former’s quiet piano opening a gentle breeze before a gorgeous full band, with slightly folky male and female vocals harmonising to lift the piece until it returns to a delicate close. And then, how often has a musical box sound added an evocative touch? As here, ‘Still Enough’ where its hypnotic rhythm develops into a calm marching pace with understated fretless bass. One of the album’s peaks for me.

Kristoffer’s aforementioned respect for some artists is overt on some tracks, not only through inspiration, but even in some instances recreating the essence of their sound. ‘Blame it all on me’ is Leonard Cohen-esque, as is ‘Fade Away’. The former has a delightful dark sound, initially a folk swing then a pastiche of a fairground waltz melody to close. The latter uses such a delicately lightly building song construction, the slightest of Oldfield touches perhaps, to great effect behind his vocal gloom.

‘Don’t’ and ‘Lean On Me’ provide respite and variety. The Spanish guitar in ‘Don’t’ provides a similar lightness to Kristoffer’s darkness, and in ‘Lean on Me’ the pairing of vocals with Erna auf der Haar accentuates the vocal melody and ethereal beauty, perhaps with a Sylvian, Duda or even Clannad and blues touch. Another peak moment for me.

The single ‘Falling Floating Sinking’ (btw what exactly is a single these days – in my day it was a 45rpm piece of vinyl! But I digress….) is actually a slow-burning five-minute track, full of foreboding, the sudden wall of sound coming in mid-song, a sudden driving slab of darkness. ‘Fleeting Thought’ has a touch of Floyd/Waters, mixing an early psychedelic feel with their later bombast, delicious guitar solo to boot. ‘Where I ought to be’ uses nylon guitar to great effect, an airy, spacious feel, there is a definite Duda feel here as it develops in mood. Another top track.

There’s a serenity about the closing track ‘Look at me now’, an almost cathartic release after the melancholic angst and dark passion of what preceded it, whilst still emotional and deep. It’s akin to Roger Waters’ closure of the Wall, if you want to go back that far.

This is such a heartfelt album, achingly melancholic and darkly personal, with moments of beauty and glimmers of hope shimmering in the deep. One to listen to when you want to explore your own vulnerabilities in those deeply personal moments we all have from time to time.

Tracklisting

1. Let Me Be a Ghost Pt. I
2. The Wind
3. Blame It All on Me
4. Falling, Floating, Sinking
5. Fleeting Thought
6. Fade Away
7. Don’t
8. Lean on Me
9. Let Me Be a Ghost Pt. II
10. Still Enough
11. Where I Ought to Be
12. Let Me Be a Ghost Pt. III
13. Look at Me Now

Band

– Kristoffer Gildenlöw / vocals, various instruments
With:
– Joris Lindner / drums (2,4,5,8,10,11), Hammond organ (2)
– Dirk Bruinenberg / drums (12)
– Erna auf der Haar / vocals (8)
– Ronja Gildenlöw / vocals (2)
– Marcel Singor / guitar solo (5)

Band Links

https://www.kristoffergildenlow.com/
https://kristoffergildenlow.bandcamp.com/album/let-me-be-a-ghost

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