I learned something recently: I need to remember to be patient. Some albums hit me so hard and fast, and I like them instantly or at least within a listen or two. But the new record from Kristoffer Gildenlöw isn’t that type of album, at least for me. No, it took time and effort to process; and, in the end, Let Me Be a Ghost shines, in its own way. The album released on September 3rd.
I originally planned on reviewing this album weeks ago. Something kept me from doing so. My review was originally going to be negative to some extent, but there remained a small kernel of light at the center of this record that kept me listening, kept me coming back to reassess. And finally it hit me, and the entire record opened up before me.
Kristoffer Gildenlöw hails from the Netherlands, and he is certainly a prolific and energetic artist. He might be known best as the former bassist of Pain of Salvation, from their debut to BE, essentially. After that, he has been part of many bands, from Arcana and Flaming Row to Kayak and Dark Suns. He tends to do an album with a band, and then move on. But his solo works are ever-present and obviously where he sows his soul the most.
Let Me Be a Ghost is a subtle album, and I truly mean subtle. I wouldn’t call this rock, though there are some rock moments. I would label this “post-prog”, more akin to the haunting, hovering style of early Lunatic Soul than anything else. The music truly is eerie, ambient, and atmospheric. On a few tracks, we may hear some riffs and drums, but most of the songs are ballads or slow burning, cerebral experiences. Much of it is led by acoustic guitar and keys, and the like, and so it can feel like the album isn’t going anywhere. It can feel like too many slow tracks are stacked up against each other.
Yet, the most riveting part of this record, for me, is Kristoffer‘s weighty, emotional voice, and his obvious talent at crafting powerful vocal hooks. Indeed, it feels like each and every track here has some sort of addictive hook sewn seamlessly into its DNA. Again, some of these hooks are subtle, but they do the job, and they keep me coming back for more. Time and again, when I was ready to give up on this album, I found myself playing it again. And I wasn’t even sure why. Soon enough, when I realized that I found myself humming the tunes throughout the day, I began to understand the sheer power of the melodies.
Let Me Be a Ghost is constructed oddly, I will admit, but that soon becomes a strength. The lyrical content is strong and relatable, and the lyrics are written with artistry and poetry. As the album progresses, there are maybe three or four moments where the music climaxes to something heavier or more kinetic, but that isn’t the point of this record. It is an emotional journey: a hanging piece that revels in vulnerability, greyness, and melancholy.
The music reflects this, especially in the titular three-part suite as it is strewn throughout the record. It is a touchstone of sorts, containing a memorable melody. In fact, that melody may have been the reason I never gave up on this record. There’s just something about the title song that feels so real and so elegantly textured.
The first half has some great tracks. “The Wind” is evocative and breathy, and has one of the more rhythmic moments of the record. “Fleeting Thought” is one of my favorites overall, with a spine-tingling melody and wraithlike second half, feeling quite dark and “dead”, if you know what I mean. “Fade Away” ends the first half with an incredibly beautiful ballad, one that I sing often.
The second half, to my ears, feels a bit more Floydian. You will hear some Gilmourish guitars here and there, and the atmosphere is like early Floyd records. One of the highlights in this half is “Lean on Me” with Kristoffer singing along with Erna auf der Haar, her vocals adding a fantastic contrast on what turns out to be an addictive chorus. “Still Enough” is a great one, too feeling like a nighttime lullaby, only shadowy and mysterious, too. The final track, “Look at Me Now”, is mostly an ambient affair, gently releasing us from the clutches and weight of the emotions here.
Let Me Be a Ghost is a labor of love, both for Kristoffer Gildenlöw and for the listener. It takes time and effort to find the wavelength at which Kristoffer was working here, and once I found it, I couldn’t get enough of it. This album is sophisticated, sensitive, and spectral in more ways than one, and finding its heart is a journey well worth your time.
Find Kristoffer Gildenlöw online: