Christian Kleine Real Ghosts

[City Centre Offices; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: electronica, downtempo, IDM
Others: Boards of Canada, Ulrich Schnauss, Arovane

German electronic composer/artist Christian Kleine has frequently toed the line between electronica and hip hop, with a smattering of post punk thrown in for good measure. Real Ghosts, his newest offering, is another solid and satisfying record in Christian Kleine's repertoire. By turns mellow, rocking, catchy, and driving, it's an absolutely riveting album that snares the listener in almost immediately. Prominently featuring guitars and indisputably ass-kicking drum beats, this record squeezes a great deal into a fairly small amount of space.

Real Ghosts is not unlike Radiohead's Kid A in the way that it combines guitar-driven melody with the innovative use of electronics (although Kleine's album is a purely instrumental affair). Kleine does seem to be pushing the boundaries of contemporary electronic music here, and also demonstrates his uncanny ability to make instrumental music engaging -- nay, gripping. Vocals would only detract from the music on this record.

A slightly top-heavy album, Real Ghosts' most impressive moments are on the record's first half. The last five tracks of this ten-song disc tend to be slightly more meandering, gravitating toward the more prosaic side of IDM. However, each piece on the album features considerably impressive guitar work, integrating guitar into the pieces in such a way that they take precedence over the electronics. Kleine produces, over the course of the record, an astonishing array of guitar styles that seem almost like a logical extension of the electronics. For instance, "That's Why You Came" starts out in a completely typical IDM-sounding manner, but is salvaged later in the track by the head-nodding disco beat and choppy funk guitar riffs that imbue the record with a new wave/mutant disco sensibility.

The track "Ghostwriting" begins in a deceivingly mellow way, until it breaks into a hyper-distorted riff that wouldn't be out of place on one of Korn's better songs (and this is meant in the best possible way). But the highlight of Real Ghosts is the wonderful "Stations," which recalls the sound of late-era Joy Division and early New Order. The keyboards sound very similar to the synths once employed by New Order, and the bass guitar on this piece has a distinctive Peter Hook/Factory Records style. This is an absolutely gorgeous track for which it is almost worth purchasing the entire album alone.

To put not too fine a point on it, Real Ghosts succeeds most when it distances itself from the downtempo genre. It's that type of impressive album that is always a real treat: the album that has you completely hooked the first time you give it a listen.

1. Home
2. Stations
3. Like the Clouds, Like the Sky
4. Ghostwriting
5. R Last
6. Handsome Used
7. Shifts of Wood
8. That's Why You Came
9. Tastetouch
10. Disappearing Objects

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