The Ghosts I Called
The idea of a new yelworC record in 2024 came as something of a surprise for fans of the formative early 90s dark electro project; while sole member Peter Schiffmann had emerged briefly in the mid-2000s with two LPs (2004’s Trinity and 2007’s Icolation), there have been no additions to the band’s catalogue since. It’s probably not surprising then that The Ghosts I Called is comprised of about a decade’s worth of material going back to 2013, some of which has the air of being dusted off and refurbished for the purposes of release.
Like the early 2000s LPs most of the compositions eschew the band’s rough-hewn charm for a more produced sound that builds out atmospheres and grooves via synths and tasteful sampled orchestration and dialogue samples. While largely instrumental, Schiffmann’s vocals wouldn’t necessarily add a lot to these compositions; tracks like “Babylon’s Code” are structurally more soundtrack-oriented from an arrangement standpoint, locking some heavy percussion loops, processed voices and a chiming dulcimer into a deep groove for four and a half minutes. The rhythm-oriented tracks are usually backed by a sturdy bassline, and range from more distinctly electronic (there’s almost, almost a big beat vibe to “Mutated Tongues” and the breaksy “The Inner Dialogue”) to almost rock-like (“Crucified with Revolution” and “Erased Name – Blind Life” apply guitars for riffs and melody lines to varying degrees).
While all of those variations on the record’s core sound have their charms, there are some moments that make one wish that the project had dipped more into its classic playbook. “The Way the World Ends” has a burbling 16th note bassline and bitcrushed snares that pair wonderfully with the spooky wind instrument that carries its melody, recalling some of the powerfully spooky atmospherics of the band’s early 90s heyday, and “Can’t You See….?” even conjures up some EBM through its bassline and rhythmic chant sample, albeit layering it with some vibrato’d riffing that gives the song a bizarre if not unpleasant a go-go surf rock feel.
Truthfully though, at nearly 80 minutes, The Ghosts I Called suffers from an excessive length that drags down it down. A tighter runtime might have allowed some more of the songs their individuality; as it stands there’s just too many tracks that are variations on similar looping arrangements of drums, synths and snatches of recorded voices. A return to the distinctive dark electro of classics like Brainstorming was never going to be in the cards, but the fact remains that even given some quite nice production and atmospherics, it feels far more like an odds and sods compilation of what yelworC has been up to for the last decade or so rather than a focused and crafted album.