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Various Artists

Ghostly Swim

    Legend has it that Brian Eno’s concept of ambient music came to him while laid up in a hospital bed after an automobile ac-cident in the ‘70s. A friend brought him some records, playing them too low to be properly heard, and Eno couldn’t get out of bed to adjust the volume. While the record spun softly, Eno’s idea for music you could ignore as easily as you could give it your full attention, like a sort of sonic wallpaper, was born. It’s in that spirit of quiet isolation that Ghostly International, in associ-ation with Adult Swim, shares Ghostly Swim 2, our way of giving listeners a space to get away from the manic holiday bustle.

    For those keeping track at home, Ghostly is wrapping up its 15th anniversary as an Ann Arbor/Brooklyn-based indie. 2014 has seen the company soundtracking video games (Playstation’s Hohokum), collaborating with awesome companies like Warby Parker and VOID watches, and clearing 300 releases of for-ward-thinking music with records from Tycho, Com Truise, and HTRK. What better way to end this banner year than to revisit one of our favorite partnerships from the past decade and a half?

    Released in 2008, Ghostly Swim was praised for its adventurous survey of exploratory dance and pop music. Our curatorial focus has shifted this time around, moving further inward (spiritually) and outward (as far as our roster goes) to reflect the electron-ic underground in all of its hazy and vibrant experimentalism. Ghostly Swim 2 is a document of textured ambient zone-outs and woozy, granular house and techno that will help you find some downtime away from The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. So sit back, lower the volume, and enjoy our selections.

    Choir Of Young Believers

    This Is For The White In Your Eyes

      Even though This Is for the White in Your Eyes, the full-length debut by Danish collective Choir of Young Believers, is teeming with instruments--voices, pianos, synthesizers, banjos, an orchestra’s ransom in strings and French horns--it’s not the arrangements that dominate so much as the images they conjure. Snow-flecked moun-taintops, deserted city streets, ghost-filled churches, a final kiss between estranged lovers--this is the emotional terrain trod by Jannis Joya Makrigiannis and his Choir of Young Believers. This Is for the White in Your Eyes is an album of orchestral indie-pop, but its artistic scope extends beyond melody and harmony: Choir of Young Believers paint cinematic tableaux, with Jannis cast as the silvery-voiced narrator.

      Jannis produced This Is for the White in Your Eyes with his old friends and collaborators Anders Rhedin and Fridolin, constructing cavernous sound-worlds around his own skeletal guitar and piano compositions. (“I don’t have a computer, so I almost never record demos,” Jannis says.) The song cycle begins on a somber note with the lonely piano atmospherics of “Hollow Talk,” a dirge that builds towards a climax of machine-gun snares and sneering children’s choir.

      It’s followed by the soaring balladry of “Next Summer” and the anthemic single, “Ac-tion/Reaction.” Jannis’ voice is something to behold--a reverb-slicked, bell-like tenor in the Neil Young mold--and his golden pipes haunt the album, floating over “Un-der the Moon” like a celestial body, riding the thundering piano notes of “Claustrophobia,” and rippling on the horizon of the country-tinged “Why Must It Always Be this Way.” And yet, for all of the record’s orchestral gran-deur, there’s an icy Nordic remove running through This Is for the White in Your Eyes that keeps the overflowing emotions in check. In Choir of Young Believers’ hands, even the sweetest melodies carry a hollow, solitary mood that lingers long after the music has stopped.

      Chicago-based contemporary electronic musician Steve Hauschildt has composed panoramas of synthesized sound for over a decade. First within his former band, Emeralds, an American touchstone of 2000s home-recorded psychedelic noise music, and later across a steady and critically-acclaimed stream of solo releases spanning ambient techno, arpeggiated electronica and post-kosmische styles utilizing synthesizers, computers, and digital processing. In 2018, he extended a collection of rich, visceral tracks titled Dissolvi, his first release on Ghostly International and his most collaborative work to date. Just a year later, Hauschildt returns with Nonlin, an album that’s freer, leaner, and looser, both structurally and conceptually; less linear compared to its predecessor, but still captivating. Developed and recorded in several studios during and around the edges of tour — Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Tbilisi, and Brussels — this material emulates an alienating encounter with a smattering of places, a replicant of culture shock, a solitary and stark experience with uncanny environments, melody and dissonance as oblique locales.

      Nonlin finds Hauschildt evolving his palette of tools, integrating modular and granular synthesis. The improvisatory and generative nature of modular systems, when paired with his signature grid-oriented and hand-played techniques, guides these compositions slightly out of line to hypnotic effect. Opener “Cloudloss” permeates the mix with an unsettling smog, which reappears and all but engulfs “A Planet Left Behind.” On cuts like “Attractor B” and “Subtractive Skies,” pockets of air rest between sequenced pulses, whose crumpling and flattening folds build into a restrained rapture of crisp frequencies and milky reverb-swallowed coruscations.

      The album’s title track and centerpiece logs on to a foreign network, a fractured percussion signal that modulates and stutters into static amidst curious melodic sparkling in the hazy bandwidth. “Reverse Culture Music” casts an elegant and brooding stream of strings, pizzicato and churning bow from Chicago cellist Lia Kohl, against chiming minimalist synth frameworks. A surprising pattern emerges in the taciturn systems at work. Hauschildt continues to expand his already horizon-wide repertoire, here exploring the effects of corrupting coordinates; a flight subject to the collapsable abilities of time in remote spaces, a smearing of the axis to elegiac ends.


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Another outstanding LP from the ever-reliable Steve Hauschildt here, and his first for Ghostly. This time we go further down the ambient seam he's been exploring of late (though Tragedy & Geometry and Sequitur had hints of airy ambience, they were essentially propulsive kosmische music), with slowly evolving walls of sound twisting around the overriding melodic theme, going almost full circle towards his work in Emeralds.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Super limited “Liquid Mercury” colour (silver suspended in transparent vinyl).

      Legend has it that Brian Eno’s concept of ambient music came to him while laid up in a hospital bed after an automobile accident in the ‘70s. A friend brought him some records, playing them too low to be properly heard, and Eno couldn’t get out of bed to adjust the volume. While the record spun softly, Eno’s idea for music you could ignore as easily as you could give it your full attention, like a sort of sonic wallpaper, was born. It’s in that spirit of quiet isolation that Ghostly International, in association with Adult Swim, shares Ghostly Swim 2, our way of giving listeners a space to get away from the manic holiday bustle.

      For those keeping track at home, Ghostly is wrapping up its 15th anniversary as an Ann Arbor/Brooklyn-based indie. 2014 has seen the company soundtracking video games (Playstation’s Hohokum), collaborating with awesome companies like Warby Parker and VOID watches, and clearing 300 releases of forward-thinking music with records from Tycho, Com Truise, and HTRK. What better way to end this banner year than to revisit one of our favorite partnerships from the past decade and a half?

      Released in 2008, Ghostly Swim was praised for its adventurous survey of exploratory dance and pop music. Our curatorial focus has shifted this time around, moving further inward (spiritually) and outward (as far as our roster goes) to reflect the electronic underground in all of its hazy and vibrant experimentalism. Ghostly Swim 2 is a document of textured ambient zone-outs and woozy, granular house and techno that will help you find some downtime away from The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. So sit back, lower the volume, and enjoy our selections. 


      Pioneering guitarist/artist Christopher Willits and legendary pianist/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto have carved a niche as central figures in the experimental electronic music scene. Sakamoto, a Grammy and Academy Award winning composer, and founding member of Yellow Magic Orchestra, has had a storied career since the 1970s. Willits, a generation younger, is forging his own prolific path, cre-ating some of the past decade’s most unique guitar-based music and live audiovisual performances around the world. Their collaborations together are feats of peerless mu-sicianship and sonic invention, being described as “two visionary musicians willing to explore a common creative ground” (The Milk Factory). Ocean Fire, their first album together, emerged from the creative depths in 2008 to critical acclaim. 2012 now brings us the duo’s latest offer-ing, Ancient Future, which cements their strength as mas-ters of tranquil ambience, lush piano chords and beautiful, elongated guitar tones.

      Christopher Willits is a San Francisco-based electronic music and guitar pioneer. Using his self-designed software to “paint with his guitar” (Pitchfork), Willits creates “mes-merizing, intricate electronic soundscapes” (Nowness) and lush audiovisual performances of weaving patterns, texture, and harmony. A guitarist, composer, producer, photographer, visual artist, and system designer, Willits manifests his creativity into relaxing experiences of over-lapping sound and light. Working solo and in collaboration with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Matmos, Willits, a Mills College graduate with a master’s degree in electronic music, has released 20 plus albums within the last decade, albums of “incredibly intelligent compositions” (Tokafi) that defy genre in the spirit of beauty and experimenta-tion.

      Ryuichi Sakamoto was born in Tokyo in 1952 and made his debut in 1978 with the album Thousand Knives. Saka-moto’s diverse catalog includes his pioneering electronic works, globally-inspired rock, classical scores including an opera, and being a founding member of electronic music as a part of Yellow Magic Orchestra. His film soundtracks have won many prestigious awards such as an Academy Award for “The Last Emperor,” two Golden Globes, a Grammy and a British Academy Award in addition to the several Japanese awards for his most famous film score, “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”. Sakamoto’s recent re-leases include collaborations with Alva Noto (on Summvs) and Christian Fennesz (on Flumina).


      For two decades, Ghostly International has functioned at the joints of genre, distinctly connecting many, demarcated by none. Among the more curious throughlines in the label's stylistic architecture is its use of the tag SMM. Launched discreetly in 2003, the undefined acronym has designated calm, slow-moving music that straddles the synthetic/organic divide in surprising ways. 2011 compilation SMM: Context pieced together landscapes imagined by the likes of Leyland Kirby and Christina Vantzou. 2013 follow-up SMM: Opiate proposed the evocative possibilities of sound with artists such as Noveller and A Winged Victory for the Sullen. In 2019, alongside the label's 20-year milestone, Ghostly extends Thousands of Eyes in the Dark, a collection celebrating international talent with an outward gaze. Ten original works of contemporary melodic and incidental electronics — fragments, moods, vignettes — sequenced as one continuous suite, a pairing of personal expression with wide angle vision.

      Submissions stretch far beyond Ghostly’s roster and roots. Tracing the tracklist on a map, we begin in the Netherlands with Suzanne Kraft operating under his SK U Kno alias. Stabs of guitar mingle with washes of restless sound design on “Cut and Faze,” a gripping, asymmetric opener. Pan over to Los Angeles next, where emerging modular synth practitioner Emily Sprague patches “Mesa,” lightly coiling the tonal hymn skyward. The third track, “This Was Us,” belongs to Berlin-based Dutch-Italian composer Aimée Portioli aka Grand River. She says the tender, strolling piece references the dissolution of a relationship and was improvised on a Yamaha DX7 following a night with friends; “I just sat with the instrument and started to play. I kind of needed a moment to myself.” Back in Ann Arbor, Ghostly’s first home, label mainstay Tadd Mullinix renders an oscillating study of sensations titled as a nod to the film Woman in the Dunes. Closing side A is Canadian composer Sarah Davachi, who drafted her cathedral-filling drone for Mellotron and Hammond organ.

      The entry point to Side B hazily stirs and crackles in the care of Orcas, the collaboration between veterans Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) and Thomas Meluch (Benoit Pioulard). They cite a lineage of classic ambient inspirations: Mark Hollis, Pieter Nooten & Michael Brook, Fennesz & David Sylvian. Vancouver producer and recent signee Khotin provides one of the series’ sweetest moments yet, “Angel Epicenter,” his signature dream-like climes anchored by a steady pulse. Immediately following is its twangiest, “Shepherd Canyon” by Saariselka, the meditations of Oakland, California composers Marielle Jakobsons (Fender Rhodes, organ, synthesizers) and Chuck Johnson (pedal steel guitar and treatments). That pastoral terrain is left to linger a moment before into turning to concrete, courtesy of Manchester duo Space Afrika, known for their vast, disintegrating urban dubscapes. Thousands of Eyes in the Dark finishes its first cycle in Japan, as producer and field recordist Yosi Horikawa leads listeners through a lush forest of sound, outlining every step with melancholic piano phrasings, inching into the sublime. Designed for repeat play-through, these ten tracks from some of the world’s finest sound artists double as a worthy metaphor for Ghostly’s 20-year run with SMM: a discerning set keeping us engrossed and guessing. 


      Telefon Tel Aviv

      Dreams Are Not Enough

        The return of storied Southern Gothic electronic entity Telefon Tel Aviv is as unexpected as it is impressive. Their three influential albums of the 2000’s—Fahrenheit Fair Enough, Map Of What Is Effortless, and Immolate Yourself—charted an increasingly turbulent and textured vision of post-IDM synthetic songcraft, until the sudden passing of founding member Charlie Cooper in 2009 ceased the project, presumably forever.

        During the decade since, co-founder Josh Eustis has performed with, produced, mixed, and mastered countless artists, from high-profile institutions (Nine Inch Nails, Puscifer, Apparat) to underground fixtures (Belong, Vatican Shadow, Drab Majesty, Tropic Of Cancer), in addition to his own solo and collaborative work in Sons Of Magdalene and Second Woman. But years of reflection and processing gradually seeded in him a desire to revive TTA and venture a fourth full-length, in the spirit of what they started: Dreams Are Not Enough.

        From the shuddering software oscillations of the opening piece, “I dream of it often,” the classic Telefon palette of hyper-modern sound design and smoky nocturnal emotion feels vividly revitalized. The songs stand apart but belong together, threading a veiled narrative of loss, anger, and age—the crumbling of constancies, shifting sands slipping through the hourglass.

        The album’s fragmented track titles relate a recurring dream that’s haunted Eustis since childhood, based on a murky incident during a family vacation to a remote Alabama coastline when he was eight. In the dream he swims alone through the waves past the sandbar to where the ocean shelf abruptly drops away into a gradient of infinite darkness; awed, he peers into the depths and sees himself down at the bottom, mouth open and eyes blank, floating motionless like a corpse.

        An undercurrent of eerie melancholy flows through the album, manifested in shivering widescreen meditations, depressive twilit modern pop, and devotional industrial abstractions. Melodies emerge and evaporate; rhythms lock in step then fracture and fade; centers cannot hold.

        “A younger version of myself” deftly encapsulates the unique poignancy and shadowplay of this TTA iteration, shuffling on a hypnotic rhythm with the swing of backwards looping tape as Eustis croons a lost, liminal lament about waiting in line and the passing of time. “Standing at the bottom of the ocean” sinks even more minimal, subliminal electricity crossfading into skeletal soul built from ghostly bass, smeared chords, and naked voice, before ebbing away in a cyber-screwed downtempo outro.

        Eustis speaks of wanting Dreams Are Not Enough to evoke a sense of emptiness, of cutting unnecessary elements from each mix, to convey this as a solitary work—framing an absence. A document as much of what’s not there as what remains.


        FORMAT INFORMATION

        Coloured LP Info: Limited edition clear & gold splatter vinyl.

        For nearly a decade the story of Com Truise has relied on science fiction and abstract fact. Seth Haley’s singular style of melodic beat music subsists as hazy machinist nostalgia, a mainframe downloaded cosmology. Yet with each release, alongside sonic refinement, comes an increasingly visible vapor trail to Haley’s own ontology. His long-awaited 2017 LP "Iteration" brought to completion a conceptual space saga while also reflecting seismic life changes for the producer and designer. With this mini-LP "Persuasion System", Haley leaves the past narrative behind, settling into a new period marked by change - on this planet, in the present - putting forth his most grounded and visceral work to date.

        The project began as an experiment. Haley switched digital audio workstations, rebuilt his palette of sounds, and tasked himself with simply trying it out. The exercise freed him of expectations and permitted a process that echoed the tones of more immediate external environments. A gravity had seeped in; resulting material shifts between bleakness and sublime suspense, awe at the expanse of existing, in looking back and letting go. 'It’s a sort of sad smile and a wave goodbye but at the same time hello, a 'welcome to your life’ moment,' Haley says. Take the storm pattern sequence from “Gaussian” to “Ultrafiche of You”: a queasy, contemplative vignette rests on a single soft-synth cloud before the latter’s percussion ripples across the sky. With trademark stutters and swells, the composition conjures the sensation of searching in the afterglow. 'It’s a love song, and I don’t write many of those.'

        That duality: melancholy + optimism now permeates this widescreen collection. “Existence Schematic” takes flight at night, 'looking down at the landscape,' explains Haley, 'seeing the lights in a schematic sort of way, wondering who or what is looking back up at me wondering the same things I am, the impact of a single existence, the end, the beginning, where it’s gone and going.' These are observations from this existential "Persuasion System", and Haley hopes the music yields more, for others, that listeners may search for their own tension and release.


        STAFF COMMENTS

        Martin says: Wide-screen, technicoloured synthwork from old faves Com Truise who usher forth a new age of optimism-thru-technology.

        Matthew Dear is a shapeshifter, oscillating seamlessly between DJ, dance-music producer, and experimental pop auteur. He is a founding artist on both Ghostly International and its dancefloor offshoot, Spectral Sound. He writes, produces, and mixes all of his work. He straddles multiple musical worlds and belongs to none, now nearly 20 years into his kaleidoscopic career, with five albums and two dozen EPs plus millions of miles in the rearview of his biography.

        Bunny is the name of Matthew Dear’s fifth album. His first since 2012, it bounces into plain sight preceded by two slyly different singles in 2017: the moody, urgent "Modafinil Blues” and the buoyant, blithe, Tegan and Sara-featuring “Bad Ones.” Bunny follows both modes, among others, parading down a rabbit hole of unhinged phrasings, dreams, and interludes. It saunters in the shadows; it stands brightly in the moonlight. Bunny is a dual vision of avant-pop; an artistic reckoning from a 21st-century polymath; persona splintered, paradox paraphrased, a riddle rendered.


        FORMAT INFORMATION

        2xColoured LP Info: Very limited white splatter vinyl.

        LP includes MP3 Download Code.

        Dabrye

        One / Three

          It was chance that brought about the release of One/Three, Dabrye’s debut album. Early demos were tucked on the B side of a cassette Tadd Mullinix passed to Sam Valenti in 2000 while working at the Dubplate Pressure record shop in Ann Arbor. Mullinix had spent the late ’90s producing jungle, techno, house, hip-hop and more using the All Sound Tracker software as a primary instrument. Each style pulled from a similar sound palette as Mullinix used limitations to define the contours of di erent musical personalities. Dabrye was his hip-hop wildstyle, a captivating collage of sparse instrumentals inspired by the laid back vibes of midwestern hip-hop and east coast boom bap, the futuristic funk of Umma-era Jay Dee, and the calculated subtlety of Detroit dance music. Released in 2001 as the first in an intended trilogy, One/Three announced Dabrye’s arrival with an unavoidable contribution to Detroit hip-hop. Ghostly International is reissuing the album in 2017 for the first time, including a long overdue vinyl edition.

          On its release One/Three was the rare album that appealed to both fans of Slum Village’s smooth yet rugged hip-hop and enthusiasts of the distinct American IDM released by labels like Schematic. Over the following decade, the inadvertent demo submission turned into a body of work that placed Dabrye alongside innovators such as Prefuse 73 amid the cannon of a new generation of producers. Today, One/Three remains a concise and intriguing study in instrumental hip-hop that helps join the dots between J Dilla and Flying Lotus.

          One/Three is a record that says much with little. There are no obvious hip-hop tropes. Instead Mullinix captures the ingenious minimalism of ’90s hip-hop instrumentals to build tracks both supple and hard, joyous and melancholy, full of sharply angled rhythms and warm rubbery basslines: ‘The Lish’ throws a sickly sweet saxophone against digitally fragmented melodies; ‘How Many Times (with this)’ draws you in with an irresistible, clipped guitar groove; the rhythmic stutter of ’Smoking The Edge’ makes your head spin with pleasure. Playing with his inspirations, Mullinix injects omitted downbeats for imagined rhymes and repurposes the intricacy of ragga jungle for breakdowns.

          But what really defines One/Three is the rhythmic sensibility and metric modulation of Detroit’s school of hip-hop production, which Mullinix was a fervent student of. The beats feel like they’re constantly escaping a rigid tempo grid even though they are, in fact, pretty tight. “A lot of it is nuance,” Mullinix explains. “I’ve been known to say that I’m not impressed by spectacle. I think that nuance is what really captivates people.”

          Since Scott Hansen's Tycho project's inception in 2004 with the release of 'Sunrise Projector' (later renamed 'Past Is Prologue' for it's reissues in 2006 and 2010), they have undertaken a wide range of melodic electronic miscellany. Centred around the trio of albums, 'Dive' 'Awake' and onto his latest offering, 'Epoch'. 

          Though they all mine the seam of anthemic electronic music, they have leant in slightly differing directions with regards their emotional pacing and melodic makeup. 'Dive' was very much a morning album, slowly growing into a breathing and optomistic mass through woozy synths and reticent percussion, forming themes through repetition and infinitesimal variations. 'Awake' was much more as the title suggests, a pinnacle of alertness, an effervescent and resplendent rising from the woozy haze of the first. 

          And onto Epoch. A culmination and combination of the previous two iterations, stylistically, and theoretically. 

          Opener 'Division' begins with a hazy crushed electric piano, and growing fade before cutting brutally into galloping toms, and that trademark Tycho bass sound. Not two minutes in and it becomes instantly recognisable, with sliding square wave synths swooning backwards and forwards along with the kinetic rhytmic backdrop. 'Horizon' has throbbing cosmic chord stabs and sidechained crisp saturated drum kit. 

          Pieces like 'Reciever' really move the posts of what has come before, embracing the dusky atmospheres of 'Dive' but with much more of a late-night feel, jazzy rhodes trills and throbbing ambience really lending their mystique before being given a firm but subtle bolstering by some uncharacteristically distant drums and shakers dragging the pace along. 

          Move on further and 'Division' is a complex and fascinating melting pot of instrumental rock, driving electronica and ambience, being based much more heavily upon guitars and rhythm before bringing in the synths in a stop-start cut-up. A brilliantly varied but completely natural progression, made all the more hard-hitting by the lack of crossovers, opting instead for a complete about-turn on more than one occasion. 

          'Epoch' is less about ambience setting the scene than on previous offerings, and much more based on Hansen's mastery of rhythmic foundations and celever melodic arrangement. Moreso than anything else Tycho have done, this is a bracing and rewarding journey, never jarring, but constantly evolving. A masterful culmination of concept and execution, and most of all a great listen. 

          STAFF COMMENTS

          Barry says: Having been a fan of Tycho's work for some time now, I was wondering how this would come out, and I couldn't be any happier. A brilliant fusion of the unbelievable skill of the previous two albums, and a brilliantly executed continuation and expanding of the themes found on both. Darker, moodier and more uplifting and euphoric at the flick of a switch. Brilliant.


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