Welcome to the world of Lord RAJA, a strange, sometimes perilous alternate dimension with beauty and decay in equal measure. It's a world built on the beat-centric music which flows through New York native Chester Raj Anand's stream of consciousness; here, half remembered hip-hop classics are spliced into '90s IDM, ambient, footwork, and experimental sound design. Our latest dispatch from Lord RAJA's uncanny realm is the impulsive and unpredictable A Constant Moth LP, 12 hyper-detailed scenes ripped from the surreal mayhem at play in the mind of this talented young producer.
Ask Will Wiesenfeld to contrast Baths with the music made under his Geotic alias, and you'll get a simple response: Baths is active listening; Geotic is passive listening. But behind this straightforward duality exists two projects that are equally poignant yet starkly distinct, reflective of the emotional complexities of its creator.
Don't mistake "passive listening" for anything remotely resembling apathy: Abysma might be dance music created for at-home listening, but it's replete with a quiet beauty and private communion that can rival anything made to command the totality of your attention span. In a world riven by noise and distraction, Abysma is as subtle as Sunday morning ritual, a tender epiphany in a bombastic fireworks show.
"So much of dance music is about partying and going out and having a really hardcore social experience," Wiesenfeld says. "Dance music has never been that for me. So much of my experience listening to music is being by myself - at home or in my car."
What does a daydream sound like? Is it an audible confidence boost, a concentrated dose of caffeine shot straight into the bloodstream of dancing feet, a blue so overwhelmingly electric its field stretches as far as the eye can see? On Amadeus, the newest Ghostly effort from New York's Lord RAJA, the shapeshifting producer answers his own question with a cunning, childlike purity not felt since he started tinkering with Fruity Loops aged six. Though his means of music-making have matured since then—on Amadeus he utilizes an arsenal of drum machines along with synthesizers and an Allen & Heath analog mixer slammed through for extra crunch—RAJA describes a deliberate return to youthful experimentation and immediacy, clearing the way for a "vista to his childhood."Having produced 2015's PARA full-length in the confines of his parents' home in upstate New York, he moved to Brooklyn after its release and found himself in a basement studio, isolated from the influence of knowingness, wide-eyed once more. Soon after, he joined Ghostly labelmates Shigeto and Heathered Pearls for an extensive European tour, finding inspiration in the continent's techno culture—albeit in an unexpected way. "When I would go out, I would see techno DJs, but it didn’t really speak to me," he says. "It was unnecessarily pristine. So I wanted to make the shit I would want to hear."Returning to the basement armed with this self-challenge and an intentional na├«v├ęt├ę, RAJA composed a flurry of one-take productions, often making tracks over the course of an evening and road testing them with walks to the waterfront when the rest of Brooklyn had gone to sleep. Imbued in them all is what he describes as "micro-choices" —the practice of very simple effects and subtle sonic decisions—in a nod to longtime influence from the nuance and subconscious innovation of Stanley Kubrick's filmmaking.Longtime fans of the producer may be accustomed to productions more directly aligned with hip-hop and leftfield beats, but his swagger hasn't gone anywhere despite the decidedly dancier change of form. The release is bookended by an exuberant and naturally collaborative piece with Acemo—a fellow New Yorker whom RAJA describes as his favorite producer—and bonus track "Fox Den," an eight-minute cosmic meander released as part of the Adult Swim singles series last year. On standout "O.K" his customary percussive potpourri mingles with vocal chops and an electro bounce even the most humorless club patron couldn’t resist. "Black Coffee," another highlight, features synth lines so darkly acidic they should come with toxic warnings. RAJA describes the track title as a literal take - a soundtrack to jolt first date jitters, a call to cool courage.Amadeus, meanwhile, he suggests is a cheeky nod to the complex richness of his musical heritage. He says, "I think it’s kinda funny to flip an idea of western imperialism and how it proliferated. It’s playful as an Indian man to call yourself Amadeus, knowing how much composers borrowed from eastern classical influences."
After his diverse yet cohesive 2013 album The Waiting Room, Jeff McIlwain, better known as Lusine, is back with the more tightly focused Arterial EP - his fourth EP for Ghostly - which marks another successful foray into a niche that most artists would spend their careers immersed in. A calmly effortless work, Arterial is economical in everything it does, creating its own tiny universe to house expertly crafted productions.
Mary Lattimore's music functions as a kind of emotional synesthesia. Rather than seeing colors when she hears notes, Lattimore feels things: sadness, hope, longing, memory. She funnels all of that into stirring songs composed on her harp. "I feel like a lot of my music is me channeling feelings or memories," she says. “I just do whatever I want, and try to paint a picture of a memory.”
The memory that provides the basis for At the Dam is particularly striking. Lattimore received a prestigious fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage - a rare honor given out to just 12 people every year - and she used the funds to take a road trip across America with a friend, writing and recording songs at each stop along the way. Armed with little more than her harp and her laptop, Lattimore drew inspiration from each location, letting the environments in which she recorded seep into her work. The result is music that is stirring, delicate and beautiful, Lattimore's harp at times bright and skipping, other times distant and hazy, swathed in gauzy delay. The net effect feels like what it is, recreations of moments from the past, tender, soft and warm.
For nearly a decade, Tycho (aka has been known as the musical alias of Scott Hansen, butwith the release of Awake - his second LP for Ghostly International - the solo project hasevolved into a three-piece band. Relating closer to post-rock than ambient soundscapes,the record is situated in the present, sounding more like Hansen than drawing from hisinfluences. "This is, in many ways, the first true Tycho record." Previous Tycho releasescame to fruition when an amalgam of songs were nearing completion, but Awake is wheremusic becomes the focus and true expression becomes the result.
Awake represented a high-water mark for Scott Hansen, the San Francisco musician better known as Tycho. Described by Hansen as, "in many ways, the first True Tycho record," Awake announced the arrival of Tycho as a full band, and it found Hansen streamlining the group’s sound, focusing on the drums and aiming to capture the energy and power of the group's live set. The story of Awake arrives at its natural conclusion with this 12" of remixes, on which Hansen's songs are re-interpreted by producers (including Ghostly artists Com Truise, Beacon, & Christopher Willits, as well as Baio from Vampire Weekend, Nitemoves, and more) who make the songs their own while retaining all of their core elements.
Kllo, an electronic pop collaboration between Melbourne cousins Chloe Kaul and Simon Lam, waded in figurative backwater for much of 2016, amidst an extensive world tour. These were exciting times; the duo's Well Worn EP furthered the promise of 2014 EP Cusp, receiving millions of streams and landing Kllo on festival stages as well as Artists-to-Watch lists. Nonetheless, the stretch kept them far from home, isolated and vulnerable, treading through perpetual uncharted territory while yearning for the comforts of the familiar.
Kllo have officially come out the other end of the stilted estuary with twelve compositions cultivated to feel timeless and crafted, and equally current. The duo’s debut full length - and their most realized work to date - Backwater celebrates the ephemeral and the enduring changes in emotion, the downfalls and the dissolves. It’s an album that parts course with its flow, and flourishes in a lowland.
For Jakub Alexander, the languages of music and visual art are permanently intertwined. And he's always been this way - from his birthplace in communist Poland, to growing up outside of Detroit, to his current home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. "When music like Gas, early Dial Records, and Mille Plateaux releases in the 2000s popped up in my headphones," Alexander begins, "it was completely visual for me. Something clicked from collecting pages out of old Architectural Digest magazines and being completely overwhelmed with inspiration for my own visions of interior architecture." The concept carries on still, now as an integral part of Body Complex, his second album as Heathered Pearls, which also features contributions from fellow Ghostly artists The Sight Below, Shigeto, and Outerbridge (mem. Beacon). Body Complex represents a new form of Alexander's visually inspired sound creation, but just as it points to changes in direction for the ambient-inclined producer, it also revisits the past experiences that make his music possible.
Nearly 20 years after the first Dabrye beats burst out of Mullinix's home computer, Ghostly International is compiling reissues of all three Dabrye albums - One/Three, Two/Three, and Instrmntl - with the third chapter in the Dabrye album trilogy, the long-awaited Three/Three album, in an exclusive limited edition numbered box set. Time hasn’t dulled Mullinix's sonic throw-ups, if anything the blur between digital and physical, hip-hop and electronic, subtlety and ruggedness that his music always implied is even more relevant today, especially in a world where students of his style are among the biggest names in the game. Like the city it looked to for inspiration, Dabrye's sound was built to last.
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. 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.
After spending the past three years cutting acclaimed records for such esteemed imprints as Innervisions, Hotflush, and Acid Test, Recondite has rejoined the Ghostly International fold with an EP that builds on the robust field recordings and pale, moonlit melodies of the Berlin producer's breakthrough LP Hinterland. Named after the foreboding family of birds that includes ravens and crows, Corvus is a chilling listen inspired by everything from The Revenant's Ryuichi Sakamoto soundtrack to Max Frisch's heady novel Homo Faber. After all - the Rottal-Inn native insists there's a light at the end of this particular tunnel. Or as he puts it, "Melancholic doesn't necessarily mean dark. Music can be happy and moody."
"Champion Music for the Heartbroken" is how Bryndon Cook, who records as Starchild, describes Crucial, his first EP for Ghostly. It's easy to hear what he means: Starchild creates songs that draw equally on electro and R&B, and at the center of every one of them is an undeniable twinge of sadness.
Which makes sense -- Starchild was the first member of his family to leave their home for New York and, though he was technically pursuing a BFA in acting, eventually his interest in music took over. "I was leaving for New York with a head full of Prince bootlegs and Sade records, basically." He gradually made connections that would inspire him. His college roommate was Ghostly artist Lord RAJA, and the two formed a fast friendship. A longtime fan of Lightspeed Champion, he received encouragement from Dev Hynes, with whom he'd eventually collaborate. He received similar encouragement from Patrick Wimberly of Chairlift. Wimberly introduced Starchild to Solange, who recruited him for her touring band. "It's been nothing short of life changing," he says. "Having the opportunity to travel the world and play festivals like Glastonbury, Bonnaroo and Pitchfork was huge. She taught me that if you stay true to yourself, you can take all the time in the world to do one special thing, the right way."
In August 2017, Ghostly International will reissue Com Truise's Cyanide Sisters EP in premium 12" jacket. The first official Com Truise release - originally a digital download through AMDISCS in 2010, remastered and expanded by Ghostly in 2012 - Cyanide Sisters was an electrifying introduction to a prodigious new talent. At the time Seth Haley was a designer by trade, making music out of his bedroom in Princeton, New Jersey with a collection of analogue equipment. While many of his contemporaries were mining nostalgia as an end unto itself, Haley recombined older musical forms as a means of expressing something deeper and more ambitious, building a carefully conceived picture of the artist’s vibrant inner world.
Since his 2012 debut as Heathered Pearls, Jakub Alexander has constructed art - music, objects, installations - as a way of revisiting and re-imagining fragments of his past. The Polish-born producer's first album was a slow, oceanic response to the ambient music his mother introduced him to as a kid. His second, 2015's Body Complex, used melodic repetition to render the architectural structures of his daydreams as a teen, as well as the late night drives home with friends in the afterglow of a rave. Detroit, MI 1997 - 2001 resumes reflection on the formative era. The EP's four compositions take their respective names from four distinct locations of Alexander's youth, and sonically suggest the deeper sides of early Detroit techno. The sound that pulled him and countless others from the suburbs to the scene at a young age; music he’s been DJing for the last 20 years and relied on especially when warming up bigger rooms on tour with Tycho.
While his formative years were spent listening to everything from Yes to Photek, Scott Hansen didn't get his hands on an actual guitar or drum machine until he left his native Sacramento for San Francisco in 1995. "Encountering this whole new world at 20 years old was a profound experience," says Hansen, better known by his musical pseudonym Tycho and as the graphic artist ISO50. "At the time, I was just learning the processes of design and music; both felt very similar, and have flowed back and forth for me ever since."
As seamless as his two creative outlets have been, nearly a decade passed before the release of Hansen's first proper Tycho LP, Sunrise Projector (later expanded and reissued under the title Past Is Prologue). And while three striking singles have emerged since then, the sum of all those sepia-toned parts is nowhere near the double-exposed soundscapes of Dive. The product of a prolonged break from IS050's design work and blog, it pays tribute to Tycho's prismatic past (the dense, guitar-guided turning points of "Daydream" and "Adrift") but spends most of its time pointing to the project's not-so-distant future.
That can mean any number of things, really, from the halcyon hooks and hopeful horizons of "A Walk" to the expansive, wildly expressive tone poetry of the title track, an eight-minute epic that unfolds like a compressed concept album. Or at the very least, a restless vision of prog-rock - one that's been coated in neon colors and filtered through a thick piece of blotter paper. And then there's "Elegy," a spare curtain closer that pairs a vulnerable crescendo with a fitting bridge to future works.
And with that, Dive establishes its position as the most diverse musical statement of Hansen's multi-medium career; the point where his skills as a performer finally catch up with his vaporized vision of a world that doesn't belong to any particular time or place.
"Nostalgia is a common thread in my work," says Hansen, "but this album wasn't driven by that idea. I see these songs as artifacts from a future which might have more in common with our past than our present."
Epoch is the final album in the trilogy beginning with 2011's Dive, then 2014's Awake. This period between Dive and Epoch marks a significant maturation for Scott Hansen's continually expanding project, one that has taken him from a solo performer and bedroom artist to fronting a live 4-piece band on large stages across the world.
Epoch hones the sonic aesthetic of Dive while drawing on the kinetic energy of Awake, it explores darker themes and new musical territory. The album was produced and recorded by Hansen predominantly in his home studio in Berkeley, California. The album was arranged alongside long timecollaborator and partner in the project, Zac Brown. Brown contributed bass and guitar parts to the songwriting process. Rory O'Connor performed drums on the album. Hansen sees Epoch as a multi-dimensional artistic vision at the confluence of his graphic design work via ISO50 and music with Tycho. The graphic presentation of album artwork is as important as the music itself. The keystone is the central image of Epoch and the color scheme red and black. This is a stark contrast to the almost rainbow palette of Awake.
Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett are unstoppable. The New York artists, collectively known as Beacon, have been on a productive hot streak since 2012, and their efforts continue to pay off. "When we weren't writing," Mullarney starts, "we hit the road and didn't really look back. We toured the US five times since The Ways We Separate came out, building this project the old-fashioned way." And Beacon's natural, time-tested process has brought us Escapements, their sophomore album for Ghostly. Whereas the duo's debut was more streamlined and defined, Escapements thrives on an amorphous, free-flowing nature. "We went into this feeling liberated," continues the singer/producer, and Gossett seems to echo his thought: "This record is in part our attempt to formulate what Beacon is going to look and sound like going forward."
The late 1990s was a fertile time in the American electronic underground. At the convergence of hip-hop, electronic, and soul music, these artists sought to carve out their own lane. In September 2001, New Orleans' Telefon Tel Aviv, high school friends Joshua Eustis and the late Charles Cooper, joined the conversation with their debut album, Fahrenheit Fair Enough, released by Hefty Records. A labour of love, Fahrenheit was an attempt by the pair "to contribute something meaningful" Eustis says today, "something definitely American, and kinda southern too." Living in New Orleans in the late 1990s, Eustis and Cooper were in the thrall of two musical orbits: black America -- New Orleans' bounce, Detroit's techno, Chicago's house -- and British electronica -- Autechre, Aphex Twin, Jega. Recorded over the course of a year in Eustis' childhood bedroom in the Riverbend neighborhood of New Orleans, Fahrenheit mapped out a potential for American electronic music in a time of hope.
On the fifteenth anniversary of its release, Ghostly International is reissuing Fahrenheit Fair Enough with a vinyl edition and bonus digital material.