"Repetition is a form of change," reads one of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies. Seth Haley knows the concept well, and his style of technicolour synth-wave takes the mantra as a challenge. Six years after Galactic Melt introduced the cosmic story of Com Truise, Iteration now concludes his sprawling saga. True to its name, the album is built on Com Truise hallmarks: neon-streaked melodies, big drums, robotic grooves, bleary nostalgia. But Iteration is also the most elegant and streamlined that Haley's singular music has ever sounded. At the album's heart is an elaborate narrative, one full of longing, hope, anxiety, and triumph. Iteration illustrates the last moments Com Truise spends on the perilous planet Wave 1, before he and his alien love escape its clutches to live in peace. "...Of Your Fake Dimension" launches the interstellar drama with its anthemic swells and widescreen sound design, before lovesick songs like "Dryswch" and "Propagation" outline scenes wrought with cybernetic pathos. Later, the frantic rhythms of "Syrthio" conjure images of panicked flight as Haley's gorgeous synth melodies gild the action in quiet heartbreak. Then comes the resounding "When Will You Find The Limitâ€¦", when Iteration's pain and sadness finds liberation in the vast unknown. The closing title track ends it all in a gush of majestic revelry. So goes the winding story that Iteration tells, and yet there's more behind its telling. "I try hard not to write from my personal life, but it's inevitably going to seep into the music," Haley explains. "It's basically like I'm scoring this film in my head, but that film I'm scoring is also somehow my life." There are glimpses of the difficult time the East Coast native spent adjusting to a new life in Los Angeles, fighting homesickness and burnout while also touring the world. It was a time full of uncertainty, transition, and self-realization. After a year and a half of living in California, Hayley finally recaptured his creativity by finding new excitement in his work. "I put more air, more breathing room in the music-- that was the big change," he says. And once that clicked, the album just poured out of him. "It was like an information dump. I feel like I finished the record in two weeks." Such a clear refinement of the Com Truise sound took time to develop, but Iteration is well worth the patience and perseverance it cost. Some of Haley's smartest, catchiest work is here, from the weightless pop of "Isostasy" to "Ternary"'s lush synth-funk. A song like "Vacuume" somehow balances massive bass drops and smashing drums with angelic gasps, and "Usurper" gracefully pairs subtle poignancy and uplifting dance beats. "For me, it feels like change," Hayley says of his second album, and yes, this is Com Truise like never before. By embracing the music's inherent nature and peerless qualities, Iteration finds new avenues of expression in its vivid, familiar surroundings.
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 naÃ®vÃ©tÃ©, 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."
Punky noise, woozy hip-hop and oddball electronics are throwing a rager and it's a colorful one. Such is the basis for new Ghostly signee Psymun's Rainbow Party EP, a three-track foray into the far reaches of Hip-Hop from the Minnesotan music-maker. As part of the acclaimed Thestand4rd project (including fellow Minnesotans Corbin (aka Spooky Black), Bobby Raps and Allan Kingdom) as well as solo work on the Pink Label - Psymun returns with a sonic statement that's as emotive and adventurous as the impressive as the work he's supplied his crew with.
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."
MichaÅ‚ Jacaszek is an absolute master of melancholy: the Polish composer who's spun dramatic shades of darkness and light into gold for more than a decade now, from the trickle-down electronics of Treny and artful gloom of Glimmer to the vapor-trailed verses of their looming spiritual cousin KWIATY.
KWIATY - which was inspired by An English anthology of metaphysical poetry from the 17th century - is the most vocal-driven material Jacaszek's ever written, melding his stormy melodies with a breakout performance by Hania Malarowska (of the Warsaw-based rock band Hanimal) and the robust supporting roles of Joasia Sobowiec-JamioÅ‚ and Natalia GrzebaÅ‚a, with lyrics adapted from poems from Virgil and Robert Herrick.
From his early releases as Lusine onward, Jeff McIlwain's electronic explorations make up one of the more diverse discographies of the past decade and a half. Effortlessly blurring the lines between techno, electro-pop and experimental composition, the Texas-raised/Seattle-based producer's arrangements are meticulously constructed, but also filled with emotion and soul. With an introspective turn that's hinted at in the record title, Lusine's fourth album for Ghostly sees McIlwain diffusing the pop-leanings of 2013's The Waiting Room with opaque, brush-stroked melodies washing over these new buoyant productions.
Sensorimotor is a visceral album, with gorgeous opener "Canop"” slowly building into an empyrean cloud of music box chimes and an amorphous thrum. The following "Ticking Hands" is just as beguiling yet also more formed, with the processed melancholy vocals of McIlwain and his wife Sarah filtered into a chilling lament that unfolds over the song’s light skitters and Kraftwerkian pulse. Sensorimotor finds other past Lusine collaborators returning as well: Benoit Pioulard's narcotic croon loops into a swirling arpeggio during "Witness," and Vilja Larjosto's sun-kissed vocal melodies are spliced and splayed across the steady pulsing bass and fluorescent synth pads of "Just a Cloud," and later on "Won’t Forget."
When MoirÃ© decided to call his second album No Future, he wasn't trying to make a political statement so much as state the obvious: If humanity keeps heading down the hateful path outlined by certain right-wing political figures and recent political events, we might as well hit the nearest self-destruct button. "It's not just about the West, either," explains the London-based producer. "It's the way the whole world thinks. It's almost like we're in this mad cycle. In a way, we have no choice - we either adapt to the situation or we're dead. That's it."
Today's musicians are faced with a similar now-or-never situation: they can either experiment and evolve or get brushed aside by the Next Big Thing in an industry that's as flippant and fickle as it's ever been. MoirÃ© welcomes this challenge with a record that's avant-garde and accessible, possessing a punk spirit without stealing its sound wholesale. No Future builds its story on the back of halogen-lit hooks and left-field dance loops instead, leaving a trail of breadcrumb-y beats for guest vocalists like MC DRS (a longtime collaborator of LTJ Bukem) and post-grime poet James Massiah.
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.
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.
Things happen fast these days. So fast in the case of Kllo that the Melbourne duo barely had a Facebook page or a proper song before a wave of interest began to build around their breakthrough EP Cusp. What a telling record title; in the year since its release, cousins Simon Lam and Chloe Kaul have played sold-out shows and festival slots throughout Australia, racked up millions of plays on Spotify, and landed on several Artists to Watch lists. Now they're about to chase steely pop singles like "False Calls" and "Make Me Wonder" with the next logical step: Well Worn, an EP that enhances Kllo's high-gloss hooks even further.
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."
It's been almost two decades since baby TOBACCO first plugged in a tape deck, popped the top, and found the dark magic that's fueled so many sonic forays into his genreless bog of beat-blasted hypnagogia and otherworldly-yet-earthen pop. The Pennsylvanian experimentalist has since helmed countless Black Moth Super Rainbow releases, remixed outsiders as offbeat as HEALTH and unexpected as White Zombie, and produced MCs ranging from Aesop Rock to Beck. But it's on his fourth solo album that TOBACCO winds up coining an apt name for his vast empire of moldering electro-fied dirt: Sweatbox Dynasty. The new LP - his second for Ghostly International - finds the rural recluse resurrecting an old approach to hack a new path through the muck. This may be his most unintentionally psychedelic and left-field creation yet, full of rhythms that start and stop like a tractor on its last piston, resonating melodies made to fuel transcendental meltdowns, and vocals that hiss, gurgle, and growl.
Ghostly International presents Xeno & Oaklander's new full-length album Topiary. In their fifth album to date, the Brooklyn based girl / boy electronic duo explores themes of arcana and electricity.
The title 'Topiary' refers to a highly ornamental hand sculpted garden such as Levins Hall in Cumbria UK or the stately grounds of Versailles. Pruned and fashioned into forms, shrubs and trees are turned into semblances of abstract and natural shapes - nature imitating nature, much to the delight of dreamers and romantics. The band, Sean McBride and Liz Wendelbo, views the album as a journey through the manifold hallways of electro magnetic architecture and enchanted landscapes.
The sound of Topiary is rich and deep; like a 60s French Pop album shot through a prism of late renaissance chamber music. Liz Wendelbo's voice seems haunted by ghosts of YeYe girls, Francoise Hardy's whispers set against a glorious backdrop of blaring synthetic horns and organs.
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.
As half of Teengirl Fantasy, Logan Takahashi is best known for making glassy, expansive tracks. On his debut solo album, NoGeo however, he creates an intimate world of fertile, furtive rhythms. Throughout the album, techno-tinged patterns unfurl with zeal and digital melodies slowly rise and fall. If the music of Teengirl evokes widescreen, technicolor club scenes, NoGeo is a zoomed-in study of timbre, rhythm, and melody.
Much of NoGeo was composed using Elekrton's Monomachine, which contributes to its minimalist aesthetic. There's a uniformity to the tracks on NoGeo; though each has its own distinct, vibrant shape, all of them are cut from the same cloth - built on a sturdy rhythmic foundation that's ornamented with buoyant candescent, sounds. "People talk a lot about borderlessness in dance music, and indeed I've always been most drawn to music that exists in or a works to create new grey areas," Takahashi explains. "From the late '80s Japanese Neo Geo genre to the early '00s Brooklyn tabletop electronics scene, I've always been inspired by the notion of being able to create your own vocabulary.
Opening with a skating sheet of synthesizer before easing into a steady, walloping beat, Silicon Tare moves Haley and the fictional Com Truise even deeper into the cosmos, discovering new lands along the way and offering a glimpse of where he may travel in the future. And if the characters at the center of his ongoing story may be in peril, Haley himself is in control. Tare also sets the stage for the final chapter in Seth Haley's Com Truise saga, which will be the first official follow-up to Galactic Melt. It's not only the perfect prelude to that finale, but the perfect representation of Haley's ever-expanding universe of sound.
"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."
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.
Having been inspired by everything from experimental electronic music to Danish '80s and '90s pop, to modern hip-hop and R&B to techno and westcoast slow jams, Choir of Young Believers' Jannis Noya Makgrigiannis had made a new, imaginary band in his head called Grasque to reflect those influences. He quickly recorded both "GrÃ¦ske" and "Face Melting" with Aske Zidore, who had also produced Rhine Gold, and when Choir of Young Believers reconvened to tour with Depeche Mode, he wrote a few guitar-based songs to play live. Gradually, he realized all of his new ideas and music could melt together with Choir of Young Believers.
The result is an album that is confident and expansive, incorporating an encyclopedia of styles while still maintaining the essential elements of Choir of Young Believers' DNA. It’s pop music, put through a kaleidoscopic filter.
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."
PARA is Lord RAJA's second full-length and the first that fully captures his vision for his music. "This is probably my most successful attempt at making a consistent work," he says. "I was really conscious about making a record that wouldn't alienate people." Which doesn't mean he cut back on experimentation. If anything, PARA is his most adventurous work to date. Every song makes use of RAJA's Lexicon PCM 90 and an Eventide H3000 that he modified himself to get the effects he heard in his head. RAJA used these processors as instruments, creating customized reverb and textures to suit each song.
"The title, PARA is an open-ended 'For,'" RAJA explains. "It could be 'For You,' it could be 'For' something you're doing. Ultimately, it's for whatever you want it to be for." PARA retains that flexibility and fluidity, while staying true to the person who made it. "I feel like I was very prepared to make this album," RAJA says. "I wanted to include everyone, and say 'This is my voice.'" On PARA, that voice comes through loud and clear.