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 "Græske" 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.
Minecraft - Volume Alpha is the work of German composer and musician Daniel Rosenfeld. Using C418 as his moniker, Rosenfeld crafted the sweeping soundtrack and vibrant sound design which helped breathe life into Minecraft's voxel-based universe. Fans and critics were universally enamored with his beatless, nuanced electronic pieces upon release. Popular gaming site Kotaku named it among The Best Game Music of 2011, calling the music "remarkably soothing," and The Guardian has compared Rosenfeld's delicate piano and sparse ambient motifs to legendary artists Erik Satie and Brian Eno. In an interview feature with C418, Polygon distilled Volume Alpha to its essence: "It's not bound by the retro aesthetic of Minecraft's graphics. It transcends them. The album is an attempt to uplift the combined game/music experience into the sublime."
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.
Before digging into the steely, handcrafted technoisms of Homesick, you need to know a few things about Charles Duff, the Bay Area artist behind Matrixxman. Perhaps most importantly, he is a dedicated futurist - quick to name Google's director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, as a major personal inspiration, and prone to contemplating artificial intelligence and "a true post-corporeal reality." He's also a voracious information junkie, soaking up government conspiracies and contemporary science-fiction like a proper X-Files fanatic. These cultural reference points are as integral to the background of Homesick as Detroit, Chicago, and Berlin's musical legacies. Matrixxman uses his debut album to evoke visions of a not-too-distant-future with music made both for the dancefloor and the early morning zone-outs that follow.
Released back in 2008, the original collaboration between Adult Swim and Ghostly International, 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, featuring original tracks from Shigeto, CFCF, Dauwd, Galcher Lustwerk, and more.
Like many others, Ghostly became enamored with Fort Romeau's idea of "slow listening," the concept of enriching relationships with music through careful attention and focus. His understated take on deep, groove-friendly house started pushing this practice three years ago, when the producer's debut LP, Kingdoms, appeared via 100% Silk. The native Londoner, born Mike Greene, has evolved considerably since then, finessing his sound over the course of three breezy 12"s, one EP, and lengthy DJ sets at some of the best clubs in Europe - not the least of which were Berlin's famed Panorama Bar, London hotspot Plastic People, and Robert Johnson in Frankfurt. Those years Greene spent immersed in his craft and new inspirations have generously informed the eight stunning productions which comprise Insides, Fort Romeau's long-awaited sophomore album.
His patient methods are a central component to the billowy house music on Insides, though this isn't an indulgent album of gratuitous buildups and tiresome breakdowns. Each production is pointed and purposeful, as the artist crafts every second of analog electronics with rich detail, nuance, and refinement.
Are we all tired of the "[Artist] Returns After [Number] Years in Obscurity" headline yet? Because Michna sure is. Nearly seven years following the NYC DJ/producer's debut album for Ghostly, Magic Monday, he's finished the official follow up to that record, but Adrian Yin Michna doesn't want to overstate what happened in the interim. "Life just moves," he starts casually, "there's been a lot going on." DJ gigs, music production for video games and commercials, and film scoring have kept him busy, along with a healthy balance of painting, biking, and other non-musical endeavors. In light of Michna's sophomore LP, Thousand Thursday, though, it all seems beside the point. Simply put, his latest record is a celebration of the producer's love for vibrant electronic music, bothering very little with conceptual or contextual baggage.
For much of the Brooklyn duo's career, Beacon has worked with a kind of effervescent, forward-looking R&B that evokes out-of-body experiences, but with their new L1 EP, the music is anchored assuredly to your flesh, bone, and physical senses. The brawny synth timbres which open lead track "Fault Lines" and the stomping beats bolstering gauzy falsettos on confident songs like "Minor Structure" set the tone for a new phase in Beacon's evolution, one geared toward the movements and magnetism of human bodies. As producer Jacob Gossett puts it, "Our records have often been described as moments after the night has given way, a 'comedown after the club.' Hopefully, this record inspires people to go back out for one more."