Something to Listen to: “Dynamo”

Standard

One piece of the independent music landscape I haven’t gotten to talk about yet is Moodgadget Records. An affiliate of indie label Ghostly International, Moodgadget focuses on exploring the diversity of electronic music, showcasing established favorites as much as they do the up-and-comers.

They’ve also just reached their 10th anniversary.

In celebration of this milestone, Moodgadget has just launched their 100th release, Dynamo. A compilation album collecting a whopping 22 tracks from many of the fresh faces in Moodgadget’s stable, including some new exclusives. The best part? They’ve made it available to stream right now on SoundCloud!

So that’s cool and all, but what is you want to take this album on the go? Well, they’ve also made it available for purchase from iTunes for the low, low price of $6.99! Let me reiterate: $6.99 for 22 tracks! That’s a really good, really rare deal. I wouldn’t pass this up if I were you.

You can find more about Moodgadget Records by visiting their official site.

Something to Listen to: “Ghostly Swim 2”

Standard

In case you missed it, comedy network Adult Swim and indie record label Ghostly International have just teamed up yet again to release their second free compilation album, Ghostly Swim 2. You may remember that I talked about the 2009 original a couple of weeks ago. So you know that I’ve been anticipating the release of this one.

Ghostly has a tendency to segment their releases into two categories. Avant-Pop acts as a fusion of electronic methodologies with pop sensibilities, while SMM, a meaningless acronym, represents the more experimental and ambient music. If the first Ghostly Swim was an avant-pop album, Ghostly Swim 2 focuses more on SMM.

I’d spend more time telling you why you should buy it, but you can download it right now for free at the official site! Instead, I’m going to do a track-by-track breakdown and briefly tell you what I think. Feel free to listen along.

Pascäal – “Holo”

True to it’s name (well, the sound of the name, anyway), “Holo” sounds as though it could have been recorded in a large, hollow cave. The electronic noises bouncing of every wall. There’s not much to day about this one other than that it’s atmospheric and puts me right in the mood for an ambient, relaxing album.

Shigeto – “Tide Pools”

Ghostly mainstay Shigeto drops a new track in the form of “Tide Pools”. It’s a haunting combination of synthetic pianos and digital wind chimes set on top of a soothing beat. This one’s sure to invoke feelings of pleasant peacefulness with just a hint of melancholy.

Anenon – “The Grapevine”

Anenon takes his turn to introduce my favorite track of the album. The buzzing of electronic voices work together to sing a melancholic song backed by an energetic set of drums. This track utilizes a nontraditional sound to form an emotional piece. It may sound weird, but I love weird.

Heathered Pearls – “Supra”

Heathered Pearls’ “Supra” focuses on a synth piano among a series of other ambient noises. It’s quiet, but hypnotizing. Another fine addition to our 45 minutes of auditory relaxation.

Babe Rainbow – “Don’t Tell Me I’m Wrong”

Having apparently just made the jump from Warp Records, Babe Rainbow provides Ghostly with “Don’t Tell Me I’m Wrong”. The track consist of a booming drum, a cheerful tune and a haunting set of vocals wailing in the distance. Another quiet, atmospheric track to populate one’s night.

Dauwd – “Kolido”

Dauwd’s entry, “Kolido”, rests continues the practice of electronic elements and far-away vocals resting on top of a subtle beat. About 2 minutes into this one, the beat starts to take on a catchier rhythm fit for a dance floor.

Patricia – “Spotting”

Patricia starts the second half of this album with a quiet synth piano and a thumping bass, as the other elements of the track are introduced one by one. Distorted clapping and complimentary electronic rhythms start to fill the room and the beat starts to progress and shift. By the end, though quiet intimacy is maintained throughout, the tracks has become one catchy ride for the listener.

Lord RAJA – “Spilt Out In Cursive”

The most ambient track on the record so far, Lord RAJA’s “Spilt Out In Cursive” relies almost entirely on subtle tunes and creepy background noises before fading out. Calming or unnerving? I’ll let you decide.

CFCF – “Oil”

CFCF’s “Oil” starts out on a pleasant couple of xylophones, before the electronic elements and bass start to fill the background with life. This progress until the xylophones are replaced by a faded piano sending things into a calm atmosphere. A peaceful ride, through and through.

Feral – “Mirror”

Following a trail of far off sounds, “Mirror” paints a picture I’d like to call digital popcorn. Computer noises and popping sounds play backdrop to a gentle tune and a series of synthetic drums.

Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler – “I Only Have Eyes For You”

“I Only Have Eyes For You” spends it first time on some magnificent chiming among the sounds of soaring skies. Different elements get tossed in and out until settling down to a gentle conclusion. Uneventful, but nonetheless heavenly.

AceMo- “Futurism”

“Futurism” is probably the most melancholic track on the record. Haunting synths set the tone before the drums and vocals continue the song down the downbeat slope.

Nautiluss – “Lonely Planet”

Nautiluss comes in to close out this record with a decidedly up-tempo track. “Lonely Planet”‘s beat moves at a steady pace while the synths decorates it’s path. A nice finish to one soothing journey.

So there we go. 13 new tracks from some of Ghostly’s finest. If you want to hear it, head over the Adult Swim’s site and get downloading.

You can download Ghostly Swim 2, here.

Something to Listen To: “Ghostly Swim”

Standard

Last week, Wired reported that indie record label Ghostly International and comedy network Adult Swim would once again team-up to release Ghostly Swim 2 on December 23rd. I figured this would be a great time to talk about the 2009 original, Ghostly Swim.

Ghostly Swim‘s lineup consists of some of the key artists from Ghostly’s catalog of artists. In the video above, you’ll hear Michna’s ambient yet bouncy beat, “Triple Chrome Dipped” followed by Mux Mool’s electric trip, “Night Court”. Through the rest of the album, you can hear label co-founder Matthew Dear perform a bone-chilling yet prideful tune in “R + S”, while School of Seven Bells provides a suitably melancholy song in “Chain”. The Chap is represented with their wonderfully quirky track “Carlos Walter Wendy Stanley”, while Deastro takes us on a simultaneously intense and cheerful ride in “Light Powered”.

But, if I have to pick a favorite out of the album, I’d go with Tycho’s “Cascade”. It’s a beautifully composed piece that brings to my mind a fallout from an emotionally traumatic event. It makes me think of watching the sunrise, but with a feeling in my heart that I’ve just said goodbye and have to figure out how to move on. Well… that’s my take, anyway.

This compilation album is what introduced me to Ghostly International and ultimately pushed me into exploring the world of underground music. Best of all, it’s free to download. So if you haven’t had the chance to listen to this one, I highly recommend that you do.

You can download Ghostly Swim for free at Adult Swim’s official site, here.

Something to Listen To: “Ghostly Essentials: Music for Makers”

Standard

A wise man once said: “The best things in life are free.” Indie record label Ghostly International knows the value of this very well. As I’ve discussed before, you can already find a number of free compilation albums collecting music from all over the label’s catalog. Well, now they’ve just added to that collection.

Released as a companion to the contest Ghostly is currently running in partnership with 3D-printer producer MakerBot Industries, Ghostly Essentials: Music for Makers collects ten tracks that have been “specially curated to help soundtrack your creative process”. The compilation include works from Ghostly favorites such as Matthew Dear, Beacon, Solvent and Lusine among others.

As I quoted above, the product description promises this album to be the perfect soundtrack for creative work. And I have to admit, these atmospheric, electronic tracks have been doing a good job of keeping me engaged as I write this very post, but they also make for a really cool listen on their own. On top of that, most of these tracks have been released over the past year. So if you’re looking for a guide to what the label has been up to recently, this is a good place to start.

But again, it’s free! If this sounds interesting, go ahead and download it and see for yourself. I’ve got to hand it Ghostly for once again providing a free and easy way to explore and discover the music of some great artists.

You can download Ghostly Essentials: Music for Makers here. And for more information of the related contest, follow this link.

Something to Watch/Listen To: “Opening” by Christopher Willits

Standard

Last month, musician Christopher Willits released his multimedia project, Opening. The project consists of an album released on Ghostly International (who I wrote about, just the other day), a series of photographic prints and a 45-minute-long companion film. The latter of which can now be viewed, in it’s entirety, on Willits’ Vimeo page.

Willits describes Opening as “an experience, designed to inspire a space of peace and expansion”. Before I hit play, I was skeptical. I figured that, knowing me, there was no way I was going to be stimulated by something of this nature, for this length, let alone discover a feeling of peace through it.

Boy, was I wrong. Within minutes, I was mesmerized by it’s beautifully captured footage of the flowing water, the shape-shifting clouds and the expansive landscapes, while the soothing uses of bass, synths and guitar strings slowed my heartbeat to a calm, gentle rhythm. Few experiences have come close to calming me down and allowing to relax as much as this digital spa.

So if you feel like treating yourself to a little bit of R&R from the comfort of your couch, I say get comfy, dim the lights and load this one up. Prepare to be entranced.

Discovery: Ghostly International

Standard

One of the things I set forward to do with this blog is to give newcomers an entry point into the world of independent art. Not necessarily the end-all-be-all guide (I’m certainly not enough of an expert to qualify for that), but simply a place where one can learn just enough to be sent on a trail that will show them more. The trick is knocking over that first domino, then watch the rest fall. And so, I write the first entry in what I call “Discovery”, a periodic spotlight on an artist or distributor.

Inaugurating this new category is an independent record label, a champion of the underground music culture: Ghostly International.

A Brief Introduction:

Founded in 1998 by Samuel Valenti IV and Matthew Dear, Ghostly International has become widely know for it’s unified aesthetic and it’s eccentric tastes. The company wears many hats, from clothing to decorative art, but is most prominent as a music publisher and record label. It designates it’s catalog of music into two different categories: avant-pop, experimental music with pop sensibilities, and SMM, an intentionally meaningless acronym signifying the calmer, more ambient instrumentals.

Some Key Artists:

Matthew DearCo-founder of the label, and the musician behind Ghostly’s first single: “Hands Up For Detroit”, Matthew Dear has had no shortage of fans over the years. This avant-pop producer is definitely one of the most distinctive artists on the label. When one of his songs come up, you’ll know it. Take a listen.

Tycho– No one describes Tycho’s work better than Ghostly themselves, quoting his profile on the label’s site: “As Tycho, Scott Hansen blends swirling melodies into vaguely triumphant arcs that crisscross between stuttering beats and vocal samples, creating rolling sonic landscapes that extend into the horizon.” His work is ambient, calm and melodic, painting idealistic images of tranquility with each track.

School of Seven Bells This one’s pretty hard for me to write about, for reasons that will soon become apparent. But this is one of my absolute favorites from the label, and there was no way I could do a post about Ghostly without mentioning this act. School of Seven Bells was a trio (later duo,) consisting of guitarist/producer Benjamin Curtis and sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza. Quoting the profile on the label’s site: “School of Seven Bells’ music is full of tensions—Curtis’ gentle guitars wrap around jagged beats; silky vocals hide behind grumpy, alien synthesizers—but the resulting songs are effortlessly cohesive, and insidiously catchy.” Claudia would later leave the band in 2010, making Seven Bells a duo act until, tragically, Benjamin Curtis lost his fight with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma at the end of 2013.

Still, the band doesn’t seem to be done quite yet, as plans have been announced to complete and release a new album already well in progress before Curtis’s untimely passing. In any case, this is strong, passionate stuff that I highly recommend you take a listen to.

Com Truise A persona of producer Seth Haley, Come Truise’s work is, for me, the very definition of neo-retro. 80’s nostalgia is an instant reaction to his heavy use of bass and synthesizers, but it’s all handled with a modern spin. The result is a style of music that’s unique and appealing. As a staple of Ghostly’s lineup, you’ll have no problem picking his work out of the catalog.

Where to Start:

Whenever I’m looking to discover new music, I find it best to look for compilation albums. These can act as great entry points, introducing you to a large number of artists, so you can decide if you want to listen to more of their work. One of the reasons I’m starting with Ghosly is because they provide plenty of these.

In 2009, Ghostly collaborated with long-time licencor, comedy network [adult swim], to release the album Ghostly Swim, which can be downloaded from the channel’s website for free! In fact, Ghostly has made a number of compilation albums free for download, including a “best of” album from 2012 and a couple of unreleased content collections. If you’re willing to pay a bit of money, you can try either of the Idol Tryouts albums. I’ve also found the 2010 primer, We’ll Never Stop Living This Way, to be good purchase. $10 for 30 tracks is a good deal in my book.

Once you find an artist you like, look into them a little more. Find out which other labels they’ve been signed to and what else that label offers. Find out which other acts they may have been associated with. Finally, just keep your ears open. Once you start following the trail, you may be amazed at what you’ll find.