Something to Listen To: “Ghostly Swim”

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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”

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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.

Discovery: Ghostly International

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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.