VA: Idol Tryouts Two: Ghostly International Vol. Two

The seeming effortlessness with which Ghostly achieves excellence throughout the double-disc Idol Tryouts Two leads one to wonder why other labels' compilations fail to reach equal heights. The explanation lies in the superior caliber of Ghostly's roster, with label staples like Matthew Dear, Twine, and Dabrye, and migrating artists like Loscil, Tim Hecker, and Greg Davis all making solid contributions. A veritable embarrassment of riches, the collection is split into 'Avant-Pop' (leftfield electronic songs) and 'SMM' (multi-textured, ambient pieces) halves, though the lines of demarcation are more fluid than the split might suggest.

Beyond the deep roster, there's stylistic breadth. On the synth-pop tip, Solvent (Jason Amm) opens the set with a prototypically sparkling overture (“An Introduction To Ghosts”) before discovering a kindred spirit in Outputmessage's driving shuffle (“Sommeil”). Industrial rears its roaring head in the writhing, electro-techno futurama of Kill Memory Crash's “Press + Burn” and Charles Manier's “Bang Bang Lover (Original).” Much of the first disc makes good on its 'Avant-Pop' designation, like the snake-pit electro-boogie of Matthew Dear's “Send You Back,” the hushed shoegaze of Benoit Pioulard's “The Depths & The Seashore,” and the warped soul of Skeletons + The Girl-Faced Boys' “Fit Black Man,” a raucous meltdown of guitar skronk, synth squeals, and off-kilter vocalizing. Plus there's the gorgeous hooks of Mobius Band's “Electronic Piano” and a chugging electro-pop remix of the Brooklyn trio's “The Loving Sounds of Static” by Junior Boys that would do Solvent proud.

Disc two emphasizes dreamy ambient stylings (Loscil's understated aquatinting, Deru's downtempo, kalimba-funk, Aeroc's swinging guitar-glitch), with the stately guitar atmospherics of KILN and Twine particular highlights. Christopher Willits' lush shoegaze ballad “Colors Shifting” sweetens his tactile guitar flutter with hushed singing and orchestral strings, while Greg Davis subtly merges lovely, multi-layered acoustic guitar playing with drone elements in the hypnotic “Amaranthine.” Kawasaki, Japan resident Terre Thaemlitz (appearing under the Terre's New Wuss Fusion guise) merges locomotive pulses with Reich-flavoured piano ostinati in “Love On A Real Train (Risky Business)” while Sybarite (Xian Hawkins and friends) layers violins, hushed vocals, and guitars over propulsive backbeats in “Sanctuary.” All this, plus glitchy hailstorms from Cepia (Huntley Miller), Tim Hecker's scarred ripples, and ambient placidity by Richard Devine.

Though none of the material has been issued before on CD, some Ghostly aficionados will already have some of it in their EP collections—Dabrye's “Magic Says” (Game Over), Lawrence's “Wasting A Fall” (Spark), Twine's “Gliding In On” and KILN's “Isthmus” (SMM Vol. 1)—though none of it's lost its original luster (those grabbing the three-disc album version get Manhunter's “North Pole” too). Daniel Wang's lush slice of synth-disco, “Berlin Sunrise,” for example, still grooves as infectiously as it did upon its initial appearance. No time's wasted on convoluted manifestos or theorizing, but there's no need for it when the music speaks so strongly on its own. Some comps leave the impression they're filled with leftovers and discards—obviously no such suggestion lingers here. A more definitive presentation of Ghostly's current riches would be hard to imagine.

March 2006