In releasing Idol Tryouts, a genre-bending 2003 comp that put synth pop, indie rock, experimental techno and hip hop back-to-back on the same page, the Ann Arbor-based Ghostly International label signaled that a bold new world in music was on its way. They were, of course, right. Three years later the world is your own digital discotheque, where portable players contain songs that cross every boundary, and where live music can be performed by guitar bands, laptop orchestras or DJs spinning any media they choose.
This follow-up double-CD comp updates Ghostly's futurist vision by rolling out several newer artists, while including just enough songs by the best of the label's old guard. Subtitled Avant-Pop, Disc 1 features tracks by Matthew Dear, Dabrye, Kill Memory Crash and Outputmessage, all artists who appeared on the first comp. All are strong, especially Outputmessage's "Sommeil," which borrows equally from '80s electro and '90s glitch without sounding like either. The real surprises come from newcomers Skeletons & the Girl-Faced Boys ("Fit Black Man"), the Mobius Band's two Emo-esque contributions "Electronic Piano" and "The Loving Sounds of Static (Junior Boys remix)" and Benoit Pioulard's psychedelic-folk ballad "The Depths & the Seashore." All will get your attention.
Disc 2 (called SMM, presumably for sensual machine music) delivers a 14-song program that includes sweeping ambient dreamscapes (Cepia's "Ramp," Tim Hecker's "Sundown" and Richard Devine's "Murman"), strange guitar-electronics treatments ("Amaranthine" by Greg Davis and Twine's "Gliding It On") and the gorgeous "Love on a Real Train (Risky Business)" by Japan-based Terre's New Wuss Fusion.
Put these two stellar discs together and the future begins to sound nothing like it was supposed to. It's probably the way Ghostly planned it.
Walter Wasacz writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].