Idol Tryouts Two
Record labels like to celebrate themselves—and why not? It’s a tough biz, and even living out the survival stage and entering the (relative) stability stage is cause for reflection and a pat on the back, even if you’re a label with a bunch of crap bands on your roster. When you have a bunch of good bands on your roster, though, the celebratory compilation can become something much more: a sales tool. So it goes for Idol Tryouts Two, the latest smorgasbord from Sam Valenti IV’s Ann Arbor-grown Ghostly International, a label that is living up to its global name while also steadily representing for Michigan. Wherever they pull from, Ghostly presents some of the more ambitious and/or pleasant corners of the electronic universe.
The content of Idol Tryouts Two is mostly unreleased, and entirely unreleased on CD. But everything, even the songs that are more ambient wallflowers than headturners, has the feel of album tracks. Disc one, labeled “Avant-Pop,” is highlighted by the spacey experimentation of Solvent (“An Introduction to Ghosts” and “Spin Cycle”) and by label standout Skeletons & The Girl-Faced Boys and their “Fit Black Man,” a reliable blenderful of ominous tones, booty-shaking beats, high-as-a-kite vocals, and a bizarre semi-storyline. The Mobius Band are a little more straightforward in their approach, and their “Electronic Piano” is another standout, a reminder of how pleasant it can be to combine indie pop/rock templates with electronic elements. Other pockets of Avant-Pop explore dancefloor funk (Dabrye’s “Magic Says” and Matthew Dear’s “Send You Back”) and various sides of energizing techno (Outputmessage’s sleek “Sommeil” and Charles Manier’s aggressive “Bang Bang Lover”).
Disc two gets ambient on your ass, and, in so doing, does feature fewer immediately memorable songs. Cepia’s “Hoarse” is a highlight here, an instrumental that conjures up the gentle skittering of The Notwist and the cinematic warmth of The Postal Service. Genre purists may be rattled by pretty, classic-sounding guitar songs like “Amaranthine” from Greg Davis, but it fits very well into the track sequence, and shows—along with more pop-minded groups like Skeletons and Mobius Band—that Ghostly isn’t closing the door on anyone in order to enforce a signature sound for the label.
— Adam McKibbin