First Listen: Ghostly International, 'We'll Never Stop Living This Way'

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Matthew Dear and The Sight Below i i

Matthew Dear (left) and The Sight Below are two of the artists on Ghostly International. Matthew Dear, courtesy of Ghostly; The Sight Below, Bob Hansen/Ghostly hide caption

itoggle caption Matthew Dear, courtesy of Ghostly; The Sight Below, Bob Hansen/Ghostly
Matthew Dear and The Sight Below

Matthew Dear (left) and The Sight Below are two of the artists on Ghostly International.

Matthew Dear, courtesy of Ghostly; The Sight Below, Bob Hansen/Ghostly

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Earlier this year, an up-and-comer from Essex crawled his way into my headphones, sat down and stayed for weeks. Gold Panda's Lucky Shiner was a welcome visit — it took me from the comforts of a consistent four-to-the-floor rhythmic structure into a world of breaks and bells. Though the album's beats wandered through many different neighborhoods within the electronic world, it found cohesion through delicate, melodic sampling and left me warm for more. Gold Panda is only the latest of the Ghostly International artists to have had this effect on me, and when I listen to the label's new compilation We'll Never Stop Living This Way, I understand why.

Sam Valenti IV; courtesy of the artist i i

Sam Valenti IV, the founder of Ghostly International. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Sam Valenti IV; courtesy of the artist

Sam Valenti IV, the founder of Ghostly International.

Courtesy of the artist

Though the label casts its net across a broad range of artists, from the rock group Mobius Band to the ambient beat maker Lusine, its vision is inspired by the electronic sounds of Detroit, where founder Sam Valenti IV spent his teenage years. Valenti went to school for art history, but says he came into college "with literally no plan other than I liked music, was a DJ and wanted to start a record label." Over the past 11 years, this dorm-room project has grown into one of the today's most respected American independent labels. Its mix of indie rock and electronica, often called "avant pop" by management and critics, offers fans of each an entry point to the other. The label is consistently both accessible and avant-garde.

We'll Never Stop Living This Way represents this hybrid perfectly. One of its most prominent artists, Matthew Dear, has been with Ghostly since the beginning. A close friend of Valenti, Dear makes music that's been a driving force behind the label's aesthetic, as it mingles techno and micro-house with dark pop. His cut on this record, "Fleece on Brain," is one example of this collision — sinister vocals that lean on shifting layers of repetition. Other vocal tracks include songs from Michigan native Benoit Pioulard, indie-pop sensation School of Seven Bells and Jannis Noya Makrigiannis' Choir of Young Believers, but much of the content here is strictly instrumental.

Personally, I love the amorphous ooze of The Sight Below, the previously unreleased psych-disco remix of Daniel Wang's "Berlin Sunrise" by Diskjokke and, yes, Gold Panda's "Peaky Caps," but what gets me most excited about this 30-song collection is that it captures the label's vision. I agree with Valenti when he says, "I think you could pick any five chronological releases and you'd find a wealth of styles held together by a certain something." To understand that "something," you have to listen. But rest assured that, on We'll Never Stop Living This Way, it's something for everyone.

This digital-only release will be available on Dec. 14, but it'll stream here in its entirety until then. Please share your thoughts on the compilation and the label in the comments below.

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