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2020 wouldn't have been quite what they were envisioning, but Ghostly International’s 21st was a coming-of-age story in its own way. Few labels last year kept on keepin’ on quite like them.

Releasing over a dozen albums in 12 months is a commendable return for any independent record label, let alone in a period where riding out the storm was the only essential priority. That several of the finest LPs we heard this year (Mary Lattimore, TOBACCO, Khotin et al.) came from a label often associated with festival-ready North American techno and beat science is all the more impressive. Where Ghostly hall-of-famers School Of Seven Bells once encouraged people to “Put Their Sad Down”, the Ghostly Class of 2020 beckoned people to greet their sad with arms wide open; to inhabit the sad, become the sad and work through the sad.

Ghostly International 2020

Ghostly International was founded in 1999, as fortune chanced a meeting between label CEO Sam Valenti IV (SV4) and first releasee Matthew Dear at a college party in Ann Arbor. Valenti wears his Michigan heritage with pride. He is a curious mind sprung from a musical city: a kid who grew up with Stevie Wonder, owns an original ‘95 J Dilla beat tape, and has factory lines for arteries.

Musically, you can trace most of what Ghostly does –– from jazzy instrumentals to smoggy techno, yearning electronics to frigid ambient –– back to Detroit and its suburbs. Yet what makes Ghostly stand out is how far they go beyond that grounding. Ghostly strays into corporate territory with glee, somehow never desecrating their underground credentials whilst also embodying what it means to be a modern lifestyle brand. People like to crack wise about the intersection of art and technology, but there’s no trope without fire.

The label, long since headquartered in Brooklyn, was ahead of the curve in pushing mood apps, collectable merch items and community listening experiences. There have been embossed USBs, hike-friendly outerwear, Minecraft appearances, art showcases, multiple Adult Swim collaborations and at least one marble record player. Valenti has guided TED talks, been the focus of CNET segments and given slick quotes in NYT articles. He doesn’t blink in the face of brandification, instead staring the world of business down and challenging it to be more fun. Though the label’s name was initially tongue-in-cheek –– adding ‘International’ to exude grandeur –– over time it has given way to a genuine empire state of mind.

  • Artist
    Ghostly
    Merch
    Ghostly International Tote Bag
    Label
    Ghostly International
    Release Date
    16 December 2020

    To celebrate our Label Spotlight on Ghostly International, we have an exclusive tote bag, to put their records or your shopping in. Or both.

All of which would be irrelevant if the music wasn’t good. Fortunately, this ghost is familiar with permanence.

There are those like Matthew Dear (also operating as Audion) and Tadd Mullinix (also operating as Dabrye, X-Altera, James T. Cotton, JTC... you get the picture) who have been with Ghostly since the start. Along the path, Ghostly also broke early records for Avalon Emerson, Fort Romeau and Matrixxman, all now established fixtures on the club circuit.

On sister imprint Spectral Sound you’ll find a high calibre of box-bangers fringing the avant and the occult: Moiré, Ciel, Russell E.L. Butler and Hieroglyphic Being amongst them. Hop from one Ghostly or Spectral release to the next –– a leap from, say, School Of Seven Bells’ swooning shoegaze to 2AM/FM’s lethal ‘Poison Dart’ –– and you could be mistaken for thinking there was a glitch in the matrix. However you cut it, Ghostly’s output is an antidote to sterility.

Spectral Sound Catalogue

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