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V/A - Idol Tryouts Two

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Artist: V/A

Album: Idol Tryouts Two

Label: Ghostly International

Review date: Jun. 3, 2006

They may have uncovered Matthew Dear, but the Ghostly International/Spectral Sound stable always trail slightly behind the Zeitgeist. The Spectral Sound curatorial focus is admirable, but it is hard to completely get behind the label and its roster: the best records are mostly from ring-ins, and many Ghostly signings (Twine, Midwest Product) are dreary. Ghostly feels like a label without a center, all its outliers more interesting than the staples.

This is true of Idol Tryouts Two, a double-CD that collects both previously released and unreleased material from the label’s orbit. It is divided between one disc of avant-pop, which could do with both more avant and more pop, and a second disc dedicated to the mysterious abbreviation SMM, which quickly turns out to be full of Sedentary Mood Music, or Slightly Meek Meandering. Individual tracks do stand out: of the SMM cuts, Loscil’s “Umbra” is stately and rich, spinning quietly revolving dub haze over elegiac minor chords and Tim Hecker’s “Sundown N6093” plays woozy with the Fenneszometer. A guest appearance from Terre’s New Wuss Fusion’s “Love on a Real Train (Risky Business)” exemplifies why Mr Thaemlitz is far ahead of the pack: his submerged piano melancholy is zapped repeatedly with needling sparks of deconstructionist glitch.

Sadly, too much of the SMM disc is pleasant, soporific quasi-ambient hush, some tracks with folk or post-Ry Cooder guitar languor, some tracks with klutzy beats clogging the cistern. The Avant-Pop set fairs little better: Lawrence and Daniel Wang hand in great tracks from earlier 12” singles, and the Junior Boys mix the mope out of the Mobius Band, but those cuts are surrounded by undistinguished flotsam. There are a few great moments on Idol Tryouts Two, but Ghostly need to work on their quality control.

By Jon Dale

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