VARIOUS ARTISTS: SMM: Context (Ghostly International)

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Posted on Mar 25th 2011 01:49 am

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Various Artists: SMM: Context

VARIOUS ARTISTS
SMM: Context
GI133
Ghostly International 2011
11 Tracks. 64mins52secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP | DLD iTunes: DLD

Anchored in Ann Arbor, a stone throw away from the Mecca of techno, Detroit, Ghostly International has, in the twelve years it has been operating, continuously ventured in and out of the dance culture and reached out into pop, ambient, hip-hop or experimental works by expanding its roster to include the likes of Schools Of Seven Bells, Syntaks, Tycho, Lusine, Dabrye, The Sight Below, Twine or Christopher Willits. While still very much an enigmatic acronym, the term SMM was apparently coined in 2004 by Ghostly to define the then emerging breed of music mixing classical forms with contemporary ambient electronica, a genre which has since been the forte of Miasmah in Norway, and less exclusively, Type in the UK.

The first in a new yearly compilation series from Ghostly, SMM: Context gathers a number of familiar names and attempts to chart a genre which boundaries are, almost by definition, somewhat hazy. Lush cinematic ambient formations are placed against ethereal piano-led pieces and drone-based works, highlighting the variety in the compositional process as much as demonstrate their common approach to textures and ambiences. The overall tone is predictably sombre, ranging from relatively gentle contributions from Goldmund, Leyland Kirby, Jacaszek, Rafael Anton Irisarri or Peter Broderick to more ambitious sweeping soundscape work from Christina Vantzou and Manual right down to the unsetting and claustrophobic offerings of Svarte Greiner, Aidan Baker or Kyle Bobby Dunn and the distressed textures of The Fun Years.

This constant alternance of styles and moods helps relieve the tension slightly, but it doesn’t quite distract from the overall sombre tone of the record. Svarte Greiner’s Halves is an oppressive piece, weighed down by heavy reverbs and occasional distortions,. Placed between Kirby’s more delicate Eno-esque Polaroid and Vantzou’s mournful 11 Generations Of My Father, it could have sounded a tad too intense, but, if anything, it exacerbates the density of Erk Skodvin’s composition, and casts a shadow over its neighbours. Equally, the distorted soundscapes of The Fun Years’ Cornelia Amydgaloid is in sharp contrast to Jacaszek’s finely defined Elegia, and appears more vivid and angular as a result, but as Manual’s deeply instrospective Three Parts rolls in, it casts a very different shadow on its fragmented ground, while later, the textured piano of Irisarri’s Moments Descend On My Windowpane or subtle guitar work of Broderick’s Pause appear to lighten the mood set by their respective precedecing tracks.

Overall, while it tries to cover a fairly vast ground in a relatively short time frame, SMM: Context documents a genre which, while now firmly established as a definite form in its own right, continues to develop as new artists give their own angle on it, and provides an interesting snapshot of what it is at this present time.

4/5

Ghostly International
Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP | DLD iTunes: DLD

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One Response to “VARIOUS ARTISTS: SMM: Context (Ghostly International)”

  1. [...] Miasmah, but following his recent signing to Ghostly and his subsequent appearance on the label’s SMM: Context compilation earlier this year, he is now unveiling his latest and most ambitious solo [...]