Various Artists – Ghostly Swim 3

3 out of 5

Label: Ghostly International

Produced by: Various

This is wholly dependent on your appreciation for the kind of electronic music in which label Ghostly International tends to truck.

When I was a fledgling Rephlex dedicant, I would often wander down to the electronic section of the music store at which I worked, seeking to expand my bleep bloop tastes, and would be interested by some groove currently pumping over the stereo. Upon inquiring, I’d often find that several of these grooves belonged to something released on Ghostly International, and I’d taken note – maybe making a purchase, maybe finding some other way of listening to an album. But a consistent trend would emerge: one listening to a full disc of whichever artist, I not only wouldn’t be able to pick out what I’d heard before, but nothing much would stand out at all. GI stuff seemed rather homogenous to my ears. As my tastes would, eventually, expand beyond Rephlex, I’d re-test this experience and find it unchanged.

Are there artists on GI’s roster that I like better than others, and have they released stuff I definitely enjoy? Absolutely. But their m.o. feels slightly askew from my tastes, preferring music that (to my ears) is more of a splinter off of late 90s club music, in that it errs toward a cleaner, less invasive style. Even when artists are getting all jungley or whatnot, it comes across as a bit polished.

The Ghostly Swim series has produced albums that’ve aligned with this wishy-washy take, and Ghostly Swim 3 is no exception. I was more interested this time because of something that I feel is akin to having your favorite writer offer up praise for a random book – Bogdan Raczynski features, likely non-coincidentally as the first track. And it’s fantastic. Bogdan plays to the room, still, dialing it back a little for something more groove-laden, but the layering and ominous ebb and flow he gifts to the track is magic. But once on to the next tune – Black Noi$e’s Potato Salad – things change. Black Noi$e offers up an excellent, bass-heavy, funking low-end, but then doesn’t do much with it beyond that. A followup track by Yak compounds this by letting the runtime go past 6 minutes; each side of the 2 LP set has a song like this, that just goes on for too long without much going for it except a head-bobbing beat.

And thereby the three different groupings I’d allot to Ghostly Swim 3 – tracks that make a definite mark by offering up full, isolated experiences – Bullion, LNS, DJ Python, Superstructure – and then tracks that have good ideas that maybe merit further curiosity, but in and of themselves are merely catchy, not necessarily notable. And then the songs that make you check how much time is left. (Though not to say they also don’t have good beats.)

If there’s something that the comp excels at overall, it’s in offering up a nice range of styles, from electro, to breakbeat, to IDM, to jungle, and etc. It certainly makes for an easy listen – all of the Ghostly Swims thus far have been – though, again, how much of that listen actually lands will be based on how much you heart the label’s output.