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September 25, 2002 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-25

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September 25, 2002



'Without a Trace' flawed but
promising new CBS drama

By Jim Schiff
Daily Arts Writer

Technology and nature unite. The Ghostly talent.
Gh stly spralbgfromAnn Arbor
By Jeremy Iressmann Soon after Dear, classically trained musician Mullinix was
Daily Arts Writer added to the roster. Mullinix records under his own name as
well as abstract hip-hop under the pseudonym of "Dabrye" and
Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Carl Craig. Three grungy electro as "James Cotton."
names with instant name recognition for fans of Detroit Tech- Sam likes to think of Ghostly's current artist roster as a well-
no. But what about Matthew Dear, Midwest Product, Charles balanced team. "I think all our guys balance each other out. I
Manier and Tadd Mullinix? They may not convey the same don't want all our guys to overlap in the same genre, which is
familiarity, but Sam Valenti IV, co-founder of Ann Arbor's cool. It makes it more challenging to get a message across, but
Ghostly International, hopes to garner increased local interest at the same time I feel like no one steps on each other's toes."
in the artists of the burgeoning record label. Each artist also has a unique role to play in Ghostly's overall
As of late, Ghostly has attracted considerable attention in the scheme, almost like a cast of superheroes. "They all have a cer-
national media, specifically with their Disco Nouveau compi- taro amount of Ghostly-ness to their approach - artistry and
lation and in write-ups by GQ Magazine of the "keectroclash" intrigue. Everyone has a different attribute like superheroes. It's
revival currently sweeping clubs nationwide. Electroclash is an like Ihe Justice League in that it's a really strong team."
electronic music genre that emphasizes the "retro" feel of pre- Yet the truly unique sounds, concepts and artists that Ghost-
vious producers and eras, taking the type of synthesizer sunds ly presents today partially obscures the hard work it took to get
used in early'80s hip-hop and new wave. It is characterized by it up and running. The label has been able to distinguish its
its very heavily synthesized sound, as well as the infl ences of work and gain international renown for its individual, high-
'70s funk. Sam will admit electro is a sound he enjoys for dis- brow sound. But it was hard to convince the music industry of
tinctly separate reasons. He noted he likes "the o1d/ntw sound these merits when the label first got started. One main problem
of electro - it's retro, it's campy, it's kitsch but it's also still is the label's geography.
very much the music of the future." "When you have new artists and a new label and you're in
Despite Valenti characterization of Ghostly's work as having the middle of nowhere more or less there's some communica-
a retro flavor, he also sees the Ghostly sound in different light, tion that you need to establish," explains Valenti.
describing the label's output as "post Detroit" with influences As a newer label it also remains difficult for Ghostly
in IDM, Detroit Techno and also electro. The artists of to get access to the traditional music industry institutions
Ghostly have been influenced by Detroit, but have been such as national music press and distributors. Valenti
able to cultivate a stylistic offshoot of the Motor City continues to find it hard to get distributors to accept his
that is unique to Ann Arbor. product and initially found that some did not care for his
"Detroit music is notoriously modern in its own new label and the music it was releasing.
strange way," said Valenti when describing Detroit's for- "The first thing you try doesn't always work. (The)
ward thinking sound. entertainment (industry) is notorious because you expect
Yet for him, Ann Arbor is "slightly things to happen, and then they don't.
removed, and there's also not a huge " v- It's frustrating because you don't
scene here, it's not a trendy place." E r n h a know what's real anymore." Valenti
Instead, "it's an outsider culture in that encountered several instances where
it's removed, but also in tune enough artists wanted to license the label's
to take in influence and make it your songs or to work with Ghostly artists
own," said Valenti. Ghostly is also a l on material before later backing out.
label that wants to use the geography It's like the Justice But there seem to be some signs of the
of Ann Arbor to distinguish itself as a fruits of labor. Sam described a recent
0 unique idea and concept - something League experience at a record label office in
that became successful locally sepa- New York City.
rate from the cultural meccas of - Sam Valenti "They had our (Ghostly's) stuff on
Chicago, Detroit and New York. Ghostly International co-founder the wall. When I told them who I was,
Therefore, Valenti's strategy remains everyone treated me with a surprising
focused on selecting only those artists amount of awe, which is cool. But it

"Must See TV" is a relative con-
cept these days. NBC claims the
title, but CBS is giving the pea-
cock a reason to ruffle its feathers.
Now, with "ER" on its last legs,
CBS has the opportunity to apply
the stranglehold. "Without a
Trace," a flawed but promising
new drama, could be the final leg
in CBS' road to Thursday night
By focusing the FBI Missing
Person's Squad, "Without a Trace"
offers viewers a compelling prem-
ise. Unlike "Law & Order" and
"CSI," there's no dead body; here,
the agents have to track down the
victim by reconstructing the past
24 hours of his or her life. Having
little physical evidence to work
with, the squad fills in time gaps
by interviewing those who last saw
the missing person. If this burden
wasn't great enough, the investiga-
tors must also determine whether a
crime was even committed - some
victims disappear by choice or
commit suicide.
Within these confines, "Without
a Trace" operates like a well-oiled
machine. The show is fast-paced
and almost frantic, but understand-
ably so: The longer it takes the
agents to put the puzzle together,
the harder it becomes to find the
missing person. To further along
the process, the team splits up for

hours and then meets att
York FBI Headquarters to
DOD (Day of Disappe
timeline. The show d+
admirable job at conveying
icality of even one mis
wrong lead or fake rans
can throw the whole inves
The pilot episode center
disappearance of 1
Cartwright, a 28-year-
old marketing execu-
tive. Headed by Senior
agent Jack Malone
(Anthony LaPaglia,
"Lantana"), the team
tries to track her down
without any obvious
place to start. The
woman's apartment is
completely intact and
her life seems almost
perfect. But as the old sayi
appearances can be deceiv
the team learns of Maggi
problem, strained relations
her parents and an affai
coworker. These clues l
agents to Maggie and force
to scratch their heads - th
is both clever and surprisin
"Without a Trace" is re
because it puts a face onI
tim. By utilizing flashba
viewer gets valuable insi
the missing person's chara
first episode showcases M
unconventional relatic
remarkably well, particula

the New her dad (guest star Bruce Davison
fill in a of "X-Men" fame). Since the team
arance) of agents uses both psychological
loes an profiling and general police work
the crit- to track the victim, the show truly
step: A leaves no stone unturned.
om note On the flipside, however, "With-
stigation out a Trace" needs to inject some
personality into its agents. Aside
s on the from the tough-yet-sensitive
Maggie LaPaglia and no-nonsense Mari-
anne Jean-Baptiste
* ("Secrets and Lies"),
the other cast mem-
bers are simply going
through the motions.
WITHOUT A Future scripts need to
TRACE play up the sexual
tension between
Thursdays at 10 p.m. LaPaglia and agent
CBS Samantha Spade
(Poppy Montgomery,
"Blonde"), and beef
ng goes, up the roles of agents Danny Tay-
ing, and for (Enrique Murciano) and Martin
e's drug Fitzgerald (Eric Close). The show's
hip with writers should take advantage of
r with a the attractive cast and develop
ead the their personas, much like they do
viewers for the victims.
e ending Right now, the cast also seems
g. unnecessarily large for the little
freshing screen time each of them receives.
the vic- But "Without a Trace" is nonethe-
cks, the less highly entertaining and full of
ght into great ideas. It's hard to say whether
cter. The the show will threaten "ER," but
Maggie's for the time being, it's a welcome
onships diversion for viewers becoming
rly with weary of the operating table.

that best reflect the unique offerings of electronic musi-
cians in the Ann Arbor area.
Currently, the label is represented artistically by Ghostly co-
founder Matthew Dear, Tadd Mullinix, Charles Manier and
electro-acoustic rock band Midwest Product. Valenti met Dear
during Welcome Week his freshman year. In 1999, they formed
the Ghostly label. Dear acknowledges his affinities in influ-
ences as diverse as folk music along with his current interest in
"minimal floor-heavy techno" on his Stealing Moves release.

was something that came with time, with trying to change
people's minds and get them into what we're doing."
Ghostly showcases its artists on a regular basis in Ann
Arbor at the Club Above, located at 215 N. Main St. above
the Ijeidelberg Restaurant. Tonight will feature Matthew
Dear and Tadd Mullinix. Midwest Product will perform in
Detroit at the Magic Stick with Interpol on Friday. Their
website, wwwghostly.com has more information about the
artists and label.

After Blind Pig performance, Def
Jux CEO El-P talks on fans, future

courtesy of CBS

1A "West Wing" spin-off? Hardly.

By Laurence Freedman
Daily Arts Writer
El-P is smoking a cigarette on his tour
bus outside of the Blind Pig in Ann
Arbor over two hours before the steamy
club will be packed with a sold-out
crowd. The hip-heads are eagerly wait-
ing to digest anything and everything he
and his Definitive Jux crew have to
spew out at them. For the past decade
El-P has been at the center of the
underground hip-hop revolution, first
as a member of seminal indie-rappers
Company Flow and now as a solo artist,
producer, and CEO of his own Defini-
tive Jux records. This is his first time
performing in Ann Arbor and he's
brought his Def Jux labelmates Mr. Lif,
Rjd2, Cage and Copywrite with him. "I
want to bring some life to cats. I want
to spark something in your heart, in
your emotions, in your mind" he says.
It's clear to everyone in the club almost
four hours after the first beat was
dropped that El-P has succeeded.
Since leaving Company Flow in 2000,
El-P has been busy founding and lead-
ing his Def Jux label to the center of the
independent hip-hop universe by pro-
moting acts like himself whose raw,
aggressive and intelligent brand of hip-
hop stands in sharp contrast to much of
the rap music in the American main-
stream. Extremely popular with the col-
lege crowd, El-P has earned himself

legions of fanatic followers who know
every single word to his dark and con-
fusing yet undeniably refreshing debut
record Fantastic Damage. It's heavy, dis-
torted and intricate, just the way he
likes it. Accessibility is not a word often
associated with El-P's music. "I aim to
challenge. I'm not giving you a back-
rub. I don't think that it would be hon-
est of me to make a record that was
relaxed or complacent. I want mother-
fuckers to think."
Born and bred in Brooklyn, El-P
quickly tapped into the heartbeat of his
neighborhood, which at the time was
being supplied by early hip-hop pio-
neers. Especially "New York super-
heroes" Run-D.M.C. He can point to the
city itself as being a direct influence on
his congested, gritty'style of music. "I
have a lot of ideas packed into a small
place cause that's what it's like in the city
- a lot of ideas and a lot of realities
packed in really close together. There's a
lot of magnificence about it and vitality."
Having his own label has certainly
facilitated El-P's ability to make the
music he wants without having to
answer to anyone else. "You'll go crazy
if you're worried about response before
you even make the music. It's about
whether I feel good about it honestly and
then I put it out there. You never want to
bump heads with other people about
your music." Vocal since the end of
Company Flow about the way his previ-

ous label Rawkus Records treated him
and his underground colleagues, El
defends his decision to express his dis-
satisfaction with Rawkus in his music. "I
don't feel obligated to perpetuate some
kind of myth about their ethos," he says.
"My power is words. If I'm on your bad
side, I'll write about it."
Honesty is at the core of El-P's music
and philosophy. "When you're honest
with yourself and you're honest with
your music, even if what you're sayin'
is not technically correct it's important
to an extent." This way of thinking has
led him to respect a painfully honest
rapper like Eminem. "Everything that
he's saying is so valid in the sense that
you can trace it back to something. I
think he's a little self-aggrandizing but
beyond that there's a lot of validity to
him. That's respectable."
Fans can expect a steady flow of
material coming from El-P and Def Jux
in the near future including his produc-
tion contribution to the yet to be released
solo record from Zach de la Rocha, for-
merly of Rage Against the Machine.
When it comes down to it however, El-P
describes himself as a music fan with the
power to influence what people listen to,
eager to spread the tunes that he loves.
"That's my main goal. To take albums
that I think are dope albums that should
be heard by a lot of people and pimp the
system - to do that with integrity and
still remain intact."


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