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March 25, 2004 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-25

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LOCAL RECORD LABEL SCARES UP ANN ARBOR'S UNDERGROUND

Mixed musical personas add individual
flair to Mullinix release

Ghostly International, one of Ann Arbor's prominent
record labels, has signed several local techno artists who
have gone on to underground electronica fame. Tadd
Mullinix and Matthew Dear are two such artists.

By Emily Uu
Daily Arts Writer

With three different aliases on Ghostly
International, each with an individual style,
Ann Arbor's Tadd Mullinix is a musical
chameleon.
Mullinix and Ghostly founder Sam Valenti
IV met in Encore Recordings, where Mullinix
works. Upon hearing one of Mullinix's demo
tapes, Valenti wanted him to sign on with
Ghostly. Mullinix's first Ghostly release, under
his given name was 2001's Winking Makes a
Face. His brand of electronica was "intelligent
dance music," or IDM, but it stood out from
other IDM because of its complex melodic
structures which were often attributed to his
classical training as a cellist in grade school.
The album's tracks juxtaposed melodies remi-
niscent of Bach with glittery laptop glitches
and beats.
In the same year, Mullinix revealed more of
his musical aliases to the public with other
releases on Ghostly. One of Mullinix's record-
ing names, "James Cotton," produced pure
techno that incorporated harder beats as
opposed to the music on Winking. He
explained, "I began with many styles all at
once. My aliases appeared in order of release
but not necessarily in order of conception."
"Dabrye" (pronounced "DAB-ree"), on the
other hand, was a more relaxed persona that
incorporated hip-hop elements in his music.
One/Three, released in 2001, was a laid-back
album complete with electronic beeps that
evoked the '80s. After the album caught the
attention of Scott Herren of Prefuse 73, Dabrye
released another album, Instrmntl, on Herren's

Eastern Developments label in 2002. While
Instrmntl was still relaxed in tone, it was also
warmer and more organic than before.
Even before signing these three personas to
the Ghostly label, Mullinix was creating other
styles of music. For example, Mullinix formed
a punk band in middle school and a shoegaz-
ing band in high school. His first release was
ragga-jungle music, or up-tempo reggae, under
the name "SK-1" on Rewind!, a label that
Mullinix started with Todd Osborn, a fellow
Ghostly artist.
Mullinix's current music is constantly devel-
oping as well. Dabrye, for one, is changing
from the "glitch-hop" label bestowed by crit-
ics, choosing to incorporate more hip-hop in
his music. "I never liked the idea of glitch-
hop," said Mullinix. "Electronic music has
been evolving quickly. It seems like electroni-
ca is always breeding new subgenres. With so
many styles passing under the scope, over
time, they have begun to feel disposable and
cheap. I wasn't hearing Dabrye as anything but
a new-instrumental hip-hop."
Mullinix also stated that he had always
wanted to work with MCs. For Dabrye's
upcoming EP, Game Over, Mullinix got to do
just that, working with Jay Dee and Phat Kat,
two MCs hailing from Detroit. "I heard
through the grapevine that Jay Dee had picked
up my album at the record store. We had some
of the same friends who would get us con-
nected," explained Mullinix. "When we final-
ly chilled, Phat was there in Jay's studio.
Because of my position in the room and Phat's
excellent voice, he sounded perfectly balanced
with the beat."
Mullinix has also been working with

Kadence, an Ann Arbor MC who is part of
the political hip-hop group The Abolitionists
and other rappers. Collaborating with other
music artists has affected his music in that "I
can be very productive when I've got some-
one else to bounce off of." Mullinix contin-
ued, "For example, when I'm composing a
beat, I can tailor the sounds, rhythms and
composition to complement the MC's deliv-
ery, and vice versa."
For a change in environment, Mullinix
stayed in Berlin for three months over the sum-
mer to work on Two/Three, the second Dabrye
album in a series of three. "Berlin would com-
pare best to Ann Arbor and Detroit combined,"
Mullinix stated. "Berlin is old, cold and indus-
trial, clustered with new city buildings, but it's
also rich in visual arts, culture, music, food
and other good resources that remind me of
Ann Arbor in many ways."
Mullinix said he's most inspired by artists
like Aphex Twin, Jay Dee, The Sound, Public
Enemy and Dizzee Rascal among his favorites.
It's evident from Mullinix's multiple aliases
that his music aims to be original as well.
Although he already has four personas
revealed, Mullinix shows no signs of slowing
down. Currently, he and Todd Osborn are start-
ing a new acid-house label/project called TNT.
"Beyond that, I shouldn't create new aliases,
but I'm on the verge of doing it again. I want
to create new music," Mullinix said. "I have a
few drafts, but they are far from being 'fine-
tuned,' so I better not try to describe it yet."
Given all of the musical ideas that Mullinix
has, Ann Arbor and the world can probably
expect to see many more releases in the future,
all of them distinct in style.

£

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U alum spins signature
Detroit sound

By Punit Mattoo
Daily Arts Writer
In recent years, there has been a revival of
the techno scene that once defined the city of
Detroit. Annual events such as the Detroit
Electronic Music Festival and the abundance
of DJs performing every weekend throughout
the area have ensured that Detroit's moniker as
the "birthplace" of techno has not been forgot-
ten. One of the DJs spreading metro Detroit's
sound is a University alum and current Detroi-
ter, Matthew Dear.
Dear was introduced to electronic music
while still a teenager in Texas. His older
brother's record collection, although not pri-
marily techno, revealed a world of remixes
and fully instrumental tracks. From there,
Dear moved to Ann Arbor where he DJed for
local house parties and eventually met Sam
Valenti IV Valenti, of West Bloomfield, and
Dear created Dear's first record, Hands Up
for Detroit during a summer in London. The
record was also the debut release for elec-
tronic label Ghostly International, which
Valenti heads.
Since then, Dear has produced under dif-
ferent aliases as well. He signed to Berlin-
based Perlon as Jabberjaw and famed
producer Richie Hawtin's Plus 8 label as
False. As Jabberjaw, he released three singles
blending experimental house music with tra-
ditional techno, evoking the sound of
Detroit's most illustrious DJs. Dear's work as
False was a much more minimalist effort fea-
turing tricky beats and simple bass lines. His:

most acclaimed work to date, however, has
come as Matthew Dear on Ghostly. As one of
the acts on Ghostly's more house-oriented
division, Spectral, Dear has become one of
the most prominent and lauded producers in
the country.
Much of this recent fame came following
the release of his first full album, Leave Luck
to Heaven. A loose English translation of the
word "nintendo," Leave Luck to Heaven blend-
ed synth-pop with darker industrial techno
reminiscent of early Detroit to create a dance
record enjoyable in any situation. The single
"Dog Days" exemplified Dear's goal to depart
from the traditional path of techno in its incor-
poration of pop elements, including prominent
vocals. As a result, it became, as many
described, one of the most addictive songs of
the year. Major media recognized the rest of
the album as well, and labeled the release as
one of 2003's best.
This critical success has led to a widespread
following. In addition to performing at the
Detroit festival and throughout Europe, Dear
opened at acclaimed British rapper Dizzee
Rascal's U.S. debut. He also played at the pre-
mier electronic music gathering, the Winter
Music Conference in Miami, and this past
weekend at the South by Southwest festival in
Austin, Texas.
As he continues to tour, Matthew Dear's
role as the next artist in the long line of
Detroit's musical exports becomes more evi-
dent. Each show's set gets the growing crowds
dancing and leaves listeners anticipating
Dear's next, boundary-breaking release.

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