Hardly a day goes by, it seems, that someone isn’t talking about the death of the album, replaced by singles. When they say “album,” however, they tend to mean “pop album,” using as their primary metric sales of the very top end of the spectrum. In electronic music, the album has never been about sales. For one, singles have long ruled the dance floor, long before iTunes began peddling online downloads of a la carte tracks. But more than that, albums are a unit of time, a packaged statement of aesthetic thought. They’re a story. And after an explosion of flash-pot diversity, labels today begin to be valued for their longevity and endurance. Albums once justified the label. Now, labels are a reason for albums to exist.

Of course, actually figuring out how to do that is as challenging – in business and cuisine – as running a restaurant. You need enough diversity to keep people coming back, but without becoming chaotic or losing the plot. You need a quantity / quality list.

Ghostly International is to me one of the superstar musical chefs that’s done it right. This summer, they’ve reached the milestone of 100 album releases. That may sound like a lot, but Ghostly has had just over a decade in operation, meaning they’re averaging just around ten releases a year.

I’m not personally shelling out for one of the 50 in this series, but I really admire its design. It embodies Ghostly’s philosophy – and it’s also a symbolic milestone. With its beautiful, organic design, it’s a physical manifestation of the new, enduring album, the album that survives even in the age of torrent sites and iTunes singles and enormous hard drives and music as commodity. As Ghostly puts it:

The Ghostly Bento was inspired by Japan and its tradition of quality, service, and design—values that Ghostly has always cherished. “Manzoku” is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “satisfaction.” Thus, the Bento is an intimate celebration of satisfaction in multiple forms—tactile, visual, aural—packaged in a handcrafted wooden box, stained and etched with a stunning image by LA artist Dosa Kim.

Putting out pretty wooden boxes isn’t going to justify any label, but Ghostly is busy, as always, this month.

Here in New York at digital tech research hub Eyebeam, a handful of artists will gather to collaborate with the label on visualization of music, under the tutelage of digital artists Aaron Myers and Aaron Koblin, as covered previously on CDMotion:
Matching Visuals to Music: Round-up of Inspiration
I hope to be there covering what happens, and coding myself.

This Friday July 9 in San Francisco and Saturday July 10 in Los Angeles, Ghostly will celebrate its 100 discs with live events, featuring favored artists like Tycho, Shigeto, The Sight Below, and Mux Mool. (If anyone from CDM’s readership would like to go cover, we’d be much obliged!)
XLR8R.com, SF event, LA showcase

And if you want to include records other than just Ghostly’s in your listening queue, check out their lovely look back at the past decade at the end of last year – plenty of agreement in my own music library here.
Ghostly’s 110: Our Favorite Albums of the Decade

Meanwhile, if you want a look behind the scenes with a Ghostly artist, here’s what Christopher Willits is up to with Livid Instruments’ Block (see last week’s round-up) and Ableton Live with Max for Live, for our friends at XLR8R.

  • BirdFLU

    The most beautifully packaged music I've ever seen.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yes – now all I want is music and sushi packaged together. ;)

  • Random Chance

    A tie and chopsticks instead of room for vinyl? The mind boggles …

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Random Chance: Makes sense to me. Haven't you ever tied a tie with chopsticks?

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zero ref

    I really dig the product design here. Very tactile, a fetish object in its own way. It does seem weird, considering the (probable) cost of the 'album' and its size, that there isn't at least a seven-inch. Maybe its aimed for the non-record buying demographic, considering that record people will buy the record regardless.

    What do people think about the idea of entirely destabilizing the relationship between music and the physical object? I know Daedelus has done t-shirts that come with download codes, but what about something even more material, like rocks?

    'Buy my new album on bandcamp and we'll ship a beautiful piece of quartz to your home address?'

    The question of what people want out of the physical container for music is a fascinating one. I loved the dude who made a little synthesizer/speaker system which _was_ the album (saw it somewhere around here on CDM).

    On a related note, what Ghostly releases would people recommend? All I know is Dabrye's 2/3, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  • nicked

    a very cool idea. unrelated but yet related. i think as long as it is unique and well made and a little quirky pretty much anything goes.

    it makes me wanna buy and i don't even feel ghostly much anymore…

  • deadredeyes

    @zero ref

    Check out "Syntaks" … he's awesome!

  • http://www.ghostly.com Ghostly

    @zero ref

    Thanks for the kudos.

    Regarding your comment on the physical container for music, we're just getting warmed up. Keep a close eye on Matthew Dear's forthcoming release this August. It won't disappoint.

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