If recent breakouts by Mylo and Vitalic have proved there's life left in house music and upbeat electronica (and they have), Idol Tryouts proves there's also life beyond them. This double-disc set, compiled by the soothsayers at edgy Ann Arbor label Ghostly International, is split into two loosely associated categories. Disc one, Avant-Pop, is self-explanatory. Though it's certain that the album's ethereal glitch-soul (Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys) and murky machine-noise grind (Kill Memory Crash) won't be Top 40 anytime soon, most of these songs are still hook-driven, or at least deliciously sharp and pointy. Where Ann Arbor's Dabrye slouches toward trip-hop Bethlehem, Massachusetts' Mobius Band dreams in sugar-pop Technicolor, and Taiwanese-American Daniel Wang ascends into heavenly dance-floor electro-funk.
Dubbed SMM and left undefined, disc two is a sleeper, literally. To the impatient ear, ambient music can sound unfinished, or at least unfun and meandering. And thrown into relief by the obvious, beat-driven thrill of disc one, this down-tempo follow-up is certainly far more subjective. Occasionally, like a drowsy sunrise, it's also downright beautiful. Whether the submersive, digital gamelan of Deru's "Straight Speak" or the faded textures and haunted vocals of Sybarite's "Sanctuary" perk you or Percocet you depends on what kind of listening you do. But there's intrigue here too. SMM -- and Ghostly in general -- just wants you to pay attention.
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