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.

Music Reviews

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 reminiscent 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 recording 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 shoegazing 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 developing as well.
Dabrye, for one, is changing from the “glitch-hop”
label bestowed by critics, 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 electronica 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 connected,” explained Mullinix.
“When we finally 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
someone else to bounce off of.” Mullinix continued,
“For example, when I’m composing a beat, I can tailor
the sounds, rhythms and composition to complement the MC’s
delivery, and vice versa.”

For a change in environment, Mullinix stayed in Berlin for three
months over the summer to work on Two/Three, the second
Dabrye album in a series of three. “Berlin would compare best
to Ann Arbor and Detroit combined,” Mullinix stated.
“Berlin is old, cold and industrial, 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
starting 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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