- The artists on Ghostly International tend to have a certain musicality that sets them apart. Look at Shigeto, whose live drumming stands out from the rest of his beat scene compatriots, or Matthew Dear, a techno producer who croons. You could hear this quality in Mike Greene from the start. His debut album, Kingdoms, was unusually smooth and professional for 100% Silk, the DIY outfit that released it. Greene, formerly a keyboardist for La Roux, was snapped up by Ghostly shortly thereafter, and the Ann Arbor label has been tracing his development with EPs for their main label and its offshoot, Spectral Sound. Over those three years, Greene made his deep house and disco sound as exquisitely polished as possible, and by the time he dropped Her Dream on Live At Robert Johnson last year, it seemed like he might be running out of ideas. On Insides he finds some new ones by turning to kosmische and space disco.
The change is most noticeable on the record's second track, "Folle," which rolls into infinity like a classic Lindstrøm cut. Following a bright arpeggio over a six-minute journey, this one's got some real driving-into-the-sunset vibes, repurposing the melancholy that has pervaded most of Greene's work into a dreamier style. He channels that into icy Italo on "New Wave" and "Not A Word," where he adds chirpy sequencers and sleek vocoders (courtesy of New Jackson). "Not A Word" is up there with Greene's best tracks, impeccably arranged with just enough groove to shimmy along without getting tousled.
Greene finally lets go of that control with "Lately," an 11-minute piece that slowly disassembles into a flutter of purring synths and careful tones. It's easily the most striking few minutes of the album, and it's exciting to hear Greene's greatest gift—catchy hooks and synths like satin sheets—laid bare without having to hold up the weight of a kick drum. It would have made one hell of a closer, too, but it's followed with the bland "Cloche," which feels like a Fort Romeau retread by comparison.
Therein lies the album's flaw: amidst the more bold material are boilerplate tracks like "All I Want" or "Insides." Sure, the former's breathy vocal samples and ropy bassline are seductive, but it's nothing we haven't heard from Greene already. The gussied-up politeness that has followed Greene throughout his career is still an issue here, making the less adventurous material sound slightly anonymous. That's why the thick textures on "Folle" stand out so much, or why it's so exciting when Greene lets it all float away on "Lately." There are more than enough of these moments to make the record worthwhile, and even if Greene might still have one foot in his comfort zone, Insides a step forward.
01. New Wave
03. All I Want
05. Not A Word