Gumi, who comes to Shadow courtesy of Artefact, the French label that introduced the planet to the wizardry of DJ Cam, exhibits a keen sense of drama on Mixing a Ghost. "Spyworm" fuses swirling strings and a mysterioso flute with a thumping beat that marches ever deeper into the heart of darkness; "Innerscar," remixed by Kid Loco, is all hooky keyboards, shuffling rhythms and droning voices; "Hide and Seek" sprinkles random Easternisms over a soundscape that builds and builds during nearly six increasingly suspenseful minutes; and "Darkstar" gets interstellar, thanks to a beguiling blend of sci-fi effects and psychedelia. On downtempodojo, Saru, aka Los Angeles-based producer and DJ Steve Branson, delves even deeper into the bowels of turntable funk: "Posterity" is a minor-key expedition replete with a jazzy bass line and sampled grunts and shouts, "Bamboo Shadow" revels in looped percussion and echoey studio tinkering, "Jade" moves old-school dub in a decidedly new-school direction, and "Suck in Love" takes a charming, almost folky guitar figure on a space odyssey. Finally, the Total Trauma collection runs the drum-and-bass gamut, from spare workouts (Manifest's "Underworld," Techlevel 2's "Tracker") to full-scale techno opuses (DJ Surreal & Parameter 2's "Kuttlefish," the 5th Assassin's siren-driven "Interface").
The pleasures inherent in these discs are probably too challenging for the mainstream, which helps explain why Shadow remains a cult label. But if creativity were music's most important criteria (and wouldn't it be a better world if that were true?), its releases would be on top of the charts.