Matthew Dear’s Black City can’t be found on any map. It’s a composite, an imaginary metropolis peopled by desperate cases, lovelorn souls, and amoral motives. Like most literary Gothams, Black City is a place to love and hate, as seedy as a nightclub’s back room and as seductive as the promise of power. Matthew Dear, the musician, may live in New York City, but the Matthew Dear of Black City inhabits a sound-world unlike any other: a monument to the shadowy side of urban life that bumps and creaks, shudders and wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. Black City is Matthew Dear’s third album on Ghostly International, and it’s his darkest and most engrossing work to date.
Yet the project also features a further limited edition collectible designed by Boym Partners that investigates a concept central to my own project.
Limited Edition of 100to-tem
1: a) an object serving as the emblem of a family or clan and often as a remainder of its ancestry; also: a usually carved or painted representation of such an object... b) a family or clan identified by a common totemic object.
2: one that serves as an emblem or revered symbol
With Matthew Dear's third studio release, Black City, Ghostly International proudly introduces its newest label release format, the totem. More than a mere limited edition, the totem is a proposal, an entreaty to listeners everywhere to reconsider our relationship to music in the digital era. In producing an object as the embodiment of Black City, Matthew Dear and Ghostly International suggest a new path through which one's physical relationship to an album is again explored.
"MP3s and digital formats might be convenient and accessible, but sometimes having a physical product—if well-designed, of course—to accompany the music is key."
Taxi: The Global Creative Network
"…now it's time that we make room in our minds for totem to mean something else entirely." XLR8R
"Ghostly is my favourite American record label and the Boyms are my favourite American designers. *And there’s only a hundred of those wacky Boym gizmos, too. That’s what kills me." Bruce Sterling, wired.com
With Matthew Dear's third full-length studio release, Black City, Ghostly International proudly introduces its newest label release format, the totem. More than a mere limited edition, the totem is a proposal, an entreaty to listeners everywhere to reconsider our relationship to music in the digital era. In producing an object as the embodiment of Black City, Matthew Dear and Ghostly International suggest a new path through which one's physical relationship to an album is again explored.
To create Ghostly International's first totem, the company turned to renowned product designers Constantin and Laurene Boym of Boym Partners in New York, recipients of the 2009 National Design Award for Product Design. Widely recognized for their ability to imbue objects with emotional and cultural resonance, the Boym's also have a history of exploring uncharted territory in the world of design. Among their many creations, they have been revered for their "Buildings of Disaster" and "Missing Monuments" series, two ongoing collections which explore the cultural imperative of souvenirs in a postindustrial global economy.
Naturally, they were an ideal choice to task with translating Black City into a three-dimensional object.
The MDBC Totem is both a sculptural representation of the themes explored in Black City and a symbolic conduit to the music itself. Vaguely reminiscent of one of the soot-blackened skyscrapers that might populate Dear's creeping, nameless city, the stacks upon the totem also call to mind the many shaped prongs of a universal power adaptor. In this sense, the totem is not simply a miniature building, but an abstract key to an unknown door. The branding of the totem has been purposefully reduced to its bare essentials—only the letters MDBC and unique alphanumeric suffixes are included—so that the totem's meaning remains discernible only to its beholder.
Each MDBC Totem is inscribed with a unique four-character suffix that will allow users access to a private page on www.matthewdear.com, where Black City may be streamed in its entirely from any web-connected computer, or downloaded. Owners of the totem will also receive an exclusive track, not previously available on the standard album release. Unlike current delivery methods, the totem is a physical format for cloud-based listening, an acknowledgment of two seemingly irreconcilable notions: the need for a tangible representation of music and a future in which music is utterly ethereal.
The MDBC Totem is produced in an edition of 100 units and retails for $125. Each piece has been hand-cast in bonded aluminium with a hand-finished gun metal patina by master-craftsmen in New York City. It is available exclusively at The Ghostly Store.