Ghost in the 404: The Best Dance Music of August, 2018

Ghost in the 404 returns with words on Yves Tumor, DJ Lag, Rhythm of Paradise, and more.
By    September 6, 2018

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A good Sam Ribakoff is hard to find.

Yves Tumor– “Licking An Orchid (feat. James K)”


The first time I heard Yves Tumor was when hr came screeching out of a gigantic sand dune accompanied by pummeling industrial noise at a Hood by Air fashion show two years ago. In rare live shows Yves fully personifies menace, musically and aesthetically. At a performance last year in L.A., Yves, in flowing ribbons of leather and a gas mask, chained himself to the stage while blistering white and red strobe lights and glitching industrial noise assaulted the audience. Yves eventually broke free and roamed around the audience, screaming into the mic attached to the gas mask and accosting audience members along the way. It was amazing.

But take a listen to Yves’ official debut album, 2016’s When Man Fails You, and you’ll mostly hear pensive, thoughtful, even delicate ambient music mixed in with lo-fi tape sound experiments. On albums and mixtapes since then, Yves has slipped in a couple tracks here and there of that same kind of primal scream noise, but by and large, Yves is a totally different person on record than in person. On last year’s severely under appreciated Experiencing the Deposit of Faith, Yves sounded like he was finding a workable synergy of those two personalities, framing those fragile ambient tracks and added acoustics with an uneasy Southern gothic ominousness and digital grit.

“Licking an Orchard” sounds like a even truer blending of the two personalities. With a bare breakbeat accompanied by choral synth chords and a washed out acoustic guitar riff that sounds like it was taken from the same sessions that birthed Experiencing the Deposit of Faith, Yves sings a blues song in the style of Portishead, only for the song to break into intense waves of growling feedback towards the end. But behind that feedback is a tinkling piano playing the melody of the song one plinking key at a time, leading the song right back to the clarity of singer James K’s voice and those washed out Southern gothic guitars. Flannery O’Connor would be proud.

Rhythm of Paradise– “Universe of Love”

This might not be accurate, but to me Italo-house, the Italian variety of house music, separates itself from the jacking post-disco electro of classic Chicago house and the funky looping hip hop aesthetic of Detroit house, by tampering down bass, and putting a lot of importance on airy synths and an overall Mediterranean laissez faire, universal healthcare, vibe. Rhythm of Paradise’s “Universe of Love” has you covered on that vibe, with ambient chords, flutey synths, and even a woman breathlessly moaning in the background. But they’re also down to sneak in a hard ass Larry Heard type Chicago deep house bass line into the mix to make you scrunch your face and say “uhh.”

DJ Lag– “3 Step Culo”

Even if you haven’t heard South African house hero Black Coffee’s “Superman” in all it’s sultry glory, you probably heard the remix that Drake slapped onto More Life and retooled “Get it Together.” South African house music leans heavily on jazzy chord progressions, sweet R&B instrumentation, and a slower 4/4 house groove with a touch of South African percussion and rhythm. Goqm, another style of South African dance music, is often described as descending from  South African house music, which I guess is true, if you strip out everything except for the drums from South African house music. Originating from the city of Durban, goqm sounds a lot more similar to Chicago drill instrumentals or even footwork, in it’s icy cold, ominous, looping synths.

Like ballroom music in the late 80’s and 90’s, goqm is direct and immediate minimalist music made by and for dancers of color. When this music began to get discovered by British and German hipsters a couple of years ago, a tidal wave of gqom compilations flooded the marketplace, grabbing anything labeled gqom on Soundcloud and YouTube. Now that the hype machine has somewhat died down, goqm producers like DJ Lag seem to be taking the time out of the hypebeast spotlight to really experiment and craft a fuller sound.

“3 Step Culo” pulls up with the trademarked goqm hip swaying drums, and adds in a hypnotic two note flute loop that could go on until the next big dance music subgenre gets exploited by European hipsters. P.S., it’s probably going to be South Africa’s other rising house music subgenre, Amapiano. You heard it here first.

Dam FunkArchitecture II

I could be wrong, but the cover of Dam Funk’s newest EP seems to show the outdoor pavilion at The Getty Museum in L.A., the absurdly decadent storage house for the uber-wealthy Getty family’s, shadily begotten ancient and medieval artwork. The building, designed by architect Richard Meter, is kind of amorphous and free flowing, something you don’t really imagine when thinking about a building that holds a lot of old religious artwork. But if there’s anyone who can tie tradition and the past’s vision of the future with a positive and optimistic angle of contemporary reality, it’s Dam Funk. 

Less roller-rink boogie, or laid back afternoon cruising music, like a lot of Dam Funk’s catalogue, Architecture II is more 4 AM driving music. The kind of music you listen to driving on an empty freeway. The lights of the city making it look prettier than Paris. Music to soundtrack a late night revelation that makes you look forward to an optimistic future, until you wake up the next day just before noon, hungover and regretful.

Helena HauffQualm

You don’t see them as much on the road anymore, but have you ever seen those bumper stickers that say something like “drum machines have no soul,” or whatever? Ninja Tune’s PR team has to start making a bumper sticker that says something like “If you think drum machines have no soul, listen to this:” and then have a QR code or a URL that leads people to Helena Hauff’s Qualm.

The first three tracks on this album are nothing but Helena beating the shit out of TR 808 and 909 drum machines, bleeding every last ounce of soul out of them into a distorted lo-fi electro rave mess. On paper it sounds sparse, but the production, mixing, and effects added onto these drum machines and scant acid house bass lines shake your speakers, no subwoofer required. Later on in the album Helena takes a break and lays down a fuzzy and warm keyboard lullaby called “Entropy Created You and Me,” but then it’s straight back to unadulterated human-on-drum machine violence on tracks like “Hyper-Intelligent Genetically Enriched Cyborg.” People like Helena Hauff are why we can’t really fuck with artificial intelligence, because once robots get too intelligent, they might come looking for us after what Helena’s been doing to their brethren.

UNIIQU3Phase 3Wood

It’s only right that as summer fades into fall that we shine a light on one of the best summer music genres, Jersey club. Descendent from house music, and very similar to New York ballroom music, Jersey club tracks usually speed up a popular song with a classic breakbeat, like Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It)” or “The Ha Dance,” and chops that song up, emphasizing the upbeat. It kind of pushes your body to at least do the Lil Uzi Vert shoulder dance. Take the maybe penultimate Jersey club Vine classic, Kyle Edwards and DJ Smallz remix of Fun’s “We are Young” as an example (Seriously, Jersey club DJs can, and do, cut up anything and everything).

UNIIQU3 has been an important force in pushing the Jersey club sound closer and closer into the mainstream for the past couple of years. Recently she’s embraced singing, and classic Jersey club bragging and general shit talking on her own tracks. It’s on songs like “Afterparty” on this short EP where her singing takes centerstage, and although it’s a little awkwardly constructed, you can definitely hear the potential for a pop Jersey club track like it to kill on a dance floor in between EDM tracks, you just need a adventurous DJ to take the risk. All over this EP UNIIQU3 isn’t afraid to gesture towards EDM itself. Tracks like “Do What I Want” have the swaggering heft of an EDM track, without sacrificing the sex positive and fun energy of Jersey club music.

Juke MXTraxmex Vol. III

There’s been several compilations of foreign footwork scenes thrown up on Soundcloud or Bandcamp for the past couple of years, mostly for the folks in those scenes, and super footwork and juke music heads. Traxmex, apparently the third volume of footwork producers from Mexico, is an interesting edition to that genre of compilations, because it presents the Mexican footwork scene as just as influenced by DJ Rashad and RP Boo, as L.A. Low End Theory producers like Samiyam and Dibia$e.

Tracks on the compilation like Eric Uh’s “Enter the Ghost” start with the same kind of buoyant, humongous, synth chords that Mono/Poly would sample in a heartbeat, adding in footwork vocal chops, and a deadly sped up drum and bass drum loop. Other tracks like the beautifully messy “New Day” by MATE sounds like something Daedelus would cook up during a live set by mashing together a soul song with a footwork track. It’s always good to see the dual gospels of footwork and the Low End Theory be embraced and spread far and wide.


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