Ghost in the 404: This Month’s Best Dance Music

Ghost in the 404 returns with new cuts from Toro y Moi, Elysia Crampton, and more.
By    February 6, 2019

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Sam Ribakoff personally thinks it’s high time for a chillwave revival.

Fredfades & Jawn Rice – “Show Me How (feat. Dreamcast)”

Fredfades and Jawn Rice are two Norwegian producers who have made, what I can only hope is, the now official soundtrack to all Norwegian Cruise Line deck parties. In the middle of a climate change exacerbated cold front spreading throughout the Northeast and Midwest, these two Norwegian kids have put out a beautifully vibrant soulful house groove that young D.C. native Dreamcast blesses with an equally yearningly expressive vocal take, sounding like a heir to the Percival Everett throne of sexiest male house music vocalist alive. It’s music that works equally well in the middle of a sweaty house set as it does soundtracking a two person dance party in a small apartment, trying to forget the outside world for all five sheltering minutes and 13 seconds of the track.

DJ Nativesun – “Anita Baker – Been So Long”

Like his D.C. compatriot Dreamcast, DJ Nativesun just sounds like he’s smiling ear to ear making bops. Somewhere in between Baltimore/Jersey Club and soulful diva house, this Anita Baker Rapture era (one of the best R&B albums ever by the way) remix will call out from CDJs to be played at block parties and cookouts come spring. The all-too-brief ecstatic breakdown chop of Anita’s voice in the middle of the track is worth a listen for its own sake.

Elysia Crampton – “Picaflor w Base Trio Lancamento 2012 E DJ Edit”

Elysia Crampton made the best record last year, and to start this year off she’s reached deep into her archives for a distorted club remix of a Peruvian folk song from 2012, and ladies and gentlemen, I’m glad to report that it is indeed a slapper. Composed around what sounds like a heart wrenching ballad by Peruvian folk musician Francisco Leyth Navarro, who made a kind of indigenous Quechua music called Huayno, Crampton layers over it a blown out club beat that mimics the rhythms of Huayno music, if like, JPEGMAFIA grew up Quechua in Peru. It’s a simple track that is nowhere near Crampton’s best work, but it’s fun, and it shows that Crampton’s throwaway tracks are better than a lot of folks album tracks.

Toro y Moi – Outer Peace

South Carolina’s Chaz Bundick has been steadily putting out records, EPs, mixtapes, and guest appearances on other people’s records as Toro Y Moi for a decade now, gradually adding in or subtracting elements and influences from his music, but always staying decidedly electronic music adjacent, with glowing lo-fi pop songs influenced by J Dilla’s sampling techniques. On 2017’s underrated Boo Boo, Chaz waded into his own heartbreak using the language of boogie and slow jam R&B music, before that it was jangly psychedelic indie rock on What For?, and before that disco and indie pop on Anything in Return.

This year’s Toro y Moi release offers up a outlandish idea, Daft Punk-esque French house music mixed with trap music, and damn, somehow it works. After the huge, car commercial music exuberance of the album’s opener, “Fading,” congos, fluttering distant electronic bleeps and boops, and one slick wah wah bass line introduces the next track, “Ordinary Pleasure,” which sets the tone for the rest of the album with super compressed, mid range and bass heavy, French house grooves, with a touch of autotune on Chaz’s voice, and a vocal flow taking stylistic and lyrical influence from trap artists like Travis Scott, Future, and Young Thug. Like if Future wrote a Toro Y Moi song it would probably be “Ordinary Pleasure.”

The whole album is a much needed presentation of new ways to approach trap and big room house music, like the album’s highlight, “Monte Carlo (feat. WET),” which adds house music flourishes over a slowed down trap beat to paint a portrait of Chaz cursing over the Bay Bridge at dawn in a beat up 1997 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with HNDRXX era Future whispering “Use Me” in his ear. As of now, it’s the best song of 2019.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Tides: Music for Meditation and Yoga

Yes this is the cheesiest sounding record title released this month, yes the music sticks very close to the vibe as both that title and the album’s artwork suggests, but this is Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, the young master of the Buchla modular synthesizer, and just about anything she puts out is worth at least a casual listen.

Plucked from the vault from a recording made way back in 2013 as a soundtrack to her mom’s yoga instruction practice, the music on this album was apparently some of the first recordings Smith ever made with the Buchla, a modular synthesizer that has no keyboard, where sounds are produced by plugging patch cords into different modules connecting different musical functions, and turning velocity knobs to create sounds. The instrument is meant to create new sounds, weirder, sounds than other synthesizer can make, and for the musicians using it to think outside of the constraints of Western music by being detached from Western music’s main vehicle, the keyboard.

The Buchla is notoriously hard to get to recreate sounds and music previously played, and playing it is more akin to improvising with the instrument than really recreating any music previously played on it. With all that being said, there’s nothing terribly exciting, or daring, or engaging about the record, it sounds like someone experimenting with a fussy, expensive, synth, and wrangling out of it gentle, burbaling, drones and swatches of ambiance, but that’s good enough for me.

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