Ghost in the 404: The Best Dance Music of February 2019

Ghost in the 404 returns with Ras G & the Afrikan Space Program, Visible Cloaks, the "Thotiana" remix you never knew you wanted, and more.
By    March 6, 2019

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Sam Ribakoff relapsed on the dead locs.

Sage Caswell – “Walter Reed HD”

Along with folks like AshTreJinkins, Bianca Lexis, Benedek, and They/them DJ, Sage Caswell is a part of a new-ish set of L.A. DJs and producers that try to embrace the totality of the city. Sage can jump from a sunset rooftop DJ set at a high-rise downtown and play a warehouse off Skid Row in the same night. His music rides the line between ambient techno and a certain kind of Michael Mann, L.A. noir tinged, style of garage music, inundated with the spirit of L.A. electro from the 80’s. If it’s anything like his last album, 2016’s Hoop Earing, Sage’s next album, Evil Twin, set to be released at the end of next month, we’re in for another classic.   

Blueface – “Thotiana (Cueheat Remix)”

I don’t remember who’s DJ set it was, but there’s a Baltimore club Boiler Room set somewhere in the Youtube void where I distinctly remember the DJ stopping a Baltimore club remix of a Beyonce track to announce “this Baltimore baby! We remix everything!” In keeping with that sentiment, I’m glad to report that there is finally a solid Baltimore/Jersey club remix of L.A. sensation Blueface’s unexpected winter hit, “Thotiana,” courtesy of Cueheat. Welcome to the meat show (extended dance remix 12’ inch version).”          

Rhytch – “Love Interlude (Kofun Remix . GROUND)”

Kofuns are ancient, gigantic burial mounds built around the 3rd and 7th century in Japan, possibly as burial sites for dead emperors as other dignitaries. The largest one, called Daisen Kofun, is 5 million square feet. Nothing feels particularly Japanese about DJ Ground’s remix of Rhytch’s “Love Interlude” here, but it does definitely feel like the track is emanating from beneath a megalithic ancient burial site. A simple two note rhythm plucked on some ancient sounding stringed instrument at the beginning of the track is soon accompanied by pensive Fender Rhodes chords, and soon, head rolling, dirt deep shuffling African percussion and clipped samples of what sounds like children chanting and singing. It’s music to resurrect the spirit of your ancestors to, or the spirit of a dancefloor.       

Visible Cloaks, Yoshio Ojima, and Satsuki Shibano – “Stratum”

One of the images in the hi-def meets early internet aesthetic of the video for  “Stratum” is a rectangular window looking out onto a ocean blue sky filled with puffy clouds, floating by the screen in a brilliant white void above a satellite dish. Visible Cloaks, Yoshio Ojima, and Satsuki Shibano, separately, and together on this project make music for that brilliant white void. Both Ojima and Shibano have been making this kind of music, sometimes called Japanese “environmental music” for awhile now. It’s slow music, almost, floating, that plays with the interplay between electronic synthesizers and ancient Japanese percussion instruments to create this new age/ambient music, soft jazz, experimental classical, and traditional Japanese music hybrid that kind of envisions a technological utopia atmosphere where humans, technology, and the environment co-exist is perfect harmony. Visible Cloaks are not Japanese, they’re two white guys from Portland Oregon, but for the past couple of years they’ve been working on importing that Japanese “environmental music” sound to the U.S., and on this track from an upcoming full length collab album, they fit perfectly in with Ojima and Shibano. Built on quiet synth pad chords, “Stratum” feels like the most hushed jam session ever recorded. As breathy vocals, percussive 80’s synth lines, and crystal clear grand piano and wood mallet interjections come in and out of the mix, the ethereal vibe of the track at once can seem too precious, but before you know it, the seven minute run time is over, leaving you yearning for more.   

Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental, & New Age Music 1980 – 1990

After listening to “Stratum” you’re hopefully interested in checking out the kind of Japanese ambient music that Visible Cloaks draws so much inspiration from. Well, you’re in luck, this month Spencer Doran, half of Visible Cloaks, also curated this Light in the Attic compilation of that same kind of Japanese ambient and “environmental music.” Airing on the more spacious, vibed out, side of this music, Doran weaves together a mix that really gives you a taste of the style and aura of the style. It’s music that’s slow, elegant, airy, delicate, and really, really zen. After hitting play on the first track, “Still Space” by Satoshi Ashikawa, you’re met with a couple of seconds of solid silence that makes you lean in to the track, until a baby’s skin soft synth line nudges in, taking you by the hand into a mossy Hayao Miyazaki forest wonderland. It’s an amazingly warm, soft, endearing track that’s a brilliant way to start the compilation. It’s a track that rearranges your ear and your brain, going straight past expectations for “bangers” or really any form of lateral movement or tension in music, straight past cynicism, this is music that works at it’s own pace, getting pains in its neck from gazing at stars, getting lost wandering in ancient forests, or just spacing out staring at a newly painted walls at home.               

Ras G & The Afrikan Space Program – Dance of The Cosmos

Ras G is a Low End Theory OG, and for the past decade and a half or so he’s been making blunted beat music inspired by Jamaican dub music, Sun Ra, and afrocentrism and afrofuturism, but on this new EP put out by Alima Lee and MNDSGN’s increasingly essential label, Akashic Records, Ras G really finds a groove as a house music producer. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of “oohh Ras!” air horns on this project for old Ras G fans, and plenty of samples from afrocentric speeches, and snippets of rap acapellas, but now they’re grounded by four on the floor drums, head nodding hi hats on upbeats, and flourishes of African percussion here and there. The last track, “Pass It Along” combines all those elements, plus a warm, Larry Heard style synth pad to the mix. I hope that someone does take Ras’ suggestion, and pass along this kind of afrocentric house style.    

Afrikan Sciences – Culture Power

Remember dubstep? Remember when it was music made by homebound weirdos from the U.K. obsessed with garage music, broken beat, grime, drum and bass, and, oh yeah, Jamaican dub and dancehall music? Before it got conflated as the catch all term for loud, obnoxious, dance music that latter got termed “EDM”? People like Kode9, Benga, Burial, and later King Midas Sound, were making hazy, dark, paranoid music, that slowed down the frenetic tempo of drum and bass, covered up the shine of garage, added in the atmospherics of Jamaican dub, and the mono bass lines of dancehall music, and created a sound that soundtracked the societal and environmental neo-liberal destruction of the Bush-Blair era that we’re living in the ashes of today.

It’s only right then that almost a decade after dubstep was swallowed by the mono culture that a New Yorker from across the pond who goes by the name Afrikan Sciences is the one to Dr. Frankenstein rearrange the discarded pieces of dubstep, add in some musique concrete noise, and create an album like Culture Power which hits the psyche of living in America today as anything but WASP pretty head on.           

MoMa Ready – Soft, Hard, Body 

If you’re feening for a new Theo Parrish or Galcher Lustwerk record, this MoMa Ready album will hold you down for awhile. Soft, Hard, Body is nothing but sweet, sweet, Detroit house music. Sweaty, nocturnal, lo-fi 909 drums layered with moody Rhodes chords that repeat ad infinitum while a MC quietly mumbles in a blase monotone about something or other. In other words, perfect music. Other tracks on this album try to recreate a 80’s Chicago acid house vibe, but MoMa Ready really succeds at hitting that Detroit house, blase, nighttime vibe perfectly.    

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