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

Ghost in the 404 returns with new tracks from Channel Tres, the Caretaker, and more.
By    April 9, 2019

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Sam Ribakoff never watches Channel Zero.

Channel Tres – “Brilliant N!&&a”

Channel Tres is the 1TakeJay of house music. Gleefully smiling while he tells you how easily he’s going to take your significant other away from you while telling you how stupid you are right to your face, all over a tambourine and conga enhanced Detroit house beat — plus an accompanying flute trill. Hailing from Compton, home of fellow house producer AshTreJinkins and 1Take, Channel Tres has been building up his style of smooth talking hip hop with Detroit house beats slowly but surely for the past year or so along parallel lines of his Godmode labelmate Yaeji. Other than the unquestionable banger that is “Topdown,” Tres’ other work has felt stilted, still experimenting and adjusting his sound, but this new track feels like an artist finding their groove and riding it off in an El Camino down Central.

Bass x Los – “Bussdown”

Just as Blueface’s “Thotiana” begins to fade from Instagram stories and the wider public consciousness, NYC footwork crew Papi Squad affiliates Bass and Los have done a mitzvah, and kept Thotiana alive for just a little bit longer for us, as a footwork flip. Blueface’s dolcet vocals don’t actually appear on the track, just a sped up and chopped down rework of the original track’s instrumental, and a cold monotone requesting that Tatiana, not Thotiana, “bust it down for the uptown.” Look no further than Papi Squad and L.A. footwork crew Juke Bounce Werk affiliate Swisha’s Boiler Room debut for an example of just how devastating this track is on a dancefloor.    

Peggy Gou – “Starry Night”

As one example of the corporate hellscape we live in, streaming music sites now have their own style of music associated with the music hosted on their sites. Everybody reading this article on this site is undoubtedly familiar with Soundcloud rap, and maybe even Spotifycore, the kind of milquetoast wallpaper Muzak that blends electronic and pop soley for “chill out” playlists and “cool” optometrists. Well I would like to introduce a new term, Bandcampcore. If you’ve spent enough time wading through Bandcamp you might be familiar with the kind of electronic music, usually overtagged with “deep house” “house” “tech-house” and other signifiers that often sounds like the “aesthetic” obsessed dance music equivalent of Spotifycore.

Well I feel terrible, because I often passed by Peggy Gou’s first record, Once, because it simply looked like one of those Bandcampcore records. I would like to apologize to both you dear reader and Peggy Gou, because Once slaps. It’s hard edged 808 electro drums, big bulgy synth bass lines, and Gou’s classic house monotone vocals, are really really enjoyable. Her new single carries on those themes, and adds in a classic house piano vamp that Paul Johnson would kill for. I promise to never judge a Bandcamp album by its pastel JPEG cover anymore. I’m looking forward to Peggy Gou’s next release, which should be out this month.

Nidia – “Mata Mata”

Coming from Valde de Amoreira, one of Lisbon Portugal’s Afro-Portuguese communities, Nidia makes batida music, which apparently roughly translates to “my beat,” the beat of Angola and other former Portuguese colonies in Africa blending with techno, the availability of Fruity Loops and other music producing softwares, and Afro-Portuguese identity. I have no idea what rhythms Nidia is calling on to form this track, but the way it builds off kilter acoustic polyrhythms on top of someone muttering the the phrase “mata mata” feels deeply set in time and place, with booming bass drum and almost footwork like hi hat fills in the latter half of the track acting as accents and signifiers that Nidia makes music for her here and now.

Sage Caswell – Evil Twin

If you do come to L.A., try taking the city streets instead of freeways when faced with traffic, you won’t move much faster, but freeways were designed to barricade you from the city and its people, Sage Caswell’s new album, Evil Twin, feels like immersing yourself in those city streets, driving the long way home from Long Beach to Reseda. Like Caswell’s previous album, Hoop Earing, Evil Twin moves from aquatic ambient pads to floor ready electro and techno beats, but whereas Hoop Earing had a much more wintery, ethereal, vibe, Evil Twin has a much more dusky, spring in L.A. type nostalgic poetic realism. “Turnbull ACs” is a hazy breakbeat that sounds like a half remembered track from an old skate video, while “Park,” a single twanged string of a guitar lead drum and bass track, sounds like laying in the grass during spring break and listening to LTJ Bukem until the sun sets, while “Radius Pause” is the kind of undulating house arpeggio that you’re going to want to listen to ad nauseum on a balmy spring night.

Laurel Halo – DJ-Kicks

Laurel Halo has embodied many musical styles and identities. On first listen, I was lukewarm, but eventually, I grew to love the smokey musique concrete jazz of her last album, Raw Silk Uncut Wood.  Accordingly, I was down to be taken on a journey through cuts from other artists making music of a similar vibe. And that’s how it felt when I heard the first track from her DJ Kicks mix sounding like something from her last album, but as soon as that track ends, Halo guns it and sets out on an hour plus mix of hard hitting titanium thick techno. It’s the kind of techno — maybe you would call it “minimal techno” — that focuses so heavily on gurgling arpeggiated synth bass lines and simple percussion than even any new element, a handclap, a stray rimshot, whatever, sounds more monumental than any operatic aria.

Meitei – Komachi

Way back in October of last year we covered Meitei’s Kwaidan release, and while Meitei’s new Komachi album works off of the same concoction of wind chimes, music boxes, old Japanese instruments, ghostly sample chops and manipulations of old records, and found recordings seeping in and out mysteriously like murky bog water. But Kwaidan was all about spookiness, Komachi seems to be channeling a much more benign, maybe even friendly, ghostly presence. Meitei seems to be obsessed with capturing “traditional Japanese ambiance” from old Japanese stories and art into his music, via influence from the Japanese environmental ambient producers in the 70’s and 80’s and the glitch electronica of Oval, and maybe even some lo-fi instrumental hip hop on tracks like “Maboroshi,” and the tracks feel weighed down by an old, dark energy, with a twinge of black humor at that darkness, and just a little sliver of light, like a ominoce pale light floating in the deep ocean. You can’t help but be curious as to what that is.

AFK and Bludwork – Loyalty N Service

More house music from south of the 10 freeway! What more could you want? This is aquamarine pastel g-funk house, a land where squiggling moog synths and beefy bass lines lie waiting under a smog of equal parts ambient pad chords, marine layer, and toxic exhaust from the L.A. harbor. Tracks like “Akina Memory,” and “That Pain” sound like Warren G songs produced by Larry Heard in a greenroom of a daytime rave during the second summer of love in 1989. In other words, please blast this record out of your open car window until summer comes around.

The Caretaker – Stage 6: Everywhere at The End of Time

Inspired by both the music and the mood of the haunted ballroom scenes in the movie The Shining, and the slow, heartbreaking process of memory loss and loss of the sense of self that comes with dementia, British artist Leyland Kirby began planning out a 20 year series of releases as The Caretaker that would explore progressively more severe stages of dementia. This month Kirby released the final installment of the series, the soundtrack to full late stage dementia. With four twenty plus minute tracks with titles like “A Confusion So Thick You Forget Forgetting,” and “A Brutal Bliss Beyond This Empty Defeat,” you can guess that this isn’t fun music at all, but it is engaging, even if its component parts don’t seem to be.

All three of the four tracks are terrifying ominous clouds of bellowing dark ambiance wrapped in popping static and vinyl hiss punctuated with blips of samples from old British ballroom records that listeners of the series will recognize from earlier stages of the series, where old 78 ballroom records were looped and soaked in reverb and echo, tiptoeing the line between cheezy, beautiful, and creepy. None of that beauty exists here though, until the final track, “Place in the World Fades Away,” which stretches and bends what sound like misplaced chords on a church organ for minutes on end, offering a celestial bliss at the end of a long run of darkness, until Kirby drops the chords, and plunges you back into what sounds like a distant, distorted, children’s choir, beckoning you somewhere. It’s darkly gorgeous music.

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