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

Ghost in the 404 returns with new dance floor burners from Yaeji, Daedelus, and more.
By    October 4, 2019

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You don’t even want to know Sam Ribakoff‘s DJ alias.

Trackstars – “Bonanza”

Trackstars are a duo consisting of Los Angeles dance music gems Delroy Edwards and Benedek, and they’ve just released the most L.A. dance track this month. In their respective solo careers, Benedek has perfected a kind of Hollywood to Manhattan Beach 1980’s electro sheen, and occasionally a kind of Highland Park to Chatsworth free floating desert jazz vibe. While Delroy Edward’s brand of crunchy, textured, grimy techno sounds like the docks of San Pedro to the industrial sections Southeast L.A. Together they sound like a warehouse party in Skid Row, with Benedek’s skipping electro hi hats, 808 clave hits, and Delroy Edward’s crunchy Traxx records sounding bass line, and some classic house synth chords layered on top. Don’t come to L.A.; just listen to this track and see the palm tree’s covered in graffiti, smell the bacon wrapped hot dogs, touch the miles of concrete, and taste the obscenity of vacant luxury lofts while thousands of people sleep on the streets.

Yaeji – “Beach 2k20”

Like sampling and looping a record in hip hop, the tradition of editing and remixing a track in dance music is meant to elongate and accentuate the best part of a preexisting record, giving dancers that short, euphoric moment captured in the loop, over and over again. For a good example check out the Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes classic “The Love I Lost,” and then check out Theo Parrish’s amazing edit sampled from the last few seconds of the original track. Yaeji’s remix of Robyn’s ballroom-Baleric sleeper hit “Beach 2k20” from last year’s Honey is more of an edit than a remix, where Yaeji loops some choice moments from the original track, adding first an electro-house beat, and then a kind of ballroom break, that gives the track a little bit more momentum, complimenting the original track’s synth chords nod to Crystal Waters classic “Gypsy Woman.” The best part of the track is towards the end when Yaeji joins Robyn in harmony exclaiming “come through, it’ll be cool.” How can you resist?

Cosmic Garden – “Night Walker”

Cosmic Rhythm is a record label based out of the southern Italian city of Bari. They specialize in putting out what’s often referred to as “Italo disco,” a dance music sub-genre developed in Italy that was one of the bridges between disco and house music. It emphasized midtempo easy going electronic drum machine grooves, and spacey, mellow synths, that often went off on improvisational tangents like less talented versions of Lonnie Liston Smith records. It was music influenced by American soul jazz, disco, and the newly emerging Chicago house sound, especially Larry Heard’s productions. Yet it stripped a lot of the musicality of soul jazz, the confidence sexuality of disco, and the harder edges of house, and made a much more laid back sound for Europeans to sway around on a beach. Recently the sound of Italo Disco made in the late 70’s and 80’s has made an internet-induced comeback around the globe much like the lo-fi house sound a couple of years ago.

Cosmic Garden’s “Night Walker,” inches that easy going Italo Disco sound a little closer to the gritty glamour of Chicago house and disco and the musicality of soul jazz, adding in a full blooded, hard bodied, bass line underneath the trademarked mellow synths and shuffling groove of the Italo disco sound. Like a little red pepper in your Italian sandwich.

DJ Lag – Uhuru

DJ Lag was one of the handful of DJs and producers from Durban, South Africa to come up with and popularize the mutated cousin of club and South African house music called gqom. Pronounced with a tongue click, gqom reportedly means something like “bang” or “ricochet” in Zulu, which is appropriate for the idiosyncratic rhythms that gqom producers cook up. The typical track is usually at a stalking, slower than most dance music, hip hop bpm, consisting almost solely of drums, with diamond cutting bass rumbles, icy snare hits, faint, echoey synth pulses, and sometimes a DJ Mustard style “hey!” group chants. Like a distant cousin of juke/footwork music, there’s a gqom dance that’s just as essential to the experience and community around gqom as the music itself.

The style and community around it had been developing for years in Durban. More recently, Europeans caught onto it and have set up labels dedicated to sharing, (or maybe exploiting) the style. Now, Americans are starting to catch on — with DJ Lag, who recently caught a spot on Beyonce’s Lion King soundtrack as a co-producer of one of the tracks, and now, the Columbus of international dance music styles himself, Diplo, has caught on to gqom.

Uhuru is being put out by a subsidiary of Diplo’s Mad Decent record label, but instead of staying in the same stylistic lane, Uhuru sees DJ Lag putting down an even darker, even starker, even louder, sound, which he calls uThayela, which translates to “corrugated iron,” and there is no better description of what Uhuru sounds like. It’s 30 some odd minutes of gqom made from slapped iron pipes, clipped sirens, ricocheting atomic bell sounds, and bass that sounds like a damn coal powered fire plant. It’s dance music for the Anthropocene.

DJ SEX and DJ MCDOMO – Proibido Trabalho

The description attached to the Bandcamp release of Proibido Trabalho describes it as “baile” funk, the Brazilian dance music from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro that exploded onto the international stage in the mid 2000’s, but other than one track on this split album from DJ SEX, and DJ MCDOMO (fka Slimburn), there isn’t a lot of baile 808 Volt mix drums. Instead, Proibido Trabalho reaches more towards footwork, and the way some California producers like Sela and Cakedog have bent footwork towards ambient soundscapes. That makes sense, Proibido Trabalho, is being put out by Sela on their label, Ghost Reporter, but where Sela will often play with a percussive footwork build up, only to meander towards ambient experimentations, DJ SEX and DJ MCDOMO live fully in the rhythm of the tracks, letting them guide the direction of the compositions, with synths and sample chops that serve to extenuate the propulsion of the drums.

It’s like if Brain Eno got invited to a Brazilian house party on the south side of Chicago.

Daedelus – The Bittereinders

I can’t pretend to have followed the narrative of this, almost completely instrumental, record, which apparently follows the final years of the Second Boer War, but even if you have no idea what that was, and don’t care to click on the hyperlink, if you listen to this record, you can feel the long historical tail of the agony that the war caused, and what Daedelus seems to be conveying with this record. Daedelus is an L.A. electronic music O.G., having come up with Flying Lotus and Ras G and the Low End Theory, and before that with L.A. drum and bass DJs. He’s mastered just about every style of electronic music, and perfected his own brand of what I can only call melancholic collage beat music.

Since 2010 though Daedelus has been working off and on, on a series of compositional electronic music based on historic wars called “The End of Empire” series. The Bittereinders is the last in that series, which saw Daedelus tackling the Boxer Rebellion, and the Crimean War. At points in previous installments in the series Daedelus has brought in drums and dance music elements, but The Bittereinder, as the title might foreshadow, is a solemn affair almost completely devoid of dance music ideas. Instead, it’s filled with drones, and lonely horns, and dark ambiance, that make it sound closer to the experimental music of Pauline Oliveros and Terry Riley, [who I saw earlier in August of this year at a synagogue in Hollywood, playing an improvisatory acoustic piano set, and damn. He’s still got it folks.] than anything in the dance music world, which is why Daedelus, who recently got a gig as a faculty member at the Berklee College of Music, is one of the best, and most interesting, producers out there working today.

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