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

Ghost in the 404 returns with new tracks and projects from Against All Logic, Sela, and more.
By    February 5, 2020

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Sam Ribakoff cries every time he hears “Slow Boat to China.”

Green-House – “Soft Meadow” and “Xylem”

We’re going to start this year’s first Ghost in the 404 off a little mellow. Grab your Birkenstocks. 

Inspired by Mort Garson’s mid-70’s crunchy L.A. synth hippie ambient masterpiece, Plantasia, Green-House makes new age music to nurture your plants to, and for them to nurture you right back. On Six Songs for Invisible Gardens, there’s bird chirpings and frog noise ambiance inspired by Irv Teibel’s Environments and languid synth soundscapes that evoke the great outdoors and the gentle beauty of connecting with the natural world inspired by Hiroshi Yoshimura and Japanese environmental music, and for most of the album the tracks stick enjoyable, if maybe a little too close to those influences. But on the last two tracks, “Soft Meadow,” and “Xylem,” Green-House switches it up a little bit.

On “Soft Meadow,” Green-House introduces a repeating warm, round, bass synth notes; it grounds satin soft synth chords that sound like floating in an inner-tube. Imagine holding hands with someone next to a quiet waterfall. On “Xylem,” frog chirping sounds lay an ambient base for a series of twinkling synth keys and mallets that sound recorded as a prayer before Green-House went to sleep. Both tracks obviously take a lot of influence from Haruomi Hosono’s beautiful corporate Muzak project, Watering a Flower [which, by the way, has the best, most wholesome, Youtube user comments besides uploads of old school house records.], but Green-House adds their own loving pulse and character to the sound to make it something uniquely their own. This is ambient dance music for your indoor plant friends and you to just vibe out to and enjoy each other’s company.  

Against All Logic – “Illusions of Shameless Abundance (feat. Lydia Lunch)”

In his early career Nicolas Jaar was, to me, stuck in this kind of clinically sterile interpretation of Robert Hood’s minimal techno that a lot of producers, like Four Tet and Floating Points, got stuck in too. Even on really experimental albums like 2016’s Sirens, Jaar sounded always sounded oddly sterile and exacting [ed. note: the blogger doth protest too much methinks] , even when the music was drenched in feedback and grit and genuinely experimental and interesting. But in the last couple of years, after putting out a fine compilation of sample heavy electro house tracks as his alias Against All Logic, and co-producing a majority of the tracks on FKA Twigs’ masterpiece, last year’s Magdalene, Jaar seems to be loosening up a little. Over a clunking grimy industrial beat that sounds like a lost track from post-Franco Spain noise makers Esplendor Geometrico, Jaar loops and phases a vocal sample from post-punk godmother Lydia Lunch as distorted bass and howls of feedback sneer and wrap around Lunch’s voice. If the next hot sound in electronic music is going to be goth industrial noise like this track, I won’t be mad at all.                    

Sela – “First Track of 2020 (Test)”

Sela hits the first month of the new decade running with one of his funnest tracks in years. For the past couple of years Sela has been exploring this nebulous region of vaporwave/beats/ambient-footwork music of his own creation, but “First Track of 2020” is straight footwork Sela in a similar vein of his [since unfindable] 2015 album, #BARS. This isn’t Chicago footwork though, this is footwork filtered through a lifetime of nights getting lost on the internet until the sun comes up. Samples from what sounds like a cheesy 90’s R&B song and what sounds like a pretty laid back gospel choir are layed on top of a hyperactive footwork rhythm to clash and harmonize when they can. At moments it’s uplifting, but at only two minutes and some odd seconds, the track is way too short to hit the euphoric spiritual explosion that it could reach if given time, but we can wait till Sela’s ready to give us that release on some future album. 

Ohbliv – “Bizaroluv II”

Ohbliv is one of the internet beat scene’s hardest and hardest working producers. Hailing from the same generation of filtered samples, neck cracking snares, and side chained everything as producers like MNDSGN and Knxwledge, Ohbliv sometimes stretches out a little like here on the Soundcloud loosie “Bizaroluv II.” Here, a boogie sample is slowed down to a vaporwave drawl until it sounds like the soundtrack to a secret Long Beach level of the classic arcade game, Cruis’n USA. Vaporwave ain’t dead, it just sped off into the sunset in a heavily pixelated Ferrari.  

Jay R Neutron – Vogue Club IV: Thanx 4 The Memories

Honest to God, slap the “Ha Dance” or the “Think” drum break under just about any acapella and you more than likely have a jam, but Jay R Neutron is a veteran of Baltimore club and vogue music who knows that marrying the classic breaks to an acapella is only the foundation of a track, you gotta have style, and Neutron’s got it, and this record proves it. Vogue Club IV is somewhat a new collection of remixes, and somewhat of a greatest hits compilation from Neutron’s past decade of Vogue Club remix compilations. There’s Rihanon remixes, Beyonce remixes, and even a Britnay Spears remix, and Neutron weaves them all together effortlessly like this was a recording of a DJ set, sometimes picking the oddest moments to loop and sample, that always seem to only really click once you’re halfway through the track and enveloped in the fierceness of the tracks and the industrial crack of the Ha Dance snare hits.

But it’s the Beyonce remixes where Neutron really shines, like on “Bow Down,” “Yonce Been On,” “Partition,” “Blow,” “Sorry,” and especially “Formation” where Neutron really taps into that Sasha Fierce energy, slowing down, speeding up, looping and chopping Beyonce’s voice until it’s pure spirit, attitude, and energy distilled. This compilation is long, but like a great poetry compilation, it’s great to just dive in anywhere when you can and find your own way into it. There’s something here for everybody to get down to.    

J Albert – My Rave Ended Yours Just Began

As we get older and get more attached to the idea that our “careers” have to be first and foremost in our minds, the idea of waiting around until 11 PM for the party to start can seem a little ridiculous. J. Albert’s My Rave Ended Yours Just Began sounds like the weeks after you realize you might be too old for the nightlife, and too depressed to maybe question why you’re not. The music on the album interchanges with each track from sad experimental electronic rumblings, to almost nostalgic and wistful spacey dub techno, like the memories of parties and friends past rushing through your mind’s eye before you press play on Terrace House reruns on another Saturday night. The album ends with two beautiful piano led tracks, where lines and swells are chopped up and echoed out into the dark, cold, either. By the end of the album you just want to give J. Albert a hug.           

Deena Abdelwahed – Dhakar

Tunisian producer Deena Abdelwahed should have been on your mind since we talked about her debut album, Klabb, way back in March of 2017, but if you’re new here, or you forgot, it’s all good. Don’t worry about it. Abdelwahed’s music exists in a parallel universe to footwork experimentalist Jlin’s, there’s a lot of Middle Eastern and North African rhythms and drums, a lot of obtuse bass lines, ghost vocal samples, and squiggly Moog bass lines. What separates Abdelwahed and Jlin is her music’s sometimes dirge slow pace, even on a track like “Zardet Sidi Bgra” where a repeating synth pulse pushes the drums forward up to the edge of a footwork style breakdown, Abdelwahed catches it on the edge, just before the explosion, but always seemingly ready to go there. Plus, there’s a kind of knowingly funny nod to European dominated dance music’s orientalist gaze towards producers from North Africa on the first track, “Lila,” where singer Tounes interpolates sections of the jazz standard “A Night In Tunisia.”      

Yakui – Soultek 

Gabber music, mercilessly distorted, and almost militaristically rudimentary rhythmically, music from the early 90’s Rotterdam, Netherlands rave underground, has been making a big comeback in American dance music in the last couple of years. Way out in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, a young producer by the name of Yakui has caught the gabber virus and mutated it themselves into a rural American version of gabber they call “soultek.” For the first couple of tracks on this record, the music sounds like straight unadulterated gabber, viciously distorted, pounding bass drums and overdriven synths pummeling the listener, but by the middle of the album on tracks like “New Eyelashes,” and “PLUR Chrysalis,” Yakui’s own voice starts to peek through the wall of noise when what sounds like distorted 8-bit video game sound effects and fast forwarded anime dialogue takes center stage.

On other tracks like “Dream Pattern,” a regular gabber rhythm is interrupted by slashes of overdriven high pitched ambient synths to interesting effect. Yakui seems to be operating in a similar lane as Machine Girl in the sense that they’re interested in reseurecting old, hardcore dance music styles, and addeing elements of internent culture and humor to liven up dance music, and in some sense they’re right, it is pretty fun.

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