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

Ghost in the 404 returns with new work from Jessy Lanza, Daedelus, and more.
By    May 12, 2020

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Sam Ribakoff is campaigning to be the house DJ for the flagship Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.

तानाशाही का समर्थक – “loveumotabhai”

and Daedelus – “Sunflower Stems”


As our government and corporate power becomes more evil and brazenly contemptuous about human life, it’s easy to overlook how a similar disease afflicts other parts of the world.  In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government are systematically discriminate against and demonize the large Muslim population in India: trying to strip Muslims of their citizenship, revoking the autonomy of the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, and egging on anti-Muslim pogroms.

 तानाशाही का समर्थक, which means “supporter of despotism”  in Hindi, is an Indian electronic music producer who is mad as hell. The title of the track refers to Amit Shah, a minister in Modi’s government, and the former president of the Hindu nationalist BJP party. It’s also a popular Indian hashtag on Twitter offering support for him and the party’s facist policies. The track is a visceral explosion of white noise, distorted 808 bass and crashing percussion that sounds like the primal scream anti-facist noise music that inspired the electronic salvos of American groups like House of Kenzo or Elysia Crampton. It’s depressing to think that a similar type of despot is causing pain and suffering across the world, but it’s slightly reassuring to know that we’re not alone. There are comrades fighting against fascists everywhere .   

As far as I can read into it, Daedelus’ “Sunflower Stems” isn’t about anything political, but there is a little sense of anger buried in the track’s deep distortion. Daedelus loves tightly wound loops with whimsical synth flourishes and manic drums. Those elements are all present in “Sunflower Stems,” but whereas his tracks are usually hi-def and crystal clear, this one is buried beneath a thick layer of gritty distortion and overdrive, giving the track a lot of urgency and aggression that hasn’t necessarily been present in a lot of his most recent music. It’s a good look for Daedelus.

Azekel – “Don’t Wake the Babies (Lenzman Remix)”

and Luxu – “Charli XCX – Forever (Transfixed in the Dibé Nitsaa Mountain Mix)”

Lenzman’s remix of Azekel’s “Don’t Wake the Babies” is the closest you’re going to get to experiencing the grimy glitz of the U.K.’s drum and bass club scene in the 90’s… or any club right now for that matter. The recipe is pretty simple: Lenzman stripped the Merlot-soaked Welcome 2 Detroit soul of the original track, added some nice ambient synth chords and slapped the drum and bass prerequisite sped up amen break on it. Hell, that’s really all you need. Lenzman’s remix sounds like dancing like Jet Set Radio characters at 1 a.m., drenched in blue light, having to touch your friend’s shoulder to lean in to tell them something over the music. I miss it. 

Named after a mountain in southern Colorado that’s sacred to the Navajo, Luxu’s remix of Charli XCX’s “Forever” sounds like being thrown into a glitched-out drum n’ bass time vortex that whips around from the near future to the distant past, and back again to the future. Luxu turns Charli XCX’s chorus into a distant mantra while pushing overdrive on the amen break drums, ending on a warped sample of Charli’s vocals that turn her into a ghostly wail into the night.  

The Navajo Nation — a sovereign nation the size of West Virginia that encompases parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — has the third highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the country. If you have the resources, please consider donating to Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief and/or K’É Infoshop, two Navajo organizations providing mutual aid and much needed supplies to people on the Navajo Nation. 

Jessy Lanza – “Face”

and Kyle Hall – “Forget the Clock”

Jessy Lanza’s best tracks rely on a good keyboard tone, sprightly high hats, and her voice just sinking into the fog of artisanal pop house beats. Off her upcoming album All the Time,  “Face”  is one of those tracks. It’s airy pop perfect for the spring, as seen from indoors. 

For a while, Kyle Hall had to live with the mantle of being the heir to the legacy of Detroit house legends like Moodymann and Theo Parrish. On recent releases he’s eased up a little bit, releasing simpler and more straightforward tracks; April’s “Forget the Clock” might be one of the best of his most recent output. Built on a suave and swinging groove, Hall layers on beautiful keyboard chords and effervescent celestial synths. It sounds like Jacarandas blooming.     

MoMA Ready – Restructure

and Awesome Agency – Awesome Aid

The American dance music scene’s embrace of 90’s Dutch gabber in the last couple of years has been really interesting. What started as European’s speeding up and overdriving black Detroit techno music into hyperfast militaristic bombast has now come back to black artists in the states. They’re re-purposed it for combat against stale and tepid white house and techno music over here. MoMA Ready is contributing to that conversation with Restructure, a fun short EP where ear-splittingly loud and intense gabber beats are laid over two glossy R&B Amerie tracks and one Cassie track from the mid-2000’s. MoMA Ready saved the best for last, on the last track, Amerie’s “1 Thing” is turned into a manic plea over an overdriven drum and bass break and a pounding gabber bass drums.      

There’s touches of gabber on Awesome Aid, a benefit compilation for the artists on the compilation put out by Awesome Agency, a booking and promotional company based out of Long Beach. More than that, the compilation is a nice antithesis to a lot of the statelness of contemporary house and techno music. There’s the kind of screamo drum and bass of IVVVO’s “Sharpest Face,” to the ambient club music of Dasychira’s “dDream,” to the glitchy technicolor electronica of Wasted Fates,’ “Rainbow Road (MK Ultra).” It’s a nice breather from four on the floor.      

Sepher – Shaytoon

and Ashtrejinkins – Get Over It

Shaytoon sounds like a jam session between Throbbing Gristle and Model 500. S.F. producer Sepher simultaneously has maniacal ominous dread and danger hanging over his music like Throbbing Gristle, combined with the rollicking electro energy of Model 500. The album is an enjoyable and competent melding of those two recogniziable styles, early electro and early industrial music. However, Sepher really stands out on the intro and outro tracks where he mixes in hints of Persian hand percussion over spacey electronics.    

Just about anything AshTreJinkins touches is gold. His spacey, ambient dub Compton techno is the sound of L.A. south of the 10 freeway at 3 a.m. (even though he recently moved to the central valley city of Fresno). This short A and B track project finds AshTre going deeper into his own signature sound — an amalgamation of beat music, techno, dub music, the twilight hours and the spirit of Ras G. I just hope it sounds as good going down the 99 -freeway as it does going down Long Beach Boulevard.      

Lazywax – Lazywax VOL1

and Yaeji – What We Drew

Just close your eyes and imagine the kind of music you’d hear being played by a European DJ with a shirt that’s way too tight on him on a beach resort in the middle of the day. That’s exactly the style of music that Lazywax makes. It’s easy to make fun of this kind of cheesy European-style instrumental disco where you can somehow hear the engineer mixing the record while smoking a cigarette in a spaghetti strap tank-top, but what’s wrong with a litle dumb fun? Loosen up a little bit.     

What We Drew is just 40 minutes straight of Yaeji laying out, messing around and having fun with music. There’s some light broken beat stuff, some rapping, her mix of soft spoken Korean and English language sprechgesang, even a ballad, and plenty of spacey electronic doodling for Yaeji heads to sink into. Nothing amazing or out of this world, just an artist having fun and inviting you to join in.    

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