Ghost in the 404: January 2023’s Best Dance and Electronic Music

Ghost in the 404 returns for its first edition of 2023 featuring tracks from DJ Tray, DJ Rata Piano, Josh Jams and more.
By    February 7, 2023

Image via EQ Why/Instagram

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Sam Ribakoff misses the days when Bandcamp didn’t cater to Fortnite streamers on Twitch.

DJ Habias X Diboba – “Se Decide”

Shoutout to Leonel, my POW comrade who writes the essential Afro Jams of the Week column about the coolest music coming out of every corner of Africa. Leonel recently wrote about DJ Habias and Diboba, an Angolan duo who combine the energy and rhythms of Angolan kuduro with the buzzing acid house of South African house and amapiano. There’s a little bit of Brazilian baile funk too – especially in the sample choices, the way they’re chopped, and the vocals from Diboba who sounds like he grabbed the mic from the DJ at a club to hype up his friends dancing. The live-sounding kuduro drum rolls, the persistent acid bass lines, Diboba’s constant howls, and what sounds like Portuguese sweet talk, make this sound like something with the potential to blow up on the international jet setting DJ circuit. File this along with the rest of the excellent, diverse, electronic music coming out of Angola in the last few years – like the harrowing industrial and political kuduro of Nazar and the electro kuduro of DJ Lutonda.

Josh Jams – “Contact (Josh Jams Club Flip)”

We’ll definitely talk about the new Kelela album when it comes out later this month, but for now, enjoy this remix of one of the album’s singles. On the original, an all star team of DJs and producers (including LSDXOXO and Asmara), laced Kelela with a classic “Think” beat, wrapped in ambient textures hinting at both Jersey club music and ballroom music, which gave enough room for Kelela to float over. On Josh Jams’ remix, the full force of the track’s Jersey club-ness and ballroom-ness is let go, and Kelela’s angelic vocals are chopped into parts and used to punctuate the drums and drops. This is how you do a remix.

DJ Smokey – “Promethazine and Anthrax”

Soundcloud is booming again. Kids from all over the world are throwing their wildest, most ear-splitting, pandemic-rattled ideas on the platform. Sometimes when I’m reading e-mails or reading the news in the morning, I log onto Soundcloud and let the madness rip. Usually what I hear is the non-stop battshit sounds of Brazilian funk, but one morning this month I pressed play and immediately heard the familiar sounds of a Gucci Mane vocal sample, and then a woman’s voice clearly said “I just shoved a nuke up my pussy…” Sorry. What?

Apparently DJ Smokey, who produced this track, “Promethazine and Anthrax,” along with a rapper he produces for named Joeyy, created a song that included the line “legalize nuclear bombs.” That snippet went viral and this track, and it’s outrageous vocal snippet, is a part of that meme’s whole extended universe. But that’s not the point, the point is that right after the obligatory silly line to get people in the door, DJ Smokey drops a pretty cool, almost faux-footwork breakbeat track, by bringing back that Gucci Mane vocal sample from the beginning and using a kind of noir-ish synth sample that sounds like what Q-Tip did on Mobb Deep’s “Give Up the Goods,” before dropping into a Memphis hip hop beat. It’s the best meme track I’ve heard since the Numa Numa song.

DJ Rata Piano – Ca​ñ​onazos Picoteros

I love writing this column. It gives me a good excuse to spend far too many hours every month looking for cool stuff from around the world to share with y’all that I don’t think I would have ever heard if I didn’t take so much time looking for music. For example, this absolute heater from Barranquilla, Colombia. DJ Rata Piano makes guarapos music, which are remixes of African songs in the champeta style, which in itself is a Afro-Colombian style which fuses together Carribean, Afro-Cuban, and African rhythms.

DJ Rata Piano makes these remixes using a CASIO SK 5 piano sampler, a small consumer grade synth from the late 80’s that has about eight pads that hold a little more than a second of sample time. If you’ve ever played with one, it’s fun as hell, and on this collection of DJ Rata Piano’s remixes, it sounds like he’s having a lot of fun looping and chopping African songs, adding samples that are used like piercing vocal hits in the song, reverb and echo heavy shout outs, and the constant use of the SK 5’s famous built in laser and dog bark noises. Hope this makes you as happy as it sounds like it made DJ Rata Piano when he was making it, and as it did me listening to it and writing about it.

DJ Tray – The Jersey Club Throwback Files Vol.2

Speaking of fun, how about some Jersey club? While there’s a renaissance of really out there interesting experimental Jersey club producers making an immense amount of music like Qua, @STEEZTHEPRODUCER, and MG Burto, (who if you’re interested in, follow billdifferen, the genre’s leading evangelist, and just a great Twitter follow in general), DJ Tray’s more intune with the classic, summery, Jersey club sound, or at least the era of Jersey club remixes on Vine, like the classic “We Are Young” remix. That means pop songs, lots of pop songs, like Mario’s “How Do I Breathe,” and Andre 3000’s “She Lives in My Lap,” chopped up and looped into sputtering repetitive phrases that turn into ass shaking mantras. Oh, and of course, lots of bass, and lots of lots of the obligatory Jersey club “bed squeak” sound. In the depths of the cold of winter, this blast of classic Jersey club sunshine is what you need.

EQ Why – The Lost Tracks Vol. 3/Bad Ghetto/Footwork Tracks Vol. 9

Chicago’s EQ Why is an unstoppable force of footwork. This month alone he’s put out seven EPs and singles on his Bandcamp page, all of them good to great, and The Lost Tracks Vol. 3, Bad Ghetto, and Footwork Tracks Vol. 9 are the best of the bunch. EQ Why makes classic Chicago footwork tracks, with the requisite triplet tom drum patterns and headnocking snare hits over time stretching sampled chops of everything from Wiz Khalifa tracks, to Marvin Gaye to Bernard Hermann’s theme to Psycho, but he’s also got a bit of an ear for noise and experimental sound textures that DJ Rashad explored, and producers like Jlin and Jana Rush have taken up in his wake. Plus, on “The Fam Ain’t Eatin,” he uses a Boondocks sample in the best way any producer has since Lakim’s “A Pimp Named Slickback.” That in itself deserves praise.

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