Our newest series ‘Top Notes’ considers the latest releases through layers of musical nuance. Similar to tasting a dish or smelling a perfume, the work is evaluated in a stream of consciousness: Top notes refer to striking first impressions, middle notes to the core character of the work, and base notes to the work’s long-lasting take-aways.
Sultry, stripped grooves, post lo-fi house, New York City
warmth, a whisper, an East River sunset, early morning exhaustion
The next chapter for a New York house icon pushing the city’s history of deep, understated grooves into the future.
Galcher Lustwerk is, in his own way, one of electronic music’s great minimalists. Most of the New York-based rapper and producer’s tracks hover around the deep house template, involving little more than a few loops, one consistent drum groove and his barely-there vocal musings. In true minimalist tendency, however, the emotional depth that he pulls out of these few elements is the most elusive and confrontational aspect of his work.
Galcher’s music works best in transitional periods—during the exhausted post-party contemplation of a late-night comedown or the golden hour as the sun sets over the New York skyline—and on his new EP, Proof, for Ghostly International, Lustwerk continues to chase these fleeting moments.
The EP’s title track opens with a sultry groove, using chops of his own vocals spread across the stereo field that feels like a room full of quiet voices, where bits and pieces of conversations lay just out of earshot. Warm synths and an undulating bass line recall the early days of Lustwerk’s output on White Material, illustrating the feeling of being isolated even on a dance floor in one of the biggest cities in the world.
The following tracks, “I Had to Slow it Down” and “Graham,” shift the attention into more sensual and contemplative territory. The first’s electric bass, bent pads and saxophone swells lay atop a plodding beat that plays like the spaced-out flicker of a strobe light. It’s the closest thing to a “slow dance” moment you’ll find in a Brooklyn Club. The second comes through like a mid-album reprise—built around a repeated series of ad-libs that wouldn’t be out of place in a trap track—but here, offset with buzzing melodies and tense strings, each repetition makes the air a bit thicker, swelling until the track trails off.
The project takes a decidedly more energetic turn on “Speed (AceMoMa Remix).” The original’s skittering drums, in the hands of two quickly-rising members of New York’s new vanguard, are repurposed into a denser and more chaotic vision. Where the original felt more tuned for after party, AceMo and MoMa Ready‘s overdriven claps and heaving bass line lend the track peak-time muscle.
Despite Lustwerk not being a New York native, it’s hard to imagine Proof coming from anywhere else, as it elaborates on a legacy of New York dance producers for whom understated grooves have always been the perfect soundtrack to tumultuous times.
Listen to Proof above, then head to Galcher Lustwerk’s Bandcamp to purchase the album.
Zach Tippitt is an editor for Telekom Electronic Beats. Follow him on Instagram here.
Published July 14, 2020. Words by Zach Tippitt.