#11: Gantz, Slowfoam, A Czech/Slovak '23 Retrospective, Other bits
Starting 2024 off right with a fuzzy, hazy kinda month where I can hardly think straight.
Welcome, readers, to Reach’s first humble offering of 2024. I’m starting the year off slow. Like many others I know, the last few months of global politics has left my head feeling like the inside of a coconut left to the shore crabs, but with additional vitamin D deficiency, and a sore hunger for white sand beaches that nearly spoils the metaphor.
There’s been a few records out so far this year, and a handful more on the way, but I’m gonna dip back in 2023 for some last-minute releases that really caught my ear in this edition. I mentioned that I’d do some playlisting of 2023 dance music I loved, but frankly I’m debating the effort/reward of the BMC lists right now, so I’m reaching for the low fruits and starting with just trying to get my hand back in the writing.
Not much to share from me this month with regards to new mixes and so on, after the splurge of them last week and that before. I’ll bump my mix for AVA Mycoo since it didn’t get much love at the time:
I also had a track come out through the Prague-based label Amphibian Records, which should be a port of call for fans of trance and hard-dance influenced music. The compilation, ‘Transmission for Palestine’ which was released on the same day as an event held at Ankali, Planeta Za and Pluto on the 13th of January, which I played at, boasts a stack of great musicians from Prague and beyond, and raises funds for Palestine Children's Relief Fund and Middle East Children's Alliance. My piece, ‘Susan Boyle Times Ten Thousand', is inspired by this absurd quote from the normally very referenceable Norman Finkelstein.
There’s one last “I do things too” from me, which is actually related to writing: my favourite ambient label, enmossed, asked me to write fancy words for their rerelease of Chaperone’s Emotion Hospice, which originally came out on Bedouin Records in 2021.
This edition for tape seems to dig into the bizarre prescience of the record, which was made at the tail end of 2019, and looked to the future with black-tinted glasses. Speaking of prescience, I managed to channel some of my own for the text, and wrote around a topic (skin grafting) that the artist was delving into themes of for some further written material around the rerelease of the album.
I wrote most of the text on trains to and from Lago D’Iseo in Northern Italy in 2023, but thinking of home: my paternal grandmother, who passed later in the year, had a pretty revolutionary skin-grafting operation on her cheek when she was young, and she wore a square of plush, unwrinkled skin as a marker of that for the remainder of her life.
The text is therefore quite personal for me, very much a marker of last year’s events. You can find my text printed on the J-card of the tape (you’ll have to zoom in). This tape comes out at the same time as a brace of other amazing music, especially Jiyoung Wi’s exceptional album Accept All Cookies, which marks the sad end of the enmossed x Psychic Liberation collaborative releases together, which brought me sanctity and some banging weird music for the last few years.
Also, I’ll be in London for an event on the 17th of February: Niche have been building up a really strong character, and I’m super stoked to be playing a strange, messy and messed-up ambient set for the first time in my previous home, alongside some great names. Come through and wave if you’re about!
Thanks for reading Reach! Subscribing makes my day even better!
A Shout Out
As it was getting towards January I considered going through all the music released in my adopted region to pull out a ‘Best Of’, or even just a ‘You Should Listen To This To Know More Eastern European Music’. Fortunately for my overworked self, someone much more authoritative in this area beat me to it:, who, alongside managing the Warm Winters label and being one of the hardest working PR agents I am aware of, runs the excellent Substack Táto Strano Európy, which has been a frequent port-of-call for outer-than-outsider releases from East Europe.
In a bittersweet twist of events, Adam has changed his previously Slovak-language blog into an English-facing one, and for some good reasons. Not least is the fact that East Europe is still missing crucial engagement from Western deejays, musicians and press, so this decision opens up the market for the newsletter somewhat. The flipside of this is that Adam didn’t really get much of a reaction for some real hard labour from his fellow Slovaks.
Anyway, his Local Best Of 2023 has a lot of shared releases with my list, so find those in-text links up above, and go and give him some love and a subscribe. What Adam’s selections do miss is the bulk of Prague and Czech-based music that was released last year (although there are some inclusions), and after not much thought I’ve decided that I’m going to try to play to this, and cover more local music this year. So between the two, you’ll be fairly well covered for the region. Maybe.
Self Released - 29/31/23
I’ve wanted to write about Gantz here for fucking ages. When I was still disillusioned about how much time I’d be able to spare for this “professional hobby” of mine, I was going to do a retrospective of producers that I really love, and the Istanbul-based producer’s music makes that cut.
I’ve been obsessed with his sound since his first records for dubstep haven Innamind, as well as his subsequent records on Deep Medi. Sadly both labels have somewhat slipped from their previously impeccable esteem, but Gantz, unlike dubstep’s cred, is for life, not just 2004-17 (not taking questions).
In the wake of dubstep’s significant, but ultimately flimsy, second wave, Gantz has done away with the trappings of the genre (which was always its poison) and done some real soul searching to narrow in on a unique sound, and the result something to be beheld. Keeping it brief, you can hear in recent productions the influence and love he has for the likes of SD Laika and other murky Tri-Angle Records gemstones, but there’s nothing knock-off here.
To go with this intrepid dive into sound, Gantz has mostly been self-releasing his music on Bandcamp (and the really interesting new platform Nina Protocol). There’s been a handful of great releases so far (the Vanilla Nightmare album for longer listening, and /No/Child/Of/God/ for an EP pick), but MEGA attains something really special.
From the outset of you’re struck with the chaotic balance of neurotic rhythm and full-frontal sound design that has long been his calling card. While most of the record falls into grey space between experimental and club, the overall bite to the release sees it lean away from club-performative space, aligning better with a furious, brow-bent walk through your city, alone with your grievances.
That said, MEGA delivers something more (for me) than a lot of his previous releases thanks to the massive club-flirting tracks on here. Lollygag sets the ball rolling, but tracks like Bone Collector sweep up grinding 170 halftime sludge that seems to show Gantz checking notes on Goth Trad’s insane Psionics album. But, lest you think this is all force, the end sees a flip into an alternate mood, focussing again on rhythm and texture over volume.
Elsewhere, this same dark mood resurfaces, on Fearbore, which catches the ear perhaps the most, but closer Deleter also emerges, reminding of some of the musicians’ earlier, more contemplative, music.
It’s hard for me to quickly summarise why I find his music so compelling, but I think the most self-evident reason is the constant search for self-innovation. Gantz seemingly masters his releases himself, and it instills something of his ghost in the music. While the form itself sometimes speaks as if to a throng of people, there’s very often a lookback thrown in, calling to the introspective in you.
Mappa - 6/12/2023
Slowfoam released an opus with Worlding With Earth. Arriving on Mappa at the end of a bumper year for the Slovakian label, the record carries its title well; blending field recordings with synthesis, the organic hues of Worlding… feel truly natural, even at their most digital height.
Where other ambient albums can have an almost imperious gaze, “documenting” of sorts a natural phenomena, for instance, with an injected human perspective, this one carries an inherent playfulness and matching appreciation for the natural world that, together in the unique package known as Slowfoam, manifests as a kind of conversation with nature, rather than the painter’s impression — distant, callous even, in degrees of separation.
This could be precisely Slowfoam’s goal with the album, and I’ll leave it to you to read the label’s own text. Quite rarely for a label press text, I found it to be a good guide to the music, one which opened up the ideas I’d already made to supplementary commentary from the artist.
I’ve been diving into this almost daily since it came out. Perhaps that fact alone will jade your understanding of the music, and you’ll find yourself disagreeing with me as you read, but from my side it allows me to talk about it as a familiar friend.
Whether you’re cresting through the soft light of Phantom Memories, Iambic Limbs, or scuffling through the radio chatter of Soft Montage of Hypotactic Logic, the album has a humble dreariness to it: like walking your grandmother’s house at night, it’s not entirely familiar, but you’re not completely lost. There’s welcoming warmth in the synthesis, but while this evokes classic ambient, each composition is apart from that style, at least in part.
I’m going to hurry this along as I feel the flame of my writing growing cold again: Worlding With Earth has the tonic for Winter: homeliness, warmth (in both senses as a scarf or fire and as a deep hug from someone missed), a blurring of the boundary of human and machine (without getting self important in the process), some good song titles and a lot of genuine talent for cooking a pleasant sound.
Is it for you? You’ll only know after you listen…
Alright, that’s all for this month. Hit that sub button if you’ve not already…