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Anthony Naples - Fog FM Music Album Reviews

Tough, upfront, and often bruisingly physical, Fog FM is the New York producer’s most substantial piece of work by a considerable margin.
American house and techno are in a remarkably good place right now. The underground is thriving, bolstered by a network of labels, club nights, warehouse parties, and off-the-beaten-path festivals, all with a staunchly independent spirit that’s a world away from the high-flying, big-ticket milieu of commercial dance music. It’s an especially welcome development given that house and techno’s well-defined parameters, combined with a retro-fetishizing reverence for the past, have sometimes left the music feeling cautious and conservative. But a new generation of artists is finding ways to tweak familiar templates, carving a zig-zag path between respect for their predecessors and a determination to do things their own way.

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Galcher Lustwerk - 200% Galcher Music Album Reviews

Galcher Lustwerk - 200% Galcher Music Album Reviews
On the electronic producer’s second album in eight months, the rough edges give way to the assured pleasures of an expert in his zone.

100% Galcher was not just a phenomenon; it was the end—and the beginning—of an era. Released five years ago, on a low-key British electronic-music blog called Blowing Up the Workshop, the mixtape made the then-unknown Galcher Lustwerk into an underground house superstar. Without the help of our present-day streaming ecosystem, the Ohio-bred, New York-based producer went quietly viral, as word of his smoky hip-house songs passed between inboxes. He crafted a document that not only captured the shape of deep house to come but enabled him to cross over in a way few artists in his world ever do. His beautiful, scratchy baritone and the scuffed-up beats surrounding every purr were a magical combo that resonated with clubgoers and headphone listeners alike.

In 2018, Galcher is a known commodity—a veteran, even. Whatever sense of mystery he evoked when he emerged has dispersed, and his aesthetic, alluring as it still is, has become well defined. 200% Galcher, his sophomore album, attempts to capture the magic of his very first release, but it feels less like some diamond in the rough and more like just another extremely pleasant release from a very talented producer.

The big picture of Galcher’s music—the dreamy stoner mood; the sonorous, almost lullaby-like party poems of his lyrics—has mostly remained the same, but the details have sharpened quite a bit. After his 2017 debut album, Dark Bliss, it was evident that the roughness of his earlier work was going to be absent going forward: The edges were sanded down, the grime on the camera lens wiped away. If there is a log line for 200% Galcher, it’s that his deep house gets even deeper.

The music on the new album is tailor-made for hotboxed bedrooms and bodies sinking into couch cushions. The mood is set on the opener, “Wristbands,” an unhurried eight-minute track with one hell of an electric bassline strut and extra-crispy drum-machine beats. He’s relegated his somnambulant voice to the background, his whispered sweet nothings just there for atmosphere. From the get-go, the instrumentation is immediately more vivid and defined than in his previous work; it pops in a way that dispels some of the haziness and feels more emotive as a result.

The sashaying basslines, on “Wristbands” and elsewhere, impart a dose of swagger, and the jazziness is much more pronounced throughout. Lustwerk was a saxophone player in his youth, and that instrument plays an important role on some of the best songs here. The strongest track, “Blue Lotus,” is essentially a jam session, with taut drumming, wide and lazy synth lines, bluesy keys, and wandering saxophone solo. There’s little to “Blue Lotus” that feels synthetic, and that more natural, lived-in sound is a path Galcher should pursue further in the future. Still, his voice is still a star—on “Life” his seductive play-by-play (“Go get out the house go and get a spouse/Go and get aroused hit another house/Buy another house”) turns domestic bliss into something sexier.

But even though 200% Galcher hones in on the producer’s almost cartoonishly smooth aesthetic with ease, pockets of the album feel forgettable. Each song hits the same relaxed note, and after a while, listening to 10 variations on the same shuffling, downcast beat can lull anyone into sleepiness. It’s a fine-tuned consistency that wasn’t present on 100% Galcher: The pacing of that mixtape left room for surprises, and its druggy fun was spontaneous and youthful. With 200% Galcher the compositions are tighter and the songwriting stronger, but the panache is replaced with precision. There is a seamless locomotion here, a workman-like craft that one only gets with experience. It’s a mature statement from a maturing artist, but one that doesn’t quite strike the same spark of invention. But perhaps he no longer needs to blast open doors in house music—his legacy as an innovator is set. What 200% Galcher makes clear is that no one does that thing quite as well as Galcher Lustwerk.

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