100% Galcher gets Pitchfork's Best New Reiusse
For once, the system worked: Galcher Lustwerk uploaded a mixtape to the internet and it made him famous. It was 2013; nobody outside his circle of friends in Providence and New York knew anything about the Cleveland-born producer or his music. But White Material, a label run by his buddies Young Male and DJ Richard, had recently turned a few clued-in heads with its first two vinyl releases, and the label’s word-of-mouth acclaim was enough to secure Lustwerk—an alias that the recent RISD grad had gotten from an internet CAPTCHA—a slot with Blowing Up the Workshop, a fledgling online mix series.
Lustwerk’s set, published around the time that his debut EP dropped, was 12th in the series, following mixes from under-the-radar artists like Helm and Tuluum Shimmering. Instead of recording a standard DJ session, he opted for a production mix—that is, a set composed entirely of his own tracks. (Hence the title, 100% Galcher.) The songs, ruminative deep-house head-nodders all, were low-key; so was the anonymous artist’s self-presentation. By way of an introduction, he merely offered, “Some tracks and stems from 2012 compiled into a promomix.” None of it—the suggestion that these were rough drafts; the lack of an artist photo; the cheery signoff, “Hope you enjoy!”—augured an imminent breakthrough. The internet, after all, is awash in free mixes; other Blowing Up the Workshop sets have slowly accumulated play counts in the low four digits. But nine years and nearly 200,000 streams later, 100% Galcher is a milestone in that decade’s underground house music. With nothing more than pitter-pat 808s, powdery synths, and his own drowsy baritone rapping, a dark horse of deep house came up with a style that didn’t sound like anything else in dance music—not then, not before, not since.
The set launched Lustwerk’s career, paving the way for three full-lengths under his main alias and more from various side projects. It also spawned its share of imitators. But while standout cuts like “Parlay,” “Put On,” and “I Neva Seen” turned up on subsequent EPs, much of the material in the mix never came out commercially: Lustwerk accidentally fried his laptop and lost half the tracks in the process. Ghostly’s 2xLP version of 100% Galcher marks the first time that all 15 tracks—rescued from the damaged hard drive and remastered—have been released in their full-length, unmixed versions. If you’ve listened to that mix once, you’ve probably listened to it a hundred times, which gives the reissued 100% Galcher a feeling of familiarity shading into deja vu; it’s reasonable to ask if anyone other than DJs should care about the reissue. After all, this kind of music is created largely for the purpose of being mixed—the DJ set is its natural habitat. Why sit through 32-bar intros when you can cut right to the chorus?
Yet not only do the tracks hold up as standalone pieces—not just building blocks but real songs—the album breathes in a way that the mix doesn’t. The fleshed-out tracks suit Lustwerk’s deeply repetitive style; the longer his skeletal drum patterns stretch out, the more consequential the most trivial filter tweak feels. The extended ambient interludes are miniature worlds unto themselves, casting an unearthly glow over the heads-down dancefloor cuts, like the sun coming up over an afterparty in its final throes. Josh Bonati’s remastering job is subtle but significant, bringing out crucial depth and detail without sacrificing the songs’ atmospheric murk, and highlighting the idiosyncrasies of Lustwerk’s production.
Much iconic electronic music boils down to the uniqueness of its palette, and with 100% Galcher, Lustwerk hit upon a mix of sounds and timbres that referenced classic deep-house producers like Larry Heard while still sounding singular, even otherworldly. His drums are dry and grudging, with short sustains and quick decays, offering just enough envelope to reveal each sound’s identity—hissing shaker, crackling woodblock, clipped snare—before letting the surrounding silence swallow it again. His synths, on the other hand, are soft and yielding, morphing like lava lamps between gentle sunrise chords and coolly fluorescent leads. Everything is richly tactile, right down to the coarsely ground purr of his voice.
Lustwerk’s voice is his music’s secret ingredient, reeling off casually rhymed couplets in a way that’s neither intrusive nor reticent. Aside from 1980s hip-house, there’s little tradition of rapping in house music, which meant the terrain was his for the taking. (In a text accompanying the reissue, he credits his signature blend of levitating house beats with short, catchy phrases to a long, stoned night playing Basic Channel records back to back with Juicy J cuts.) His lyrics might not look like much on paper, but to fall under the spell of his sing-song cadence is to dissolve into a lysergic stream-of-consciousness that’s remarkably faithful to the feeling of a long, blurry weekend of clubbing. Lustwerk says that he wrote this music after an intense period of partying with friends in DIY spaces, and those subjects are at the forefront of the songs, which zig-zag from the dancefloor to the driver’s seat to the sidewalk outside the club, an endless circuit settling into a blissfully subdued groove. They’re not so much stories of nights out as staccato visions glimpsed with each flash of the strobe.
But this isn’t party music, exactly. “I wanted to feel like you were tripping, maybe having a bit of heatstroke, or dehydration,” Lustwerk writes of his inspirations for these tracks. “Your body feels detached, your jaw clenched. People become furniture. Light becomes the main character, surfaces show their age in real-time. Wabi-sabi shit.” Those sensations come across in pulsing synths that shimmer like mirages, basslines that seem to hover several feet off the ground, hi-hats that evaporate like sweat off the back of your neck. Despite the frequent references to drugs, these tracks never feel particularly hedonistic: By turns jubilant and brooding, they amount to a snapshot of youthful freedom, encapsulating the fleeting feeling of being independent and unencumbered, with no more pressing concern than which record to put on next. Maybe that’s also why such a powerfully wistful undercurrent runs through the music. You can hear it in the way the chords of “Put On” linger in the air, scented with the sorrowful suggestion of ephemerality. Lustwerk’s defiantly unchanging beats feel charged with the knowledge that every party ends; every high fades. Eventually, the plug gets pulled, and you find yourself on a cracked vinyl seat in the back of a yellow cab, reconstructing disconnected moments already dissolving into memory.