A Cleveland native who’s been based in New York for more than a decade, Galcher Lustwerk first appeared in 2013 with the now classic 100% Galcher mixtape. Since then, he’s quietly amassed an extensive catalog while working under a variety of names (including Road Hog and 420, and as one half of the duo Studio OST), cooly connecting the dots between smoky R&B, fantastical strains of hip-hop, and the kind of smoothly melodic deep house that Midwestern legends like Larry Heard first cooked up in the late 1980s.
Although Lustwerk has tinkered with his aesthetic over the years, 2019’s Information, his third full-length under the alias and first for Ghostly International, documented a subtle, albeit significant expansion of his repertoire. Intermittently abandoning the dancefloor altogether, the low-key LP folded in meditative bits of jazz and ambient while exploring feelings of late-night weariness. That process continues on the Proof EP, a quality companion piece that’s similarly steeped in a sense of exhaustion, even when a bumping beat is present.
“Proof” is something for the DJs, its low-slung house groove fleshed out with gleaming pads, tiny flecks of piano, and moody vocal clips. As always, Lustwerk is almost impossibly cool on the mic, even as he swaps his usual narrative approach for a melange of stream-of-consciousness ad libs. He’s back to storytelling on the sultry, sax-laden “I Had to Slow It Down,” in which he luxuriates inside an updated New Romantic template, his voice bleary and gravelly. The confident “Graham” exaggerates his vocal affect even further, dispensing with drums entirely and ultimately sounding like a woozy excerpt from a Southern rap mixtape. These creative departures are some of Proof’s strongest offerings, but those looking for something with a vintage Galcher feel might be satisfied by the lush keys and gently clicking rhythm of digital-only cut “Leave,” along with Lustwerk’s new version of “Another Story,” a repurposed track from Information that he’s reinforced with a sturdier beat; to the latter he also brings an extra shot of bravado that makes lines like “I’m in New York and I’m Black (Black)/I can make beats, I can rap (rap)” sound especially potent.
Although those lyrics were penned long ago, they take on added significance right now, as dance music publicly wrestles with structural racism and Black erasure. There’s been a renewed call not just to reassert the music’s Black roots, but also to examine and dismantle the many ways that the industry and the culture around it continue to place Black artists at a disadvantage. Lustwerk—who’s never previously been particularly vocal on social media—has been right in the thick of the dialogue, most notably when he recently tweeted a long list (which he’s since deleted) of microaggressions, indignities, and racist situations he has encountered as a touring DJ. Blackness has always been a part of his work—the title of the first Road Hog LP, 2014’s D.W.B., is short for “driving while Black,” a phrase used to describe the racial profiling of Black motorists—and while the critical discourse around his music has largely avoided the topic of race, Lustwerk seems determined to push the conversation forward.
On Proof, that conversation is loudest on “Speed,” a track off Information that’s been remixed for the EP by red-hot NYC outfit AceMoMA (aka AceMo and MoMA Ready). The song’s slippery hardware rhythms and infectious energy will undoubtedly ring familiar to anyone who’s been following the pair’s HAUS of ALTR label, which has specifically sought to showcase talented Black producers on both sides of the Atlantic. Enlisting AceMoMA is a way of co-signing their efforts—and strengthening solidarity among Black and brown artists who are no longer content to wait for recognition from entrenched (and usually white) industry institutions. As exhausted as Lustwerk sounds on Proof, he’s clearly got the energy to demand better of dance music, both for himself and all who follow in his wake.
Buy: Rough Trade
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