GHE20G0TH1K, the New York City party that has championed a multi-cultural, pansexual, club-kid tradition once responsible for nurturing the seeds of disco, hip-hop, and house music in the city’s venerated underground history, has quickly cultivated a global following. What started as a space for creator/curator/DJ Venus X to foster a creative outlet for her ghetto-goth niche, has since been a breeding ground of ideas and inspirations for such avant-garde elite as Hood by Air designer Shayne Oliver and prodigious electronica groundbreaker Arca. To further solidify the brand’s legacy, among its other merchandising ventures, GHE20G0TH1K has also attached its name to its own record label. The permanence of recorded music – and the intellectual rights to it – is a nice way to compliment the impermanence of a once in a lifetime party.
The GHE20G0TH1K label is hardly a year old and already inhabits a reputation of mystery, macabre, and industrial decadence of the highest order- which is saying something, considering that for the greater part of the aforementioned year, the label was defined entirely by one mixtape release: the 9-track Fuck Marry Kill by DJ/producer LSDXOXO. An absolute wizard with a sample, LSDXOXO has a way with shaping even the crudest iron and steel industrialisms into beats that feel vibrant, tribal, organic. Fuck Marry Kill is an explosive project – one of the most inventive and enthralling musical creations of 2016. LSDXOXO might be the only artist who can sample monologues on trivial matters lifted from reality television; cast his own version of Kanye West’s “Freestyle 4” (which already samples Goldfrapp); and define the space between “pop that booty” and “learning how to dance on the pole” as a vital measure of personal growth, and pull it off with such exquisite refinement, the lines between murderously horrifying and hysterically humorous are impossible to untangle.
On 28 March 2017, GHE20G0TH1K expanded its catalogue from nine tracks to thirteen with the release of The Art of Fighting, an EP by False Witness. If Fuck Marry Kill was a masterclass in finding the allure in the abrasive and casting the sordid as divine, then False Witness provides an altogether darker tour de force, humorless in context and relentless in its mission from the very start of opening number “REVOLT.” Side-stepping introductory pleasantries, an oppressive blast of blaring sirens assaults the listener, placing them squarely in the midst of a state of emergency. The propulsive thrill-ride that ensues evokes a digitally illustrated virtual reality, drawn by False Witness with a rich attention to detail- “REVOLT” has no conventionally melodic component, yet feels complete in its narrative wholly based on a cunning presentation of rhythmic motives and brash effects.
Heightening the intensity through a few well placed looped melodic snippets on “PANIC ROOM (TO LOSE ONE’S NERVE)” featuring Brooklyn DJ, Kala, and “PERFECT ATTACK,” the dizzying, break-neck sweep builds to The Art of Fighting’s expansive finale, “TRUST.” Before taking a ride-or-die victory lap of maximum impact, False Witness clears out the sonic landscape midway through the six-minute sound-tsunami, highlighting a skillful ability to maintain tension and build momentum out of spaces of silence (a similar effect is achieved in “REVOLT” following an initial presentation of the drum loop cuts out, leaving the remaining elements in a state of weightlessness, evading stagnation with a persistent gravitational pull forward). These contrasting sections provide a tension-resolution relationship typical of a harmonic cadence, with the return of the fully realized sonic structure always met with the same sense of stability and relief associated with a strong return of the tonic in a perfect cadence.
And there is good reason to savor any source of stability and relief that can be grasped at, because such feelings are fleeting at best. The final thrust of “TRUST” steers The Art of Fighting to its conclusion with hard-earned agility; this is celebration without jubilation. Nowhere is the act of listening to seventeen minutes of music more likely to leave its victims physically winded as it is here. False Witness excels at transposing the instinctual, primitive savagery of man into the context of the future through his commanding technical prowess in creating a stunningly aerodynamic production with an impenetrable, lacquered finish. This meticulously sculpted assault of hyper-focused energy gives credence to the context provided by GHE20G0TH1K press release for the project (put your Ray-Bans on, because optimism doesn’t get sunnier than this…):
“The battlefield is the only world we’ve ever known: uneven, dangerous, and evolving. A haze of smoke settles to the ground, but who proved the victor is yet to be known. False Witness’ 3rd official EP, The Art of Fighting, re-imagines the lessons of the digital past as a means to take on the onset of a gory, disturbingly collusive future.” [Press Release]
Theories of post-apocalyptic guerrilla warfare aside, from a purely musical standpoint, False Witness’ Spartan militancy is the perfect counterbalance for the Dionysian bacchanal of LSDXOXO. The differences are underscored by similarities that make The Art of Fighting essential to solidifying the unique potential for the GHE20G0TH1K label to influence on a large scale. The work of both LSDXOXO and False Witness seeks to lift dance/club music out of its doldrums of perfunctory formulae, and challenge it to offend in new ways, reach for deeper truths, prey on darker fears, enacting their visions through a combination of virtuoso technique and incomparable instincts for turning found sounds into musical narrative. To this end, GHE20G0TH1K’s super-selective approach to releasing records is essential: rare is the artist who is able to engulf a universal spectrum of listeners with an experiential totality that is instantly accessible and effortlessly engaging, AND maintain an uncompromising commitment to challenging aesthetics that promote challenging themes. False Witness proves his worth in this arena, and The Art of Fighting is a one of a kind musical experience that is as mind-blowing as it is essential.