Over the past few years, a handful artists in America have begun to reclaim House music for the next generation. Artists like Galcher Lustwerk, Byron the Aquarius and Channel Tres, have used House music as a more inclusive platform in a new wave of the genre that might see it return to a time at the height of its popularity. Elements of Jazz Soul, Hip-Hop and Funk form a bedrock from which modern composers weave their unique and esoteric musical language.
From Byron the Aquarius’ jazzified Rhodes incantations to Channel Tres’ crossover rap-vocal appeal, there is no singular sound or scene that unites these artists, only an intangible vibe. It sounds like New York, Chicago and LA in the of breezy attitude that underpins it and colours outside the predetermined lines that have defined the genre for some time. It breathed new life into a House movement that has been caught in the deep end for far too long.
In many ways Galcher Lustwerk paved the way for this trend or phase in House music with his seminal mixtape “100%” back in 2013. He completely broke with the entrenched sound of Deep House, largely informed by Europe, for a sound that was more free and dynamic. Infusing that sound with vocals that would be more at home with Trap than House, it was a completely new and inventive approach. Following this debut release with a predominantly LP-based discography, Galcher Lustwerk’s music stayed the course through another 2 albums before it reached the archives of Ghostly International to cement Galcher Lustwerk’s music beyond his own Lustwerk music imprint and White Material affiliations.
“Information” saw Galcher Lustwerk reach the next sphere in House music’s institutions. He hardly needed the validation of a flagship label like Ghostly however, but “Information” impressed nonetheless, building on that momentum from “100%” and catching the ear of a wider audience. Amongst those that heard his work was Azealia Banks, with Galcher Luswerk claiming a production credit for 2021’s “F**k Him All Night” from the controversial pop icon. There’s certainly a kindred spirit in those two artists’ approach to music, as they reappropriate elements of Hip Hop into House and vice versa, but where Banks’ work favours the crossover into the limelight, Lustwerk’s music stays the course in the shadows of House music’s counter-cultural roots.
Much like the man, his music is an enigma. Galcher Lustwerk moves like a fog through sound, with lush pads and woolly rhythms ebbing on a swell. At times, you have to turn up your collar against the cold indifferent breeze that floats through his work, but it retains an intriguing human quality, like a Tom Clancy novel’s mood captured in the album format. His vocal drifts like a morning mist across lichen marshes, revealing peaks of reality through an opaque abstractionism. It’s a sound he’s cultivated from that first mixtape, and through the albums and EPs that followed it’s something that has remained central to his work.
Yet, Galcher Lustwerk’s origins are as elusive as the feeling you get from listening to his records. It seemed that he arrived with his debut mixtape, fully formed and developed as an artist. The man behind the work, Chris Sherron, was largely unknown before Galcher Lustwerk, but the production on “100%” is not that of a novice.
Sherron grew up in Cleveland. Talking to Bolting Bits, he called it “a fine city” and its influence on his adolescent years made him a “more creative” individual. “There isn’t very much youth culture or arts culture compared to other cities,” he claimed ”so if you’re interested in that type of thing like I was – you had to pursue it at all costs and do a lot of things alone or in a cultural vacuum.” He had some basic grounding in music, playing the sax at school, but a “lame as fuck” Teacher who would wear piano ties and listen to Deep Purple in his PT cruiser (much like a character in a Galcher Lustwerk song), had quickly put the young Sherron off a formal musical education.
Seemingly that set him on a path to electronic music: “I would say the biggest influence for me is Underworld,” Sherron told Reverb. “I was really into the ‘electronica’ stuff, so anything like the Chemical Brothers or Underworld, the Prodigy, Groove Armada,” which would put Sherron around his teens in the mid nineties.
Among some of the other influences he also mentions indie rock, but on more than one occasion in interviews, he would recall that “hip-hop music was out of my grasp at the time.” As a “sheltered kid” growing up in the Midwest, the music was largely prohibited at home “because a lot of the rap music had parental advisory [stickers],” he elucidated on Fader in 2018. “I looked at other black music that didn’t. I gravitated towards Massive Attack and Tricky and the British stuff like drum and bass. That was the stuff I was super psyched on and wondering like, ‘Damn, how do they make those sounds?’ and wanting to learn about production.”
He taught himself how to use the sample-based music software Fruity Loops, which set him on a road towards production, but there’s a huge gap in his biography between then and Glacher Lustwerk. At some point he moved to Rhode Island to study at the famous school of design, and it’s there he seemed to fall into a musical crowd. “I caught the last hurrah of the scene,” he told Spex magazine, but it’s there where he met the other White Material co-founders, DJ Richard and Young Male; a significant twist in the plot towards Galcher Lustwerk. “At the time there, it wasn’t really about quality but intensity, how intense you could be,” remembers Sherron of that scene.
White Material’s debut self-titled EP reflects some of that intensity. It’s fast-paced House music with a Lo-Fi attitude, but a considered sound palette. The sounds aren’t brash or harsh, but you get the sense that they are quickly assembled, the impatience of youth reflected on the serrated resonances of a sawtooth wave. White Material shares some similarities to labels like L.I.E.S, aligning with that DIY New York sound; that is until you get to the last track on the record. At first “Put On” sounds like much of the rest of the record, and then Glacher Lustwerk’s gruff vocal appears through the ratcheting rhythms and misty keys. It’s a track that sounds almost at odds with the rest of the record now and it’s only when we hear it again in Galcher Lustwerk’s debut mixtape, that things fall into place.
White Material came out around the same time as his “100% Galcher,” but “Put On” sounds more at home on the longer format than the EP. The mixtape saw Sherron establish Galcher Lustwerk as an artist right from the start and showed a side to House music that we’ve not really experienced in the past. While R&B- or Gospel vocals were no stranger to chart-topping House music, Galcher Lustwerk’s trap-like raps on this kind of “underground” House music was a new phenomenon. It captured the zeitgeist of a contemporary streaming society and resonated with a new kind of audience that were broadening the borders of clubspaces and club music. It had crossover appeal, but Sherron’s affiliation with a more underground scene thwarted any attempts at the mainstream.
“100% Galcher” and the first White Material release wasn’t exactly an anomaly, and indicated more to something in the winds of change, but by the time Galcher Lustwerk’s official debut Dark Bliss came out in 2017, he had played a significant part in establishing a particular sound on to its own and one that certainly would have influenced an artist like Channel Tres, whose Hollywood approximation would take it to a more accesible realm.
“I believe I may have set some sort of trend and now people in other music spheres are making similar music,” Sherron admits in Bolting Bits around the time “Dark Bliss” came out. While people started rapping over House beats and Hip-Hop started making more of an impression on House music at that time, Galcher Lustwerk was different and something more considered. It was a more natural infusion of these two spheres, and came down to his skills as producer. This wasn’t some pre-paid beat or a rhythm section shoehorned into an existing vocal, it was a fully-formed concept. “I want my music to feel luxurious,” he explained. There’s a softness in his sounds and the sense of space he creates in his productions offer an inviting sonic meadow for the listener. Kick drums loop in the background, almost always immersed in a cloud of pads, repeating like a mantra towards hedonistic escape, while a vocal sails through the arrangement.
In the production itself, Glacier Lustwerk isn’t necessarily groundbreaking nor exceptionally unique as a well-ingrained style Deep House. But that changes with his vocal. We don’t know much about how he arrived at incorporating vocals to his music and when asked about his rap influences, he’s often cagey, but we do know how he came to his unique lyrical style. “My friend Alvin Aronson, who is also on White Material [Records], was like, ‘You need to make your vocals like less literal,’” he recounted in Fader. “Ever since then I kind of veered off into trying to get almost as absurd as I can; not absurd in a stupid way, but just as stream of consciousness.”
The “stream of consciousness” can take surprising and very obscure turns. He can go from making love songs about music software templates to repeating a phrase or word into infinity, to a point where it comes apart, devoid of all meaning, or re-purposed and re-defined.
It’s best appreciated in the album format, where these lyrics take on a narrative like a Charlie Kaufman script. On his latest “Information” it moves through some specific themes in what we can only assume is personal experiences of a working DJ. It’s “about learning to move in a certain way through a world that parties, a hedonistic world” he told Fader, and he truly immerses you in that world, as drug references are re-established in mirror images and modern life reaffirmed in restrained music.
“I think it’s just a nice chunk of time to be immersed into a world,” said Sherron of his preference for the album format in Reverb, and “Information” is probably his best effort yet in the longer format. Whereas “Dark Bliss” and “200%” carried that same inclusive approach to the first mixtape, where it becomes a collection of songs, “Information” comes together in a more cohesive sense with a record that flows between peaks and troughs of energy. “It made sense to have some more slow songs in there as interludes,” he told Spex and it makes for an album that retains the attention.
It might also suggest that Sherron is starting to explore new territories in his music. “I’ve been making more downtempo stuff anyway,” he confirms in that same interview. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m clubbing less, or just getting old,” he stresses, but it might also indicate an evolution in his work. It feels like he’s thoroughly established the sound of Galcher Lustwerk and it might be time to take it to that next step.