I spent much of today deep in Galimatias territory. ‘Blowback’ is the first single from his forthcoming album, and maybe the first time it has been okay to like him. While the name might not be immediately familiar, the Danish-born, LA-based Galimatias was the production brawn behind the ‘Urban Flora’ record – a collaboration with singer Alina Baraz. That EP, rightfully, ended up on every sex playlist ever and Baraz’s vocals, sultry and smooth, were laid over all manner of remixes such that the short-player got far more play than either of its creators likely anticipated. In a strangely coincidental turn of events, Galimatias’ name was stripped from the biggest song of that collaboration, ‘Fantasy‘, on SoundCloud a couple of days back and he got pretty pissy on Twitter. Pulling my head out of a 1.5 hour-long Internet rabbit hole this afternoon, I learned that Galimatias is deeply into his music. Besides taking Alina’s label to task for pulling his credit, elsewhere he responded to YouTube comments on his tracks passionately, and actually changed his profile name to ‘Dying Narwhale’, adopting the moniker one critic used to describe his singing.
Galimatias had every reason to be riled up, considering that, short of Baraz’s neither-here-nor-there vocals, he almost single-handedly introduced the world to a new style of bedroom electronic music. Now seemingly liberated by her absence, and invigorated by the ability to do something a little different, he’s brought his dying narwhale vocals to ‘Blowback’. Besides Baraz’s absence which, it turns out, while treacly and sweet is not such a loss, and Galimatias’ narwhalian substitution, there is a swagger to ‘Blowback’ that was only hinted at on ‘Urban Flora’ but here gets the space and attention it needs to flourish. Strangely enough, that swagger takes the form of a 1963 Barbara Lewis sample. Appropriating the best barbershop quarter doo-wop strut from that track and adding a reverberated, aggressive vocal talking rather than walking ‘Clap!’, the melange of sounds and styles – gangster rap, 1960s Motown RnB, and the highly synthesized, warm fuzzy electronica Galimatias has come to perfect over the years – should not work. Add a voice so unconfident it seems to leave momentarily as if to excuse itself and you’d be forgiven for envisioning a recipe for disaster.
It’s Galimatias’ commitment to his craft that brings this back from the brink of a horrific misfire and pushes it firmly in the direction of the Great New Music camp. There’s a studied symmetry to the song, opening with the minimal Galimatias we know from ‘Urban Flora’ (all soft synths and barely there percussion) before blooming with his rollicking use of that sample and finally fading out again, as he lets Lewis have the last, unobstructed word. The intensity with which he responds to social media comments plays out in the perfect timing of the beat on ‘Blowback’. His systematic dismantling of Baraz’s label, Ultra Music, reflects the obvious attention to detail in both his sampling choice and execution. Listening to the most popular parts of his discography, you wouldn’t think there was anything to Galimatias beyond an unwavering dedication to lush synthesizers. On ‘Blowback’ and, hopefully, what follows it, we get a bit more personality. Large, injured, ocean-bound mammal or not, sometimes a bit of personality goes a long way.
Galimatias – Blowback