Kazuashita Emerges From the Fog of Political Fatigue

Eartheater (aka Alex Drewchin) extols the virtues of Gang Gang Dance's non-escapist, non-pacifying new record.

Gang Gang Dance made a new record called Kazuashita and it possesses a song that I’ll hold close to my heart forever. I’m one of those people who can listen to a song on repeat until it turns into something else, like a psychological sculpture made from years of memory deposits and layering associated emotions. “Lotus” is a small pearl in my chest waiting to grow along with the other treasured songs that score my life. I’ll take it with me. I wonder how the time capsule of what I’ve been feeling right now will feel mingled with the feelings of the world when I listen to it in the future? Kazuashita, an amalgamation of two Japanese words, means “peace tomorrow.” The record overall is anthemic. I can’t hear what Lizzi Bougatsos is saying a lot of the time, but her voice sounds like a beacon or a shining torch.

“Lotus” was the first piece of music I heard from the record. I think Juliana Huxtable mentioned it in her Instagram story and I immediately listened. Lizzi’s vocals reach the most unpredictable yet succulent silky melodies. I felt lovesick and feverish for the track immediately. Its lush chords coated everything around me in a sort of slow-motion rosy feeling. I could pick out the lyrics “A blind eye takes you for a spin,” and “I am secret.” The night before I heard the song, I had gone out with a very cute person, so the first listen injected my butterflies with steroids. I spent a day flopping around my room listening to it and then pulled myself back together the next day. I kept it a secret and I never let the cutie know that I was deeply in love for one day. The song is now a time capsule for that specific emotion and feeling. I love when a song does that. One day I’ll ask Lizzi what the song’s about but in the meantime, I’ll remain in my free-associative blindness.

Conceptually, though, my favorite song on the album is “( novae terrae ).” Nothing commands my attention more than unwavering alliterative spoken word over epic hyper-composed ambient drama. Jack Walls delivers a fiery activating poem charged with celestial wisdom about the big mood of the hyper now. Below, glassy hi-fi arpeggiated strings are perfectly interrupted by gently dissonant distortions. When I first listened to the whole record, I was thinking of how to describe the detailed sound and I kept wanting to compare it to the minutiae of the veins in a leaf. So, when Jack read, “What we were searching for was written in the veins of leaves,” I freaked. The biggest moment of affinity for me, though, was hearing the line “[Earth] is where we sang songs about destroying the art of song.” If that line isn’t Eartheater, then I’ll quit music and become a clerk.

The record starts with a short painterly track called “( infirma terrae )” that mostly features a highly affected vocal that was slowed down and flexed and pulled around octaves. It’s the sound of a human voice, but others might say that it sounds alien. It made me think about how we are aliens to ourselves and each other in the unprecedented hurtling exponential curve of our technological dependence. Cinematic strings pad this yawning, groaning sound. It feels like the chaos we’re constantly adjusting to. It feels like trying to adapt and find the words. Then the chaos suddenly fuses and stretches into a dissonant beam of suspense. That moment of sustained anxiety breaks, amplifying the almost squintingly bright major bounce of the next track. Throughout the record, there’s a lot of unabashed channel changing and strategic juxtaposition—sculptural bits of genre cliches squelch in and out of each other.

“J-TREE” starts with this lightly distorted loop that bobs in a kind of unassuming innocence. I thought the sound was a bit corny at first, which only made the ecstasy I felt later in the song even more potent. A little over a minute in, I was smacked with a very emotional memory. At 1:13, Lizzi’s vocal curlycue started to tear at me, and then at 1:19, I was toast. That moment sliced me open and let the memory fly out with a sudden flush of tears. I was back in Pennsylvania on the huge open road that drove across Francis E. Walter Dam; The view was sustained for a couple miles in the direction of the water on either side. I was with my big brother blasting the Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn out of our parked car’s flung open doors. I had just finished my sophomore year in a shit-town slag-heap high school and had been going through a particularly long stretch of deep, numb depression. I was doing the wrong drugs and was involved with very negative people. I felt trapped and had no energy. But, it was in this moment, whirling with my big brother, that I suddenly felt fire and inspiration. I remember opening my arms up and spinning around in the middle of the road with a lump in my throat.

Something about Lizzi’s and Ali Kahn’s voices accesses a similar purity and devotion. Ali Kahn was singing to God, and I don’t think that Lizzi is singing to anything less encompassing and peaceful. As I said before, it’s hard for me to make out the lyrics, which makes me process her sound more as an instrument. She’s singing words in English, but I feel like the elevated meaning is in her own spiritual language suspended in her microtonal wavers and subtle breaths. Even though Lizzi comes out like the sun with beaming pop melodies, there’s a lot of time for you to miss her on the record.

The title track is patient and condensates through a few different states. It starts as gentle, droning dew with a soothing English man’s voice counting colors. The dew evaporates and gets sucked up into the sky with pulsing drums and twinkling synth light rays. The bass drops and we’re propelled into time lapsing clouds. When Lizzi finally appears and the drums stop, we’re looking back at earth as a whole. It feels epic and cinematic. Then the drums suck us back to the clouds. Eventually, everything softens to dew again in the gentle ending.

One of the main energetic differences I feel between composition and improvisation is that improvisation is about the conversation itself while composition is in preparation. I wasn’t surprised when I read that this record was born from much less improvisation compared to Gang Gang’s past records. Kazuashita came together from individually conceived ideas that were then considered and built upon together.

On “J-TREE,” there’s a tear-jerking sample of Shiye Bidziil speaking at Standing Rock; It’s a beautiful moment to remember what power and beauty sounded out from that epic orchestration. In the sphere of non-pacifying and non-escapist music, I feel the importance in having records like Kazuashita next to lacerating records like Moor Mother’s Fetish Bones. I remember after the election in 2016, hearing Antifa on the streets of New York screaming in unison “Stay organized, stay prepared.” There’s a similarity between musical composition and the organization essential in a strong protest or communal movement. Two years into the Trump presidency, the record feels encouraging and invigorating in a time when I start to see political fatigue seeping over things like blurring fog.

Eartheater is the pseudonym of Queens-based artist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and vocalist Alexandra Drewchin. Her latest album IRISIRI was released this year by renowned experimental label PAN.

(Photo Credit: Samantha West)