For many, music and the production thereof is an escape into a near opposite realm to reality. There is freedom in making decisions that can trigger cosmic levels of emotion in a listener, and this is evident on a grand scale with dance music as a whole. It also has a way of creeping into the real world; Ghost Ship, the venue that recently burned down in Oakland, California, was a safe space for people living on the fringes of society, be they musicians, homeless or some variant of a societal “other.” On the night the building was destroyed, the label 100% Silk (a record label devoted to the idea of producing dance music that skews left field, enough to be lumped in with the reductive term “outsider house”) was hosting a showcase night for some of their artists, wherein they lost two of their kin (producers Cherushii and Nackt.) 100% Silk’s new compilation album, Sensate Silk, although announced prior to the events of the Ghost Ship fire, carries a sweetly melancholic pallor after the events that took some 36 lives. It is a wholly singular, cohesive piece of work that demonstrates communality and sincerity when dance music is simultaneously at its most hypnotic and fun.
The ethereal, ephemeral mood set on Sensate Silk is carried across the entirety of its eleven tracks. Each artist takes their time in layering on shimmering, star-kissed synths and band filters to the standard four-on-the-floor workings of house music. Some songs (such as PARC’s “Silk Road” and Westcoast Goddess’ “Untitled Soul ’98) are content to amble on near or well past the ten-minute mark, while other tracks are slightly more economical, though none of the songs here have any sense of immediacy (the shortest being slightly over 5 minutes). When taken as a whole, Sensate Silk almost feels like looking at an immaculately constructed monolith from various angles; each piece works so well together that it would be anathema to remove anything. That being said, highlights do rise up occasionally. The opening and closing tracks (Keita Sano’s “With The Lights” and aforementioned “Untitled Soul ‘98”) in particular do an amazing job of setting up what is to come and offering a reprise of sorts of the themes contained throughout each song. Much like the best dance music from other artists and labels, you can lose yourself in these tracks, luxuriate in the warm synths and syncopated hi-hat/kick drum combos of knowing these songs will always be here, and maybe even feel a little sad about having to return to the real world in little over an hour.
That warmth is reflected in the real world of dance music all across the globe; clubs and dancefloors are safe spaces for many who have felt unwanted in their everyday lives. From the many house parties thrown in New York, Detroit and Berlin, to specific venues, such as Fabric in London and multimedia events like the Boiler Room series, Ghost Ship was one in a long lineage of shelter to the cold, occasionally uncaring outside world before its untimely demise. The artists at 100% Silk, as well as many others around the world, will continue on in hopefully being a safe presence for those who flock to the comforts dance music can provide. If Sensate Silk is any indicator, these types of labels and artists will continue to be consistently engaging and inviting when everything is sailing smoothly or when the world has been thrown into chaos. Sensate Silk can and should be a balm to heal weary hearts in need of music to zone out to or dance one’s ills away.