In 2020, if hearing the words, “black femme producer” doesn’t perk your ears up, you can probably go to hell, especially in the case of Oakland-based Golden Champagne Flavored Sweatshirt, who is actively and consciously “integrating the personal and political nature of creating art under capitalism,” into her music. Her debut album, Expectant, is a contemplative, wholly earnest, representation of equanimity in the face of turmoil. There is a general, ethereal coolness about the whole thing, from the very first synthesizer note on opener “3.26__,” that immediately ascends us to the cosmos. The tones ooze through us, permeating our skin and replacing the blood in our veins with liquid gold and elevating our consciousness entirely. It’s arresting—for a moment everything is able to be still and well, until agitated percussion comes in, like shortages on an electrical circuit, establishing a rhythm. It all sort of glows, throbs, and then suddenly everything around you has a pulse of its own, and the synths still circle curiously about, but less and less, until the track meets its hushed end.
The sort-of shock-beat carries over onto “Horse Mouth,” but in a more obscure setting; garbled, delayed voices monologue among sputtering, ominous static and a now less inviting clanging. There’s something of a call-and-repeat game going on, between timbres, until it devolves into a growing murmur so aggressive you can’t hear yourself think, and isn’t that all anyone could ask for? It’s as though she constructs these hostile environments, reflective of the outside world and her place in it, and then she completely disarms them with the same tools used to build them. This is especially so on “Whicket,” with its samples of proselytizing and pontificating against sin and paganism, leading into brooding, oscillating keys. This incessant squeaking overhead, at first, sounds ominous. That is, until you realize it’s keeping a pace, and it’s highly complimenting the actual beat that comes in, so strong. It’s alluring and fun, even when one of the assholes in the samples blurts, “The only thing that can pay for your sin, is death. If you sin, somebody dies.”
GCFS exhibits the more wholly experimental side to the project on “Sea Creatures,” with curious percussive prodding and roomy keys creating a netherworld devoid of humanity and humanity’s problems. It’s truly a weightless reprieve, with its low gurgles and quickly wavering sounds floating alongside us, combing the water with our whole being. Out of the obscurity comes a kicking 1-2-3 of drums, but it’s no disturbance—she has already achieved perfect peace. And it carries over onto “Pyroclasmic Flows,” with thick, infinitely effected synth swells progressing to an irresistible beat, the most unassuming club music to which you’ve ever found yourself dancing. It’s urgent, yet totally enjoyable, with an unparalleled warbly airiness, until everything seems to trail off one by one, like an automobile running out of gas, and then losing a tire, and then the engine falls out entirely.
All of the album’s elements seem to culminate on closing track, “Animals Calling Animals.” It’s ominous and undulating and hypnotically beat-heavy right off the bat. Crazed, horrific shrieks and disturbing samples ring out periodically. Here, we don’t know whether to let go or cling to life. It’s as though GCFS chooses to leave the album off, in the lurch, as a reminder of the dangers against which she’s so successfully and wonderfully battled prior, to make it all the more enticing to press play all over again.
Expectant is out now on Ratskin Records.
Essential Tracks: “Whicket,” “Sea Creatures,” “Animals Calling Animals”