- John T. Gast is a reclusive figure best known for his affiliations with London duo Hype Williams. He has a co-production credit on their 2012 LP Black Is Beautiful, and worked with both members after the group split up, appearing briefly on Dean Blunt's The Redeemer and collaborating with Inga Copeland on the UKMerge 12-inch. While his stylistic coordinates may be different, that pranksterish pair remain the best means of understanding Gast's approach.
By turns playful and mysterious, Gast's music draws on a range of genres to build eccentric sonic worlds. As in Blunt's latest music, Gast's cryptic modes of presentation conceal age-old romantic themes. In the statement accompanying Excerpts, Gast tells of "a particularly fierce winter. Woman reasserting power. Man fighting in the dark. The Cold War continues." Excerpts is diverse in mood and style, but it's this grim, lovelorn tone that marks its best moments.
Fans of Gast, whether under his current name or as Henny Moan, will recognise bits of his toolbox. Digi-dub underpins the gloopy "Infection" and the more melancholic "Ceremony" (and the title of drone opener "Shanti-Ites" is surely an Aba-Shanti reference). The sampledelic "£," meanwhile, shows Gast's mischievous side. But he tries out some new styles, too. "Congress" dabbles in house music—it's pretty straight by Gast's standards, but no less excellent for it. "Claim Your Limbs" returns to a similar sound, its slow-mo trudge and lithe synth melodies recalling Kassem Mosse, though the boomy snare is a Gast trademark.
The most marked development in Gast's approach is structural. Excerpts feels like a series of glimpses into Gast's world, where past full-lengths have been an unbroken wander through it. Several tracks stretch to six or seven minutes where a scrappier approach might have suited them better, and efforts have been made to prevent them from bleeding into one another ("Sedna," for instance, ends with more than ten seconds of near-silence). As a result, it's often rather slow-paced, particularly in the opening half, which suffers from haphazard fluctuations in pace and intensity.
But the album picks up as it gets darker. There's "Green," with its wheezing harmonioum, and the meditative zonk of "Sedna" and "Torch." Even better is "White Noise / Dys," whose slouched groove and slinky bassline could have been borrowed from some noirish '70s Brit-thriller. The track is reprised towards the album's close, its strings and morose sax slowed to a numbed crawl. The effect is almost absurdly sad, as if Gast is soundtracking a gin-soaked crying session. The Cold War, as he puts it, continues.
07. White Noise/DyS
08. Claim Your Limbs
10. White Noise (Reprise)