Piotr Orlov

Of all the songs from The xx's excellent album I See You to remix for the dance-floor, "A Violent Noise" is, thematically, a funny choice. Sung mostly by Oliver Sim, it is about negatively losing yourself in the music, an escape where "every beat is a violent noise." The notion is mirrored by the music, while the band's low-end atmospheric production and glacial doomed echoes layer on the dread, it does so without truly following through on either of the chorus' warnings: There is no beat and there is no violence.

Mzansi Beat Code is Spoek Mathambo's fifth solo album, the latest salvo of a decade-plus-long career during which the rapper/producer has established himself as one of South Africa's primary contributors to the global dance-music zeitgeist. It is also a far-flung, sociopolitical unification statement that, in one form or another, isn't new to Spoek.

It goes without saying that we're living in strange times. The primary metaphor for our era — a theater of the absurd — is constantly invoked across the cultural and geographic spectrum. Well... dystopian times call for absurd pleasures. Just don't let it be boring.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

There are infinite reasons as to why people go to dance clubs, but once they're there, it often boils down to variations — and the interplay between — two themes: escape and meditation. We here at Rx Dose are down with both, though when searching for tunes — falling harder for some, remaining choosy about others — it's safe to say that we gravitate towards the latter, in spite of our awareness that balance is the optimal terminus.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

In 1993, Ron Trent and Chez Damier, two young men in their early 20s and already dance-music veterans, founded Chicago's Prescription Records, applying a new audio-sensory texture to the city's exploding house scene.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Though Byron Blaylock made his recorded debut as Byron The Aquarius only a year ago, by most standards his musical journey had already been long and fruitful. Born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., Blaylock had been a keyboard and hip-hop production prodigy during the golden Myspace days of the late-Aughts.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

It may seem like a trivial thought, but one of the purposes of art is to make sense of the times that we live in — usually, though not always, by reflecting them back at the audience, as though through a prism. But great art — and music most definitely applies as a great art — can add a layer of meaning regardless of circumstance.

Long before Marea Stamper was The Black Madonna, feminist DJ heroine, she was a known and beloved figure on the Midwestern rave scene: the mixtape girl. Stamper, who grew up in a small eastern Kentucky town and found her dance-music calling early because of a record-collecting stepfather, spent a chunk of her late teens and the mid-1990s going from party to party all over Middle America, selling DJ mix cassettes and spreading the rave gospel, while simultaneously receiving an unparalleled music education.

Return To Daddy

Dec 22, 2016

If there was one moment in Houston on Saturday night that brought meaning and context to Aphex Twin's first U.S. performance in eight years, it was when the storm arrived, about 30 minutes in.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


For a DJ mix to be regarded as great, it can't just follow a single technically proficient narrative; it's got to communicate with dancers on multiple levels. Toward that end, Nina Kraviz's fabric 91 is built on layers of intrigue — a synchronicity of context and accident, human purpose and cosmic prank.

In a society increasingly filled with self-delusion, there are still times when the roles individuals see themselves playing can unlock astonishing insights about who they are.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Techno is not a genre ready-made for a cohesive album of duets. Just as few producers who feel at home in the solitary confines of a studio find comfort in suddenly becoming social collaborators, it is the rare collection of guest-heavy tracks that coalesces into a unified, album-length vision. In fact, it's a hard task to identify an artist-led album of club music that has production line-up changes on every song and isn't a hodgepodge.

Some collaborations seem obvious, others like they were made in heaven — and a rare few only grow into such praise long after the fact. Anything involving Anne Lilia Berge Strand, the Norwegian pop singer known as Annie, stopped seeming obvious long ago. Her initially huge crossover appeal was clear: The mid-'00s singles "Chewing Gum" and "Heartbeat" crossed poptimism's divide, resonating with lovers of Top-40 dance-pop and electro-fied hipsters alike.

And so, it ended with, very appropriately, a deathly quiet. "Fabric is closed. That's it. Heartwrenching silence around the room." So read a Tweet by Jeremy Abbott, the digital editor of Mixmag, who was in the room on Tuesday night when the Islington council licensing committee's met to determine whether the London neighborhood would permanently revoke the operating license of fabric, one of the city's longest-running and most iconic clubs.

Finally, Black Coffee's time seems to have arrived. For a decade, hardcore house-heads in Europe and the U.S. had anointed the South African producer and DJ born Nkosinathi Maphumulo a potential "Next Big Thing." He was expected to push that country's enormously diverse house-music scene beyond its borders — an act that, in the wake of DJ Mujava's "Township Funk" and DJ Spoko and Culoe De Song and Spoek Mathambo, no longer seems necessary — but the world continually pushed him back in a box. Yet, over the past year, you could hear a change coming.

There are a number of reasons why the 26-year-old, Los Angeles-based producer recording under the moniker Delroy Edwards stands out from the pack of young guns who've begun impacting the American house music underground over the past half-decade.

There's always an air of introspection hanging above self-titled albums produced by musicians well into their careers. It's especially prominent when producers who've spent their entire creative lives hiding behind monikers, suddenly jump out. The moment can't help but scream "personal statement." In the case of Alan Abrahams, the Cape Town, South Africa-born electronic producer who for the better part of two decades has been successfully floating upward in the European dance music scene, under the names Portable and Bodycode, this moment may be especially salient.

If I had to choose a favorite slice of the recorded-music reissue boom that the internet's kick-started in this globalization-of-culture era, it would undoubtedly be the expanded market of older records and sounds from Africa, especially its various synthesizer and disco exports of the 1970s and '80s.

Guest Dose: Lindstrøm

Jul 15, 2016

A Lindstrøm DJ mix? Yes, you did read that correctly — and yes, we too were pleasantly surprised when one of the masters of Norwegian electronic music offered to make one for NPR Music.

One of dance music's many great attractions is the standing offer of leaving behind the world's darkest tendencies and day-to-day squabbles for a few hours. Yet the primary reason such an offer is consistently valid, and more therapy than escapism, is that beneath what seem to be a simplistic, always-having-a-good-time veneer, dance music reflects the world that it is created in. In fact, at its best, dance music transcends it, becoming a possible model for organizing society's moving parts.

Welcome to Guest Dose. Every month, NPR Music's Recommended Dose crew invites a knowledgeable and experienced DJ/selector to share personal perspectives on electronic and beat-driven music, and to make a mix from some new tracks they're digging.

To place British expat producer Mark Barrott's new album, Sketches From An Island 2, in proper context, it's first important to understand the Balearic music culture of the island of Ibiza.

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