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DJ Marfox Does A Barrel Roll into Lisbon

Photograph by Marta Pina

Over the past decade, DJ Marfox, has earned a reputation as one of the leading lights of Lisbon’s dance scene by blending the distinct sounds of the city’s fiercely independent DJ scenes to produce a potent mixture increasingly popular among the cosmopolitan denizens of the city center.

In the poorer bairros of Lisbon, the dance floors are filled with audiences well versed in their own bairros’ DJs, beats, and scene. They are vocal and know what they want, and (if they are successful) their DJs give it to them. Accordingly, they are treated like stars. Since as early as 2005, Marfox, born Marlon Silva, has been one Bairro da Portela’s top DJs. His Star Fox SNES-aping name has been nipped by countless younger DJs- the scene is brimming with new artists with names like Liofox, Dadifox, and Karfox. These names are tributes to the trailblazer, whose beats deftly blend the electronic styles pouring out of Angola with the modern production techniques of contemporary EDM culture, somehow resulting in a sound more obsessive and filthy than either.

But until the last few years, Marfox was virtually unknown outside of Portela. The bairros are insular and incredibly loyal to their local DJs and producers, so while Marfox’s name rang out in his own neighborhood, it didn’t quite play outside, let alone in the chic discos of the city center. That was until the Maquinas do Kuduro, a local dance troupe who made a point of dancing to beats from various bairros, hipped him to some nearby sounds. Dj Marfox turned on a dime and combined the complementary talents of his neighboring producers into DJs do Guetto, the all-star Batida powerhouse that put the bairro dance sound on the map in Lisbon. The group was short lived, but their talent was enough for the Kuduro/Batida sound to win over crowds at the hot Noites Africanas parties in the heart of the city. Since then, Marfox has expanded his sound over several Principe Disco releases, and that sound is on full display on his latest tape.

This mix will fill the dance floors in Lisbon, and maybe elsewhere too. It’s minimal, exacting, and mechanical, but spliced with an off-kilter rhythmic sensibility that leaves the listener guessing. Little fanfare is expended transitioning from one track to another, and all but the most essential elements have been stripped away. The result is hypnotic and often surprising. When you reach the twelve minute mark and realize that you are listening to sabar and talking drums in harmony as they straddle a rock solid, four-on-the-floor kick, you will want nothing more. Of course, it only lasts briefly, and the moment is shattered as the  track once again changes course. This music does that, abruptly snagging one of the smallest, most tangential musical elements and sprinting off at an obtuse angle, but only after a deep, extended meditation on each beat. There are raw synth tones, there is fuzz and noise, but there is also an abiding precision that makes this music, admittedly strange, bedfellows with deceptively complex dance musics like tecno brega or the works of Steely Dan. In other words, DJ Marfox’s sound is the aural equivalent of a neuroplasticity exercise- easy on the ears, heavy lifting for the brain, and good for the feet.

Big up to Dazed Digital for premiering this mix.

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