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Take Note! Afro-Lisbon Electric

Over the past six months or so (if not longer–see our coverage of Batida), we’ve been hearing an increasing stream of fascinating music coming out of Lisbon. While we’ve long known that the Portuguese metropolis had a large and musically active Angolan population (one that had proven itself instrumental in bringing kuduro to the Western world) it was only recently that the stylistic depth of the city began to shine through.

Things began with the burst of attention paid to scene-leader and naming trend-setter DJ Marfox (and in conjunction with well-received work from the Principe label), but the  attention has since spread, and at this point each week seems to see a new mix or track from an artist in the scene.

And you know what? You should be listening to them.

In an odd twist, Western listeners first learned about kuduro, the hard-edged dance music that burned its way through Luanda during the ’90s and early 2000s, just as the style was disappearing from its Angolan birthplace. In its place has come a variety of slower, more house-influenced styles, which, although fine in their own right, lack much of the raw bite that set their predecessor apart.

The music currently coming out of Lisbon–and featured on the DJ Maboku mix at the top of the page–splits the difference between the two styles with astonishing impact. It’s got the deep, hypnotic  grooves and minimal down-tempo sway of the Afro-house currently being made in Angola. But instead of staying put in the depths, the producers spike the mix with the kind of sonic intensity found in kuduro, hurling the beat across a twisted, ever-changing soundscape. The innovation in what we’ve heard so far mostly comes from a categorical refusal to play nice rhythmically–patterns might grow familiar, but the structures into which they shaped are never the same, capable of altering at any moment with only the slightest warning.  Add to this foundation a seeming love of harsh anti-melody and a unique sound palette, and you have yourself quite a music.

At this point, we don’t know all that much about this scene, but we really can’t wait to find out more.

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