Afrika Bambaataa wasn't only pioneering the art of the DJ in the '70s, back when he was using a flashlight to signal to his partner across the room to cut to the next record. When he dropped Kraftwerk beats down alongside hip-hop and disco tracks, he was birthing electro, too. While hip hop became a stronger presence in the '80s, electro artists like The Egyptian Lover brought sexy panache and sci-fi flair to the genre by mixing electronic pulses with the robotic sound of the Vocoder, giving their lyrics a Cyborgian feel.
The current remnants of this scene recessed into minor celebrity stateside, but, in Western Europe, a small, distinct enclave of Dutch DJs and producers, including Novamen, is making sure the decades-old, sci-fi sound survives. Novamen live in The Hague, the Dutch city that was a part of the '90s reinvigoration of electro and Italo disco, the subgenre that dropped robots and outer space into disco's love mix.
As electronic instrumentation and eventually computers took over dance music, contemporary dance artists looked back to this fertile, if basic, scene of alien-loving partiers for inspiration. It just happens that young artists like the Novamen are doing the most justice to this timeless music, adapting it for the ears of modern beat addicts more accustomed to computer-generated dance sounds. Their sound is reverent: They are revivalists armed with the arcane technology of yesteryear's electro and the benefit of years of perspective.
Indeed, DJ Overdose of Novamen says plainly it doesn't matter if there is some large scene of like-minded artists or not, "I don't know really ... I think it doesn't matter for good music if it's old or new, it's just the music from when we were young."
Novamen play Nightlight in Chapel Hill on Thursday, Nov. 9 with D.C. beatheads Manhunter and New York's Morelli and a DJ Overdose solo set. The show starts at 10 p.m.