WRUR 88.5 Different Radio

Megan Buerger

Soulful and psychedelic, Kadhja Bonet's "Mother Maybe" is full of dazzling twists and turns that seem to happen seamlessly, like the prisms in a kaleidoscope that spin against each other in a hypnotic illusion. Retro bass pricks and funky synths form a technicolor groove while Bonet's creamy soprano flutters in and out of the whistle register with mystifying ease — one minute, she's Shirley Bassey, the next, she's Minnie Riperton. "A magic reverie / Discreet as you are," she coos, lifting into a long-lined, high-pitched sigh, "Power! Power!"

Baked into the sweltering acid-funk of Peggy Gou's "Six O Six" is a voice softly chanting,​ "Il-i-sam-sa, il-i-sam-sa." It's Gou counting to the beat in her native Korean​​ and seductively drawing you in. That song, released in 2016 on a 12-inch for the Phonica White label, was her first experiment with recording her own vocals​. It effectively laid the groundwork for her new EP, Once, ​out this month on Ninja Tune.

After a year of touring, New York City's Sunflower Bean are back with "I Was a Fool," a glistening and gloomy love song that makes you feel a little bit happy, a little bit sad, and a little bit like you want to dance. Singer and bassist Julia Cumming, who plays in the trio with guitarist Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber, tells NPR they wanted to capture the heart-sickening dizziness of all-consuming love. "It's confusing," she says, "that's the point."

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.

Nic Fanciulli knows writer's block. Already an established DJ when he began making music more than a decade ago, he used pseudonyms like Skylark and Buick Project (collaborations with engineer Andy Chatterley) out of fear that his own works weren't up to snuff. Not even a Grammy nomination for his 2007 remix of Tiefschwarz's "Damage" helped his confidence. "I was overthinking everything," he tells NPR.

The title of Tei Shi's debut album, Crawl Space, is an ode to the shadowy room she used as a child to overcome her fear of the dark. Recording her first album stirred up similar feelings of dread. "Suddenly, I was six again," she tells NPR. To summon some courage and reconnect with her inner-heroine, the Colombian-Canadian singer (born Valerie Teicher) dug up a stash of old home videos. Her song, "Say You Do," begins and ends with a crushingly earnest recording of her as a child, confessing her insecurities. "I'm a bad singer," she says. "Can't do anything well.

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.

The back-flipping, glowstick-flinging, twerk titans of the EDM main stage have been succeeded by an unlikely assembly of bedroom beatmakers. Cashmere Cat, Mura Masa and Zhu are, in many ways, the polar opposite of DJs who sparked the genre's recent commercial boom. Soft-spoken and enigmatic, they're homebodies-turned-headliners who are more interested in eccentricities and atmospheres than builds and drops.

Dance music producers are quick to applaud themselves for pushing boundaries, but few do it with the ingenuity or finesse of Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson, who together are the London-via-Belfast production duo Bicep. Known for exquisite live sets that revive forgotten strains of house, garage, ambient and disco without an ounce of predictability, they're leading a new wave of eclectic electronic music that prizes curatorial taste above all else.

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