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Octo Octa, Eris Drew, and Ariel Zetina crack open a few dimensions of dance music

Friday, January 31, Union South Sett, 9 p.m., free. Info

Photo: Eris Drew (left) and Octo Octa, by CCL.

New Hampshire’s Maya Bouldry-Morrison, aka Octo Octa, and Chicago’s Eris Drew have formed a powerful partnership over the past few years, after each making distinctive marks as DJs and producers. In their joint efforts, Drew and Bouldry-Morrison bring together a range of approaches to house music, and joyously amplify the role of trans artists and audiences in the electronic-music world. Their first release together, 2018’s Devotion, was a split EP of original productions issued on Portuguese label Naive, which also released Madison-based producer Ilana Bryne‘s debut EP. On Devotion‘s first three tracks, Drew put gritty breaks front and center, creating a raw but entrancing start-stop rhythm on “Hold Me.” Octo Octa’s offerings on the EP are two variations on a track called “Beam Me Up,” and while they’ve got plenty of breakbeat punch of their own, it’s easy to trace a line back from these productions to the lush and moody synth arrangements of the excellent Octo Octa albums that preceded Devotion including the 2017 album Where Are We Going? and 2013’s Between Two Selves. They recently also started a label together, T4T LUV NRG, which released Octo Octa’s 2019 solo album Resonant Body and Drew’s Raving Disco Breaks Vol. 1 mix.

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On their current tour, the two will visit the Sett for one of their joint DJ sets, which say just as much about Drew and Bouldry-Morrison’s interlocking visions as their production work. I believe this will be their first time playing Madison together, though Bouldry-Morrison last visited Madison in 2017 for the summer Musique Electronique series and Drew played Robinia Courtyard’s Jams series in 2018. Judging by recent examples, including a Boiler Room set from last fall, we’re in for a jolt of pounding exuberance and the kind of dynamic ups and downs that requires two DJs to not just pick up on the audience’s vibe but also to have a deep sense of each other’s instincts.  

The bookers at WUD Music also couldn’t have snagged a better opening act for this show. Chicago producer and DJ Ariel Zetina uses the fundamentals of house and techno to open up gorgeous and unsettling sound-worlds. The two EPs Zetina released last year, Organism and Shell, combine brash rhythms with influences from Belizean dance music and vocals, both spoken and sung, that crack open challenging emotional and sociopolitical dimensions. Her DJ mixes are bold voyages in their own right, variously incorporating elements that range from Caribbean soca to acid-house to more abrasive and experimental areas of dance music. Zetina spoke with our own Digital Warmth podcast last year.

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