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On Pepper Shake, Nicole Moudaber Continues to Show Her Musical Elasticity

Nicole Moudaber
Nicole Moudaber
Photo by Otkidach Anastasya

Any electronic-music aficionado holds a Nicole Moudaber moment close to their heart. For this writer, it was seeing her pounding out the bone-crushing bass to Dense & Pika's remix of Tiga's "Louder Than a Bomb" during Ultra 2016. Or maybe it was indirectly during Ultra 2013 when I ventured to see Adam Beyer.

I happened to be there when he dropped Moudaber's techno stomper "Roar." I was captivated by the groove, awkwardly trying to figure out how to dance to the track devoid of dubstep's whomps and fist-pumping drops.

Whether you know Moudaber from her "into the great abyss" style of techno or her airy daytime Mood parties, the Nigerian-born, Beirut- and London-raised DJ, producer, and label boss has a soundscape that spans far and wide.

"My background was house music as well," Moudaber tells New Times. "When I used to party in New York and Miami, I was pretty much into the U.S. tribal and vocal house."

Her latest, Pepper Shake, is a testament to Moudaber's house-driven roots. Slated for release September 25 on Hot Creations, the two-track EP is downright fun and groovy.

To put the record together, Moudaber enlisted help from Hot Creations cofounder Jamie Jones, another DJ/producer who needs little introduction.

"Jamie and I have been talking about this idea since last summer," Moudaber says. "We were swapping files, but time was against us. But during this lockdown, it was pretty obvious to finish it. I'm quite pleased. It's really sexy. It makes you want to be dancing in the sun."

It most certainly does.

The beauty of Pepper Shake lies in the crafted chaos. The title track brings an arsenal of hi-hats, cymbals, and little ticks that waltz elegantly between themselves. Bouncy basslines scale the roughly six-minute track. A chopped vocal reminiscent of Bollywood rides throughout "Pepper Shake," welcoming the listener amid the sputtering layers. During the second and final buildup, a distinctive whoop twirls in the background while clicks and hisses from the percussion drive it home.

"The groove and the bassline were my ideas for both tracks," Moudaber says. "Jamie added vocals and a different lead sound."

If "Pepper Shake" is fun in the sun, the B-side, "Bubble Ride," is a 4 a.m. overture. A humming bassline shakes from left to right, and an intelligible chopped vocal cuts through the fat. A slightly acidic synth barks at the listener during the break before picking back up an assembly-line rhythm. The track begs to be played in a proper club setting.

"It's nice to explore house again and having a partner like Jamie was spot on," Moudaber says. "We understand where we both come from, and we merge our influences together."

Before working together, the two exchanged formalities throughout the Ibiza summers and life on the road.

"I remember we met in Miami as well," Moudaber recalls. "I was having lunch at Soho House, and Jamie came in with some friends and we had espresso martinis."

Four years later, Moudaber has been a guest on Jones's Paradise parties in Miami and Ibiza. She has returned the favor by featuring a B2B set on her radio series, In the Mood.

There is something organic about two friends DJ'ing together live. Maybe it's the meeting of the minds creating infinite combinations, or the fans seeing two people so happy to play music together. Regardless, Moudaber loves going back-to-back.

Or back-to-back-to-back: Look no further than Ultra's B3B debut between Moudaber, Dubfire, and Paco Osuna in 2018.

"The three of us come from similar backgrounds," Moudaber notes. "It makes you think as an artist what you're going to play next and what's going to make sense musically."

This year, the trio was supposed to play the last night of Ultra.

During the lockdown, Moudaber partnered with #TogetherForBeriut in response to the horrific explosion in Lebanon's capital. Beatport fundraiser hosted a 24-hour DJ showcase, which helped raised more than $41,000.

Back in the '90s, Moudaber helped pioneer Beirut's nightlife scene, now considered the pre-eminent party capital of the Middle East. She left Beirut in 2001, her style having clashed with the Syrian regime's cultural conservatism — to the point where media reports alleging that she was promoting perversion and homosexuality attracted enough attention from law enforcement to convince Moudaber to flee the country. She returned to play in Beirut around 2016, testament to the notion that one can simultaneously love their country and disagree with its government.

"Music really unites," Moudaber says. "In our community and our culture, this is our power. We help, and we love, and I would like to stay true to that and grab that essence and live with it all the time and not lose it as such."

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