With enough digital elbow grease, an adept producer can sample anything. DJ Metatron sampled Jesse Jackson's 1984 Democratic National Convention Address to open a euphoric mix. An old, heartbroken Thai ballad was looped into Pink Sufu's "Stay Sane."
But while sampling can lay down magical and beautiful markers, its allure can make you miss the days when producers brought in live human beings to provide vocals.
Still, sometimes the collaborative urge between artist and producer is so strong that it can't be stifled. That explains why techno producer and Mood Records founder Nicole Moudaber joined forces with the king of Miami nightlife, Alan T, to produce The Volume.
"Well, first of all, it doesn't sound like anything else out there, that's for sure," Moudaber tells New Times. "We talked about it for years, and it was born out of quarantine."
The EP, which is every bit as hard-hitting as it is fierce, drops today via Mood. The record delivers beefed-up basslines, intricate layers, and a familiar voice: the architect, visual artist, pioneer of the nightlife, and Club Space's megaphone-speaking, dressed-to-the-nines Alan "T" Tibaldeo.
Moudaber and Tibaldeo met in the early 2000s through their mutual friend, legendary DJ Danny Tenaglia.
The idea to work together was always there, but with Moudaber's busy touring schedule — sometimes as many as a dozen flights a week — the collaboration never crystallized.
"I was going through my archives of a cappellas, and Nicole wanted to hear the timbre of my voice and see what she could get out of it,” Tibaldeo says. "We would start it, and then Nicole would say, 'Hold on, let me talk to you after my next 17 gigs.’”
But with the lockdown, the project seemed to take on a new urgency.
"The idea came from lockdown," Moudaber confirms. "It was some kind of an escape to emulate the club feeling again. It took a while — about four months — to be happy with it. I kept changing basslines, changing the hat shuffle, completely stripping it down, and then adding to it. It was tough to be inspired, but when I felt the inspiration was there, I just kept on working on it until The Volume was born."
Rather than producing the track and later haphazardly throwing in some lyrics, Moudaber sculpted the two-track EP out of Tibaldeo's vocals.
"Everyone has a different process — whatever works for the person," Tibaldeo explains. "It depends on the expertise of the producer, firstly. It requires a lot more skill. It's labor-intensive at its finest — it’s a lot of work. Imagine trying to re-create a narrative without a storyline.”
"I just don't like to stagnate in freedom of expression," says the producer. "I don't like the rules or boundaries. I get bored too quickly — that's the problem."
The Volume starts with the self-titled stomper: "Feel the volume/Feel it all around you." Eschewing falsettos, Tibaldeo directs more than he sings. It's reminiscent of his crowd-control duties as Space's doorman during the 5 a.m. rush.
"Give me body mechanic/This system is bringing you experience."
A belligerent bass pounds the speakers while the carnivorous rhythm sinks its claws into the listener before ethereal ambient breaks intertwine with Tibaldeo's voice. Moudaber smartly keeps the vocals crisp.
"Alan sent me loads of a cappella to dig through," she recalls. "I chopped them. I diced them. I mixed them all together."
Spared overzealously applied effects, Tibaldeo's stern but expressive voice remains intact. ("I can't with that. It's like, why are you using me?" Tibaldeo imparts.)
The B-side, "The Music Is Mine," continues the spirit of the bass. Searing hi-hats flicker, while Tibaldeo's timbre, joined now by a feminine voice, is warped and glitchy, creating white noise to cut through the fat of blaring sirens and stampedes of chimes and claps.
The Volume is partly a celebration of the past between Moudaber and Tibaldeo, and few things scream nostalgia as much as a homespun music video in the digital age.
"Alan said, 'We should do a video.' I said, 'Are you serious? How? Where?'" Moudaber recalls. "So he hooked me up with an amazing videographer and it was shot between Space and London. I wanted to shoot it with people, but unfortunately, we couldn't do that because of COVID. So we did everything remotely."
"When did someone wanting to attribute a video to audio go out of fashion?" Tibaldeo asks. "It was such an integral part for big music — George Michael, Boy George, the Cure, all those people. It was such an important part to have the visual of the artist with the music."
The video depicts pre-COVID packed clubs, hazy visuals melting into each other, dance-floor romance, and plenty of Alan T draped in silver garb, robotically moving through the Space lobby armed with his weapon of choice: a megaphone.
"I don't think you can mention the club scene without mentioning Alan," Moudaber says. "It's incredible what he's done. Even to this day, he's still doing it. Having Alan on this is the cherry on the cake, and I always wanted to work with him — he’s an icon.”
For Tibaldeo, the feeling is mutual.
"Apart from already breaking barriers as the most talented woman in techno history, she has opened the doors for diversity," he says. "Her philanthropic work has inspired a lot of people and just her perseverance. Always taking it to the next level — everything she does. It's almost frightening. She’s, like, superhuman.”
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