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PillowTalk and Five Other Live Acts Redefining Electronic Dance Music

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Disc jockeying is certainly a respectable craft. It requires certain skills, like programming a track selection and beatmatching/mixing records. But let's face it, we give DJs way too much credit -- all they do is play records.

There's something about the improvisational spontaneity and the hands-on human aspect of live musical performance that makes it much more visceral and exciting than watching someone play studio recordings like a jukebox.

With the recent surge of DJ software like Traktor and its much-maligned sync button, the stakes have been raised drastically higher in the EDM performance game. Because anyone can be a DJ now without acquiring the traditional beatmatching skills you used to need. And besides the music geeks hanging out at the booth and scrutinizing the DJ's every move, who's gonna know the difference?

Perhaps it's for this reason, if not people's growing tedium with the cult of the DJ in general, that there seems to be a rise in the number of EDM acts doing it live. And unsurprisingly they're becoming some of the most popular acts on the scene.

1. PillowTalk

San Francisco threesome PillowTalk were serious standouts at WMC this year, and the buzz around them just keeps growing exponentially. It helps that despite being relative newcomers to the international scene, they already count releases on hotly tipped labels like Wolf + Lamb, Visionquest, and Life and Death. But it's their charismatic live boogie antics that may be converting the most fans. Catch them live at the Electrc Pickle this Saturday and find out why they're one of the most exciting EDM acts doing it live right now.

2. No Regular Play

No Regular Play first came to international prominence in the late 2000s with a string of releases on Wolf + Lamb. And they very quickly made it known just how differently they do things live. Greg Paulus is basically the Chet Baker of electronic dance music, blowing sexy live trumpet riffs in between sultry vocals, while partner Nick DeBruyn handles the bleeps, bloops and beats. This is highly seductive and mind-expanding dance fare which you won't soon forget.

3. dOP

This Parisian trio definitely does shit differently. Their studio work is quirky enough, breaking down the barriers between genres like house, techno, jazz, cabaret, and world music. But they also break down the barriers between performers and spectators, turning their shows into debauched party frenzies where anything goes.

4. Maceo Plex

Floridian native Maceo Plex (AKA Eric Estornel) is pretty much the hottest thing in electronic dance music right now. And it's not just because of the dark yet sexy future funk sound that's all his own, it's also because of his energetic and ecstatic live shows. For instance, his by-now legendary performance at the Electric Pickle for Get Lost during 2011's Miami Music Week.

5. Portable AKA Bodycode

South African-born Alan Abrahams, who goes by Portable or Bodycode depending on the musical context, is one of the more original voices in EDM. Channeling the tribal rhythms of Africa through techno's futurism and a soulful lyricism, he considers his live performances a sort of shamanic vehicle for psychic release, as he told Crossfade in 2011.

6. Nicolas Jaar

Chilean-American wunderkind producer Nicolas Jaar did things different right from the start, employing his own voice while performing his kaleidoscopic sonic tapestries with hardware instead of DJ gear. And he's continued expanding his live performance M.O., recently enlisting a full ensemble of musicians -- which while not being 100% electronic music by definition, at least shows the right spirit.

PillowTalk. Saturday, April 14. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $10 plus fees via residentadvisor.net. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

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