What do you do when you invent a music subgenre and 10,000 carpetbaggers follow in your wake? Do you ride the current over the cataract, or do you leap off in the nick of time?
This was the unspoken peril facing dance producers Nadastrom when they sat down to write their self-titled debut album, due out Feb. 24 on Friends of Friends.
“I never like to think of sticking a fork in a genre or sound,” says Dave Nada at an Echo Park coffee shop, not far from his downtown apartment.
Born David Villegas, the Washington, D.C.-raised DJ initially came to fame for pioneering moombahton in the early 2010s. Shortly after he figured out that slowing down Dutch house to reggaeton tempos could turn average house parties into Project X, moombahton became an international sensation. Co-signs from Diplo and Fader followed. Dozens of careers — most notably, Dillon Francis’ — were launched at 108 BPM.
“We still play Baltimore club music, we still play techno,” adds Nada, wearing a plain blue tee, long black hair and a light goatee. “But there’s always a time and place for moombahton. One way or another, it’s influenced our tracks on this album.”
But if you listened to an unlabeled copy of Nadastrom, his first full-length with fellow D.C. transplant Matt Nordstrom, you’d never guess its makers.
For the last few months, I’ve been playing it on radio sets and in my car, and it invariably leads people to ask, “Who is this?” When I tell them it’s Nadastrom, they make a surprised-but-impressed face best registered via GIF.
The album weaves minimal techno, nimble house, baleful trip-hop and faint inflections of moombahton — mostly in the BPMs but also in vaguely tropical vibes.
Brick-crumbling bass is swapped for sleek, luxurious grooves. It’s the odd record equally at home in the club or on the ride home. Guest vocalists seamlessly glide in and out, including soul levitator Jesse Boykins III, Nina K and Brainfeeder affiliate Ryat.
“We did numerous tests driving with it and walking around listening with headphones on,” the white-tee’d Nordstrom says.
The pair met in late 2007 and spent their early team years DJing gratis in a D.C. dive bar. Before moombahton blew up, they’d already earned a well-regarded reputation for producing twitchy house and Baltimore club.
“We wanted it to flow and feel like a DJ set, where the last track feels like the last song of the night … the lights coming on afterward,” Nordstrom says of their album. “There wasn’t really a deep concept or anything like that. But for us it was very much about feeling a thousand miles away from home.”
Rather than capture an emotional distance, Nadastrom creates its own tone — neither hedonistic, uptempo club music nor trippy headphone haze. It’s confidently midtempo, flexible without being faceless.
It’s less of a reinvention than it is a re-envisioning of who Nadastrom are. If they were branded at first as moombahton arsonists, their debut proves they’re equally capable of a cool burn.
“It contains all the influences that we’ve had in the past, the records we’ve made and stuff that’s worked for us,” Nada says. “When you make an album, you find out who you really are. I just hope that other people get a better idea of who we are, too. It’s not just one sound; it’s not just one genre.”