First Spin: The Week’s Best New Dance Tracks From Kaleena Zanders, Amtrac, Deadmau5 & More

·7 min read

This week in dance music: Scottish electronic production duo LF System locked in a seventh consecutive week at No. 1 on the Official U.K. Singles Chart with “Afraid to Feel,” the venerated Defected Records was acquired by former Managing Director Wez Saunders, who will also serve as the label’s new CEO, four producers told us about their experiences remixing a Madonna song, ARIA Award-nominated project of Sydney electronic music producer L D R U signed with Warner Music, the Alok remix of Marhsmello and Khalid’s “Numb” gave the song a bump on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, we chatted with acid house legend Josh Wink about veganism, disco and more, and we shared exclusive Splash House 2022 sets from Elohim, Polo & Pan and Dombresky.

And new music? You betcha. Let’s dig in.

More from Billboard

Kaleena Zanders feat. Party Pupils, “Me Without U” 

Stop what you’re doing and prepare to disco. Kaleena Zanders is a show-stopping powerhouse on the mic, and the singer-songwriter is in the middle of her singer-turned-DJ moment, whole-heartedly embracing the electronic music culture that brought her into the spotlight. After head-turning features with LP Giobbi, Vanessa Michaels, SNBRN and more, she flips the tables and drops an original tune featuring a producer — in this case, Party Pupils. To call “Me Without U” fun is putting it mildly. Zanders delivers as big a vocal performance as ever, and matched with Party Pupil’s funkdafied melodies, it’s enough to set fire to a dance floor.

“Whitney was one of my favorite singers, and I always thought her voice married with dance and ’80s pop so well,” Zanders says. “I drew inspiration from the goddess, and Party Pupils laid down such an effervescent fresh disco pumping instrumental that blew me away and alas, we have this big baby banger.”

“‘Me Without U’ is, quite honestly, my favorite record that I’ve worked on in years,” Party Pupils adds. “When I heard the vocal that Kaleena wrote and sang, I not only was blown away by the sheer power of her voice, but the lyrics as well. We all feel a certain connection to people, to the point that we genuinely don’t feel ourselves without them. It’s such a relatable feeling, and I think we captured it in the most funky, celebratory way.” – KAT BEIN

deadmau5, “XYZ (Nero remix)”

Back in June, deadmau5 released the single “XYZ,” a first look at his mau5trap label’s we are friends XI compilation scheduled to arrive early next year. In the meantime, the producer has shared a remix of the track from UK electronic heavyweights NERO. Put side by side, both renditions of “XYZ” are progressive synth odysseys. Whereas the original sweeps you up to soar over ethereal worlds unknown like a personal magic carpet ride, NERO’s piloting takes an immediate detour to the deeper, darker and danker underground. From the shadowy atmospheric intro and groaning build to its more beat-driven final form – drilling drums, stomping kicks and looming synths — the trio’s “XYZ” remix is ominous and ready for dark dance floors. NERO and deadmau5 are currently on the road for the ‘deadmau5 presents We Are Friends’ US tour. — KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ

William Orbit, “Heshima kwa Hukwe”

The legendary British producer is back with The Painter, his first album since 2014. The title is an homage to one of Orbit’s preferred pastimes, and finds him in a mellow, inventive mood, with the album traversing the realms of trip-hop and experimental electronica. Guests on the LP include longtime collaborator Beth Orton, Colombian vocalist Lido Pimienta and late Tanzanian singer Hukwe Zawose, who Orbit samples on the lush eight minute jam “Heshima kwa “Hukwe.” Translating to “respect for Hukwe,” the track makes excellent use of legendary Zawose’s iconic wail, layering it among the low simmer electronic meander for a result at once mellow and expansive.

“In Tanzania, they sing, they sing and they sing,” Orbit tells Billboard. “It’s a very singing [based] tradition, and the harmonies are unique. In my opinion certain nationalities, like the Bulgarians and southern Austrians, for instance, have a harmonic choral tradition that is often unique. Georgians from the Caucasus, and certainly Tanzanians. So I just did my dream and incorporated [his singing] into a track that I hoped would get the clearance — which I did, and there it is. — KATIE BAIN

Amtrac feat. Samuel T. Herring, “Domino” 

Step right this way, through the glittering synth arpeggio and the moody breakbeat. Here comes the rain again — and a strong return from genre-defying melody man Amtrac. The Kentucky-born, Los Angeles-based producer is back with a new album, and he sets off the release celebration with debut single “Domino,” featuring Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring.

“A couple of years ago someone asked me, ‘If you could make [a] record with anyone, who would it be?’” Amtrac wrote in an Instagram caption. The answer was Mr. Herring himself, who provides an emotional performance of beautiful warble and down-trodden feeling, a great accompaniment to the slow rush of Amtrac’s production. It’s released alongside a surreal video serving hints of Severance. We’re excited to see what other strange and groovy turns this album has in store. – K. Bein

Altrice, “eyes”

Who is Altrice? Now’s a good time to get familiar. The Tucson-based producer first emerged in 2010 when he won a remix contest organized by Caribou’s Dan Snaith for his Swim album, following that with a remix of Radiohead’s “Lotus Flower” commissioned by the band themselves. Fast forward over a decade and a pair of quietly released albums, and Altrice is back in the spotlight with new music under Snaith’s jiaolong label. The new batch – which includes the haunting “bda creature” and tender “places faces” – is already getting rinsed by Snaith, Floating Points, Ben UFO and Four Tet.

Altrice’s latest track, “eyes,” is oddly nostalgic. The production – tender electronica with rippling synth plucks, chirping accents and the soft crunch of stepping on fallen autumn leaves – paired with a riffing vocal loop sounds like a clubbed-up instrumental of a mid-’00s pop-R&B record you swear you’ve heard before but can’t quite place. Even as grittier textures seep in, “eyes” exists in a mellow state of bliss until surprise bass drums attack like they’re mallets in a game of Whac-A-Mole. — K.R.

G Jones, “Operator”

G Jones delivers a new one that reminds us once again that there’s just no one else like him, with “Operator” melding bass, breakbeat, acid, trap, loads of bleeps, bloops, a little bit of yelling and an errant soul sample into a hectic, glorious three-minute freakout that plays like a soundtrack for a battle in deep space. A longtime favorite of Jones’ sets, the track comes as a surprise release via the producer’s own Illusory Records. “’Operator’ has been one of my favorite songs to play in my sets over the past few years,” Jones says, “and I’m so happy it’s finally getting a proper release.” Us too. — K. Bain

Tutara Peak, Trident & Torch

The U.K. producer puts an exclamation point on his three-song Radiance EP with the release of the project’s final song, “Trident & Torch.” This one starts mellow, like the first hints of morning sunlight, in time (and like a sunrise itself) exploding in a burst of power and beauty. Radiance is altogether excellent, melding electronic and shoegaze, giving serious Tycho vibes and dropping via the venerable Alpha Pup.

“Having recently got into modular synthesis, ‘Trident & Torch’ started as an off-grid synth jam,” the producer born Harvey Carter says. “I started noticing a lot of natural rhythms in the off-grid sounds which began forming a 3/4 time signature. Layering over the initial synth sounds with guitar, the track eventually started taking shape. This song represents an evolution of my sound into the unknown. Heavily influenced by post rock, I wanted to experiment to see how sounds from that genre could fit into a track like this. The grander concept of the track is a tease of my third EP, currently in the works.” — K. Bain

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