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Sara Eckerson and brothers Antonio and Alberto Arruda are Niagara, a Portuguese trio who first appeared in 2011 with a six-track CDr via Dromos Records. Since then, they’ve affiliated themselves closely with Príncipe, the leading Lisbon-based label with a focus on artists based in the capital, including DJ Marfox, DJ Nigga Fox, and DJ Lycox—though Niagara’s new slowed-down house-oriented/post-punk aesthetic is a stark contrast to the fast-paced Kuduro and Batida rhythms of the aforementioned. Having debuted on Príncipe in 2013 with Ouro Oeste, they’ve returned with two EPs—2015’s Ímpar and 2016’s São João Baptista—and, most recently, a debut album, Apologia, a “patchwork of today’s moods of exotica” with some “sparse synth work reminiscent of Blade Runner’s skyline,” the label explains. Elsewhere, they’ve shared material via Videogamemusic [Canas; 2015], FTD, a London-based label run by Charles Drakeford, and their own Ascender, founded in 2015.

Their XLR8R podcast is a collection of ambient cuts, perfect for listening in the car or, even better, through headphones on a cold and rainy afternoon. It has a psychedelic feel to it, especially to begin with; abstract vocals and warped melodies reign early on but are soon joined by distorted beats, before these fade away as the mix reaches a close. It’s a mix that must be listened to closely for full effect, so put the headphones on and drift away.

What have you been up to recently?
We’ve been recording some new music and finishing up some new songs we want to put out next year.

You’ve just released your debut album via Príncipe. How do you feel it compares to your earlier work?
We feel it is the natural continuation of everything else we’ve done before.

When and where was the album recorded?
The album was recorded during last year. Although one of the songs is a little bit older. All the tracks were recorded and produced in our studio outside of Lisbon.

The album’s style is described as “Fourth World PLUS.” What do you mean by this?
Our friends at Príncipe came up with that term to describe the record. We believe they wanted to capture the general atmosphere of the record, that we believe is very varied.

When and where was this particular mix recorded?
This mix was recorded on October 6 in our studio, the same place where we recorded the album.

How did you select the records you included?
We picked tracks that are nice to listen to at home.

What was the process behind it—was it recorded in one take?
It was recorded all in one take, by mixing records into each other on two turntables and a mixer.

Was there a particular idea you were looking to convey?
We wanted the mix to generate a cool vibe, without a lot of peaks, but also without getting too monotonous.

What equipment did you record it on?
One old Behringer mixer and two Technics Sl 1210 mkii.

What else do you have coming up this year?
We don’t have any plans until the end of this year. But, beginning next year there will be some new music out on Ascender.

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Vinyl LP / CD / Digital
Written and produced by Niagara;
Mastered by Tó Pinheiro da Silva, Artwork by Márcio Matos;
Released September, 2018;

VINYL/DIGITAL: Order from us

A1 – França
A2 – 6:30
A3 – Momento Braga
A4 – 40
B1 – Senhora Do Cabo
B2 – 2042
B3 – Damasco
B4 – Siena
B5 – Graffiti
CD – Via Garibaldi (CD bonus track)
CD – Matriz (CD bonus track)
CD – Cabo Verde (CD bonus track)
CD – O Astro (CD bonus track)

PRESS RELEASE

The Donald Duck voice during “França” seems to be adapting to this new world of Niagara. But once you go through the portal, it’s all sunshine and ocean surf.

“Apologia” is the first full-length by the trio of Alberto, António and Sara, expanding their organic machine music into hazy, fresh territories. Most tracks in here are concise, around the 3-minute mark, and they appear to us as openings to a fertile underground stream, ever moving. We are shown glimpses of some other world that simultaneously looks ancient and a patchwork of today’s moods of exotica. Throw in some sparse synth work reminiscent of Blade Runner ‘s skyline and you can hardly tell if this sounds like the future or some distant past.

Longer tracks “6:30” and “Siena” help you settle along this pan-tastic journey, acting as centerpieces to the album. “Siena” displays the loveliest flute vibes and gentle synthetic stabs adding to the groove. Fourth World PLUS.

Vinyl LP; individually hand-painted, hand-stamped copies available for the world.

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Unique psychedelic killers from Niagara, mounting a sterling debut album with Lisbon’s Príncipe five years after their first 12”, ‘Ouro Oeste’ [2013]. Trust that they have lost none of the weirdness that’s endeared them to freaks around the world ever since they emerged. If anything they’re stranger, more spaced-out and porous to wild influence…

Outlining Niagara’s definitive description of contemporary exotica, ‘Apologia’ limns a frayed, buzzing sort of “Fourth World PLUS” sound, where the “PLUS” refers to their embrace of noise as an agent of chaos. But it’s not necessarily malefic chaos, and should be taken as a smart acknowledgement of the overlooked yet crucial role that roughness of grain and construction play in contrast with so many clinically smooth and even anodyne efforts from the same, imagined arena of worldly music for a new age.

In allowing for the entropy of time and the inevitable infidelity of attrition to enter their soundsphere, Niagara’s organic machine music keenly reflects a natural world order without the need for algorithmic process. Their world is a fertile interplay of acoustic and electronic sources rendering hazy, fata morgana-like glimpses of musical possibility, practically triangulating the visions of likeminds such as Jamal Moss/Hieroglyphic Being and Dolo Percussion with the explorative precedents of Portugul’s Telectu to realise a fine expression of anachronistic modernism.

Most of the tracks loosely work around 3 minute timeframes, lending a zig-zagging mosaic quality to the tracklist in between its longer parts. Richly colourful spiritual jazz arps and raw machine grooves spring from opener ‘França’, triggering a cascade of ideas that bends between acidic kosmiche in ‘6:30’ to the heatsick boogie gliss of ’40’ and the stark emptiness of ‘Senhora Do Cabo’, to give up the gorgeous, extended flute and acid meditation ’Siena’, and mess with Vangelis-style synth majesty on ‘Via Garibaldi’, before spending their coolest energies in the drowsy Afro-latin swagger of ‘Cabo Verde.’

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Alberto, António and Sara a.k.a. Niagara have distilled their sound to imperfection on ‘Apologia’, resulting one of 2018’s most crucial and vital electronic albums.
Boomkat, September 2018

Portuguese psychedelic house trio Niagara release their killer debut (vinyl) album via Lisbon institution Príncipe, following a string of inventive 12″s, mostly released through their own Ascender label. ‘Apologia’ features a series of really fresh and unique electronic designs, comprising “ethnographic recordings, distant shortwave signals, and idiosyncratic synths” as journalist Philip Sherburne writes. This is really its own little dream world, full of new flavors and an almost childlike kind of openness. It’s really such a solution for tired ears, one of the best albums we’ve heard all year, and an absolute must if you’re into 40% Foda/Maneirissimo, Nuno Cannavaro, Mystic Jungle Tribe….
Amoeba Music, September 2018

Over the past seven years, Lisbon label Príncipe has become closely aligned with the dynamic style known as batida, a homegrown hybrid of Afro-Lusophone diasporic sounds like kuduro, tarraxinha, and kizomba. A little like Chicago footwork, it has gained a global foothold despite marginalized origins, turning producers like DJ Marfox, Nídia, and DJ Nigga Fox into artists of worldwide renown. But Príncipe’s remit extends beyond batida: The label’s second release, issued the same year as DJ Marfox’s debut, came from Photonz, a techno producer with a soft spot for early-’90s trance. The Portuguese electronic trio Niagara soon stepped up with five tracks of wonky, lo-fi house music steeped in Italo disco.

Niagara put out another EP, Ímpar, in 2015—virtually the only non-batida release to appear on Príncipe in the years after the their label debut—and now they are back with their first full-length album. But something has changed in the past three years. Where the toe-scuffing Ímpar tipped its hat to Metro Area and DFA, Apologia finds them building out their own soundworld, one that has less to do with established categories than chasing hard-to-define moods.

As is the case with a lot of questing, imaginative electronic music from recent years—Jan Jelinek, Andrew Pekler, Visible Cloaks—it’s not always easy to tell if this stuff is old or new, or even its hemisphere of origin. Zigzagging synth arpeggios drizzle over rudimentary drum-machine grooves, and conga taps arrive with the slow, steady drip of a leaky faucet; out-of-phase patterns circle each other like a dog chasing its own tail. It’s rickety but beautiful, janky keyboards and intercepted radio signals shot through with stumbling thumb piano and graceful synth pads. With instrumentation heavy on hand percussion, harp-like glissandi, and other new-age trappings, a tropical vibe prevails.

Despite the relatively high humidity, Niagara don’t seem interested in standard-issue chillout. Unease lurks below the surface of their blissfully lopsided machine jams. In the opening “França,” a manic, distorted voice—like Donald Duck on a bender—cuts against placid chimes and rippling ride cymbals. On “6:30,” mismatched synth loops and a dully repetitive groove spin in wobbly circles, while pastel chords flare up in the background, cartoonish and wistful.

Niagara find a certain strength in withholding. Many tracks feel like they could kick off at any moment; throw in a heavy bass drum, and you could confuse them for nightclub barnstormers. But the trio seems to realize that to lean too hard on the drums would be to overwhelm the music’s intricate architecture of interconnected loops. Take “Momento Braga,” in which screen-door squeak, pinball ping, R2-D2 chirps, and earthy marimba weave together seamlessly and glisten in midair, like a spiderweb. An echoing voice bobs at the center of it all, something caught within the song’s sticky matrix.

The most captivating material verges upon pure ambient. That goes for the beat-less “Senhora do Cabo,” just two synth chords drifting above vaporous tones, and the pulse-heavy “Damasco,” where a lilting synth lead trips over leathery congas. It has rhythm but no real forward motion, spinning in place like a mobile. “Via Garibaldi,” a bonus cut not included on the vinyl edition, pairs the tape-delayed synths of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. II with a ring-modulated voice that sounds like a garbled radio transmission snagged straight from space. (There are four such bonus tracks, and they are among the best here; choose your format wisely.) “O Astro,” another bonus, might be a field recording played back on a malfunctioning reel-to-reel deck.

Niagara’s resourcefulness suggests a castaway’s ingenuity, using unconventional techniques to unlock new territories. Cobbled together out of ethnographic recordings, distant shortwave signals, and idiosyncratic synths, Apologia sets its sights on an elusive state of transcendence. Consider it an escape vehicle to spirit listeners away from the failures of what more efficient, more expensive methods of music-making have wrought.
Pitchfork, September 2018

Since 2013, Niagara has left behind a string of EPs and CDRs mostly through Lisbon-based label Príncipe and their own Ascender imprint. Hardware-only, the trio huddles over card tables and tweaks skeletal parts out of synths and drum machines, feeding them through pedals, mixers and filters. Their music lives off the rickety bpm negotiation of multiple machines set off by hand and overlapping, reverberating electronic tones. Like a botched house band, they’ve developed a dry dance music, kraut-inspired and wiry, that’s both infectious and rich. Príncipe, known for their embrace of the batida sound with a steady stream of unsteady tempos and jilted rhythms, is an oddly fitting as a stable for the group. It’s hard to imagine another label that could welcome Niagara’s aqueous, earthy sound.

Each of Niagara’s releases, though not exactly spick and span, etches out the trio’s naturally bumbling, staggered rhythms just a little bit further. Apologia, their debut full-length and biggest release to date, is marked by a subdued approach to their notably live feel. Highly repetitious, the grooves are present throughout but they are even-keeled and dwell in the mid-range, less demanding than the slightly bass-centric, four-to-the-floor structures the group has dabbled with before. Instead of bass hits planted on the beat, an arpeggiated synth, a tapped rhythm on a ride cymbal or an intricate marimba rhythm is repeated to establish a tempo.

Between the scraped-up vocal samples, loose hand drums, canopies of sparse electronics and the propensity to repeat phrases, Fourth World jargon is certainly in play. The rhythms, though, are at the fore, not the tonal matter, pulling away from purely landscape-inducing imagery and providing too many roots to fix on; the flotsam and jetsam phrases float, but they are pulled along by a gravity, centered around something bigger. A highlight is “Siena,” which nearly doubles the average song length on the album. Calm flutes and earthy timbres are kept in tow by a three-note synth line, filtered to have a slight serration. With ambiguously natural textures, unraveling rhythms, and meandering melodies, a less overt cohesion is developed through timbres’ overlapping qualities and the instruments’ slight cognizance of each other. “Fourth World Plus” is the term Príncipe uses to frame the album, and if nothing else, it is a true remark on the band’s sense of departure from past recordings.

Falling outside the maelstrom of music production transfixed on album cuts, the group’s recordings have typically acted as documents reflecting where the trio is at that moment. And while Apologia is a continuation of their sound, it’s also the group’s most cohesive set to date. They’ve made something undeniably imprinted with their voice and their humbled boogie shines in a new light.
Dusted Magazine, October 2018

As a full band, Niagara already distinguishes itself from their labelmates. A collaborative process, the trio builds psychedelic arrangements from crystalline synth arpeggios and rigid MIDI melodies. Tracks such as ‘França’ and ‘6:30’ have a decidedly analog sound with out-of-sync loops cycling through a wilderness of squelches, distorted vocals, and glissando harp strums. The serene ‘Senhora Do Cabo’ drifts through the same ruins where Richard D. James crafted his SAW series with sub-arctic synth pads and an ocean of reverb. While Principé’s more dance-music focussed releases use percussion to enforce an animated and rickety foundation of rhythm, Niagara employs congas and marimbas in a manner more in-line with a wind-chime; sparse, accidental, and melodic. As a result, the album is simultaneously painstakingly refined and feral, using traditional instrumentation but filtered through plasticky audio workstations of a Fairlight synthesizer.

In summary, and as a last-ditch attempt to bypass all the music-nerd jargon above, Niagara’s Apologia is the sound of Steve Reich tossing Dino Dino Jungle into a blender and washing it down with some cough syrup. I’m into it.
Boston Hassle, October 2018

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One hour of Príncipe favourites and a couple of unreleased titles for Steve Barker‘s On The Wire show (BBC Radio Lancashire). Click image to access show and full 2-hour OTW playlist.

DJ Noronha – África Congo – Principe
DJ Firmeza – Coelho 2025 – Principe
RS – Guerreiro – Principe
DJ Kolt & DJ Perigoso – Comandante Em Chefe – Principe
P. Adrix – Tejo – Principe
Niagara – Siena – Principe
DJ Lycox – Solteiro – Principe
Nídia – Underground – Principe
DJ NinOo – Ambientes Leves – Principe
Niagara – França – Principe
RS – Caipirinha – Principe
DJ Marfox – Bit Binary – Principe
Niagara – Damasco – Principe
DJ Kolt & Dj Noronha – Batidongo – Principe
DJ Nervoso – Ah Ah – Principe
Niagara – 2042 – Principe
RS – Abertura – Principe
Nídia – Puro Tarraxo – Principe

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DJ Marfox is the alias of Marlon Silva, the protagonist of Lisbon’s bubbling Afro-Portuguese electronic music scene. He first connected with music in the early 2000s when he heard Kuduro artist DJ Nervoso playing at a party, and left feeling inspired to begin producing his own music. “If I hadn’t witnessed that, perhaps I wouldn’t be here today,” he said in an earlier interview with Thump. He soon learned the basics of FruityLoops and teamed up with high school friends DJ Nervoso, DJ Nk, DJ Fofuxo, DJ Jesse, and DJ Pausas as DJs Do Ghetto, throwing parties around the city before issuing DJs do Ghetto Vol. I, a 37-track digital compilation shining a light on the local artists. This marked the beginnings of Lisbon’s batida movement, the sounds of which incorporate African-influenced dance music such as kuduro, kizomba, funaná, and tarraxinha with traditional house and techno. Those involved invariably came from working-class backgrounds and used cheap, but accessible software.

Silva began working as Marfox around this period, the alias a combination of his first initial and Star Fox 64, his favorite Nintendo 64 sci-fi shoot-em-up game. He uploaded several tracks via YouTube and some music blogs before releasing 2011’s Eu Sei Quem Sou, a debut EP via fledgling Príncipe Discos. Further releases soon came, as did booking requests from all over the world. DJ Marfox and his homegrown sound were on the rise—and this international acclaim has only continued to grow, evidenced by Warp’s 2015 Cargaa series, aimed directly at highlighting the “cream-of-the-crop purveyors of Lisbon’s thrilling electronic dance scene.”

Silva still resides in Lisbon but his name is known far beyond the city’s borders. He’s performed at some key festivals around the world, from Unsound and CTM, MoMA PS1 Warm Up Series, and Red Bull Festival in New York to Novas Frequências in Rio de Janeiro and Nyege Nyege in Uganda. Touring with reasonable frequency, he’s a purveyor of an intense but rhythmic blend of percussive techno that bears great reference to his batida roots, and his podcast for XLR8R provides a snapshot of this sound with 60 minutes of exhilarating grooves.

What have you been up to recently?
Besides traveling for shows, I’ve been going out a bit to listen to other national and international DJs, and also been focusing on listening to the new music coming from Cabo Verde.

When and where was the mix recorded?
This mix was recorded in my home studio, where everything starts but nothing gets finished!

What equipment did you record it on?
I used two Pioneer DJ XDJ-1000MK2 and a Pioneer DJM-750 MK2 Mixer.

How did you select the tracks that you included?
It was a balanced selection of tracks, including a harmonious sequence of my old and new tracks, and of other colleagues in the Príncipe label.

Was there a particular idea or mood you were looking to convey?
It’s always about wanting to make the mix as powerful as possible—something that people can still listen to it in 10 years and find it super fresh.

Can we expect some more material from you soon?
Yes, I’m working on a new EP, but I’m still trying to figure out the right journey to offer to listeners.

What else have you got coming up?
What I can advise but not disclose is that you keep your ears out for the new records to be released on Príncipe because there’s a lot of very good stuff coming out.

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Vinyl 12″ / Digital
Written and produced by DJ Lilocox;
Mastered by Tó Pinheiro da Silva, Artwork by Márcio Matos;
Released May, 2018;

VINYL/DIGITAL: Order from us

A1 – Vozes Ricas
A2 – Ritmo & Melodias
B1 – Paz & Amor
B2 – Samba
B3 – Fronteiras

PRESS RELEASE

The sprawling ambience we hear throughout “Paz & Amor” unveils the present stage of the fascinating aesthetic progression Lilocox has been sharing with the world ever since this Eurochild of Cape Verdean descent started to produce his original music. Lilocox comes out in open field, with a lot more space, building the groove around complex rhythm grids now unfolding peacefully. He scored a bouncier underground hit with “La Party” back in 2015, coming from a background of intricate batida drum patterns but his sights reached further and further away into deeper territory.

“Ritmos E Melodias” seems to split into two parallel tracks at some point with the house beat balanced by a background rattle more commonly associated with the slower tarraxo vibes. “Samba” is fully-formed from the very beginning but the kick only comes in around the 2-minute mark, joining a bleepy substitute for a bassline. In fact, you will find this music practically does away with the need for a bassline because the rhythm inventions keep the feet moving effortlessly. It might seem strange that a genre seemingly rooted in classic house can stay focused on the dancefloor without a bassline, but the skeleton of these tracks is naturally strong and provides all the necessary ground for ambience and melody to shine.

And they do shine universally on “Fronteiras”, an intensely emotional and catchy tune WITH a bassline, though very discrete and minimal. It follows the beat more or less independently, but its presence helps to consolidate the human bond we should all feel when exposed to these celestial harmonies. “Fronteiras” seems to contradict its very title.

Vinyl 12″; individually hand-painted, hand-stamped copies available for the world.

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Paz E Amor, or “peace and love”, is the solo début of deep, hypnotic Batida grooves by DJ Lilocox. A longtime core member of Lisbon’s Príncipe label, Lilocox is one third of the PDDG (Piquenos DJs Do Guetto) crew beside DJs Firmeza and Maboku, and accounts for half of CDM (Casa Da Mãe), also with Maboku. In solo mode Lilocox alloys sensuous atmospheres with rolling percussion in a widely appealing style that resonates with the slickness of the Sonhos & Pesadelos LP by his near namesake, DJ Lycox, but personalised by more spacious production values and a rugged vision of dancefloor romance and energy.
With the CDM project on hold for now, DJ Lilocox presents a more mature sound now characterised by his focus on rhythmelodic cadence and synthetic sensuality. Between the EP’s lusting highlight in the Ron Trent-esque Afrohouse of Fronteiras, to the starker, Gqom-Like tension of Ritmo e Melodias, Lilocox plays to the ‘floor’s timeless needs in a ruggedly forward manner, deftly shifting his weight from a pendulous footing of Vozes Ricas to the woodblock knocks and drones of Paz e Amor and the snake-hipped swinge of Samba with the dancer’s balance and emotions always a priority.
After the scorching début EP from P. Adrix, the first solo DJ Lilocox record perfectly demonstrates his depth and diversity whilst maintaining Príncipe’s rarely paralleled and flawless reputation for the freshest, timelessly effective dance music.

Boomkat, May 2018

On DJ Lilocox’s latest single, “Vozes Ricas” (“rich voices” in Portuguese) there is very little in the way of actual vocals. Instead, the Manchester-based, Portugal-born producer crafts a new, stirring language with an expansive palette of percussion. “Vozes Ricas” is the lead single from Lilocox’s debut EP for Príncipe Discos, Paz & Amor, and it affirms his ability to make thoughtful dance music without so much as a word—or even a bassline.
The types of drums punctuating “Vozes Ricas” are too numerous to categorize, and they ricochet off each other like rubber bullets fired at cement walls. A few distinct beats ring out, however, from floor toms, congas, and sizzling crash cymbals, their chaotic conversation resembling a heated debate between a dozen politicians. In the background, pulses of synths and 8-bit chirps try to butt into the conversation, but the rhythm section maintains the most compelling component, suggesting fierce and free motion. “Vozes Ricas” may be a wordless song, but DJ Lilocox’s repertoire of rhythms speaks volumes.

Pitchfork track review, May 2018

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