Raving Disco Breaks Vol. II

Good news, boppers—Eris Drew finally released the second edition of Raving Disco Breaks, the pick-up-your-feet, turn-your-whole-day-around DJ mix series she debuted in 2019. The theme of the second edition is Rock the House—not exactly rock as in RAWK, but the verb sense of the word, as in “Keep it rockin’.” Once again the mix is available on SoundCloud and on cassette, though it landed on my desk more like contraband, one gigantic audio file too big for cloud storage to handle. Ah yes, I thought, now that’s the good stuff.

Naturally Drew remains enamored of throwback breakbeat house, a sound she associates with her initiation into underground rave culture as a disillusioned ’90s kid looking for deeper meaning in life. As on Vol. 1, the cuts are fast, the selections will put you neck deep in obscure 12″s on Discogs, and the mixing style is more DIY party poster than endless scroll. Drew spins through speed-dealing ’90s rave tracks, old-school hip-hop samples, and an incredible, improbably perfect Led Zeppelin guitar part that lands like a caped hero. There are strobing keyboard stabs, Pong synth bass hits, a voice that insists on “just, like, rock’n’roll.” You ever heard Janis Joplin sing a feature on a dance track? You have now. Drew guarantees every sample here to be at least 20 years old, if not older. She remains jazzed on horns. You can breakdance; you can bunny hop. It is an entirely worthy successor.

Drew makes body and emotion music, as captured in the name of the label she shares with partner Octo Octa, T4T LUV NRG. And though she’s not the kind of musician who writes lyrics, her love of wordplay is conspicuous. The Raving Disco Breaks mixes make improbably extensive use of language, chopping it up along with the samples into playful cut-and-paste winks. In Vol. 1, it might have been the announcer voice that seems to welcome you to “Clubhouse Disco” (that’s three genres, makes me laugh every time); here it’s snippets of well-worn rock’n’roll attitude slogans and fresh spins of all kinds of tracks that invoke the concept of “rock” in their titles, dialing up famous telephone headset user Terrence Parker’s “Gonna Rock You All Night” and classic b-boy soundtrack “To a Nation Rockin’.”

Drew doesn’t write lyrics but she does write an online newsletter. I’m struck by a passage in a recent edition, on the topic of dancing and drugs, where she describes the miserable local ragers she escaped for the light of the underground warehouse rave. “Most of my peers in high school would find a party at some suburban teenager’s house (unwitting parents out of town) and drink until they were blue in the face,” she wrote. “Everyone either was straight or pretended to be. Rock’n’roll and hip-hop were the only ‘real’ music at these parties. … Social norms and cliques were celebrated and reinforced rather than dismantled.” Contra the spirit of rock’n’roll, clearly, though I recognize the scene Drew describes here (perhaps a slightly younger, more sheltered teen would have turned to reading indie music blogs). The best thing about Rock the House, besides being a hell of a good time, is that those distinctions do not matter anymore, have never mattered, and in fact were fluid all along. Food for thought when you hear that little vocal clip of Joe Strummer rapping on the single most disco Clash song, “The Magnificent Seven,” as extracted and sampled by a deep-cut ’90s club track, as sampled and remixed by Eris Drew.

So I hope it’s not too mind-expanding to pitch Rock the House as a mix about aesthetic integration, in line with Drew’s personal spiritual concept of a universal Motherbeat, one I like to imagine as a kind of ever-present psychoacoustic ether but also a like a big stack of records—one really, really, really long waveform extending back through the entire corpus of musical creation from the latest live mix to the first human to beat on stone (what were they up to?). It speaks to her singular vision and personality as a DJ, too, though I don’t get the sense that she cares whether you care that this is the Eris Drew Show: You come to this rave to expand the collective consciousness. Good luck fitting that on Google Drive.