It was inevitable that I’d write about the Black Madonna here sooner or later.
Born Marea Stamper in Kentucky, the Black Madonna matriculated in the ’90s Midwest rave scene, was until recently the talent buyer for Chicago’s Smart Bar, and is currently one of the top draws on the global club circuit. She’s also my favorite DJ. Not just for musical reasons, either -- though as this week’s recommended set demonstrates, those are in ample supply as well.
Sometime in the summer of 2014, in what Stamper recalls as her first-ever interview for a publication in “either Denver or Portland,” she laid out a series of demands on the culture that made her that resounded like a gong:
“Dance music needs riot grrrls. Dance music needs Patti Smith. It needs DJ Sprinkles. Dance music needs some discomfort with its euphoria. Dance music needs salt in its wounds. Dance music needs women over the age of 40. Dance needs breastfeeding DJs trying to get their kids to sleep before they have to play. Dance needs cranky queers and teenagers who are really tired of this shit. Dance music needs writers and critics and academics and historians. Dance music needs poor people and people who don’t have the right shoes to get into the club. Dance music needs shirts without collars. Dance music needs people who struggled all week. Dance music needs people that had to come before midnight because they couldn’t afford full admission. Dance music does not need more of the status quo.”
Anyone who can hit every nail that hard is clearly someone you want to hear spin records. Stamper, to say the least, doesn’t disappoint. She particularly thrives playing between 90 minutes and three hours -- she can really pace it out then.
Take her appearance at Lente Kabinet Festival 2017 (May 27), an annual day-long Netherlands fête -- apparently, a well-earned set in more ways than one. According to the Resident Advisor event review, “When British Airways cancelled flights from London to Amsterdam on Saturday, the Black Madonna paid for a private jet to avoid missing out on Lente Kabinet.”
She gave just as good on the decks. There’s a lot of house, a lot of techno, a lot of disco here -- a typical Black Madonna admixture, with plenty of obvious dance classics (Metro Area’s “Miura,” around minute 78, followed by the disco gem “I Hear Music in the Streets” by Unlimited Touch) delivered in ways you can’t predict. For one thing, she understands classic disco as part of the same food chain as spare, aquatic electro (Pearson Sound’s “XLB,” around minute 48), or even the kind of electro that came to fore in the mid-2000s (“XLB” is followed directly by a snarling Vitalic track). And she knows just how to make all of them not just talk to one another but party together.
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set -- often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily -- and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.