Few artists bridge chart pop and underground club culture quite like Boys Noize. The Berlin-based DJ/producer native, born Alex Ridha, is as happy commanding festival main stages as he is dropping vintage acid house at subterranean after-hours joints. Though he won a Grammy in 2021 for his production on Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s “Rain on Me” (and nabbed a previous nomination for 2020’s “Midnight Hour,” with Skrillex and Ty Dolla $ign), his 2021 album +/- (pronounced “Polarity”) finds Boys Noize happily turning his back on the spotlight. Some of the album’s best songs reimagine old-school club aesthetics in unexpected ways: “Love & Validation” pairs house beats with gothic synths and Kelsey Lu’s Soft Cell-like vocals. “Girl Crush” plays Rico Nasty’s coquettish vocals off grinding, distorted techno. And “Affection” applies Boys Noize’s characteristically chilly palette to the hot-blooded sound of classic freestyle.
Ridha completed many of the album’s tracks during the pandemic, and a fierce nostalgia for the pleasures of dancing is palpable: The vibe throughout is sexy and slightly sinister, shot through with the electrifying expectations of a first visit to a particularly eye-opening nightclub. On “Nude,” Estonian rapper Tommy Cash sings, “I wish we were all nude,” over a pounding techno beat, giving voice to clubbers’ desire for a long-overdue communion. But many of these songs got their starts long before COVID shuttered clubs; “All I Want,” an ecstatic house anthem featuring Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, goes all the way back to 2011. That Ridha rescued the long-lost track from a broken hard drive makes its placement here feel all the more auspicious. Full of sleazy, slow-motion tracks steeped in EBM and ’90s techno, this is Boys Noize’s love letter to late nights on low-lit dance floors, bodies heaving in sweaty unison.