Seven Plays XIII: Nocturnal Wax

Our latest Seven Plays comes from the multifaceted artist known as Nocturnal Wax, a Washington, DC based DJ, radio presenter, and co-founder of the acclaimed party series tender. Fueled by a lifelong love of electronic music and raised on the sounds of Armand Van Helden, George Benson, and Chic, Nocturnal Wax began collecting records in his teenage years before fully immersing himself in the art of DJing and radio broadcasting. What started as a solo SoundCloud project in 2015, his podcast ‘The Electrified Broadcast’ caught the attention of Platinum Radio London, evolving into a weekly showcase that featured guest DJ sets from UK and international artists.

This transition from the internet to FM airwaves eventually led him to Studio 96, a radio show on Arlington Independent Media’s WERA 96.7FM in the DC area, which he launched in 2018. Dedicated to amplifying voices from the DC area’s underground and beyond, Studio 96 has featured local guest selectors such as Jackson Ryland and Nativesun along with renowned artists such as FIT Siegel and Carl Craig. As Studio 96 recently surpassed 250 broadcasts and continues to push innovative sounds, Nocturnal Wax has expanded his talents to a residency at DC’s Hast du Feuer in 2023, in addition to co-founding a new party series called tender. alongside fellow local DJs, OK Carty and side II side. Through his meticulously curated radio shows, dynamic DJ sets, and passionate outlook, Nocturnal Wax seeks to expand listener’s horizons and captivate them with new voices from the underground’s vast world of sounds.

Monday: 4Hero featuring Jill Scott – “Another Day”

The start of the week can be rather tricky for many of us. Still, I’ve found that a good remedy for such times is this crossover groove from two of the UK’s most prolific Drum & Bass producers and a Philadelphia voice that has cemented herself as one of R&B’s greatest voices. This song perfectly encapsulates that slightly woozy, half-asleep morning mood, with 4hero’s fantastic arrangement serving as the perfect partner to Jill Scott’s sublime words, steadily arriving to a breakbeat that refreshes your mind and prepares you for the day ahead.

Tuesday: Ikebe Shakedown – “Refuge”
The Budos Band – “Mas O Menos”
Lettuce – “Pocket Change”

Playing bass instruments throughout my grade school years made me realize that the low end of the sonic spectrum is often overlooked and greatly misunderstood. Yet, that low end is essential to any musical salad. The power we wield can shake your insides via elongated sound waves and have just as much of a melodic impact as the most grandstanding lead guitarist in a band. We are the glue that holds the groove together.

After being influenced by countless bassists over the years, I joined the legion of bass guitarists and purchased a Fender Jazz bass just before the pandemic lockdown in 2020. Three of those influences came from the world of funk and soul. They were the main catalysts behind the decision—Ikebe Shakedown’s Vince Chiarito, The Budos Band’s Daniel “Grover” Foder, and Lettuce’s Erick “Jesus” Coomes.

Choosing a highlight tune between those three is challenging, so these are three songs from each bassist’s respective ensemble that demonstrate their inimitable styles. Effortless, soulful, and downright cool, they maintain the composure and groove of their groups on lock. I have all three of them to thank for keeping me sane during those isolated months by slowly practicing scales and building up calluses that would eventually translate into a spartan but acceptable individual style.

Wednesday: Grace Scheele – “12 Layers”

Midweek lulls lead me to venture towards the softer edges of music, which sometimes brings a spark of brilliance in the most unexpected of places.

I discovered the sounds of Grace Scheele through a Reddit livestream where she openly accepted requests for covers to play on her instrument of choice—the harp. From Final Fantasy motifs to personal works-in-progress of her own, I was drawn to how pure and genuine her connection to the instrument was and continues to be. Making my way to her Bandcamp page, I immersed myself in her electroacoustic compositions and added a mainstay number to my weekly playlist – a melodic, dulcet mosaic aptly named “12 Layers.” I later had the pleasure of having her as a guest on my radio show, where she shared her debut EP, Landings, in full, adding another mesmerizing collage to her repertoire that persuades you to think beyond standard rhythms and embrace the ambiance of the cosmos.

Thursday: Machinedrum – “Infinite Us”

Machinedrum’s Vapor City album has constantly been on my headphones since it was first released in 2013. According to Travis Stewart, the album’s concept was inspired by dreams about a fictional city, and each track is meant to represent different areas within said city. “Infinite Us” stands out to me due to the sonic metamorphosis within its seven-minute trajectory. Hazy piano chords instantly evoke mystery, soon surrounded by minimalist hi-hats and percussion, then elevated by a chugging footwork-tinged bassline that crescendos towards never-ending heights that bring a sense of wonder and discovery. The perfect track to cruise into the cosmos.

Friday: El Chicano – “Cantaloupe Island”

This is, without a doubt, a record that will never leave my collection. A cut that I instantly associate with a specific time in my life—specifically the basement record shop I briefly worked at in college and soundtracking intermissions at Monday night open jams in the Virginia suburbs. Further reinforcing my love for soulful Latin jazz, this record was first introduced to me by my shop co-worker, who decided to play a recently acquired copy on the store’s hi-fi. Instantly hooked by the fact it was recorded in a Chinese restaurant after-hours in Los Angeles and included one of the best covers of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” I had ever heard, I asked what it was and bought it right away. It became a mainstay in my record box during those days of under (and sometimes unpaid) gigs, carrying my Craigslist-sourced Vestax turntables and a 2-channel Xone mixer; experiences that taught me lessons and brought new people and friendships into my life and converted me into a vinyl fiend. Thanks to Cindy and the crew at Blue Groove, and sorry for letting that copy of Phil Collins’ “Face Value” go out the door at a heavily discounted price.

Saturday: Incognito – Out Of The Storm (Morales Sleaze Mix)

Although I have had a vinyl copy for a couple of years, an opportunity to play this track at the proper party and time has yet to come. This would fit perfectly at the very end of the night with the sun peering in through the windows—a prime-era David Morales reminder that gatherings shared on the dancefloor replenish our souls, reenergizing us to keep the momentum of life going.

Sunday: DJ Shadow – “Blood On The Motorway”

Many may be familiar with “Endtroducing…”, but “Private Press” is where DJ Shadow starts diving into more profound themes. The album is phenomenal, but “Blood On The Motorway” is a track that will always bring me a moment of quiet introspection. A solemn introduction leads towards an uplifting key change and lively boom-bap beats that reassure you there is more in this vast universe. Beginnings and ends, death and rebirth, old memories and new horizons. All we need to do is trust the process and enjoy the ride.

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Seven Plays is a feature where our contributors, extended family and friends keep a personal music diary for seven days, before handing the format over to another author. The aim is to keep sharing great music, this time with an individual touch that celebrates the intimacy and emotionality of our relationships with music as well as sonic excitement and technical prowess. Read our previous installments of Seven Plays here.

Taylor Trostle