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posted: 4/26/2013 6:00 AM

Major Lazer: Changing EDM one party at a time

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  • DJ and music producer Diplo is ever evolving as he tinkers with a sound that may help steer the future of electronic dance music.

    DJ and music producer Diplo is ever evolving as he tinkers with a sound that may help steer the future of electronic dance music.
    Associated Press

By Chris Talbott
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Major Lazer is a work in progress.

Diplo's part-time project, with a new album "Free the Universe" out this week, is ever-evolving as the producer and his cohorts tinker with a sound they think might provide a clue to the future of electronic dance music.

"Everything's changing now. EDM's shifting," Diplo said. "The house music thing exploded two years and now people are looking for something different. ... What we do as Major Lazer, we just incorporate everything. We're just DJs at heart and selectors. We love all kinds of music."

That's reflected in the Caribbean-flavored "Free the Universe" with its reggae and dancehall influences, but the group that also includes Chris Leacock, the producer known as Jillionaire, and Walshy Fire (Leighton Walsh) pushes the envelope much farther on the follow-up to 2009's "Guns Don't Kill People ... Lazers Do."

Bruno Mars, Tyga and Mystic guest on the hip-hop-influenced "Bubble Butt." At the other end of the spectrum is the mellow and melancholy "Get Free," featuring Amber Coffman of The Dirty Projectors.

Diplo, whose real name is Wes Pentz, and the group spoke about the new album on a stopover in Nashville early on their latest tour, which will soon move to Europe for the summer.

They're constantly looking for ways to reinvent themselves in the how-have-you-impressed-me-lately world they inhabit.

Diplo has created some of the most memorable moments in the movement and pop music in general, but he's keenly aware of the tradewinds that can carry you away from the hot molten core of EDM. It's easy to get complacent when you spend your days and nights in front of a computer programming beats.

"I think you have to reinvent yourself, that's just music," Pentz said. "The thing with rock bands, I miss the idea of personalities. You don't have that with dance music, and I miss the Eddie Vedders, Jon Bon Jovis or the Neil Youngs."

An hour later Pentz, Leacock and Walsh take the stage. Flanked by a pair of dancers, Walsh paces the front of the stage as the hype man. Leacock holds court behind the decks on the DJ platform while Diplo acts as trickster and cheerleader, firing confetti cannons into the crowd, inviting girls on stage and generally trying to keep the energy as high as possible.

Leacock says the group is blending influences like soca pop music from Trinidad & Tobago and reggae dancehall music from Jamaica with hip-hop dynamics and a DJ's light show.

"There's so much saturation right now in the market," Leacock said. "So you have to put a package out there that makes them say, 'Oh, (expletive) that really blew my mind.'"

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