The Martinez Brothers, often referred to as TMB, might not seem like prime candidates to revive New York’s homegrown dance-music scene, but they are bridging genres, and generations, with their youthful-yet-knowing D.J. sets, mixing American house music (a soulful electronic successor to disco) with the ultramodern techno preferred by European clubbers. While American audiences for dance music, especially house, steadily age, TMB’s sets have inspired a generation raised on hip-hop to move to a different beat.
The brothers are packing clubs with a “younger, more diverse crowd,” said Betty Kang, the founder and president of Plexi PR, whose clients include New York clubs and promoters as well as national music festivals. “They embody New York’s history while embracing more updated elements.”
The Martinez Brothers have established themselves in Europe, headlining parties in places like Berlin and Ibiza, Spain; they were recently part of a cover of Mixmag, a British dance-music journal, that was devoted to rising stars. Now TMB’s domestic profile is set to rise as well, with major gigs at the Winter Music Conference in Miami Beach this spring and the release this month of the duo’s second single, “Debbie Downer,” a collaboration with the Greek-born, Berlin-based producer Argy. Combining looped disco vocals and pulsating tribal drums, “Debbie Downer” is an adrenaline-rush track that embodies the connection TMB makes between dance music’s then and its now.
New York’s house-music scene emerged from the disco era of the late 1970s, when D.J.’s like Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan began playing and creating records that touched on disco’s soulful side but with more percussion and electronics, creating an expansive, ecstatic sound that drew heavily black, Latino and gay crowds. In the ’80s house music became a cornerstone at discos like the Paradise Garage (where Mr. Levan was a D.J.) and David Mancuso’s Loft, where they mixed with a wide array of styles, contributing to an aural and social diversity that helped invent the concept of modern clubs and the D.J. as the nighttime’s guiding figure.
Since the mid-1990s, though, New York’s electronic dance-music scene has fragmented culturally and sonically. The styles have multiplied and splintered, drawing audiences defined by age, race and class. Clubs too began to cater to separate subcultures while larger clubs, aiming to attract broader audiences, closed.
Yet that old diverse spirit was easily identifiable at TMB’s Cielo set. Sharing the floor were graying house-music fans, bridge-and-tunnel club kids, a couple of transgender dancers and a few gay couples, as well as young Latinos and African-Americans who chanted “T! M! B!” in front of the D.J. booth. The crowd seemed to welcome everything TMB played, but the fans were most ecstatic when the brothers mashed a sleek German instrumental with the vocal of CeCe Peniston’s “Finally,” a 1991 gospel-influenced house classic that became a pop hit.
The Martinez Brothers is available for corporate events, private shows, milestone celebrations (birthday, anniversary), fundraisers, festivals, and more.