Using a series of much-buzzed mixtapes and high-profile collaborations as career catapults, D.C. rapper Wale sits poised at the threshold of legitimate fame. Don’t be surprised if he spends the rest of the year cashing in, either. Signed to Interscope and talking about image branding these days (read our interview with Wale), Wale is a polyglot of an absorbent emcee, alternately embracing and reflecting Kanye’s dramatic penchant, Jay-Z’s nonchalant ebullience and Lil Wayne’s wily grit. His introductory 2009 single, “Chillin’,” maintains the standards of excellence set by last year’s fiery Seinfeld-baiting The Mixtape About Nothing (which maimed Kramer and included a drop from Julia). Wale leaps from a Lady Gaga hook with references to the buzzcut of vanquished warrior Chris Mullin and boasts of his own made-fresh-daily wardrobe. He’ll transition from mixtapes to major-label LPs later this year. Expect him on an FM dial near you. Tonight, D.C. go-go band UCB backs the District’s disciple. Grayson Currin


You might spot the name of this electronic duonew Triangle electronic émigrés via Montreal and San Franciscofrom high school biology. Hemiptera is a massive insect order that includes shield bugs, cicadas and aphids, all tiny animals capable of significant effects when considered as a group. Similarly, as Hemiptera, Jennifer Clemente and Yanni Ehm incorporate thousands of microscopic sounds into expansive, teeming environments. Gradually modulating mid-range beats shape a modest bed for mutated wood-block pops, spectral synthesizer wisps and lingering high-end pings. The throb’s persistence is narcotic, inducing the listener into a wide-eyed lull thatfocus softenedcauses the surrounding sounds to seem that much more wondrous. An excellent late-night escape. Grayson Currin


Let’s forgive the inauspicious live North Carolina debut of Dutch producer Nicolay and Durham rapper Phonte as The Foreign Exchange back in November, shall we? That Friday evening finale to the school’s inaugural Hip-Hop Conference was relaxed to the point of distraction, where Phonte sounded more assured as a comedian than a soul vocalist. Tonight should be different, assix months laterThe Foreign Exchange has seen its share of road-warrior preparation. What’s more, this bill should remind us of those massive Little Brother and crew shows that helped earn the band its onstage reputation: Soul supporters YahZarah, Darien Brockington, Zo!, The ELs and Carlitta Durand join Phonte for a night of baby-makin’, baby-please and damn-baby tunes. Expect to two-step, laugh and sing with a night spent in front of some of the area’s and festival’s brightest stars. Grayson Currin


Steve Burnett’s name may not be a household one among local electronic music fans, but it should be: Dressed all in black with matching leather rancher’s hat and a long black beard, Burnett strikes an impressive figure. He’s moved in the goth and industrial music circles for years, and he hosts improv and experimental shows at his Badgerhaus. As Subscape Annex, Burnett comes equipped with homemade noisemakers, a Theremin and a Chapman Stick, an instrument invented in the ’70s that looks like the wide neck of a guitar but that allows many notes across a wide tonal range to be sounded at once. While Signal’s dance floor puppeteers work toward an infinite beat with the gradual acceleration of pulse and rhythm, Burnett tinkers with the abstract side of our electronic world and its pensive, restless persona. Billowing waves of static cast an irresistible, steady spell. Chris Toenes


As a DJ and remixer, Noel Sanger exemplifies where big club dance music has come from and gone to in the last two decades. His repertoire focuses on progressive house and trance, two genres known for melding mixes and everlasting sets into the night, punctuated by pop vocal hooks. As the club scene developed for this audience through all-night parties and a canon of hits, certain DJs rose to the top through a talent for mixing songs to a heady peak time and occasionally for their own edits of those staples. Sanger excelled at both, and once he became based in Miami, he jumped into the career of world-traveling professional party DJ, playing big gigs and releasing his own mix CDs. None of this was common for an American artist then, when European DJs dominated. Sanger’s new mix record, Sphere of Influence, maintains his appeal from his nascent days in Miami and places him as a populist among trance artists. Chris Toenes


Kid Koala is not your conventional DJ: The Montreal-based turntablist scratches over samples from dated spoken word and sound effect LPs, packages comic books, video games and chess sets with his albums, and once illustrated a full-length graphic novel (accompanied by the CD score, of course) that told the tale of a love-song-writing, cafeteria-working robot that falls for a human girl. Eric San’s most recent projects include a follow-up book that features a clarinet-playing mosquito and two-night “Loud Party/Quiet Work” tour stops: one night a wild, four-deck get-down, while the other a docile, dance-free evening for writing, knitting or drawing. For this Saturday night Signal performance, expect more of the former, with Koala mining traditional hip-hop to mix with his oddball record bin finds. Spencer Griffith


Boston synthesizer designer and tone warper Jessica Rylan was a favorite of the late Chapel Hill festival No Future under the name Can’t. She returns to Nightlight for the first time in two years for her eponymous debut: Rylan’s performances are spare but magnetic, using empty space and static moods as a beacon for transfixion. When she speaks into her microphone, her circuits chop, bend and break her earnest confessions as she paces and sways, calibrating knobs to reconfigure the sound. Rylan’s intimate sort of noise is steady and patient, not given to the momentary onslaughts of many of her peers. Even when she goes entirely instrumental, her synthesizers abide the same general aesthetic, their sudden shifts in tone and texture meant to pull you closer into her different gravity, not blow you further into your own. The excellent Chicago sound artist Olivia Block headlines this bill, so stick around. GC