10 Artists and Labels in Asia to Watch Out For in 2022
10 Artists and Labels in Asia to Watch Out For in 2022April 14, 2022
House and techno may have their beginnings in the sweltering warehouses of Detroit and Chicago, but its influence has spread far and wide. In Asia, the biggest continent in the world, there is an array of vibrant underground cultures where creative minds are coming together and expressing themselves through their own interpretations of sound on the electronic spectrum. This generation of artists is inspired by the visual and cultural senses embedded within their cities and beyond.
The one constant in dance music is the ethos that the spaces it fills are inclusive, safe, and free from judgment, something we all understand globally, and Asia’s underground is no different. The scene has given birth to some of the best clubs and festivals in the world: Organik in Taiwan, Rural in Japan, 宀 Club in Hong Kong, Savage in Vietnam — the list could go on. These are just a few of the boundary-pushing electronic institutions across the continent, and out of these spaces, there is now a new generation of artists and labels who are helping shape dancefloors. Here are 10 artists and labels to watch out for this year.
The techno capital of Asia has to be Japan, more specifically Tokyo. Among the neon-noir streets and maze-like alleyways are some of the world’s best techno sanctuaries, including Womb, Contact, and Vent. Mastering the decks and driving the energy of those dancefloors to pure hysteria is Risa Taniguchi. Born and raised in the city, she uses her classically trained background to create arrangements that come to fruition as hard-hitting floor fillers. One of her first releases, “Ambush” on Clash Lion, relentlessly pummels you with thunderous 808s and Hawtin-esque snares. Her productions have continued on revered techno labels such as Redrum Music and Pan-Pot’s Second State. Her EP on Second State, When I See You, delivers peak-time ferociousness, only slowing down on “Reunited G,” with its sound clearly paying homage to her time in the UK. She is currently featured on Beatport Next as one of the artists to look out for in 2022.
Acid jazz and bass guitar were the musical foundations to DOTT‘s rise as one of Bangkok’s key players in the underground. His sound is shaping the local scene, and along with co-founding More Rice Records, a record shop and vinyl-only label, he is helping cultivate a love and interest in music to a new generation of revellers. The grooves of his tracks are his defining feature with sleek productions that cross the line between minimalism, house, and techno. The Cirque De L’Espace EP perfectly embodies his ability to mesmerise and playfully seduce with the rhythm, whilst his latest track, “Pro Six Three D Three,” has a little 2-step zest. His versatility as a producer and DJ has garnered him respect worldwide and led him to play around Europe. In April, he will be headlining one of the biggest festivals in South East Asia, Equation Festival in Vietnam.
South Korea’s Closet Yi turned her energy during lockdown toward producing and has been jumping on remixes left, right and centre while steadily putting out a collection of records on hometown label Honey Badger Records. On her mix for Stamp The Wax, she used only her productions from 2018-2019, which as of yet haven’t been released, leaving us hoping this treasure trove of gems at some point finds the light of day. Since then, she’s jumped on Seb Wildblood’s label for All My Thoughts Vol.1, displaying an acute awareness for detail with the downtempo “Bird Emporium.” She also has releases on Anfisa Letyago’s N:S:DA, SOS Music, and has just dropped a bass rhythm belter with “Bmore Baby” on London label Curving Track. Expect to hear more of Closet Yi’s unique take on house music in the near future.
Maybe rising shouldn’t be used to describe Ecilo — he’s been hard at work crafting his skill since 2007 in Jakarta and he’s steadily been building the scene through tireless weekends at Kilo Lounge. Such perseverance has been paying off and his productions have landed on labels like Asymetrik, Planet Rhythm, and We Are The Brave. It’s over 15,000km from Indonesia to Detroit, but Ecilo’s productions capture the rhythm, power, and heart of that Detroit beat — you only need to listen to “Saturn Landscape” and “Delta State” to understand. He’s also recently teamed up with LA’s techno finest Synthetik Minds and 6AM Group to form a new label called Synthetik Sounds — a bridge between the East and the West to capture the more hypnotic and harder sounds of techno. He will be dropping the first EP in April and is destined to be playing the warehouses and clubs of Europe and beyond in 2022.
Hailing from New Delhi, Shatrunjai Dewan, aka Monophonik, has made waves in the local scene ever since he got his hands on his first synthesiser. He discovered psy-trance raves on the beaches of Goa in his adolescent years, but it was the Magnetic Fields Festival that had the biggest impact on him, musically. Monphonik’s productions, which touch on IDM, breakbeats, acid and techno, usually land on the lauded Qilla Records, which is run by Kohra, a godfather to the modern Indian house and techno scene. Monophonik spent a year studying in Leeds, clubbing and connecting with those in the Northern stronghold, offering explanation for the sprinkle of UK flavours laced throughout his music. His latest EP on Qilla Records, Loose Ends, asserts his arrival as one of the continent’s most original and inventive artists.
Bali is an island paradise that many want or are lucky enough to escape to and enjoy its beauty, and it just so happens to be where DBRA calls home. One of her first releases, The Alchemist, is full of deep grooves that are intoxicating, melodic, and spiritual. Its down-tempo approach hypnotises and sets us off on a path of enlightenment. Her Balinese roots influence her music heavily and instruments from the region are beautifully given space in her productions like on the sitar led “Skorpios.” Vocals are chopped and layered, calling out to the spirit of the divine on “Kawih Sunda,” and harmonies like this are something you’ll hear in her sets at the biggest clubs on the island like Cafe Del Mar, or Savaya, where she’s a regular. Much of her music is reflective of the idealistic hedonism that people seek on the island and in life itself, and in her music, you may find a piece of it. At the end of last year, she released Melancholia on Dreams Way, and we can’t wait to hear what she does next.
Haruka caught DJ Nobu‘s eye in his small hometown of Tsuruoka and was soon taken under his wing. He left his lumberjack days behind and is now based in Tokyo, where he runs the infamous Future Terror parties in partnership with DJ Nobu. This is a party that pushes the futuristic sounds of Japanese techno, which will finally be celebrating its 20th anniversary with an event series that was delayed due to the pandemic. Already Haruka’s talents have taken him worldwide, playing at Berlin’s queer-foused Herrensauna, Georgia’s Bassiani, The Bunker in New York, and the techno mecca that is Berghain. Not one to rest on his laurels, he holds down residencies at Womb in Tokyo and Azul in Oita, and runs his own label, Protection, to explore the furthest reaches of experimental techno — Cosmin TRG served up the first release. Haruka’s production skills are just as sleek as his ability behind the decks, and he’s contributed to the sublime Australian label, Butter Sessions, founded by Sleep D. Expect hypnotic, deep psychedelic techno with impeccable details from Haruka.
Although formed and based out of London, Eastern Margins is a label doing everything to bring music from the Far East and South-East Asia to the forefront. The label provides a platform for artists and collectives in the region that are creating their own unique identities and subcultures. On Redline Legends, it’s a trip through a spectrum of sounds from happy hardcore, industrial, EBM, and vinahouse courtesy of Puppy Ri0t’s “RazieR.” One of the latest EPs is a love letter to the hyper techno that evolved around the ’90s in Japan called Tokyo Resistance / Kazumi. LJC contributes with “Kuzumi” – a standout glittering technicolour anthem dancing in its own euphoria. Eastern Margins is doing a lot more than just putting out records; it’s highlighting and raising awareness of all the beautiful music and artists within this continent — just take a listen to the remix album of Malaysian artist Shelheil that has contributions from crwn, Double Clapperz, and rising star Larria just to name a few.
Operated by DJ, promoter and label head Sohail Arora and based out of India. Krunk Kulture has been running for over 11 years, primarily as an event and artist agency, fusing together the finest selectors of electronica in India and connecting them with international artists. The label is still in its infancy, only arising in 2020, to showcase the most original and diverse sounds coming out of the country and its subcontinent. Its first release, Flavours of the East – Kaala Khatta, was part of a trilogy, each paying homage to a distinct, sweet drink that marks part of their identity and memories. They make a point to have left-field releases flowing in a unique and distinctly Krunk style – using the motherland as a place for inspiration. Baalti’s self-titled EP is full of intricate samples laid over smooth, meandering deep rhythms that are incredibly fresh and manage to bring something new to house music. For a label that’s still relatively new, its output is next-level and one to keep an ear turned to in 2022.
Based out of Shanghai, Sea Cucumber is the explosive new label by Tzusing — a DJ who set himself no boundaries and established himself early on with some incredible releases on L.I.E.S. Despite no new releases from the man himself, Tzusing has been working behind the scenes to get Sea Cucumber up and running in 2021. There have already been some intoxicating releases so far that cross all types of genres. “Beams” by NKC and MM have drums that hit so hard it’s destined to tear through any warehouse speakers and make the whole place oscillate. He’s released his own remix album, Next Life, with the likes of Estoc and Dirty K jumping on board, using the ashes to produce tracks aggressively fierce and heavy. Expect the unexpected with Sea Cucumber – productions that cross all genres…. even in just one track.
Ross Lancaster is a freelance journalist based in South East Asia. Find him on Twitter.