Welcome back to On Our Radar, Beatportal’s monthly roundup of the DJs and producers we can’t get enough of.

Photo credit: Ishmil Waterman

SEEMENOT

Canadian artist Renee Thompson (AKA SeeMeNot) has arrived on the scene with poignant lyricism, powerful vocals, and a desire to redefine what it is to a Black female artist. A successful model during her teen years, her fashion career in New York was sabotaged after she appeared in The Colour of Beauty — a short exposé about the structural racism that affects Black models in the fashion industry. Leaving the ruthless enterprise in her rearview, Thompson found solace in music, using the powerful singing tradition of her family’s Jamaican roots to spur her creative spirit and voice Black solidarity. 

After four years of reflection and music exploration, Thompson has released her first single, “Borderline,” — a compelling deep house hymn with transportive lyrics and snappy percussion. With a forthcoming remix of the track from Roman Flugel, and another remix from Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard for her second single “Chez Renee” (coming this October), SeeMeNot is well on her way to becoming a profound and recognizable voice in the global electronic music scene.

BRUTALIST

After a four year hiatus, Australian producers John Hassell (Seekae) and Lucianblomkamp join forces once again as Brutalist. The duo’s 2016 debut EP, Brutalist Mixtape, received love and coverage across the spectrum, but as their solo careers and ambitions led them in different hemispheres, their joint venture took a back seat. But the two never lost touch, describing themselves as “kindred spirits.” And after carving out just a single morning of studio time in Sydney, they laid the groundwork for a new EP. 

Mixing their passion for classical music with their knack for creating heady, elegant, and melodic electronica, Brutalist have successfully dreamed up their new five-track EP, Michael J Fox — out now via Good Manners Records. Teeming with personality, the EP opens up with a grand classical entrance before plunging into a diverse collection of tracks, such as the lonely and erratic “Movements,” the feathery glider “South Street,” and the rugged “Balsalke” — featuring the London underground’s enigmatic songwriter, LYAM. 

BLACK GIRL / WHITE GIRL

Black Girl / White Girl (Karin and Ty) are all about celebrating what sets them apart and brings them together, both musically and personally. Separately, Karin is Jewish and of Israeli-Portuguese descent, while Ty is a Black artist from the tiny island of Curaçao in the West Indies. Together, they are two queer best friends living in Amsterdam and have emerged as a force to be reckoned with. Their knack for crafting buttery tech house, craggy acid, and jackin’ techno is only outmatched by the palpable collaborative energy they bring to their DJ sets. 

They’ve released music on celebrated imprints such as Green Velvet’s Relief Records, Lee Foss’ Repopulate Mars, Jerome Hill’s Super Rhythm Trax, and Skream’s Of Unsound Mind. They have earned support from heavy-hitters such as Eats Everything, Jamie Jones, Truncate, Maya Jane Coles, DJ Deeon, Mark Broom, and more as DJ-producers from across the spectrum continue to weaponize their tracks. According to Karin and Ty, they’ve barely left each other’s side since 2012, and we couldn’t be more pleased that they’ve decided to keep it that way. Their love of music first brought them together, and their talent for crafting such off-the-wall bangers sets them apart.

DJ CLEA

Swedish DJ/producer and “dancing queen of Stockholm” Clea Herlöfsson (AKA DJ Clea) made her production debut in early 2019 with her fantastic Fantasy EP on DJ Haus‘ Hot Haus Records, but by no means is she green to the scene. She’s been a staple of Stockholm’s scene for over ten years, where raving regulars and party tourists alike could consistently catch her delivering a boisterous mishmash of trance, breaks, and house at the city’s various underground venues. Having hosted radio shows at RBMA and Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM — with additional time spent time as a music columnist for Metro Sverige and editor for Red Bull Music — Herlöfsson’s tastemaking and DJing expertise is eclectic and full of pleasant surprises. 

Buckling down to focus more fully on building her production prowess, she’s released on labels such as Ghostly International, Velvet Pony, Anjunadeep, and Study Records. Her latest Historia EP, which dropped earlier this month on Seb Wildblood’s Church imprint, is perhaps her best work to date. The four-track release swims between free and easy retro synths, tumbling breaks, and ruminative basslines that are perfectly tuned for “nostalgic feelings of mid-rave contentment and dance floor togetherness.”

SUBJOI

Hailing from Australia via Poland, Jakub Fidos (AKA Subjoi) has been on a multi-year winning streak, dropping serious heat on labels like Lost Palms, Distant Hawaii, Night Vision Music, and Shall Not Fade recently, even finding himself next to names like Ross From Friends, Mall Grab and Mella Dee on the Shall Not Fade 3 – Years of Dancing compilation as early as 2018. But Subjoi isn’t one to be boxed into any category, with a catalogue that touches on garage, breaks, and plenty more. Though arguably, deeper shades of house are his forte.  

Now Subjoi comes to our attention again with his excellent EP In Absentia on the distinguished 13th Hour Records. The four track package is Subjoi’s first outing on the New York-based label, containing three originals and one remix from Loure, who turns up the bounce on “High Street.” As if to prove our point, the EP’s high point comes on “Without You,” a beautifully sublime piano cut that seems tailor made for sunrise moments — if those were still a thing. We can dream.

Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.

A true hardcore fan talks pain and euphoria after six months in lockdown.

If there’s one thing anybody knows about me, it’s that I live and breathe hardcore. I’ve pledged my allegiance to hardcore through both my digital and physical presence over the years: I tattooed ‘200 BPM’ on my right elbow ditch, started my own Spotify playlist curating the best in hardcore every month for the past 18 months, and if you’ve run into me at EDC Las Vegas, you know I’m the one standing at the rail for the hardcore sunrise set at 4:30 in the morning. My love for this music even bleeds into my career: I have the privilege of curating Hard Dance / Hardcore for Beatport along with seven other genres on the store.

I’ve been a hardcore fanatic for over three years. I’ve always been into hardstyle and happy hardcore, but when I started listening to hardcore, I just never stopped. It began with easing into tracks at 170 BPM and slowly increasing my tolerance to uptempo hardcore that often exceeds 200 BPM. Listening to hardcore makes me feel like I can accomplish anything, be whoever I want to be, and express myself through emotions ranging from excitement to anger and everything in between. 

These feelings are amplified when I get to experience hardcore live: there’s nothing like the energy of a crusty underground hardcore show or a massive festival where I’m standing among a sea of hardcore fanatics sporting merchandise and tattoos inspired by their favorite artists and labels. If someone asks me about the best day of my life, I’ll tell them all about the time I traveled to the Netherlands for the first time, alone, to experience the world’s largest hardcore festival, Dominator. I’ll gush about the festival’s seven different stages and how I got to end my night with a legendary set from Angerfist coupled with the best festival production I’ve ever seen. 

Now that we’re living in a world at the mercy of COVID-19, it’s been six months since I’ve experienced my favorite music live. For those of us who live and breathe hardcore, life is rough. Hardcore is made for the live experience. When you experience a hardcore set at the end of a long night, whether it’s in a small venue or at a festival, you feel as if you’re the last one standing after a ferocious battle. In a word, it’s truly epic. 

Courtesy of author

But earlier this year, Dutch healthcare minister Hugo de Jonge announced that large scale events will only be allowed to take place in the Netherlands after a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the public. Once I heard the news, my heart sank at the thought of what might happen to legendary hard dance event companies like Q-Dance and Art of Dance if we don’t find a vaccine in time. What’s more, what will happen to my favorite artists? How many artists I’ve connected with over the years will have a viable career by then? Even if a vaccine is distributed to citizens of the Netherlands, will the United States be anywhere near a similar solution? I know I’m not alone in my concerns, and I’m probably being dramatic, but the truth is that I’m constantly mourning the sudden loss of my absolute favorite thing in the world.

Despite the heartache, there’s plenty to be grateful for: first and foremost, I’m grateful for my own health along with the health the safety of my fellow hardcore lovers. More than anything, it’s essential that we maintain social distancing and wait for live events to return when it’s safe to do so. With this in mind, I’m also incredibly grateful for the many live streams available to watch on any given weekend: Insomniac Events in the US has shown a lot of love to hardcore fans throughout the summer with live streams featuring artists like DJ Mad Dog, AniMe, Lil Texas, Deadly Guns, and more; Q-Dance and Art of Dance produced a jaw-dropping live stream in place of Defqon.1 that featured full festival production, live quiz shows to test fans’ knowledge of hard dance, and much more.

The highlight of my summer, though, has been the live stream experience organized by the world’s largest hardcore festival (also known as my second home), Dominator. Named We Will Prevail, Dominator filmed performances by hardcore legends in the festival’s original location complete with motocross racers, apocalyptic go-go dancers, and a fully-loaded stage production. I treated this live stream as if it were the real thing: waking up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I tied my hair into a high ponytail, put on my 100% Hardcore-branded track pants and my Masters of Hardcore sports bra to watch the event alone at home — it was genuinely one of the best days I’ve had this entire time we’ve been living through a pandemic. Simply put, these events have made the at-home music experience so much more special than I ever imagined.

Beyond live streamed events, new music from all my favorite artists is coming out all the time. I’ve made hardcore mixes and listened to new music both in my headphones and turned up loud on my speakers — I don’t need an event to express my love for the music, but I sure do miss it.  I’ve taken one road trip since COVID-19 ravaged the music industry and it made me remember just how incredible it feels to listen to your favorite music in the car with the volume turned up way louder than it needs to be — when I need an escape from my apartment and I crave the energy of live music, I get in my car and do exactly that. 

Looking towards the future, my biggest fear is that my favorite artists and event companies won’t be able to return due to COVID-19 ravaging not only the health of artists, fans, and music industry workers, but also the economy of each market. However, I predict that post-COVID-19, people around the world will decide to spend their money on experiences rather than material items, and I hold onto hope that the concert and festival business will thrive because of this.

It’s been six months since I’ve lived a “normal” life, one where I went to a different show multiple times per week, and it’s made me feel grateful that I cherished all the moments I’ve spent at hardcore shows, EDC Las Vegas, and Dominator. I never took these experiences for granted and I certainly won’t in the future. There are simply no words to describe the feeling of being surrounded by people who love hardcore just as much as I do, who also know the words to every song, and take it just as seriously as I do.

We dive in with Emily Nicoll to learn more about her Canadian techno label, Aquaregia Records, while getting a taste of the imprint’s balanced and euphoric output with an exclusive mix from the label head herself.

“The catalogue has a focus on musicality, an aspect I feel is oftentimes underemphasized in the techno space,” Emily Nicoll, founder of Aquaregia Records, tells us. And while melodies have made a swift comeback in hard techno recently, what sets Aquaregia apart is its emphasis on emotional, “compositionally driven,” sounds. “You won’t find the raw, loud, distorted, high-tempo acid bangers here,” Nicoll says.  

Until recently, the Canadian-born melodic acid techno imprint released only a handful of artists, most often Vancouver’s 747, who’s been with the label since the beginning. But the Aurora Centralis remix EP, featuring reworks from Schacke, Tin Man, Primal Code, and nthng, marked a turning point. 

Speaking with Nicoll, we learn about this young imprint’s story so far, and Nicoll shares an exclusive mix, which you can check out below.

How and when did you first fall in love with acid and techno?

I can’t remember exactly when, it was sometime early on in university, but Plastikman definitely played an important role in getting me into acid music. Being Canadian, Richie Hawtin was one of the first techno artists I discovered, and at the time he played pretty often around Ontario. Digging deeper into his catalogue I found his Plastikman stuff, which instantly hooked me onto the genre. From there, I was finding similar music from around the same era, like Hardfloor and Laurent Garnier, and then ventured further back into the early acid tracks, like DJ Pierre/Phuture and Armando. I’d have them on repeat, just letting the 303 notes massage my brain. I got so addicted to that sound; there’s some quality about it that just makes you feel good. The most simple acid songs really have that effect — it’s almost medicinal. It puts you at ease and takes your mind somewhere else.

For techno in general, my tastes slowly morphed over time to end up here. Hearing music on big club systems definitely played a role. The Guvernment (RIP) in Toronto was an important club for me when I first started going out. A bit later, it was Stereo in Montreal, and then, of course, as I traveled more, Berghain.

What made you decide to start a label of your own?

Growing up, I always had this kind of internal conflict between my scientific mind and my artistic one, and as I got older, I started neglecting my artistic half a bit. I was working in the cleantech space and was always surrounded by passionate business owners and entrepreneurs, which really drove me to pursue my own passions more deeply. The label is something of an answer to make up for the time I’d lost studying and working a corporate job — a place where I can curate a specific story to share with the world. It feels good to now have complete control, artistic freedom, and the ability to operate without any imposed rules. While the label’s primary focus is on the artistic side, I still try to weave in scientific motifs where I can, like in the artwork, descriptions, and song titles.

Tell us about how you first met 747 and how you’ve grown your label’s roster over time.

Ryan and I met while studying chemical engineering at university. It was an instant connection when we discovered we both were into the same music. With techno not being too popular in Canada, it was always a struggle to find people who shared my music taste. We’d go to the rare techno event in our university town, but more often, we’d make the road trip back to my home city, Toronto. 747 was producing all through school, so a few years later, when I was ready to start a label, he was really supportive and keen to share his music on it.

Once Aquaregia gained its reputation, demos started to come in, and that’s how I came to know the other artists on the label, Troma & PERS1, and Téo Dréan. We’ve also had some guest remixers on the last EP, which featured Schacke, nthng, Tin Man, and Primal Code, all reworking 747’s track “Aurora Centralis.” It’s been a journey for the label to reach this point, but with the ever-growing roster and new projects on the horizon, it feels like it’s just begun.

What inspired the move from Toronto to Berlin?

A lot of venues were being closed down in Toronto. The real estate was either too expensive or being cleared to make way for new condos. New things would start, but sometimes the vibe would be off. A crowd from an adjacent scene would sort of take over because their clubs were getting closed down as well. Recently there have been a number of amazing new collectives doing cool stuff in the city, so the future is looking bright, but the one thing that still has room to grow is the quality of the event spaces. Bookings can be good, the atmosphere can be good, but there still isn’t enough investment put towards rebuilding clubs with quality sound systems and layouts. That’s one thing that’s so alluring about Berlin. There are so many clubs that seem so meticulously curated to have the perfect vibe, layout, sound, everything. The city also embraces them and endorses them, emphasizing the cultural importance of keeping these places alive. Techno, there is mainstream. In Toronto, I was always the one with “weird” music taste. Berlin was different. It was nice to have a place where that part of me fit in. I’m back in Toronto now, though. I did end up missing the many amazing aspects of Canada while I was away. But who knows, I may be back to Berlin or somewhere new soon.

After five years of running your imprint, what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned?

One of the most important things I’ve come to realize is that there is no right way to do things in this industry. It’s okay to find your own path. And unless you know someone who’s done the exact same thing before you, you’ll need to figure it out on your own with trial and error and many mistakes. Coming to terms with this has definitely been one of the harder things to do. My fear of making mistakes and looming imposter syndrome sometimes gets the better of me, but enduring the struggle and figuring it out solo makes the gratification of achieving each success so much greater.

What sets Aquaregia apart from other acid and techno imprints? Where does the label get its edge?

The catalogue has a focus on musicality, an aspect I feel is oftentimes underemphasized in the techno space. Aquaregia’s music thematizes using the 303 in uncommon ways — you won’t find the raw, loud, distorted, high-tempo acid bangers here. Rather, the music is more emotional and compositionally driven, keeping it subtle, smooth, natural, and human, while still maintaining a techno backbone. The softness of acid married with pads seems to be the sweet spot in creating this atmosphere. Each track penetrates deep into the listeners’ emotions and has the ability to transport to a new realm, with each song being both nice to listen to at home while still working really well in the club. 

The music seems to resonate with a lot of people and it’s been surreal seeing notes of support from fans expressing their appreciation for the music. The songs are inherently more musical in nature, which I feel makes it natural to forge a connection to them, whether that’s through a feeling the song gives, memories of the time they first heard the song, or simply the imagery the song conjures up. There always seems to be something memorable about the tracks. 

Tell us about how you came up with Aquaregia’s name, overall aesthetic, album art style, and merch collection.

The name is a nerdy homage to my chemical engineering background — ‘aqua regia’ is a chemical mixture made up of nitric and hydrochloric acids first discovered by alchemists, with an industrial application in gold refinement.   

The overall aesthetic of the label involves soft neutral colours and greyscale. I like keeping everything natural and organic to reflect what our music is saying. It’s techno, but still has a subtlety and musicality to it. The album covers for Aquaregia are all done by me, and I just try to embody this same notion in the artwork. I’m not a trained artist, so it’s a lot of messing about and trial and error to create the right imagery. I take a lot of inspiration from old geology or paleontology texts and research papers. I also draw inspiration from photographing and manipulating natural objects.

The merch collection is somewhere I’ve been trying to have a bit of fun, incorporating some anime/manga-inspired artwork and tie-dye along with more basic logo tees. I like to keep each design a limited edition so that the fans can feel like they own something special and unique. Once something sells out we won’t bring it back. 

What’s coming up next on Aquaregia?

Following on from the success of his debut album, 747 has a new EP coming up; Troma & PERS1 also have fresh material in the pipeline, new vinyl is in the works, and I’m also working on a new concept for a VA project that I’m really excited to present.

But first up is an ultra dreamy two-tracker from Berlin-based artist, Téo Dréan, which comes out this month. He shared a comment from his friends with me, which I think embodies the EP perfectly — that these are the kind of tracks where you turn to your friends on the dance floor during the break, hugging them and telling them you’re happy to be there with them.

Tell us about the mix you put together for us.

It’s a healthy combination of the range of styles I’m into. Of course, lots of acid, some electro, some ’90s tracks, and some deeper hypnotic stuff. I also snuck in a couple of unreleased tracks, like “10×400” from Téo Dréan, which will be out on Aquaregia this month and a forthcoming cut from 747. I try to maintain a balance, flowing through a range of emotions and senses — hypnotic sections you can get lost in, complemented by melancholic and moody parts, as well as uplifting euphoric segments.

Beatport and Twitch have announced a partnership that will enable Beatport to bring even more exclusive music and programming to Beatport’s Official Twitch Channel.

With clubs and dancefloors shuttered around the world in 2020, the dance music community has flocked to Twitch to get their fill of live DJ sets and cutting-edge musical performance. In this year of high growth and innovation in the world of live streaming, Beatport has been proud to bring audiences some of the most memorable and hotly-anticipated shows in clubland.

With over 140,000 followers and counting, Beatport’s Twitch Channel has amassed more than 48 million views and 221 million minutes watched. Since March of this year, Beatport has organized numerous outstanding streams such as the 36-hour live stream charity fundraiser, ReConnect, which supported COVID-19 Relief and the Beirut explosion, EP and album release streams from the likes of Charlotte de Witte and Amelie Lens, and festival partnerships including Movement Detroit, Glastonbury, Junction 2, CRSSD and Creamfields.

In addition to these larger festival partnerships and ReConnect events, Beatport will also produce several weekly show formats, showcasing some of the best acts in electronic music. 

A centerpiece of the programming will be called ‘The Residency’. Each month on Thursday evenings, Beatport will be giving the reins to one artist to host their show and curate each session fitting their artistic vision. Heading up our initial residency list are: Kerri Chandler, Seth Troxler,  Maya Jane Coles, Eats Everything, Nastia, WhoMadeWho, and SAMA’ ABDULHADI.

Sunday evenings will be given to electronic music collectives around the world to showcase a diverse program of producers, DJs, promoters, and other talented artists who feed the inspiration for the creative facets that make up the electronic music scene. First up on the docket, we have Boko! Boko! (London), Dome of Doom (Los Angeles), HE.SHE.THEY (London) and No Shade (Berlin).

Independent labels are the lifeblood of Beatport and the foundation of a vibrant musical landscape. Beatport’s initiative, Beatport HYPE, will be given the spotlight in the HYPE Label Showcases. HYPE labels such as Soft Computing, Sense Traxx, HouseU, and Hot Fuss will promote their sounds and talent each month, bringing visibility to up and coming imprints.

Additionally, leading labels such as Drumcode, Tronic, Toolroom, Soma, Ultra, Kittball, and Stereo Productions will present their new releases and exceptional artists on Beatport’s Label Showcases series.

Educational content from industry legends such as Chris LiebingFrancesca Lombardo, and K-HAND will be presented on Beatport’s long-running Studio Sessions, which will provide the Beatport audience with behind-the-scenes access to their studios and creative process.  

Last but not least, Beatport’s world-class curation team will be hand-selecting the best tunes and releases each week and premiering them using Beatport LINK during the shows from Berlin. This will include industry expert ENDO running Beatport LINK instructional sessions from Los Angeles. Weekly guests will consist of regular Beatport top-sellers and up and coming artists trying the next generation Beatport LINK DJ streaming service for the first time.

Speaking about the new partnership, Beatport’s CEO Robb McDaniels said, “We have seen firsthand how live streams are playing a crucial role in nurturing the dance music community during the pandemic, with millions of fans watching our events on a regular basis.  We have learned that in addition to big global events, dance music fans are interested in expertly curated and hyper-local live streams as well.  That is why we are committed to focusing a large portion of our live stream takeovers from local collectives who are absolutely essential to nightlife culture globally, and now more than ever, need visibility during the global pandemic.”

Keep an eye on Beatport’s Twitch Channel to lock in with the fantastic programming we have in store! 

With his latest album, Flourish, dropping soon on Diplo’s Higher Ground imprint, we catch up with Crosstown Rebels boss Damian Lazarus to find out more about the writing process, hanging out with Diplo, and what’s next for his two labels.

For the better part of two decades, Damian Lazarus has worked himself to the bone. But when we catch up with him, he’s lounging in the sun on his farm in Italy, where he’s spent most of the coronavirus lockdown with his family.

Before he was a globally renowned DJ, the UK native’s working life led him through jobs as a car washer, record store clerk, crime reporter for UK newspaper The Sun, assistant editor and music editor at Dazed & Confused magazine, and running the independent music label City Rockers. In 2002, he played his first gig at DC10 Ibiza, which led to a residency that lasted almost ten years. The following year, he started Crosstown Rebels, which boasts hundreds of releases and some of the underground’s most timeless tracks. He’s also responsible for legendary parties like Get Lost Miami, Rebel Rave, and the spellbinding Day Zero event in Tulum, Mexico — massive open-air productions that always leave audiences reeling from their ineffable atmospheres.

His latest album, Flourish, is a ten-tracks of deep and varied tunes that touch on drum & bass, house, jazz, electro, and beyond. A step removed from the instrumental complexity of his Ancient Moons project, but more robust than the arrangements found on his 2010 debut Smoke The Monster Out, the album is a bright odyssey that reaches for the fringes of the dance floor. It’s a beautifully dark yet optimistic soundtrack for our strange 2020.

Ahead of the album release, we caught up with Lazarus, who tells us more about being isolated with his family, how his album evolved after entering a mountain retreat in Austria, his relationship with Diplo, and finding optimism and light out of uncertainty and darkness.

Where you’ve been spending most of your lockdown?

I’m here in Central Italy, in the middle of the countryside. I have a farm on the top of a mountain. It’s very peaceful, and it’s very beautiful. I’m sitting in my treehouse, overlooking some lush forestry ahead of me. The sun is beating through the windows into my eyes. I’ve been very much aware and feeling blessed and lucky that I decided to go to get this place and be with my family. It’s a very fortunate thing to wake up to this peaceful nature every day and away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

You’ve gone from running your Crosstown Rebels imprint, organizing your globally revered parties such as Day Zero, and playing over 150 shows a year, to having this plethora of free time that you haven’t experienced in over 20 years. What has that transition been like, and what are some of your biggest takeaways?

Truth be told, if I hadn’t known about this call and wasn’t preparing to receive my parents here from London today, I’d probably have no idea what day it is. My life’s generally, as you rightly said, been very busy.

I’m always working on a schedule. To have the opportunity to dislodge all of the day to day trappings of work, life, getting to the airport on time, and just getting a little bit of time in between landing and going to a dinner or going to play in a club or a festival has been blissful.

Having said that, I really miss playing shows. Like… I’ve massively missed playing. I think this has been an excellent opportunity to reevaluate who I am as an artist, as a DJ, and how I want to go about DJing in the future. Also, and the kind of shows I want to do and, more importantly, maybe the ones I don’t want to do again.

Being an artist traveling and playing shows worldwide, sometimes you agree to do certain shows that just fit in-between two other shows. Then, before you know it, you’re doing four or five shows a week, and you’re not getting any sleep. I think my body and thought process has been used to that for so long, I’ve been on autopilot, and able to handle most situations. But now, the mindset is changing dramatically, and I’m starting to appreciate more time at home, more time with the family.

How did you land on the decision to create a new album?

I had a hectic end to last year and start to 2020. I was working so much. I didn’t even have a minute to breathe. I usually take some time off in January or February, but I knew I would need some extended time after looking at my schedule.

I also felt the rumblings of wanting to start making a new album. So, I prepared myself by basically taking off all of February and most of March. After 15 back-to-back shows in South America in January, I checked into a medical center in Austria to have a bit of detox for a week, and then go back to the studio and start writing some music. That was my plan, but of course, I got a much larger period to do that.

It seems like there’s a fascinating conception story behind the overall vibe and feel of the album. What was your mindset going into the studio and how it translated into this new sound?

Over the past couple of years, things have just been building up to a crescendo of awfulness. With the global political situation, the lack of any real positive global leadership, the issues with certain people dismissing climate change, the inherent systemic racism still abounding — we’ve been leading to something really dramatic, and here it is. I was starting to feel that doom and gloom heavily last year, and I wasn’t the happiest I’ve ever been.

I was busy, on autopilot, and just going through the motions. Of course, I enjoy what I do, but in my quiet moments, I start thinking, “what’s going on here?” Life doesn’t feel particularly optimistic. And I remembered that in times of economic hardship and political evils is usually the time when really creative underground music tends to come to the forefront. I started to have my own ideas about what I wanted to do, musically. Sitting in my studio, I wanted to strip it back and try and come up with something that was solely me — where am I at right now? So I’d had these ideas brewing, and I like to write notes when I’m thinking about making music before actually sitting in the studio and creating from scratch.

At the medical center in Austria, my room overlooked the Alps. One night I saw this flame in the center of the mountain. I guess it was just a light flickering, it must have been a café or something, but I had this idea that this light had ignited the belly of the mountain, and it’s going to explode. That’s where the album’s first track, “Mountain,” came to me.

I just started scribbling down ideas and track titles that popped into my head but keeping it all calm, simple, and basic. I didn’t want this new music to be too over-polluted with too many musicians. And then I came back, started working in the studio. Everything came together really quickly, and I’d say about halfway through, I noticed this dark energy working through. As I started on each new track, I felt like a tiny bit more optimism coming in, a little bit more positivity, and then I reached the point of thinking maybe I should write one vocal tune and got to work on “Into The Sun.” At that point, I was coming out the other side of this gloomy, mind residue that I was trying to rub off on myself.

Suddenly, things started to feel a bit brighter. I began to realize that just outside the studio, these amazing kids I have, and this amazing family that I have and how lucky I am to have put myself in this place where I’m currently making this music and to wake up and hang out with goats and ducks.

What are some of the records and artists you were listening to in-between sessions that helped inform this album’s sound?

I come from a jazz background, but I didn’t want to throw too many jazz motifs into this record. I wanted it to be quite sparse and electronic. I think I associate great beats generally with a dark mood, and yeah, I’ve been going back into a lot of my drum & bass this year. I’ve signed DJ Krust to Crosstown Rebels, and he’s a drum & bass legend. He’s one of my favorite producers, and I’ve been listening to a lot of his music, thinking about how to incorporate some of the things I’ve heard him do in tracks like “Soul In Motion” and “Going Nowhere” and “Warhead” into my remit. I’ve been listening to so much of his music that I contacted him to see what’s up. He sent me his new album, and I signed it.

I was also listening to quite a lot of modal jazz and psychedelic music. It’s interesting when you’re producing. I find it necessary to really dig into my collection and rediscover music that’s been sitting there for a while and hunt around. It’s just the little things that create those moments of clarity and creativity. It’s not so much like a specific track or artist that will inspire me. It’s more like a small occurrence, a tiny little smidgen of an idea will jump out at you from listening to something, and then it’s just a question of recreating or reimagining that idea in your music.

What made Higher Ground the right label for this record? We’d love to know more about your relationship with Diplo.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, one of the first people I met was Diplo back in 2008. Someone took me to his house and studio, and we just hung out one night. We didn’t really hang out much in LA when I was there, but a few years ago, he just started to become more interested in what was happening in the underground electronic scene.

I started to see him pop up in a few places, and I think I’d been playing a Tulum party when I noticed he’d come to see me play. I think he hit me up the following day to say how much he enjoyed it, and then we started a newfound relationship. He’s a massive player in this industry, and when someone like Diplo decides that’s the sound he wants to get involved in, it’s a conversation worth having. I knew that a lot of people would be a bit skeptical of someone of his stature dipping into another scene, but I think I’ve always felt that he’s very genuine when it comes to music, and he clearly has significant knowledge of most styles of music.

I got him to come and play at the last Get Lost party in Miami, and the crowd reacted really well to his set, which, surprisingly, I think he was quite nervous about. We’ve been talking a lot since then, and when I was finishing the album, I sent it to him with no reason other than I wanted him to hear it, and, the following morning, the label emailed my team and me and asked if they could release it.

I wasn’t expecting that, but Diplo told me that they’d never released an album on Mad Decent’s Higher Ground sub-label, and Flourish seemed to be a perfect fit. So, yeah, everything fell into place. I was comfortable just releasing it on Crosstown Rebels, of course, but I like where Diplo and his team are going with the Higher Ground label, and it just felt that it was a good marriage. Diplo and I also have some other exciting things in the works that I can’t discuss at the moment.

Tell us about your Crosstown Rebels imprint. What’s coming down the pike, and how you’ve adjusted your label’s overall strategy in 2020?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve stepped up our game, releasing more music regularly. Our sister label, Rebellion, has helped to do that because I’ve always loved to champion new people that I’ve discovered. It’s often challenging in this flick-through culture where people have such short attention spans and listen to a new piece of music for 30 seconds before forgetting about it.

I think that’s very worrying for our culture, and I couldn’t decide what to do to combat that. The problem is that I believe that, ultimately, the best way to do this would be releasing one or two records a year so you can put all your energies into just those one or two artists. Still, when I get excited about a new piece of music or a new artist, I want to work with them and see what I can do to help introduce them to the world. So many new people in the scene have distinct ideas and unique sensibility. So, I’ve always prided myself in the labels to be the first place to look if you’re seeking outstanding artists who will hopefully become the big stars of tomorrow.

This year I’ve decided to release some music that’s a little bit less dance floor focused and left that to the back end of this year, but essentially it’s been business as usual. I think we’ve had a terrific year as a result of that, and a lot of our artists are really starting to shine. In particular, artists like Tibi Dabo, Audiojack, Salomé Le Chat, Yulia Niko, and Dennis Cruz. As I mentioned earlier, we also have DJ Krust’s first album in 14 years coming in November, and the fourth Spirit compilation, Spirits IV, dropping in December.

I’ve had moments when I’ve thought I couldn’t be bothered to do this work with the label anymore, but I really thrive on it. I’m passionate about new music and discovering a unique sound, artist, and vibe that I can bring into my parties. I think this world of underground electronic music is a very close-knit family, but there’s always room for new people and new personalities. I’ve always felt that Crosstown Rebels should play an important role in nurturing and building this scene. It’s part of that family, you know?

Damian Lazarus’ album ‘Flourish’ drops on September 18 via Higher Ground.

Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.

The new genre represents the evolution of commercial dance music.

As elements of more traditional pop music continue to gravitate towards electronic music inspired trends, Beatport has added a new genre to accommodate those artists who excel in blending their sound with pop elements — Dance/Electro Pop.

Beatport recognizes that global dance music hitmakers — whose music moves seamlessly from the club, to the radio, to the festival stage, and back again — are capturing fans across the spectrum and are in need of a category that speaks to their pop sensibilities.

The acts leading the charge into this new dance music era that combines classic songwriting techniques with modern electronic awareness include key proliferators and tastemakers such as Alison Wonderland, Bob Moses, Channel Tres, Disclosure, Gorgon City, Lastlings, RÜFÜS DU SOL, TOKiMONSTA, ZHU, and more.

At home alongside labels like Astralwerks, FFRR, Ministry of Sound, Mom+Pop, and Ultra, the new site location will give the sounds of Dance/Electro Pop a unique place to thrive. 

Check out what some of Beatport’s Dance/Electro Pop artists had to say about the new genre launch below.

“We enjoy the challenge of integrating structured songwriting into electronic production, and we’re pleased that Beatport is creating a new home to highlight tracks like this.” – Bob Moses

“I’m happy to see Beatport expand their categories to be more inclusive of styles of music that can’t easily be searched.” – TOKiMONSTA

“Beatport has always been our go-to source to find new music. We’re so happy our music can now feature & chart with the introduction of the Dance/Electro Pop genre. Ultimately we want people discovering all types of music, including ours.” – Lastlings

Along with new Beatport Top Charts for Dance/Electro Pop, the new genre will also be included in Beatport Hype, bringing visibility to up-and-coming labels specializing in that sound.

Beatport also plans to host one of its famed genre marathon global livestream events on Twitch in the coming weeks with a diverse lineup of the stars and up-and-comers of Dance/Electro Pop. 

Check out a few Dance/Electro Pop fundamentals below, and see the full playlist here.

Speaking to the always candid Big Dope P, Will Gulseven gets the inside story behind Moveltraxx, the Parisian label that’s remained at the forefront of the globe’s footwork and juke scene since its earliest days.

“From my perspective, the music industry has never, ever been fair. The game is not fair.” I’ve been talking to Moveltraxx founder Big Dope P for less than five minutes, and we’re already diving straight into the injustices of the music industry and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected labels and artists. “I see a lot of people tweeting ‘fuck streaming’, and it’s always from people who don’t do numbers. Obviously, fuck something that doesn’t bring you money. [But] streaming isn’t going anywhere, so your tweets aren’t going to change the fact that a whole generation has grown up and never bought a single track.” 

It’s immediately clear that Big Dope P has a love/hate relationship with the music industry, borne out of years during which the odds were stacked against him and the label he co-founded in 2007, at the age of just 16. Now known for its eclectic mix of maximalist house, footwork, and Jersey club, Moveltraxx’s roster features an exhilarating mix of boundary-pushing electronic artists like Bastiengoat, Morgan Hislop, Dudley Slang and Alex Autajon on one hand, and on the other, the U.S. club music pioneers who inspired them: names like Paul Johnson, DJ Earl, and Traxman. But it hasn’t always been easy. Big Dope P is the only remaining founding member of Moveltraxx, as two of the four original founders passed away, and another moved to China, leaving the label behind. But hearing the Moveltraxx story from Big Dope P paints a picture of a label that has always had authenticity and musical integrity at its heart, with a seemingly unlikely set of circumstances resulting in one of the most respected underground electronic labels operating today. 

Growing up in the banlieues of Paris, Big Dope P’s first musical loves were French rap and US hip hop, and by his early teens he was learning to produce hip hop beats using MPCs borrowed from older friends. “I was making rap stuff but very fast, like 140BPM and up,” he remembers. Conversations with more musically-educated friends eventually revealed that, purely by chance and without any prior knowledge of those genres, the music he was making was more similar to ghetto house and Baltimore club. Before long, his mind was opened to electronic music through digging for samples, discovering that the likes of Todd Edwards and Armand van Helden were sampling the same records as his favourite hip hop producers. Still underage and only owning one turntable, Big Dope P began amassing a record collection as an avid listener rather than as a DJ, all the while honing his production skills and educating himself on U.S. club music via friends and record store staff.

But for Big Dope P and the other Moveltraxx founders, dance music was not as inextricably linked to clubs as you might expect. “I was a huge fan of the music but I wasn’t attracted at all to going to clubs. I spent a lot of time in clubs underage — basically to sell drugs — and I didn’t like the atmosphere or the music that was being played, because I was [in] the wrong kind of clubs. Everyone was playing deep house, and they didn’t want people from the hood to have access to clubs.” He adds, “I didn’t grow up in an area where people were into dance music at all. Where I’m from, everyone thought this is rich people, white-people-only music. When you watched the [music] videos you saw Bob Sinclar, you saw David Guetta, you saw Daft Punk — all you saw were rich white kids. So there was a problem of representation, and before [starting Moveltraxx], we had to convince people [that] actually, it’s for you too, don’t think it’s only for other people.” 

The issue of representation is one that Big Dope P is passionate about to this day, and goes a long way to explaining the story of how a group of teenagers in France wound up starting a label releasing tracks from Chicago footwork legends like Waxmaster and Traxman. “In France, there were people who were into collecting old Dance Mania records from the ‘90s. But as soon as [anything] went beyond 140BPM, people were like ‘We don’t like it, we don’t fuck with juke, we don’t fuck with footwork.’ But I loved that shit.” After a year of running illegal parties and self-releasing tracks from its founders, the Moveltraxx crew began striking up conversations with Chicago house and footwork pioneers via MySpace, in the process discovering that many of them felt the same way about the music industry and mainstream dance music as the Moveltraxx founders did. 

“A lot of them felt disrespected and left behind by the whole Daft Punk operation, which consisted of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Man going to Chicago in the mid-‘90s, those guys showing them around and how they made tracks. But when [Daft Punk] got their major label deals and it was time to give back opportunities with major label money, they didn’t do that. And a lot of the Chicago guys were mad about the French Touch movement, which was basically Chicago house produced with more expensive compressors. So when we wanted to [start] a label, it was essential from the start that we had to pay our respects to the OGs.”

As a result, early Moveltraxx releases featured the likes of Waxmaster, Teklife icon DJ Rashad, and Jersey club trailblazer DJ Tameil, which not only reflected Moveltraxx’s desire to pay homage to their heroes, but also came at an opportune moment for the artists. Following the collapse of Dance Mania in 1999, many artists in Chicago found that they had difficulty distributing their music to a wider audience — a gap that Moveltraxx were all too happy to fill. “The whole iTunes thing wasn’t working for them,” says Big Dope P, “so they were just doing mix CDs and self-distributing. A lot of tracks were getting big in Chicago, but there was no access for us except if you bought the CD directly from the guys via Paypal, with no guarantee of actually receiving anything”.

With their first releases under their belt, the label began to gain pace. But with little interest in footwork and juke in their native France, Moveltraxx began to look further afield for bookings. “Belgium and Austria were actually the first countries in Europe who were into juke and footwork,” Big Dope P remembers. “Belgium was number one. They were the first ones to bring DJs from Chicago and Detroit. The community in [those countries] were showing love to those artists long before France and the UK. I actually did US dates and Japan dates before being able to do a Moveltraxx night in a big club in Paris.” 

By 2010, Moveltraxx were helping put together DJ Rashad’s first European tour, taking in dates in the UK, Spain, Sweden, and Belgium. Not only was this a landmark moment for European footwork fans, but the tour also resulted in Big Dope P linking up with one of the most long-standing members of the Moveltraxx roster, DJ Tameil. “I didn’t know anything about Jersey club until I met Tameil,” he explains, “which I realise now is a huge privilege — to discover Jersey club by touring with the guy who created it. I loved the music, I loved the guy, he was instantly in my top three favourite DJs ever, because he was killing every single party we did.” Following a move to London — originally motivated by personal rather than musical reasons — Big Dope P found a regular home for Moveltraxx parties at clubs like Dalston’s now-defunct Alibi, and began to expand the label crew with regular lineup appearances from the likes of Sherelle and Naina (now of Hooversound Recordings), Morgan Hislop, and a host of other forward-thinking UK DJs like Nightwave, Mr. Mitch, and Sega Bodega

It was also around this time that Moveltraxx launched Street Bangers Factory, a regular series of compilations that acted as a home for new artists, as well as one-off tracks from the Moveltraxx family, and remixes that wouldn’t fit into the label’s otherwise stacked release schedule. “It has to be a balance between new talent, you have to bring new blood,” says Big Dope P of the Street Bangers Factory releases, which recently reached its fifteenth installment. Several artists on the label’s roster, such as Househead, Samira, and Alex Autajon, began their relationship with Moveltraxx by releasing single tracks as part of the SBF series, before eventually becoming Moveltraxx mainstays. It speaks to Big Dope P’s skill as an A&R that he’s able to juggle releases from legendary artists, while constantly nurturing new talent. Always looking forward, but without forgetting the past. 

Our conversation turns to Moveltraxx’s place in the present-day club music scene, and in particular, the recent surge in popularity of footwork and “160” music; a term that has caused commentary and debate among members of the footwork scene, who have pointed out that simply calling the music “160” has the potential to erase the contributions of the Black artists who pioneered the genre.  Big Dope P points to footwork’s diverse range of influences as a positive, but also potentially problematic if new listeners aren’t aware of the genre’s roots. “There are so many different [routes into] footwork,” he muses. “A lot of people we’ve brought in are people who are into hip hop and rap. When Hyperdub or Planet Mu did [footwork releases], they brought a more electronic audience. Now with someone like Sherelle, you have [fans] who love jungle sounds, and so you end up with people who come from different backgrounds. We just have to make sure people know where [footwork] comes from and who the OGs are. That’s the part that requires a lot of work and honesty from everyone, and it’s not always the case.”

Once again, Big Dope P is emphatic of the need to give pioneering artists their dues. “It’s essential; you have to educate people, you can’t just act like the OGs aren’t the OGs just because it’s easier. I’ve seen people come and go out of this scene based on how trendy it was. There are always a lot of copycats and people who jump on opportunities.” Referring back to the origins of Moveltraxx to underline the gravity of his point, he adds, “We were all people who were very rooted into hood stuff. And there are still people on the label who are in that life, unfortunately, and that’s why it makes me uncomfortable when people appropriate a sound just because it’s a trend. It’s not just music. People don’t know what people who were there from the beginning might be dealing with behind the scenes. It’s real, real, shit. Not Twitter threads, but real-life situations.” 

Pointing to LA-based collective Juke Bounce Werk and London’s Hooversound Recordings as two labels exciting him the most at the moment, he uses both as examples of how to represent club music in different ways. “Juke Bounce Werk have [put in] work in terms of booking Deeon and those guys, and they always share knowledge. And the fact that you now have Hooversound shows the diversity and richness of the [footwork] sound, because there are so many different ways to do it. It brings something new to the table, and it’s the result of ten years of footwork [influence] in UK dance music.” 

We end our conversation where we started, discussing the all-encompassing impact of COVID-19 on the music industry. But far from having a gloomy outlook, Big Dope P is positive about where Moveltraxx can go from here, while continuing to support their artists as much as possible. “When [the pandemic] happened, of course, I was scared, because I felt like for the first time in the label’s history, our destiny wasn’t in our hands. But I’m not like, ‘clubs are closed, we are fucked’. I’m really not into that way of thinking. If I can listen to a house track from 20 years ago at home and be happy, I’m sure that a lot of the stuff we are pushing now that’s more radio or streaming friendly can reach more and more people.”

Faced with the choice of holding on to his savings or investing back into the label to release more music, he opted to take a risk and go with the latter option, planning a string of vinyl releases from Paul Johnson, Househead Samira, and more. “I put all I have into it because I have unlimited faith in the music,” he enthuses. “I believe in Moveltraxx, and the music we represent, and the culture we represent. I acted like COVID wasn’t there.” As a label with an already impressively packed schedule, this must have been no easy task, but a glance at Moveltraxx’s recent releases shows thirteen releases in the past eight months, including two Street Bangers Factory installments and a Modus Operandi mixtape from Traxman. 

Looking to the future of the label, Big Dope P is confident – in his artists, their work, and the strength of Moveltraxx. “We’re still going hard. We’re [about to] release DJ Earl’s new album and it’s honestly the best footwork record in ages…one of the best footwork records ever!” he gushes. “We have even more new Paul Johnson with a new set of remixes, new Kozee coming on vinyl… and basically, the whole family has music coming on the label. So the future is just us going harder.” I ask about the progress of his own album, which he mentioned he was working on last time we caught up in late 2019. “The thing is, I sign so much stuff that I don’t find space to release my own music,” he explains. “I’ve worked very hard on it because I have this stupid idea about what my first album should be. But I’ll definitely release it after DJ Earl’s album!” 

Big Dope P is under no illusion as to the power of his platform and the responsibilities this entails to his artists. Having built up Moveltraxx over the last thirteen years into one of the most consistent footwork and club labels operating not just in Europe, but in the scene as a whole, he is clear that fighting against appropriation counts for nothing if the artists in question don’t see any financial benefit, particularly under the strain of the pandemic. “We want to provide new music, but we also want to support the family. A lot of [artists] didn’t have access to grants or anything, so it’s been critical for a lot of people. I’m in a position to do something for my people. I did that and I’m proud of it, and how [Moveltraxx] has done during this time.” 

Find Will Gulseven on Twitter.

Our expert curation team brings you the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time featuring Javi Colours, DJ Clock, Neil Amarey, Princebaba, Dorian Craft, and more.

Carlos Francisco & Javi Colours – Yanu (Original Mix) [SP Recordings]

Long time friends and musical peers Carlos and Javi team up to deliver a very modern version of the afro sound that’s played out massively in the clubs over the last few years. Successfully delivering the track “Yanu,” this is a stormer that is poised to fire up dancefloors in their motherlands of Brazil and Spain, as well as all over the world.

Le Croque feat. Tabia – Syanisaba (Original Mix) [Madorasindahouse]

Uprising Greek star, Le Croque teams up with the talented vocalist, Tabia — an artist who’s drawing significant attention in the genre’s native South Africa. The result is a mellow, afro groover that works just as well for both the start and end of any club night. Meaningful lyrics are mused through Tabia’s vocal performance, as she takes on the topic of domestic violence against women, sending a message all over the world that this massive cultural issue end. Magical!

DJ Clock feat. Kekelingo – Mudih (Original Mix) [Get Physical]

What can we say about Get Physical? They have been at the forefront of great music discovery for decades. Their investment in the afro house landscape has continued to grow in the last few years, and they’ve managed to uncover some incredible talent. DJ Clock, however, is not new to the scene. Having worked on cornerstone afro and house music industry labels before, The South African native teams up with Kekelingo, and the result is nothing short of exquisite.

Neil Amarey – Lose The Game (Enoo Napa Remix) [MoBlack Records]

MoBlack Records, the most prominent purveyors of afro house in recent years, taps Enoo Napa — one of the most talented producers that this scene has ever seen — to remix Neil Amarey’s new single “Lose The Game.” The rhythm is mesmerizing, and when the vocal comes in, it gets lifted it to another level. This one is set to groove!

Dorian Craft – Divination (Original Mix) [Do Not Sit On The Furniture]

Hypnotic synths and dreamy pads, on top of a classic afro house beat. This is “Divination,” Dorian Craft’s new offering on Behrouz’s Do Not Sit On The Furniture. This label never fails to surprise us, with sounds varying between afro, melodic, and deep house. Enjoy!

Princebaba – Galong (Hanna Hais Remix) [Tropical Heat]

Hailing from France, Princebaba is recognized as one of the most talented young producers in the afro house scene. Hanna Hais puts her touch on Princebaba’s single and delivers a melodic, shamanic, afro-ish version that you will be hard-pressed not to remember. This is Galong!

For more afro house tracks you may have missed, check out our Beatport Link Playlist.

We dive into the best new thing on the Internet.

In 2020, rave nostalgia is at an all-time high. From the greenest EDC infants to veteran ravers from the old days, everyone is reeling from the pandemic-inflicted party shutdown. As electronic music fans continually seek a taste of the clubland they once knew — via livestreams like Beatport’s ReConnect series or VR music festival experiences — the itch for how it used to be isn’t going away anytime soon.

In lieu of going out, one of the safer options is to stay at home, put your speakers on full blast, open up YouTube, and let the algorithm do its thing. It’s not as fulfilling as losing your mind on the dance floor (clearly), but sometimes, it can be just as entertaining.

Enter “UK Rave YouTube Comments,” the best social media account to come out of the dumpster fire of a year that is 2020. An ode to the raver’s “YouTube Hole,” this Twitter profile shares YouTube comments from acid house, UK hardcore, jungle, trance, drum & bass, and UKG videos — narcotics and nostalgia galore! 

From your standard “not a phone in sight” comments to incredible stories about drug-fueled adventures or getting goosebumps during their first club experience — even stealing cars to get their rave on — and hilarious stories about their musical heroes as they pledge their undying allegiance to acts like 808 State, Orbital, Carl Cox, and the like, UK Rave YouTube Comments is the best thing on Twitter. An unapologetically bright spot in the darkness that is the Internet in 2020. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Check out our favourite takes below along with some of the tracks that inspired these golden memories. Be sure to visit the account here.

Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.

For his debut LP, Colored, released on R&S records in 2019, Berlin-based Afriqua celebrated and reinterpreted the Black musical tradition using various strains of house and techno. Now this dexterous producer is looking toward the future, which as he tells Henry Ivry, is one he feels excited about. Though he still has plenty of thoughts on how exactly we get there.  

Adam Longman Parker (AKA Afriqua) first entered the limelight after a series of well-received 12-inch singles in the early and mid-2010s. 2015’s “Chronic Cool” and 2016’s “Soul Correction,” in particular, were guaranteed destroyers on discerning dance floors, from Sunwaves to Freerotation. Both those records worked with minimal’s formal structure of stripped-down groove, but married it with sprinklings of analogue funk and, to keep things weird, just the right dosage of drug-speckled paranoia. And while this may have been Parker’s intro to the masses, Parker was by no stretch of the imagination a newcomer.

Born and raised on a coastal outcropping of Virginia known as Hampton Roads, a musical hotbed home to royalty like Missy Elliot and Timbaland, Parker’s education in hip-hop orthodoxy meant that he was producing and DJing while still an adolescent (managed, of course, by his business-savvy mom). The next step in his musical journey saw Parker developing his piano skills at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts during high school, before moving across the Atlantic for a stint at London’s Royal Academy of Music. It was during those London years, however, when weekend warrior antics at clubs like Fabric introduced Parker to the transtemporal hedonism of Ricardo Villalobos and crew.

Fast forward to the present and Parker now resides in Berlin, regularly playing in his adopted city at venues like Heideglühen while venturing back home to play for key promoters like ReSolute in NYC. Parker’s most recent musical offerings, however, veer away from the type of introspective and loopy house that fills the bags of everyone’s favorite Romanians. Parker’s 2019 debut LP on R&S, Colored, marked an evolution, if not a shift, in Parker’s sonic and political palette. The record was an explicit celebration and interpretation of various strands of the Black musical tradition. Showcasing his piano playing, and still chocked full of club-ready fare, the record is a kaleidoscope, moving from afterhours day-trip to AM funk to Clinton-psychedelia, sometimes in a single song.  

In our conversation, we take up the political kitestrings of that record to discuss the state of dance music and race in 2020. It’s a forthright exchange that offers both a critique of the current industry while providing an outline for the next steps. When Parker highlights, for example, that not sharing IDs amounts to withholding (however incidentally) money from Black artists, it’s a pointed reminder that even within the music for music’s sake ethos of contemporary digging culture, there is an erasure of Black labor. Though he remains optimistic, arguing that COVID has provided space for both reflection and recalibration. And he feels certain that “Black artists are about to stunt hard on 2021.”

Thanks for taking the time to chat. Can you give me a quick update on what you have been up to during COVID-19?

Thanks for having me! It’s been an interesting year to say the least, but a very fertile time creatively. That beautiful Toni Morrison quote has come to mind often: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work.”

Could you describe a bit of your thought process in making Colored and how you went about foregrounding the music’s relationship to a Black canon? 

It’s a tricky balance to find creating such a thematic record. On the one hand, it’d be super wack to just make a bunch of basic dancefloor tracks and attach a profound press release and album title, but on the other hand, it was important to remember that I didn’t need to radically change my process to bring the “Blackness” of it into focus. That was the most profound realisation for me. I took it further by working exclusively with samples from the Black music canon, and collaborating with forward-thinking Black artists who are adding to it. 

A lot of your early records were championed by people like Rhadoo and Raresh and some of your first seminal clubbing experiences were at fabric seeing people like Ricardo Villalobos. This “new minimal” scene is often seen as very white and European and I wonder what your relationship to that aesthetic and sound was? Were you invested in minimal’s explicitly Black and American roots?

“Minimal” as we now know it is definitely a Eurocentric phenomenon. That’s not a critique for me, just an observation. I had the privilege of studying in London and also partying there during the end of its nightlife golden age. My relationship with that aesthetic came from those experiences, and I’m grateful for it having shaped the early stage of my career. Since those guys were my entry point, I became as invested in the music’s Black roots as they were, and I feel they were great disseminators in that regard — especially at that time. They did it in the best way possible; by playing great records by Black artists super fucking well, and building on that lineage with their own approach. The Romanian thing has unfortunately become more musically inward looking as it’s become more internationally popular. But I’m nonetheless amazed that people who were still living under dictatorship while modern dance music was first emerging in our community have been so empowered by and contributed so much to it since then.

In terms of the Perlon crew, you’d be hard pressed to find European DJs who are better curators of house and techno records from the Chicago and Detroit OGs. The only thing I see that explicitly detracts from minimal’s Black roots is the recent phenomenon of non-Track ID sharing motherfuckers, who are often people who don’t make records themselves. You gotta wonder how many Black artists aren’t getting their due for the sake of creating a mystique around the idea of “digging.” 

You mention in a Facebook video that, “over time I felt like my project needed to become more of a vehicle to express that [Black] musical tradition.” I’m curious if you feel this plays out in terms of an aesthetic shift? 

 My life is organized around my practice, and my personal and artistic development are one and the same for me. It’s not like I didn’t realize I was Black before I made an album about it. I just grew up. I went through the natural process of reconciling the previously disparate seeming threads of my identity and interests, and most importantly got better enough at my craft to pull it all together.  

Following-up on that, has there been a change in the way you’ve approached production and/or DJing in the past two years?   

Definitely. In the same spirit of personal reconciliation, I’ve turned back into my childhood approach to DJing and production, which is not to ever take this shit too seriously. When you’re 18 and just coming into everything, it’s easy to be fooled by the “seriousness” of the “underground,” but in the end, as artistic as we may be, we’re still just out here trying to help people get laid. It’s pop music.

In your ongoing critiques of music journalism, you suggest that a lot of organizations only “pay the minimum necessary dues to Black music’s origins” before moving on. I’m wondering if there is a way in which this fixation on origins also means that Black dance music is seen as historical rather than innovative and/or contemporary? 

I think that’s absolutely been the case, and we’re already seeing what a wide musical range of Black artists were lurking beneath the surface now that every publication is scrambling for that chocolate sauce. Don’t get me wrong, the OGs deserve all the love they get, but they also deserve some competition! We forget that what made those dudes legendary was how forward-thinking they were. It’s not that they used 909s, 303s, and samples. It’s that they did that shit in a way so unprecedented that it entirely shifted global culture. So it’s misguided that Black artists have come to be expected to be standard-bearers and not visionaries. Compare our scene to hip-hop for the counterfactual.

You identify a tension between editorial support and economic support for Black artists. What would it look like for publications (including this one) to actually build an infrastructure that empowers Black artists at an economic level? 

That’s one part of that video where I wish I used different words. What I meant by “editorial” in that case would have been more clearly expressed as “rhetorical”. What I took issue with was the idea that changing the rhetoric on the subject was going to foster an environment in which Black artists were taking a bigger slice of this multibillion dollar business built on Black creativity. Word capitalization is not the issue here. Publications absolutely should editorially support Black artists insofar as building consistent narratives around their careers. That doesn’t mean they should consistently big up their work, especially if it’s trash, but that they should give Black artists the same chances to compete for the public’s ears by giving their music more publicity.

To follow-up on that, I am curious if or when it’s possible for editorial support to lead to economic enfranchisement?  

We know who the “darlings” are. It’s artists who are covered from their first record to their last. Their work is acknowledged in its earliest stages as being something to be contended with, whether favorably or not. There are inevitably haters to accompany the entire process, but the compounding effect over subsequent releases is that said artists have more exposure, fans, and, most importantly, more leverage to negotiate better deals. It’s star treatment and more Black artists should be getting it.  

I don’t want you to have to pretend to have a crystal ball, but do you think that these twinned moments of reckoning (COVID and structural racism) present an opportunity to rethink the future of clubland? 

It’s not pretend. Black artists are about to stunt hard on 2021. We’ve got the public’s attention and have been ready for it. The COVID situation, for all of its tragedy, has also been something of a blessing in giving everyone the time to reflect. In an industry as competitive and nonstop as dance music, I’m not sure the racial revelations would have had a chance to be meaningfully implemented under normal circumstances. I’m excited to see what comes of it all.

You mentioned in a recent interview that you felt like the fixation on calling out microaggressions often comes at the expense of devoting coverage to Black artists. Is there a way to balance these two things: on the one hand, holding people accountable while also still finding productive ways to cover Black musicians?  

Calling people out for micro-aggressions is already the lowest form of journalism, but it’s even sadder in the context of music criticism. The most powerful thing that can be done for Black musicians is for their music to be engaged with. The rest takes care of itself. In our clickbait culture, it’s much less of economic risk to put out a hit piece about someone’s questionable behavior than it is to attempt to curate and explain the nuanced work of unknown talent, especially when they look different. This has particular significance for Black artists at this juncture, but no matter what motivates rising standards, every artist, executive, and fan in this industry will benefit equally. There’s never been anything brave or productive about talking shit on the internet. We all deserve better. 

What’s next for you? Can we expect more Corona Cookin’ videos

It’s been loads of fun showing my studio process with the Corona Cookin’ videos, and I’ll definitely continue that project. On top of that, I just finished a new remix of “Life on Planets” for Soul Clap which will drop soon. Also got a new EP on the way, stay posted!  

We catch up with Madrid-based producer and DJ Dennis Cruz whose track “Five” just hit Beatport’s overall top spot.

Congratulations on your return to the top of the Beatport charts! How many top 100 tracks do you already have?

Thank you so much! This is my fifth overall number one which feels amazing. I think I’ve had close to fifty overall Top 100s including originals, collaborations and remixes, and over a hundred genre Top 100s, which is always a little surreal to think about. I’m so grateful for all of the continuous support and this latest number 1 is unbelievable as I never expected it.

“Five” came out as a b-side track a month ago and has been steadily climbing the charts. Why did you make the decision not to put it out as the a-side?

I wasn’t 100 percent convinced on releasing it at first, and I really loved Eddy M’s track “Show Me,” so we decided to release it like this, as a split EP, with “Five” as the second track. I only played it three times in clubs, but I was making some changes to the break to try to make it a little more effective for dancefloor, and I think that because I had listened to it so many times whilst re-working on it I became a little bored of it, which is a normal thing when you’re producing music I guess. However, I came back to it and finished it up, and I think it’s turned out to be an amazing release for the label.

Can you tell us a bit about how the track came together?

I’ve just been checking the project now for this interview and I realised it came from an unreleased track that I made around three years ago. In the end I only used three channels from the old one, and then I found a really nice vocal sample, wrote the bassline, added a fresh kick and it was almost done. Over the years I’ve realised that you have a good track when you don’t have too many channels for the track’s groove, but the element that took the most time was the break. I found another sample that suited the track perfectly so I decided to make the break a little R&B influenced in terms of the beats and the arrangement, but afterwards I was a little unsure about using this part or not. However, I kept it and it works! 

What is the story behind the vocal samples — especially in the break? 

I was just looking for samples and I found these which fit so well with the beat, and from there I began working with them. As I mentioned, I was so confused about whether to use the R&B vocals or keep it a bit more dubby and dark, but I had the dancefloor in mind when I made it originally, which is why I decided to kill only the bass before working the first vocal. With the break, I needed something to take listeners up again and that’s when I began working on the various R&B vocals, the drum arrangements and the kicks, and in the end it turned out to be something that felt fresh and could potentially work… and luckily it did! 

With “Girlfriend” you’ve already put out another track on your label MÜSE. What is the main difference in running a dance music label during the current crisis? Have you made any changes to your release plan?

Yes, Eddy and I are really excited about the label and its direction. We’re extremely focused on it at the moment, and without the element of touring we’ve made some changes to the plans and are planning on releasing more often now as we’ve got a lot of new music coming up.

“Girlfriend” is a collaboration with my good friend Iuliano Mambo, and we actually sampled two or three R&B tracks throughout this one too. I’ve always loved to sample records. It’s something I learnt when I was producing hip-hop and working in the studio, and when it’s done properly it can sound great, which is why I try to add some to many of my productions where I feel that it fits well.

You live in Madrid. How are you dealing with the pandemic and does it have any effect on your productivity as a musician?

It’s been a tough and difficult moment and period for the city with this pandemic, and this is of course echoed across the country and across the world. In terms of my own changes, I have a lot more time to work in the studio which has been great and I have been taking time to enjoy some other aspects of everyday life which can be difficult when you’re usually touring and travelling. Some days you can find that you lack some motivation which can be frustrating, however, at the moment I’m in the studio regularly and I’m finding it to be much more productive in terms of making new music. I also definitely feel like I’m improving my sound as a result too.

Back in March, Shawn Reynaldo took an in-depth look at COVID-19’s impact on the electronic music world. Six months later, he’s looking at where things now stand. In this first chapter of a four-part series, Reynaldo checks in with several artists, to understand their general state of mind and outlook for the future.

Jessica Gentile (AKA Jubilee) is tired of being asked how she’s doing. “How is anybody doing right now? I am literally breathing,” she says with a bemused laugh. “I know that no one is okay. Every time somebody has asked me that, I’m like, ‘How dare you even ask that question?’ I’m alive. I’m healthy as a second.”

Back in March, Gentile was getting her head around the cancellation of Winter Music Conference and a couple months’ worth of gigs. She was worried then, but living through lockdown in New York City has seriously altered her worldview. “Everybody’s like, ‘What have you learned about yourself?’ There were freezer trucks for dead bodies in my neighborhood. That’s what I’ve learned about myself. I wasn’t learning a skill. I was fucking terrified.”

“I’m just not thinking about nightlife right now,” she says. “I don’t know when it’s coming back. This is not my career right now. If things happen, cool.” 

Gentile’s words may sound harsh, but she’s got a point. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the entire globe upside down, but the electronic music industry has largely ground to a halt. Most nightclubs are closed (often by government decree), and international travel restrictions have put a major damper on fly-in DJ gigs; depending on an individual artist’s passport and country of residence, they might even be impossible right now. Across the industry, layoffs and furloughs are widespread, and parties — at least the legal ones — have largely been postponed or canceled outright. “At first, the instinct was to move shows,” says Andrew Kelsey, President of North American booking agency Liaison Artists. “We moved March dates to June or July, then moved July to November and then moved them again or just canceled them. Eventually, it became apparent that it wasn’t worth moving shows anymore.”

Over in Rome, all of this uncertainty has left Marco Passarani (of Tiger & Woods) feeling gloomy. “My entire life depends on traveling outside of the country,” he explains, “plus the gathering of people.” The last gig he played was in February when Tiger & Woods performed in Venice on the same night that the region was put into the COVID-19 “red zone,” and though he’s worked to keep busy over the past six months, testing out new production techniques and even dropping some high-profile remixes for Christine and the Queens and Sebastien Tellier, he’s doesn’t expect to get back on the road until next year at the earliest. Moreover, he doesn’t really want to. “I don’t think it’s really right to play at the moment,” he says. “I don’t want to be part of any potential future hotspot.”

Not all of his colleagues feel the same way, and Passarani has watched as videos of top-tier DJs playing to packed — and frequently unmasked — crowds continue to surface on social media. Many of these events took place in Italy, right up until fresh outbreaks prompted the government to shut down nightclubs there for the second time. In the eyes of politicians and the cultural mainstream, electronic music often has a troubled image, even during the best of times, so now, during a global pandemic in which asymptomatic young people are increasingly being blamed for the continued spread of a deadly disease, it’s no surprise that these parties are stirring up a serious backlash, even amongst fans of the music. “You didn’t see people talking about DJs when we needed help at the beginning of the quarantine,” says Passarani. “Now people are talking about DJs and clubs like they’re evil. It’s not helping my life.”

“People don’t see our position as a real position,” he continues. “People think you’re either a rich, superstar DJ or you’re a guy who has a hobby.” Outside of electronic music circles, there’s not a whole lot of sympathy out there, even for middle- and working-class DJs — not to mention other industry professionals — with no real timetable for getting back to work. That’s prompted some artists to seek out new ways of making ends meet. “I was just getting comfortable with making all my money and paying rent from gigs at the beginning of 2020,” says Isaac Treece (AKA DJ Swisha). “Once March hit, it definitely all fell out.” While many of his friends and colleagues in NYC’s club scene began to panic, Treece threw himself into mixing and mastering. He’d only begun offering his services professionally last year, but it didn’t take long for his calendar to start filling up, especially once it became clear that selling music online was going to be one of artists’ only potential revenue streams as long as parties remained on pause. “I have crazy amounts of people hitting me up for mixing and mastering work,” says Treece. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’m considering hiring somebody to do more of it — I never thought I’d be passing work off.”

Oddly enough, the popularity of Treece’s own music has also exploded during the pandemic. He’s just released Nothing But Net, his first EP for Fool’s Gold. And alongside fellow NYC producers like Kush Jones, AceMo, and MoMA Ready — who also happen to be some of his closest friends — Treece is at the forefront of a new generation of young Black artists who’ve found success while effectively ignoring the electronic music playbook, freely hopping between genres and releasing tons of music, usually directly to their fans. “We are literally letting shit loose, making a song and putting it out the next day,” says Treece. “We’re trying to represent this music for what it is and not allow people to tell us how we should do things, whether that be labels or bookings or anything. We’re going to make it happen regardless.”

If the pandemic wasn’t happening, Treece and his friends would likely be busy touring the world. Even before COVID-19 hit, he’d lined up tours in Europe and Asia, which have now been shelved, and in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and widespread Black Lives Matter protests, there’s now a bigger focus than ever within the industry to celebrate and support Black artists. For Treece, it’s disappointing to be stuck at home when he should be the toast of the DJ circuit, but he’s not especially eager to get back to gigging too soon, and he’s definitely not up for playing at the many illegal parties that have sprung up around NYC. “These illegal things are marketed in a very cringe way,” he says, “where it’s powered by protests or there’s some ‘radical’ agenda behind it when realistically it’s just people all wanting to get fucked up under a bridge.” 

As long as the virus is out there, it’s difficult for DJs — and the industry that supports them — to plan much of anything. Clubs will likely open and close as outbreaks arise and subside in different countries, and any sense of “normality” will be hard to come by. “Before corona, I was really accustomed to thinking about things six months to a year ahead of time, more or less knowing where I was going to be almost every month,” says Mor Elian, a Berlin-based DJ and producer who also runs the Fever AM label alongside Rhyw. “Now, I can’t even think beyond November. I think we’re going to have to live with this for quite a while. Until there’s some kind of cure or vaccine, it’s going to be very hard to come back.”

For many DJs, the prospect of coming back has already lost some of its appeal, particularly if it means a return to constant travel, careerist thinking, industry expectations and the constant need to put on appearances. Elian admits that the pandemic has been something of a wake-up call, and has prompted a re-evaluation of her priorities. “Performing is wonderful,” she says, “but I don’t need to do it excessively. I need to do it in a way that feels wholesome and purposeful — and fun. I don’t need to chase anything.”

Back in NYC, Gentile takes a less measured approach. “I don’t want to go back to normal,” she says. “I was feeling crazy. There were a lot of things that I was doing that weren’t normal.” For her, even the idea of trying to remain “productive” as an artist seems ludicrous right now. “Being productive for what?,” she asks incredulously. “So everything can crash down in one day and then the 10 years you worked on something is gone? Like cool, I put my whole life into that and it’s not coming back.”

“I care about being alive and helping my friends and family,” says Gentile, who’s currently focusing her efforts on defeating Donald Trump, phone banking and writing letters to prospective voters in her native Florida. Her efforts are admirable, but for other artists, it’s more difficult to know what to do next. “I’ve been doing music for 28 years,” says Marco Passarani. “I’m not a kid. It would be really difficult to reinvent myself in a different field.” He may be discouraged, but he’s not ready to quit yet. “The pandemic didn’t change my vision,” he says. “I still live a dream, like when I was a kid watching Beat Street. My vision is a dream about music and people gathering together. It will work again. I don’t know when, but it will work again at some point. We’ll just have to find a way to resist until then.”

This is part of a running series on the effects of coronavirus on the dance music industry. We’ll bring you part two soon.

Shawn Reynaldo is a freelance journalist and editor based in Barcelona. Author of the weekly First Floor newsletter, he was a longtime contributor to RBMA, previously served as Editor in Chief at XLR8R, and has also written for places like Pitchfork, NPR, Resident Advisor, DJ Mag, Bandcamp, and Electronic Beats. Find him on Twitter.

Abby Lowe discusses the problematic and widespread reaction to Erick Morillo’s death.

When a celebrity dies, outpourings of grief inevitably flood social media. Sometimes this grief seems beautifully genuine, reflecting the totality of the deceased’s strengths and weaknesses. Other times, it’s more contrived; an obvious ploy for coveted social media engagement. But the death of Erick Morillo highlighted an even uglier side to online grief — one that systematically erases victims of sexual misconduct, while pretending to acknowledge the worst of Morillo’s behaviour.  

There’s no denying that Morillo’s death is tragic, and that the protection of his family is paramount. He was 49, and though the circumstances surrounding what happened haven’t been revealed, his death is presumed to be suicide. Even before he died, he admitted to an ongoing battle with drugs and alcohol. And despite being one of the most recognisable DJs on the circuit — someone with a megawatt smile, tons of charisma, and a talent for picking all the right tunes — he never seemed able to find contentment. Nevertheless, he was loved for his contributions to dance music, for his role as mentor, and as a family member and friend. 

But none of this changes the fact that Morillo was charged with sexual battery a month before his death (nor any of the allegations that have been made subsequently). Morillo initially denied involvement, only handing himself into authorities when a rape kit tested positive for his DNA. So while his passing is tragic for everyone who knew him or loved him, a woman must now live without the opportunity for justice. 

Unfortunately, the majority of responses to Morillo’s death didn’t reflect this. In a frightening display of predominantly male solidarity, most tributes hinted at his “troubled” past while conveniently forgetting about the victims of his alleged crimes. Some of the world’s biggest DJs made statements inadvertently defending his actions, admitting that they knew he’d behaved badly ‘but he was always a gent to me’. There were similar cries of ‘he’s not perfect but…’ — clear attempts to distance his actions from his personality, a gift sadly not bestowed to his alleged victim. 

There are several well seasoned tropes at work here, all of which predictably reinforce patriarchal dominance. For starters, a stream of famous faces within the industry refusing to call out a fellow DJ for deeply damaging crimes is a classic example of the privilege afforded to those with money, and consequently, power. In this instance, a conscious decision was made by his peers to overlook unspeakable behaviour in favour of upholding a friend’s legacy. 

That sends a message: powerful men aren’t held accountable, and women’s trauma is easily hand waved away. We’ve heard this story countless times before. Think about Harvey Weinstein’s reign over Hollywood. Yet the only way the narrative will evolve is when people gather the courage to challenge unacceptable behaviours — even in death. Is it easy to question the status quo, particularly when a friend is involved? Absolutely not. But it’s in this uncomfortable, murky place that real change can finally begin to seed. The alternative just leads to the perpetuation of the same damaging cycle.

This was abundantly clear in the backlash against the victim’s allegations. The subtext of silence in a lot of posts by big-name DJs paved the way for the all-too-common discourse surrounding the majority of rape claims: she was probably just after his money, or why did she go back to his house if she didn’t want to have sex with him? As ever, the burden of proof lies unfairly with the victim, and anyone in a similar position is no doubt thinking twice about coming forward with their suffering. 

Given the frequency of responses like this, and the renowned difficulty of prosecuting rape cases, it’s no wonder that only three out of four sexual assaults are reported, and even less result in convictions. Imagine the courage it takes to come forward in the face of such venom, especially when that person is in the public eye. Eulogising Morillo as a one-dimensional figure without also honestly discussing his victims helps no one. And in the process, recklessly dissuades women from speaking out against misconduct. 

Of course, it’s entirely possible that many of the DJs involved in the furore didn’t intend to stoke such vitriol, and perhaps as a consequence of grief, or in the impulsive rush for validation of that feeling, didn’t consider the victim or any other sexual abuse victims who might read their posts and be hurt by them (this would explain why many were hastily deleted). But that begs the question — did they really need to post at all? And if they did, surely it’s obvious that public profiles come with responsibility and that means posting with caution and compassion, always. Moreover, sexual predatory is indefensible in all circumstances. It is irrelevant if the perpetrator came from a damaged background, personal anguish is not an excuse. And regardless of the contribution anyone has made to the canon of dance music, actions that take place off the dancefloor must be viewed concurrently with what goes on inside the booth. 

Indeed, where many of Morillo’s defenders have seemingly stumbled is in confronting the age-old dilemma of how to separate the art from the artist. This is understandable. It’s by no means a straightforward concept. And when someone has memories inextricably intertwined with some of the best times of their lives, as they often do in the case of dancefloors, it’s difficult to disconnect from the person who was the driving force in the creation of those memories. But this is an erroneous approach, since we exist in a time so defined by personality-driven culture that it’s near impossible to isolate the creation from the creator themselves. We cannot remove them from what we already know, which means the artist is an inherent part of the art we consume. Instead, we either must reconcile with the mistakes of our artistic heroes, or move on from the artist completely. Otherwise the cycle will only continue. 

If Morillo were alive, he would have faced due process in court, and one way or the other, his accuser would have gained closure. As it stands, there’s no opportunity for rehabilitation and no chance for retribution. Without a long overdue reckoning of our values, it’s destined to remain a tragedy for everyone involved. 

Abby Lowe is a freelancer living in London. Find her on Twitter.  

Despite his reign as one of the world’s biggest techno DJs, Joseph Capriati‘s third studio album avoids the dance floor — and even techno — almost entirely. The Italian superstar speaks to Kristan Caryl from his home in Caserta about his little-known roots in house music, how he almost didn’t become a DJ, and his never-ending commitment to a life in music.

“I really miss playing,” sighs Giuseppe “Joseph” Capriati late one summer afternoon. “It’s my oxygen.” 

Like most of us, he’s been locked down since the end of March. For someone who has been DJing since he was 11 years old, and playing up to 200 shows a year for the last decade, it was quite the shock to his system. Not only to be home for extended periods of time, but also to be completely alone. 

In the months since, he has played a couple of streams from home, just to “feel the mixer under my hands,” he says. But he’s in no rush to play again until it is safe. Italy was the first European country to lock down, and consequently, the first out of it. So initially Capriati thought the government would keep borders closed and the scene would be contained to local guests. He was excited by plans to tour in his car, “‘90s style,” but cancelled everything once borders opened, and clubs were full without distancing measures or mask wearing.

“Of course, clubs got the blame when infections spiked again,” he says. “It’s a sad situation, and I understand some DJs and clubs need money, but Dave Clarke said it right on Facebook — superstar DJs don’t need the money. For me, music is not money, I don’t care about the money. The only way I will play is if flights in and out are controlled, masks were everywhere, and I was feeling like our country was protecting itself. Or I will come back when Covid has gone with a vaccine. I can wait.”

His first few months of isolation were spent in Barcelona, where he was a late riser who only really got inspired and motivated after dinner. “I never experienced such a long time alone, I was going crazy,” he says in a deep, gravely voice that sounds old beyond its 33 years. Although he has lived on Spain’s north eastern coast for a few years, he ordinarily isn’t home often because of his near constant travelling. The newly enforced stay-at-home routine meant Capriati had to adjust. He found himself getting deep into kickboxing, partly for the routine, and partly for the fitness. “I’d put on a little weight,” he jokes, later admitting that now he is back at the family home in Caserta, 20 minutes outside Naples in Italy, his mama’s irresistible cooking hasn’t helped on that front. 

Caserta, which sits in the beautiful Campania region of Italy, is known for baroque palaces, formal gardens, stunning piazzas and an 18th century aqueduct. It is where Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi says her family is from, and is close to Mount Vesuvius, whose eruptions over time have formed many islands in the nearby Gulf of Naples. With his new found free time, Joseph has been exploring these islands, where villas, churches and fortresses hug sheer cliffs that drop straight into the sea, where local fishermen have worked the waters there for generations, and sea caves, hidden beaches and green-blue bays provide a buffet of beautiful scenery. Their breathtaking natural beauty is a far cry from the industrial throb of techno, but that too has long been synonymous with the region. 

Despite this wealth of distractions, Joseph has spent more time in the studio than he has in years. “This time has been about reconnecting with and rediscovering music,” he beams. “I’ve been finding new techniques, learning about new things, playing with new hardware and actually using less elements, but focusing on their quality. I love what I’m doing now, it’s been really great finding a balance between life and music.”

The fruits of his labours are revealed this month with Metamorfosi, Capriati’s third studio album that is sure to shock many longtime techno fans. To most, the name Capriati is synonymous with techno. One of the giants of the genre who plays to some of the largest audiences in the scene. He’s a lord of the loop, a master of marathon sets, the latest in a long line of Neapolitan techno titans that stretches back through Marco Carola, Davide Squillace, Markantonio, and started with cult figure Rino Cerrone back in the ‘90s. But in reality, house music was Joseph’s first love, and is what defines much of the new record. 

“Real house music is where I came from. People like Masters At Work I loved, and Louie Vega has been my idol since I saw him DJ in around 1997,” Capriati says. Amazingly, 20 years later, it was in part Louie Vega who inspired him to start the new album. “He said he thought it could be a message for the scene right now, to fuse together house and techno like it used to be. The new generation don’t even know about true house music. Techno has become so popular, maybe even too global, people don’t know the history.”

Around the same time, another important conversation with a dance music legend took place. “I was confused. I was DJing a lot. I was not in the studio or producing for a year or so,” Joseph says, admitting that a period amongst the “weird and dark energies” of Ibiza a few years ago nearly consumed him and left him lost. “Carl Cox called me and suggested we meet to talk. He loves me like a son, and I love him like a musical father, and he said, ‘Joseph, it’s time to make an album. Take your time. Do it in different studios, at different times, over a long period, but you have to break your own barriers.’ He really opened my eyes and so I poured my whole heart into this record for four years.”

And the results show. The album features dubby tech grooves, some minimalistic tracks and even playful afterparty tackle. Then there is the aptly named “Goa,” a Goa trance tune inspired by a long conversation over dinner with Riktam, a legend of that sound who turned him onto the genre’s rich melodic arps.  “He made me fall in love with that stuff.” 

Although recently there has been a lack of feedback and interaction with a crowd, Joseph still managed to test Metamorfosi on a proper system, as his friend owns Mono Club, just a few miles away from his parents’ house. “It’s awesome, they sound incredible,” he says of his newest creations. While not obsessive over gear, he admits he has run certain more minimal tracks through a tape machine for extra warmth and atmosphere, and even used a theremin on one of the tracks. “I’ve learnt that you can do anything with just one synth, you can change it however you want, you don’t need lots of gear to make good music.”

That said, there is a track, “Spirit Brothers,” that was made with Louie Vegas in his celebrated New York studio — a space packed with the legendary keyboards, synths and mixers that have defined a whole generation of house sounds. “For me, it is a holy place. We made that by starting with a groove, approaching it like a dub, then laying the keys over the top. It was really magical.” Other legends of house like American keyboardist Eric Kupper and American vocalist Byron Stingily appear on the album (“Love Changed Me“), boosting its authentic credentials, and filling it with emotion, nuance and warmth that works way beyond the dance floor. 

Capriati was 11 when he bought his first belt drive Gemini deck, with 500 euros his uncle gave him after a summer spent labouring on building sites. He used his grandmother’s hi-fi turntable (which didn’t have a pitch adjust) as another deck, and the 2-channel Gemini mixer he used was borrowed from an older friend and had no EQ. He still has the whole lot in storage somewhere, and still vividly remembers using it anywhere and everywhere he could in his teenage years. Sometimes it was a local birthday party where he had to play all the pop hits, or a bunch of Latino American sounds, but sometimes, just sometimes, the crowd would let him play what he wanted, so he’d play tunes like Eddie Amador’s classic, “House Music.”  

“The club owners really took advantage of me,” he laughs. “They’d only pay me 10 euro or something and I didn’t always love what I had to do but I played every day. I really learnt how to read dance floors and play marathon sets. It’s where I made my bones.”

Then, in around 2003, friends took him to the legendary Old River Park in Caserta to see Rino Cerrone playing 12 hours of techno. “The music changed my life,” he says, the tone of his voice changing to one of awe. “I really fell in love. His mixing was legendary, there were just two walls of speakers in the middle of nature, no VIP, no lights. Wow, it was magic. Even when it started raining, people kept dancing.”

After that, young Joseph, who is a proud Neoplitain but, amazingly, doesn’t drink coffee, started buying techno. He borrowed Reason from a friend and spent the next year locked away, teaching himself how to produce on his brother’s computer. Even when friends came calling, he refused to leave home. Eventually, the discipline paid off, when he was connected with a local label manager who spotted potential. After offering feedback and encouragement for the budding producer’s early productions, he eventually released Capriati’s first record, Microbiotikin 2007. From there, he hooked up with Cerrone — the Headmaster of the Napoli school of techno, if you will — and continued to play ever bigger gigs around Campania. A few years ago, he played a 12 hour set to 15,000 adoring locals right by the seafront. “I come from these streets, I am the DJ of the people,” he says, quite rightly. 

But it might not have been this way but for a still unexplained twist of fate 15 years ago. As he finished school, his mum wanted young Joseph to get a job. He’d released his first record, but nothing really came of it. So, imagining music would always be his hobby, Capriati decided he’d become a police officer like his father. But first he had to do a year of military service, which involved a series of physical checks and plenty of paperwork. He sent it all off and waited for the call up to come. In the meantime, unbeknownst to him, DJs like Sven Väth suddenly started playing his record in Ibiza. He was “too poor” to be there himself, but friends kept reporting back. Then he started getting more and more DJ requests off the back of it. 

“I cried,” says Joseph. ” I really didn’t want to go and join the army, I wanted to be a DJ.” Eventually the letter came, but rather than calling him up, it said some paperwork was missing so he would have to apply again a year later. By that time, he was a full time touring DJ who never looked back. “I know 100 percent we sent the exact documents they needed, so DJing really must have been a destiny for me.”

Capriati — who in his early years spent time working as a decorator, delivery driver, bar man, labourer and even washing cars — talks incredibly passionately for someone who has been so deeply immersed in dance music for as long as he has. While detractors mockingly refer to him as the CEO of Business Techno, this abstracted version of Capriati dehumanises the artist behind the memes. “Ah, the Internet can say anything they want,” he says, unperturbed by the accusation. “They don’t know what is inside us. Business techno is about hype, playing too much, playing the same stuff, without time to recharge and focus properly on selection and evolving your sound.”

Capriati is in fact a sensitive soul, and hugely dedicated to his craft. The perception is that when artists get to a certain level they simply turn up, play, and leave with their bags of cash. Not him. 

“It is never just a gig,” he says firmly. “It’s always something special for the people who are there. When I first started going out, I barely had the money so I had to collect it slowly through work, from parents or grandparents. When I did go out, it was everything to me, and I will never forget that.” To prove the point, he explains an occasion a few years ago when he missed a connecting flight to Manchester that meant he wasn’t going to make his all night set at The Warehouse Project. Instead of writing it off, he hired a private jet that cost basically the same as his DJ fee and made it just in time. “In 15 years of touring, I’ve only ever cancelled five gigs, because I was really ill.”

He also says he ended a long term relationship with a girlfriend because he felt it was detracting from music. “Music is my mission. It is my energy. I’m not a dreamer who thinks he can change the world, but I can change my small world. If through music we can get teenagers off the streets, make them passionate about something, then that’s a miracle.”

He admits that he regularly cries to music, or is overcome with goosebumps at certain songs, and that the deep emotion of the chords of house music is what won him over in the first place. Nowadays he also listens to lots of jazz artists like Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Just yesterday, he was in the car listening to Armand Van Helden’s gorgeous “Flowerz” and was overcome with tingles after the breakdown. Capriati’s endless Italian passion also spills over into other things, such as cooking. Rather than knocking up a quick dish, though, he likes to clear a whole afternoon to put plenty of love and care into, say, a ragù. “It is a real ceremony. If you can make a classic ragù, you are a good Neapolitan,” he says.

Although the new album is a little slower and more pensive than his DJ sets, Joseph says the thought of “slowing down” in the club is a bit strong. “When I can play again I will maybe play 20 days straight because I have so much energy and so much music to get out there, but after that we will see.”

More than 20 years in, then, and Joseph Capriati still has all the enthusiasm of his 11 year old self. 

Joseph Capriati’s Metamorphosi is out now via REDIMENSION. Buy it here.   

Kristan J Caryl has been a freelance music writer for more than a decade, with bylines in RA, DJ Mag, Mixmag, Bandcamp, Attack Mag and RBMA. He’s based just outside Leeds, where he started community station KMAH Radio in 2015. As well as music, he’s overly obsessed with trainers, gardening, boxing, and his two children, who he raises with his wife. Find him on Instagram.

The international house music DJ and producer was 49.

Erick Morillo was found dead on Tuesday, September 1st, at his Miami Beach residence

Officers responded to a 911 call to him home at 10:42 AM this morning. Detectives are currently in the preliminary stages of their investigation as the circumstances surrounding his death are currently unclear.

The platinum-selling artist, who worked under a slew of monikers such as Ministers de la Funk, The Dronez, RAW, Smooth Touch, RBM, Deep Soul, and Reel 2 Real, was best known for global dance music hits such as “I Like To Move It,” “Do What You Want,” and “Bang.” His Subliminal Records imprint churned out chart-topping tracks such as “Fun” by Da Mob and other championed dance floor tunes from artists such as Harry Romero, Axwell, and Eddie Thoneick.

Erick Morillo secured three DJ Awards for “Best House DJ” in 1998, 2001, and 2003 and was awarded “Best International DJ” in 2002, 2006, and 2009.

In August of this year, Morillo was arrested and charged with sexual battery. The charges came after his accuser told authorities that both she and the Morillo were DJing a private party on Star Island in Miami Beach when Morillo invited her back to his home along with another woman. After refusing “several advances” that Morillo made towards her, some of which were “sexual in nature,” the woman says she later woke up “nude on the bed, with Mr. Morillo standing on the side of the bed also nude,” according to the arrest report.

Morillo denied all accusations initially, but he eventually turned himself in on August 6th, 2020. He was scheduled for a court hearing on Friday.

Mandy Alexander outlines how the supremacist history of South Africa is continuing to echo in the lives of Black people, who find solidarity, therapy, hope, and safety on dance floors across the country.

South Africa conjures up imagery of ancestral roots and resistance, where sounds and creativity for survival grow in the colonized soil. On a spiritual level, it is an intrinsically and aesthetically beautiful place. But South Africa is a heavy place to live in, as its complex history continues to thread its way into the present-day society. 

The word colonialism is naturally worked into everyday conversation amongst Black and POC because its everlasting imprint is so prevalent. Our current struggle with racial division, land reform, and other failed systems started with the arrival of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1652. They landed at the Cape of Good Hope with the intention of setting up a refreshment station to supply Dutch ships that were on their way to the East. Well, at least that’s what we were told by our colonized education systems. What it refused to emphasize was the exploitation and displacement that colonialism imposed.

Fast forward to 1948, when South Africa would bear witness to the beginning of a terrible and traumatically painful reign by the National Party — an all-white government that enforced racial segregation and institutionalized systems. Yes, on paper the apartheid was repealed in the early ‘90s. But the aftermath still plagues South Africa’s current social fabric. The color of your skin still determines your ability to access various spaces in South Africa. Spatial inequality reeks of policies that leave many marginalized people vulnerable and destitute. In spite of being told, “apartheid ended a long time ago, get over it,” we still feel and witness the psychological and economic effects it left. The one thing we have, which the ruling system could never colonize, is our rhythm. When we dance, we are not thinking about what we do not have, what was taken from us, or the institutionalized feeling of being lesser than our white counterparts. We are enough and stand in our power through the music.

Music has always played a significant role throughout the South African landscape. During the height of apartheid, musicians expressed the realities of the oppressive regime through songs. Notable figures like Brenda Fassie, Hugh Masekela, and Miriam Makeba dared to rage against the oppressive white system through their poignant music.

Today, in a post-apartheid era, electronic dance music continues to provide a safe space — one that rhythmic sound has always created throughout our violent history. Right now, we are transitioning people. Dance is the medium through which we express our sorrow and turn it into hope and peace of mind. On South African dancefloors, you’ll witness the most beautiful scenes of this world, and otherworldly connections. Dancefloors have the potential to be the portal through which we can communicate with our ancestors. If the intention of the event promoters and energy from the DJ/performer and dancers are harmonious, unspoken magic can happen. In South Africa, dancefloors are the most accessible means of therapy. Resistance pulsates through our bodies and shakes the environment around us. This is where melanin dominates and where it loudly and unapologetically moves in unison.

“Dancing is an ancient form of celebration and self-expression,” says Leighton Moody, a DJ who has been in Cape Town’s electronic music scene for over 15 years and is the co-host of a monthly party, We House Sundays. “For house heads, dance is a release from our worries, the mental and emotional struggles we face daily. I have witnessed more unity on a dancefloor than in most other social spaces. It’s important to create such spaces where people feel safe and are accepted while being themselves. [At We House Sundays], we see complete strangers of all colors, dancing shoulder-to-shoulder, and in time, they become friends with family-like bonds.”

South Africans have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to music, and we proudly express this through infectious and hyper-energy on the dancefloor. It’s a unique confidence that makes you smile with pride. In rhythm, vibration, and sound, the color of our skin does not determine the degree of respect we’ll receive because we consciously emit equality in these elements. ‘’It’s overwhelmingly beautiful to see such love and unity expressed amongst people,” Leighton says. “From an artist’s perspective, it’s amazing to witness DJs being free to express themselves musically and seeing the energetic response they receive from an appreciative crowd.”

The DJ plays a pivotal role in creating an atmosphere where dancers can feel safe to let go and temporarily transcend beyond the heaviness of their daily lives. Through Leighton’s sets, he is able to provide this necessary feeling. He creates a sense of unity, allowing those in the space to know that we all have shared experiences, and to understand that this is the moment to relieve yourself of the world’s big demands. “I need to be true to myself and what I am feeling, or wanting to express musically. I need to move the crowd by giving them a mixed bag of fresh unheard music and some classics that stir up memories and feelings of nostalgia. I love dropping spoken word poems over the music that hopefully uplifts people and inspires them,” he says. Through his sets, he hopes to provide escapism, euphoria, love, and togetherness.

South Africa’s coastal city, Cape Town, is home also to a special sound known as yaadt music. It is a genre that is not often spoken about in South Africa. Yet, in Cape Town, yaadt is the music that POC communities find escapism in. Yaadt is an Afrikaans word that directly translates to “yard” or “backyard” in English, as this is the music that is often played and enjoyed at backyard parties. Yaadt music elicits imagery of family, friends, togetherness, laughter, dancing, and joy in POC communities. In a city that is still largely segregated, Black and POC find their strength in the music and on the dancefloor. It’s the one space where we do not have to carry the burden of what it feels like to continuously be overlooked by our ruling political party. I spoke to two Cape Town-born artists to discuss what yaadt music means to them and how this sound is worthy of recognition as a legitimate genre.

BOSKASIE

“My time spent growing up in Cape Town was filled with authentic sounds of Cape jazz, ghoema, and yaadt. Ghoema, in its technical form, is a sound where lots of instruments can be used. The key element that stands out for me, however, is the rhythm and tempo of the drum. Yaadt, I would describe as a modernized, electronic derivative of ghoema,” Boskasie explains. The Cape Town-born singer and songwriter has announced that she will be releasing her debut EP called We Are Gold. It is an important piece of music that ties in her roots, lived-experiences, and love for her people. When asked about the intention of the EP, she says, “I think first and foremost, I’ve accomplished something I’ve always wanted to, and that is to combine a part of who I am with the music I make. Secondly, my hope is that through this process of reinterpreting ghoema and yaadt in a “Boskasie way,” it will bring light to these two incredibly rich genres, which have gone unnoticed [or are] not recognized beyond the borders of Cape Town, and [are] somewhat looked down upon as stereotypically coming from poorer communities. My hope is that we can recognize ourselves in this music and allow the world the opportunity to recognize themselves in these sounds too, further connecting us to the world.” Boskasie has called on Cape Town’s most-loved yaadt DJ-producer, DJ Chello, to contribute to her We Are Gold EP.  “It was important for me to work with a yaadt producer on this project to further give context to the EP. My interpretation of yaadt combined with the work of a yaadt producer was a dynamic I needed to have on the project,” she says. Having grown up in the Netherlands and now residing in Johannesburg, Boskasie encapsulates a wealth of sounds and cultural experiences. She remains grateful for all these different life experiences, which allow her to express herself musically.

As we engage in yaadt music and whether it is consumed beyond Cape Town, it is interesting to note its similarities to music in other parts of South Africa. “I would say that there are certain elements of the yaadt beat that make the sound intrinsically Cape Town. However, when making the EP, my music director Pasja and I discovered that there are similarities in yaadt with other sounds. He is from Limpopo [a province located in the northernmost part of South Africa], and there is a sound that is authentically Limpopean, which has elements that he recognized in a yaadt beat. I believe in different parts of South Africa, and the world alike, there is music that is “cousins’’ of yaadt music,” Boskasie says.

CODY LOSPER

“Yaadt music is a feeling, a really good, joyous feeling. When this genre is played in POC communities, it’s nothing but smiles and good times. This music puts an electronic twist on commercial songs that are unforgivably catchy with outrageous basslines,” Cape Town-based DJ and creative Cody Losper fondly says. “Yaadt music has always been around. As its name suggests, it is literally music that is enjoyed in your backyard. It’s just that today’s popular yaadt music has an electronic take on pop songs. The backyard house parties, this is where I fell in love with this music and this is where I got my inspiration to host the parties I do today.” Cody runs a well-loved party called Slow Down. It’s a beautiful concept that transports revelers to the good old days of pumping parties that take place at someone’s house. Word would get out that there’s a Slow Down happening and you’d gather your crew and make your way to the house party. You always knew you’d be in for a night of great music and a sweaty dance session. “I am very much into promoting the richness of what music can do for people, no matter the genre. I have always been an avid believer that through music comes cleansing. Combine music with other creative elements and it becomes a powerful tool for moving people,” Cody says. As a DJ and party host, Cody offers a space for people with different backgrounds to come together and dance.

Black and POC communities in Cape Town continue to face harsh living conditions. Genres such as yaadt provide the necessary momentary escapism for people of all ages. “For us, to have something of our own is like gold. Yaadt music is something that we embrace without a doubt. It gives us a sense of confidence. It is an immediate mood booster; just letting your worries go with a DJ Chello remix is what therapy is to us,” Cody expresses.

In a society that would prefer to sweep the violent experiences of marginalized peoples under the carpet, the dancefloor is where we boldly rid ourselves of this violence against us. Through the balls of our feet and smiles on our faces, we resist the psychological warfare. After all, the dancefloor is where we feel connected to the greater continent of Africa with its many vibrant cultures and stories!

Mandy Alexander is a Cape Town-based writer with a passion for researching and writing about electronic dance music. Through her storytelling, she expresses her perspective as a POC dancer and music enthusiast. With her words, she aspires to explore and celebrate marginalized people’s lived experiences through music. Find her sharing POC stories on Instagram.

Our expert curation team brings you the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time featuring Carsten Halm, SQL, Adelante, Vita V, and more.

Carsten Halm – Kreisel [Natura Viva]

A new epic track from Cologne-based Carsten Halm that takes you far above the clouds, just like dancing to a Mathame set at Reforma 180 in Mexico City. The synth work is beautiful and mesmerizing.

Sky Civilian – Floating In A Dream [Atomnation]

This is really like floating in a dream as it envelops you with its warm sounds and chords. I feel like listening to it on a Giegling stage in the summer, perhaps at a festival like Fusion or Waking Life. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a sunrise when your thoughts are melting away. Sky Civilian sent me this beautiful release with some sunshine from New Mexico, as well as two remixes from Applescal and Sam Goku.

SQL – Fomo Jam [Flow Vinyl]

This timeless and hypnotic tune from SQL should not be missed. It comes with such ease that you can keep the loop running for a while and lose track of time and place. Somehow it reminds me of the earlier days of Etapp Kyle.

Vita V – Pessimistic [Awen Records]

This one makes me miss the clubs more than anything. Dancing the night away with this energetic new tune “Pessimistic” from Viva V, the track’s vocal component has something ethereal and spiritual about it. It’s the 110th Release on the Spanish label Awen Records. The EP comes with two original pieces from Viva V and three remixes, a fantastic collaboration between OIBAF, WALLEN, and Mia Mendi that has a beautiful piano line, one by the Austrian duo Der Effekt, and another by the Swiss producers Miguel Lautaro and LUMME.

Adelante – Suracon [Alpha Black]

Munich’s Adelante’s new track “Suracon” begins with some percussion elements before the synth line starts which keeps the tension throughout this slightly trippy tune. It’s like riding on a camel through the afternoon sun in the desert. The name Adelante originates from a term that is widely used in Spain and South America and paraphrases “the order ahead” — the subliminal credo of the duo.

Ryan Dupree, RS63, Verdhandi – Hunter [Ballroom Records]

This remix from Boy Next Door is definitely a prime time hit. It’s like an energetic ritual around the fire where everyone goes wild. When Verdhandi was still living in Berlin, her apartment was above that of RS63. When she heard the tracks they were creating (through the walls), she immediately contacted them and decided to write lyrics and record them for their tracks. She has since become an integral collaborator with the group.

Jean Michel Schober, Modul Kollektiv – Beehive [Nervous Records]

“Beehive” sees Jean Michel Schober joining forces with Modul Kollektiv on legendary label, Nervous Records. The track sets the mood with some tasty chords and percussions before it unfolds all its layers into a melodic summer tune. Modul Kollektiv has already established a strong relationship with Nervous through two prior releases, each of which was well-received.

For more melodic house & techno tracks you may have missed, check out our Beatport Link Playlist.

Featuring Coyu, LOUISAHHH, D. Carbone, Hadone, BEC, Sara Landry, and more.

On Monday, August 31st, Beatport will proudly host some of the most remarkable talents in the techno scene to deliver a blistering assault of sinister sounds for our Hard Techno ReConnect stream.

It starts at 1AM BST/5PM PDT, and will feature a plethora of top-notch acts from Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, France, The UK, and The US. From young and promising upstarts such as Griessmuehle resident Xiorro and Texas techno priestess Sara Landry to sought after veterans like Suara label boss Coyu and master of the raw Parisian sounds, LOUISAHHH, it’s a gathering of sonic force that you don’t want to miss.

Check out the full lineup and set times below.

Be sure to check out these exclusive charts from our participating artists.

Coyu – ReConnect Chart
D.A.V.E The Drummer – ReConnect Chart
Xiorro – ReConnect Chart
LOUISAHHH – ReConnect Chart
Sara Landry – ReConnect Chart
BEC – ReConnect Chart
Any Mello – ReConnect Chart
D. Carbone – ReConnect Chart

Watch Beatport’s Hard Techno ReConnect event on August 31st via Twitch

We chat with Unknown To The Unknown boss DJ Haus to find out more about his IDM and modular inspired sub-label, Soft Computing.

It all started as a YouTube channel — a simple portal for Rupert Cogan (AKA DJ Haus) to showcase his taste in dance music: rare records, radio rips, and hidden gems that were devoured by fans across the globe. Nailing down it’s aesthetic and building up its reputation with careful curation, Unknown To The Unknown has since developed into one of the underground’s most treasured imprints, boasting original tunes from house, techno, and electro titans such as DJ Stingray, Alan Fitzpatrick, Legowelt, Physical Therapy, DJ Q, Kornél Kovács, and of course, DJ Haus himself. 

If one thing is clear, it’s that Cogan is a stellar label head, and with his enigmatic music and inviting sense of humor to boot, the desire to release on one of his labels spreads far and wide. Under the umbrella of Unknown To The Unknown, Cogan operates another three imprints: Dance Trax, Hot Haus Recs, and Soft Computing — the latter of which launched in 2018. A sub-label catered towards “IDM & Modular inspired Muzak,” Soft Computing already boasts EPs from eurorack wizard Rex The Dog, Glasgow operator Big Miz, and a slew of hugely popular Irish acts like Brame & Hamo, Ejeca, and Hammer.

We caught up with Cogan to learn more about his newest label endeavor, how he’s been handling his time away from the dance floor, what comes next for Soft Computing, and how its sounds are distinct from the rest of his imprints. He’s also handed over an exclusive one-hour mix of downtempo and ambient synth jams, and unreleased music that’s coming out on his various labels in the coming months.

How have you been handling your time away from the dancefloor this year during the pandemic?

I have been focusing on the label, riding my bike, cooking, gardening, and eating lots of instant ramen. Trying to live in the moment and enjoy today, as no matter how hard you try to control or plan for the future, nothing is set in stone. God knows what’s next — global warming, aliens… Godzilla!?

Tell us about how you first landed on the decision to turn your Unknown To The Unknown YouTube channel into an imprint. How has it evolved over the past nine years?

Nine years, I’m glad it doesn’t feel that long — at the time it was the natural progression, I think anyone that is really into music and collects records or makes a bit of music ends up setting up a label as you get more sucked in as time goes on. I think it’s great now that it’s so accessible to set up a label now for anyone who has a passion. Also, YouTube channels have become more established as tastemakers these days too, so in a way, they also serve a similar purpose to a record label. The lines are pretty blurred.

How would you characterize the difference between Soft Computing and your other labels?

At the moment there are four labels in the UTTU Omnisphere: Unknown To The Unknown [oddball electronix], Dance Trax [dance floor bombs from all genres], Hot Haus Recs [real house music flavour], and Soft Computing [IDM and modular inspired muzak].

Are there specific criteria an artist needs to meet to release on Soft Computing?

It sounds a bit corny, but it really is the “vibe” of the record, and where I see it sitting on the catalogue. It’s not dance floor orientated music, but again, it kind of is, so even I can’t put my finger on it!

Are there any “IDM and modular inspired” records or artists that helped influence Soft Computing’s musical direction?

Not really to be honest. It seemed to naturally end up as an outlet for that kind of sound as the first couple of releases weren’t in that style. Still, generally, I’m a huge fan of Skam, Schematic, Warp, Force Inc. — there used to be a great shop called Small Fish on Old Street which used to push that sound, but not sure if I’m just randomly remembering things or if they actually influence the ideas behind the label. We re-released the first-ever release on the legendary IDM label Schematic — Metic’s Matrix Blaster EP — so that’s one to check out if you want a taste of inspiration.

What would you say is the biggest perk and hardest part of running your own record label(s).

For me, the biggest perk is meeting some of my favourite musicians and sharing the label’s music at festivals and nightclubs. Also, seeing it featured on sites like Beatport gives me a huge buzz. On the other hand, the actual day to day running of a record label isn’t as glamorous as it could seem from the outside. Nothing lasts forever. You are only as good as your last record, so I’m fortunate enough that my tastes seem to be somewhat relevant in the general music scene for people to take notice and make artists want to release on the labels. 

What are your plans for Soft Computing for the rest of the year?

We are putting out an audio-visual album from Vocoded Industries, which will come as a VHS with 100% original video synthesis using some rare video synths. Alan Fitzpatrick will be debuting on the label under his 3STRANGE alias with an EP of synth-wave and ambient-breakbeat. Plus more modular house music from Mod Man, then 2021 will have some pretty unique surprises too!

Tell us a little bit about the mix you made for us.

It’s a bit all over the place, a mixture of downtempo ambient synth jams, unreleased music that is coming out on the Soft Computing and UTTU labels over the next few months.

Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.

We catch up with LA-based producer and DJ Chris Lake whose extended mix of Josement’s “All Night Alone” just hit Beatport’s overall top spot.

Congratulations on your return to the top of the Beatport charts! Did you already have a chance to celebrate the news?

Yeah, I just did a massive pub crawl with my mates and then threw a huge celebration party in downtown LA… Actually that’s bollox. I just woke up, I’m in isolation for the sixth month, I don’t drink and I’m questioning if my friends remember who I am. Thanks for asking though.  

Your version of Giuseppe Clemente (AKA Josement’s) “All Night Alone” is not a radical remix but mostly an edit of the track arrangement using different drum and bass sounds. When you listened to the original what did you want to change and why?

Yeah, I did very little to this in comparison to a normal remix, to be honest. Having said that, this edit ended up taking me quite a while to get right as I rebuilt the drums and bass from the ground up and it took a while to get the balance I felt it needed in my head.  Essentially, I was told about the original track by Chris Lorenzo (my partner in crime for our group ‘Anti Up’) and I immediately knew I needed to get hold of the stems to make this track work the way I wanted it to. So I hit up Josement and he sent me the stems. Easy.  

Did you immediately get the lyrics of the song? What do they say (asking for a friend)?

Yeah. I saw them and honestly, I don’t want to tell anyone what they are now because I think they’re more magical when you don’t know.

“All Night Alone” is not the only track from your label Black Book Records currently in the Beatport top 10 (Martin Ikin’s “Hands Up” is currently still at number 4). 

What is the main difference in running a dance music label during the current crisis? Have you made any changes to your release plan?

The crisis hasn’t had a hugely adverse effect on the label, to be honest with you.  I think the main thing we’ve found is that many people are now holding back music until touring is clearly back. I totally understand that mentality. We’re working harder than ever looking for new music and artists to sign/develop etc. Our plan is to develop records and artist’s profiles so that when clubs open again, more people will want to go to their shows. That’s how to build a career.  

Because of your family situation, you have to have quite a strict lockdown at your home in LA. How are you dealing with this and does it have any effect on your productivity as a musician?

Well, honestly, it sucks, but I’m not alone in saying that. My house is being renovated and we’ve been living in an apartment while it gets finished. Then my mother in law had a big stroke, COVID happened and we didn’t want to risk her catching it at a healthcare facility, so we rented a house, discharged her and we’ve been home caring for her since March. I have a tiny (purple) room that I stream and make beats in but I struggle to mix things how I’d normally do, so a couple of times, late at night I’ve gone to my studio when nobody is around my studio complex and bosh out some mixdowns. Just making the most of a crap situation like the rest of us.  

Like many DJs these days you’re spending a lot of time on Twitch. Do you have a regular schedule and what is your experience using the platform? Is it a different way for you to connect with your fans? 

Yes, I’ve been doing it quite regularly and it’s been loads of fun. To start with it’s been an experiment just to see how comfortable I am streaming in the first place.  It took me ages to get the tech right. But already there is a fantastic community building around the streams I do. The main music-focused ones being production streams and then black book demo submissions. Just watching how my live feedback to music has already influenced the music being sent to the label.  It’s positive and again, feels like it’s making the best of a bad situation.

Drawing inspiration from science fiction, Black liberation, and early Detroit techno, the Motor City-based Huey Mnemonic has been unstoppable as of late. Meeting with Mnemonic, Crystal Mioner finds out more about this young and humble producer.

In an Alameda County jail cell in 1968, 10 months into what would be his most prominent incarceration for the accused act of killing a police officer, Huey P Newton sat down for an interview with The Movement Newspaper, a California-based publication. In a lengthy and oft-quoted back and forth, when asked about the role of youth in the revolutionary movement, Newton said: “The younger people, of course, are the ones who are seen on the streets. They are the activists. They are the real vanguard of change because they haven’t been indoctrinated and they haven’t submitted.”

At 25 years old, with a taurean grounding, Huey Mnemonic, aka O’Shay Mullins, represents just that — a new vanguard of change. Armed with a few beat machines and a revered respect for the Black roots of techno, Mnemonic is poised for a long career aiming to create music that expands Black consciousness and pushes back against the whitewashing of the genre. The producer and sometimes DJ takes his name partially from Newton, and partially from the 1995 cyberpunk film Johnny Mnemonic, a cult classic portraying a dystopian future controlled by mega-corporations. Johnny, played by Keanu Reeves, is a “mnemonic courier” responsible for carrying sensitive data implanted in his brain. 

“All the sci-fi movies I would watch as a kid, there was like maybe on black character, always supporting the white character that’s meant to be ‘the one.’” Mullins says. “[But] why aren’t there more people who look like me?” Mullins, a long time Star Trek fan, counts his love of deep space as a foundation for his sounds, and it’s easy to recognize. His song titles, like “Control Mission,” which was one of his first releases, or “Emissary” from his breakout out Vanity Press release, tend to incorporate exploration narratives. When I ask him about afrofuturism, a term that’s long been associated with the goals of techno, he says, “Afrofuturism to me is a future where Black people thrive and are a part of the technological advancements and philosophical advancements.”

Mullins has always had a penchant for technology; for taking things apart to figure out how they work before putting them back together. His entry into making music started back in 2010 with chiptunes, a style of music made using old video game consoles. Over the next decade, he moved into collecting hardware; old things he could use to create his new sound. He now utilizes eccentric signal flows to add texture to his music, and has been open about his nods to Drexciya with his electroish basslines.

Growing up in Flint, Michigan, he was influenced by R&B singers like Monica, Aaliyah, and Brandy, who he heard through his mom, or in local rap mixtapes given to him by his dad. His love for dance music went even further back. His granddad, who had a big influence in his childhood, was a dancer in local clubs. When he passed away when Mullins was in 9th grade, there was a shift. “He was just this beacon of light for me. I’ve even been told by family members that after he passed, I wasn’t the same. Sometimes I wonder what I would have been like if he had lived into my teen years.” He twists the ring on his finger, a hand me down from his grandpa. 

While in high school, Mnemonic found radio stations like NTS and Rinse FM to find and connect with electronic music. EDM, dubstep, LA beat — nothing was off-limits. In 2011, he began producing in earnest, moving from Fruity Loops to Ableton. He uploaded his early experiments to SoundCloud, but he’d usually end taking them down after just a few days. Rather than being too embarrassed to keep going, however, he relistened to old work and used it to grow and sharpen his craft. 

When at 19 years old he left Flint for the western Michigan city of Grand Rapids, Mullins hunkered down making music while maintaining a job at a fabrication factory. While not as well known as Detroit, Grand Rapids holds its own with dance music, with crews like Calder City Development Corp and Vinyl Fetish doing regular parties. In 2017, Mullins also started Vibrations Radio — a precursor to his Vanity Press track of the same name — on local radio station WYCE. Dedicated to “diving into the vast spectrum of electronic music,” Vibrations Radio featured a rotating cast of Grand Rapids DJs and producers.

By 2018, he’d released Control Mission, a three-track EP “inspired by one night at a warehouse party.” As an amature graphic designer, Mullins made the cover art for Control Mission by creating a collage from old comics. He parallels this process in approach to music, taking something old and making something new again. The following spring he released Joyous Occasion, a “rhythmic ebb & flow dedicated to celebration” with cover art also by Mullins. 

And then there was the Vanity Press release. Mullins is humble about his budding celebrity, but if you were on a dancefloor during the summer of 2019 (or anytime after), you were probably dancing to at least one of his tracks. Vanity Press has a reputation for breaking unsung artists, but all credit really goes to the labor of the producers really, deeply, authentically doing the shit. The four-track EP by the virtually unknown Mnemonic blended house, breaks, and aquatic funk to create classics such as “Hydrocity” and “Vibrations Radio.” He followed that with a track on Argot’s American Dance Music Vol. 2 and the three-track Aquatek Assortments EP. 

But just before 2020, Mullins finally moved to Detroit in order to be closer to the pulse and roots of techno. Since then he’s been regularly jamming with friends like Sard, Rawaat, Joey 2 Lanes, and Shigeto. And he’s found himself embracing the more soulful house sounds of the city, thanks to black Detroit natives Bale Defoe and Ash Lauryn

Most recently, though, Mnemonic launched his Subsonic Ebonics label this summer with the excellent Virtuosity EP, featuring a remix by NYC’s MoMa Ready. The EP fires on all cylinders and the title track especially has a timeless quality that belies Mullins’ youth. It’s Detroit techno at its finest. True to his humble nature, when I ask what’s next for Mullins and about the legacy he wants to leave behind, Mullins casually says, “I’m trying to not predict the path. Just walk it.” An emissary indeed.

Crystal Mioner is a Detroit-based writer, DJ, and “technomusicologist,” exploring Black music from a queer Black feminist upbringing. She currently writes for Black Bandcamp covering Black producers and songwriters from the Midwest. Catch her posting memes and occasional words on Twitter and Instagram.

With her hotly-anticipated second album about to drop, Paul Hanford speaks to Welsh electronic musician and producer Kelly Lee Ownes about embracing the past, the uselessness of genres, and how music and creativity can help heal trauma. 

For someone in the midst of the often grueling promotional routine of back to back interviews, Kelly Lee Owens is remarkably upbeat. 

“It’s a nice thing to be getting back into the rhythm,” the DJ-producer tells me. After a decision to wait for record stores to reopen, her second album is finally being released.

Inner Song could cut with stroboscopic precision onto the darkest dance floor, if dance-floors were currently a thing, whilst simultaneously drawing connections to a vast lineage of musical history. This is techno that somehow could only have ever been made by a noughties indie kid from Wales, who cut her teeth selling merch at gigs for The Maccabees and who absorbed vinyl working in some of London’s top record stores. She’s made no secret about the difficult time she went through that led up to the record’s creation, and Inner Song feels like what happens when the cathartic process of making music leads to something life-giving. So if Kelly seems full of good energy, could it be that the album is impossible to discuss without some of that magic being present?

The nearest thing Inner Song reminds me of, not in terms of the actual sound but in some other way, is LCD Soundsystem, in that it’s a completely futuristic record but also feels part of a massive musical history — I can hear so many different elements and feelings. 

It’s interesting you mentioned LCD Soundsystem because when I was selling merch for The Maccabees, Sound of Silver came out and I became completely obsessed. I was eighteen, exploring my indie roots and that album crossed over for me and I just fell in love with it. But I think for me, it’s a combination of my experience working within record stores. It’s so nourishing and such a privilege to be exposed to all the new stuff, but also the older stuff, the stuff that I missed, the stuff that I wasn’t born to witness at that time. I want to create music that is of the moment but could be in the future, and also in referencing the past, in my own way, is as honest as possible.

There’s a sense of being inspired by a spirit rather than an actual sound.

Totally. Because those feelings and intuitions can be expressed in any kind of medium and in different genres, [so] why limit yourself? I have a bit of a problem with genres, and even now people say, ‘Oh, techno queen’ and I’m like, well, that’s nice, but that’s just one element. Sometimes I don’t even know if you can call it techno. I understand that sometimes it’s easier to reference things, but there’s a track, “Re-Wild,” which is actually more R&B influenced. And then you’ve got the weird shit with John Cale; trippy, one key stuff.

How did the John Cale collaboration come about? 

As Welshies, it’s that thing of when you’re from somewhere and someone else is from there too, you’re like, maybe we should connect. And it just happened to be John Cale and I’m very grateful that it was. He asked me to do vocals for one of his tracks and then we stayed in touch and I just knew I wanted to work with him. His voice, it’s so iconic, just to hear him speaking in an interview, it has this depth and commands attention, so I wanted him to tell a story that related to where he came from. I remember reading that he’d lost his connection to Wales and that was one of his biggest regrets. He was like, ‘Yeah, I haven’t written in Welsh for decades’. And so it makes it even more special that after two decades where he hasn’t written anything in Welsh, on my track, he felt comfortable and able to do that.

Inner Song, as a title for the LP, feels like it’s got a connection to listening into yourself. I read somewhere before that you’re very interested in the healing potential of music.

I think it’s something we’re only touching the surface of, or re-touching the surface of, because I feel like for thousands of years, this has been known, it’s just been forgotten somehow. I was reading a book called Healing Sounds and it talks about Tibetan monks, where they’re chanting up to fourteen hours a day and they did an experiment where they stopped chanting completely for three or four days. They became lethargic, tired, depressed basically. They see it that the chanting has specific frequencies and resonances that can recharge the brain. Ultimately everything is vibration and everything has a resonance. For me, going to sound baths, if you haven’t done it before, after you’ll have the best night sleep of your life. It’s one way to release trauma. We all have a sense of trauma, especially in childhood, there are things we don’t even realise affect us.

Did the healing aspect of music help during the making of the album? I heard that you’d gone through quite a difficult time before. 

Yeah. So making the album I was post-going through something which involved a lot of different types of losses, one of the main ones being a loss of self through a specific situation. I questioned whether I could make anything anymore, because it was draining of energy and I was in a very difficult place to be in. I hadn’t really made much over those three years because the first album rippled in such an organic way that by the third year, I was being asked by Jon Hopkins to tour around the UK with him and to DJ at fabric, and I didn’t have that downtime that you’d perhaps expect. So when it came to making the record, the floodgates literally opened. The music before the vocals was written in about thirty-five days, which is no time at all. I didn’t create for so long that it all just came out.

Do you ever get nostalgia for when you were an indie kid?

Oh, totally. I mean, it’s some of the best years of my life, 2007-09, so much fun. Oh my God, I had a car, I just drove around. I did road trips every week. I was going to all the live shows and experiencing everything for the first time and soaking up this super exciting world and meeting all these people. I was in a shop in Soho today and there was a playlist on playing Maximo Park. I was like, ‘Oh my God, do you remember?’ And I thought ‘God, I’m fucking old now, the way I’m speaking about music.’ But music is that direct access to a memory. I’m just grateful I experienced it and that’s always part of me. I haven’t moved on and now I just do techno only, it’s forever interweaving. 

I always feel a lot of the people you see at Berghain were probably in Australian indie bands ten years ago

(Laughs) Yeah. Things just evolve and that’s the thing.

Inner Song is available now via Smalltown Supersound. Check it out on Beatport.

Paul Hanford is an English-born, Berlin-based podcaster and writer, specialising in music and identity. As well as Beatportal, he’s written for WIRED, Native Instruments, Mixmag, Boiler Room, Highsnobiety, Somesuch Stories, BORSHCH and The Wire. His podcast, Lost And Sound, was awarded backing from The Arts Council Of England and attempts to show the human stories behind underground music. Find him on Instagram

Sistrum Recordings favorite Aleqs Notal walks us through his evolution from award-winning hip-hop turntablist to deep house expert, and serves up an hour of flavorful records that will set your ears ablaze.

French DJ-producer Aleqs Notal has been an underground music lover for the entirety of his music career, which now spans over two decades. Born in the Paris suburbs in the ’80s, his first love affair with music came early in life with hip-hop. An obsessive vinyl collector, Notal first put his artistic predilections to the test as a turntablist, working his way up the ranks in his city’s hip-hop scene, which eventually lead him to be crowned a World Champion turntablist by Red Bull in 2010.

It was at the turn of the decade that Notal gave into his dance music desires, joining France’s famous ClekClekBoom Recordings crew alongside artists like French Fries, Bambounou, Chaos In The CBD, and more. It was at this time that he began to find his groove in the studio. After working at his production skills for years, he released his debut A.E.T. EP in 2014 — a lush and jagged four-track record with a mind for hard-nosed dance floors. Years later, in 2017, his production shifted to a more soulful and laidback sound, exploring his love for West African percussion and classic dance music from Detroit and Chicago. Allowing the fundamental sounds of disco, funk, jazz, and soul to exude between lines of four-four arrangements, Notal was picked up by Patrice Scott’s Detroit imprint Sistrum Recordings for his Ascending Nodes EP.

His technical skill behind the decks has landed him residencies at revered Paris venues such as La Machine du Moulin Rouge and Rex Club, along with numerous gigs at clubs Concrete, 6B, and over the airwaves on Rinse FM’s French station. His reputation for delivering rich and seasoned house sets has brought him to 17 different countries around the world, playing out at famed clubs like Panorama Bar, Tresor, and fabric London. His penchant for percussion has even brought him to Laos in Nigeria, where he was the first French DJ to perform at Fela Kuti’s historic New Afrika Shrine venue. 

Our Label of the Month, Sistrum Recordings, continues to prove itself a perfect fit for Aleqs Notal’s silvery drum arrangements and eloquent melodies. With this in mind, we caught up Notal to go over the evolution of his lengthy career and dig deep into how his musical mindset tends to shift and grow. In addition to this, the prolific French artist has provided a seamless hour of deep jams that have been fine-tuned for both “your travel and hot moments,” wherever they find you.

You’ve been collecting records from a very young age. What were some of the first and most formative records that you added to your collection?

I use to buy hip-hop records when I started. I didn’t have the opportunity to play in clubs because I was too young, so I worked on my DJ skills in my room, scratching on acapellas like Jeru The Damaja or Guru from Gang Starr. I also remember going to a record shop with older friends in Paris downtown to find The Creator from Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth in the late ’90s. When I had the money, I also used to buy some breakbeat records with sound banks like percussions loop or vocals. I felt the light on these rhythm sounds at this time because I still use these sounds now in my productions. If you listen to my EPs on Sistrum (Lighten You Up and Ascending Nodes), the congas loop, some shakers, and percussion elements that I pitched up come from these records.

You kicked off your music career more involved in the hip-hop scene in Paris. Tell us about the style of hip hop you were listening to and how that music eventually led itself into your interest in underground dance music?

I never specialized in one genre of music. I always felt the energies of underground music with soul. But I also watched a lot of TV when I was young, so the first time I saw a clip of Prince, I fell in love with every girl in the video. Everything was beautiful and sexy. When you have 15, you are influenced by everything you find demanding and provoking, so it was normal for me to learn music through hip-hop. When I discovered and learned the origins of the music that gave me these strong energies, it was natural to go to house and techno. I felt as if it was in the same light as hip-hop, funk, or soul music.

Much of your signature soulful house style focuses heavily on complex percussive elements. Tell us about your record The Paris-Lagos Soundscapes, and how your time in Nigeria has helped influence your sound.

I made this record just after releasing Ascending Nodes on Sistrum Recordings and Disparity on Finale Sessions in 2016, so at this time, I started to find another kind of signature to my music. After the years working and releasing records with my crew from ClekClekBoom Recordings, I wanted to keep my touch of production by adding organic elements. On these two EPs, I used some percussions samples extract from my scratching records that I manipulated to create another groove of congas and shakers.

For the Paris-Lagos Soundscapes, I wanted to go further. When I started to make the tracks at home in Paris, I used some Nigerian traditional percussion samples like the talking drums. Because Nigeria is the birthplace of afrobeat with Fela Kuti, I wanted to go there and replace all the percussion samples by real instruments. I had the opportunity to go to Lagos, where I met a fantastic local drummer named Wura Samba.

We booked two days in the studio, and we recorded as much percussion as possible (talking drums, conga, bata, etc.). When I returned to Paris, I booked two days in the Red Bull studios to mix the track on the SSL 4048.

Later, after releasing the EP on Syncrophone‘s subdivision imprint, Phonogramme Recordings, I came back in Nigeria to do a show in Lagos with Wura Samba and local musicians at the New Afrika Shrine. This experience and human adventure completely changed my vision of life.

With over a decade of experience behind the decks as an award-winning turntablist and highly respected DJ throughout Paris, what was it that made you decide to get into production? Had you ever produced music before your A.E.T. EP?

It’s been 20 years now since I first started DJing, so after ten years of different projects, the natural evolution for me was to get into production. The game changed a lot during these years, so I wanted to produce the music that I wanted to play. It was another way to challenge myself and to compare my music with other producers. This is how we started the label ClekClekBoom in 2010. I produced music on ClekClekBoom and other labels such as Karve through a project called The Town before my first release in 2014 as Aleqs Notal with my A.E.T. EP.

Tell us about how you first linked up with Patrice Scott and Sistrum Records for your two-tracker, Lighten You UP.

I met Patrice in 2014 at my friend’s Bass Cadet Records Party with Aybee, Arcarsenal, and friends in Berlin. The year after, I had a residency in Paris in a club called Monseigneur, so I booked him. The magic happened during this gig. We have the same vision of life and music, the same approach, so he asked me to make an EP on his label. In 2016, the year before the release Ascending Nodes, we had another gig together in Nantes. The magic happened again because the promoters who booked us didn’t know about our friendship and the forthcoming collaboration. Two years later, I made Lighten You Up in the same way that we worked before.

How have you seen the underground dance music scene evolve in Paris since you got your first residencies at places like La Machine du Moulin Rouge and Rex Club? What are your hopes for the Paris club scene once the pandemic ends?

The music scene changed a lot! The past decade was intense in a good way because Paris was the city where you could listen to big DJ names playing with smaller locals names in a lot of different excellent venues with high-grade sound systems like Rex and La Machine or Concrete.

Then we saw a new wave of DJ appear because of a new generation of promoters and club owners. It became more difficult to find a place between all these new names even if you release good music. But I think this is the natural evolution of things. This is why I sometimes need to take some distance to find a better way to keep the light and keep the good energies going. Once the pandemic ends, it will be necessary for the Paris club scene to realize that they have to support the local scene. When I talk about the local scene, I talk about the local talent. I think that there are more and more DJs, but fewer and fewer talents. For me, this is the most important thing to save the music scene.

Tell us a little bit about the mix you made for us.

I was with a friend, and she wanted to listen to some hot tunes. So I made a selection of different deep jams from Patrice Scott to Leonid with the ’90s sounds from Alkemy to percussions from my brothers Chaos In The CBD. Recorded live from my studio in Paris, it’s made with your travel and hot moments in mind.

Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.

Having just released her She Sleeps LP, we catch up with Italian dance music superstar Deborah De Luca about her first gigs, her Sola_mente imprint, mood swings, her dogs, and the sounds of her childhood.

For Italian DJ-producer and tastemaker Deborah De Luca, 2020 has not been a year to sit idle and let time pass her by. Despite the lack of live gigs and travel — a COVID fact of life that has greatly affected her jetsetting routine and income — De Luca has kept a strong and level-headed approach to fueling the buoyant and continuous climb of her prominent career behind the decks.

Born and raised in the rough Italian neighborhood of Scampia — a sprawling housing estate on the outskirts of Naples that’s been made famous through the Italian crime film and TV series Gomorrah — De Luca was afforded no legs up in life. Eventually moving to Northern Italy to study fashion, her spirit found its calling in her ever-growing enthusiasm for nightlife and club culture. First working in clubs as a waitress and then as a dancer for several years, she eventually moved back to Naples where she connected with famed Neapolitan DJ-producer Giuseppe Cennamo who took her under his wing and taught her the ropes in mixing and production. Right out of the gate, De Luca exhibited a lethal combination of natural talent and unshakeable motivation to become one of the most prominent flag bearers for techno music on a global level.

Since founding her Sola_mente imprint in 2013, she’s performed in over 40 countries, headlined major festivals, and sold out numerous showcases at some of the most prestigious clubs in the world, including fabric London, Privilege Ibiza, Uberhaus, Cocoricò and more. She is a sizable presence in the DJ elite, and the lack of late-night adventures in 2020 has not deterred her 2 million-plus social media following from seeking her music out; case in point, De Luca’s performance for Beatport’s ReConnect livestream back in May has racked up over 500,000 views on YouTube so far.  

Now De Luca has released her sophomore album, She Sleeps. We caught up with this techno lionheart to learn more about her production process during the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy, the simple aesthetic behind the LP, where her musical motivations come from, her pets, her label, and her victory over insomnia.

What was it like growing up in the neighborhood of Scampia, right outside of Naples? 

When you are a kid, you often don’t understand the difference between one place and another, because you have friends, family, and your whole life there. You begin to understand that you lack opportunities when you grow up, shortly after adolescence, when you feel the need for more avenues, more information, more answers, and I’m gone. 

What are some of the records that your father had in his collection that caught your attention early in life? How did this music lead you into a love of techno?

The first record that brought me closer to techno, indeed, to disco, was surely Madonna’s “Like A Prayer“. For the first time, I was hearing sounds that were different from other records. I felt a very precise rhythm, and that curiosity for those sounds brought me to where I am now.

Who are some of the techno DJs that first inspired you to step up to the decks and try your hand at DJing? Can you tell us about the first time you performed as Deborah De Luca in front of an audience?

The first DJ that made me want to get behind the decks was Scarlett Etienne. I saw her in 2007 in Riccione, and I fell in love with her. The first time I performed in front of an audience, though, it was a disaster. I was not ready, I was nervous, and people were perhaps expecting someone much more confident, more involved in the track while I had my eyes locked on the turntables.

Did you ever play an instrument before you began producing techno? Tell us a little bit about your initial journey into the studio and how your production processes evolution since then.

I have never played an instrument before, as I have never gone dancing classes or have done any sport. My parents couldn’t afford it, there were five of us with only my father’s salary, and life was very expensive in the north!

My first-ever production was created in 2013 with the help of Giuseppe Cennamo — an outstanding producer who’s released on Desolat and other important labels. Six Months was my first EP, and very different from the sounds I use today. I have evolved a lot, and so many things have changed in seven years!

During the height of the pandemic in Italy, what was your daily routine like? What were some of the things you found most frustrating during your time in quarantine? 

I have not lived through quarantine badly because I have a house on the beach and a pleasant space to move. I spent a lot of time with my family, my dog, and I quickly finished my new album. I ate a lot, played party games, and did the things I never had the time to do because of work. The only frustrating thing was that being used to traveling every weekend for 12 years, I missed getting on a plane and touching the sky.

You’ve been building up an incredibly loyal fanbase for over ten years, and now you have millions of followers on social media. What would you say is the essential component to building a strong following and making your fans love you?

For each job or character, I think it’s different, but there must be normality at the base of it. I have always shown off my life like any other, more or less. Love for dogs, food, sunsets, everyday things that everyone can access. Then on top of that, my music does not have one specific genre; it really ranges. It contains so many influences, and practically anyone can find at least one record interesting, and hate another one so much.

Tell us more about your record label, Sola_mente Records

I started the imprint in 2013 with the help of the Giuseppe Cennamo. He helped me open this label and first taught me the DAW that I use to produce. I’m someone who learns quickly. I have a lot of emerging artists that I follow and often publish, such as Sopik, F-Rontal, Shadym, Nostromos, Volodia Rizak, and many others.

How long have you been working on your debut album? And how are you feeling now that it’s finally coming out?

I started the album just before the lockdown, so I finished it in the four months I had off. I had a lot of time! It’s an album that tells you about me and my mood swings. I go from one groove to another, showing my character (which is never easy). It tells of my growth, but also of my bond to the sounds of my childhood.

Can you tell us about the name behind the LP and what influenced your aesthetic choice for the album art?

I like simple things where essential elements stand out: Artist’s name, title, and photos. I wouldn’t say I like abstract things or complicated ones that maybe have a more underground aspect but don’t reflect the person.

The name of the album is a tribute to my past problems with sleep. It’s a problem I’ve had ever since I was a child. I’ve always had horrible nightmares, and my relationship with sleeping has been one of love and hate. Then a year ago, something changed. I found an unexpected balance that I never imagined I could ever feel. Now, She Sleeps.

We’ve recently seen a ton of new artist apparel pop up on your social media profiles. Can you tell us more about the new clothing project?

The clothing project is new, even though I have been thinking about it for some time. There are t-shirts, sweatshirts, trousers, and even male and female costumes that are very simple but impactful, at affordable prices. I want everyone to have the opportunity to buy one of my sweatshirts, if they wish, without paying for the brand. In September, I will start selling online all over the world!

Tell us more about your dog!

My dog Filippo is like a son, but in reality, I have more than one dog. Some stay with my mother, some with my brother, some that I entrust to friends. I collect many rescue dogs from the street throughout the year. I found Filippo tied to a pole in a town in the province of Naples, he was a puppy and injured, I took him home even though I couldn’t afford it and I couldn’t part with him. Now he is my green-eyed prince.

You performed your first post-COVID party in Cagliari back in July, and you’ve played a handful of others since. What was it like being able to perform in front of a crowd once again?

It was on July, 11. Playing again was like never having stopped, I felt as always, thrilled, even if the conditions were not normal, with distance and masks!

Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.

Featuring Cinthie, Detroit Swindle, Mike Dunn, Soul Clap and more. 

On Monday, August 24th, Beatport will proudly host some of the best artists in deep house to play one of our grooviest ReConnect streams yet. 

It starts at 1AM BST/5PM PDT, and will feature an all-star cast hailing from America, Germany, the Netherlands, and more, including two legendary, old-school originals, Mike Dunn and Mark Farina, as well as Detroit Swindle, Soul Clap, and Cinthie, who recently released her debut album, Skylines — City Lights, on Aus Music (read our recent interview with Cinthie here).

Check out the lineup and set times below.

Ahead of the livestream event, be sure to check out these exclusive charts from our participating artists.

Anané – ReConnect Chart
Demuir – ReConnect Chart
Detroit Swindle – ReConnect Chart
Elisa Elisa – ReConnect Chart
LADYMONIX – ReConnect Chart
Marina Trench – ReConnect Chart
Mark Farina – ReConnect Chart

Watch Beatport’s Deep House ReConnect event on August 24 via Twitch

Welcome back to On Our Radar, Beatportal’s monthly roundup of the DJs and producers we can’t get enough of. This time, with rising talent chosen by our guest editor for August, Ash Lauryn.

ZAIDA

Atlanta-based Zaida is steady on the rise, and at two just and a half years into her DJ journey, she’s on her way to becoming a household name in the city. Taught the craft by close friends in the industry, she says her itch to DJ stems from a love of clubbing and nightlife. As a trans-femme, Zaida makes it a point to prioritize “the girls” during her sets, and wants to create an atmosphere that “femme queens can be comfortable in.” You can catch her playing everything from trap to R&B edits to Detroit techno. 

Before the pandemic, she got a taste of life on the road playing the infamous A Club Called Rhonda party in LA and San Francisco, putting her twist on club sounds. Her recent mix for Discwoman was featured as Resident Advisor’s “Mix of the Day” and also selected for their July 2020 roundup of best music. With close friends and collaborators like beloved Atlanta producer Leonce on her team, the possibilities are unlimited, and Zaida is actively making her mark as one to watch.

THE AM

The AM is a Detroit-based DJ that lives and breathes Detroit techno and electro. Gaining her first exposure to electronic music at Detroit raves during the ’90s, The AM’s approach to music is rooted in her early days on the dancefloor. After a short stint in Miami, she’s been back in her hometown for just under a year, and has been putting the majority of her focus on music. Since back in Detroit, she’s teamed up with the legendary live act Scan 7, DJing as a duo with group member Mr. Hooper on occasion.

The AM’s unapologetic affection for harder sounds sees her steadily building a name for herself, performing at this year’s DEMF virtual festival, and garnering attention from fans stateside and abroad. Her DJ mixes for NTS Radio, Wokoundou, and Scan 7 have been well received and showcase her in-depth knowledge and understanding of the timeless music birthed in her hometown. If you’re looking for hard-hitting, high energy sounds do yourself a favor and get familiar with The AM.

FATHER DUKES

Hailey Dukes (AKA Father Dukes) is a Detroit music journalist turned DJ, who is part of an exciting new generation of DJs coming out of the city. As with many other Detroit DJs, Duke’s sound is genre-bending and pulls from many different inspirations including house, techno, hip-hop, funk, soul, and disco. As a member of the Seraphine Collective, a network for women, femme, and non-binary DJs, Duke represents Detroit’s inclusive artist community and enjoys uniting people through dance. Her often vinyl-focused DJ sets take place at popular local venues like Marble Bar and TV Lounge. Most recently, she played an excellent b2b set with local virtuoso Shigeto on The Lot Radio.

DEVOYE

NYC DJ and producer Devoye is hot, and has been doing his thing longer than some may think — his Soundcloud dates him uploading his productions as far back as 2014. His work includes house, techno, disco, ambient, and even some edits of beloved tracks like Cherelle’s “Saturday Love.” Brooklyn’s dance music scene has seen an influx of talent over the past decade, and while Devoye hasn’t received a lot of press like some of his counterparts, his contributions are equally relevant. 

As of 2020, he’s still actively pushing the boundaries with his project “Withered and Blooming,” which he said was inspired by reading the book The Secret Life of Plants. The tracks make for an ethereal experience in sound; a journey into a celestial realm that soothes the soul. A must listen to those more into the experimental side of music. He most recently dropped an acid influenced track called “Outcha Mind,” which instantly reminds one of the group Phuture back in their heyday. He’s also regularly DJing throughout NYC, including being a resident DJ of Brooklyn’s Half Moon Radio.

NIKS

London’s Niks Delancy may be a newcomer to the game but is quickly staking her claim. As one of the organizers of “Black Bandcamp,” a crowd-sourced list of Black artists on Bandcamp, Niks plays a crucial role in the sites day to day functions, including screening submissions, which she says are sometimes “though the roof.” Niks also recently partnered with Mixcloud for her series “Niks Presents,” where she hosts some of her favorite DJs for guest mixes accompanied by interviews held on Mixcloud’s Instagram Live. 

While her behind the scenes work is essential, her skills as a DJ prove to be equally commendable. She hosts a monthly show on Bristol-based Noods Radio called ‘The House of Delanancy’ where she showcases her love of dance music, playing everything from house classics to more electronic left-field sounds. She’s also no stranger to the guest mix realm, most recently dropping mixes for Machine Woman‘s Rinse FM show and SheSaidSo Radio on Dublab. Her fantastic mix for SheSaidSo pays homage to the black women whose voices play an integral role in modern dance music.

Atlanta-based DJ and writer Ash Lauryn is Beatportal’s Guest Editor this month. In this letter, she explains why she took this role, as well as her thoughts on the current race reckoning, and what she hopes we can accomplish next. Follow her on Twitter.

We catch up with Mark Gaunt (AKA Serum) whose drum & bass track “Chop House” just hit Beatport’s overall top spot. It’s the first time in Beatport’s history that two drum & bass releases (after The Phibes remix of Beat Assassins “Home Grown”) have landed two number 1 slots in a row.

Congratulations on your first Beatport number 1! Did you already have a chance to celebrate the news?

Thank you! This was a big achievement for me so I’ve had a few choice aged Belgian beers from the stash and a nice curry with my family.

You’re been releasing tracks for more than 15 years by now. Did you have the feeling that you’ve got something special with “Chop House”? 

It’s been around a while now and I’d had plenty of demand from DJs and fans so I knew it was the most wanted of the current batch of tracks but I didn’t know it would get as far as it has done. 

How did you make the track? And what came first – the string sounds or the bassline?

It was the bassline and there’s a funny story behind that. I’d wanted to make a sound like it for quite a few years after hearing something similar years ago in a much slower track and eventually cracked it using a Yamaha FM synth after years of messing around. I’ve since learned the original sound was a preset on a VST synth that a ton of people must have scrolled past over the years and not thought to play around with it. Some people think producing is all about the engineering side of things but a lot of it is seeing the potential in sounds that other people don’t.

You’ve been playing “Chop House” for quite a while. Why did you wait until now to put it out?

I always like to road test tracks to give people a chance to warm to them and you have to get around a lot to break a track properly. I also always have a lot of tracks and releases at any given time and each one needs space so it took a while to find a release window given all the other tracks I’d already scheduled.

You’re also part of Kings of the Rollers with Bladerunner and Voltage Unit. Have you been able to work on more tracks lately?

There are a few bits that’ll see a release soon but we’re about to get cracking on the next big batch of tracks. Expect a new sound!

When you put out the Kings of the Rollers album last year you stopped working with samples like you did in the past. Did this new approach also have an impact on your solo productions?

Yes, I learned a hell of a lot making that album. We worked really hard on the musical parts and making it more cinematic as well as working with lots of vocals which was challenging but rewarding. I took a break from that sound immediately after the album to focus on making fun club tracks but lockdown really gave me a chance to put some of the musical ideas into practice again.

Has the current crisis had an effect on your creativity or workflow? What have you lined up until the end of the year?

I really miss DJing but at the same time, I’m not tired all the time from destroying my body clock every weekend and actually feel like I have time to experiment. I’ve written more music since March than I have in any other year of my life and I don’t have the pressure of having to write for clubs so I’ve been trying loads of new things out. I still have a lot of unreleased tracks I was playing in the clubs before lockdown so I’ll be bringing those out but after that you’ll start to hear a different sound from me.

Check out Serum’s favorite August Rollers via his latest Beatport Chart here.

We speak to DJ Harvey about his remixing process, his decision to re-release his Locussolus album, and DJ Harvey’s “Berghain” remix competition, which you can find out more about here.

Few characters in dance music cast a larger shadow than DJ Harvey. He’s been called “the Keith Richards of dance music,” and his hours-long DJ sets are the stuff of legend. His dance floor intuition is on par with the best in the business, and his sets span wildly disparate eras and genres with the seamlessness of a man who knows music better than almost anyone else on earth. 

Harvey carries that same intuition into the studio, where he’s become as famous for his remixes as his original productions, having remixed the likes of The Police, Jamiroquai, and The Brand New Heavies.  

With our DJ Harvey remix competition now in progress, we caught up with the man himself to learn a bit more about what he’s looking for, and how he approaches the remix process.

Why is now the right time to re-release Locussolus?

We just kept being made aware that a lot of people hadn’t heard of or heard the album in recent times (it’s been unavailable for sale anywhere for a few years). With the inclusion of Kiwi’s previously unreleased remix of “Next To You” on the [Care4Life] NHS compilation, I started to find these “Oh, I wondered what this track was” comments online about it. It reaffirmed the fact that a fresh generation had missed it, so we thought, why not?

Next to You” was a Loft classic played by [David] Mancuso himself before his passing (as well as a Weatherall staple), so that, along with people discovering it was Heidi Lawden on vocals on that particular track, had piqued people’s interest. “Berghain” was always the track that I get the most inquiries about.  

And why do so digitally?

Vinyl is potentially a luxury item right now and the idea with digital and streaming is the opportunity for as many people as possible to be able to enjoy the music for as little cost, really. 

In the past 25 years, you produced countless remixes yourself for artists such as Azymuth, Jamiroquai, and The Avalanches. How do you decide which track to remix and what is your process?

I would always rather remix a song than a track, and I prefer a track without samples as they can be tough to deconstruct. A lot of my remixes were for actual bands in The Police, Jamiroqui, Ian Brown, The Avalanches, Brand New Heavies, etc., and there’s always so much original stuff to work with which I like. 

Process-wise I typically deconstruct the track into its core elements and add some additional drums, percussive and instrumental elements; just adding a little of me or what I’m feeling at the time. 

What have been some of your favorite remixes in recent years?

In general, I never want to hear anything I’ve worked on ever again (laughs) but I think one of my favorites is Planet Funk’s “Inside All the People (Harvey’s Ibiza Sleepy Mix),” which still gets licensed for various compilations. 

What are you looking for (and hoping for) with the winning remix?

Someone who’s going to have a unique, interesting take on the track and will deliver a truly alternate version. I hope a lot of people feel inspired to have a mess around, go a bit crazy with it. The original is a banger, and I’m excited to hear what people do with it. We’ve got some great prizes for the winner from all kinds of people — Beatport, Genelec, Moog, a bunch of plugins. I just hope we can narrow it down to one. We plan to release the winning remix along with new takes on other tracks off the album from some LA-based DJ/producer friends, so I hope it’s also a way for someone to get a bit of added shine.

What’s next for Locussolus and can we expect more from Harvey’s General Store or will this be a one-off release?

Typically I don’t like to start something new with something old or look backward, but this is, in essence, an easy way to get acquainted with some of my previous stuff before moving forward with some new. 

We have the remixes forthcoming and one previously unreleased Locussolus track and then I think I’ll move on to something totally different. Locussolus was a band — myself Josh, Tara, Sam Heidi, but everyone’s busy with other things now. I A&Rd a great project for ESP Institute (The Hands) with a new release forthcoming and really enjoyed doing it. Having my own label means I can release things I like when I want, as frequently or infrequently as I please with no rules, it exists outside of a major label’s structure, distributed by Above Board who are really supportive, so that’s a really exciting and fortunate position to be in.

Our expert curation team brings you some of the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time featuring Waeys, Quentin Hiatus, Ill Truth, Harka, and more.

Waeys – Toter  [DIVIDID]

Based in Amsterdam, Waeys has been one of the most prolific producers of 2020, with releases on Delta9 Recordings, Overview Music, and more. This month, he’s back on the Dutch label Dividid with a solid two-track EP. As always, Toter shows him exploring the experimental and harder spectrum of Drum & Bass with a deep and aggressive dancefloor-focused sound. 

Quentin Hiatus – Seven Days of Equivalence [Free Love Digi]

“Seven Days of False Equivalence” comes from one of the most original and creative drum & bass producers of recent years, Quentin Hiatus, and is taken from his latest album “Acceptance” on his own imprint Free Love Digi. A halftime track with juke and footwork influences, it’s representative of his experimental approach to D&B. The swamp of bass frequencies and the hypnotic arpeggios will definitely put the crowd under pressure.

Phace and Was A Be – Faceless [Neosignal Recordings]

The Italian producer Was A Be and Hamburg-based Phace join forces on Neosignal Recordings for a two-track EP. Faceless is an intense neurofunk banger that will without doubt be a secret weapon this summer.

Ill Truth – Da Da [Guidance]

Bristol-based duo Ill Truth is back on Guidance with the serious Roadkill EP. With some funky jump up influences, the track “Da Da” is representative of the EP and we love it.

EN:VY – Bonfire [Flexout Audio]

The Push Through EP is the latest from the Austrian producer En:vy, on one of the D&B scene’s most original labels: Flexout Audio. “Bonfire” is a deep and techy track with a solid groove and a great work on pads and arpeggios to keep the energy on the dancefloor high.

Simula – Don’t leave me [Simula Music]

Simula, one of the most productive jump-up artists, is back on his own label Simula Music for his fourth self-release, entitled “Don’t Leave Me.” Simple and efficient, this track is an evident banger with a dark and huge bassline which “Won’t leave you indifferent!”

BEATPORT HYPE PICK

Hype is your destination for new music from up-and-coming labels and artists on BeatportLearn more here.

(HYPE) Harka – Day’s Thinkin’ [The Dreamers Recordings]

Based in the UK, the jungle, juke and footwork producer Harka brings together a melancholy madness, combining elements between retro riddims and futuristic flares on The Dreamers Recordings. “Days Thinkin’” is a perfect example of this combination with a dynamic beat and melodic arrangements on brass, stabs and vocals. Dope!

For more drum & bass tracks you may have missed, check out our Beatport Link Playlist.

Imani Mixon catches up with one of the most unique voices in deep house — Alabama-based Byron The Aquarius. The low-key producer’s soulful, raw, instrumental take on the genre has earned this artist a devoted following and the chance to work with some of the best musicians in the world.

I’ve never seen Byron The Aquarius live. Under normal circumstances, I’d be lingering at the back of a loud, dimly lit club with an inconspicuous notepad and pen to observe my subject doing their thing. In fact, I prefer to be in-person, asking intrusive (read: clarifying)  questions to the subject of my latest cover story. But we are in a different time — different time zones, even — and things have changed out of necessity. Luckily, Byron and I have a mutual connection to the wonderful DJ Ash Lauryn, who I’ve only ever met online, and she ushered this conversation into being via email. The conversation with Byron The Aquarius happens on Zoom from my yellow suede couch in Detroit, as Byron beams in from a piano bench in his grandparents’ basement in Birmingham, Alabama, with a Bulbasaur stuffed animal resting on the ivory keys, and anime playing on mute in the background. A self-proclaimed “anime-head,” he watches JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Akira, Dragon Ball Z, and Naruto. He’s also a video game fan — especially the Street Fighter series, as well as consoles like PS4 and Sega Dreamcast.

“[In anime], a lot of these people had to train to be powerful, so I kind of used it with my music like, ‘ Yo, you got to train and be powerful,” Byron says.

I recall that this is one of the things that came up during my desperate, pre-interview research; hours spent scouring the Internet to try to get a true sense of Byron The Aquarius, who I will soon find out is not astrologically an Aquarius at all, but a 32-year-old Pisces born on March 11 who earned the nickname from girls in college and never bothered to correct them. Can you blame him? 

Byron has traveled the world and can get along with pretty much anyone, but wherever he goes he carries the South with him. As we speak, my Detroit ears perk up with the familiarity of having to interpret regional dialect to outsiders — our cities are kinfolk after all. Byron is a history devotee, so he knows that it’s both lucky and rare to have spent most of his life down South, while so many others moved away during the Great Migration, when Black families traveled from the South to northern places like Detroit and Chicago, out west to California, or east to New York, from 1916 to 1970. But his family has been firmly rooted in the South, especially his hometown of Birmingham.

“Birmingham really has a lot of history from the legacy of civil rights to music as well.  I feel like I’m part of a legacy, I know my history,” says Byron. 

Byron has enjoyed the spoils of the South’s rich musical influence. He started off as a piano player who studied composition and jazz, then jazz studies and classical music at Alabama State University and Jackson State University, respectively. Living in Alabama puts him just two hours away from Atlanta, in the middle of some of the fastest-growing scenes in mainstream and underground music. It’s only natural that his musical knowledge extends through musical theory, trap, horns, and hip-hop, but it does add a distinctively unexpected and bone-deep bounce to his sound. 

“I give music space. When I make music, I really try to not think of [any] style. I just go with my natural instinct and how I feel — my moods — and I create. I really try to stay away from the genres, to be honest,” Byron says.

Byron The Aquarius spent a couple of years traveling back and forth between Atlanta and Alabama. He was making hip-hop beats at the time, under the same name, going to house parties, and rubbing shoulders with entertainment lawyers. One night, however, Byron attended a party in Atlanta where he met DJ and Detroit native Kai Alcé. The two hit it off and began to talk music, and Alcé introduced Byron to house music. There is no way that a Detroit native who frequents Atlanta could give you a typical electronic music introduction, not the kind you would get above ground in the outside world where a lot of people automatically equate electronic music to white, and specifically European DJs. Kai showed Byron that like many other genres, electronic music is a Black art form. It’s the loud, thumping, moving lovechild of jazz and blues. House music is a sound that defines itself as it’s being made, just like the genre’s producers and DJs. 

“[DJ Kai Alcé] put me on to house music, so you might say he was the introduction and he from Detroit, but he stayed in Atlanta. So he kind of introduced me to it and the more I kept kicking it, the more I got introduced,” Byron says.

Techno Is Black (Respeck),” a song from the What up Doe? Vol. 1 he released on Shall Not Fade back in May, is groovy and gritty; a celebratory and direct shoutout to all the cities that summoned Black folks from down South and put electronic music on the map. The track effectively traces Byron’s ascension through the scene with the three cities that are repeated and exalted throughout Detroit, ATL, Chicago and one more “Chicago for good measure. I wrote an article outlining the idea that techno is Black music for 2018’s Detroit’s annual Movement Electronic Music Festival, and got some interesting backlash. A lot of fans of Black music culture don’t like Black people claiming this music as their own. So it’s pretty brave and potentially divisive for a producer and DJ who is only a couple years into his career to make such a plain statement so early in the game. Detroit, ATL, Chicago Chicago. If you listen to a loop long enough, it becomes a mantra. A couple of minutes longer, it becomes the truth. As the song says, “techno is Black, it been Black.” 

“The way I feel, everything came from Black culture,” says Byron

At a time when so many opportunities to engage with and contribute to the culture have been put on hold, it feels like, in some ways, Byron has been preparing for this moment. Before quarantine, he was collaborating on projects with some of the best, most lauded producers and musicians in the scene. A lot of the music we’re hearing from him now was created a while ago — he brings his gear with him while he’s on tour to catch ideas, or hops in the studio for collaborations.

One such recent collaboration was with the legendary Jeff Mills for a project called Ambrosia that will be released in the autumn. Mills came to Atlanta and they recorded in Outkast’s historied Patchwerk studio. Along with Mills, Byron spent his days with other OGs like Janet Jackson’s longtime drummer Lil’ John Roberts and horn players who’ve worked on Outkast and Killer Mike projects. While it sounds like an unbelievable all-star team, what else could you expect from Atlanta but to be rubbing shoulders with people who created the music we still listen to and reference now? And Byron is really in his element when live instruments are involved. When I ask about how he’s been able to collaborate with such iconic musicians, he chalks some of it up to his easy-going personality and Southern hospitality.

“I had such a short span and I just ran into the right people. I think it’s my personality and I think it’s like the music, you know, the music speak for itself,” Byron says. 

A lot of it also comes down to being at the right place at the right time at that house party in Atlanta where he met DJ Kai Alcé, on Myspace where he first connected with Kyle Hall on some hip-hop shit, and now back at home with his family during one of the most isolated and potentially rejuvenating times in recent history.

The pandemic has been tough for a lot of gigging or aspiring musicians, producers, and DJs because most live music events have been canceled or digitized. Despite that, Byron says right now is the “easiest time to be an artist or producer” and encourages musicians to use this time to their advantage. He believes learning a live instrument and brushing up on music theory is extremely helpful in progressing your personal practice. On a more logistical side, he says musicians should get familiar with their contracts and make sure they’re tight. 

“If you not on your business, you will not get paid. Be patient, it don’t just happen so quick, you gotta work on your craft,” says Byron.

Byron’s own transition into quarantine was a rough one. Being able to travel and meet new inspiring people is a major part of his creative practice. He estimates that he typically books about 300 shows per year, with the bulk of his gigs happening in Europe. 

“It’s kind of weird over there because you can be independent and do your original style and they love it, especially Black music. I miss it. I feel like it’s more appreciated and I think that plays a part with the radio. Over there, they got a lot of independent radio stations, so that’s what creates the freedom,” says Byron.

The pandemic has posed a very specific problem for an artist who prides himself on being “lowkey, private, and solid” and doesn’t feel comfortable taking his talents to Instagram Live just yet. This moment has forced him to slow down and claim his own freedom. He’s gotten into taoism and has been going on nature walks to unplug when he needs a break from the music. He’s still releasing music and holding out for the moment when he can return to playing in-person gigs. In the meantime, however, he’s following his own advice and working on his craft.

“’I’m just being creative, making music, meditating, and keeping myself moving and balanced. There’s nothing we can do, we just gotta make it happen where we at now,” says Byron.

Since lockdown orders went into effect in the United States around mid-March, Byron has dropped two EPs, What up Doe? Vol. 1 in May and Fish Soup (on Second Hand Records) in July. He’s also preparing to drop a new EP online and on vinyl called Apron with Apron Records that is set to release on August 28. It’s fitting that each of Byron’s songs sound like something I’d hear playing from the passenger seat of my cooler, older cousin’s souped-up car, because one such powder blue Chevy is sandwiched between six Byron The Aquariuses on the collaged cover of the Apron EP.

“I’m reinventing myself new creativity, a new perspective, new creations, just a new me,” says Byron. 

When all of this is over and we can get back to “normal,” or at least post-Corona life, Byron plans on going all out and playing with a live band. He wants an organ, drums, a harp, and a horn. Maybe it’s no surprise that he has returned to his childhood home, rifling through his grandparent’s records and scheming on how he can emerge in a way that honors every part of him the live instrumentation and the electronic music that he also calls home. He’s allowed himself to be a student of this craft for so long, way beyond his time as a music major in undergrad. Student becomes teacher, digital becomes analog, every moment begs the artist, the reluctant Aquarius to take the next step. May the way in also be the way up.

Imani Mixon was born and raised at the magnetic center of the world’s cultural compass — Detroit, Michigan. She is a long-form storyteller who is inspired by everyday griots who bear witness to their surroundings and report it back out. Equal parts urgent and essential, her multimedia work centers the experiences of Black women and independent artists. Follow her on Twitter.

Carl Craig, King Britt, JakoJako, Lucrecia Dalt, and Detroit Modular discuss considerations before buying your first piece of modular hardware.

So you’ve got your DAW and you’ve made some tracks that you feel pretty happy with, but somehow the music-making process doesn’t leave you feeling satisfied. One way to overcome this is to invest in a modular synthesizer — something that will allow you to take the experience outside of your DAW, expand your creative horizons, and learn more about synthesis.

However, buying your first piece of modular gear can be daunting, which is why we spoke to several experienced producers about their setup, their first synths, and what advice they would impart to a first-time buyer.

Photo: Cristian DiStefano

Carl Craig

Carl Craig is a Detroit figurehead and runs Planet-E Communications.

What gear did you first start out with?

I begged, borrowed, and stole anything I could get my hands on. I think that’s how anyone gets into new stuff. My first piece of electronic gear was a Sequential Circuits Prophet 600. There’s only so much you can do with just a synthesizer… I don’t even know what I put it through to hear it, maybe I plugged it into my stereo or something? A friend of mine had a four-track, and he loaned me that, and then I realized I needed a sequencer in order to do anything. So I got an Alesis MMT-8 Sequencer so that I had the ability to do almost everything that I wanted to do. I don’t think I knew how to sequence at all. 

How long did you stick with this setup?

I used the MMT-8 until I started using Mark of the Unicorn’s Performer when I got a Mac. I did a lot of stuff on the MMT-8; 69, BFC. Another piece I had early on was Derrick May’s Roland S-10, which is a small version of the S-50. When I was working with Derrick, he was mainly using an Ensoniq Mirage and he didn’t have any use for the S-10, so I took it and just found out every way to freak that machine I could. For the most part, I used the four-part machine to its maximum, but the only way you could do that was to drop the sample rate. And then I got as much as I could, using the limited time I had. That taught me how to economize with sounds and to use the most out of it that I could. 

Would you say there’s a track from this period that epitomizes these sounds?

There’s a Psyche track called “Neurotic Behaviour.” There are two versions of it, the one without drums is exactly what I’m talking about; me and just those three pieces of gear, overdubbing, and modulating and freaking the frequencies. “My Machines” [69] is just with the S1-0, the MMT-8, and the Roland SH-101.

If you had to give advice to someone who wanted to jump outside of the box, what would you say?

Buy one synthesizer, learn it well, and the possibilities will be endless. And then add another piece of gear after that. The problem with DAWs and doing everything in the box is that there’s always a plug-in that’s supposed to be the silver bullet. And if you’re busy buying silver bullet plug-ins all the time, you’re gonna think the exact same way when it comes to buying external stuff as well.

Photo: Colin Kerrigan

KING BRITT

Philadelphia’s King Britt has a long history in experimental, soulful and rhythmic electronic productions steeped in a fundamental understanding of modular gear.

What was the first synth you ever bought?

The first synth I bought with my own money was a MiniMoog, back in high school. I saved up all summer to get it. If you have the money, it definitely is one of the best first synths to have. The design completely makes sense to beginners and experts. It levels the difficulty and makes it fun.

For a more affordable one now, I always recommend the Korg Monologue. It’s an absolutely beautiful machine and the price range is perfect for a beginner’s first synth. The filters are great and really easy to navigate, but if you feel like menu diving you can! Also in a variety of colors. Mine is gold of course.

Below is a picture of me with my very first sampler, a circuit-bent Casio SK-1.

As a first time buyer, say, someone who only works digitally in a DAW, what do you think the most important things are to consider when looking for a particular piece of hardware?

Simplicity and quick editing with maximum results. You want to have fun but have the ability to steer toward a sound that a beginner can achieve but an expert can push further.

Photo: Camille Blake

LUCRECIA DALT

Colombian producer and Berlin native Lucrecia Dalt uses technology to create abstract, conceptual narratives that deeply layer her finely textured music. With a new LP ‘No era sólida’ — due on RVNG Intl. in September (you can hear the record’s first single ‘Disuelta’ here) — we asked the producer what she’s using at the moment, and what drove her to use this current setup.

What were the first synth and hardware pieces you bought?

After a laptop, the Moogerfooger MIDI MuRF.

What was the main influence behind the decision-making process?

Decision making regarding gear has always been rather spontaneous. A lot of the stuff that I have is through thinking about a particular piece of gear’s potential after having seen someone else using it. Or it was just accidental, like the Erbe-Verb that I acquired because someone in the local shop recommended it to me, and I bought it eyes-closed only to discover a few months after that’d become an essential piece.

What do you think is important for first-time buyers to consider before making their first purchase?

It’s difficult to say because I think that almost any tool has something I can make use of, or that I can force it to be with adequate processing. For example, I recently got myself an acoustic guitar, and it’s been such a pleasure to find joy in just trying different tunings and playing basic progressions with it. Or like when I got the Korg Monologue, I’d say it’s straight up a synth that has an aesthetic radically different to mine. Nevertheless, I realized that I could force it into my sound realm by sequencing and programming microtonal changes and portamentos. I also think that there has to be something pragmatic in acquiring gear, since I have to travel by myself, being able to pack all the pieces in a handbag is key, so a lot of gear that I use for live performance has that characteristic: compact, lightweight, versatile.

What are your main pieces of gear now?

My current setup is two Nord Keyboards, two small lunchboxes of modulars (with the Erbe Verb and a Rainmaker), the Moogerfooger, microphone, soundcard, laptop. The Erbe-Verb really blows my mind. I think I kind of misuse the reverb capabilities of it and force it to be a textural rhythmic tool. It’s extremely versatile and sounds wonderfully earthly, warm, and dirty.

What would you recommend a first-timer look into to start out with?

Just something with limited options, I think having too many options when you are exploring sounds for the first time makes things a bit frustrating and erratic, having few options forces you to explore within those few parameters and maybe discover a unique tone that can outlive and identify with your commencing intuitive aesthetics.

Photo: Uli Kaufmann

JAKOJAKO

As one of the resident experts in hardware for SchneidersLaden, Berlin’s leading authority for modular gear, JakoJako’s competence and understanding in synth gear is undisputed. Here, she breaks down her setup and shares her details about the sites and blogs she uses to help her learn more about modular.

What were the first synth and hardware pieces you bought?

My first synthesizer was a DIY kit from Conrad Electronics costing around 25 euro. There wasn’t much you could do with it, but I just felt like learning something completely new. Before that, I didn’t have anything to do with electronic music or soldering and was just a music lover. I started reading Synthesiser by Florian Anwander, then Elektronische Klänge und musikalische Entdeckungen from André Ruschkowski, and sometimes magazines like SynMAG. I saved up some money and got myself a second-hand KORG Volca Bass for 100 euro, used it for a while, then sold it and bought a second-hand Arturia MiniBrute, and at some point later an OP-1. I quickly reached the limits and realized that I needed more complex functions and a more interesting sequencer. I bought an Elektron Analog RYTM after lots of research, which is also the only piece of hardware that is still in my current setup. I quickly found out that the Eurorack is the format for me.

What are your main pieces of gear now?

Currently, my studio equipment is also my live setup. I use my Eurorack system controlled by the Elektron Octatrack MK1 and an Elektron Analog RYTM. In my Eurorack I have a complex voice and some effects and utilities. You can find my exact modules on ModularGRID. At the moment I’m enjoying creating melodies and arpeggios in Octatrack.

I’m always looking for a more compact setup, especially things that do more but take up less space. That’s why I use the modular system. If you think carefully about what you put into it, you have an enormously powerful machine. And if you need a different sound or a new function, then you just change it! You mix brands and philosophies. Every manufacturer has different approaches and different strengths. Some modules just fit perfectly in some configurations and not at all in others. That makes it all the more important to think about what exactly you want to achieve. Anyway, I am rather for “less is more”.  But I have to admit, if I was richer, I would have more equipment for example a nice polysynth.

What do you think is important for first-time buyers to consider before making their first purchase?

If using hardware is appealing, then finding your taste between all the brands and manufacturers. I did a lot of research in forums to find out which musicians I liked used what. Videos and tutorials are really helpful to see if the handling is suitable before buying. I subscribe to a few channels, such as SequencerTalk by Moogulator, and the SchneidersLaden blog Stromkult. 

Before I bought the RYTM I watched almost every relevant video on the net. I hadn’t saved all the money at that point, so I thought, at least I could learn how to use the device in the meantime. On my days off I went to musical instrument shops and tested out synths I was interested in.

DETROIT MODULAR

When looking to get advice on purchases, it’s best to go straight to the source, which is why we spoke to one of the world’s best stores for modular hardware. With an online shop that specializes in a wide variety of Eurorack modular, synthesizers, drum machines, controllers, and all sorts of technical gear, Detroit Modular has firmly established itself as one of the best proprietors for those looking to delve in the fantastical world of experimental musical sounds. Dan Keaton, one of DM’s founding fathers, shares his advice for those struggling to figure out which gear to go for first

As a start-out producer who just uses DAWs and plugins, what are the important things to consider before investing in a synth?

The most important question to ask yourself is what am I trying to do that I can’t, or isn’t fun to do, inside the computer? Are you missing some of that analog mojo that isn’t possible in the box, a more hands-on workflow, maybe some unexpected inspiration from unusual or generative sequencers, or maybe just more unique sounds that plug-ins aren’t able to produce? This is really a personal question as all people have their own style of sound and workflow, but we are firm believers (and users) of hybrid setups. All options are good to have at your disposal – it keeps things fresh.

What trends have you noticed customers are getting into?

Most people tend to gravitate straight towards the main modular systems we have in the store.  We have two 1008hp systems hooked up to a 15000 watt sound system with dual subs – so you will definitely be able to HEAR and FEEL whatever you are trying out. There are so many options, sounds, and workflows in modular systems that there is always room for something in everyone’s studio. Some people start out just with a little effects processing, filtering, distortion rig to supplement their computer setup and end up adding on sound sources and sequencing over time. Other folk are just looking to start out with something small, one-or-two sound sources, a filter, hands-on distortions, and some modulation and add on. The beauty of modular systems is you can add on slowly and figure out what you like and how you like to work with it.

What do you recommend to people who come into the shop looking for inspiration to bolster their musical ideas? 

The first thing we try to do is figure out where they are trying to go. What musical styles they like, who some of their inspirations are, and a few bits about what they have right now.  Everyone is different and everyone resonates differently. From there, the shop is their oyster. That being said, a new sound source module or synth, some new ways to abuse your sounds with grit or punishment with pedals or effects, a new hands-on sequencer, or a new high-end effects processor can help. Sometimes just rearranging how you are doing things or injecting a bit of newness can shift things back around.

What would you recommend a first-time buyer to start out with?

If someone is really just dipping their toes into the world of hardware along with MIDI and CV, a lot of times the best place to start is with a semi-modular monosynth. That gives them not only some set sound-making structure but also patch points to start experimenting with modulation and really screwing with the sound. It will do things that can’t be done in software, will expand the existing palette, and will always be useful no matter what size the system evolves into. That being said, if that is a little too daunting a good analog or hybrid mono [a synth that can only play one note at a time, for example, the popular Novation Bass Station II] or poly synth [a synth that can play multiple notes at a time, like the Korg Minilogue XD] with presets can be a very nice first step also.

What’s really hot and exciting for you at the moment? 

Complex oscillators, thru zero fm, and octature filters with multiple fm points. There really isn’t anything quite like the sounds that you can get with advanced analog fm modules designed to be abused. Instant insanity. You really feel like the first person in the universe to be hearing these sounds. Isn’t that the point?

Dan Cole is a Berlin-based music copywriter, consultant, tech and travel journalist, with bylines in XLR8R, Electronic Beats, Bandcamp Daily, and DJ Mag. He has also worked as Editor-in-Chief for DJBroadcast, and for Amsterdam Dance Event. Along with spending too much money on obscure wave records, he also has a strong passion for weird disco edits, old school rave and unfashionable hardcore. Find him on Twitter

A two-part DJ marathon with 24 sets in 24 hours to raise funds for disaster relief in Beirut — taking place on August 22nd & September 13th, 2020.

While the world is still navigating the constant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lebanon has been struck with another unfathomable disaster, affecting hundreds of thousands of innocent people. This catastrophic explosion has occurred during the most crippling economic crisis in modern times and has shaken the country to its core.

Partnering up with WILD Tulum, Factory People, a collection of Lebanese DJs and promoters, and one of Beirut’s most beloved dance music superstars, Nicole Moudaber, Beatport’s forthcoming two-part ReConnect livestream, ‘Together For Beirut,’ will aim to raise $250,000 for disaster relief in the Lebanese capital.

Calling on the dance music community’s continuous dedication to helping those in need, we’ve brought together some of the world’s most in-demand and influential talents to participate in this charitable initiative. Each event will feature sets by 24 international DJs, consisting of two non-stop 24-hour showcases that will kick off on the 22nd August and end on 13th September — a poignant marker of the end of the Lebanese mourning period.

The first phase of artists will feature dance music heavyweights such as ANNA, Carl Cox, Chris Liebing, Damian Lazarus, Dubfire, John Digweed, Louie Vega, Luigi Madonna, Nic Fanciulli, Paco Osuna, Pan-Pot, Sama’Abdulhadi, Victor Calderone, Yousefand more. Further acts will be announced ahead of the livestream, but you can check out the initial ‘Together For Beirut’ lineup below.

Speaking about the fundraiser, Nicole Moudaber — who will be playing both events — said, “These fundraising events will provide much-needed relief and support to the people of Beirut and the many affected by the recent tragedy. Officials estimate the explosion caused up to $15 billion (£11.5bn) of damage. International financial aid and support has been overwhelming, but it’s not enough. We must support in any way we can to help, and in addition, our efforts will also be helping the music and arts industry of Lebanon which has been wiped out.”

To take part in this monumental livestream, tune into Beatport’s Twitch Channel at 6 pm BST on August 22nd and at 4 pm BST on September 13th. Although times are difficult, please donate what you can to the cause, as every $1 can help.

Donations will go to Beirut Emergency Fund, supporting Hospitals and local NGOs in the fields of medical aid, shelter, and reconstruction.

Donate to the campaign here.

The producer who submits the best remix of DJ Harvey’s track, “Berghain,” will win a custom prize package (worth approx. $4,000) and a worldwide release on Beatport as part of a forthcoming Locussolus remix EP on Harvey’s General Store.

Following the success of our Beatport Producer Challenge, which received over 4,000 track submissions and handed out over $100,000 in software subscriptions, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of a brand new music production competition with a true original of dance music, DJ Harvey.

Released in 2011 via International Feel Recordings, DJ Harvey Presents Locussolus is Harvey’s celebrated full-length album. It’s stood the test of time as one of those rare dance LPs with something for everyone — from dark techno bangers to groovy disco to super psychedelic downtempo excursions. But until now, the only way you could hear this album in its entirety was by buying a second-hand vinyl copy, making it difficult to access for many fans.

“We just kept being made aware that a lot of people hadn’t heard of or heard the album in recent times (it’s been unavailable for sale anywhere for a number of years),” DJ Harvey said about the decision to reissue the album digitally. “With the inclusion of Kiwi’s previously unreleased remix of “Next To You” on the recent [Care4Life] NHS compilation, I started to find these “Oh, I wonder what this track was” comments online about it. It reaffirmed the fact that a fresh generation had missed it, so we thought, why not.”

This 22-track expanded version of Locussolus has been remastered for this epic digital reissue. The release includes the previously vinyl-only Andrew Weatherall dub of “Gunship”, Emperor Machine’s Special Full-Length Version of “Little Boots,” and much more. Find it on Beatport here.

But DJ Harvey is also releasing the stems to “Berghain” — an 11-minute ode to the world-famous Berlin club — for a once-in-a-lifetime remix opportunity. The winner’s track will be included on a forthcoming Locussolus remix package alongside new remixes from London’s Kiwi, LA’s Lovefingers, Bears in Space, and Warehouse Preservation Society.

Instructions on how to enter: DJ Harvey Remix Competition

    1. Go to the DJ Harvey Remix Competition landing site (here)
    2. Follow the page to log into your Loopcloud account (those without an account can sign up for free)
    3. Download the Loopcloud app
    4. Find the stems and start working! (Having trouble finding them? Click here)
    5. Download Plugin Boutique’s complimentary iZotope Neutron 3 Elements software to help you with your mixing (optional, but highly recommended)

The deadline for this competition is September 2nd, 2020, at Midnight Pacific Time.

The winner shall also receive a prize package worth close to $4,000 that’s filled with fantastic music production prizes, courtesy of our sponsors, and gear partners: Moog, Plugin Boutique, iZotope, Loopcloud, Genelec, and Harvey’s General Store.

Check out the list of prizes below.

  • Moog DFAM (Drummer From Another Mother) 
  • Pair of Genelec 8020D Studio Monitors
  • 1 Year of Beatport LINK PRO + 
  • Release on Harvey’s General Store 
  • Harvey’s General Store Gift Pack
  • Loopcloud Pro Subscription 
  • $100 Beatport Download Credits
  • iZotope Music Production Suite 3
  • Loopmasters Bass Master
  • Loopmasters KHORDS
  • Plugin Boutique Scaler 2
  • Plugin Boutique CarbonElectra
  • Plugin Boutique Virtual CZ
  • Plugin Boutique BigKick
  • Plugin Boutique StereoSavage
  • Plugin Boutique Radio

Good Luck!

Ben Hunter runs down some of the best up-and-coming acts from drum & bass you’ve (probably) never heard of.

DILEMMA

Dilemma is arguably the most exciting producer to emerge in liquid drum & bass since GLXY, Pola & Bryson, Satl and others around the middle of the 2010s. Based in Brighton, Dilemma specialises in exquisitely crafted, stripped-back sounds that are light on complexity but heavy on vibes. It’s a production tradition in the spirit of liquid’s greats, and it’s one that’s easy to imitate but incredibly difficult to do well — a feat Dilemma’s output is well on the way to accomplishing. 

Soulvent Records has been her main outlet thus far, and it was her 2019 single (featuring Robert Manos on a shiveringly soulful A-side), “Gone Too Soon,” that first cemented her position as a truly exciting prospect. Now, in 2020, she’s finally released her first full EP on Soulvent, Exit Stage Left, and it’s more sad yet hopeful music — drum & bass that moves in gentle peaks and troughs, softly spoken yet firm in direction and purpose. She is without a doubt one to watch for the coming decade and beyond.

WAEYS

A brand-new talent within the world of 174, Waeys moved over from his previous exploits in halftime and beats with a debut EP on the insurgent Overview Music last year. A gutsy three-tracker that put the Dutchman on the map, Waeys demonstrated his tendency to blend clinical minimality with drum & bass’ sinewy, tougher traditions. Nowhere was this more audible than on his recent Objection EP, a five-track hybrid of resurgent jump-up and techy depth, a dancefloor focused endeavor likely to please opposite ends of an occasionally disparate scene.

Most notable was “Mapper,” a part-liquid, part-roller, and part-jump up number with a disturbing ability to morph and mutate, its vocal sample dripping soul onto a bed of pointed, scratchy nails. Although Waeys has been releasing drum & bass for barely 12 months, he’s notched up singles and remixes on a variety of labels including Delta9 and DIVIDID. And his ability to seamlessly move across sub-genre boundaries makes for an extremely promising future.

PYXIS

In a list of producers who perhaps don’t receive the attention they should, Pyxis deserves a special mention as a producer about whom far more words need to be written. With her first release last year on Mitekiss and Mr. Porter’s Goldfat, Pyxis blends freshly grown melodies with gritty undertones to form a broadly liquid palette, one punctuated by earthy, organic sounds and a free-range, wildly roaming spirit.

A penchant for breakbeats, however, leaves a taste in your mouth more akin to liquid’s junglist heritage in the ilk of Good Looking or Soul:r rather than a Hospital or Soulvent, and it’s this ability to carve punchy crannies into a generally soulful construction that really shines through. Her relationship with Goldfat makes a lot of sense considering the musical history of the label’s two founders, and her Hourglass EP this year saw a steppy, off-kilter and remarkably fresh take on liquid that has us gagging for the next hit. Exciting times.

FELIX RAYMON

One of several producers to have been brought through by Addictive Behaviour, Felix Raymon is another crossover artist with serious talent. On a label specialising in sharper edges, Felix can both cushion the blow and dig the knife in with a production range reminiscent of Belgium’s Alix Perez. There are additional similarities too, as Felix has an inclination towards floating male vocals (usually via frequent singer and collaborator Jamal Dilmen) in a manner that builds upon the work of Perez, Ivy Lab, and others.

His recent single “Lonely Now” exemplifies this creative strand best, and Dilmen puts in another sensational performance across a bed of nonchalant instrumentation and rollicking low frequencies. His 2019 High EP on Delta9 shined a light on the other side of his repertoire, the corner in which Felix devises devilishly fluent minimal drum & bass that pokes the bear in all its forms. A producer with genuine breadth, and one firmly tapped into the currents of drum & bass.

WINSLOW

Hailing from St Louis, Missouri, Winslow is unique in that he’s almost more known for his YouTube channel than his music. A video maker who aims to explain to viewers the why of production rather than just the how, Winslow has drawn upon the lessons learnt explaining drum & bass and used them in furthering his own production ability. 

Another member of the Goldfat camp, Winslow’s debut single on the label this year was a performance in crafting a unique sound. The title track “Swing & Miss” is broken yet fluid, and B-side “Snap Out Of It” sees him rap for the first time in his life — just because. This “why not?” attitude imbues his sound and leads his music down surprisingly experimental routes, including some downtempo notes on his own WXYZ imprint. It’s this cross-pollination that makes his music such a breath of fresh air.

A.FRUIT

A.Fruit is part of the drum & bass maelstrom currently brewing over in Russia and Eastern Europe; an emergent force that looks set to become even more dominant in the years to come. She doesn’t adhere by neat categorisations, however, as her production wings spread widely over a pallet of 160 BPM jungle, stepping halftime beats and experimental sonics — a breadth of sound which lends itself well to the freshness and creativity of scenes outside the UK mainstream. Having said that, her label history encompasses classic British imprints like the now-deceased Med School and Om Unit’s Cosmic Bridge, and it was her 2019 Nocturnal EP on the latter which really elevated her reputation.

Excelling in its own simplicity, Nocturnal effortlessly bridges the divide between art and dance music, both tasteful and remorseless, engineered for the dancefloor but equally at home in a gallery. She touches upon intangible feelings of coolness — an undefined quantity, but one that’s palpable in her raw industrial textures and licks of soulful sampling. It’s a mark of meaning, and a harbinger of things to come.

HOMEMADE WEAPONS

Homemade Weapons is a producer who may scare you a little, an unavoidable risk given his penchant for embedding fractious jungle rhythms into sweeping, apocalyptic soundscapes. His approach is bleak, medieval, and packed to the rafters with the stench of humanity’s last gasping breaths. Not a single glimmer of light shines through his blackish skies and in many ways that’s part of the magic, that music can sound can be so cataclysmic, and yet so resonant on a personal, human level. 

To listen to Homemade Weapons is to forget where you are and what you were doing, to be totally lost in the rhythmic hypnotism in a manner almost more akin to techno than drum & bass. He weaves patterns of insanity so complete it’s a wonder if he’s still fully present himself, and it’s across his two albums that the Homemade Weapons manifesto has really been written. Gravity, released last year on Samurai Music, is a hellish rainbow of black and grey, a journey to the centre of the earth where the destination is our planet’s hot, lifeless core. Unlike compatriot producers seduced by experimentalism for the sake of it, Homemade Weapons remains tightly bound to the core of jungle music and what makes it tick on a fundamental level, even if he does push the boundaries further than almost any in the game.

CONSTRICT

Constrict‘s most obvious production quality is a commitment to the ethic of DIY. He recently launched Incidental Sonics as a platform for his own music, and it’s clear that he craves the creative freedom allowed by an unfiltered platform. That lack of filter has helped birth two raucous jungle singles, which have drawn praise from Mixmag and beyond. And his tendency to draw out roughshod, ‘90s influenced textures is winning him music fans in all the right places. 

Whilst he seems most at home producing breakbeats, a string of EPs on Lifestyle Music and Context Audio demonstrated his equally adept touch at crafting bouncy liquid rhythms and penetrating dancefloor minimalism. Constrict is firmly tapped into drum & bass’ new wave, having featured on records with Koherent, Ill Truth, Eusebeia, and others that serve as a glimpse into his place within a community of youngsters committed to turning over the scene’s old guard. This seems an inevitability at some point, and Constrict looks likely to be smack bang in the middle of it.

DUBSHUN

Splitting his time between London and Manchester, Dubshun is a producer firmly committed to producing art covered in a sheen of slick professionalism. It’s a palpable feeling when you browse his ventures — be it as a solo producer or the founder of Mask Music — that his creativity is driven by a less-is-more approach of stripping things back and allowing them to breathe. Embodied through startlingly barebones rollers, cold halftime, and even some techno ventures, Dubshun is a true multi-hyphenate and a producer with a clear but malleable message. 

Last year’s single on Portuguese imprint Counterpoint is a clear example of this ethos, as layers of pinpoint percussion tumble imperfectly over luxurious sub-bass and spasms of synthetic substances. His track “Silent Kill” on Overview’s Zone 1 VA brought his music to greater attention, but his undeniably cutting-edge take still deserves a lot more acclaim, as does his label management via Mask Music and DBSHN. One to watch.

JAVANO

Javano is one of the most mysterious producers in drum & bass. He pops up every now and then with barely any aplomb, drops a new release then disappears again. With barely 20 posts on Instagram and a minimal presence on socials, Javano lets his music do the talking — a refreshing change in our age of superficiality, and one understandable given the undeniable quality that drips through all of his music. 

With a production history stretching back to 2014, Javano isn’t brand new, and has a maturity in his sound; a contemplative touch that escapes younger, rasher artists. Melancholia is an audible trend throughout Javano’s history, which started on labels like Plush and Deconstructed before moving more recently onto Peer Pressure and his own Brackwood Audio imprint. His DIY streak alludes to a broader individualism in his style, a substance-heavy and pretension-light approach that merges industrial sweeps, microcosmic liquid evolutions, and biting dance floor energy. 

His most recent EP, a three-tracker on Brackwood, leads in with an ambient tune, flips into hypnotic future jungle on the second track before finishing the third on technoid rhythms. It’s an exemplification of his talent and why he deserves a far brighter spotlight.

Ben Hunter is a freelance journalist living in London. Find him on Twitter.

We catch up with brothers Scott and Ryan Wild (AKA Phibes) whose remix of Beat Assassins’ “Home Grown” on Jungle Cakes just hit Beatport’s overall top spot.

Congratulations on your first Beatport number 1! How did you celebrate the news?

Thank you! We had already celebrated the Drum & Bass Chart number 1 on Thursday, then when we got to second place in the overall chart we decided it was very unlikely we would knock John Summit off the top spot, so we actually went out and celebrated on Saturday night with family and friends truly believing we wouldn’t get the number 1.  When we woke up on Sunday morning and found out we were number 1 we were overjoyed with the news but seriously partied out. If we’re honest we popped the champagne and had an early night!

The original of “Home Grown” is by Beat Assassins. What’s your relationship with them and who’s idea was it to do the remix?

Jimmy from the Beat Assassins first reached out and asked us to remix his tune “Heavyweight Sound” featuring Raf MC last year, after that we started swapping dubs and he sent us “Home Grown”, the moment we heard those vocals we asked if we could have a crack at the remix and it all went from there. He’s been a true gent since day one.

What’s the story of the remix? What inspired you?

We’re always constantly experimenting with sound design inside of (soft synth) Serum and after making the main bass sound the whole song came together really quickly.  It’s often the same: your sitting and designing for a while and then “there it is.” We didn’t touch the sound after we got it right. The rest of the song fell into place after that. It was done and dusted in a few hours. It was one of those days when everything just flowed together and we sat at the end of the session thinking, this is pretty good, we need to show people this now and everyone we sent it to had the same reaction: “What kinda sound is that?” That’s when we knew there was something special about it.

Reaching the top of the Beatport top 100 is a feat that has only been achieved a couple of times for drum & bass tracks. Was there one moment when you felt that something special could happen with this track?

When we first started promoting it the tune had amazing feedback as a dub in the scene which is always going to be a big help on release day. We started getting messages on our Instagram every day from people asking to buy it, when’s it getting released, etc. There was a lot of buzz after such a short period of time. This then continued for months so we got together with Jungle Cakes during that time and they supported us all the way. There was a great sense of purpose in this release. The label believed in the song as much as we did, especially Ed Solo and Jessi G, they were with us every step. I think a big part of the release doing so well was that we were all working at the same tempo and on the same page. It was a real team effort.

Has the current crisis had an effect on your creativity or workflow? What have you lined up until the end of the year?

It hasn’t! Honestly, we toured so much in 2019 that taking time off to just sit and get all our ideas done every day back to back has been great. We haven’t been able to see each other much as we don`t live together and Ryan is diabetic type 1 so he was high risk. We wrote while video chatting and sending files back and forth and it’s safe to say that we have a lot of tunes stockpiled now that are ready to go. We also started a Patreon page and became teachers, which has been an amazing and rewarding experience helping and watching people grow as producers. We have released sample packs and built a community that partakes in remix competitions every month. It’s been a lot of fun and has brought us a lot closer to our fans. They have supported us throughout this time and without them, things would have been very different. Big up to our patrons. We love ya!

With Jungle Cakes we have had a huge remix opportunity lately with a legendary reggae artist but we can’t reveal that just yet. We have a 4-track-EP for label Born On Road in the final stages and we will be releasing a lot of singles on various labels as we like to release consistently. We have a lot of songs so we’re currently deciding if we want to release album number 3 this year or a bunch of Eps. Our new goal is a Beatport number 1 album release, so we’re gonna get cracking!

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