The power trio’s self-titled debut album, BRONSON, is out now via Foreign Family Collective & Ninja Tune.

Seattle duo ODESZA and Australian producer Golden Features are two of the world’s biggest and most sought after electronic music acts. Together, they are the new and sonically profound trio BRONSON — a fresh project that represents a complete “creative departure” from their original sounds. Their new direction is bold, instrument-heavy, and revelatory in a way that gives these award-winning artists a clean slate on which to exercise their refreshed dance floor mission. 

Having admired each other’s work from afar for quite some time, ODESZA and Golden Features first linked up backstage at a small festival in the Australian city of Perth in 2014. A close friendship soon blossomed as they spent more and more time on the road together. But for years, both acts remained fully occupied by their respective careers: busy tour schedules, chart-topping hits, headlining festivals and selling out arena-sized venues. 

In 2018, however, the three musicians decided to rent an isolated house somewhere in the outback of Australia to come up with some new tracks. Inspiration struck, and the material flowed fast. It was during their initial writing sessions that the group watched the Nicolas Refn film, Bronson — a drama based on a true story of the UK’s most formidable inmate, Charles Bronson. Naming their first project folder after the flick, they decided to stick with the name as their sound began to take its twisted and glorious form.

Exploring a sweet and pleasantly sour middle-ground between their platinum electro-pop appeal and each of their personal, more underground tastes, BRONSON’s 10-track debut weaves expansive dreamscapes, melodic vocal-driven compositions, and roughneck drum patterns. It’s gorgeous, dark, uplifting, and unsettling at the same time. And features guest appearances from notable vocalists such as Gallant, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, and lau.ra (of Ultraísta).

Having just released this noteworthy LP via ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective and independent music powerhouse, Ninja Tune, we caught up with BRONSON to check in on their refreshed production process, their recent music videos, the thought-process behind pushing their musical limits, and what the future holds for this new power trio.

The album is somewhat of a departure from your arena-level dance music. How would you characterize BRONSON’s approach to production versus Golden Features & ODESZA’s?

In many ways, that was one of the main motivations of the album — to make something that was a creative departure from both of our respective projects, something that would push our boundaries and make us take risks. Working together really refined the way we approached the production of the album; we didn’t want to go into it building the same soundscapes we’ve done previously. We really experimented with different sounds and hybridized so many different genres — everything from jungle, to more melodic influences, to sampling a marching army, to ‘80s fueled sounds. But we tried to practice a sense of restraint to really let each element shine (which we hope we accomplished).

What are some of the factors that stimulated this new sonic approach? 

We wrote the album over a period of years, so there were so many different influences that we adopted just due to it being a fractured writing process, and it’s hard to trace it back to any specific artists or records that were inspirations per se. The real only overarching motivation was to just make something that excited and inspired us. We didn’t put any limitations on ourselves during the writing process, and kind of just let whatever happened, happen. It was this creative outlet that didn’t fit within our worlds of ODESZA and Golden Features, which allowed us to really push our limits sonically, which is what you’re hearing. In terms of the emotion of the record matching the times, that was actually more of a coincidence. We finished the project just before everything was starting to unfold, but we hope that in the midst of it all, people can find emotional relief when listening through.

If you could send a person anywhere in the world to listen to this album from front to back, what environment would you put them in?

This record is really meant to be experienced live, so we’d have to say that the best listening environment would be at a show, taking in all of the music and the visuals all at once, surrounded by other people. One of the main goals of the album was to make something that everyone could relate to, and escape, in their own way, so we can’t wait until we’re able to share that experience collectively when it’s safe to do so.

Pandemic aside for a moment, how have you seen the landscape of popular dance music change over the past few years? Would you agree with the sentiment that commercial producers and even mainstream dance fans are beginning to gravitate towards more “underground” electronic music styles?

The electronic landscape has definitely shifted and changed over the past few years — there was this massive oversaturation that seemed to implode. It kind of feels like the underground had a resurgence, out of the ashes, and as a result dance music is more exciting than it’s been in a long time. We’re not sure that more commercial producers and mainstream listeners are necessarily actively becoming part of the underground wave, but personally, we’ve always loved artists who still pay tribute to the underground/history, but in the same breath, make it more approachable.

Tell us a little bit about the music videos for the albums first singles “DAWN” and “KEEP MOVING.”

They’re kind of like microcosms representative of the entire project. The album has so many peaks and valleys and is centered around the idea of duality, of the balance lightness and darkness, of more intense instrumental moments, as in “KEEP MOVING”, and notes of reprieve, like you hear in “DAWN”. The visuals of both of these tracks are reflective of those emotions — the music video for “KEEP MOVING” has a lot to unpack. It’s jarring for sure, haha, but there are a number of different layers of deeper meaning and subtext to it and we really wanted to leave the interpretation of it up to the viewer, much like the larger album. On the other hand, “DAWN” as a listening experience is so uplifting and full of hope, that we wanted to do our best to use it as a source of inspiration and put a positive spin on how people are able to persevere and uplift one another in difficult times. Ultimately, we want people to take what they need from the record and find a certain sense of solace and relatability in it, which applies both sonically and visually.

Along with your Foreign Family Collective, why was Ninja Tune the right home for the album?

Ninja Tune has always been such an amazing indie label, label partner, and support system for us as ODESZA. We’ve released our past few albums with them and couldn’t have had a better experience working with them. So we had that preexisting relationship, but that aside sonically, Ninja Tune has a history of fostering really cool, innovative electronic artists and we felt like the BRONSON project had a natural home there because of that.

What are BRONSON’s next steps now that the album is out?

As we mentioned before, we’re really keen to perform as BRONSON and build out the live show. That was all kind of put to a halt when the pandemic hit, so we’re crossing our fingers that it’s not too long before we can start thinking about that again. For the immediate, we’re just taking a moment to take a breath now that the album is out, and we’re really grateful for that.

Along with your Foreign Family Collective, why was Ninja Tune the right home for the album?

Ninja Tune has always been such an amazing indie label, label partner, and support system for us as ODESZA. We’ve released our past few albums with them and couldn’t have had a better experience working with them. So we had that preexisting relationship, but that aside sonically, Ninja Tune has a history of fostering really cool, innovative electronic artists and we felt like the BRONSON project had a natural home there because of that.

What are BRONSON’s next steps now that the album is out?

As we mentioned before, we’re really keen to perform as BRONSON and build out the live show. That was all kind of put to a halt when the pandemic hit, so we’re crossing our fingers that it’s not too long before we can start thinking about that again. For the immediate, we’re just taking a moment to take a breath now that the album is out, and we’re really grateful for that.

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

Our expert curation team brings you some of the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time featuring DJ Sneak, Seb Zito, Sante Sansone, Black Girl / White Girl, Latmun, and more.

DJ Sneak – The Difference [Kultur]

DJ Sneak, one of the OGs of house music, delivers a heavy, jackin, jazz-infused hypnotic groover that will not disappoint you when dropping this in any of your sets. This track is the third release off the label, Kultur, and they have delivered nothing but pure FIRE since day one. 

Axxis, Kenny Dope – All I’m Akin (Demuir Playboy Edit) [Dopewax]

Demuir’s Playboy edit of Masters At Work’s Kenny Dope is clearly worthy of its name. This high-energy, distortion-packed, loopy, and jackin cut is doing it for me and is bound to do the same for you if you’re looking to bring the heat to any dance floor. It’s a mix of groovy, sexy, raw, that will fit like a glove in any house or tech-infused set.

Black Girl / White Girl – Flexxulator [EI8HT]

These two women have been on my radar for quite some time now and have delivered nothing but quality. If you don’t know them, I suggest going to check them out. Their last EP on EI8HT is a clear-cut example of their wicked production skills. Featuring a catchy acid bassline with a rave-like drum sequencing, “Flexxulator” is topped off with some memorable and beefy impact vocal stabs that hit you like a rock to the dome. 

Sante Sansone – Quarantine [Hottrax]

Sante Sansone is a man on the rise who has been appearing on some of the best labels in tech houses over the last couple of years. This time, he brings the business on Hottrax with “Quarantine,” clearly having produced the tracks during COVID times in Italy. The acid line and rolling bassline will send you into a euphoria state as the catchy ethnic vocal hooks you and refuses to let up. Employing your typical “less-is-more” approach to the production, Sansone is here to give you precisely what you need. 

Riky Ild – Sink the pink [Klaphouse Records]

This track from Riky Ild on Klaphouse Records — a label that I’ve recently started following more after finding nothing but quality sounds via their discography — is that type of tech house on the right side of trendy at the moment. With basslines that fill the full spectrum of the track and never stop, the shuffle groove in the sequencing really gives you that full-body sensation while listening. I like the simplicity of the breaks and the efficient drops following the distortion and glitch FX that build up to it! 

Seb Zito – In And Around [WoW! Recordings]

One of my favorite producers and one of the most respected creators in the scene, Seb Zito comes out guns blazing on this new EP for WoW! Records. “In And Around” is a fully energetic, swingy, and forward driving tune with pure soulful house vocal layering. It’s a track that is bound to get people’s hands in the air, and no doubt, on that special day when clubs open again, it’s going to be a winner! When the chord progression drops, the arrangement adds another layer of emotions that masterfully accompanies the treatment and FX on the vocals. Get lost in this track. You won’t regret it!

BEATPORT HYPE PICK

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

(HYPEWheats – Sneaky Fox (Latmun Remix) [WYLD]

It was surely not the easiest of tasks to remix Wheats on his monstrous EP for WYLD. Latmun delivers a superb interpretation of “Sneaky Fox” with a drive for atmospheric glitches, blips, acid lines, and effects that weave and wriggle throughout the track. Filled with swinging drums and punctuated by a high-impact bassline, this dance floor bomb has all the ingredients to get a crowd going, all while keeping a deeper edge.

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

Since 2006, Sistrum Recordings has steadily become one of Detroit’s best kept secrets. Speaking to founder Patrice Scott, Thomas Cox hears the story behind the label’s history, and discovers that Scott’s unwavering commitment to his own musical intuitions is the driving force behind Sistrum’s success.

In 2020, dance music is big business. Over the last three-plus decades, we have seen the commodification of nearly every aspect of the scene, as well as corporate penetration into all levels of what was once called the underground. Many of the player’s antics are known worldwide simply because the infrastructure behind them excels at spreading information through social media and lifestyle branding. Somewhere beneath the buzzwords and hype, however, there are foundational artists and labels whose music is the unshakeable bedrock of the industry. And thanks to his DIY attitude and strong music family connections, Patrice Scott‘s Sistrum Recordings has endured as part of that base ever since its humble beginnings in 2006.

The Detroit techno scene has been documented extensively, with the focus often falling on the innovators of the ’80s, as well as the explosion of styles and sounds in the ’90s. The aftershocks of such major seismic movements were able to reach even younger kids like Patrice. He discovered the music when he and his friends happened upon the legendary DJ crew playing music in a park. “I was around 12 or 13 when my friends and I went down the street from where my grandma lived,” Patrice says. “There was a crew there throwing a party called Sharevari, set up in the park. The DJs called themselves Direct Drive. One of my friend’s brothers was part of that crew. They were just a few years older than us; that’s how we ended up hanging out watching them play. We were just blown away. We had never heard this type of music. It was just exciting.”

Detroit’s fabled radio disc jockeys also reached many new ears and provided a blueprint for those who were not yet old enough to attend dance parties. “I always wanted to be a DJ from around the age of 9 or 10. Not a dance music DJ, just a radio DJ,” he explains. Record shops like Buy Rite Records became places Patrice and his friends would often frequent to find this new form of music they had discovered, spending what little money they had to score records. This ground proved to be quite fertile for developing talented DJs and producers, as the techno pioneers merged with the burgeoning rave scene. 

Chicago and Detroit had a much more symbiotic relationship during this era than many realize. Only a short drive separated the two, which facilitated easy access to the other city’s music. “When I was like 17, we used to get in the car and drive to Chicago to buy records, like on a Saturday morning,” Patrice recalls. “Get up, leave at 8:00 in the morning. It’s a four-hour drive, and we’d be back at home by nine at night. We’d just buy records and get all the stuff that came out on the Chicago labels before it arrived in Detroit. They’d have it on the shelves in Chicago as soon as it was available, and it would arrive in Detroit like two weeks later.” The intense competition to have songs people didn’t know, and to have them before everybody else, was at the heart of these trips for Patrice. But another exchange would influence his tastes and future. On trips to Chicago, he found mixtapes by Frankie Knuckles and others, adding another perspective to his developing DJ technique. Mixing these influences through the ’90s helped Patrice develop his take on the music, which would prove very useful for him down the line. 

In the early 2000s, raves had begun to die off, and a reconnection to the roots was afoot. Inspired by local labels like Moodymann’s KDJ, Rick Wade’s Harmonie Park, and Theo Parrish’s Sound Signature, the ’00s saw multiple generations of producers stake their claim to the lineage of house in the city by starting imprints of their own. Older DJs like Delano Smith and younger upstarts like Omar S and many more between, began showing the world a different side of Detroit dance music. It was in this environment where Patrice first sent around his initial demos. “I was shopping some music around, and I just got tired of guys telling me how to do it. Explaining how ‘this part should go here, and this part should go there.’ I’m open to suggestions, I respect opinions, but I just wanted to do it my way. So I decided to go for it and create my own label so I can put out what I want to put out.” With two EPs’ worth of material completed, he just had to choose which one he would lead with. 

Sistrum kicked off in fall 2006 with a bang. The very first release, Atmospheric Emotions, came out on vinyl and sold exceptionally well. Despite Patrice being a part of the local scene, the title track eschewed the disco and funk samples Detroit house was known for in favor of a spaced-out take on Chicago’s synth-heavy deepness. This was not a coincidence, as heavyweight producers like Ron Trent and Mr. Fingers were big influences on Patrice. “Half of my sound comes from growing up in Detroit, listening to Electrifying Mojo, being around the early days of the Detroit techno scene,” he says. “Also, 50 percent of my sound was influenced by Chicago because I had strong connections to Chicago. I had a cousin and friends who lived in Chicago. I used to study how they did it in Chicago.” Feeling justified in his insistence on releasing on his own, he dropped the second record, Beyond Deep, in spring of 2007. Another synth-heavy house excursion, the title track added musical elements to the equation. When this record also blew up, the scene was set for the label to expand. 

The label was clearly at the vanguard of the deep house revival of the time — rooted in the classic US sounds which had sprouted in places as diverse as Japan, Russia, and many other locations. It was on the third release where these connections started becoming more tangible. Underground Anthems was released in two volumes, the first on Sistrum and the second on Detroit compatriot Keith Worthy’s Aesthetic Audio label, starting the era where Patrice reached out to others to contribute releases. “I’ve never released anything people send me as demos,” Patrice says. “When you see other artists on the label, it’s because I went to them and asked them to contribute something. Most likely, we had already become acquainted in some kind of way.”

Patrice Scott. Image by Frankie Casillo.

With this simple premise in mind, records from underground heroes like Specter and deep jams from lesser-known artists like Mike Edge began appearing on Sistrum. Early releases by European house producers XDB and Leonid established their names on an international level through the imprint. Sistrum also helped restart classic Chicago house producer Brian Harden‘s vinyl career more than a decade after his last release. These records varied in sound from organic to electronic, emphasizing deepness and stripped back arrangements. But this had more to do with Patrice’s personal tastes than what he DJed. “I play some of everything,” he says. “I consider myself more of a house DJ with a sprinkle of disco, a sprinkle of techno, a sprinkle of this or that. It has no bearing on what I put out, it’s just about what I’m feeling. I don’t try to compare the two. Around the time of the early releases on the label, I would hear promoters say ‘Whoa, that’s not what I was expecting,’ in terms of my DJing being a different sound. Some of them might have been disappointed, but you know, sorry, it doesn’t work that way.”

By releasing only a handful of records every year, Sistrum has been able to practice quality over quantity, with Patrice being the almost solitary force behind the label. “I don’t have a big operation here; it’s just my girlfriend and me,” he says. “She does the artwork. Not long ago, I revamped the website, and she helps out with all that kind of stuff. There’s no plan, man. It’s just what I feel. It’s a free-for-all.” His production abilities continued to develop as well, with the label being the primary avenue for his tracks to see the light of day. Tracks like “Distance Against Time“, “Far Away“, and “Analog Dreams” showed an increasing confidence in his own prowess, without resorting to flash or gimmicks. There was also a more well-defined shift toward a dense techno mood that began to show itself in his Modular One collaboration with Florida acid king, Chris Mitchell.

A number of EPs over the years led to his first and thus far only LP, Euphonium The Album, in 2015. The slow buildup to the album seems very in character for an artist who is not all that active on social media, or particularly outspoken in the few interviews he’s done. By combining ambient tracks with his more techno-influenced sound, the album was programmed to tell a story, and did so in a very pleasing way to Sistrum’s fanbase by that point. Nobody would have been surprised if the label went right back into the same well-mined (but still rewarding) groove it had favored for the previous nine years. As it would turn out, this wasn’t meant to be.

Instead, Patrice’s feelings would facilitate a turn towards a different style of emerging Black dance music in the US underground. Increasingly boxed into a precise genre, he decided that what he was putting out was not well balanced enough with the diversity of sounds he preferred to listen to and DJ. He began working on tracks with a different vibe, introducing more overtly musical elements and fewer straight, four-on-the-floor beats. Elements of jazz and live instrumentation mixed in with the synths and drum machines helped shift his musical tone into something refreshed and exciting.

Son Of Sound

“Looking back on it, maybe the first couple releases were sorta kinda like the sound I’m doing now. Now is way more musical,” Patrice says. “Then I went through a phase where I wanted to be more Detroitish as far as Detroit techno. That’s part of me. I still make music like that at home. Then I got to a point where I was like, ‘Wait a minute I want to put out some of this stuff that is more musical, more pianos, and more musicality to it.’ So I just started releasing that kind of stuff and making more of it. That’s where my heart has always been. I don’t know what triggered me to go kind of tech-ier for a little, but that’s what I was feeling.” It wasn’t a startling change, but one that would help his music and the label find new audiences. 

The first release to bear these hallmarks was The Detroit Upright EP, released in spring 2016. Immediate reactions to the title track’s electric piano and slightly broken beat were powerful and sparked great feedback from a few of Patrice’s favorite DJs. “Ron Trent called me when he first heard “Detroit Upright” and said, ‘Keep doing it like that. You gotta educate and teach.’ That just blew me away,” says Patrice. In addition to that Chicago legend, prominent Detroit jocks like Theo Parrish were also playing the track. Joe Claussell in New York and many others across the world would also pick this record up, another clear sign that following his instincts was a winning formula for the dance floor.

While it is easy to look back positively on this success, it was never inevitable, and required Patrice to take a risk in putting his new art out into the world with no cosign other than belief in his music, and in himself. “I was kinda scared to put that out, to be honest,” he explains. “It was such a change to what I had done previously. I’m just going to put out what I feel. I’m not going to sit around here being timid. Some people will like it, and some people won’t. Just keep it moving.” With such a positive response, he continued down that path with 2017’s Soulfood EP, which pushed even further into funky, almost breakbeat drum patterns. 

This stylistic shift would apply to Sistrum releases by other artists as well. The looser organic feel he was embracing has a close kinship with Kai Alcé — an artist who appeared on the Genesis Tracks Vol 2 EP in 2016, alongside tracks by Reggie Dokes, Eric Cloutier, and another deep track by Patrice. NDATL alumnus Javonntte also dropped a nicely varied record that year for Sistrum. The tandem of the two helped the label-head set off on his current path toward underground domination. New York producer Henry Maldonado’s Son of Sound project made a notable appearance with an EP that adds jazzy flourishes to his lush garage production and manages to fit in perfectly with the label’s current aesthetic. 

Established names such as these are not the only artists to grace the label in recent years. French producer Aleqs Notal has made two EPs for the label. The first, Ascending Nodes, came in 2017 while the second Lighten You UP dropped in 2019. Both feature a fresh fusion of soulful house and electronics. This year saw the Sistrum debut of an Italian producer who goes by the alias Butch Haynes. Very mature deep house and downtempo hip-hop fit together seamlessly, and Patrice’s remix was the cherry on top. 

Patrice’s 2018 remix of  “All The Little Things” by Alton Miller featuring Ree is another recent highlight for the label. The soulful and organic original gets flipped into a more driving garage number, and already is being hailed as a classic. Patrice followed this up with perhaps his most accomplished work so far, Moments and Concepts. With a descending chord progression that throws back to the early ’90s, underpinned with thumping modern drums, the EP’s title-track is primed for the dancefloor and is still gaining steam amongst a broad group of DJs. The B-side sees Patrice take another step toward diversifying his sound with “A Song For Mia” — a track  tinged with a strong neo-soul flavor, and his first foray under 100 BPM. 

These recent tracks especially have been embraced by the younger generation, but it is clear that the influence is reciprocal. Patrice says, “I love Kyle Hall‘s music. I also love him as a DJ, and he’s really turned into a great one. Another guy is K15. Man, such great music. They inspire me to be honest. I don’t listen to everything; I just listen to what I like. I get inspiration from all these people.”

Keeping with his DIY history has recently led Patrice to expand his presence on the internet. The Sistrum website is now up and offering a line of merchandise, all with the new label logo. And he is continuing his explorations into slower tempos and melodic deepness, releasing on other imprints like Night Time Stories, for which he provided a languid remix for Session Victim.

Looking forward, Patrice hopes to further expand into slower tempos to express his love for neo-soul and hip-hop. Some projects currently in the works involve vocals, something he’s found an increased interest in following his remix of Alton Miller. Music by both himself and others is currently wrapped up and ready to go, though with the current COVID-19 crisis, release dates are sketchy. Regardless, Patrice explains that he doesn’t feel all that stressed about it. “For me, it’s all about putting out good music. It’s not about putting out releases and behaving like, ‘I’ve just done this, let’s hurry up and do that.’ I’ve got tons of music ready to go, but it’s just about what I feel. If I’m not feeling anything, I don’t put anything out.” Most importantly, Patrice Scott will continue to follow his own path and trust that it will lead him to where he needs to be.

Thomas Cox is a DJ, music producer, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA.  He has been involved in underground dance music for almost 25 years, and his writing can be found in Detroit Electronic Quarterly, 5 Magazine, Love Injection, and many others. But his primary outlet is his blog infinitestatemachine.com. You can also find him on Instagram and Twitter.

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. 

From COVID-19 to DJ name changes to apology statements, 2020 has been anything but uneventful — and it’s still far from over. There has been so much on my mind these days that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with this: I am equally grateful and excited to hold the position as Guest Editor of Beatportal for this month. That said, I will be completely transparent, and mention that I was presented with this opportunity in response to the current social climate, and more specifically, the lack of Black and POC employed behind the scenes in the industry.

After a canceled DJ tour in March due to COVID-19, and not much freelance work in sight, the George Floyd protests, and the BLM movement provoked swift action within the industry, and it now seems everyone is looking to hire or partner with black creatives and I suddenly find myself busy again. While these various writing and curation opportunities are exciting, it is somewhat difficult for me to not observe some of it as performative opposed to actual change. Some of these opportunities were a little too great to pass up, and I recognize the importance of taking on these tasks and showcasing my skills as a competent Black woman in the industry. There is a lot of necessary dialogue happening within the world and music, and there is no better time than now to take these issues head-on. As they say, the jig is up.

I am witnessing the term “dismantle” used pretty frequently in regards to the necessary action needed to make an impactful change within the scene. And while the dismantling we are seeing may sometimes appear trivial, it is indeed necessary; like changing DJ names due to accusations of cultural appropriation, or the fall of once-beloved Berlin booking agency Odd Fantastic over a slew of problematic issues engulfed in racist undertones. Big and small changes are all relevant, and these so-called minor issues we are dealing with have a direct correlation to the systemic racism and white supremacy we see in the world.

In regards to dance music, one of the main issues we’ve been seeing is the exact issue that landed me this Guest Editor position — not enough Black people in behind the scenes roles. As we attempt to move forward, structural change will be imperative in many aspects. From booking agents and managers to club bookers and music journalists, the current underrepresentation of BIPOC in these roles is a direct reflection of the whitewashed scene we see today. Now that these discussions are coming to the fore, we must commit to long-standing action and giving the electronic music scene the facelift it so desperately needs.

House and techno music were birthed in the Black community, and have always been political. Let us not forget or steer away from those roots, especially when Black people are actively being killed and brutalized by law enforcement at an alarming rate. Let’s also not make this out to be just an America problem, when systemic racism affects minorities and Black people just about all over the world. It’s apparent that things are far from perfect in the US, but there is work to be done everywhere — no one is exempt. The first step to solving these ugly issues? Be willing to acknowledge them and to be accountable if necessary. Study up, research, read, talk to your Black friends; do you have any Black friends?

As uncomfortable and unexciting discussions about race may be, it’s been the elephant in the room for far too long, and the time is now. The revolution is now. We are living in a modern-day civil rights movement, and I don’t know about you, but I feel a calling and sense of duty to be a part of it. Throughout August, we will be covering Black electronic music and artists through features written by some of the best our culture has to offer. Take this opportunity to embrace, celebrate, and educate yourself on some of the artists and sounds shaping the fabric of modern-day electronic music. You posted your black square in solidarity, but what else did you do? Let’s stop with the performances and get out there and do the dirty work. The world is watching.

The integration will give Denon DJ users access to LINK’s full streaming capabilities and Beatport’s massive catalogue — directly from their DJ gear.

Today, Beatport and Denon DJ have officially launched the long-anticipated Beatport LINK integration with all Engine OS products. 

With an upgrade to Denon DJ Engine OS v1.5, Denon users can access Beatport LINK’s streaming service via Wi-Fi directly from their Denon DJ hardware — no computer or USB stick needed. 

That means DJs can play nearly any track from Beatport’s entire catalogue directly through their Denon DJ gear running Engine OS, including all of Beatport’s charts and playlists, as well as from their own LINK playlists. Beatport LINK also provides Engine OS with BPM and key info, so DJs can see critical track information while browsing for tracks in Engine OS without first loading or analyzing. By providing beatgrid, waveform overview, and other performance data, a DJ can perform any track instantly upon placing it in their deck.

Engine OS v1.5 also features a new BPM detection algorithm, a new Quick Source Menu for faster music source switching, new microphone capabilities for Smart Consoles, as well as a number of additional usability improvements and stability enhancements, for near limitless performance possibilities. 

Denon DJ Engine OS-powered products include SC6000, SC6000M, SC5000, SC5000M, PRIME 4, PRIME 2, and PRIME GO.

Additional software and hardware integrations as well as some new exciting features are expected to be rolled out throughout the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

To find out more about Beatport LINK subscriptions, head here

With support from some of Europe’s biggest names, Kohra is one of India’s most notable figures in dance music. Now he’s released his debut album, a conceptual, multi-genre record with roots in 2000s electronica and ancient mysticism. We talk about that, and what the future holds for India’s growing scene.  

Over the past few years, India has become one of the fastest-growing markets for dance music and has proven itself to be a hotbed for some of the scene’s most promising, young DJs and producers.

The growth of India’s underground scene owes much to one of its most seasoned dance floor pioneers, Madhav Shorey (AKA Kohra). The New Delhi native has relentlessly worked to establish his city as a terminus for house and techno in his country. A rock and metal drummer turned DJ extraordinaire, Shorey’s travels and time studying at Swinburne University in Melbourne served to stoke his desire to create a homegrown scene for the City of Rallies and beyond.

He got his start as part of his country’s first widely recognized live electronica bands, Jalebee Cartel. And in 2011, he established Qilla Records imprint, which became one of India’s most well-respected independent dance music labels. Through Qilla, Shorey helped bring international attention himself and the productions of his compatriots. Before long, the name Kohra (taken from the Urdu word for “mist”) was ringing out among his country’s young club enthusiasts. He’s since shared stages with the likes of Dubfire, Richie Hawtin, Patrice Baumel, and Joseph Capriati at festivals like Awakenings, DGTL, and EDC. All the while, he’s acted as an ambassador for Indian dance floors, leveraging his fame to attract big talent to his country, in the hopes of showing off its party potential.

On July 13th, Shorey released his fantastic debut album, akhõa 10-track LP that pays homage to the 17th-century mystic poet that inspired its creation. A departure from his typical house and techno sound, the album blends ambient and progressive textures with breaks, electro, and even jungle, woven together with sweeping soundscapes. Sculpted with an early 2000s aura, the legendary John Digweed was so impressed by the album that he played half of it during his Bedrock Bunker Session set in May of this year.

Following the release of akhõ, we caught up with Shorey to learn more about the promise of India’s music scene, the thought process behind his new sound, and how the concept behind this must-listen full-length came to him during a deep meditation session.

Tell us about your intro to DJing and producing. What were some of the first records and shows that helped you step into your love of electronic music?

So basically, I was in school, and I actually started out as a drummer. I was a freelance drummer for a couple of rock bands and progressive metal. We used to rehearse at my house, and that’s pretty much the same time I was listening to a lot of Goldie and Roni Size, some UK drum & bass stuff, and obviously the big boys like The Prodigy. It got really annoying because every time we’d rehearse, one band member would not make it.

Because of that, I started recording my own parts and other members’ parts as well. And I was like, “You know what? I can just do this on my own.” So it was that idea of being able to make music independently, which threw me into the world of electronic music and DJing. That was a breakthrough moment when I was still in school. 

I also helped form India’s first live electronica band called the Jalebee Cartel. We had a bunch of releases on some pretty decent labels. Then I moved to Australia to study graphic design when I was in my early twenties, and that’s when I started exploring things. I finished up my course, and came back to Delhi. That was a decade ago, and I’ve been here ever since. 

How have you seen India’s electronic music scene evolve since you first started producing and playing out around the country?

We really [planted] the seeds back in the day, because there was not a single club playing electronic music; it was just everything else then. So it was a big struggle, and we kept playing at small bars and venues. Every six to eight months, we’d try and get an international artist when we’d built up a crowd to show people something more and get some cool artists down. So it started happening from there. Now it’s been so many years that we’ve been doing this here, it’s evolved quite a bit. The scene has been exploding slowly, and the culture has been building up in India really well.

And it sucks because I think the last six months before this whole lockdown happened was when India was experiencing some really fantastic parties. Like finally, the real deal! Similar to those you experience at a party in the US or Berlin. It was only happening the last year before we shut down, it was just getting to the right place.

Would you say it’s harder for Indian DJs and producers to find recognition from clubland as a whole?

We’re pretty disconnected from the global scene. Being in India, geographically, it doesn’t work for us, man. We’re far away from what’s happening, so it’s only when people come here, we kind of meet them and they hear us, they get to know about us, and that’s how things move forward. Even if they’ve listened to our music, it’s not like we’re easily accessible or over there in Europe.

Tell us about your record label, Qilla Records.

We started eight years ago. I started out with one of my friends who’s also a huge name in the Indian dance music scene. His artist name is BLOT!, he’s played Boiler Room, and one of his releases was on Dynamic as well. So he was one of the founding members for the first two years, and then he took a bit of a backseat of the label, so I’ve been managing it on my own ever since. We put out ten releases every year, and my new album, akhõ, is our 75th release.

The next release we have is from this live modular artist called Monophonik. His stuff is all over the place. It’s everything from ambient, to jungle, to electro, and that’s all played live. We have another full-length LP from this artist named SHFT, who I produce a lot of music with. He thrives in the realm of trippy techno. Third, there is another talented artist named Vridian. We released his EP last year, and he has some fascinating stuff in the works for us. 

I feel the label has been evolving with all of us, and myself, because of the music style. In India, everything becomes a bit of a trend somehow, so I’m always trying to push forward and pursue whatever I feel should be on the dance floors in the next six months, and then I work backward. I’m never trying to work with whatever’s popular right now. So it is always trying to reinvent ourselves and push a new sound.

Your debut album is profoundly conceptual and inspired by the seventeenth century Gujarati poet of the same name, ‘akhõ.’ Tell us a bit about your full-length LP, the poet’s work, and how it stimulated your production process.

About three years ago, I had undergone a huge transition in my life. I felt ill, I was a little unwell, and I was also really bored, honestly. I was playing every weekend, but I just didn’t feel complete. I ended up shifting my whole thinking towards the scene, and I wanted to do something that’s just outside the box of just playing house and techno every weekend. And my lifestyle changed in a big way, so I stopped drinking, I stopped partying, I stopped eating meat. I’m pretty much vegan now for three years. And it was all just trying to clean up my act and just be more aware of things.

In one of my meditation sessions, which was about an hour-long (I usually don’t meditate for that long), I came out from it with this guy’s name in my head. It sounds bizarre, I know, and I had no idea who this guy is. So when I heard this guy’s name, I started researching, and it turns out that this guy, the only guy who’s named Akhõ, is actually this poet, Akha Bhagat. He’s not a very popular poet, and I’m really into poetry in general. He was a mystic from the 17th century. I know about the kinds of things that these poets used to speak about, but I’d never heard of this guy. He was like an underground poet who was just forgotten.

And when I started reading up about him, I found one book on him, which was available in the US. It was the only single English version available on the planet. Finally, it came to my doorstep, I opened it, and BOOM! Everything that I was thinking about in my transitional phase, with my music, the philosophies I was delving into, and more, this guy’s poetry just merged into it, like a hand in glove. It was just seamless. I decided that this was a godsend, and I couldn’t make this album about myself, but it would be a tribute to this poet because it just came to me and his work resonated with me.

What was it about these revelations that helped you shape the album’s musical direction?

I found that when you really start to dig deeper and figure out who you are, you end up going back to your childhood, you end up going back to who you were when you were a kid. That’s where my journey took me. I asked myself root questions like, “why am I even DJing? Why am I even doing this in the first place? What was it that I was so excited about?” And then it took me back to the early 2000s when I honestly first heard the best music of my life. I found Laurent Garnier, Goldie, LTJ Bukem, drum & bass, breaks, house, Digweed, Sasha, and just everyone else doing their own thing. So much of the album was influenced by those artists and the ideas of those times. It’s been beautiful because now I’m writing all kinds of music styles that I want to write.

Can you tell us a little bit about the album artwork for akhõ?

Because the poetry is going back a couple of centuries and since I was approaching the whole music space from the early 2000s, I intended to use all production, mastering, and artwork techniques that would have been used 20 years ago. For the artwork, it took about a month and a half trying to find who could do it. I’m a designer myself, but I wanted to do something different.

Finally, I stumbled upon this guy’s work. Ancient India and Pakistan inspire all of his work. He’s a painter, an illustrator, and a robotics engineer, so all his artwork is super dystopian and sci-fi future, but the setting is super old school. I’m really happy with it. To me, it seems to touch on themes of mutation, the physical and the technological, the old and the new, and oneness. I didn’t want it to look too complex. It’s simple, but it’s got detail. And that’s how I feel about the music as well.

How did you try and emulate this “old school” way of thinking when it came down to producing the music for the album?

I used early sampling techniques, EMU pads, a lot of 303s and drum machines, chopped up jungle loops, breakbeat samples, and more. I was always trying to read grooves in different ways and find a more traditional music-making process, and not just use these typical loud drums and pre-programmed VSTs. I wanted to use those techniques, but just bump it up a little bit with the production standards right now while incorporating a bit of the modular, which I’ve used across the album also — just subtle effects that bring it together. I wanted the old school flavor because it’s an album, not a bunch of dance floor singles.

As far as the music scene goes, how do you think India will fare in clubland’s post-pandemic paradigm shift?

In India, we’ve had many issues as far as the dance music scene is concerned, in general. There are so many obstacles in our way, and just because we were about to make headway, as I said earlier, I think the pandemic has given us time to look at all the issues that were not okay. And I now believe that when we come back, it’ll be a nice clean ground for all of us. And it’s going to be high-quality, because it’s not like we’re going to go back and there’ll be a million things happening, things are going to start slowly. I think the quality is going to become center stage. It’s going to be important for artists to be on their A-game and be ready to bring something new and fresh to the table. 

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

Our expert curation team brings you some of the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time featuring Drigo, Abel Blanes, Blu 9, Tony Romanello, and more.

KUSP (UK) – M2S [Korpus 9]

Going from strength to strength, Korpus 9 delivers another deadly techno weapon courtesy of KUSP. The duo have been refining their sound over the last two years, and it really shows. “M2S” is a lesson in high production and sound design. A distorted lead line snakes in and out of view, keeping you interested while a booming kick keeps you dancing. 

Anna V. – Dark Energy (Blu 9 Remix) [Voltage Records]

Blu 9 offers up a storming remix of the already excellent “Dark Energy” from Anna V. With ascending arpeggios, massive washes of noise, and ambiance for days, this track was most certainly built for the peak of your set. It got us dancing, that’s for sure!   

Darian Jaburg – DisaStar [Music4Aliens Black]

Hailing from Giessen in Germany, Darian Jaburg has pitch black techno running through his veins. He’s built his reputation through releases labels like Reload Records, Finder Records, Klinik Room, Davotab, Carypla Records, MTZ Records, and Sonika Music. “DisaStar” has a menacing feel from the offset and only gets darker and darker with scary pads and an evil 303 line. One for the heads-down moments!

Abel Blanes – See People [Beat Therapy Records]

Beat Therapy have been impressing us with their releases for a while now, and the new tracks from Abel Blannes, “See People,” falls firmly into the impressive category. His formative years in Barcelona seem to have inspired his funkier take on techno. In this track, we particularly like the bouncy bass drum pattern that plays very well off the acid lead. Great stuff!

Alex Vigo – Anubis [Ole Black]

We don’t know much about Alex Vigo, but what we do know is that his new tune, “Anubis” for Ole Black is a banger! Setting the scene with a relentless bassline, the track pummels along while some very interesting percussion instruments littering the high frequencies. This effort is perfect as a mid-set roller.

Puncher – Cells (Tony Romanello Remix) [Teoria Perfekta]

Tony Romanello gives us his take on Puncher’s “Cells.” The result is a 303 heavy steam train that has hard kicks and an even harder drop. The original track has more of a dubby side, whereas Tony’s version flips that into a menacing slice that is perfect for tougher moments in your set.

Fussion, Drigo – Hydra [Loose Records]

Argentinian producer Drigo has already been turning heads with his releases on Set About, Codex, and Bitten, but this is the first time he has collaborated with Fussion, a duo also hailing from Argentina. The result is “Hydra,” a rip-roaring techno workout that oozes personality with its refined synth arpeggios and bumping rhythms. 

For more peak-time techno tracks you may have missed this month, check out our Beatport Link Playlist.

The Los Angeles-based music school is looking for three Black creatives to participate in its 12-month programs for music production, vocal performance, and music business.

Created with the hope of playing “a small part in helping Black creatives manifest their vision through music,” Icon Collective will be awarding three aspiring producers, vocalists, and music entrepreneurs a scholarship to their college of music as part of its annual Black Voices Scholarship initiative.

Since opening its doors in 2005, Icon Collective has successfully helped develop the careers of prosperous alumni such as Bonnie x Clyde, Rinzen, Jauz, Slander, i_o, and many more. With its wide variety of classes and programs, Icon’s dedicated staff of music professionals prides itself on giving its students the individualized support they need to help them break into the industry.

Seeking black creatives who show a strong vision, a drive for excellence, an excellent work ethic, a commitment to their careers, and a willingness to engage in their program entirely, the year-long program will take place at Icon Collective’s new campus in Burbank, California. Requirements include that all applicants must be at least 17 years of age, have a high school diploma or GED, and be citizens of the United States.

LEARN HOW TO APPLY FOR ICON COLLECTIVE’S BLACK VOICES SCHOLARSHIP HERE.

The deadline to apply is August 17, 2020.

Each scholarship comes with a $1000 gear grant to help these students acquire any program tools they may not have already. The required gear includes a copy of Ableton Live Suite, a Pro Tools Subscription, an Adobe CC Membership, Melodyne Essentials, a keyboard, headphones, microphone, sound card, and a Macbook Pro.

Icon Collective’s Black Voices scholarship covers $19,500 of the school’s $25,995 tuition. By keeping it one-quarter short of a full scholarship, Icon believes that this helps demonstrate the “personal responsibility needed to succeed in the program and as a thriving, entrepreneurial artist thereafter.”

Find out more about Icon Collective and their specialized programs here.

We’re proud to devote the bulk of our content to Black artists and writers next month — but this is only the beginning.

In August, the bulk of our editorial content will be focused on Black artists and Black issues. This effort will be spearheaded by Ash Lauryn, the Atlanta-based DJ, radio host, and writer who will be acting as our Guest Editor next month. These stories will be told by Black writers, who hail from cities like Cape Town and Detroit, as well as by Ash herself.

“There is a lot of necessary dialogue happening within the world and music, and there is no better time than now to take these issues head-on,” Ash writes in her forthcoming letter from the editor.

Though Beatportal has yet to turn one year old, it’s our sincere hope that so far we have provided not just a platform for top-selling Beatport artists, but for marginalized voices through longform investigative features, in-depth profiles, and opinion pieces — though it’s clear our efforts haven’t gone far enough. Which is why August is only the beginning of our editorial shift toward featuring and commissioning more BIPOC artists and writers, not the end. We will also be shifting more of our coverage away from Europe and the UK in a continued effort to highlight music and scenes from around the globe.

With clubs still shuttered and no end to the coronavirus in sight, the industry and world are facing a number of serious challenges. Despite these, we remain positive that Beatportal will rise to meet the moment, both now and in the years ahead. Now is the time to reimagine what our scene can and should be. We hope you’ll join us.

Minimal has become a dirty word in dance music. But the sound has greatly evolved from its legendary yet much-derided Bar25 days. Here, Henry Ivry traces the sound’s mutation from its Detroit roots to its drugged-out Berlin peak to its ultimate return as something altogether different.

From Rio to Paris to Rome, to the warm afternoons on Berlin’s river Spree, there is a growing scene on the periphery of dance music’s underground. Trying to describe what it is, however, is not easy. Popular tracks fuse electro and garage rhythms with Detroit melancholy and IDM. Breaks fold into the loops of minimal and tech house funk. Quirky, sci-fi synth lines duet with anxious basslines. And while this may seem disjointed, the mixes, parties, and records that define this scene are remarkably consistent, taking inspiration from ’90s dance music and a deep love of crate-digging. The result is tracks that are both timeless and of the moment. 

While there is a lack of consensus around what to call this scene, the term minimal often gets bandied about, often with a modifier like “new,” “post,” or “neo.” But ask anyone to describe this music, and you’ll get as many different answers. Liam Wachs, whose releases as Desert Sound Colony move between the density of UK bass and the bounce of Wiggle-era tech house, provides me with an appropriately broad description: “Everyone is playing a bit of everything.” A similar sentiment is voiced by Montevideo producer, Michelle Vagi. Although Vagi’s music — sinister, low-slung electro and acid — epitomizes this sound, she tells me, “I don’t think that I make minimal, I don’t even know how to make it. I love to make melodies and millions of sounds together telling something. Sometimes I do too much; I have to admit.” 

While that may not be revelatory in a world increasingly less concerned with genre boundaries, “millions of sounds together” does feel like an unlikely description for minimal. As I dig into what defines this scene, the names of individual DJs continually pop up. References to the old guard of Ricardo Villalobos, Zip, and Craig Richards abound, as do their heir apparents, Vera, Nicolas Lutz, Margaret Dygas, Francesco Del Garda, and Binh. Certain labels, from Playhouse and Perlon to contemporary trendsetters Cabaret Recordings and Slow Life, and clubs like Berlin’s Hoppetosse and Club Der Visionaere, Kyiv’s Closer, Offenbach’s Robert Johnson, and Montevideo’s Phonoteque, are equally important. To understand what defines this scene, I followed a crisscrossing itinerary of producers, promoters, labels, and DJs dedicated to seemingly endless parties, ’90s house and techno, and, above all, a love for vinyl. Throughout my conversations, it dawns on me that minimal, as a genre, a historical concept, and a scene is almost always a misnomer — somehow both too specific and too vague to really describe what’s happening now. 

Priestess of the Groove: Dana Ruh 

Part of the issue with describing this new sound as “minimal” is that minimal has become a bit of a punchline. Dana Ruh, a house disciple committed to groove, explains this pointedly: “Today, if you use the word minimal, some people roll their eyes.” Minimal’s fall from favor with the dance floor intelligentsia can be traced back to the mid-2000s when minimal became associated with a very specific time and place. Hernan Gonzalez, who releases records as Two Phase U, pulls no punches in deriding this version of minimal: “That very Berlin, very 2000s minimal sound, was the worst era of electronic music.” Although Gonzales may be oversimplifying things, this sentiment has become dogmatic in many circles over the past decade. 

Even though Simon Reynolds was using “minimal” as early as 1992 to describe Derrick May, minimal as a genre didn’t really come along until the mid-’90s. As Michaelangelo Matos writes in his book The Underground is Massive, Jeff Mills and Robert Hood had a conversation about how “rave was shifting into minimal.” The steely rhythms and sparse orchestration of tracks by Detroit’s Daniel Bell and Hood’s Minimal Nation offered an antidote to the glow stick and JNCO Jeans “candy rave” aesthetic with something “stripped-down, polished, and rubbery.” 

Titonton Duvante, a Midwest lifer, explains that minimal was a specifically American and specifically Black sound, “Minimal as far electronic dance is concerned… is mainly black kids with little cash getting discarded gear (Roland TB303, Casio RZ-1, Yamaha DX100, Boss DR 660) and seeing how much they push it. It is putting a beat track under a disco record for holding groove better and making your one unique jam.” And while this is certainly the start of minimal techno, this isn’t the minimal we tend to think of today. As Matias Nario, a Montevideo producer working under the moniker Muten, explains, “When you say ‘minimal’ now, you don’t think of Robert Hood.”

What usually comes to mind when we hear the words “minimal” aren’t minimal’s roots as a Black and American form, but minimal’s gentrification across the Atlantic in its second wave. Similar to the mid-’90s rebuttal of rave in Detroit, a focus on groove and elongated loops was a natural reaction to the hollowed emotional peaks and troughs of late ’90s trance and techno. “After techno became a global phenomenon with its big raves [like] Loveparade, everything went back to clubbing,” Vera tells me. “I feel like the music was also becoming more intimate as well.”

Dancefloor Intimate: Vera 

Nowhere was this shift more pronounced than Berlin in the early 2000s as Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano, and Mike Shannon moved to the German capital, pushing off-kilter samples and druggy rhythms. This new minimal was bespoke for the venues that opened in the early and mid-2000s, including Bar25 and Berghain. While they were ostensibly universes apart, at least aesthetically, these clubs needed music suited to the open-ended party times that stretched across not hours, but days. Oskar Offermann, who moved to Berlin in 2001 and is now at the heart of Offenbach’s latest minimal scene, describes this second wave as “this big Plus 8/Minus hype when the Germans started calling it ‘minimal’ in the English way.” But even with this English pronunciation, this second wave of minimal remained hard to define. As music journalist Philip Sherburne wrote in 2006: “The irony, of course, is that most of this music really isn’t minimalist at all, neither in terms of sound selection, rhythmic construction, or – and often, especially – arrangement.”

Some people I talk to take minimal’s diffuseness as a genre further, suggesting that all dance music is minimal. TC80, a Barcelona-via-Metz DJ and producer, tells me, “It’s not about sounding like Romanian techno or like the German minimal from the old days. You don’t need to stack layers and layers of sound, and that keeps a minimal aspect to the music.” Ruh makes a similar point, describing how “less elements” in a track means “all the frequencies have space to breathe and shine. You can do this with any genre.” 

Duvante goes further, tracing a genealogy all the way back to the start of the 20th-century. “My personal take on minimal is that the adage of less is more… From the works of Erik Satie, Philip Glass, Steve Reich on through to Daniel Bell, Robert Hood, Chicago acid tracks, Dance Mania and Relief Records. All of these — I find both inspiration and admiration in the hypnotic nature of stripping to the bare essentials.” Thinking beyond production, Offerman suggests that the economy of minimal is what dance music has always aspired to. “The core of [dance music] has always been very minimal. So I would say the word goes along with the history of techno, they just belong together in a way.”

The rubberiness that Matos identified in Hood and Bell is not only a description of the timbre of bass, but of the genre itself. Giammarco Orsini, an Italian DJ-producer, articulates this paradox in describing his own music: “My influences came from big artists that represent the [minimal] scene like Baby Ford, Daniel Bell, Ricardo Villalobos, Zip, Richie Hawtin, Thomas Melchior, and so on. But in the end, [when] you make music you start to experiment, and the final result probably is way different from what you can consider a ‘minimal’ track, despite the fact that there are just a few elements playing together.”

From Berlin to Offenbach: Oskar Offerman

Whatever minimal was or wasn’t during the mid-2000s, by the start of the 2010s, minimal was out of vogue, as the drugs and parties started taking priority over the music (not surprisingly, Sherburne’s alternate name for this music was “ketamine house“). Dan Curtin, who moved from Cleveland to Berlin in 2003, suggests that no one actually cared about the music, instead “partying was their passion.” Curtin explains that this led to a “superficiality in the scene” where the “futurism, groove, soul, and emotion” of the music had atrophied. Like Curtin, Slow Life collective members Laurine and Cecilio reminisce (not unfondly) on Bar25 as a place to party, but Laurine tells me it was a “cheap sound” that quickly became a parody of itself. 

But outside of Berlin, a different sound was also emerging. In Romania, producers like RhadooPetre Inspeciu, and Raresh were pushing a loopy, drawn-out style of minimal techno. Offerman explains that “this was never a big thing in Berlin,” but thanks to an infamous b2b between Raresh and Villalobos in 2006, that sound began to find a larger audience. What the Romanians offered was an even more introspective and stripped-down style of dance music that could sustain itself past any regular human metric of endurance. Even the younger players in the new minimal scene cite the Romanians as influential. Nemo Vachez, part of Parisian crew Forest ill, confesses to having gone to Sunwaves, the festival at ground zero of the so-called Rominimal, three times. But “When I was going to see Raresh or Rhadoo, the standout moments of their sets were the moments when they were playing ’90s records,” he points out. “They seemed much more interesting and powerful to my ears, contrasting with the rest of their set.” 

Laurine and Cecllio see a similar indebtedness to the Romanian sound (even as I accidentally start a minor domestic dispute as they debate over who owns more [a:riap:r] records). Like Vachez, what they found interesting was the way that Raresh, in particular, was “always being groovy,” edging towards housier selections that made his sound a bit more open than the neverending loops. While the current scene is a far cry from Bucharest, it’s important not to downplay the influence. Claire, a founder of the female collective RA+RE, for example, moved from Paris to New York in the early 2010s and was exposed to the Romanian sound via parties like ReSolute and Blk|market as well as Sunwaves, where she saw “[a:riap:r] play for 8 hours,” and returned to France’s capital eager to keep promoting the looped hedonism of Romania. But as RA+RE started throwing parties, the collective realized that the sounds they gravitated towards were shifting towards older, more party-ready tracks — or songs that “explode.” “That sound was a bit flat and not as crazy or unique as the tracks we are playing,” RA+RE DJ Ethel, explains. “I actually think that even if this music scene is called minimal, we now play everything but minimal.” 

Midwest Futurist: Dan Curtin

Ivan Iacobucci, an Italian producer and DJ whose first release came out in 1990, but who has recently had a second wind through labels like LowMoneyMusicLove and YaY, doesn’t describe the move away from the Romanian sound so much as a break as an evolution. “I think minimal has been waning for some years now, but I don’t think it’s disappearing. Rather, I think it’s evolving, replacing its typical subtle sounds with the most current electronics (electro, acid, etc.)” The co-founders of Rakya, another Parisian outfit, tell a similar story. “As an artist, you want to make a lot of music, from UK Garage to electro to techno to minimal. I think we’re inspired by the Berlin minimal and Romanian techno, of course, but I think that the artists in our crew just want something more.” Rakya and RA+RE are both case studies for the latest generation pushing new minimal. Early releases on both labels focus on patiently undulating tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place at DC-10, but their latest releases paint with much wider palettes, packed with stumbling breakbeats and flecks of acid. 

This idea of “something more” is a generational mantra. Eric Denise, who DJs and produces as CMYK (and has achieved something close to infamy through his algorithm-hacking YouTube channel), sees this as a shift from an obsession with the “technical aspects of DJing” to prioritizing tracks that “you play from start to finish” (Matt Unicomb has written about how lots of new minimal takes inspiration from Zip’s “unfussy mixing style and emphasis on deep cuts”). This isn’t to say that these aren’t incredibly skilled DJs (they are), but it does speak to a nascent digger’s ethos. 

The 2010s coincided with a resurgence in digging through the lost ephemera of house and techno that was missing in the K-Hole of the Berlin minimal years, where the tracks are always more than the sum of their component parts. “It is all tied to the diggers movement, in my opinion,” Vera elaborates. “Musically speaking, it is tied to the ’90s.” Digging, during the mid-2010s, opened up a whole new world to DJs who had come upon the paint-by-numbers minimal tracks of the Bar25 scene. As Duvante explains, “The thing is that there is so much amazing music that was released on vinyl in the ’90s through to the vinyl crash of say 2006-2008. Literally hundreds of quality releases every week and no true method to keep track of them all as this was really before the proliferation of Discogs, YouTube, Google, and the modern tools of digging.” Of particular interest was a rediscovery of original Detroit sounds, particularly a penchant for melody and electro rhythms. Felix Reifenberg, part of Offenbach’s most recent wave of insurgent party starters HardWorkSoftDrink, puts this to me directly: “The scene at that time was quite entrenched in a certain kind of sound, and for us, it was important to bring in a fresh breeze through our youthful recklessness.” 

Paris’s New Guard: Rakya and Forest ill (minus Wendy)

“Youthful recklessness” is a cheeky way to describe the current scene. From Vachez’s love of “cheesy ’90s dance music” to Wachs playing “breakbeat, garage, and 2-step,” there is a sense that the latest strain of minimal is expanding. Taimur, the DJ, producer, and promoter behind BLKMarket music (one of the foremost importers of minimal into North America in the early 2000s), explains that this has always been a part of minimal. “For me, what kind of changed my perception of the music from being mainly four-on-the-floor, was when I heard Craig Richards and Lee Burridge in the early 2000s mixing West Coast house with breaks and tech house.” And it was Richards’s propensity for “the weird stuff,” Agha explains, that kept the music exciting. 

Isis Salvaterra, who runs Toi Toi, a UK-based party, label, and booking agency, writes to me that it wasn’t just Richards who introduced a signatory weirdness, but also another central (if enigmatic) figure — Uruguay’s Nicolas Lutz. Toi Toi resident Lutz brought, Salvaterra writes, “the electro, breaky thing” that eventually “disconnected [the new minimal] from its source.” Almost everyone I talk to references Lutz as an inspiration, and instrumental in unleashing an added darkness to the dancefloor. As Vera tells the story, “Lutz went really deep down the rabbit hole with a very open mindset, curious and thirsty for something different from the usual and started pushing the boundaries/ limits of what people would play in our scene.” Gonzales, who came up in the Montevideo scene alongside Lutz, describes how this sonic menace is tied to Uruguay’s identity. “I still feel that our music has a bit more to say in terms of the feeling that it combines, it conveys a mixed feeling of happiness and well being and struggling… It’s a huge difference to live in Barcelona or in Berlin than to live in Montevideo.” 

If Uruguay represents the darker axis of new minimal, there is another, equally prevalent side of the current sound. UK DJ-producer Harry Wills, whose own releases split the difference between cloud-spotting broken beat and slamming, gunfinger UKG, elaborates. “At the moment a lot of the music I hear falls into two camps: stuff that is a little lighter on its feet and on the more housey end of the spectrum, and the darker and heavy more techno sound that Lutz, Binh, etc. play.” 

This “lighter on its feet” sound — the yin to Lutz’s yang — is associated with, among others, Francesca Del Garda and Vera and their labels Time Passages and Melliflow. Equally cerebral, the music is less horror film and more art house: bright soundscapes glinting in the summer sun with flickers of everything from breaks to progressive to IDM. It’s what Laurine describes as the “light and love” that she and the rest of Slow Life bring to their DJ sets and curate through their releases. I push Laurine and Cecilio to try and define what “light and love” sounds like, but we find ourselves doing verbal gymnastics. Eventually, they tell me, “every style can be Slow Life,” it is just a matter of how you go about playing it. This isn’t only true of Slow Life, but of new minimal more generally. The owners behind Kimchi Records, a fledgling Berlin hub whose staff includes selectors like Bruno Schmidt, push everything from salsa to trance. “There is not one single genre” that defines this scene, they say. Rather, the focus is on a digging experience where “the idea is to be surprised.” 

Midwest Lifer – Titonton Duvante 

As utopian as this all might sound, Gonzales worries that an overemphasis on breadth might end up diluting the already tenuous strings that hold this scene together. He is worried that it may be reaching a breaking point. “Every cultural phenomenon has stages. And now it’s beginning to to that point in which it is starting to get boring. This is an overflow of people copying without meaning.” Like the Berlin minimal scene in the mid-2000s, Gonzales is nervous that innovation has given way to replication. Domenico Rosa, an Italian DJ-producer behind labels like Imprints and Propersound, makes a similar point. “Probably the need expression and aggregation gave birth to this kind of music. The web, social networks, and the rhythms that [the] world forces us [into] every day are also changing the way we listen, and we make music. I hope this historical period will slow us down. We really need to look back at the simple things as a new starting point for the future.” 

If anything, Rosa and Gonzales are pointing to the type of cyclical story we’ve seen before. In certain ways, the shift into more diverse sonic territory reflects a transition away from more traditional minimal music structures. But in other ways, the scene is becoming more elastic, able to incorporate different ideas while avoiding “copying without meaning.” This is true not only in the Euro-centric picture I’ve detailed above, but across the globe. From parties in Canada like Hypnotic Mindscapes to Vietnam’s Epizode, from US labels like Parang Recordings to Morocco’s Casa Voyager, there is a worldwide focus on identifying a never-ending groove, the techno equivalent of an endless summer. Like the hunt for the perfect point break, this scene is also, as Offerman explains, in search of “a deep, ongoing flow; never-ending, just to bring people a certain vibe, which is a continuous thing, with no beginning or real end to it. It’s just a certain state.” It is the continual hunt for what Duvante calls “that moment when the mélange of elements fit together just right.” 

But a focus on the party over the music is worrisome, reminding me of Curtin’s description of Bar25 at its peak. Denise calms my nerves, arguing that it is always the music that keeps this scene together. “It’s a strange scene. It’s hard to string together,” he offers. “I think it is the love for all things music, the love for old shit. This is the main thing.” His bluntness feels fitting: “old shit” is certainly the most constant throughline I can trace through this ecosystem. Denise, however, does try to elaborate on what that old shit actually sounds like. “I say to my friends who know nothing about this music that I play elevator music very loud… If you put a huge subwoofer in your face and you play it, it then becomes dance music.” And part of me likes this. Much of the music is heady, requiring patience from listeners. I flirt with going into Discogs and adding “Elevator Funk” tags to records. But while that may work for releases on labels like Seekers or Rue de Plaisance, it doesn’t account for the full-throttled assault of labels like Libertine and OPIA or DJs like Quest and Evan Baggs.

To try and put a label on the sounds of the new minimal continuum ultimately starts to feel like doing this scene a disservice. “Not even the sound matters,” Curtin contends. What matters, he continues, “is in the sound, what the sound conveys.” Cecilio feels the same way, arguing that this particular niche of dance music is trying “to dig deeper into the meaning of things.” This idea of something being buried deep within sound feels poetic and prescient, a way to describe a scene that isn’t tied to any particular sound but rather a feel and a mood. Still, I can’t help but feel disappointed that after all these conversations, I can’t pinpoint what makes this scene unique. Vachez jokes about this. “I think it’s important to make a semantic break for the different scene. It will be easier for the diggers to dig in 10 years.” Although he says this in jest, this is something important for a scene that puts so much emphasis on vinyl and digging culture. As Vera points out, after all, these are DJs who “press dubplates, so they can play their digital music on vinyl too.” How will people in 10 years unearth the records that are being released right now? 

Just as I am about to give up hope on finding a definition, Lutz’s off-hand description from Laurine sticks with me. She describes his music as being “alien deep.” This term works perfectly: at once sci-fi and earthy, distant yet familiar, from outer space directly into the body. It can describe the technoid menace of Uruguay and the UKG shuffle of London, the breaky grooves of Berlin and the analog warmth of the Midwest. While I certainly don’t see it gaining traction as a Discogs tag, “alien deep” speaks in a familiar lexicon to the DJs and producers working at this nebulous nexus. These are artists focused on finding lost pieces of dance music history and beaming them back into our galaxy. 

The last twelve years have been a wild ride for South London’s Roska. The producer, DJ and label head navigated the changing tides of UK funky – a sound and era that launched his career in the late ‘00s – with what seems like ease. And his role today in the genre’s second coming is perhaps just as vital as it was then.

Editor’s note: This interview makes reference to UK rapper Wiley. However, the interview took place before Wiley made anti-semitic comments on Twitter, which Beatportal strongly condemns. Roska also denounces these comments, saying, “Watching the Wiley situation unfold on Twitter was a massive let down. We, as black people, have been painted with the same brush for years. Racism towards any community or race can’t be tolerated. Wiley should have known better.” 

The year is 2008, and a club-focused, serotonin-boosting new sound has taken over the capital. Dubbed UK funky or UK funky house, it’s a fusion of thumping tribal house, Afrobeats, and soca with loosely soldered links to other largely Black-produced and London-originated sounds, like dubstep, UKG, and grime. There, nestled among the likes of DJ MA1, Donae’o, Princess Nyah, Fuzzy Logik, Apple, Jelly Jams (DJ Zinc and Geeneus), Ill Blu and Supa D, lies Roska (AKA Wayne Goodlitt). 

His career could be mused over for a number of reasons. There’s his artistic evolution from funky first-genner to a seasoned scene steward. His label, Roska Kicks & Snares, plus its quick-fire, single-focused younger sibling RKS Dubz, have continued championing the sound in its various resurgent forms — turning on a slew of funky fans-turn-producers while housing Goodlitt’s own output.

Admittedly, UK funky was a fleeting love affair for some. A nostalgic period of time, tunes and Rinse FM raves that were packed up and boxed away, only to be brought out, dusted off, and enjoyed seasonally, much like UKG in the summertime. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Goodlitt tells me over Zoom. “But what about the other nine months of the year when there’s no sun shining? That’s when we need people around to hang around, for those days when it’s tough.” 

When we catch up, it’s a warm day in South London. Or that’s how it appears, at least, as a golden hour glare beats down on his computer screen. In conversation, he’s open, honest, and relaxed as he reflects on the positive energy he’s been channelling the past few months. “I’ve just made the most of it as I’m not really one to get down on certain things. I just try to get the best out of every bad situation, and I’ve taken the time out to enjoy it, release loads of music and have fun with it.” 

Goodlitt’s sitting at the bottom of his garden in a studio he built seven years ago. Having this kind of space at home has been a saving grace during the Covid-19 lockdown period. It’s meant he’s been able to keep adding gems to his already-enviable back catalogue (when he’s not been home-schooling his two daughters, that is), drop projects like the jazz-inflected EP Internal Sunshine, his single “Colossal” with LR Groove, and his latest, a mixtape of sorts titled 8 Trax, all on RKS.

In the days after our chat, an open letter, written by artist R.O.S.H. (aka Roshan Chauhan) and titled A Letter to RA [Resident Advisor] and the rest of the UK music press hit the web. Among discussions on systemic racism, classism and coverage disparities within the music media lay an important point on the side-lining of UK funky from the frequently whitewashed, more heavily romanticised UK dance music history books. It’s a disservice that treated the first funky era, its artists and its still prevalent influence – not just as a Black genre, but as a defining moment in UK club music history – as a footnote, as opposed to its own chapter. 

I forward the letter over to Goodlitt. “Reading that actually hurts because Roshan isn’t lying,” he responds. “Myself, and many other Black artists, have just learned to brush off this hierarchy and continue working hard just like our ancestors. It’s the fact that we — as in all my Black musician peers — have seen this for years, but fear calling it out and them [the music press] having a reason to not feature us.”

Reflection, the kind that engulfs us after a period of turbulence or trouble, often feels like a bittersweet rainbow only visible after a hazy storm. Of late, eloquent deep-dives like Chauhan’s letter and the calling out of discriminatory or indisputably problematic past actions have led to admissions of short-comings from individuals, labels, agencies, venues, and others. The debate has been prompted primarily by the unjust murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ricochet of events it and the Black Lives Matter movement sparked globally in the weeks since. “For me, [the open letter] brought back scenarios of things I’ve experienced because being Black and working hard…you work twice as hard,” he says.

I mention an excellent Twitter thread by London-based DJ and producer FAUZIA, who discusses the segregation between “bass music” artists and their techno counterparts. I wonder out loud if it’s easier for younger artists — and especially younger Black artists — to speak up now compared to when he was on the up. Goodlitt nods. “It’s beautiful,” he says. “I’m glad that it’s happening now because it’s got to happen to someone for something to change.” When Roska was rising through the ranks, dialogues that probably needed to be had and issues that definitely needed to be addressed were avoided, for fear of a ‘you’re pulling the race card’ rebuttal.

For example, in 2011 Goodlitt recorded a pilot for BBC Radio 1’s In New DJs We Trust. When he got told he didn’t get the show, he was also told, with no such yearning to know, who did get said show. “When you look at what I’d been doing prior to that, I had a debut album out, I had collaborations with key artists who were firing at that time, I’d done Sónar…then you compare me to the other person who they’d literally said to me ‘this person’s got it’ and they’d done one thing,” says Goodlitt. “It was like, if I was white and that person was Black, would he have still got that over me? The answer is no.”

He’s right. By 2011 he’d released at least seven EPs on labels like Numbers. and Hotflush, as well as his own imprint (launched in 2007), which, by the time the BBC came calling, had dropped roughly 20 releases from the likes of Jamie George, DJ Naughty, and Champion. That’s alongside remixes for the likes Untold, and his signing to Rinse for a string of projects that included his debut album Rinse Presents: Roska, which was released in 2010. His profile was well above average for UK funky.

His connection to Rinse at that time was a big deal itself,  with the station’s then-powerhouse status (Goodlitt was a resident for over seven years), amplified by its label and events. The rapid ascension of his career around this time made even more surreal after he quit his job as an O2 store manager (a role he credits for his transferable time management skills) and pursued the whole music thing full-time in 2010.

Prior to this, it had simply been a lifelong interest encouraged from a young age. As part of a Jamaican family, an abundance of reggae, roots and dancehall filtered through the house when he was growing up. Plus, his dad had his own sound system and used to play out frequently, whilst his uncle had a music studio in Peckham, South London. It’s there he would sit, observe and later dive into production.

By this point his interests had diverged into grime and UKG — his go-tos — with some hip-hop and jungle thrown in for good measure. I refer to a supposed interest in Timbaland, something I’d spotted online, and Goodlitt nods in agreement. While not inspired heavily by his work, the idea that the US producer’s drum patterns could be instantly identified, much like early Neptunes material, really resonated with him. It’s the same for London MC and producer Wiley (aka Eskiboy), who pioneered his own grime sub-genre, eski-beat. Well, that and Wiley’s work ethic. 

“Throughout his career he’s been consistent,” says Goodlitt. “I remember walking through one shop called Rhythm Division in East London as I used to go there and drop my records off. Wiley had a whole column literally just full of his records and that was his one corner [of the shop]. It was inspiring to see. He’d be working non-stop and all of his peers around him were working, but the level of work that Wiley had was outstanding. You couldn’t miss it. That’s one of the things that I’ve definitely tried to make sure I continue to do in order to have a successful career.”

It’s safe to say his goal has been achieved. Much like Timbaland, Goodlitt’s work is instantly identifiable. And his career, much like Wiley’s, is an example of why consistency is key. His commitment to funky contrasts with many of his late ‘00s peers, who have rushed to pay tribute to its passing over the years. That’s in spite of its pretty healthy pulse. Coincidently, just hours before our first conversation, DJ and podcaster Chuckie Lothian (aka Chuckie Online) uploaded a new funky-focused podcast episode featuring Goodlitt’s peer, Donae’o. It’s title: Death Of A Genre.

“I just wish there was a bit of a merger where the old stuff and the new stuff would get together more as there’s a bit of a disconnect,” says Goodlitt, in response to the podcast. “Someone like Chuckie would say that it’s dead because he only enjoyed listening to the top ten of that era, like your Crazy Cousinz or your Katy B’s or your Donae’o’s. But if you’re not looking and deeping into what’s actually going on now and trying to understand it then you’re being ignorant and not trying to understand what is there.”

Days after the podcast went live, Goodlitt joined Donae’o on Instagram Live, and offered an apt analogy on the changing of the guard: “If you leave a house unoccupied, squatters are going to come in. People that actually want to live there are going to come and take that place!” The “squatters” in this instance crews and labels like Super Kitchen, Durkle Disco and Club Djembe in Bristol, Scuffed Recordings and More Time in London as well as producers like Bamz, KG and RKS-affiliated DJ Polo, Motu, and Murder He Wrote. 

“There are a few bits on Livity Sound that have that sort of vibe in there too,” says Goodlitt. “And you can just hear little pockets of it when you listen to a Hessle track or even drill, which I feel has a little funky vibe to it. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional you can hear it running through a lot of the sounds that are coming through.”

Given all the genre has gone through over the last decade, it won’t come as a surprise to learn that there were times when funky wasn’t working for him. “Over a span of twelve years you’re going to have times where you peak and times when it’s quieter,” he says. “I definitely felt it, especially around the deep house period because I came through playing house and funky, and then it was a lot of funky, then it was house and funky, and then the music I was playing was getting more house as house came in. You do get to that point where you feel like you’re missing out, but you’ve just got to ride out the storm. I feel like a lot of people don’t actually want to because it is a painful ride. But if you continue, you’ll always be remembered and favoured when things do turn around, so it’s up to you what you do with that period of time.”

Focusing on his core fanbase is another key to his success. By making music he knows his fans will enjoy — and he undoubtedly enjoys — he’s staying true to both himself and them. Which makes more sense to him than churning out watered-down bangers for wider, more mainstream audiences (something evidenced at the tail-end of funky’s first wave), or going in a completely new direction. He’d rather build onto existing foundations, adding new influences onto what he knows already works. It’s something he’s done via other aliases, like his darker, tribal-meets-broken-techno focused alias, Bakongo, but also as Roska.

“Last year I started making more dancehall, but it fell right into the spot of what I’ve been doing recently anyway,” he says. “Over the last three years, I’ve been using more of my influences and stuff that I grew up with. Working with Serocee in 2017 for “In My Zone” was good as I was able to incorporate my influences a bit more into what I do. It stretched out what I can do without people going ‘Hang on a minute, you made funky. What are you making that for?’ I don’t want to be in that position, so I’m happy.”

This happiness may also stem from his overall approach to releasing. He’s not a perfectionist whatsoever, or at least he’s not anymore. These days, if the track is good and he likes it then he’ll release it. The same ‘what will be will be’ mentality he had towards releasing back when it was just an after-work hobby is still very much present. “At the same time,” he adds, “I wasn’t trying to make glossy music. I was just trying to make it as raw as possible and keep that grime element on funky; keep that London vibe going and see how far I could take it. That was always the plan.” 

It’s an aim that’s clearly worked for him, and an insight into how a career can look if you retain your guiding ethos. It’s inspirational, especially for the producers Goodlitt has nurtured and uplifted through his label, which is as rewarding to Goodlitt as his own personal trajectory. Murder He Wrote, for example, was someone he “caught at a good time.” Together they set out goals and smaller plans for releases, and before long he was on the festival circuit and playing across the UK and Europe. 

“When you get a hungry artist who wants to do more and is inspired by what’s going on, you want to help them out as much as you can and set a stepping stone for them to move forward to the next stage in their career. So that was always my goal, to see other people follow what I was doing as well. Not really any people from the first generation of funky to now benefited from a lot of the things that I did.”

Why does he think that is? The way he sees it, they may not have shared the same belief he had in how far he could take it. “With anything that you do, if you set yourself a ceiling or think you can only achieve a certain amount then that’s all you can achieve,” he says. “Whereas if you leave that ceiling open, you can do anything. That’s what I did. I didn’t set myself a limit in terms of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to achieve, but I knew where I wanted to go with my music and how far I wanted to take it. I feel like I’ve done most of it.”

Undoubtedly, he’s taken it far. As Roska, Goodlitt’s cool, calm consistency has paid off in abundance. Steering a sound like funky through a timespan as long as he has hasn’t been easy. Especially considering how quickly it fell out of mainstream favour, relegated to vivid, formative memories by transitory fans who have since moved on. But maybe that’s what this is all about. Funky, really, is memory-making music. It was back then, and it is still today. Goodlitt’s ‘sometimes funky, sometimes just percussive and fun’ output these days, both personally and via his label signees, is not to be taken as trite reliving of past memories. Rather, a familiar nudge to create new ones.

Jasmine Kent-Smith is a freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter.

Our expert curation team brings you some of the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time with Argia, Dino Lenny, Hanzo & Yaman, Radial Gaze, and more.

Argia – Naranjas De La China [Nothing Is Real]

Argia is the new project of Helena Piti, a Spanish DJ-producer who’s been involved with music since she can remember. She’s studied piano and double bass at a conservatory and evolved into more electronic rhythms with time.

I love the new Argia track “Naranjas De La China” on the label Nothing Is Real from the Italian duo Modular Project. This is indie dance that gives me melancholia, and I can see myself dancing to it on the beach or at an intimate rave somewhere. It’s a sad and strange summer for many, and the voltaic synthesizers and tribal drums on Argia’s track create the perfect soundtrack for it. 

Mala Ika – Weirdos In The Rain Original Mix [Family N.A.M.E]

Born and raised in Guadeloupe, FWI, Mala Ika is a French DJ -producer. Her early passion for digging electronic music helped her become one of the founders of the label Label Sweet Musique. Her new EP, Weirdos In The Rain, makes me want to dance all over the place (rain or shine). 

Tony y Not – Last Night [Trampoliner]

Tony y Not is a Berlin/NYC-based artist that first caught my attention with this EP. A strong indie dance collection with remixes from the Italian power duo, Armonica, Animal Trainer, and Made in Paris. Her 120 BPM track “Last Night” is definitely something to seek out on the dance floor.

Dino Lenny – My Last Word Original Mix [Multinotes]

Multinotes & TAU are one of my favourite indie/melodic labels at the moment. Run by Italian trio Odleric, Musumeci, and Lehar, the music, artwork, and the overall aesthetic of the imprint is always on point. Multinotes’ Gifts is a various artists compilation aiming to give a little help in the Covid-19 emergency. 100% of the proceeds from sales are to be donated to the Italian Civil Protection Department. It’s great to see an exclusive track from Dino Lenny on this latest release. The timeless sounding tune makes me miss flying. If ever I found myself at a rave in an airport, this is the track I would want to hear.

Luke Garcia, Th3 Oth3r – Ubermut Original Mix [TAU]

It’s been a year since the Adana Twins unveiled the first Spektrum compilation on the duo’s highly-regarded TAU label, and now they’re back with the second bumper installment. Luke Garcia and Th3 Oth3r’s collaboration track “Ubermut” is an outstanding and energetic cut from this strong compilation. As it slowly unfolds, the track keeps the energy with a rolling indie bassline and synth melody hypnosis that makes you fully trip out on the dance floor. This is the type of modern indie dance I’ve been digging for.

Hanzo & Yaman – Francisco (Original Mix) [Playground Records]

Hanzo & Yaman are a DJ/producer duo and the heads behind Worldwide Belly Dance Services. Together they share their devotion to music with a reckless attitude to create tunes that get crowds to shake and move their bellies. With their track “Francisco,” they give us a shining example of dark disco that makes you want to party in Istanbul straight away.

Radial Gaze – Hiko Hiko (Original Mix) [Hard Fist]

Founded in the French city of Lyon, Hard Fist is a collective led by Tushen Rai and Cornelius Doctor. Taking off for a cosmic trip and crossing ages and borders, Hard Fist specializes in alchemical concoctions of percussion, acid, and global sounds from Middle-Eastern, African, Asian, and European countries. “Hiko Hiko” by Radial Gaze gives you the Middle Eastern feeling that you would hear in a set from the likes of Red Axes and Moscoman.

For more indie dance tracks you may have missed this month, check out our Beatport Link Playlist.

In this opinion piece, writer Dave Jenkins presents the case as to why promoters, producers, and fans should value, respect, and acknowledge MCs as figures in drum & bass culture.

It’s midnight at any given drum & bass rave across the UK pre-lockdown. Spirits are high, the night is young. The crowd cheers as two artists take the stage. One is packing a pair of USBs and headphones, the other brandishes only a humble microphone. They are both fully committed to the hour that lays ahead. Yet their names on the flyer are very different sizes, and their pay is hardly equal. At some raves, as much as half the crowd might not want one of them there. 

Welcome to drum & bass: a unique space in the bass diaspora where the voice, energy, and presence of an MC is absolutely vital to the culture and character of the genre. Yet it is frequently and criminally maligned and undervalued. 

But MCing is an artform, with roots as deep as the genre itself. So it’s time to respect the MC. Here’s why.

I don’t usually like MCs, but…

Sure, some people just don’t like MCs. “The music needs to breathe, it doesn’t need additional vocals,” they say. And admittedly, a fired-up b2b2b2b badman barrage is usually a little over the top. Many people have had bad MC experiences; they’ve been put off by the many MCs who haven’t quite mastered their craft. It takes a lot of guts to get on stage with a mic — but sometimes big egos push artists to the stage before they’re ready. For the moment, however, let’s leave personal taste aside, while we discuss the value and artform MCing. 

On stage, the best MCs can bring a dull set to life. They’re a DJ’s eyes and the crowd’s voice. They know the anthems just as well as the ravers and the dubs just as well as the DJs. They’re seasoned commanders with a barrage of club-ready weaponry at their disposal — hosting, battling, and free-flowing sometimes all on the same night. The best can incite a wild reaction with just one bar. In the case of Bassman, the mere raise of a finger can cause a commotion.

Rooted in soundsystem culture as an intrinsic part of jungle drum & bass’s black music foundations, the MC’s role is part of the genre’s oldest traditions. Tape-pack town-criers, they were crucial in giving voice to the junglist movement that erupted across the UK and beyond from the early-to-mid ‘90s. Pioneers like Navigator, GQ, Moose, 5ive-O, Stevie Hyper D, Conrad, Bassman, and Cleveland Watkiss and were central to welcoming listeners into this uncompromising new musical world. They provided a distinctly human element, counterbalancing the futuristic, mechanical fury of this new sound. And their prominence helped to establish jungle and drum & bass as something totally different from the dominant hardcore, house, and techno sounds of the time, remaining a part of the genre’s DNA ever since — and influencing MCs from across the spectrum; ask any first-generation grime MC who influenced them and names such as Skibadee and Trigga will always be referenced.

This unique role an MC has in the genre is why you seldom see a big-league D&B DJ performing without their MC of choice. It’s also why MC bars and phrases are sampled into tracks every year, creating that authentic junglist punch. (Dimension’s 2016 anthem “UK” is a fine example, spawning countless copycats). Beyond samples, many D&B MCs are recording artists in their own right, creating bodies of work that set new benchmarks for the artform, while transcending the party-starter role they’re sometimes associated with. D&B MCs can be songwriters, rappers, singers, storytellers, and dexterously technical performers. Sense MC, for example, blurs the art of poetry and spoken word in his work. DRS is a soul man, tearing open his heart to convey emotions most of us can only dream of articulating. Harry Shotta is a Guinness World Record holder, beating the likes of Eminem in displays of overwhelming lyrical dexterity. Degs is a multi-instrumentalist capable of composing just as many ballads as bangers.  

“We have some of the most talented writers and performers in our scene across the whole aspect of vocals,” agrees Inja, Hospital Records label mate to Degs, and another highly-respected and versatile songsmith. “If you took the best humans in D&B together, put them in a band and matched them against the best in grime, drill, trap, reggae, garage, hip-hop, they would stand the test. They’d pull their weight!” 

In a nutshell, MCing to drum & bass is an artform. But there’s a twist. “A grime guy can spit some bars on a set but he’s still seen as an artist,” Inja observes. “But in D&B, we are still just MCs no matter how musical or creative we express ourselves.”

This is the biggest problem MCs face. The lack of value afforded to them as artists ensures their relegation to the bottom of the flyer. When Boomtown festival announced their line-up this year, unbeknown 2020 would take a very sour swerve, MCs weren’t even listed on the line-up at all. Yet, as DRS explains, many MCs weren’t vocal about this mistreatment, because they still want to play to the festival’s infamously raucous and supersized crowds.

“Festivals, organisations, clubs — they all put the pressure on,” Manchester artist DRS says. “They’ll be like ‘This is the bass festival; if you don’t play here, you’re nobody.’ You’re made to feel like that and that’s why you put up with shit. It’s always meant to feel like they’re doing you a favour.”

DRS is one of the drum & bass scene’s most versatile and prolific MCs. He sets an incredibly high benchmark. His and LSB’s remarkable The Blue Hour album alone is proof of the creative and authentic potential of the MC’s artform. When an artist of DRS’s caliber points this out — he’s built his reputation over the past 20 years — it’s indicative of just how imbalanced things are for MCs, both artistically and financially.

Not Paid In Full

“I struggle from time to time, so for other MCs who don’t have the profile I’ve managed to scrape together, I fear for them,” DRS explains. “You’re touring with someone who’s earning twice as much, you’re eating, traveling, and taking cabs, but you come home with nothing, and they come home with something. It goes on to this day.”

DRS speaks from personal experience, but his perspective will resonate with most MCs in the genre. Because each fee is so dependent on the MC’s profile, it’s hard to quantify exactly how large the pay gap actually is between MCs and DJs. But some agents have a rule of thumb: around half (or two thirds) of the DJ’s fee. However, some MCs suggest it’s around a third. A lot depends on the booking itself, and the DJ the MC is paired up with. Particulars aside, MCs aren’t asking for equal fees — it’s near-universally understood that DJs will be the main draw for the majority of fans. Without their selections, MCs would be hosting spoken word shows.

Instead, this is about how much promoters, producers, and fans should value, respect, and acknowledge MCs as figures in drum & bass culture. It’s about crediting them on productions they feature on or are sampled on. It’s about giving MCs their proper place on the flyer, next to the DJs they’re working with, and nothing less. But most importantly, it’s time to invest in MCs — quality MCs who bring their A-game every single time. Without investing in quality, standards will remain low, resulting in the Marmite reputation MCs have in drum & bass — they’re either loved or hated. 

But there are signs of progress as more labels invest in high profile MC album projects. DRS set the benchmark but artists such as Inja, Coppa, and Degs have continued to set the creative bar high and represent the artform, both for what it is, and for what it has the potential to become. 

“Things are getting better,” says Degs. “Look at Hospital — they’ve signed four MCs now. They’re exposing us as songwriters and there is a shift in perspective. For years before there was a stigma of us being shouty hype men, but I see daily comments saying things like, ‘I didn’t think I liked MCs but this is sick.’ That’s great and it’s down to exposure. The more MCs turn towards the DRS and Inja-led style of musicianship and songwriting, the more people will understand the context of the artform. This goes for all vocalists. We just need to keep writing, keep performing and keep the standards as high as we can and people will understand more about the culture. I’ve been saying this for a while now, but the wave is coming, I can feel it.”

Dave Jenkins is a freelance writer. Find him on Twitter.

We speak to one of dance music’s most established and well-rounded producers, Ramon Tapia, about the evolution of his sound style and the robust club output on the artist’s Say What? imprint.

From his career as a jeweler to an internationally distinguished DJ-producer, Holland-based artist Ramon Tapia has been shelling out dark, razor-sharp dance floor gems of his own for over 18 years. Son to a famed revolutionary Chilean musician, Tapia’s thirst for musical conquest has always come naturally. Growing up between Chile and Holland, he eventually moved to Antwerp to work in the city’s Diamond Quarter. Feeling unfulfilled with his work, he ultimately decided to turn in his jeweler’s lens and needle files for a pair of turntables and some headphones.

By the mid-2000s, Tapia’s productions gained support from some of the scene’s biggest names and soon began releasing on labels such as Strictly Rhythm, Great Stuff Recordings, Terminal M, Suara, Bedrock Records, and more. With his years of experience and eclectic sonic palette, Tapia’s tech house classics, minimal excursions, and more recent techno adaptations steady have always worked wonders on the floor.

Starting his label Say What? back in 2012 as a platform for his unremitting musical output, the imprint has released a plethora of EPs, singles, and remixes that have supported numerous burgeoning producers and helped Tapia establish himself as a significant player in clubland. In addition to scoring a hot and heavy mix from Ramon Tapia, we talk to the label-owner to discuss his early-career achievements, the imprint’s aesthetic direction, and the thrilling new sounds it has on the horizon.

Tell us about moving to Belgium, how you first got into rave culture, and what type of music you played out during your first gigs.

I moved to Belgium in 1995. I wanted to become a jeweler/goldsmith, and there’s nowhere better to get started than the city of diamonds, Antwerp. I already had a huge electronic music bug going on when I first moved there. My sisters always came back home with tapes from clubs in Belgium, and Holland like Boccacio, IT, and Roxy. In 1995, I was really into hardcore gabber. I went to indoor parties like Nightmare in Rotterdam, Megarave, and Hellraiser. That’s where I got into the idea of mixing records myself, not that I had any intention of becoming a professional. I still get nostalgic when I think about that time. In 1996, I decided to buy a belt-drive record player, which was a disaster to play on and mixed it with a tape deck. Rewind the tape, mix, no, try again, and so on for more than six months.

After a while, I needed to find an after school job to stay afloat, so I scored a gig at the local record store, USA Imports. This really kickstarted everything. I could practice on technics (even though my boss didn’t want that haha), and I had a constant feed of new music. It helped broaden my horizon from hardcore and rave to hip hop and so on. In 1998, I got my first gig in a club called Club Hardcore, which freaked me the hell out. I didn’t know what to expect and was afraid to make mistakes, but I did it, and that was the first time I felt the energy of playing for a crowd.

Fast forward 2003, I stopped my job as a jeweler and worked full time at the record shop. The gig also allowed me to use their in-house studio as well. That’s how I slowly got better and better. There where many days that I woke up in the studio at nine in the morning and would have to go home, take a shower, and go open up the shop. But it was all worth it!

In 2005, I released my first solo produced techno release called Land Of Drum on the Music Man Sub Label Pocket, which was a massive accomplishment. I scored support from Sven Vath, Carl Cox, and many others. At the time, I still had the feeling I didn’t know what the hell I was doing!

Before the founding of Say What? Recordings and your rise to dance music stardom, what would you say was your most significant break in regards to getting your name out there?

It was in the more minimal times of 2008 when sent about 50 demos to the Great Stuff Recordings camp, which was a colossal imprint back in the day. I finally got a yes back for my track “Sweet Lullaby,” which was my breakthrough. It got crazy support from Richie Hawtin and many others.

I worked part-time still for the record shop, and I really wasn’t happy, but because of its success, I got my first bookings outside of Belgium and Holland. I had to have a talk with my mom to tell her I wanted to become a full-time DJ-producer. She wasn’t pleased about my choice but told me, “you better do it now, or else you will regret it later. But I’m not giving you a penny.”

How did you first land on the idea of starting Say What? Recordings and what were some labels you looked to and hoped to emulate or follow in their footsteps when starting the music label?

In 2011, the guys I worked with thought it was time to expand and create a label, mostly because my rate of producing records was quite high, and it seemed smarter to release them myself. I was making more groovy tech house at the time with an occasional techno track here and there. There weren’t really any labels that I looked to for inspiration since my musical taste goes all over the place. To this day, I always take bits and pieces from everywhere, and I love running the imprint that way.

Can you give us some insight into the aesthetic direction of Say What? Recordings and why you’ve decided to put out every release with that signature black, architectural look?

Ramon: My girlfriend Irina is the art director and label manager of Say What? Recordings. She does it all, and I love how she took the label’s look to a whole new level. She’s always been behind me and helped push me back into the idea of making more techno music. But for a clear answer regarding the label’s look, I’ll let her do the talking.

Irina: Initially, when I took over, we didn’t have a specific vision behind the artwork. I wanted to keep it simple, clean, and informative, without stealing attention from artists we represent. After a couple of releases, we realized that there’s an actual pattern behind our artwork: infrastructural shapes, lines, and angles from different cities worldwide that caught our attention, just like our artists with their multifaceted music brought from every part of our planet.

What are your plans for the label moving forward? Has the pandemic forced you to rethink your imprint strategy?

We started to plan label showcases for 2020, but with the whole COVID thing happening, that fell apart. In the meantime, we are just doing what we do best and keep working on music. The current shutdown has given us some more time to focus and plan some things out more carefully so we can adequately prepare for 2021. I have been thinking to possibly also start a Sample Pack Series and get the merchandising back on track. I think that will keep us busy for a while.

Who are some of the most recent artists with releases on your imprint that we should keep an eye on?

The Brazilians Marcal and Kaio Barssalos are the first that come to mind. Also, we have Amsterdam-based RSRRCT, German producer Chris Veron, Austrian artist Uncertain, The New Yorker Charles D, Belgium’s SHDDR, and France’s Greg Notill are all hot at the moment.

I’m super happy all these artists came across my radar, and I managed to pick them up. I’m also thrilled that we can function as a stepping stone for these new artists to shine and go to the next level. I think that gives me the most satisfaction. I know its tough out there, but if the music is good (or at least I think its good), I will sign it. The most important advice I can give to the producers out there is never to give up. Don’t waste all the sweat and tears you have put into your music!

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

There are some new and some older tracks in there and of course some tunes from the label. I always love to go a bit all over the place, incorporating some melodic elements, a few pounding tracks, and just see where I end up. I hope you enjoy and thanks for supporting the label!

Patrick Topping is one of the UK’s most in-demand DJs. But in many ways, he doesn’t fit the brash, one-dimensional, superstar DJ mould. Katie Thomas learns more, and discusses Topping’s thoughts on where the scene needs to head next.

There’s more to Patrick Topping than meets the eye, and he wants us all to know it. He’s spent the last few years distancing himself from the “tech house umbrella” by taking his productions in new directions. He’s been more adventurous with the tempo in his DJ sets, and launched his own label, Trick, to champion the spectrum of styles and sounds that he loves. As if to prove a point, when we talk about the “waft” — a dance move synonymous with tech house dance floors that Twitter has described variously as “a particular dance move that comes hand-in-hand with daytime raving,” “a key move during Sunday afternoon at P[anorama] Bar and on Croatian boat parties,” and “a bit like the royal wave” — he’s never heard the term before. After I’ve demonstrated the “waft” over Zoom, he knows exactly the move I’m referring to, and goes on to say, “everyone has their own interpretation, there’s no right or wrong way to waft. It’s a dance,” he chuckles, “for people who can’t dance.” 

There are people, Patrick says, who might make assumptions about the kind of music he plays, categorising him alongside DJs who he wouldn’t consider himself all that similar to musically. In truth, before this interview, it’s fair to say that I was amongst those people: Patrick Topping plays Elrow and Circoloco, and caters to a crowd that would likely be found at Creamfields over, say, Houghton. And yet, Patrick Topping is obsessed with a niche offshoot of happy hardcore that originated in Valencia in the ‘90s, he’s had his tunes played in Panorama Bar, and you’re just as likely to hear him drop some classic Madonna in a set as you are banging 140 BPM techno. In 2017, he scored a 4.0/5 on Resident Advisor with “Be Sharp Say Nowt,” a track with a vocal that recalls the gospel influence of Floorplan. At last count, “Be Sharp Say Nowt” has almost 24 million plays on Spotify. 

Patrick has spent lockdown with his wife at home in North Shields, a few miles north of Newcastle. They’ve lived there for three years now, but with such a hectic touring schedule, this is the longest Patrick has ever spent at home. Like so many of us, it’s been a turbulent time for him; his wife’s family has been personally affected by COVID, and his income has been significantly impacted by the shutdown of clubland. But amongst the tragedy and the uncertainty, lockdown has had its benefits — and Patrick is quick to impress that he recognises how fortunate he is to be able to enjoy them. After six years, which he describes as an “amazing whirlwind,” for the first time in longer than he can remember, his body clock is back to normal. “It’s like I’ve been recovering from six years of lack of sleep and excess,” he says.

In an average, pandemic-free year, Patrick would take January and February off from touring to stay home and make music. The rest of the year he moves quickly from gig to gig, making notes on his phone every time he has a flash of inspiration. More often than not, February ends, the shows start up again, and there’s a bunch of ideas he didn’t get to. “This year I didn’t get through anywhere near all the ideas I had,” he explains, “even from the previous years. So suddenly I had this unexpected period to make music, without the usual time pressure. I’ve made some bits I’m really excited about.”

One such bit is Rocket Fuel, a two-track EP that landed on June 19th and marked Trick’s tenth release. Though Patrick played the title track out a few times in March, he says the final released version is “completely transformed.” At first glance, the title track is straight-up; a thumping house cut to keep the floor grooving. And then two minutes in, “Rocket Fuel” comes into its own, with a playful happy hardcore-influenced synth line. At 133 BPM and 135 BPM respectively, the Rocket Fuel EP is the fastest music Patrick has produced to date, edging out of a house tempo and up into techno territory. On the day that we speak, “Rocket Fuel” is fourth in the Beatport charts, and Patrick is delighted. There was someone online, he says, “kind of slagging us off,” by asking, “Why don’t you bring back 2015 Patrick?”. “To me, that’s a compliment,” Patrick says with conviction. “I don’t want to sound like I used to, I’m trying to evolve and I’m having fun. You can hear it in these two tracks.” 

Fun has been in short supply during lockdown, and so, a few days before Patrick would have been en route to Glastonbury, talk turns to great parties. If he could go back in time, you’d find Patrick brushing shoulders with the stars at Studio 54, driving out to UK acid house raves in the late ‘80s, and dancing under the moonlight on the White Isle during Amnesia’s maiden years. Glastonbury’s The NYC Downlow embodies that same intoxicating and hedonistic energy, and it’s that feeling of being whisked back in time that Patrick loves so much. “To me, The NYC Downlow is the best club in the world,” he says. “Last year I was there every night. I think it’s the closest, in my experience, to being transported back to that old era of clubbing.” 

In 2019, Patrick played a mákina set on The Glade stage. Mákina, that Valencia-born variant of happy hardcore that hurtles along somewhere between 150 and 180 BPM, made it over to the northeast of the UK, where it remains a bubbling subculture, especially in Newcastle. The northeast adaptation involves a DJ and an MC. “It’s not like any type of MCing you’ve seen before,” Patrick says, “partly because, well, they’ll have a northeastern accent.” It was actually Patrick’s dad that gave him his first mákina tape — recorded at New Monkey, a club in Sunderland that closed in 2006. Mákina and the club came hand-in-hand, so much so that at school, they called that style of music New Monkey. “Even now,” Patrick says, “there’s a big scene for it at schools. Parties like Clash Of The Titans and Monta Musica are still packing out clubs.” 

Patrick was around 13 years old when he first started listening to mákina. The breakneck sounds of the New Monkey preceded a liking for Tiësto’s In Search of Sunrise series, which later led him to the likes of Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta. When he was 17, Patrick went to a “real nightclub” for the first time, a party called Good Grief, at Tall Trees in Yarm. The club was in the middle of nowhere, with a capacity of over four thousand and Eddie Halliwell behind the decks. A catalyst moment, he says, “that night changed my life.”

In 2008, Patrick took his first trip to Ibiza, the epicentre of it all. Earlier that year he’d also discovered Sven Väth and Luciano, attending the first Cocoon in the Park in Leeds. But he was blown away by the White Isle, he explains: “I knew I needed to come back every year, but there’s no way I could afford to do that. So I thought to myself, I’ll have to be a DJ!” he laughs, “and from then on, I was on a mission.” He admits that perhaps this explanation could sound contrived, but it was simple; he’d found a world he was passionate about, and he wanted to play the biggest possible part in that world. There were decks waiting for Patrick under the Christmas tree that year, and the following summer, he started an online production course with Point Blank.

Patrick Topping owes a lot to his mentor, Jamie Jones. “I was so lucky to have Jamie,” Patrick says, as we talk about grappling with the industry as a newcomer. “He introduced me to the industry in an amazing way, I’m so grateful for that.” Jamie taught him some of his most valuable lessons, one being the importance of sticking to your guns in the face of possible commercial success. Fast forward and Patrick now finds himself having the same conversations with the artists on Trick. There’s other pearls of wisdom he’d give to a newcomer too, based on his own experiences: The first; using parties to network will be invaluable, but don’t get too caught up in it. You won’t reach your full potential if you’re partying too hard. The second; dedicate every second you can to your craft. 

Lately, Patrick has been playing piano. When he was small, his mum would take him to the care home where she worked so he could practice on the piano there. He hated it. “I wish I’d done it earlier,” he says, looking back. “Even though I was making music before without that knowledge, it has helped me a lot.” Though he didn’t exactly play the piano like they’d hoped, Patrick’s parents have had a big musical influence on him. A couple of years ago, during a 5-7am set at DC-10, Patrick’s mum could be spotted getting stuck in at the back of the dance floor by herself. “He had the biggest CD collection I’ve ever seen,” Patrick says of his dad, “it took up the whole wall of the dining room.” Formerly the director of Fish Quay Festival in North Shields, Patrick’s dad introduced him to records like Prodigy’s The Fat of the Land and early albums from The Chemical Brothers

Beyond music, Patrick’s dad has had a great influence on him politically, teaching him to be confident and vocal in his views. In a post on Instagram on May 31st, a few days after the murder of George Floyd, Patrick shared some words his dad had written. The post touches on the power of mainstream media to convolute the truth, and that while it’s easy to divert attention with claims that police brutality against Black people is worse in the US than it is in the UK, in truth, there is deeply entrenched systemic racism here too. The following week, on June 6th, Trick released Elliot Adamson and Justin Jay’s Send It EP, with DJ Deeon on the remix. 100 percent of the profits from that release will be donated, as per Justin’s choosing, to the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). 

Many of Patrick’s peers are, like him, male, and white. In the midst of one of history’s greatest and loudest movements against racism, it’s never been clearer that urgent change is required to make this industry more diverse, and more inclusive. “I’ve been getting into conversations with people, online and offline” Patrick says when I ask him how he’s engaged in this monumental Black Lives Matter push thus far, “and I’ve been posting on my Instagram about it, I think personal beliefs can really add weight to a conversation.”

With nearly 400,000 followers on Instagram, Patrick Topping has the opportunity to speak to a great number of people, and it’s vital that he uses this platform, using his voice with compassion, as part of a collective force for change. But of course, it doesn’t stop there. During our conversation, I ask Patrick how he intends to be actively anti-racist moving forward, both on a personal and professional level: what steps can he take as a DJ, producer and label head, to fight against racism? I ask for his thoughts on diversity clauses, pledging donations from Trick, and if he would commit to doing so regularly, and what steps he thinks the wider industry should be taking to fix this system that’s been broken for so long. At first, his answers are, though well-intentioned, pretty vague. Perhaps those conversations haven’t happened with his team yet, as the pandemic has the industry ground to a halt, but I felt he could be saying, and doing, more.

A few days later, I heard from Patrick again. He’d since initiated conversations with his team about how best to move forward: Trick and Patrick Topping-curated events always have diversity in mind during the programming stage, Patrick tells me, with a focus on booking pioneers of the sound: Octave One, K-HAND, Robert Hood, Paul Johnson, Green Velvet. Acts like Horse Meat Disco, Ellen Allien, and Sally C have also played these parties. All minority groups must feel safe on the dance floor, and represented in the booth, and this is something he and his team will continue to focus on. All of Patrick’s future booking requests will be evaluated by his team on a case-by-case basis, and promoters will need to prove that they have, at a bare minimum, made efforts to book a lineup that promotes diversity and equity, in line with their musical vision for the party. In the current climate, of course it’s not clear when anyone will be playing out again, but Patrick wants the dance music landscape to change for the better.

There seems to be a recurring theme in lockdown — many of us aren’t listening to nearly as much dance music. When he’s not working on his own stuff, Patrick tends to listen to artists like Kanye West (his all-time favourite), Drake and Lana Del Rey. A few days before our Zoom call, he was dancing around the house with his wife to Thurston Harris’s “Little Bitty Pretty One” (the song used in “Matilda” as she discovers her magical powers and sends playing cards swirling around the living room).

As Patrick spins slowly around in his studio chair, commenting on his “caveman” lockdown hair and shouting cheerfully to his wife to ask for the name of the song, his face lights up as he remembers that singular moment of clarity and joy in the midst of a lockdown funk — these moments we should cherish.

Katie Thomas is a freelance writer. Find her on Twitter.

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

RAY MONO

A critical underground figure in the UK city of Leeds, Ray Mono’s crisp house and minimal tech output has been steadily spreading throughout Europe for some time now. With an uncanny ability to suck you into his rolling, mellow, and riveting selections behind the decks, Mono is a master of warm, subtle dancefloor vibes. His production efforts on top labels like NOFITSTATE, Moan Recordings, hedZup Records, Moxy Muzik, Tamango, and META are easy-riding gems that swing, dip and build with unassuming grace. His two most recent EPs, What It Is on Do Not Sleep and last week’s On The Grind via RAWSTREET, exemplify the power and class of Ray Mono’s increasingly impressive arsenal.

FRACTIONS

Fractions is a collaborative project from Russian producers Nikki Korobeynik and Artem Frolov. The pair first met while attending University in Prague — a city both of their families moved to escape the hardships of their sparse, polluted, and industrial hometowns in the early 2000s. Bonding over their shared background and love of energetic soundtracks for movies and videogames like The Matrix, Need For Speed, Blade, and Mortal Kombat, they buckled down and began learning music production.

Their high-octane techno style, which incorporates elements of ’90s rave and acid, emits an “unapologetic rawness” that first caught the attention of Fleisch Records in 2018. Following their debut Control EP on the imprint, the duo’s follow-up Constellations EP on Rotterdam Electronix is an electro and breakbeat excursion of epic proportion that shows off their nefarious versatility. Their most recent NITE NRG EP — released via Monnom Black back in June — is exceptional, and will have you gritting your teeth and longing for those dark, sweaty warehouse nights.

SYREETA

Beatport first became familiar with SYREETA during our Pride 2020 livestream with HE.SHE.THEY back in June. Kicking off the digital event with an absolute monster of a set, the UK selector succeeded in setting the bar extremely high for the rest of the evening. Hailing from Birmingham, SYREETA spent her teenage years training to represent her country in the Olympics as a sprinter before a tragic injury cut her athletic career short. Finding her salvation in music, she moved to London and has been thoroughly rinsing the decks throughout the city’s underground scene for the past six years.

She’s performed at large festivals like Reading Festival, Parklife, Terminal V, and TRNSMT, but for SYREETA, the size of the stage has never mattered. For her, performing in a place where she can interact directly with her dancefloor compatriots always takes the cake. Bursting with chunky basslines, gratifying grooves, and old-school spirit, the high-energy momentum of her sets have resulted in an adoring fanbase that’s growing by the day. As a queer black woman, she hopes to inspire a new generation of performers while also bringing back “the vibe of years gone by.”

REDUX SAINTS

Chicago-born DJ-producer Jason Trevor Miller (AKA Redux Saints) has always strived to keep the original energy and spirit of his hometown’s proud house music tradition alive through his music. Working his way up through the clubland ranks over the past five years, Miller has released on top labels such as CR2 and Toolroom, and received support from heavyweights like Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, Mark Knight, Riva Starr, and Carl Cox.

Currently based in Los Angeles, Miller heads up his own Deep Tech Los Angeles Records imprint. He’s become one of the most reliable sources for rowdy tech house and passionate melodic techno in the city’s underground scene. He secured a #1 spot in Beatport’s Best New Tech House Hype Chart with his track “Stay Home! as part of his label’s Deep Tech Lockdown Sessions Vol.1 compilation. His most recent single “GONNA BE ALRIGHT” on LOW CEILING is a reminder to what awaits many at the end of the club tunnel once dancefloors open back up.

JULIA BONDAR

Born in Ukraine and currently based in Barcelona, Julia Bondar is an electronic music producer, singer, and songwriter with a penchant for live analog performance. A ferocious, black-clad attitude persists through Bonder’s music, charged by slow-burning modular arrangements, industrial rhythms, and frigid storytelling that’s both melancholic and danceable.

Her Endorphin.es Production outfit doubles as a music label and synth module company where both her and her partner Andreas Zhukovsky help design, promote, and demonstrate the possibilities of the freshly engineered eurorack modules for the market. Following her debut album Blck Noir in 2018, US imprint Detroit Underground signed on to release her brooding and nostalgic In My Neighborhood LP the following year; the tape releases sold out in only two weeks. Her latest effort, a three-track EP titled I Want Forbidden, explores “the attributes, rituals, and fantasies that lift our libido and make us feel attractive.” Minimal, sublime, and thoroughly sensuous, the release spells great things for this modular wizard.

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

Our expert curation team brings you some of the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time with Jay Tripwire, Djebali, Monika Ross, Shunt, and more.

Butane, Forinson – Ascension (Jay Tripwire Remix) [Tenampa Recordings]

I stumbled upon this remix of Jay Tripwire, the Canadian and Vancouver DJ that helped pioneer the fusion of house and techno in a more minimal stripped-down fashion. Not your typical 4 to the floor rhythm, his remix for this Butane and Forinson track is a total late-night masterpiece. With a 2-step drive and dub-structured rhythm, it’s packed with organic-sounding drum fills that combines beautifully with its low-end elements. The combination of 808 kicks and a TB-303 acid bassline bring meticulous attention to detail to the use of FX, delays, and feedback loops that go hand in hand with the atmosphere created from the pads — completely re-inventing the original track. It’s a perfect set opener that will take your audience to another dimension. 

Accented Measures – Photons (Monika Ross Remix) [M- Tone]

Currently residing in Berlin, Monika Ross is one of my favorite producers from Australia. I love every track she produces and often play them in my own sets! Her remix of “Accented Measures” by Photons is sensual and deeply rooted with a 2-step, break-infused groove and accompanied by dubby, techy, and jazzy elements. Her infectious basslines are one of her well-known signature sounds, and this case is no exception. Throw this track in at any point during your nighttime set, and it’s bound to go off.

Guti, David Gtronic – Endless Positions (Federika Remix) [Personality Disorder Music]

Following the highly acclaimed Personality Disorder LP From David Gtronic & Guti, the label has just released an unbeatable remix package of the album that features some of the best artists in the game. One that I enjoyed especially was from Venezuelan and Madrid-based artist Federika’s remix of “Endless Positions.” This track is the definition of less is more. Simple, effective, and straight to the point! Not usual club track arrangement, she introduces vocal and harmonic elements from the original tune sporadically, drawing in dancers to the track’s story. I quite like the acid-esque bassline that carries throughout, giving it great personality. 

Per Hammar – Low Bats [Dirty Hands]

Swedish producer Per Hammar is an underground champion of the highest order. He’s been at the top of my radar over the last few years. To see why, listen to his brand new LP, Pathfinder. “Low Bats” is the album cut that stood out to me the most due to its hypnotic nature, which stems from the arrangement of percussion, drums, and atmospheres. It feels heavy and packed with emotions. The rolling, sub-heavy bassline adds so much character that no dancefloor is safe.

MKEY (UK) – Broken Birdie [Hardcutz Records]

This track caught my attention last week as I was curating for Beatport’s minimal/deep tech page. I really enjoy the crossover elements of garage, minimal, and tech house that generated a deep and forward going mood throughout the track. I always enjoy a tune with an undeniable and deep aura. Rising from its lush pads and stabs, MKEY maintains the energy with the swing drums and heavy basslines. What a belter! 

Shunt – Down To Earth [Conceptual Deep]

Franco-Lebanese artist Shunt is a brand new and promising act who released his debut Ep via Conceptual Deep back in May. He likes to think about his music as assertive, artistic, and communicative. You can feel it clearly in his track “Down to Earth” that shows the artist’s immense personality. The arrangement here does it for me because it brings such depth and mystery through its sound FX, mesmeric guitar riff, and telluric sounding drum patterns. 

BEATPORT HYPE PICK

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

Stephane – Can I Have It (Djebali Remix) – [Djebali] (HYPE)

One of Paris’ most accomplished new generation house music purveyors, Djebali’s productions continue to set the bar high. His constant flow of top quality releases via his self-titled imprint never ceases to amaze, and this remix of the Stephane track “Can I Have It” is no different. A stripped-back groover with enough heat to make any dancefloor move, I love how the bass sound was designed to add so much body to the track. It allows the drums to be simple, with just enough swing to make you want to bounce and groove.

For more minimal/deep tech tracks you may have missed this month, check out our Beatport Link Playlist.

Having just dropped her stunning debut album, Skylines — City Lightswe catch up with Berlin’s Cinthie to discuss her early career, label efforts, work-life balance, and what it means to drop an album of club bangers when there are no clubs.  

Mention the name Cinthie to any true Berlin house head, and you’ll likely be greeted with a smile. They’ve probably seen her throw down at about blank, Else, Tresor, Watergate, or almost any one of Berlin’s many clubs. Maybe they’ve gone digging for wax at her Friedrichshain record store, Elevate Berlin. Or perhaps they’ve become personally acquainted with her — Cinthie’s charm and warmth are almost as famous as her music.

Growing up in the German city of Saarbrücken near the French border, Cinthie has been DJing for over two decades, and producing almost as long as that. She got her start working at a local record store before a few big releases took her around the globe. But she was unhappy, and made career move that included playing illegal squat raves around early ‘00s Berlin — some of which she organized herself. As her fame grew, she went on to hold a residencies at clubs like Watergate. These days she’s also regular on the festival circuit, and before lockdown performed in over 40 countries, with gigs at ​Concrete in Paris, Circoloco at DC-10, and Amsterdam’s Shelter among the numerous hotspots she graced in 2019. 

Aside from owning one of Berlin’s most popular boutique record shops, Cinthie is a single mom, and runs a whopping three record labels — 803 Crystal GroovesWe_R House, and the newly-launched Collective Cuts. Though she’s also been a regular on imprints like Heist, and especially Aus Music — the label she’s released her debut album with.

Skylines — City Lights is an exhilarating 12-track LP that pays tribute to all the musical styles that have inspired her over the years. It’s filled with big, bright, laser-focused club tracks, and often inspires moments of unadulterated joy. This might seem at odds for our current moment. But as Cinthie sees it, it might just be exactly what we need. 

Where would you say the origin of your DJ story started?

It’s funny you ask because I’m currently at my dad’s house, and I’ve got loads of pictures from me at 16 [or] 15 raving in front of a wall with lots of flyers and stuff from that time. It’s nice to think back when everything started. I lived in a city close to Saarbrücken, which is about an hour from Frankfurt, but it’s closer to the border to France. I think I started listening to electronic music when I was 14, so in 1994.

I always collected records, and so did my parents. I first started DJing in the bedroom before I got this job at this record store in Saarbrücken, called Humpty Records. It all started there. The guys who worked there — all of whom were much older than me — asked me, “are you a DJ?” I said, “Yeah. Sure. Of course.” In truth, I didn’t know anything, but I was well on my way.

Before you became Cinthie, I saw that you used to DJ under the moniker Vinyl Princess.

When I was around 17 years old, there was on this kind of nerdy online music forum that I used to love. Because I worked in a record shop, I knew quite a lot of records. People were always asking about track IDs and stuff. And whenever I knew something, I gave it to them. And then someone said, “Oh, yeah, you’re the Vinyl Princess. You’re so cool.”

And I thought, yeah, that’s quite a cool nickname. So I changed my nickname in this forum to Vinyl Princess for fun, and that was that. I played a gig under the moniker right around the time I turned 18. Because I was so young, it was just more like a nickname.

For some reason, WestBam — co-founder of Low Spirit Records (and the Love Parade) — picked up my first record. When it got pressed, I saw it and was like, “Fuck. What the hell is this?” I mean, I had no clue about anything at the time, but it came out under the name Vinyl Princess. I was like, “Oh… my god.” Because even though it was cute and was kind of fun, it was also embarrassing.

Tell me about your becoming a Berlin resident. What kind of music and shows were you playing at the start of your career?

I finished school in 1999, and the next day I went straight back to Berlin. Once I got signed by WestBam’s Electric Kingdom sub-label, I played quite a lot of tours with them in places like Japan, Amsterdam, and a few other places. When I got signed to the imprint, it was quite commercial, so many people thought I spun commercial music and was “too expensive” or something. So when I left the label in 2003, it took me quite some time to convince people that I’m cool and that I play cool music. So, with a friend, I started throwing some little DIY parties around Berlin.

I can honestly say I worked my ass off to be where I am at the moment. There was this idea in Berlin that if you play at particular types of clubs, then the others don’t book you. It took me a while, but I never gave up.

You have a ton of in-house labels at your record store, Elevate Berlin. Tell us about how you formed up with the Beste Modus crew and how the subsequent imprints came into existence.

In 2009, I got pregnant and had my daughter, so I didn’t have too much time to join or go to the studio. I was still playing in Berlin a bit, but I was still at a loss about what I should do. There are two ways: Finding something and really pushing for it, or I just play here and there and become a mom or something.

I met the Beste Modus guys — Diego Krause, stevn.aint.leavn, Ed Herbst, and Albert Vogt — in 2011. They were super nice, came to all of my gigs, and also they sent me some tracks. And I was like, “Fuck. I need to do something with them.” I saw that their stuff had loads of potential. I hadn’t released a record for seven years or something, but they made me want to start producing again. Then we started with the label.

It was a super big success. We sold our first 300 records overnight. And then we planned for a second one, and then a third one. We sold something like 3,000 records with the second repress. We were fucking killing it. We came in at the right time when house was having a massive revival. From there, we started the sub-label Beste Freunde because we had lots of really talented friends and wanted to release their stuff. 

After a while, I also started my We_R House imprint with some other friends because I wanted to be a bit freer from my old crew. I was touring a lot the last couple of years and started to feel that the vinyl-only market was getting a bit saturated. I wanted to do Spotify and maybe go digital. The rest disagreed because they didn’t want to “sell their soul.” I get it, but I found myself playing in places all over the world with people who wanted to hear my music but couldn’t get it because they don’t have turntables or couldn’t get the vinyl. Why should I deny them my music?

You could feel I didn’t fit anymore. So I said, “Look, I think we should call it a day.” And then they said they also didn’t like it anymore, so Beste Modus ended, but it was very kind and mutual. Regardless I’ve still got my imprints We_R House, 803 Crystal Grooves, and Unison Wax alongside Diego Krause.

Tell us about your new Skylines — City Lights LP. Did you ever manage to test out any of its tracks on the dancefloor before the pandemic hit?

I tested out some of them because I’ve been working on the album for two years now. At first, I was just making tracks and stockpiling them. But then I would get impatient and think, “Shit. Maybe I should release another Crystal Grooves.” So I took the best four and released them. But after that, I decided to focus on the album. I’ve tested some of them on the crowd, especially tracks like “Calling,” which is a big boomer in the club. I played “Horizon” and “Concentrate” a couple of times on the floor as well.

But, yeah, it feels weird. I mean, it feels weird, especially now, when I’m signing a piece from other artists, or I have some new tracks, I don’t have the opportunity to play them out. Because of this, I feel like I really have to trust my feelings on what will work well, but I think I have enough experience to know.

Instead of releasing your debut album on one of your labels, you decided to go with Aus Music. Why that label, and how did you first link up with Will Saul?

I met Will through a friend. He had heard of me and asked if I would send him some tracks. I released my first Aus Music EP, Trust, in 2018, followed by a second, Mesmerizing, in 2019. Then he came to Berlin, and we got on really well. I was giving him a lift to the airport when he asked me what I had going on next, that’s when I told him it was “album time.” When I told him I was going to release it on Crystal Grooves, he was like, “No. You’re going to do it on ours.” So I was like, “Oh, Okay. If you say so!” It just felt right. AUS Music is a legendary label, and Will is such a good guy with lots of experience.

Can you tell us more about your approach to the album?

I’m a club DJ, and I feel like the album kind of plays out like a set. I really tried to make the tracks super accessible, so you can also listen to them at home and bang them out on the dancefloor. I also tried to include all my influences, so it incorporates Chicago house, garage, a bit of acid, and some nu-disco. It also has this track “Flashback,” which goes back to my roots when I produced broken beats. I also think the opening track, “Skylines,” which comes in at like 105 BPM isn’t going to be what people expect, but it builds with this band that’s like “Wow! Fuck yeah!”

What are some of the challenges you’ve been facing during the COVID pandemic? Have there been any unexpected upsides? Where do you think clubland is heading after all of this?

The biggest challenge has been that my daughter’s school is closed. Because usually when I’m at home during the week, I go to the studio at least three, four times per week. So I was a bit scared. So I haven’t been for quite a while. And I was a bit afraid to lose my workflow. The upside of this pandemic though, is that I have more time for my daughter. We’re a perfect team, and when I would have to leave over the weekend for a gig, sometimes she’d not want me to go. But now since I’m home so much, she’s almost like, “Oh, mom, can you go back to work again now?”

People can’t spend money on club entry and drinks, but they still want their music. While stuff was closed, people ordered a lot of records from our Elevate Berlin store. Our sales quadrupled — such a funny word in English. My music sales have also been outstanding. We were thinking about moving the album, but I can’t help but feel now is the time. Just because they can’t dance doesn’t mean the music is also canceled. I think it’s more the opposite. People still need their dance music. I want to create happy music, and I want to help promote music that gives people hope and helps bring back memories.

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

UK drum & bass innovator, Pessimist, teases the laid-back sonic direction of his new Soft Boi moniker with a selection of enchanting UK trip-hop tracks.

Hailing from Bristol, DJ-producer Kristian Jabs (AKA Pessimist) has always had a knack for shaking it up behind the decks and hitting you with the unexpected. For the past ten years, Jabs’s modern and brooding techno-drum & bass fusions have been gratifying dancefloors with vaporous and sultry energy that’s all his own.

For his first release of 2020, we see Jabs go in a completely different direction to his previous releases with the introduction of his new moniker, Soft Boi, and the release of the project’s debut album, So NiceInspired by neo-soul, leftfield hip-hop, and Brazilian music (his stepfamily hails from Rio), the record is full of slo-mo club rollers, iridescent synths, and personal musings from Jabs who sings on themes of insecurity, dating, online frustrations, and isolation. The LP features some undeniable trip-hop influences, no doubt a result of growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s in Bristol — home to many of the genre’s most celebrated originators. 

To celebrate the new Soft Boi moniker and his latest album, Jabs has handed over his ten favourite UK trip-hop inspired tracks and written about each one.

Tricky – Hell Is Round The Corner [4th & Broadway]

I couldn’t put together a list of trip-hop tracks without a track from Tricky. Yes, it is a very famous track, maybe not a diggers track, but there’s always a reason why certain tracks become anthems and are so recognisable that it’s down to great Songwriting. Tricky is a hero to me, a real humble guy and a true artist, he represents everything that’s great about Bristol, and he also speaks out about everything that’s shit about Bristol, I love his honesty!

Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy [Circa Records]

Another anthem, a true classic, like Tricky, couldn’t leave this track out of the list. The tune represents a bunch of kids from Bristol who started out as The Wild Bunch with their sound-system and went on to make the album Blue Lines as Massive Attack, which put Bristol on the main stage a while. I love this track and always will, has a genuinely nostalgic place in my heart.

DJ Cam – Dieu Reconnaitra Les Siens [Street Jazz Records]

I love the first section of this track; it reminds me of some of my favourite 92-94 jungle tracks but slowed down to a more funky tempo. There’s so much good music from DJ Cam out there, and to be honest, I’m not really a track by track guy. I love to listen to albums in full, but if I had to pick one track, it would be this one.

Boards Of Canada – Hi Scores [Skam Records]

I’m not sure if you’d call this trip-hop, in a way I’m not even sure what trip-hop is, but I’d certainly say this track much like a lot of Boards Of Canada is heavily hip-hop influenced. It’s certainly leftfield and different for its time, so I don’t care, let’s call it trip-hop. I love the Hi Scores EP that this is taken from. Each track is fantastic. This one makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and it’s a stunning track!

Howie B – Cook For You [Pussyfoot Records]

I love Howie B and Music For Babies has become one of my favourite albums of all time. This isn’t from that album, but I think this represents my idea of what trip-hop is, to the fullest. It’s lie-on-your-back-and-gaze-whilst-you-trip-hard music for me. Big up Howie!

DJ Food – Inosan [Ninja Tune]

This is something I’d listen to while walking home on the streets late at night around Bristol. It’s the perfect backdrop for navigating through pissy alleyways, flickering street lamps, and ditched trolleys. It’s gutter. I love the rolling vibe to it, which makes it something perfect for being on the move.

Young Echo – Rocksteady [Young Echo]

If you don’t know already, Young Echo is a collective in Bristol that put on lots of interesting events around the city. Not only that, but they have also put out a few releases, including this fantastic debut album. This track is my personal favourite off the LP, but the whole thing is very impressive. It’s really worth digging into each member’s discographies too such as Amos ChildsDaniel Davies, and Joseph McGann. All in all, there’s some great stuff in there! Big up to the Young Echo lot for continuously pushing things forward in the city of Bristol.

Sunun – Untitled Lvls [Bokeh Versions]

Sunun is another great producer from the new crop of Bristol artists. She’s now actually part of the Young Echo collective, as mentioned before. This tune is a real gutter, in my opinion. Proper murky and released on Bristol’s Bokeh Versions, which has become one of my favourite labels of recent times. I’d recommend checking her whole discography out. Also, the music she has done with Bristol label Cold Light, who I have to mention. The imprint is doing a killer job at pushing this leftfield hip-hop, and trip-hop inspired sound here in Bristol.

Lucid Dreams – Totemism [The Stone Tapes]

Lucid Dreams is a side project of Jason Luxton (AKA Overlook). This was released on The Stone Tapes, an off-shoot label of UVB-76, which I help run along with the heads Vega & Gremlinz. Jason’s music is super-immersive, I think this project really reflects Jason’s taste in music and also film, of which he’s an addict. “Totemism” is my favourite of the bunch, but again, you really have to check the full release. It’s meant to be heard that way. 

Boreal Massif – Low Forties [Pessimist Recordings]

Boreal Massif was a side project of mine where I joined forces with an old pal, Reuben Kramer. I’d say this was the title track of the album, to be honest, we even made a music video to go with it. I’m not going to talk too much about myself, so take a listen to the track (and the full album if you feel so inclined). 

Forgotten Artifacts explores the vintage gear found in studios around the world. This time, Swedish dance music luminary Per Hammar discusses the gritty sound behind his Soviet-era analog drum module, the Форманта УДС (Formanta UDS).

For my favorite forgotten artifact, I’ve chosen the Форманта УДС (Formanta UDS). It’s a drum machine from the Soviet Union, created in 1986. Clocks in on a good 15kg or so. When I bought it, the shipping from Ukraine was more expensive than the actual machine!

Originally it was meant to be triggered by drum pads. But since these pads send 5v electricity, just like any other trig signal, it’s possible to send whatever audio signal to the different “drums” to get sounds.

It’s not in any way close to any traditional drum sounds, but more like a selection of noisy tones from space. I love it because of its dirtiness and wilderness. It’s hard to tame when the tone and noise generator shoots off in different directions, and I love that.

It’s a perfect match to integrate with the Euro Rack Modular system at those times I need to add a dose of Soviet grit into the recipe as we all do from time to time. Or just send it into a low pass filter with an envelope to get some nasty bass lines.

Only the imagination sets limits here…oh, and your physical strength, if you need to carry it anywhere.

On my new album Pathfinder LP, I used it on the track “Inter City“. It can be heard in the middle of the clip. How I would normally use it, and on this track, in particular, is I do a long recording where I choose in which frequency the tone should start and end. Then I manually mix in and out the noise generator.

There is a filter on every” drum” channel too, but I prefer to use an external one, so I leave it open. You can’t modulate anything except when the tone should sound, so you can’t sleep here. You have to present and make manual variations.

Sometimes I forget some of the features on the machine, so I printed some Dymo labels out for it, and now it flows!

Per Hammar’s debut album – Pathfinder LP – is out now via his Dirty Hands imprint.

Inspired by the old school gay club culture, IsBurning has become one of Amsterdam’s most essential and energetic LGBTQIA+ parties in the six years since its inception. April Clare Welsh speaks to the founders

When IsBurning resident Titia van Beckum (AKA TITIA) played at Amsterdam’s packed-out Warehouse Elementenstraat on New Year’s Day in 2017, the local DJ tore through a set of warm, raved-up house bangers with raw edges. “Everyone was waving their shirts and jumping around. I like it when that happens; the more skin the better! There was so much happiness and appreciation,” she remembers fondly.

The dancefloor is always heaving and electric at IsBurning; Amsterdam’s roving LGBTQIA+ party that has been setting the city on fire for six years. With an inviting tagline of ‘come as you are’, and a discerning music policy that caters for dance music devotees, IsBurning has carved out a vital and forward-thinking space in a world-famous gay scene previously dominated by commercial, Top 40-friendly nightspots.

“We were tired of not having a club that satisfied our needs like places in London, Berlin or New York did, especially seeing as Amsterdam is such an important gay city,” says Carlos Valdes, who co-founded IsBurning with De School resident Sandrien in 2014. Sandrien had been hosting monthly techno nights at Trouw — Amsterdam’s beloved multi-purpose arts space which sadly closed its doors in 2015 — and bonded with Valdes over a mutual love of Chicago house and Detroit house and techno. The pair wanted to create a new home for the city’s queer community.

“We started thinking about the whole idea of the gay scene as being early adopters or pioneers in music and fashion, and felt that things were lagging behind in terms of what was being offered at that point musically,” says Valdes. “The majority of events were super commercial; not interesting, fun dance music. And we felt that we also had to give back and show where the music came from; so that’s how it all started. I now know lots of stories of people who met their current partners at IsBurning.”

TITIA, who first played IsBurning’s “crazy” second edition at the Verdieping (the basement) at Trouw (she’s been a resident ever since), had been experiencing a similar sense of frustration over the lack of queer club night options in her city. “I just didn’t really feel like I had a place to go. There wasn’t a proper gay party with music I liked, like music played at balls in NYC. Music that screams equality and diversity to me.”

She continues: “IsBurning is not just a gay night, it is a night where everyone is welcome and where everyone is treated with respect equally. No matter what race, class, gender, or sexuality. No prejudices. I have the feeling this definitely set the tone at the time.”

IsBurning hosted their first-ever night at Trouw in April 2014, with Sandrien and Valdes playing a B2B set of Chicago house and techno alongside Berlin staple Virginia. The following year, they were able to see Trouw out with a bang when they played at the venue’s closing weekend. “It was just amazing to have that experience as it will never ever happen again,” recalls Valdes. “It was such a great space for IsBurning, especially the basement.”

IsBurning began scoping out new venues and settled on the cozy Cruquiusgilde warehouse, located in an industrial area in the east of the city. The warehouse setting chimed perfectly with the party’s essence. “It was a great transition from the 1,600-capacity Trouw to more intimate Sunday parties,” says Valdes. For IsBurning’s second birthday bash at Cruquiusgilde, they treated club-goers to surprise sets from DJ Pure, Valdes himself, and Handmade; it was one of Valdes’s favourite sets to date. These secret lineups soon became the club night’s trademark. 

“It meant there was something unique about IsBurning, that people would come for the party instead of the headlining name,” says Valdes. Over the years, the club night has seen a glittering array of international artists take to the decks, including Andy Butler, Dr, Rubinstein, Job Jobse, Kim Ann Foxman, Mike Servito, Tama Sumo, Chez Damier, Eris Drew, Robert Owens, Octo Octa, Josh Cheon and many, many more

Cruquiusgilde shut down in 2016, and IsBurning have since thrown parties in a number of venues around the city, like Shelter Amsterdam, De Marktkantine, BAR, Paradigm and Warehouse Elementenstraat, where they were due to celebrate their sixth birthday in April until the coronavirus pandemic forced the Netherlands into lockdown. Nightclubs and venues will remain closed until September 1st, and the city’s thousands-strong Pride parade (which is usually held during the first weekend of August) will no longer be taking place.

“August is my favourite month of the year,” enthuses Valdes, who sketches out a typically eye-watering schedule of pre-parties, DJ sets, and the canal parade on Saturday. “It’s such an insane weekend. But I think now with everything that is going on, maybe people really want to go back to the essence of Pride, and not have all of Holland coming and watching the parade. And I think we will be a bit more aware of why we do these things, take note.” Valdes and the IsBurning crew will nonetheless mark Pride on Saturday, August 1st with an as-yet-to-be-revealed event (the Dutch government recently announced the easing of some restrictions). 

“Pride is of course super important,” says van Beckum. “I feel like it is good for everyone to show that we appoint a full week on our agenda where we get to celebrate our freedom. It provides a way for others to show their acceptance and support. It’s important to take this moment and realize this is not yet the matter everywhere around the world, unfortunately. Not every country is as progressive as ours, it’s super great we can set a good example. Though even in our country, sadly there’s still a lot of progress to be made for the community.”

While some of the crew’s summer plans are now on hold, IsBurning has continued to grow in recent years. Last August, they collaborated with Dekmantel for a Pride event, and they were supposed to host one of the boat parties at this year’s canceled Dekmantel Selectors in Croatia. There’s also the mix series. Now on its 59th edition, the IsBurning mixes immortalises the night in sound, while providing a platform for queer artists. Looking ahead, Valdes says a label is on the horizon, and of course, plenty more parties. “We are doing parties for everyone; that for me is the point of doing a party. We’re there to support.”

Beatport celebrates the launch of its new Organic House category with a 12-hour stream from some of the genre’s most accomplished selectors. The livestream will take place on Friday, July 17, starting at 5:00 PM CEST.

Last month, Beatport introduced a new genre classification to its online store — Organic House/Downtempo. After collecting feedback from artists, labels, industry professionals, and fans alike, the music category was created to highlight the trend towards deeper and more meditative shades of house music that appear on our store.

After being scattered between the Electronica, Deep House, Melodic House & Techno and Afro House genres on Beatport, our new Organic House/Downtempo page aims to give this mystic and slow-burning dancefloor style a proper home,  while offering its artists/labels more visibility, and creating a more seamless experience for fans and DJs alike. 

To commemorate the launch of our latest genre, Beatport will host a 12-hour ReConnect livestream, featuring an international cast of artists who have helped bring this enchanting style of house into various underground and mainstream music circles around the globe.

Beaming in from Germany, Morocco, Thailand, The United States, and Indonesia, the Organic House ReConnect event will feature artists like Britta Arnold, Oliver Koletzki, BEHROUZ, Amine K, SABO, MARQUES WYATT, and more.

Starting at 5:00 PM CEST, you can watch the stream right here on Beatportal and on the Beatport homepage, where fans can enjoy live track IDs throughout the show. Viewers can also tune in on Twitch.

Check out the full lineup and set times below.

5:00 PM CEST — Sanni Est
6:00 PM CEST — Namito
7:00 PM CEST — Oliver Koletzki
8:00 PM CEST — Anime K
9:00 PM CEST — Britta Arnold
10:00 PM CEST — K.E.E.N.E.
11:00 PM CEST — BEHROUZ
12:00 PM CEST — KMLN
1:00 AM CEST — MARQUES WYATT
2:00 AM CEST — Jon Charnis
3:00 AM CEST — SABO
4:00 AM CEST — Lar3n

RSVP on Facebook. And for some of the latest Organic House/Downtempo selections to hit our store, check our specially curated playlist here

Eli Brown has rocketed to the top almost overnight. But there’s more than meets the eye to this success story. Alice Austin gets the lowdown on this mystery producer, who’s earned plaudits from some of the biggest names in the game.

Eli Brown is suspiciously successful for someone who’s been in the game for just four years. His first release, Can You Feel It / Acid Test, came out on Skream’s Of Unsound Mind label in 2016. Not long after that, Solardo, Lethos, Fitzpatrick, and Skream could not stop dropping his tunes.

Brown seemed to fall out the sky and behind the decks of every major dance music event on the planet. He didn’t rise to the top so much as apparate there. His productions are made for stadiums, euphoric dance tsunamis with soaring vocals, infectious samples, and crep-stomping beats. His tunes ooze confidence. His DJ sets better described as puppet mastery than performance. For a total unknown, Eli Brown seems too good to be true. Which, of course, he is.

The artist, currently known as Eli Brown, has been in the business for significantly longer than four years. He grew up in Backwell, a village and civil parish on the outskirts of Bristol. He spent his teenage years soaking up Bristol’s golden era of underground, back when jungle and drum & bass were raging through the UK, swallowing up anyone with an appetite for rave and energy to spare. Roni Size and his Reprazent crew had just beat Spice Girls and Radiohead to win the Mercury Music Prize. Along with Massive Attack and Portishead, Bristolian artists were redefining UK music.

Brown and his mates dived in head-first, spending their weekends at jungle clubs in Bristol, delighted equally by the music and the lax door policies. Brown says the energy and creativity and potential hung thick in the air, so it’s no wonder he soon turned to producing.

“Back then producing was hard to get into,” Brown says, speaking from his studio in Bristol. “It wasn’t like you could just put a program on your computer and make tunes. You needed certain hardware to make music. That appealed to me, so I saved up and bought a sampler.” He pauses, then laughs. “I had no idea how to use it for years.”

Brown figured out how to use the sampler while at uni in Liverpool. “Northwest always had a strong house music heritage while Bristol was more bass music,” he says. “So going up there, I went to Bugged Out, which brought me onto Dave ClarkeGreen Velvet. I started DJing at clubs and focussed on making music, and that’s when I started releasing records.”

The artist currently known as Eli Brown had a lucrative career as one half of a drum & bass duo. He toured his act around the world for several years, making friends in high places along the way. In 2016 Brown played Glastonbury and spent much of the weekend with his friend Dan (AKA Eats Everything). “I watched his sets and saw Carl Cox play Arcadia, and I just came away from that experience feeling really inspired,” Brown says. “And I thought alright, I’ll make a few house tunes. See what happens.”

He sent his first house track to Skream anonymously. They’d become friendly through the dubstep connection and played a lot of gigs together. “I sent it anonymously because I wanted an honest opinion without preconceptions,” Brown says. “It was a risk that he wouldn’t listen to it because he probably gets sent thousands of tunes. But luckily, he liked it.” So much so that he snapped up Brown’s first EP.

Feeling validated, Brown locked himself away in his studio for six months producing house tune after house tune, submitting them to his favourite labels. He was essentially breaking and entering his way into the scene, producing so many bangers labels had no choice but to pay attention. In 2017 he released his Sumatra EP on Toolroom Records followed by Hysteria on Repopulate Mars. Solardo soon booked him to play their Solardo Sessions at The Warehouse Project and then their room 2 residency at Hï Ibiza. Since then, he’s not slowed down for a single minute, wrapping up his first world tour just in time for the 2020 Year of the Shitstorm and consistently producing music whatever the weather.

“It’s been good to have a successful second career,” Brown says. “A lot of DJs try. It’s highly competitive and hard to sustain a career in music. Music genres change and styles change and what’s cool changes. So to do it a second time round on my own feels like an achievement.”

Stand out moments for Brown have been performing at EDC in Vegas and releasing his second EP Got The Power on Skream’s Of Unsound Mind imprint. “That was a big moment for me,” he says. “It was one of the tunes that broke through and really helped my career.”

More recently, his peak-time floor-filler “XTC” with Solardo has been a game-changer, topping Beatport’s tech house charts and racking up millions of streams. And then there’s Calvin Harris. 

“Calvin started playing my records out last summer, and we’ve been chatting on email ever since,” Brown says as if it’s no big deal. “I sent him something in January, and he was bang into it, so we wrote two tracks together. They’re part of the Moving EP that came out in April.” Brown pauses then laughs. “Yeah, teenage me would never have imagined that happening.”

Brown might have spent 2020 at home rather than on the road, but he’s continued to produce music throughout lockdown, starting work on an album and lining up releases until the end of this year, some on his new label Arcane Music. With his latest single “Immortal” on Armada Subjekt he’s pushed the boundaries of the genre, combining dramatic instrumentals and trance build-ups to create an emotive dance masterpiece.

I wanted to make a big epic song to play at the end of my festival sets,” Brown says. “I’m excited about it because I pushed myself. I used a full vocal. I think it sparks emotion and I’m really happy with it. I managed to play it a couple of times before lockdown.”

When Brown catfished Skream back in 2016, he didn’t have a plan at all. “I was just loving the music,” he says. “It’s probably what I like doing the most, making tunes, and it was the same when I fell in love with jungle. Even now, I’m still discovering new genres and scenes, and that’s what keeps me inspired and excited. Discovering new music, getting new influences.” 

In a post-COVID world, Brown hopes we can reconnect with the joy and value in clubbing, and not take it for granted. “When I was young, clubbing was inclusive and fun. It was all about hugging your mates and making new friends. I hope when clubs and festivals re-open, we can take the positives from this pandemic, like supporting the NHS and the BLM movement. I hope that feeling of togetherness and inclusivity encompasses clubbing again.”

Eli Brown’s latest release “Immortal” is available to purchase on Beatport. 

Alice Austin is a freelance journalist based in Berlin. Find her on Twitter.  

Our expert curation team brings you some of the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time featuring Trivecta, Leotrix, Gamuel Sori, Thyron, Macky Gee and more.

Naems, BonRen – Light Up The Night [Revealed Radar]

Hardwell’s Revealed Recordings has been the pinnacle of big room since 2010, but it’s worth checking out their sub-label, Revealed Radar, responsible for showcasing up-and-coming artists. I vividly remember sitting in my car and frantically looking for this tune on Beatport’s Best New Big Room playlist on Spotify because I couldn’t get that melody out of my head: “Light Up The Night” captures all the excitement and emotion of big room’s golden years.

Leotrix – Newdance [Dim Mak Records]

This one’s for the bassheads: Leotrix is just one of dubstep’s latest prodigies, but I’m completely obsessed with his interpretation of electro house. “Newdance” lived in the USBs of some of the world’s biggest DJs for over a year before its release last month on Dim Mak’s imprint for rising stars, New Noise. This tune is squeaky, abrasive, and chaotic in all the right ways.

Gamuel Sori – Money’s Gone [AFTR:HRS]

One of my favorite things about future house is the wide spectrum of sounds across the entire genre, including the warm, mellow end of that spectrum. I came across “Money’s Gone” during an average week of curation and loved it so much that I added it to my personal future house playlist — imagine my excitement when I learned this is Gamuel Sori’s debut single. It’s his first and only track, and he knocked it out of the park. All vibes.

Macky Gee, David Zowie, Ruth Royall – Ready For You [Down 2 Earth Musik]

I adore drum and bass, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a Macky Gee tune that’s straight-up commercial dance music. Off his latest full-length record It’s A Gee Thing, Macky Gee collaborates with David Zowie and Ruth Royall for the piano-driven dance anthem “Ready For You.” Bass DJs may prefer the bass mix of this track available on the record, but I’m all about the original.

Trivecta – Wasteland [Ophelia]

Seven Lions’ imprint Ophelia is home to some of the best melodic dubstep available today, but Trivecta’s latest release on the label offers more than I expected: “Wasteland” is a gorgeous progressive big room tune that makes me want to throw my hands in the air and look to the sky. This track makes me reminisce about the glory days of the genre and feel hopeful about the future of its sound.

Haus of Panda, Zootah – Floor Burn [Brooklyn Fire]

Of all the emerging trends in EDM, I’m all about the arrival of speed house. Coined by Haus of Panda, speed house oozes the restless nature of NRG sounds often with a special emphasis on sound design. One of his latest releases in collaboration with Zootah, “Floor Burn,” represents the raw power of speed house that’s representative of EDM embracing uptempo in recent months. Special shout-out to Tommie Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire as well: this label puts on for the next generation of EDM.

Thyron – Rave Generation [Gearbox Digital]

I couldn’t resist including a track that showcases all there is to love about hard dance. Aptly titled “Rave Generation,” Thyron delivers an impressive repertoire of sounds pulled from both classic and raw hardstyle and gradually raises the heat until we’re met with its merciless uptempo hardcore climax. It’s not for everyone, but I’m a huge advocate for the no-fucks-given production style of hard dance, and Thyron hits the nail on the head.

For more EDM tracks you may have missed this month, check out our Beatport Link Playlist.

The online event occurs on Saturday, July 11th, between 18:00 CEST – 01:00 CEST and will be followed by a panel discussion on Sunday, July 12th, at 19:00 CEST.

Join Beatport Live and London’s Junction 2 Festival this Saturday and Sunday for a one-off online event featuring some of the world’s best talent! A highlight of the UK festival season, Junction 2 is going full steam ahead this year with a virtual revamp that surely won’t disappoint. 

The virtual event will be taking place across six hours, and four stages for a fully-functional “online festival site,” which the J2 team promises will capture the same “mind-bending visuals and an inclusive atmosphere” the Boston Manor Park event is known for.

All four stages will be broadcast live on Beatportal’s homepage, as well as on Beatport, meaning you can identify and purchase tracks in real-time via Beatport’s live track identification system. The stream will also be hosted on Beatport’s TwitchYouTube, and Facebook pages.

In addition to prize giveaways and merchandise, J2v will also be using this unprecedented online gathering to raise much-needed funds for the charities Black Lives MatterCare Workers CharityRefugeThe Outside Project, and Trussell Trust foodbanks. Learn how to donate by going here.

RSVP for the event on Facebook here.

Check out the J2v set times below.

THE CONSOLE⁣

HOSTED BY DRUMCODE⁣

Hosted by Adam Beyer and his Drumcode crew, The Console stage will feature “eight spires with marble-shaped stacks that will form an octagonal perimeter around the dancefloor.” Sitting atop a central pyramid, the view will allow for “equally blessed visibility” for all in attendance.

Times listed in BST:⁣
18.00 – 19.00: Joel Mull⁣
19.00 – 20.00: Bart Skils⁣
20.00 – 21.00: ANNA⁣
21.00 – 22.00: Alan Fitzpatrick⁣
22.00 – 23.30: Adam Beyer⁣
Visuals by More Eyes & Fade In Fade Out⁣

Tune in to The Console stage via Twitch here.

THE VAULT⁣

Kicking off with a rebroadcast of Richie Hawtin’s 2019 J2 stream, the festival promises that The Vault stage will make you feel “like you are being sucked into a techno vortex.”

Times listed in BST:⁣
18.00 – 19.00: Sama’ Abdulhadi⁣
19.00 – 20.00: Maya Jane Coles⁣
20.00 – 21.00: Anastasia Kristensen⁣
21.00 – 22.00: Daniel Avery⁣
22.00 – 23.30: Nina Kraviz⁣
Visuals by More Eyes & WeAreMidnight⁣

Tune in to The Vault stage via Twitch here.

THE HEX⁣

This stage will feature an “imposing 6-sided pyramid” that will kick off with a performance from phenomenal rising talent Effy and close with a set from ReConnect favourite, Maceo Plex.

Times listed in BST:⁣
18.00 – 19.00: Effy⁣
19.00 – 20.30: Saoirse b2b Shanti Celeste⁣
20.30 – 21.30: Jossy Mitsu⁣
21.30 – 23.00: Âme (Live)⁣
23.00 – 00.30: Maceo Plex⁣
Visuals by More Eyes & Blinkinlab

Tune in to The Hex stage via Twitch here.

THE MAINFRAME: SAY IT LOUD STAGE⁣

IN ASSOCIATION WITH BEATPORT⁣

Curated by Carl Craig⁣

The newly added Mainframe Stage, curated by longtime LWE collaborator Carl Craig (in association with Beatport), will feature a cadre of highly respected Detroit and Midwest house and techno artists. All artists DJs involved set to play back-to-back to back from a warehouse in Detroit — though this special event won’t be rebroadcast, so don’t miss it!

Times listed in BST:⁣
18.00 – 18.05: Jessica Care Moore⁣
18.05 – 18.30: Amp Fiddler⁣
18.30 – 18.55: Jay Daniel⁣
18.55 – 19.20: Kyle Hall⁣
19.20 – 19.45: DJ Holographic⁣
19.45 – 20.05: Al Ester⁣
20.05 – 20.25: DJ Dez Andres feat. Moodymann⁣
20.25 – 20.45: DJ Minx⁣
20.45 – 21.00: Waajeed⁣
21.00 – 21.20: Rick Wilhite⁣
21.20 – 21.40: Terrence Parker⁣
21.40 – 22.15: Kevin & Dantiez Saunderson⁣
22.15 – 22.45: K-HAND⁣
22.45 – 23.15: Stacey Pullen⁣
23.15 – 23.45: Carl Craig⁣
23.45 – 00.15: Derrick May⁣
00.15 – 00.20: Jessica Care Moore⁣
Visuals by More Eyes⁣

Tune in to The Mainframe stage via Twitch here.

The Speakers Corner: Panel Discussion (Sunday, July 12th)

Following J2v’s day of music on Saturday, the event will host a stimulating panel discussion on the roots and future of our scene with the likes of Seth Troxler, Derrick Carter, Carl Craig, DJ Holographic, and more. 

Learn more about the panel discussion by going here.

In the face of mass cancellations, several major festivals are building new live-streamed virtual events that are poised to change the music industry — even well after traditional live shows resume. Alison Van Houten learns more. 

This year’s Lightning in a Bottle looked less like a music festival than like a planet from Star Wars: A lens-flare effect evoked multiple moons splayed above a cluster of Jenga-esque platforms, some hovering and others rearing out of the surface of a purplish, starlit lake. Dizzyingly tall waterfalls streamed off of leafy towers while the headliner, TOKiMONSTA, played a joyful set from a plot of wildflowers in what could only be described as the mothership in the midst of it all.

While parts of the May 2020 event betrayed the two-week sprint in which the California festival went from terrestrial to virtual — Kaytranada‘s set fell victim to unfortunate technical hiccups — it was nevertheless an impressive display of the creative ways in which the music industry has adapted to our challenging new reality. A few months earlier, as the COVID pandemic unfolded in early 2020, live music fans entered an ostensibly infinite drought of in-person events. Since then, the teams behind summer festivals like LIB, Tomorrowland, and Glastonbury have turned on a dime, building a new wave of live-streamed virtual events that are poised to change the music industry well after traditional shows resume.

Live streaming is nothing new. Musicians have been doing it since the early ’90s, when The Rolling Stones tried, unsuccessfully, to become the first band to broadcast a performance online. So, naturally, it was a logical first step as spring festivals decided how to pivot. On platforms like YouTube and Twitch, the latter a favorite among gamers, socially-distanced viewers could tune into sets broadcast from around the world with the click of a button. By April, free, natively online festivals like Digital Mirage cropped up, and began streaming DJs from their homes, surrounded by personalia like philodendrons and French bulldogs. Such sets fostered a sense of intimacy with DJs whose stage personas are often carefully crafted, but the novelty of these basic live-streamed festivals soon wore off. Instead, event organizers looked to the world of video games for inspiration.

Since 2018, the virtual event production company Open Pit has been hosting rock bands and electronic artists in Minecraft, an online game that’s well suited to creative endeavors because of its unstructured nature. Partygoers access the event through a dedicated server; once inside, they can buy merch or simply hang out, switching channels via a virtual coat check. Free, interactive events like Coachella, Mine Gala, Nether Meant, and Fire Festival (a jab at the infamous Fyre Festival) have drawn thousands of attendees. Meanwhile, Fortnite, another free, online game, has delved into near psychedelic, physics-defying concerts starring artists like Travis Scott. In February of 2019, an astonishing 10.7 million people attended a Marshmello show within Fortnite. Party Royale, the game’s official concert function, debuted in May 2020 with back-to-back sets from Dillon Francis, Steve Aoki, and deadmau5. Still, Minecraft’s Rave Family Block Fest takes the cake for sheer scale: For $10, fans will be able to see nearly 1,000 artists on more than 65 stages from July 9-13. Smaller festivals, such as tech-house label Dirtybird‘s annual Campout, plan to host stages within the huge event.

Although it’s easier for DJs to participate in these types of events — “There’s a reason you don’t see many live bands,” says Chris Macmeikan, DJ and musical director for Glastonbury’s Shangri-La area — instrumentalists are getting in on the action, too. Multi-person performance acts like Beats Antique have played both Rave Family Block Fest and DGTL LIB (Lightning in a Bottle’s digital event) by filming from the performers’ respective homes then stitching the pieces together into pre-recorded video sets. It’s been a steep learning curve as artists and festivals learn what works and what doesn’t.

The team behind Lightning in a Bottle, the Do LaB, collaborated with its longtime production partner, Vita Motus, to create and execute the virtual elements of DGTL LIB. Accessible via Twitch, the single-stream schedule ultimately included a mix of traditionally filmed live painting and classes — think acro yoga and learning about mezcal — as well as basic streamed sets. In addition, however, Vita Motus used a video game framework called Unreal Engine to render select headlining sets, including TOKiMONSTA, CloZee, and Shiba Shan, within otherworldly stages. While not fully explorable, the virtual components were compatible with VR devices. Viewers without such equipment still got glimpses of classic LIB stages as the stream swooped through the virtual festival grounds like a drone.

“Our goal was to transport people, make them feel like they were really there, as much as possible,” says Heather Shaw, the founder, and CEO of Vita Motus. “The landscape features and iconic structures evokes nostalgia for the LIB audience, and it was important for us to capture the special moments we know exist there.”

According to Shaw, if the content is mostly curated and the stages are already designed — which her firm does in computer-aided design software, which is also used for conventional events — the virtual event can be executed more quickly than its traditional counterpart since you don’t have to physically fabricate and erect structures. DGTL LIB was Vita Motus’s first foray into the digital festival experience, and Shaw saw it as an opportunity to tackle something completely new: the lake stage, a longtime dream. The lack of physical constraints in the virtual world inspired Shaw not only to go big this year but also to be more ambitious with future designs. 

“We hope to make the lake stage a reality,” says Shaw. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Festivals in Europe are likewise jumping on the VR train. After seeing success with weekly live streams organized in early 2020, the extravagant Belgian EDM festival Tomorrowland also decided to debut a virtual festival that goes beyond a basic stream.

“Tomorrowland 2020 is not a traditional live-stream event with DJs in a studio or at their homes and viewers in a chat box,” says Debby Wilmsen, a spokesperson for Tomorrowland. “It is a totally unique form of visual entertainment.”

On July 25 and 26, Tomorrowland Around the World will feature more than 60 artists, including big names like Afrojack, Amelie Lens, Armin van Buuren, David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, and Tiësto. The musicians, who range in genre from trance and techno to hardstyle and house, will be filmed in green-screen studios beforehand, then rendered in various channels. Using a phone or computer, viewers can navigate through a map that includes five of the festival’s epic real-life stages — like the massive themed main stage and the pod-like Core — plus three new stages created specifically for the online event. 

Like LIB, Tomorrowland will offer webinars, workshops and games, capped off with the type of pyrotechnics Tomorrowland is known for. Whereas many comparable virtual festivals are free or donation-based, however, Tomorrowland requires tickets (€12.50 for one day or €20 for the weekend), which buy attendees access to both the festival and a platform that replays performances for one week after the event.

“The digital festival is a huge investment, as it takes a lot of time and effort to create everything in 3D, to film all the artists, to get all the artists in the studio,” explains Wilmsen. “This price point allows us to deliver a spectacular experience, which will also benefit our Tomorrowland Foundation,” an organization that supports young people in developing countries or regions in crisis.   

For Lost Horizon, a fully interactive virtual festival from the team behind Glastonbury’s beloved Shangri-La, accessibility is a major upside to virtual festivals. Such events have opened the door to potential attendees who may have financial limitations, as well as physical or mental considerations. 

“You can be right in the middle of the dance floor, even if you’re in a wheelchair or if you suffer from anxiety,” says Lost Horizon producer Robin Collings. Their event, which took place over the July 4th weekend, was free, but attendees had the option of donating to Amnesty International and The Big Issue, a charity for people dealing with insecure housing. 

Users on mobile devices could view various vantage points within the virtual world, including all four stages. And PC and VR users were able to move around inside the space using computer-generated avatars, exploring roughly 200 artworks and literally speaking with other festival-goers as if standing next to one another in real life. Going fully online has also opened the lineup to artists scattered around the world.

“It’s been great for us because suddenly people don’t necessarily need to travel,” says Collings. “Just because Peggy Gou is in Korea doesn’t mean she can’t be part of this thing.”

In total, upwards of 50 musicians played in Lost Horizon, including Fatboy Slim, Jamie Jones, Noisia, and Seth Troxler. And the event hosted more than 100 visual artists, curated in part by graphic designer Malcolm Garrett.

“We wanted to make this a real celebration of everything we’ve ever done and everyone we’ve ever worked with,” says creative director Kaye Dunnings. “We’ve been going through the archives and finding existing artworks that we’ve had in the field and placing them, and then doing a whole other commission out to other designers to make new work for it. It’s been magic.”

That’s not to say it was straightforward. Using the American VR platform Sansar, the Lost Horizon team put in several weeks of 18-hour days to create something that ordinarily would have taken a year or two to realize. With sets and layouts from previous years of Shangri-La already laid out in CAD software, the team collaborated with partners in different time zones to translate the eccentricities of Shangri-La into an entirely new medium.

“We’re super familiar with the design constraints and the financial constraints and the costs and the time it takes to build a great big stage set,” says Collings. “If you’re building a big stage structure, you need 150 tons of ballast. Those are things we do every day — that’s our bread and butter.” The aspects that are less obvious, of course, are the particulars of virtual reality: the rendering time for different textures, the required processing power, the process of creating virtual scaffolding for a structure. And then there is the mental gap — the silly realization that you don’t need scaffolding at all.

But will it last beyond the corona crisis?

Many creatives in the music industry agree that what’s happening now will affect the live-event industry permanently. The technologies being popularized right now, such as VR, will likely be used to augment traditional events rather than taking the place of anything. “You can’t ever replace that loud, noisy, sweaty sort of energy,” says Collings.

Simulating that sensation is not the point. The gift of these pandemic-era festivals is the new infrastructure that now exists, and the sense of unbridled possibility that’s been unleashed as events snowball into wilder and more ambitious endeavors. It’s an attitude that will last long after we see each other in person, threading through gaps in the crowd as we head, hand in hand, toward the light.

We catch up with Chicago’s John Summit, whose track “Deep End” just hit Beatport’s overall top spot. 

Congratulations on your first Beatport number one! On social media you announced that you’re “gonna cry a single tear of joy and then get absolutely obliterated.”

How did you celebrate the news?

As soon I saw the news I told my mom who gave me a giant hug and then I promptly opened up a bottle of champagne and proceeded to have many more drinks. After having a solid nap I went to a small party in Chicago with some other industry people I’ve worked with over the years who all gave me a huge congratulations and then I played for a few hours. I think I played “Deep End” four times during the night haha.

“Deep End” first came out as a self-release and many people first heard it when Sam Divine dropped it during a DJ live stream. When did you notice that this was something special?

 I knew immediately that I had made something special because I was so hyped about it that I posted a clip to all my social channels. The clip immediately got huge traction so I decided to put the track out ASAP as a self-release because there was no reason to wait without gigs or much of anything going on. From there I got reached out to from about every major label to sign it, but since Defected has always been the goal for me, I knew that would be a perfect home for the track.

Is it true that “Deep End” came together rather quickly?  

The track came together all in one night! The vocal was actually a sample which I had downloaded a few months prior and could never really make anything work with it. I made this fun, bouncy bassline along with the drums and was looking for a topline when I found this vocal in my sample folder; and once I threw it on top they ended up clicking together. It was really just one of those studio sessions where everything came together perfectly. 

You’ve been very productive ever since your first single came out two years ago. Has the current crisis had an effect on your creativity or work flow?

I’ve honestly been more creative than ever. When the touring was really picking up I started only making club-ready tracks that didn’t have much crossover appeal, but being forced into lockdown has allowed me to work on my songwriting more and not only concern myself with how a track does on a dancefloor. I’ve started working with more singers/songwriters as well and I’m honestly happy to have been able to use this time to expand my overall production knowledge. 

You’re from Chicago. Are there any of the pioneering house DJs and producers from the city that you’ve especially looked up to?

Yes so many! Gene Farris has become one of my best friends, which is pretty crazy because he was the first DJ I ever saw in a club and I’ve looked up to him for so long. One of my first ever club gigs was with Mike Dunn too who I’ve heard on so many classic records so it was great to end up meeting him in person. Also, Lee Foss, who is from here has become one of the closest people in the industry for me. We’re actually working on a track right now about summertime in Chicago. 

Repopulate Mars, Farris Wheel, Dirtybird — you’ve already put out records on some of the biggest indie labels. When “Deep End” was picked up by Defected you said: “lifetime goal achieved.” What does the label mean to you?

I absolutely love all the labels that I’ve been working with, but what sets Defected aside from the rest for me is how much of a staple they are for the true house music sound. Being from Chicago, I think they have been the best representation of our classic house sound and that’s really helped give it exposure to the entire world. As someone who also wants to start travelling to Europe more, and of course Ibiza, I always knew Defected would be the perfect home for me to fully pursue this dream. Once things are back in action I already know the Defected parties are going to be next level and I can’t wait. 

Over the past decade, LA-based ESP Institute has taken its mission of pushing musical boundaries with the utmost sincerity. Cameron Holbrook speaks with founder Lovefingers to learn its history.

Whoever still believes the archaic idea that “disco is dead” clearly hasn’t met Andrew Hogge, AKA Lovefingers. He’s known as a renowned music specialist whose crate-digging bonafides have become the stuff of legend. And his sonic palate and relentless quest for enthralling, often-forgotten sounds go far beyond your typical selector. Along with his stockpile of secret weapons and “anything goes” attitude behind the decks, Lovefingers has consistently stunned chin strokers, dancefloor voyagers, and wavy home listeners alike.

While his fondness for killer disco grooves has always been a strong selling point for Hogge’s tastemaking reputation, it would be misguided to pigeonhole him. For the past decade, his label ESP Institute has ceaselessly pushed the envelope, offering a catalog of exceptional, innovative, and sometimes challenging records that reflect an endless admiration musical adventure.

Dialing in from his home in sunny Los Angeles, Hogge appears on screen with an array of random objects suspended on his virtual background. With various fruits, feathers, statues, and household items floating above his head, the conversation cuts straight to current events. The ongoing pandemic, racial injustice, police brutality, and overwhelming feelings of uncertainty are the first things on our minds. Characteristically showing as much passion for fighting injustice as he does for his music, Hogge tells us about the various charitable projects he’s involved himself in recent months.

Recently, the collective Commonwealth Projects where he is a lead artist, contributed in organizing a campaign with South LA activists Crenshaw Subway Coalition to stop the sale of LA’s oldest shopping centre, the Crenshaw Mall, to one of the country’s largest gentrifying real-estate developers. Instead, the coalition’s Downtown Crenshaw project now proposes a historic effort to buy and redevelop the mall, by and for the community itself. At the onset of the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, Commonwealth’s clothing project Total Luxury Spa also managed to raise (through people power and without selling a product) over $110,000 in direct donations to three non-profit organizations in South LA’s historic Black community: The Umoja Center, The World Stage, and Summaeverythang.

“There is a real-world application to what’s going on right now, and the easiest place to do that is in your own backyard,” Hogge says.

Despite ESP’s widespread acclaim, Hogge has always kept a day job to pay the bills and help fund the label. He’s also a father, and a designer by trade, having worked his way up from small t-shirt companies to art director of numerous clothing brands. It was the same time he was studying graphic design at Cal Arts that his DJing ambitions started. With his buddy Tim Koh — LA scene veteran and former bassist for Ariel Pink — Hogge first started DJing at their art school parties. Eventually, he became fully invested in mastering the ones and twos and made a deal with a local club to perform regularly in return for a set of turntables.

“I basically traded my services for Technics,” Hogge says. “For years, I was just was DJing — bottom feeding from any club or bar that would have me. I was always trying to find places that may or may not even want a DJ, work my way in, and try to play whatever I was into.” Honing in on his DJing skills, Hogge would bounce his way around the City Of Angels, showcasing an increasingly potent blend of funk, disco, and rare grooves without compromise. Full of creative energy and craving a change of pace, Hogge eventually decided to hop in his car and drive across the country to take a bite out of The Big Apple.

Six months before transitioning to New York City, Hogge created a website that would grow into a widely cherished musical godsend for online diggers. Started in 2006, Lovefingers.org was a site that offered free, limited-time downloads of uploaded MP3s handpicked by Hogge. Every other day, Hogge uploaded his best finds from hours spent digging in record stores and the web, resulting in a thoughtfully curated “never-ending, unfolding narrative” that would receive tens of thousands of visitors daily. By trusting in his deep-seated connection to music from across the spectrum, the depths of Hogge’s musical expertise were now on display for the world to see.

NYC became a haven for unearthing these forgotten and overlooked dancefloor gems. “I could go out, and my friends would be playing disco all night…and it wasn’t just lame disco. It was the illest stuff,” Hogge recalls. “In New York, Philly, and DC, there’s just a surplus of fucking records everywhere! You’re never going not going to find something new. If you really look, you’re finding shit.” Meshing well with his new city’s music scene, he linked with childhood friend and old hardcore music acquaintance, Lee Douglas, and formed a duo called The Stallions. NYC’s closer proximity to Europe also presented Hogge with a plethora of new opportunities to perform, dig, and make new connections abroad. He hopped on trains and surfed from couch to couch. He started exploring the continent via its vast array of underground networks, forming lifelong friendships through a shared love of music. He’s as worldly a selector as they come, and the proof is in the passports. “I’ve gone through two, and I just had to retire one. Now I have a fresh new one, but my retired one, I had to have like 50 pages added in the middle,” Hogge explains.

By 2010, the name Lovefingers was ringing out in various music circles all over the world. For Hogge, the success of Lovefingers.org had reached its precipice, and it was time to start a new chapter. On New Year’s Eve in 2009, he posted his last tune on the website — a hard stop to the project that now boasted exactly 1,000 tracks. The next post simply read, “That’s all folks! New decade, new projects.” For Hogge, it was time to move from paying homage to music from the past to putting new music out into the world.

In February of 2010, ESP Institute (ESP is short for extrasensory perception) launched with its debut release Journey To The Centre Of The Sun by Sombrero Galaxy, a project formed by two of Hogge’s best mates, Jonny Nash and Tako Reyenga. From the onset, the imprint has served as a playground for new ideas.

Trusting his gut and calling on his deep network of prolific producers to help guide the process, ESP Institute’s artistic vision began to form. Although it covers a wide array of genres, each record’s tone and attitude reflect a cohesive personality that is distinctly ESP. From blissed-out sunrise jams to tainted peak-time rhythms to unrelenting experimental sagas, the catalog is wide open, but it all still “feels” the same. It’s a testament to Hogge’s fine-tuned ear and creative impulses that extend beyond digs and designs; it also includes seeking out artists with untapped potential.

The label has shown early support to now established acts like Powder and Young Marco — both of whom released notable EP and album debuts via the imprint. ESP Institute takes pride in encouraging young artists and sharpening their musical instincts. In its first five years, the label pushed out over 50 various compilations, singles, EPs, and albums, the vast majority of which came from mostly unknown artists. It has since pulled in talent from all over the world, releasing records from acts like Japanese duo Cos/Mes, UK group Soft Rocks, Australian powerhouse Tornado Wallace, and many more.

In true vinyl enthusiast fashion, Hogge guarantees every signing a physical release. “I owe every artist the same piece of the pie,” he says. “I don’t want to put out something that’s just digital because I’m not trying to tell the artists that I don’t value their music as much as the other guy that got the vinyl.” The artwork for ESP Institute is headed up by the established visual artist, Mario Hugo, whose sleek textures and abstract visualizations have played an essential role in crafting the imprint’s innovative appeal. After forming a friendship with Hogge over a decade ago, Hugo and his wife’s boutique artist agency and creative studio, Hugo & Marie, has handled the vast majority of the label’s aesthetic, often commissioning talent on their artist roster like Merijn Hos, Hisham Akira Bharoocha, and Sam Mason, to design the sleeves for ESP records.

“I listen on repeat — often to a track or two from the record that really resonate for me,” Hugo says, discussing the creation process behind the artwork. “I take in the title, read a bit about the artist, and start generating. The aesthetic is abstract, but I think there is also something anthropocentric about it. It’s a little dusty, a little human, and I think Andrew and I respond to that feeling, though I’m not sure we’ve ever really spoken about it. I think there is a motif of ‘wonder’ that threads the sleeves together. I’ve always really loved the standard square canvas, funky old sleeves, and honestly, it’s been some of the most rewarding work of my career. The product never feels compromised.”

Reluctantly leaving the bustle of NYC for a new job opportunity, Hogge made his way back to LA in 2011. Upon his return, he found a refreshed music scene with a new generation of players that were “just starting to crack open the underground warehouse scene downtown.” He also met Heidi Lawden, a seasoned DJ originally from the UK, DJ Harvey’s manager, and a staple of the LA scene. Finding joy in each other’s company and an immense commonality in all things music, they started seeing one another. They shared common beliefs and goals, and she helped organize the label’s showcases, acting as a sounding board for Hogge to bounce ideas off of. Lawden’s love for ESP Institute easily matches that of her partner’s.

“ESP is like a treasure chest of aural pleasure. It has releases for my many mercurial moods, and I’m constantly rediscovering things,” Lawden says. “It has that unique quality for a label where I want every release, even if it was challenging on first listen. It’s such a labor of love for Andrew. He honestly lives and breathes it.”

With each passing year, ESP Institute reaffirms its commitment to putting out music that wracks the brain and blazes new trails both on and off the dancefloor. Its reputation comes from the risks it takes, not the number of units sold. In fact, it’s such a labor of love that Hogge has never made any money off it. “We’ve been in the red since day one,” he admits. “I work really hard outside of music to have the money to put into making the music.”

ESP Institute has never been a platform for chart-topping hits. Instead, its success lies in its ability to express new sounds and ideas. The approach has resulted in works such as Nathan Micay’s drastic club groover “Never Rhythm Game, Roman Flugel’s skeletal Themes LP, Man Power’s dashing 12-inch The Tourist/Oye, SONNS & Tavish’s mid-tempo monster “Trycksaker,” Lord Of The Isles’ intuitive debut album In Waves, and beyond.

Hogge’s personal belief in the music is seen clearly via the press release for each record, which he writes himself. Each one is a colorful and heartfelt love letter to the artist’s efforts. “Some of them are really annoying, but some I’ll send over to them before it comes out, and they come right back crying, which feels good,” Hogge says. “I always just want to make sure that the artist is happy with the way their music is being represented.”

Unlike labels that prioritize certain releases and provide more resources to one over the other, ESP Institute doesn’t play favorites. When it comes to label showcases — which have popped up everywhere from Panorama Bar to Sonar Festival — Lawden and Hogge are always leveraging talent, booking major artists to give his lesser-known acts a place to shine. “When it comes to these things, you’ve got to bring everybody up,” Hogge says. “The high tide floats all boats. It’s a very Heidi saying that I use quite often.”

Juan Ramos

Afrikan Sciences

Benedikt Frey / Nadia D’alo

Powder

Ground

Now, 10 years and over 120 releases later, ESP Institute shows no signs of letting up. With recent and forthcoming records from vanguard acts such as Juan Ramos, Afrikan Sciences, Koehler, Dalo, Autre, Ground, Ripperton, Trinity Carbon, Chee Shimizu, and more, it’s clear that the label has not lost sight of its boundary-expanding trajectory. 

For Hogge, whose successful career as Lovefingers came to life thanks to his love for diving deep and glorifying rare grooves, ESP Institute is his way of giving back. Like the charitable work that he does for his local community in fighting against systemic injustice, his label’s role in the underground music community plays a similar role. 

“You have to be a conduit and give to what you are sucking up,” Hogge says. “That’s what the music label is. That’s what the events are. And when you think about it, that’s what a fucking DJ is to a party as well! You can’t just leach off a system and not put something back into it. And the more you put back into the system, the more love you get out of the system.”

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

The famed Berlin club will be back in action, virtually, on Friday, July 10th.

Berlin’s Watergate will be hosting its first event since its closure in March due to the coronavirus. Taking place in a virtual space, the party will feature many of the club’s most popular residents.

Guests include Pan-Pot, Adana Twins, Who Made Who (live), JAMIIE, Anja Schneider B2B Kristin Velvet, Biesmans (live), Minco, and Yulia Niko. They’ll be playing across the virtual club’s two rooms and terrace, starting at 21:00 CEST.

“We are truly happy to be back in our living room!” Pan-Pot said about the event.

The virtual club space, called YWO, will look and feel much like a real club. You can meet and hang out with friends or strangers via voice or video chat in the club’s toilets. And you can call a “bouncer” if you see anyone making any racist or otherwise inappropriate comments.

In order to enter the interactive YWO event, Watergate are asking for a €1.00 entrance fee, which will cost of the servers. Anyone willing to pay more will have their extra cash donated to helping the club get back on its feet.

Alternatively, Beatport will be streaming the entire event, which you can watch here on Beatportal, or across Beatport’s YouTube, Facebook or Twitch pages.

Buy tickets here.

With Unsung Pioneers, we speak to the artists and labels who’ve helped shape dance music as we know it, but haven’t received the credit they deserve. First up, Matt Anniss hears from Rheji Burrell of the Burrell Brothers.

Even those with a rudimentary knowledge of the history of deep house will tell you that the sound’s origins can be traced back to Chicago in the mid 1980s, and in particular the 1985 release of Larry Heard’s first record as Mr. Fingers, “Mystery of Love”. While Heard continued developing the sound and is still (rightly) considered the first true pioneer of the genre, the development of deep house into a global force during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s also owes much to a pair of near-identical twins from New Jersey, Reginald (AKA Rheji) and Ronald (aka Rhano) Burrell.

Talented musicians who had been playing in bands since they were 12 years old, the Burrell twins released an unbelievable amount of music between 1988 and 1993. While their output was varied (they had strong links to New York’s new jack swing, R&B and hip-hop communities, and were often employed as producers or beat-makers), Rheji and Rhano became best known for a trademark style of polished, musically rich deep house that drew just as much inspiration from New Jersey garage, soul and jazz-funk as it did from the work of Larry Heard and his Chicago contemporaries.

“The key ingredients are… everything,” Rheji chuckles down the phone from his home in Raleigh, North Carolina. “My house music, and my brother’s, is like a gumbo. We had a varied upbringing in music and love a lot of genres. So, when I hear a melody in my head, it might not be the traditional, go-to key you’d use if you were making house music. I might take a gospel bridge and an Americana chord, or grab a melody I’ve heard in an opera and use it with a hip-hop snare.”

The brothers’ eclectic musical background was partially reflected on their earliest releases as Burrell, which surprisingly appeared on major label Virgin’s UK dance offshoot, Ten Records. Although clearly influenced by both Chicago house and New Jersey garage, those records — and in particular their self-titled debut album — were glossy, radio-friendly affairs that were also informed by ‘80s soul, new jack swing, and D-Train style electrofunk. Although well-produced, their Burrell releases sold relatively poorly, and as a result their major label career lasted barely 12 months.

“Seriously, being dropped didn’t matter,” Rheji says. “We didn’t try to be stars. The fact that we were twins making music together wasn’t a novelty, because we’d done that our whole lives. Virgin Records didn’t matter to me because they didn’t add anything – they were just a record label. I never cared about being famous and I still don’t.”

While Ten Records was struggling to shift copies of the Burrell album, Rheji and Rhano continued to make music at a furious pace. Back in their mother’s basement, they’d amassed a pile of tapes containing fresh underground house and garage jams they’d created after all-night trips to leading NYC and NJ clubs (think Zanzibar, Club 88 and Club America, for starters). With no label executives breathing down their neck, Rheji and Ronald were free to follow their instincts.

“To me, house music had no rules,” Rheji enthuses. “As long as the music made you dance, that was it. You could use synthesizers, drum machines, pianos, strings and guitars, and I took up the challenge. I knew I had something good going on when I got off my studio chair and started dancing. I knew I had something worth putting out when I couldn’t sit down any longer.”

Rheji and Rhano’s managers, Karen and Frank Mendez, could see the potential of their underground deep house tracks. So they joined forces with legendary New York house figure Judy Russell to launch a label. This would become Nu Groove, one of the defining NYC dance imprints of the period.

“Our managers knew we were music machines,” Rheji says. “Believe it or not, I could have turned out twice as much music on Nu Groove, we just couldn’t afford to put it out. Most of the tracks that me and my brother put out on the label were made in a day, or a couple of evenings. I’d take the tape over to the Nu Groove office the next day, and Frank would send it straight to the pressing plant.”

Even all these years on, it’s still staggering how much music Rheji and Rhano Burrell released on Nu Groove between 1988 and ’92. Although regularly cited as a production partnership – particularly when working with other artists – most of their releases were in fact solo efforts, with each twin using the other as a “second pair of ears” and, more occasionally, an extra musician.

“Nu Groove was perfect for us, because all we had to do was make records,” Rheji reminisces. “We didn’t have to get on stage and perform – we could just do what we loved doing, Nu Groove would take care of the label stuff and then DJs would pick the records up and play them. I could work in the studio at home at night, go out to a club to hear our friends DJ and dance, and then work on the tracks some more when I got back.”

Between them, Rheji and Rhano produced well over a third of the singles to be released on Nu Groove. As a result, it was their varied, but musically on-point take on deep house that made the label such a cult hit worldwide. Yet for the most part, you had to read the centre labels carefully to discover that they were involved, such was their love of aliases and alter egos. Ronald recorded as K.A.T.O, Aphrodisiac and Equation, while Rheji’s numerous pseudonyms included Tech-Trax Inc, Metro, N.Y. House’n Authority, Utopia Project, Metro, Emjay, Avant Garde and Asylum.

“I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Here’s another record from Rheji Burrell’ – that’s boring as hell,” Rheji says of his love of aliases. “So, if I wanted to put you in a mood, I chose a pseudonym and title that fit the music. So, if I did something jazzy, it was Jazz Documents. Utopia Project was for music that was light and airy. Music has always been an experience: whereas an artist would name the album, I would name the experience.”

When Nu Groove closed its doors in 1992, Rheji and Rhano continued to release deep house and soulful garage on a variety of local labels for a couple of years, before choosing to focus more on producing hip-hop, R&B and pop artists. Despite their deep house pedigree, new club cuts have been few and far between in the last two decades.

It was therefore big news when Rheji surprisingly returned to action last month via two new EPs on Gerd Janson’s popular Running Back label. Fittingly, one (The Out Of Body Experience) was credited to N.Y. House’n Authority, and the other (The V EP) to The Utopia Project; both contain some of the dreamiest, deepest and most musically cultured deep house tracks you’ll hear all year.

“I love house music, and I wanted to do something again that I love,” Rheji explains. “I don’t know if I’m relevant, or whether this is the most current thing to do, but hopefully with the Internet and the way things are now, the people that loved our music in the Nu Groove era will find the EPs and enjoy them.” 

Check out our Beginner’s Guide to the Burrell Brothers.    

Tech Trax Inc. – Feel The Love (Sex Mix) [1988]

The flipside of the first ever Nu Groove release, this Rheji Burrell track added deep house chords, melodies and musicality to a sparse, delay-laden groove reminiscent of the dubby New York “proto-house” records popular at the Paradise Garage a few years earlier.

Metro – Brownstone Express [1990]

Featured on Rheji Burrell’s second EP as Metro, 1990’s EP $1.15 Please, “Brownstone Express” is one of the most blissful, warm and tactile deep house tracks ever recorded. Pure aural pleasure. 

K.A.T.O – The Booty Dance (High Knee Mix) [1988]

A breezy and memorable chunk of piano-house rich in whispered vocal samples, squelchy synth bass, sweet synth sounds and shuffling drums, this was Rhano Burrell’s first solo release on Nu Groove.

Equation – The Answer (X2 RB Mix) (My Time) [1989]

Raw, stripped-back, percussive and weighty, Rhano Burrell’s first missive as Equation was uncharacteristically rave-friendly and featured the kind of dark stabs and clonking noises that were at the time more popular in the UK than his native New York.

N.Y. House’n Authority – APT EP [1989]

Few EPs sum up the diversity and quality of Rheji Burrell’s brand of house music than his first outing as N.Y House’n Authority. Over the course of six tracks, he bounced between sleazy acid house, flute-laden pitched-down dreaminess, melodious deep house, and inventive, off-kilter jack-tracks.

Matt Anniss is an author and journalist living in Bristol. Find him on Twitter.  

Our expert curation team brings you some of the best tracks on Beatport you may have missed. This time featuring Yotam Avni, Senses Of Mind, Solayre, Coeus and more.

Yotam Avni – Beirut [Connected Frontline]

So much love for Yotam and his incredible middle eastern production skills. One of my top favourite producers. Yotam has been tipped to be one of the most prominent and exciting figures to emerge onto the scene in recent years. An accomplished producer, in-demand remixer and versatile DJ, he has fast transitioned from Tel-Aviv’s best-kept secret to one of contemporary house and techno’s leading lights.

Solayre – The Sea [Oddity Records]

A new super talented young producer found by Fur Coat for their Odd Echos Vol.3 compilation. 

Coeus – Avalonia Original Mix [Multinotes]

 

Serbian-based Coeus is steadily growing and is striving to become one of the electronic music finest DJ/producers of the Balkans. His track “Avalonia” on the Italian label Mutlinotes is pure fire. 

Senses Of Mind – Ephesia Grammata [Untold Stories]

Long before Mother Earth existed, the heat of creation smashed two atoms together with enough force and combined them as one powerful source. During this time the first stars and galaxies were born. A mysterious force called Senses Of Mind began speeding up the expansion of the universe again, a phenomenon that continues today. This is something you would hear at an Afterlife event.  

Madmotormiquel – Someone To Take Me Home [Bunte Kuh] 

Madmotormiquel is one of the most adored and recurring artists in The Gardens of Babylon family. The piano over his new track gives you a nice summer atmosphere. 

Bruce Loko, Biishop – After Hours feat. Biishop Original Mix  [Get Physical Music]

From his jazzy background in Mpumalanga, the Bruce Loko sound is not your typical South African house music. His penchant for atmospheric sounds is packed with souring unabashed emotions and cinematic flourishes.

BEATPORT HYPE PICK

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

Erly Tepshi – Romance Original Mix [Black Rose Recordings]

Erly Tepshi is unstoppable with endless quality remixes and own productions, and recently launched his own label, Black Rose Recordings.  

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

It takes place on July 11th and 12th.

A highlight of the UK festival season, Junction 2 is going full steam ahead this year — virtually, that is — with a slightly revamped, Detroit-heavy lineup.

The retooled J2v comes as “a direct response to a process of reflection within our team over recent weeks,” the festival states. As such, the event will be not-for-profit, and has made Black Lives Matter a beneficiary charity.

The virtual event will be taking place across six hours and four stages for a fully-functional “online festival site,” which the J2 team promises will capture the same “mind-bending visuals and an inclusive atmosphere” the Boston Manor Park event is known for.

The newly added Mainframe stage, curated by longtime LWE collaborator Carl Craig (in association with Beatport), will feature a cadre of highly respected Detroit and Midwest house and techno artists, including Moodymann, Derrick May, Kyle Hall, DJ Holographic, K-HAND, Stacey Pullen, Waajeed, Jay Daniel, Amp Fiddler, Terrence Parker, DJ Minx, Rick Wilhite, Al Ester, DJ Dez Andres, Mike “Agent X” Clark, DJ Dez Andres, and Dantiez Saunderson. All artists are set to play back-to-back to back from a warehouse in Detroit — though this special event won’t be rebroadcast, so don’t miss it.

The Console stage, hosted by Drumcode, will feature Adam Beyer, ANNA, Alan Fitzpatrick, Joel Mull and Bart Skills. According to Junction 2, the arena will feature “eight spires with marble-shaped stacks form an octagonal perimeter around the dancefloor,” with the stage sitting atop a central pyramid, allowing “equally blessed visibility” for everyone.

The Vault stage will host a rebroadcast of Richie Hawtin’s 2019 J2 stream, followed by sets from Sama’, Maya Jane Coles, Anastasia Kristensen, and Daniel Avery. The festival promises the stage will make you feel “like you are being sucked into a techno vortex.”

And the Hex stage, “an imposing 6-sided pyramid,” as its name implies, will see a back-to-back sets from Saoirse & Shanti Celeste, with Effy, Jossy Mitsu, Âme live, and ReConnect favourite Maceo Plex.

All four stages will be broadcast live right here here on Beatportal, as well as on Beatport, meaning you can identify and purchase tracks in real time via Beatport’s live track identification system. The stream will also be hosted on Beatport’s Twitch, YouTube and Facebook pages.

Day two of J2v will feature The Speaker’s Corner, a panel discussion which aims to educate the Junction 2 audience to the Black history of electronic music, while supporting emerging Black talent. More details will be announced in the coming days.

Junction 2 is also raising money through sales of merchandise for Black Lives Matter, The Care Workers Charity, Refuge, The Outside Project and The Trussell Trust foodbanks — all causes J2 and Relentless Energy Drink, Asahi Super Dry, Pioneer DJ, Jagermeister, as well as Beatport raised thousands of pounds for with the recent J2v Black Box competition.

You can buy merch here, and head to Junction 2’s official website for more info on the Junction 2 virtual festival.

 

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J2v Virtual Festival will now witness four stages of music in our virtual world on the rescheduled date of Saturday 11th July. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ The line-up for this new stage, hosted and curated by long-time LWE collaborator and visionary artist Carl Craig, will be announced next week. Carl has used his clout to assemble one of the most thorough casts of Detroit players this side of the Midwest; their names read like a who’s who of the city’s underground scene. They will gather virtually at ‘The Mainframe’ / ‘Say It Loud’ stage, in addition to being broadcast on Worldwide FM. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ All artists are set to play from a warehouse in Detroit, for a total of 6 uninterrupted hours. The result will be a seamless mix of the unadulterated Motor City sound. It will stand as an audible monument to the roots of electronic music. This once in a lifetime event will never be replayed, making this community effort even more special.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Alongside Carl, we have assembled this stage in direct response to a process of reflection within our team over recent weeks. We’ve made J2v completely not-for-profit and added Black Lives Matter as a beneficiary charity that sits alongside a review and update of our line-up, because actions speak louder than words. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ We are pledging to be more proactive in highlighting the origins of our scene. We will endeavour to educate and expose our audience to the wealth of history that underpins the music we love, as well as supporting and developing emerging Black talent. This work begins now. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ In addition to ‘The Mainframe’ / ‘Say It Loud’ stage, the original music program of J2v will remain largely unchanged. The likes of Adam Beyer, Richie Hawtin, Maceo Plex, Maya Jane Coles, Daniel Avery, ANNA and Âme are all still confirmed to play and look forward to welcoming you to this celebration of underground sounds and culture.

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In this opinion piece, Abby Lowe explores the crucial relationship between politics, protest, and electronic music.

Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, some dance music fans still maintain that political beliefs and the music they claim to love should be kept separate. But let’s be clear from the start: it is not possible to separate dance music from politics.

Naysayers might rely on the argument that not all entertainment has to be viewed from a political standpoint, and that’s fine. It’s perfectly okay to enjoy music for its composite parts: beat, melody, and texture. But in the case of dance music, it’s futile to remove the creation of the music itself from the context in which it was created. By their very nature, disco, house, techno, and the myriad subgenres that they’ve spawned are products of political and social oppression; their souls lie in the beauty of defiance. 

This ideology can be traced back to New York City in the late ‘60s when disco emerged from predominantly black, hispanic, latino and queer communities. Marginalised by mainstream society, these groups found salvation in a subculture that belonged to them. They were liberated by the extravagance and euphoria that accompanied 4/4 rhythms, and united in the face of discrimination and police brutality. In fact, it was the 1969 Stonewall Riots, when police raided popular Manhattan gay bar and dance club Stonewall Inn, that proved to be one of the most pivotal moments in the scene’s history: the riots that rose up in response resulted in a gay liberation movement that swept the United States. 

The birth of house music rode the same wave before exploding like a tsunami in the gay and black clubs of Chicago in the early ‘80s. Championed by figureheads like Larry Levan, Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles, it was in this city that beats, basslines and samples became the signifiers of an evolving house sound. A few years later in Detroit, and another iconic trio, the Belleville Three, were responding with music to the socioeconomic struggles and death of the American Dream in their predominantly African American hometown. Their futuristic sound, flecked with the industrial echoes of drum machines and synths, hinted at something deeper — an interrogation of what it means to be human, particularly when considered within the framework of a racial and cultural crossroads.  

With all this in mind, it’s particularly baffling to see the ire on social media posts criticising brands and DJs in support of causes like Black Lives Matter. Comments like “Stay out of politics, stick to music” — which as, already established above, is a contradiction — have again become a constant refrain. But this idea denies the history of the music, and rejects the music itself. Even more troubling is the repeated appearance of “All Lives Matter” — a response which ultimately fails to recognise that right now (and always) it’s black lives that are in danger and need protecting. Or to use a simple analogy, when your house is on fire and the fire department shows up, you don’t suddenly scream “all houses matter!” — you focus on the house that’s burning down. 

Techno pioneers aren’t excluded from the barrage. Jeff Mills recently posted a video of David Bowie calling out systemic racism on MTV in the early ‘80s, and dishearteningly, some of the ensuing comments veer towards claims of so-called “reverse racism.” This entire concept riffs on the idea that rather than being deeply entrenched within systems designed to oppress, racism is primarily a curse of the mind, and by that logic, isn’t a barrier to equality. The George Floyd protests that erupted on streets across the world suggest otherwise. So too, do the declarations of support from brands and DJs promising to address the whitewashing of an industry founded on black excellence. 

But collective rage isn’t limited to the topic of racism. As Len Faki discovered when he shared a photo of himself giving a thumbs down outside Trump Towers, many dance music fans believe their favourite DJs shouldn’t make reference to politics at all. Some commenters were genuinely outraged, pleading with Faki to climb down from his ivory tower and stop preaching to the common people. It clearly hit a nerve, compelling him to respond. “Techno…has always been political. And actually, this is one of the reasons I became part of the scene in the first place,” he said. “I don’t want any haters, homophobes, sexists or racists… neither on my page nor on our dance floors. You cannot play ‘unity’ on the dance floor but betray everything this culture stands for.” Similarly, as a DJ whose role is irrevocably intertwined with an industry born from the wounds of persecution, you cannot overt your eyes from Trump’s crimes and say nothing. 

Nevertheless, what some fans fail to realise is that dance music is and always has been an incubator for new ideas, concepts and experiences that challenge the status quo. Yes, its roots lie in escapism, but that must never be confused for mindlessness. Like all good art, dance music affects how you think and behave in the world, which means even the most insignificant dance floor epiphanies can become meaningful political acts.

When you dive into the adventure that this idea presents, you’re acknowledging dance music history. To enjoy it, in whatever form, means to profit from its reason for being, and with that comes a responsibility for every listener, artist and DJ. We gain nothing from quietly mulling over our own indifferences about cultural and societal injustices, but when we embrace dance music’s core values, we can plant seeds of revolution that spread throughout the world. 

“It’s funny how times change [but] at the same time how they don’t,” Derrick May recently posted alongside a Langston Hughes monologue. That fact needs to be rectified, once and for all. 

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

With his stellar debut album, Ritorno,  Ilian Tape’s Andrea has come into his own as a producer. Shawn Reynaldo hears how this low-key Italian fell in with Munich’s coolest label, and how the Zenker Brothers helped push him into new sonic territory.

Andrea prefers to keep a low profile. A native of Turin in Northern Italy, he doesn’t talk to the press much, he’s not on Twitter and it was only last year that he set up an Instagram account — and even that required some help from his girlfriend. It’s not that he’s shy or trying to maintain some gimmicky cloud of anonymity; Andrea simply prefers to let his work do the talking. “My music comes first,” he says. “It’s really important to me that everything connected to me is related to music.”

Back in April, Andrea dropped Ritorno, his long-awaited debut album that’s been widely hailed as the best thing he’s ever done. Like all of his previous releases, it came out via Ilian Tape, the white-hot label out of Munich that’s headed up by the Zenker Brothers. Home to artists like Skee Mask and Stenny (an old friend of Andrea’s from Turin), the imprint has become a go-to hub for broken rhythms, dubby atmospheres and techno-not-techno sounds that pull as heavily from dubstep and UK rave as they do classic Motor City grooves.

It was in Turin that Andrea first connected with the Zenker Brothers, who came to town in 2011 for an Ilian Tape night at an afterparty spot called Doctor Sax. Stenny was also on the bill, and Andrea, who was already a fan of the label’s genre-blurring aesthetic, made a point to come down and introduce himself. The four of them got along famously, and when the Zenker Brothers suggested that their new Italian friends stay in touch, Andrea and Stenny did exactly that. “We met them at the right moment,” says Andrea. “It gave us a push to get serious and make more music.” He began sending over tracks, and less than a year after that first meeting at Doctor Sax, Ilian Tape released Andrea’s debut, Zero, an EP of spacey, reverb-soaked dub techno.

Stenny also signed to Ilian Tape and eventually moved to Munich in 2014. But while he was living in Turin, he and Andrea were practically joined at the hip. The two had met through the city’s club scene, and as their friendship grew, they frequently DJed together and even built their own studio. “Before he moved,” says Andrea, “we were seeing each other nearly every day and every night, just hanging out or making music together.” It’s clear that he still thinks fondly of those days, and speaks warmly of Stenny as not just a close friend, but a creative partner whose influence was instrumental in getting his career off the ground.

The Zenker Brothers have also played a key role in Andrea’s development. Although he initially approached their label as a fan — “When I first discovered Ilian Tape, this Detroit techno sound mixed with dub and deep sounds,” he recalls, “I was like, ‘Wow, I found my thing.'” — he’s since built a deep personal and professional relationship with the Zenkers, who he describes as unfailingly supportive. For years, he’s sent them practically every track he’s ever finished, and trusts their judgement when it comes to assembling releases and ordering tracklists. They’ve also given him plenty of room to grow, even as his music has evolved beyond the dubby techno that defined his early releases. “They always gave me the opportunity to experiment,” says Andrea. “They never gave me any direction, but they were always open to listen.” 

Prior to Ritorno, functionality was at the center of Andrea’s creative process. He wanted to make club music, and strove to make tracks for DJs; anything that didn’t fit into that paradigm was basically cast aside. In the last two or three years, however, that’s changed. Outside of the club setting, Andrea has always liked all sorts of different sounds and styles, and eventually he got to a point where he saw no reason to continue limiting himself as a producer. “I started incorporating a lot of my influences and new musical elements,” he explains. “I wasn’t used to playing them in my DJ sets, but I was used to listening to them.”

Suddenly, bits of dubstep, experimental and even trap started finding their way into Andrea’s music, along with traces of the jungle and rave sounds his friends used to listen to when he was a teenager. (Andrea himself was never a big raver; seeing Jeff Mills in 2007 at Turin’s long-running Club to Club festival was his gateway into electronic music.) He also opened up his workflow, making more sketches and working on his laptop when he was on the road. The changes proved invigorating, and once the Zenker Brothers started to hear his new material, they encouraged him to keep pushing ahead, suggesting that perhaps the time had arrived for Andrea to release an album.

Many artists find the prospect of making their debut album intimidating, but Andrea felt liberated. “I never felt the stress of finishing,” he says. “The Zenker Brothers and I agreed on the idea of making an album, but we never stressed that it had to be ready within six months or whatever.” That patience is weaved into the record’s DNA, as Ritorno‘s golden hues and shimmering melodies convey a relaxed (and remarkably cohesive) vibe, even as the music glides through techno, ambient, drum & bass, electro, trip-hop, IDM and more. There are patches of bassweight, along with plenty of nods to the UK’s current crop of bass-techno hybrids, but the album’s defining feature is its warmth. “My intent was to express my feelings,” says Andrea, “and I was trying to do that with melodies and warmer sounds to make the music really emotive.”

Ritorno (which means “return” in Italian) doesn’t have a specific theme or concept, but the title is no accident. Metaphorically, it speaks to Andrea’s return to music after taking some time out to hone his new approach, and more literally, it refers to the fact he and his girlfriend will soon be moving to a neighborhood just outside Turin where he spent his childhood. There was once a time that Andrea considered leaving his hometown for a more vibrant electronic music hub like Berlin, but he ultimately elected to stay put. He’s got his studio at home, and he’s happy to continue quietly doing his thing whenever inspiration strikes; during the recent COVID-19 lockdown, he was stuck in his apartment for three months straight, and managed to make a bunch of new music and put together a whole new live show.

With clubs and festivals still on pause, it’s unclear when Andrea will be able to put that live show to use, but he doesn’t seem overly concerned. “I really love playing out,” he says, “and I really love having a music career that gives me the opportunity to travel around and meet people, but in general, what’s really important to me is making music.” 

Shawn Reynaldo is a freelance journalist living in Barcelona. Find him on Twitter

Beatport sits down for an in-depth chat with the Irish wunderkind and Drumcode favorite, Rebūke, to learn more about his rave roots and his meteoric rise to dance music stardom.

Reuben Keeney (AKA Rebūke) started his journey into the neverending sonic wormhole that is clubland at the tender age of 13. With a DJ for a father and a natural affinity for creating music of his own, Keeney made it his mission to bring cutting-edge music to his humble hometown.

In just three years, Keeney has released EPs and singles on labels like Soup NYC, DFTD, Dirtybird, Truesoul, Big Beat Records, Hot Creations, and Drumcode among others, with much more on the way. He’s performed at festivals such as Terminal V, Electric Picnic, Day Of The Dead, and has shared numerous lineups with the best in the business. And his weekly club residency Outhouse has hosted internationally recognized talent like Solardo, CamelPhat, Darius Syrossian, Mella Dee, Ejeca, Huxley and many more — all of whom took an immediate liking to the young upstart, blown away by his technical skills behind the decks, deep knowledge of rave culture, and substantial production prowess. 

Ahead of his second release on Adam Beyer’s Drumcode imprint — a follow-up to last year’s wildly successful Rattle EP on the label — we chat with Keeney about his first gigs, breakthrough tracks, and plans for dancefloor domination in the future. In addition, he’s provided a mix that gives us an exclusive look into his forthcoming summer tracks, and pays homage to both his Drumcode colleagues and the late house music pioneer, Mike Huckaby.

Tell us about growing up in Donegal/Letterkenny, Ireland 

I guess growing up in Letterkenny in Ireland, when I was around 13-14, not many of my school friends knew much about dance music. Tiesto was really the only household DJ back then, and there wasn’t much knowledge beyond that. When I was younger, I was mostly finding music through YouTube and the internet in general. When I was 15, I discovered this record store in Letterkenny called Universal Records, and that experience introduced me to a whole world of music I’d never heard of before. I became close friends with a bunch of the regulars there, including a guy called Gary Collins who’d end up traveling with me a bit, tour managing. Looking back, many of them were in their 20’s and 30’s, so I think it was a bit of a novelty for them to have this 15-year-old young guy in there, as there weren’t any other people my age visiting the record store. At the time, this experience really helped me define my sound and explore more genres.

You first started DJing when you were quite young, and you’ve been making music for over ten years. Can you tell us about some of your first gigs, your OG equipment that still cherish today, and what kind of music you were creating before your Rebuke project came into full view?

I started making music around 13 – 14 on a 300EUR laptop that would crash every 30 minutes, so I would need to set a timer on when to save my projects. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I work so fast in the studio now!

I remember my very first CD player – I can’t even remember the name of it. John 00 Fleming had this CD line out, and it was his range. They were budget CD players and had no shock absorbers back then. When I did my first gig at 14 at a school disco, I didn’t realise that if anyone moved, the music would stop. I remember I was set up on a plywood table, and every time my friends came up to say hello, the CD players would skip, and eventually stop playing altogether. I very quickly worked out that I had to have gear with shock absorbers.

Music-wise, I was making a bit of everything. When I first started producing, it was more on the progressive house tip — Sasha and Digweed began to support my music in the early days. When I got a bit older, I dipped into techno and tech house, so all the different genre explorations led up to the sound you hear today. 

Tell us a little bit about your ‘Rebūke/Rave’ series and some of the most significant ’90 dance music records in your arsenal right now (original or remixed).

The Rebūke Rave series was created out of my love of old ’90s rave sounds. I felt like there wasn’t a lot of people doing it back then. Trance music had a revival, and it was getting remixed by all sorts of people. In terms of the ’90s rave scene, there wasn’t so much going on. So I thought it would be a nice idea to start flipping the old 90s rave tracks like 2 Bad Mice “Bombscare” and DJs Unite’s “DJ’s Unite.”

Some old school tracks that I’ve been playing a lot include CJ Bolland’s “Carmargue” and Capricorn’s “20 Hz.” A key track in my sets over the last few months is a remix I did of the 1991 classic “Dominator” from Human Resource. I’ve included it in this mix as well.

You first came up hosting your Outhouse night at the club Fifth Avenue in Letterkenny, booking some significant underground acts for a town of just 20,000. How did you manage that and who are some of the DJs/artists that you really connected with on a personal level during that time?

Outhouse was formed because there was no other club culture in Letterkenny at the time, and that’s something I wanted to fix as the town had a history of great dance nights from back in the day (my old mentor Fergie used to visit regularly throughout the early-mid 2000s). Some of the DJ’s that I really connected with were guys like EjecaCamelPhat, and especially Alan Fitzpatrick. He’s since put me on some We Are the Brave showcases, and we’ve also collaborated on a new track called “Ultimate Distortion,” which features in this mix. 

Some of the most invaluable advice I received was from Ejeca, who told me to stick to my sound and not sell out. I remember speaking to him around the time “Along Came Polly” was released. At the time, all these labels wanted to put a cheesy vocal on it and push for the top 40, but he reinforced my resolve to not to fall into these commercial traps. He was also super loyal to my former-Outhouse nights and played for me about six times overall. 

How did your life change for you when Jamie Jones first dropped “Along Came Poly” and the track worked its way up to Essential New Tune on BBC Radio 1? What was going through your head when it first happened?

When Jamie started dropping “Along Came Polly,” I basically went from no one knowing who I was, to everyone on social media posting about my music and discovering my sound within a couple of weeks. When it first happened, I didn’t take it too seriously, to be honest. I just thought it was cool that he was supporting my tracks. Initially, Jamie wanted to sign it to Hottrax, but as it got bigger and bigger, he asked if we could make it a full-blown Hot Creations release. It was weird for me as I had never experienced a situation where I was booked 2-3 months in advance off the back off a track that hadn’t been released yet. “Along Came Polly” changed everything for me. I remember the first time I played it to a huge crowd was at Houseworks in Cork. I was originally set to play the side room, but one of the headliners — I think it was Felix Da Housecat or Sam Divine — dropped out, so I filled in playing the main room to 15,000 people. When I played “Along Came Polly,” everyone went wild, and this was still a month before it was released! 

How and when did you connect with Adam Beyer and the Drumcode crew for your 2019 EP, Rattle? What has your experience working with the label been like?

I first started to speak to Adam because he was playing “Along Came Polly” at Elrow. I was obviously a big fan of his already and decided to send him some new music when I heard he was into my stuff. He was very responsive and said he loved my tracks and decided to put together a Truesoul EP titled 50 First Raves. After this, I keep sending him more stuff, and because my musical taste had naturally evolved in a harder direction, he asked if I wanted to release a Drumcode EP. 

My experience with the Drumcode family — both Adam and everyone involved with the label — has been great. Everyone has been really nice to me. I especially love the other artists on the label like Enrico Sangiuliano, Joel Mull and Pig&Dan. What I really love about Adam is that he doesn’t mold you into an artist that fits his vision of what he wants you to be. He wants each artist to have their own individual sound and not to be replicas of anyone else on the label, which is essential to me. When we first met at Tomorrowland last year, we clicked, so I’m excited to continue releasing music with them.

What can you share with us regarding your next release on Drumcode? 

It’s a three-tracker called Obscurity and will be released on September 4. It’s a bit more synth-based than Rattle, but it still has my trademark percussion and the usual driving sound. I think it’s a bit different from the rest of the stuff I’ve put out. With my sound, I always try to evolve with each release, while retaining that definite Rebūke style. I love it when people hear a track of mine, and they can tell it’s by me before knowing for sure. All my records have a specific theme while pushing things forward a bit with each release. 

It must be tough that after building up so much momentum for your career and touring all over the world, you’ve suddenly found yourself in a place where you can’t play gigs. How have you been keeping yourself motivated during this period of isolation and what plans are you making for the future?

Sure it’s has been tough, but I’ve also given myself a break to get back into the studio again. And I’ve made more music in the past two months than I probably have in the past two years, which has been good. It’s also given me time to re-group in terms of the Rebūke project in general. When I was on the road last year, it was quite hectic, so now I feel like I’m in an excellent position to take things to another level with my career. After a little break from releasing music after my Rattle EP last October, I’m in the midst of a busy few months and have a new Dirtybird EP coming this month along with forthcoming Drumcode EP, my remix of “Dominator” and my collaboration with Alan Fitzpatrick. Plus, there will be a remix and collaboration with two of my biggest musical heroes; I can’t reveal yet, but I’m buzzing for these.

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

The mix I made for Beatportal comprises a lot of music I’ve been working on in the studio, including my Drumcode EP, as well as a few of my favourite Drumcode tracks and also some cuts from my friends Pig&Dan and a great Layton Giordani remix. I also wanted to include a tribute to the late great Mike Huckaby.

Rebūke’s Obscurity EP is out on September 4 via Drumcode.

Tracklist:
01. Jeff Mills – 4
02. M.I.T.A. – Someone Told Me To Jungle And I Did [Kneaded Pains]
03. Lilly Palmer – Slaves to Technology (Original Mix) [Octopus Records] 04. Rebūke & Alan Fitzpatrick – Ultimate Distortion
05. Rebūke – Instatik [Drumcode]
06. Raxon – Connection [Drumcode]
07. Rebūke – Obscurity [Drumcode]
08. Pig & Dan – Acronym
09. Human Resource – Dominator (Rebuke Remix)
10. Tiger Stripes – Back In Black [Drumcode]
11. Camelphat x Artbat – For A Feeling (Layton Giordani Remix)
12. Rebūke – Livewire [Drumcode]
13. Mike Huckaby – The Tresor Track 

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

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