12 emerging artists you need to hear: May 2023
The latest and greatest DJs and producers rising to the top this month. From innovative Afro house and techno to hyperactive pop and saxaphone experiments, here's May 2023’s list of upcoming talent you should be keeping track of
Two talented artists are behind Awkward Moments: Mimi Xu heads up the music production and composition, while multi-instrumentalist MAGUIRE leads on the vocals. Inspired by an eclectic range of artists from David Byrne to Jeff Mills, the London- based duo released their debut album in 2020, and it’s an emotive journey through electronics.
The rhythms and passionate strings on ‘Fly Away Together’ resonate like a heartbeat, while ‘La Mort De La Phalène’ is a beatless exploration with soaring synths and tender French murmurings. They’ve just revealed a remix package of the stunning ‘Life On Venus’ featuring N-Gynn, Hans Berg and Trey Mirror, and there’ll be more to come. Their live shows are all about the immersion of music, art and performance, and in March they made a guest appearance alongside Âme live at fabric. In London, they recently supported Weval at The Lower Third, and performed with MADMADMAD at Moth Club in April, plus they’ll be returning to Houghton Festival in August. They’re currently finishing their second album, set for release in July, plus there’s exciting collaborations to come for their third, so watch this space. Anna Wall
For fans of: Logic1000, The Knife, HTRK
Yaw Appiah, a producer with musical roots dating back to the ’90s, discovered Afro house three-and-a-half years ago. The Ghanaian native was mining Afrobeats and amapiano collections for years before his love for the four-four struck, sharing mixtapes and evolving his productions throughout his various musical communities. But Black Coffee’s ‘Buya’ featuring Toshi turned him onto the spiritual potentials of the Afro house sound, and he’s been hooked ever since. LA-based for nigh on a decade and deeply rooted in the West Coast underground, Appiah is pushing Afro house and Afro tech in unexpected directions for new audiences.
His latest offering, ‘Part Of Me’, is a meditative, seven-minute journey inspired by his most important and loving relationships. “‘Part Of Me’ was inspired by my partner and my mum,” he tells DJ Mag. “It’s a rhythm that speaks about love, ancestral calling and home.” Ria Hylton
For fans of: Black Coffee, Lemon & Herb, Cincity
Ukraine-born Alisa Mullen, also known as Travis, is fast making an imprint on her new hometown of Berlin, while steadily building her name across Europe. In Kyiv, she was an integral part of the team behind the Closer club, and is behind the artist management agency Strela, helping young artists to make their way in the music industry. As well as focusing on her DJing career and working on music productions, she runs lectures about communication and writes articles on the electronic music scene. As a DJ, you can’t box her sound into one genre — check out her recent HÖR Berlin set for an example: a fast-paced, eclectic journey through breakbeat, electro, trance and much more.
There’s a distinctive, UK-influenced sound within her sets, from liquid drum & bass to hints of UK hardcore. In Berlin, she’s a resident for the renowned party System Error, representing at some of the city’s most intrinsic clubs, including Hoppetosse, Renate, and Club Der Visionaere. In April, she returned to Renate to celebrate System Error’s record label birthday event; in May, she’ll be playing in Frankfurt, and in August heading to Croatia for Dimensions to play a special downtempo bass set. Anna Wall
For fans of: Ish, Peshka, Ines Cartas
Kiji Suedo’s take on house music is off-kilter and hugely compelling. After a couple of low-key releases on Canadian label Solar Phenomenon, the Osaka, Japan-based producer’s debut album ‘Riot’, released last December on Edinburgh’s Hobbes Music, was an unexpected meeting point between the funky Detroit rhythms of Moodymann and the kind of glitchy, experimental dance that artists like Akufen and Isolée specialised in.
His latest EP, ‘Hosek’, shows that was no one-off. Here, Suedo returns to the same label, but focuses on a more club compatible sound while honing his singular style. ‘Hosek III’ mixes jazz keys with bumping, swung percussion and scuffed surface noise, while EP highlight ‘Hosek IV’ cuts up tiny vocal fragments with wobbly synth chords and an irresistible kick. Suedo has called Theo Parrish and Oneohtrix Point Never his biggest inspirations, and makes most of his music with an ARP Odyssey software synth. His disparate influences are clear to hear, but Suedo combines them with panache. Ben Murphy
For fans of: Theo Parrish, Akufen, Herbert
Before they moved to London, French DJ and producer The BlackMailer had already established themselves on the Parisian house and techno circuit through their Currywürst parties in Batofar, a boat-meets-club anchored on the River Seine. Now, The BlackMailer resides in the UK capital, and they’ve switched up their sound to the more brutal textures in techno. Following their thundering contributions to compilations on Carbone Records, The BlackMailer delivered the storming EPs ‘K-1994’ and ‘C.M.B.B.’, also on Davide Carbone’s imprint, receiving support from Amelie Lens, SPFDJ, Dax J, and many more.
May marks the release of their track ‘The Queen Has Arrived’ on ‘EXHALE VA004’, a compilation from Amelie Lens’ label. In typical BlackMailer style, it unfurls with punchy drums, fierce vocals (a nod to rap royalty) and a corrosive lead. DJ-wise, check out their industrial-strength podcast for Possession and their scintillating OXIDCAST on SoundCloud. Approach with caution. Niamh O’Connor
For fans of: Amelie Lens, D. Carbone, Kobosil
On her latest EP, ‘Fig’, experimental saxophonist Lara Jones is channelling the darker corners of her electronic influences. Taking inspiration from Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, as well as the tutelage of mentor Gazelle Twin, the rising artist conjures mutant techno centred around a single instrument. It’s exciting to hear how far Lara pushes the saxophone outside of traditional boundaries.
Around it, she programs beats and distorted vocals to create a bruising, often bewildering sonic experience that’s primed for the dancefloor. It’s the intimacy of Lara’s songwriting that sticks most with the listener. Anchored by themes of queer euphoria and identity on ‘Fig’, her use of warped, brittle vocals gives us something to cling onto above the brutal instrumentals. Perhaps it’ll be her jarring sound that initially catches the attention of most, but scratch beneath the grit and it’s the emotional core of Lara’s music that forces a return. Lee Wakefield
For fans of: SCALPING, Loraine James, Fever Ray
Listen up, fans of deep, flowing, and emotive house music: Diego Ruiz, who produces and spins as DFRA, has the tunes that’ll satisfy your cravings. The Buenos Aires–based artist studied music and composition at the Universidad Católica Argentina, but it’s his lifelong love of old-school hip-hop, gospel, R&B, disco, and (especially) the four-to-the-floor sounds of Chicago and Detroit that has most shaped the music that he makes.
Ruiz’s name may be new to many — but he’s been making music for a while now, and early EPs like 2017’s ‘Hello Mr. President’ (released via London’s Pogo House Records) and the following year’s ‘Back To The Past’ (on Wildtrackin) were already marked by his expressive way with a tune. But 2023 looks to be DFRA’s year. He’s just released a soul-stirring collection, the subtly celestial ‘Blue Horizon’ EP (complete with a sublime Franck Roger remix) on Hudd Trax, with two more — the ‘Soul To Soul’ four-tracker on Four Framed Music, and a split EP with French producer Evenn on MATE Records — both due later this month. Bring it on. Bruce Tantum
For fans of: Anthony Nicholson, Alton Miller, Jus-Ed
The Paris-based DJ and producer Mira Ló has been kicking around the French house world for a few years now, playing at venues like Rex Club and Sacré while releasing tracks on labels like Amsem, Happiness Therapy, and Pont Neuf. Her sound, both on the decks and in the studio, is bright and sparkly, full of melody, and brimming with good vibes.
On 28th April, Ló, a member of the LGBTQ+ collective Barbi(e)turix, finally released her first proper EP, ‘Memories’ on Pont Neuf — and if lead single ‘Sparks’ is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat. It’s a joyful tune, with gentle synth tones, a welcoming chord structure and Ló’s low-key vocals giving it a very Parisian mood of insouciant breeziness. (The same could be said for the song’s Nicolas Burnage–directed video, which sees the producer strolling through Parisian streets, with magic following on her travels.) “I wanted to create a track that you can dance to with your eyes closed,” explains Mira Ló, “with a slightly soft and cosmic disco touch.” She’s succeeded. Bruce Tantum
For fans of: Brijean, Crazy P, Payfone
For those with a taste for kaleidoscopic techno-pop, the Parisian-Brazilian trio PPJ broke through last year with the insanely catchy ‘Dar Um’, a sugar-rush of a tune that makes antecedents like, say, Snap’s ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’ come off as doomy dirges in comparison. But the trio is far more than a one-trick pony, as befitting the fact that all three members have varied musical careers: Vocalist Páula has also lent her voice to Diederdas’s electro tropicalia project TamponTango; Povoa has released tracks on Sven Väth’s Cocoon and Fatboy Slim’s Southern Fried; and Jerge plays in Christine & The Queens’ live band, among other claims to fame.
PPJ first came together in 2020 via the ‘Primavera’ EP, its sounds ranging from the electropop joy of the title track to the propulsive throb of ‘Não Sei.’ A series of releases in the years since has expanded the sound while keeping them firmly in the electronic pop realm, culminating in ‘Bloco Vol.1’ EP, coming on 4th May. From the near-hyperpop of ‘Bicha’ to the bonkers swirl of ‘Calor’, and the lurching jack of ‘Dropi Dropa’ to the sinuous funk of ‘Fourmis', you’ll find a lot to love. Bruce Tantum
For fans of: Book Of Love, Krystal Klear, Ultraflex
Durham’s GRRL is embracing the art of the come up like a true chameleon. They’ve shared the stage with festival headliners like fellow North Carolinian Porter Robinson, but their releases are more often compared to those of leftfield favourites like Autechre. Perhaps this is because their output is intentionally hard to pin — to quote their bio, “what emerges from GRRL’s lab is ginzu-sharp techno, whip-smart breakbeats, and percussive club belters”. While there’s a temptation to take editorialised descriptions with a grain of salt, this little triple hits the nail on the head.
In March, they dropped the ‘Operator’ EP via Jubilee’s Magic City imprint, and wouldn’t you know, this Miami bass–leaning collection also captures that aforementioned range of sounds with a raw and distinct swagger. The title track serves as a swirling, beep-laden joyride into GRRL’s peak-time repertoire, and alongside BPM-ripping tunes like ‘Hello’ and the tinny ‘Sunrise’, we suspect GRRL is of a game-changing calibre. Skrillex is already rinsing their cuts — consider this a sign of big things to come. Megan Venzin
For fans of: Danny Daze, INVT, Night Slugs
Until about three years ago, Anna De Ferran lived life in the pop lane. The songwriter-turned-electronic producer has proven herself to be a triple threat in the time since though, pumping out diverse DJ sets and upbeat productions that mesh elements of tech-house, indie dance, progressive, and melodic techno, often featuring her vocals in the mix so people don’t forget her musical roots. The British-Brazilian artist has been on a hot streak since her breakout hit ‘Infinity’ — a collaboration with Hotway — sent her Spotify streams and international profile soaring back in 2021.
In 2022, she continued her ascent with ‘Started Here’, featuring Kawz, along with ‘Come Over’, a club-ready pumper with São Paulo’s rising star WOAK. The latter captures the full breadth of Anna’s sound, with a hint of Brazilian bass bubbling below sultry tones, together culminating in the type of tune that shepherds sunset vibes into after-dark bliss. Perhaps you caught her at DJ Mag’s Miami Music Week pool party in March, but if not, she dropped a new cut, ‘I Go’ with Lady Bee last month which she’ll be playing out across the UK, Italy and North America real soon. Megan Venzin
For fans of: Gorgon City, Layla Benitez, Vintage Culture
Community is at the core of &friends, a musical concept created by New York-based producer Sean Thomas. After joining forces with his best friend Mikey Scheinker in 2020 and a crew of Nigerian artists in 2021, &friends caught the attention of scene tastemakers like Pete Tong, Diplo, and Keinemusik, who clocked the frontman’s passion for melding sonic art with global cultures. The Nitefreak remix of ‘Ode Ireti’ (featuring eL-Jay and Oluwadamvic) went on to achieve viral success, and brought hype to the first &friends sets that popped off in diverse places like Marrakech, Tulum and Montreal late last year.
Thomas takes each trip with his carbon footprint top of mind. As big on activism as he is on cultural connectivity, he made his point clear with Tellus, a dynamic production exploring the intersection of nightlife and climate impact, which debuted during the 2022 NYC Climate Week event. Preserving the planet is no easy feat, yet Thomas still found time to slip into the studio with Dr Feel and singer Phina Asa to create the percussive four-on-the-floor belter ‘Dangerous’, which dropped in April, and an Afro-house cover of Armin van Buuren’s ‘This Is What It Feels Like’ hits Armada this month. This groovy rework proves 2023 is set to be propulsive for this unique, mission-driven project. Megan Venzin
For fans of: &ME, Francis Mercier, Themba