When it comes to house music, South Africa is in a league of its own. Since the early ’90s, the country’s love affair with the genre has birthed numerous unique styles including kwaito, gqom, amapiano and Afro-house, each of which has become a global sensation in its own right. For Johannesburg’s KaySoul, however, the most enticing sounds reside back at the source in Chicago, where his clearest influence, Larry Heard, pioneered deep house.
In his releases for labels like Shall Not Fade, Dirt Crew and Last Forever Records, KaySoul drapes classic jazzy chords and smooth synth leads over groove-soaked basslines and drums that move with subtle, irresistible funk. His respect for this music’s roots gives his tracks a warm, familiar glow, but never at the expense of originality. Collaborations with pianist Steve Faets and saxophonists Gustavo Martinez and Mario Casares have added fresh layers of life and personality to his work, while his recent EP for the label of another hero of his, Fred Everything, saw him collaborate with vocalist Kristina Sheli on the radiant ‘Blind’. With an album and new collabs in the works, and an EP for Dutch label Fluid Funk landing soon, one thing is clear: KaySoul is doing deep house his own way. EOIN MURRAY
For fans of: Larry Heard, Fred Everything, Kerri Chandler
Though originally from California, it’s in Chicago that Madeline made their name. From managing local community station WNUR 89.3FM, to working at the iconic Gramaphone record shop, to landing a prestigious residency at hallowed Chi-town club, smartbar, they’ve been making an impact both in and outside the booth there for the past decade. It’s behind the decks at smartbar that you’ll find Madeline most in their element, blending sultry house with tougher techno selections, and always delivering plenty of uplifting vocals and funky percussive fills to keep bodies moving.
A regular at LGBTQ+ Sunday session, Queen!, and now hosting names like Jayda G and Nick León at their own Statement Piece events — named after their radio show, and also now an online mix series that’s hosted excellent entries from Ariel Zetina, Miss Twink USA, the late Don Crescendo, and more — Madeline made their first forays on the international circuit this year, playing at Berlin’s Buttons party in March and Promise at Toronto’s Cherry Beach over the summer. They hope to continue this trend in 2024, while also preparing new music for the new year, following the release of their debut EP ‘unlearning’ in 2022. From the super sexy ‘fantasy daddy’, through the off-kilter ‘hurt it’, to slo-mo cut ‘doubtful baby’, it’s a lush and varied release and has us eagerly awaiting what’s next. BEN HINDLE
For fans of: Olive T, NIKS, Sally C
“The resonance of music is a very physical and emotional thing to me,” says Milena Doudou, aka Doudou MD, when she tells DJ Mag about her unfaltering love of music. “It moves me in the way of how I receive it. I wish for the people dancing or listening to my sets to be moved as well. To feel something within themselves, or whatever it is that resonates with them.”
Based in Amsterdam, she has become an integral part of the scene there as a resident for SlapFunk, playing parties like VBX. “Doudou flourished from minimal house with a love for tribal and techno. “With tribal I mean highly percussive electronic music with a spiritual touch,” she explains. She’s a dedicated digger, often connecting deeply with releases from the ’90s, with a record bag that is eclectic and ever-changing. One of her highlights of the year was a five-hour B2B set with tINI at Sunwaves Festival. “We met last year and really hit it off. She took me with her, and the whole thing was just this special effortless experience that I will never forget.” Recently her sets have been resonating far and wide, having played in Lisbon, Berlin, Barcelona, London, Ibiza, and Mexico City earlier in the year, with gigs at fabric in London and Guesthouse in Bucharest to come. ANNA WALL
For fans of: tINI, Samuel Deep, Mr G.
Underground grime had a huge resurgence in 2023, as a burgeoning live scene reinvigorated a sound that largely laid dormant through the pandemic — and Travs Presents has been a shining light of the new wave. Founded last year by rapper Travs and resident DJs SI*BL and Chamber 45, the platform has already featured artists including Jawnino, Logan, Micofcourse and Renz. South Africa-born, Hertfordshire-based DJ, SI*BL, has also been making an impact under his own name, playing a live stream at Elijah’s Make The Ting Keep Hush in July, and delivering a guest mix for Oblig as part of his Rinse residency — a huge nod from an industry veteran.
Travs Presents started out on East London’s Kindred, and has since given SI*BL the chance to showcase his no-messing grime sound on Just Jam, as well as close an Adidas party that included JME and Slimzee on the bill. “[Kindred] gave us a chance to really give the scene what they were missing — regular grime radio and video content,” he enthuses. Closing out 2023, SI*BL says Travs Presents have their biggest party yet, and he also started a monthly Subtle Radio show in November, which he hopes will be a “capsule of where I am when it comes to taste, and where I am technically as a DJ”. ROB MCCALLUM
For fans of: DJ Maximum, J Oh Zee, Oblig
The Nairobi producer Kabeaushé likes to keep things mysterious. Their bio reads like a fairy tale, referencing baby owl feathers, exotic spider webs, and a maharaja’s finest muslin. No amount of self-mythologizing, however, can hide the fact that the artist born Kabochi Gitau is a hugely talented music maker with a penchant for kaleidoscopic presentation, having sprung seemingly from nowhere early this year via ‘The Coming Of Gaze,’ an anything-goes collection of tunes that, with Kabeaushé’s voice front and center, ranged from the woozy lullaby of ‘Potassium’ to the marching-band-goes-to-the-carnival cadences of ‘Caracas.’
Apparently, Kabeaushé is as prolific as they are talented, because they’re already back with a follow- up LP — and it’s as extravagantly eccentric as its predecessor. Out on Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label, '“HOLD ON TO DEER LIFE, THERE’S A BLCAK BOY BEHIND YOU!”' again puts the focus on Kabeaushé’s expressive vocals, but surrounds them with even more skewed pop sensibilities. ‘Banguk’ for instance, comes off like OutKast with a bad hangover, while ‘Mitte’ feels like unhinged chamber hip-hop, and ‘These Dishes Ain’t Gonna Do Themselves’ barrels along like a fractured circus promenade. Weird and brilliant. BRUCE TANTUM
For fans of: Tyler, The Creator, Funkstörung, LSDXOXO
Rinse France resident Whitney Weiss is on a global tear. Still, a decade split between Paris and Berlin after years in Buenos Aires couldn’t take away the influence of New York house on Weiss’s sound, and so it only makes sense that their 'Too Hot' EP found a home on Major Records — the celebrated imprint of Brooklyn house purveyors Justin Cudmore, The Carry Nation, and Mike Servito.
The three-track collection is as groovy and quirky as one might expect coming from that camp, with a title track that packs an intoxicating punch from beat number one. Loopy and percolating, the jam boasts a timeless feel, with plucky synth lines that would make Kraftwerk proud. According to Weiss, ‘Too Hot’ had a profound effect on their new label bosses, too. “When I sent Major this demo, their feedback was to make the song longer, because ‘it is too good to end that quickly.’ Coming from producers like Will, Nita, Mike, and Justin, this was a fabulous compliment,” they share of the positive reaction. The other selections, such as the delightfully choppy ‘Saboteuse’, and the silly-meets-sexy ‘Ass Boutique’, lend similar sass, which just so happens to be the energy we crave as we kiss 2023 goodbye. MEGAN VENZIN
For fans of: Crazy P, Hercules & Love Affair, Justin Cudmore
Jazzy piano chords, electro-funk basslines, a copious amount of hand percussion, a bit of disco filigree and dub alchemy: These are the basic components of ‘Neon Beach’, the lead track off of Gee Lane’s new ‘Metamorphosis’ EP, released on Berlin’s Toy Tonics label. It’s a polished gem of a tune, as is the EP’s other original, ‘Modular Love,’ with a confident sound that’s generally the mark of a veteran producer — but in reality, ‘Metamorphosis’ is the Venezuela-born, Barcelona- based artist’s debut release. A pair of ‘Neon Beach’ remixes, one from Demi Riquísimo and the other from Divorce From New York & PIEK, take the tune in various housey directions, but it’s the accomplished originals that stand out.
Of course, Virginia Ramirez Iragorri, who also DJs under the Virginie banner, didn’t exactly pop out of nowhere. Spinning since 1999, she was musically educated by her father, who was a composer and musician; further education came from a stint living in NYC, where she fell under the spell of the Body & Soul holy trinity of François K, Danny Krivit, and Joe Claussell. A love of funk, Latin music, hip-hop, and jazz have further influenced her sound. ‘Metamorphosis,’ the sum product of those influences, might be Gee Lane’s debut, but it won’t be the last we hear from her. BRUCE TANTUM
For fans of: Pezzner, Jayda G, LP Giobbi
Ask Matt Sherman — or simply Sherm, as most call him — where he thrives in this industry, and we suspect he’d have a tough time answering. The Chicago-based producer dishes out some top-notch house music to be sure, but he also runs A&R for DJ Susan’s Hood Politics imprint, serves as host of the “Sherm in the Booth” podcast, and recently earned thought leader status for moderating the ADE 2023 panel “The US Tech-House Scene: What’s In It For You?” The answer to that question should be “a damn good time” — that is, if his discography is any indication.
Sherm’s newest collaboration with Chris Diaz, ‘Standing Ovation’ (out December 15th on Candy Flip Records), is auditory proof, with its crisp drums, filter-drenched samples, and trippy, speaker-rattling progressions. It comes as a follow up to the bass house banger ‘Real Life,’ alongside fellow Windy City duo BLUPRNT, which arrived last month on his Hood Politics home base. Despite wearing countless hats, Sherm keeps it prolific in the studio and on stage — he recently served as support for names like Gorgon City, ACRAZE, and John Summit, to name a few — and we suspect as he becomes even more in demand, he’ll still find a way to do it all. MEGAN VENZIN
For fans of: AC Slater, Chris Lorenzo, Omnom