Danish-Honduran artist Julie Pavon has so far released just one EP, but is already rising swiftly. The vocalist and songwriter’s six-track debut ‘Watch Her Dance’, released by Music For Dreams and produced alongside Tartelet / On The Corner’s Uffe, is a combustible blend of impassioned lyrics and club-geared beats. ‘Watch Her Dance’ itself has an urgent, trance-inflected energy, ‘Don’t Call Me Out’ is a more soulful disco cut, and centrepiece ‘High’, with its bristling Reese bass and skippy house beat, builds into swirling techno riffs and memorable vocal hooks. The record has led to a show-stopping performance at Roskilde festival, her music providing the soundtrack for Hermes’ runway show at Paris Fashion Week, and her own headline shows, while Danish critics have declared Pavon “the country’s fiercest live performer”.
Talking about her lyrical preoccupations, Pavon has said, “A central thing that I’m drawn to is duality. Both within me and in the world around me, in the mind of my generation. Wherever there is contrast, there is friction, energy, which is what I’m interested in.” There’s plenty to look forward to this year: a forthcoming Musumeci remix of ‘High’ has already been played by the likes of Gerd Janson and Âme, while Pavon’s debut album is expected in October. BEN MURPHY
For fans of: Charlotte Adigéry, Kelly Lee Owens, Confidence Man
In the space of 18 months, KILLVONGARD has managed to carve out his own niche in the ever- burgeoning indie rap landscape. The Chicago artist had already released a steady stream of instrumental projects that strayed into both ambient and abstract territories via his label, crushr records, but the release of his debut album in 2022 introduced the world to his songwriting capabilities. ‘I Think I’ve Lost It.’ was an album of commentary and reflection, both introspective and outward-gazing, which immediately captured the ears of both critics and fans. Self-described as “agonising boom-bap-adjacent mush”, it was the ideal entry-point into KILLVONGARD’s psyche.
Last year, he was back flexing his production techniques as he took the helm for ‘The Sun Is Yellow’, an album by fellow Chicago rap artist and label-mate, Tomcantsleep, before rounding off 2023 with his highly anticipated second album. While its predecessor was very much a solo affair, ‘Life Is a Masterpiece.’ found KILLVONGARD embracing a more collaborative approach, resulting in a project that somehow topped his debut. Chicago has a rich rap history, with a plethora of artists trying to make their mark, but KILLVONGARD has already proven he has the necessary attributes for success and we should all be excited to see what his next step is. TIM FISH
For fans of: Defcee, andrew, AJ Suede
Hijinx is the artist formerly known as Mr.K, who decided to switch things up in 2021 after feeling pigeon-holed in his sound. Having already released on labels like N-Type’s Wheel & Deal and Zha’s White Peach, he launched the new moniker with the menacing anthem ‘Venom’ via the J Sparrow-helmed Navy Cut. He’s since started his own outlet, Fortune, a place where “I can have complete control and can do whatever I want: moods, tempos, genres and aesthetics”, resulting in the ultra-woozy ‘Illusions’, the urgent, acidic ‘Out Of Luck’ and growling, downtempo scorcher ‘Slum’.
He also found a home on Alix Perez’s vital 1985 Music, first with a brace of compilation tracks — the sub-pummelling ‘Shush’ and sludgy dub track ‘Relapse’ — and now the ‘Macabre’ EP, which dropped in January. Mainly focused around 140, there’s plenty of sonic variation, from the sparse title track, influenced by Hijinx’s love for rock and metal — “big chuggy b-lines forever” — to the spidery ‘Swarm’ and no-holds-barred ‘Attention’ with Cesco. But his desire to apply the dubstep palette to slower tempos is still present on ‘Danger’, a lumbering hulk of quaking perc and gruesome low-end. “I want to hear dubstep that’s fresh and pushes the sound forwards and doesn’t keep it stagnant,” he says. “So with that in mind, I’m trying to challenge myself to do something different and keep it exciting and interesting.” We’d say that’s mission complete. BEN HINDLE
For fans of: Headland, Foamplate, ENiGMA Dubz
Soyklō slid onto our radar after she played a rowdy breaks set sprinkled with pop and R&B edits during the HOE_MIES takeover on Keep Hush last year. It’s this set, alongside bookings with Femme Bass Mafia, where she shared the bill with DJ Flight in RSO.Berlin, and joining the Zagaza collective at Festival Antigel in Geneva, that have helped Soyklō reach a global audience in just three years. But there’s more to Soyklō than lively mixes traversing techno, Jersey club, UKG, baile funk, Afro house, R&B, underground rap and beyond.
The Paris-born, Berlin-based artist is also a producer, songwriter and vocalist, and debuted her work in 2022-23 with the tunes ‘Fight’ and ‘DOWN’, and the dreamy d&b-shaded track ‘Sober’ on Raiders Records. 2024 looks strong for Soyklō: she recently shared her vocals on Courtesy’s track ‘Let The Music Hypnotise You feat. Klō’, via Courtesy’s new label Against Interpretation. In Spring, Soyklō will drop her debut EP, including solo and collaborative jungle-driven productions and featuring other sounds too, like dancehall. While her diary includes several DJ gigs, like the music and arts festival Blechsonne in May, Soyklō is keen to land more hybrid sets, fusing her own live vocals with DJing, which we’re sure she’ll tick off this year too. NIAMH O’CONNOR
For fans of: Jyoty, Meg10, JADA
‘Down South’ is a standout gem on The Carry Nation’s 2023 ‘Full Tilt Carry’ compilation. Brimming with bounce and percussive swagger, it also serves as Alexis Curshé’s first cut on Nervous Records, though surely not her last. The Atlanta resident has quickly emerged as a nightlife staple in her hometown, but this Big Apple signing is just one example of how her expansive sound is streaking across line-ups and labels well above the Mason-Dixon line. Chalk it up to Curshé’s impressive versatility.
Some recent Boiler Room sets in ATL and NYC show that range, offering listeners a chance to hear firsthand how the rising producer swerves seamlessly between the soulful and the slammin’. The former (recorded during a performance in the fall of 2022) veers toward deeper, more spacey textures, before turning the tempo up, whereas in her Northeast jaunt, she jumps right into peak-time territory. Currently in the studio working on new tunes, we’re curious to see where Curshé’s scratch-made scorchers send her next. MEGAN VENZIN
For fans of: Ash Lauryn, DJ Minx, Justin Cudmore
Born and raised in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Ezel Feliz Vargas has been kicking around for a while now, with a debut album, ‘Secreto’, coming out way back in 2010. That release was a beautifully rendered collection of Afro-Latin–tinged groovers, and he’s continued in that mode ever since. His 2021 collaboration with go-to soulful house vocalist Rona Ray, ‘Hard To Stay Away’, featuring a remix from the UK mainstay Atjazz and finding its way into the record crates and hard drives of DJs like Spinna and Kai Alcé, is another career highlight.
Despite that success, Ezel remains a bit under the radar with the general clubbing public — but that might be about to change. He’s teamed up with Ray once again, this time for a full LP on his own Bayacou Records called ‘Take Me Home’ — full of richly musical and highly emotive tunes that range from deep-house gems to disco-kissed chuggers to sultry R&B, it’s an absolute beauty. With remixes already lined up from the likes of Osunlade, DJ Spen, Mr. V, Ian Friday, Terry Hunter and other notables, we’ll be dancing to this one for a while. BRUCE TANTUM
For fans of: Osunlade, Blaze, Toribio
Drifting, emotive and more than a little dreamy — that’s the kind of house music you’ll find on ‘Graduated,’ the debut full-length from the Lahore, Pakistan–based Haider Uppal. It’s a beautiful and assured collection of tunes, the culmination of several years of original productions, collaborations, and remixes for the likes of Nightmares On Wax, Powel and BLOND:ISH. Uppal’s musical career started as a teenager back home in Lahore, but ‘Graduated’ began to take shape while attending school in Michigan, where he soaked up the sounds of house and techno emanating from nearby Detroit.
You can hear faint echoes of the kind of music that Motor City artists like the late Mike Huckaby would make while in house mode — but Uppal’s music shares even more in common with the vaguely hallucinatory sound of artists like YokoO. (Perhaps that’s not a coincidence, as he helps to manage YokoO’s Satya label.) Next up for Uppal is a remix for Nabihah Iqbal on Ninja Tune — his future is looking good. BRUCE TANTUM
For fans of: Lee Burridge, Öona Dahl, Dave DK
Pablo Picasso once said, “art is chaos taking shape”. Given the circumstances surrounding its genesis, Nico De Andrea’s debut album ‘Love Therapy’ certainly lives up to that notion. Produced almost entirely during the darkest period of his life, in which the French artist navigated a divorce, the passing of his older brother and his son’s overseas move to Montréal, the 11-track LP weaves confounding grief into melodic gold. The emotional, vocal-forward collection arrived on January 26th via Armada, and features names like Julia Church, Eli & Fur, and EMRIA, who together alongside the Provence-bred producer tell a touching tale of how De Andrea picked up the pieces of his life and rearranged them into something inherently hopeful. The lead single ‘One Last Call’ with Tensnake, and featuring a crystalline Lola Melita on the toplines, sets the tone for a cathartic journey that will have listeners rooting for De Andrea, one healing house groove at a time. MEGAN VENZIN
For fans of: EMBRZ, Lane 8, Marsh