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Get To Know: TDJ

Get acquainted with TDJ, the Montreal-born artist bringing trance-driven eclecticism to her DJs sets and EPs

There’s a bold, unexpected beauty to TDJ’s repertoire, so it feels appropriate that we’d catch the Canadian artist smack in the middle of a sudden snowstorm. Like the weather event at hand, Geneviève Ryan Martel’s productions boast gritty textures and immersive layers that have a tendency to send one swerving from side-to-side.

“I just parked, so it’s no worries,” she assures us. “And my dog is with me, so if you hear a bark, it’s just Tiësto saying ‘hi’.” Martel’s furry friend is named after an early inspiration — she notes that her love for Eurodance and trance bloomed after hearing the Dutch icon’s 2005 classic ‘Adagio For Strings’ when she was just 10 years old. “It was a friend that showed the song to me in his basement,” Martel remembers. “It’s a classic one! I was like, ‘damn, this is epic!’”

Those formative moments in some ways inspired the trance-driven sounds that weave through her eclectic mixtapes, EPs, and ‘SPF INFINI’ audio-visual experiences, but she didn’t cut her teeth exclusively in that genre. For years, she produced under the RYAN Playground moniker, dabbling in atmospheric, downtempo beats that lit up labels like Secret Songs, the imprint helmed by fellow Canadian, Ryan Hemsworth.

“It was a good platform for me to discover, experiment, and not categorise myself in any kind of way,” she tells DJ Mag of the fluid project. “It was a nice part of my life that is now done, and I feel much more settled in TDJ.” Still, there’s an overlap in the music’s core essence — the new tunes are just as left-field, surprising, and melodically rich as those that came before them. “There’s a very melancholic, nostalgic kind of energy that remains in both projects,” she elaborates. “I think there’s a very uplifting vibe that comes out of it, even if it sounds sad at first. But for me, it’s still happy music.”

What drove Martel to reconnect with her roots? Let’s call it a mix of languishing and love. “After releasing my last album with RYAN Playground, I felt like I needed some change. I felt a bit disoriented in my musical journey,” she explains candidly. “And at the same moment, I met my girlfriend with whom I shared a lot of musical car trips and we just started to listen to trance nonstop together, we would show each other records, and then I kind of wanted to impress her.”

That wasn’t the sole motivator, though. “I really love classic trance plucks — I feel like it’s very easy for me to write melodies with these kinds of sounds,” Martel explains of the sonic qualities that have long resonated with her. “I never thought about it until now, actually, but I think I really love these sounds, maybe because also it reminds me of my first instrument, which is the guitar.”

In 2022, TDJ dropped ‘Underwater’ — a selection that leads with brooding strings. It unfolds into a shoegazer-style rock cut, lending a nod to her other affinities. But that jam is an outlier: Her recent ‘Trance Deténte Jazz’ compilation, which integrates samples of pop classics, or her behemoth ‘SPF INFINI’ trilogy, which pairs original art films with continuous mixes, are more reflective of her sweeping sets. Of course, those who attended any of the exclusive ‘SPF INFINI’ release parties have already witnessed Martel’s ambition up close.

On 22nd February, TDJ made her Higher Ground debut with ‘Come Back Home’, a lush, bouncy gem, featuring Martel’s brilliant vocals. Written, produced, and performed by TDJ, it’s a testament to the fact that she’s at the top of her game — and with upwards of 100 shows on the horizon for 2024, this deep-seated sense of perseverance is all but required.

“I tell this to a lot of people and they’re like, ‘How will you survive? Like how?’” she laughs. “But somehow, I feel like I’m kind of built for that. Travelling and not knowing what to expect, I kind of love it.” Like the snowflakes outside, her anticipation is piling up high. It’s clear, TDJ is ready to take on the storm