12 emerging artists you need to hear this January
The latest and greatest DJs and producers rising to the top this month. From experimental techno and bright, melodic grooves to forward-thinking Afrobeats and bass, here's January 2020’s list of upcoming talent you should be keeping track of
Zoë Mc Pherson’s second album ‘States of Fugue’ displays her innate talent for melding experimental sounds with the principles of dance music. Coming on her own label SFX — launched alongside fellow multi-disciplinary artist Alessandra Leone — it’ll be a platform to present works across various mediums. One of the integral instruments Mc Pherson uses is voice: present in spoken word, singing and deconstructed through various FX. “My mother is a folk singer and musician and I started playing Irish fiddle, then jazz drums as a teen. My inspirations are textures, routes, patterns and awkward daily rhythms,” says Mc Pherson. Currently based in Brussels, her live sets have taken her further afield, with performances in Leipzig, Moscow, The Hague, Berlin and Helsinki. Zoë Mc Pherson’s latest body of work — to be released this February — is testament to her evolving as an artist in every sense of the word.
For fans of: Holly Herndon, Gazelle Twin, Pan Daijing
The music of Berlin-based duo Alex Kassian and Hiroaki OBA, aka Opal Sunn, is instantly recognisable through warm tones, dreamy soundscapes and a penchant for making melodies. Primarily recorded through live jams and machines, it’s a momentum that they channel into their live sets, last year performing twice at Panorama Bar. Their ‘Parallax’ EP was picked up by Nick Höppner for his Touch From A Distance label and word has it that they have a follow-up to come in February. They also launched they own imprint, Planet Sundae, back in 2016, providing another home for their output. With two tours of Asia under their belts — including Counter Club and VENT in Tokyo — plus appearances at Field Maneuvers and Fusion Festival last year, it’s clear that Opal Sunn will be shining bright into 2020 and beyond.
For fans of: Massimiliano Pagliara, Project Pablo, Steffi
Nikita Zabelin’s Resonance Moscow label is something of a nexus for his native Russian scene. It connects various different strands of the underground that goes way beyond the dystopian techno the country is often known for, including parties with experimental live shows. His own music most recently came in the form of November’s debut solo album Rhizome, which fuses IDM and minimalist techno ambience into beautiful new forms that utterly defies the usual techno trope ewe associate with Russia. It conveys a certain sense of otherworldly spiritualism that makes it all the more intriguing and absorbing. Since 2018, he also performs an improvised live show using two Tesla coils to make conceptual music “that shifts the focus to a collective experience”. As such, he is right at the vanguard of the Russian, but also global, electronic scene.
For fans of: Donato Dozzy, Daniel Bell, Anton Zap
It’s hard to think of anyone who has held a residency as long as Katie Drover, who for 15 years played each and every weekend at one of Melbourne’s top clubs. As such, she is a hugely versatile DJ, but one with a penchant for the headier end of the spectrum. More recent years have found her holed up in Berlin, working as a mathematician by day, and steering her Dokutoku Records label through some superbly atmospheric deep house and techno releases.
Tom Ellis, Doubtingthomas and Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts have all stepped up next to her own EPs, which are characterised by stripped back, rolling rubber grooves and swirling pads that sink you ever deeper into the groove, and make for perfect backroom dancing material. Following her latest on Pleasure Zone will be more new material on Air Texture, Addition By Subtraction and Eteru, which means 2020 is sure to be her breakout year.
For fans of: Dana Ruh, Sonja Moonear, Moomin
Berlin-based Peruvian Sofia Kourtesis is a perfect fit for Studio Barnhus, who will release her second EP in March 2019, having debuted on the label a year ago. The reason behind this is that her music colours outside the usual lines, comes imbued with playful samples, but deals in very real emotions that make a lasting impact. She gets those samples from all sorts of sources — her worldly travels, snippets of movies and various personal encounters with friends — and in turn they give her music a very real and joyful sense of character.
As well as making you think and feel a range of emotions that take in nostalgia and introspection, Kourtesis’ music also makes you dance. Her house grooves are built on unusual patterns, with hiccuping percussion patterns and the sort of looseness that makes you want to jangle your bones. In bringing her own fresh perspective to house music, it is artists like Kourtesis who keep good house vibes alive.
For fans of: DJ Koze, Art Alfie, Mr Tophat
Paris-based Christelle Oyiri-K, aka Crystallmess, has just released two tracks for PAN’s dancefloor-focused white label series; they’re bass-heavy, atmospheric, intricate, and emotive, fusing techno and IDM, and above all display an innate skill for designing club-ready music. Her club sets and radio shows — including recent broadcasts via NTS — travel further afield through genres, whether that be techno, dancehall, jungle, kuduro or ‘90s rave. It’s her varied selections and mixing style that have captivated audiences across the board, last year playing venues such as Berghain in Berlin and Concrete in Paris, and catching the attention of Boiler Room and Discwoman. She’ll be DJing alongside Kode9 and Teki Latex for the La Machine Du Moulin Rouge in January, plus playing live alongside Gabber Eleganza and Nene H. at Trauma Bar in Berlin in February. With another EP lined up for summer 2020, it’s clear it’ll be another landmark year for Crystallmess.
For fans of: Deena Abdelwahed, Teki Latex, Shyboi
GATTÜSO is behind one of 2019’s most omnipresent pop-crossover dance hits, ‘When In Rome’. Launched in 2018 by New York City-based Israeli DJ and producer Reem Taoz, the GATTÜSO alias has been his entrance to the house community as an artist, transforming a longtime lover of electronic music into one of its creators. He has aimed to bring an upbeat, inspirational feel to his tracks, incorporating vocalists into accessible productions. Debuting with ‘Who We Are’, featuring Myah, he immediately landed on sought-after Spotify playlists like Mint and Dance Rising, setting the stage for his career-defining hit in 2019. Co-written by Damon Sharpe and featuring vocals from Cimo Frankel, ‘When In Rome’ hit 52 million plays earlier this year — an impressive sign of where GATTÜSO is likely to go next.
For fans of: Matoma, Sultan + Shepard, Otto Knows
UK-based producer Damion Houchen has been honing his craft since the late ’90s. Raised in London’s renowned clubbing scene, Houchen learned from the greats, creating a solid base of expertise for the launch of his musical career. For the breadth of his tenure as Genix, Houchen has been an unstoppable production machine, releasing over 50 singles and 50 remixes to date. In 2013, he paired up with Above & Beyond’s Anjunabeats label and quickly became a prominent mainstay.
Taking influences from ’90s techno and trance, Houchen blends both worlds with modern sensibilities that are driving, atmospheric, and melodic. Don’t miss his latest release, ‘Zuul’, as it perfectly represents his current musical tendencies. For an extended experience, stream Houchen’s set from Group Therapy 350, live from the O2 Arena in Prague.
For fans of: Andrew Bayer, Jaytech, Fatum
When the undulating grooves and hypnotic percussion of John Summit first hit the earholes of Chicago’s tech-house fans, his popularity exploded. The former accountant ditched his cubicle on a whim to pursue a life of full-time music and never looked back.
“At first, I would spend every waking hour writing music due to the constant fear of failure,” Summit explains. The work paid off, though. The ice-cold basslines and haunting vocals on tracks like ‘Trompetas’, ‘Touch Me’, and ‘Guest List’ cemented his place early on in the pages of Chi-town’s rich house music history. And, his recent track ‘Detonate’ further distinguished Summit from his peers when Dirtybird’s legendary boss Claude VonStroke played it at major festivals like Movement in Detroit and EDC in Las Vegas. It even captured a spot in Beatport’s tech-house top 100; the first of many, perhaps.
For fans of: Claude VonStroke, Lee Foss, Walker & Royce
Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve likely heard the voice of Faridah Seriki, aka Kah-Lo. The Nigeria-born, New York City-based artist has been flanked by some of the biggest names in dance music since going viral with ‘Rinse & Repeat’ with Riton in 2016. After landing a Grammy nomination for the house track, she has gone on to make her presence known beyond the club crowd.
Unlike many vocalists who make it big as features on smash hits, Kah-Lo has made her own style a leading force in her music. After ‘Rinse & Repeat’, she continued to work with Riton, releasing a collaborative full-length album, ‘Foreign Ororo’, in 2016. Working with artists like The Knocks, Idris Elba, and Mr. Eazi, Kah-Lo has created a moment of her own where Afrobeats and house music infectiously coexist. Her latest solo effort, ‘Exit Sign’, signals more good times ahead.
For fans of: Major Lazer, Mr. Eazi, Riton
How does one define a breakout year? In the case of the masked producer known as Otira, it means hitting the scene HARD. In 2019, he teamed up with super duo Dog Blood to produce the brash and bold single, ‘KOKOE’, before remixing The Bloody Beetroots’ iconic track ‘Warp 1.9’. He wrapped up his massive year with the release of the ‘Soundboy Burnin’’ EP via Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label. Enveloped in sinister breakbeats and heavy bass, the four-track collection draws inspiration from the formative years of jungle, happy hardcore, gabber and techno, which may explain why Otira’s fast and furious productions have already been championed by game-changing artists like Virtual Self and Skrillex.
For fans of: Boys Noize, The Glitch Mob, Skrillex
Hong Kong-based artist YAKO got an early start to his music career. At 16, he was working at LEVELS nightclub and hustling as a bedroom producer, but it wasn’t long before he convinced the club to give him his own residency. The first Chinese artist to perform on Creamfields’ main stage, YAKO’s musical ambitions are lofty and pure: to show the world a Chinese artist is capable of inspiring people to pursue their artistic dreams. Bouncy and bass forward, his gritty production style results in festival-ready bangers that resonate with the masses.
YAKO recently signed to Monstercat, where he collaborated with Tokyo Machine on the electro-house party anthem, ‘Bad Boi’. Keep your eyes peeled for his remix of Laidback Luke and Pyrodox’s ‘Keep on Rockin’, and further down the road, a collaboration with Nitti Gritti.
For fans of: Tokyo Machine, Habstrakt, Pegboard Nerds