12 emerging artists you need to hear this March
The latest and greatest DJs and producers rising to the top this month. From high-velocity techno and house to psychedelic jazz and d&b, here's March 2020’s list of upcoming talent you should be keeping track of
Zakia is a DJ with a taste for transcendent sounds. On her Saturday morning NTS radio show, Questing, she draws from a broad selection of styles new and old, linking together everything from deep 1970s spiritual jazz to hypnotic calypso, psychedelic folk to swirling ambient. With a special focus on music from around the world, many of Zakia’s shows are themed. Recent episodes have focused on everything from the Celtic first day of spring, Imbolc, to dub and reggae, via globetrotting expeditions to Peru, Sudan and Madagascar.
Originally from Hounslow in West London, she moved to Ladbroke Grove as a teenager and became enraptured by music, later getting a job at local record shop/institution Honest Jon’s. From there, an internship at NTS quickly became her own DJ slot at the station. Beyond her NTS endeavours, Zakia is busy, appearing on Boiler Room, playing XOYO for Dekmantel’s residency at the venue, and travelling to the small Caribbean island of Carriacou to produce a documentary for Radio 4 about West African dance rituals passed down through the generations during and after the slave trade.
With DJ sets locked in at Dekmantel’s festivals in Amsterdam and Tisno this festival season, it seems Zakia is already set to soundtrack the summer.
For fans of: Gilles Peterson, Mafalda, Donna Leake
The roughneck bass mutations of DJ/producer J-Shadow sound like they’ve been teleported from the distant future. His recent ‘Embers’, released on Bun The Grid, is grime with a freeform, space-age quality, slivers of Amen breaks and MC chat materialising between constellations of ambient texture. Having previously released on The Collection Artaud, his latest EP for Nous Disques, ‘Disassociations’, goes even further, with ‘Dream Vortex’ matching abstract acid with chattering rhythms and distended sub-bass booms, ‘Lost In Time’ untethering the Apache break from any conventional structure to drift through space and jazzy synth chords, and ‘Apparition’ scaling offbeat jungle patterns back to the barest minimum.
On his Threads radio show, J-Shadow explores this post-genre, loosely bass-centric sound in all its permutations. Joined by guests like Etch and Phrixus, it’s the ideal way to get acquainted with his fresh take on electronic beats.
For fans of: Moresounds, Logos, Etch
Like all good DJs, Oslo-born Karima F has come up slowly but surely. In the 10 years since she started, she has won over her local scene with resident duties at Jaeger Club, and then gone on to international gigs at places like Panorama Bar. The jiu-jitsu competitor and Bachelor of Fine Arts is keen not to tread the same cosmic house and disco path as many from Norway. Instead she digs for soul, hi-NRG disco, and has a hard- to-define, but direct, DJ style that draws on anything from blistering breaks to deconstructed house, UK funky and sludgy techno.
Helping spread her name even further are the immaculate breakbeat and house productions she releases on the Schloss label she runs out of a disused Porsche repair shop with contemporary artist Ida Ekblad. She's previously quoted Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, saying, “I’m against happiness — happiness is for wimps. I want to be traumatised to work”, and it is clearly an approach that treats her well as she prepares for further gigs around Europe, readies a new remix for Smalltown Supersound, and continues to host the likes of Peach at her own Nice Tripsies night at Jaeger.
For fans of: Kamma, Mall Grab, DEBONAIR
Anyone who has been a regular on the dancefloors of New York City these last few years will likely be familiar with the sounds of Olive T. Cult spots like Le Bain, Good Room and House Of Yes have all welcomed her in, and in return she has consistently reflected the musical heritage of the city by serving up bumping sets that take in US house, warm grooves and hints of the hip-hop that defines her hometown. She also loves a vocal, and after first falling in love with electronic music via “anime, video game, and MTV late-night cartoon soundtracks”, became skilled at delivering quick and slick mixes that keep energy levels high in the club.
2020 also promises to be the year the New Yorker makes her production mark. A remix of Pale Blue’s ‘Breathe’ is a brilliantly deep, dark and dystopian track, while she has also got a full solo EP on the way, and contributions to compilations on Spontaneous Affinity and Fokus NYC lined up too.
For fans of: Ash Lauryn, Dee Diggs, Secretsundaze
PaperMacheTiger is the coming together of two artists who already had their own distinctive solo careers. But now, as a duo, Mick Wilson and Dylan Debut make timeless house, tech and techno fusions which draw on their wide sphere of sound and deep historical understanding. Always dancefloor-ready, their EPs range from moody and late-night-focused to acid-laced and banging, and have come on outlets such as Nervous Records, Black Riot and Plastic City.
From the weird and wonderful to anything slightly out of the ordinary, PaperMacheTiger always like to colour their grooves outside the usual lines. Up next is a return to legendary New York label Nervous, a collaboration with August Artier, and new release ‘Man With Tin Hat’ with Berlin’s Namito, which drops this summer and explores deeper, moodier, slower techno built for getting lost in the twilight zone.
For fans of: Hot Since 82, Patrick Topping, Nicole Moudaber
A native of the Pacific Northwest who’s currently based in Mexico City (following previous stops in Boston, New York City and Bogotá), Robin Lohrey is something of a nomad, both literally and figuratively. As Ronan — which means “a little seal” in Gaelic — he’s moved between a variety of styles, with the rave-ready sounds of the ‘90s serving as a particularly fertile source of inspiration. Over the course of three EPs (including an effort for D. Tiffany’s Planet Euphorique label and another for his own Eternal Ocean imprint), he’s dipped into high-velocity techno, barrelling breakbeats, starry trance, chirpy hardcore and tweaky electro, yet his music never feels like an empty nostalgia trip; it’s a recontextualisation, not a revival.
Currently putting together a new trio of EPs and a full-length album, Ronan looks to be busy in the months ahead. Eternal Ocean continues to grow — additional releases, an expanded clothing line and multiple Mexico City events are all in the works — and a North American tour is also on the horizon.
For fans of: Roza Terenzi, Avalon Emerson, Mor Elian
With his latest mix, ‘Everything Is NRG Vol. 1’, Los Angeles- based DJ and producer ALRT proudly proclaims himself a crucial part of North America’s re-emerging hard dance/ NRG scene. His creds run far deeper, though — he spent 2019 touring with OWSLA’s Joyryde, while dropping hard dance thumpers like ‘Front To Back’ and shuffle house hits like ‘Fire’. He also collaborated with Ghastly and Kayzo on multi-genre tracks like ‘Fangs’ and ‘Dark Skies’, proving that his skills in the studio are far more than one-note-only.
He even creates his own artwork, and acts as director and producer for his own music videos. It’s no surprise, then, that ALRT counts the likes of Gammer and Porter Robinson as fans. With his debut EP due for 2020, it’s clearly just the beginning for ALRT.
For fans of: Gammer, Lil Texas, Kayzo
Australian artist TALEENA may have just dropped her first track nine months ago, but she is already carving a place out for herself within the country’s underground scene. In the last 12 months, she has shared the stage with the likes of CamelPhat, Claptone, Malaa, Fisher, and Chris Lake. Now, she follows up ‘Lunar’ (her bubbly, house-driven debut) with a moody, complex offering titled ‘The Theory’. This sophomore release has already filled airtime on Australia’s legendary Triple J Radio, and has garnered steady support from house purveyors like Anna Lunoe and Don Diablo. 2019 also saw TALEENA release a flurry of remixes, including two beautifully reimagined tech-house standouts: Jaysounds’ ‘Under Your Skin’, and Jimmy Le Mac’s ‘Get Wild’. It seems this year TALEENA is primed to present her talents on a global scale.
For fans of: Detlef, Green Velvet, Shiba San
Jump-up is alive and well in the US, based on the rising success of the San Diego-based d&b duo Sub Killaz. Sean Casey and Brian Cilurzo have been pushing the heavier side of drum & bass music since 2013, with releases on Playaz, Sweet Tooth, Digital Terror, and more. The pair’s hard-hitting talent and low-end sound have led to collaborations with some of the biggest names in their game. Sub Killaz’s tracks have received DJ support from giants like DJ Hype, Hazard, Andy C, Noisia, Dillinja, Grooverider, Marky, Serum, Voltage, and SASASAS, among others. Their upcoming ‘The Lost Files’ EP with DJ Profile is sure to make some waves in the international drum & bass scene, so stay tuned.
For fans of: DJ Profile, Macky Gee, Majistrate
Alex Kennon is on a roll. Following his Best Breakthrough win at the 2018 DJ Awards in Ibiza, Kennon kept on winning, with releases on Relief Records, Circus, and Crosstown Rebels in 2019, as well as a set at Awakenings ADE. But 2020 looks even better for the Ibiza native, with upcoming gigs at Pete Tong’s WMC Party in Miami, London’s Printworks for Green Velvet’s La La Land, as well as an April release on Saved Records with his ‘Touch Me’/’West Side’ EP, a June release on Joris Voorn’s new Spectrum Music with ‘Blinding Lights’, and an EP on Desert Hearts Records in September.
For fans of: Steve Lawler, Mark Knight, Piero Pirupa
Oregon-born Makayla Meador has been producing as Dear Evergreen for roughly four years, and singing and playing the piano for pretty much her entire life. A graduate of the esteemed ICON Collective (alumni include NGHTMRE, Jauz, and i_o), Makayla is constantly inspired by, “wacky, out of the box sound design,” especially when it is “coupled with catchy pop riffs and vocals.” Her latest offering, ‘Superbloom’, is a three-track future bass EP infused with indie electronica, and driven by strong vocals. Simultaneously downtempo and optimistic, her original productions have a glossy, dreamlike feel, and showcase whimsical vocals. Recently Makayla decided to start a crowd-funded community where she releases copyright/royalty-free a capellas and hosts production lessons, all with one simple goal: To foster an interconnected and productive network of burgeoning artists.
For fans of: Elohim, MEMBA, Mura Musa
Vancouver-based DJ duo Average Gypsy cross spectrum of house music. The duo recently released their debut album ‘Spiritual Gangstas, a self-proclaimed embodiment of their ethereal personas. Functioning as a cohesive story, each track represents a pivotal moment in the group’s musical journey. Infusing hip-hop elements with future house, and a smattering of UK-inspired bass, Average Gypsy’s infectious, carefree style is irresistibly danceable. Their biggest song to date is a g-house banger from their latest EP, ‘Get Some Money’, and their inventive covers featuring the vocals of Silver Allen — ‘Like A Prayer’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’— are verified crowd favorites. For those seeking a true Average Gypsy experience, don’t miss their annual Rise & Shine FamJam Fundraiser. The festival, which they co-founded, donates all of its proceeds to children’s camps, and seeks to cultivate a community filled with “authentic and meaningful connections.”