12 emerging artists you need to hear this November
The latest and greatest DJs and producers rising to the top this month. From lush liquid d&b and abstract electronics to feel-good house and low-key, jazzy hip-hop, here's November 2021’s list of upcoming talent you should be keeping track of
Based in San Francisco, Xyla’s music is not something that can be summarised by genre, but instead by its sensitivity. After moving from Houston to study French horn at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, it was during their studies that they discovered electronic production via an ‘Intro to Ableton’ course.
Xyla took some time out in Berlin in 2019, soaking up the inspiration so readily available there. On their return to San Francisco, they went into an intense period of producing, and the resulting work would prove to be the foundations of their debut album ‘Ways’. Signed to Leaving Records, ‘Ways’ was one of 2020’s most impressive albums for its bright tones and unique use of sampling. Xyla’s new track ‘Soma’, released via Berlin’s Paloma Bar label arm, continues in a similar vein, with dazzling melodies and gentle percussive layers. Sophie McNulty
For fans of: Peach, Shanti Celeste, Jossy Mitsu
The gentle patter of hi-hats above half-heard keys; a wisp of jazzy brass; the sudden throb as a bassline unfolds itself — melancholy and heartwarming in equal measure, these are the ingredients that make liquid drum & bass such a delight, and those that County Durham artist Athena brings together in perfect harmony on her new single for Shogun Audio, ‘Don’t Let’. It’s her first solo effort for the label, which she was linked with as part of EQ50’s d&b mentorship scheme at the end of 2020. What’s more, she’s only been releasing music since this February.
Her debut came as part of Shogun’s ‘Point Of Origin Vol. 4’ compilation — the sleek roller, ‘Miss You’ — before several drops for Goldfat (label boss Mitekiss has also been a helpful mentor, she has said), including the sublime two-tracker ‘Take Flight’ / ‘Eunoia’ and a brace of tracks for V/A compilations: the abyssal steppa ‘Next Door Reality’ and funk-licked ‘Bayside Groove’. With a natural knack for melodies and arrangements it’s impossible not to drift away with, it’ll be a joy to hear where Athena goes next. Ben Hindle
For fans of: Calibre, Mitekiss, Tokyo Prose
Jaeho Hwang is strikingly sincere. When we speak, the London-based multi-disciplinary artist is in his hometown of Seoul, preparing for a festival performance in Amsterdam, a compilation series with Seoul-collective Nek-O Future Club, and the release of his sophomore EP ‘Inner-Self’. In late 2018, Hwang found a kindred spirit in Chinabot label head, Saphy Vong, who supported the release of his first EP ‘Non-self 비자아’ in March the following year. The record, grounded in the Buddhist tradition, explored identity, belonging and themes around familial expectation.
‘Inner-Self’ continues the conversation, expanding from self to others and the surrounding emotions, with Hwang’s experimental approach offering a finely drawn line between his present and his past. Liberal samples of the piri — a double reed instrument made of bamboo — Korean drum and gayageum fill his work, with industrial beats hustling beneath. “I’m not young anymore, but I can go a different way,” he tells us. “I don’t have to be very good at it, the music, you know? If I feel it I can just go with it.” Ria Hylton
For fans of: 33EMYBW, KABLAM, Slikback
Talik, real name Charlotte Denman, started producing during the lockdown after relocating from Berlin to the UK. She signed up to Martyn’s 3024 mentorship programme last year, through which she received one-on-one mentoring. Her debut EP ‘Cold Silver’ — released via Intercept Records — caught the attention of Mary Anne Hobbs, who premiered the title track on her BBC 6 Music show. Since then, her tracks have appeared on Yushh’s Pressure Dome label and 3024.
In her own words, Talik’s music tends to “focus on detailed percussion and sound design”, manipulating sounds — stretching, warping, and processing them to their limits. As a trained yoga teacher, both the sense of space and low-slung rhythms present in Talik’s music feel akin to yogic breathing. Her latest EP ‘Let It Break’ (her second on Intercept) builds on the success of her debut with sympathetic synth work set over her unique drum sensibilities. Sophie McNulty
For fans of: Batu, Yushh, Ciel
Tertia May is the kind of singer who will contort every facial muscle necessary to produce the perfect sound. You see this in her COLORS show, where she gave a poised and stirring performance of ‘Monsters In Your Bedroom’, the lead single from her debut EP ‘Kind Of Purple’. Published in 2018, the video quickly did the rounds and had many comparing the then 22-year-old to Amy Winehouse. Boiler Room and festival bookings soon followed.
In 2019, May sold out her debut headline show and released her sophomore EP ‘Not from concentrate’. The five-tracker was another low-key affair, with hip-hop beats, jazzy keys and doleful lyricism weaved throughout. Two years later and the Surrey-raised, North London-based May is back after what she describes as “the perfect break”. Her new EP ‘TM Radio’ reads like a series of journal entries and her lead single ‘Fire’ is a moment of reckoning around self-worth. If the track’s sassy lyrics are anything to go by, May seems more than prepared for the naysayers. Ria Hylton
For fans of: Amy Winehouse, Lava La Rue, ELIZA
After introducing himself with the Fergie-sampling UK drill beat for V9’s 2020 ‘Daily Duppy’, 256minaj has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting young producers on the rap scene. In the year since that track landed, the 18-year-old producer from France has already gone on to land placements with Unknown T, Kwengface, TPL and more.
Incredibly prolific, 256minaj drops beats onto his YouTube channel on an almost daily basis. Through doing so he’s carved out his own niche, with productions that add a playful energy to the classic drill bounce, pulling from reference points that include ‘90s/’00s rap, Chief Keef and Kanye West. The end of 2021 sees a placement with Active Gxng MC, T.Scam, which is due imminently — on an instrumental co-produced by DT5 Beats — as well as other as-yet-unannounced tracks pending with MCs from London, New York and Paris. Rob McCallum
For fans of: Bkay, Gotcha, Chris Rich
Where there’s groovy house music, there’s Cakewalk. That’s the moniker of Boston native James Walker, who serves up good vibes along the northeast coast with his bubbly and soulful sets. The committed activist spent much of his pandemic organizing marches in support of Black Lives Matter and feeding his neighborhood’s homeless community with a loyal crew of local allies. As events returned, he lifted spirits at events like Elements Music and Arts Festival in Lakewood, PA, where he delivered a sunny day-time performance on the Water Stage in September, before swinging by TBA Brooklyn for a low-key appearance later that month.
Those shows came in addition to the CAKEWALK & Friends parties he hosts on Friday nights in Portland, ME and beyond. These gatherings also back a good cause — he recently raised money for New Incentives, an organization that uses cash transfers to increase immunization rates in Nigeria.
Listen to the guest mix he dropped for Life On Planets TV earlier this summer, and get your disco bliss on. Megan Venzin
For fans of: Soul Clap, Life On Planets, Wolf & Lamb
‘The General,’ the lead single off of Dawuna’s debut album, ‘Glass Lit Dream,’ is a kaleidoscopic gem. Kicking with a spectral squall before settling into a gentle hand- percussion groove, its eddying marimba providing a countermelody to Dawuna’s searching vocals, it’s the kind of track that stays in your mind long after its six-minute run time has come and gone. The tune was just one of the highlights off the Ugandan-American’s long-player, originally self-released late last year — and it was undoubtedly one of the songs that attracted the attention of O___o?, a London label that’s also featured the work of Dawuna’s fellow progressive-soul traveler LA Timpa.
Even if you’ve already picked up on ‘Glass Lit Dream,’ we’d advise checking out the re-release, as it’s been fine-tuned by mastering marvels Amir Shoat and Prash ‘Engine-Earz’ Mistry, with the pair lending the album the otherworldly aura — Dawuna describes it as “a cold, lunar, digital aesthetic” — that his music calls out for. It’s a beautiful album, and hopefully the first of many from this promising artist. Bruce Tantum
For fans of: Arca, Kelela, serpentwithfeet
‘What You Say Of Power’ is, to put it mildly, a viscerally intense listen. Coming out on November 12th via the envelope-pushing First Terrace label, it’s the debut album under the MSC banner from Zac and Isaac Jones, twin brothers with a background in a range of music that moves from classical to outsider punk to experimental metal to glitched-out breakbeat to noise.
That spectrum of influences, along with some skillful sampling and arranging, goes a long way in explaining the LP’s sound, which has the aura of a fractured, half-forgotten dream — or, depending on the track, perhaps “nightmare” might be the apt word. Cuts like the breakcore-esque ‘Borehole’ or the tension-filled ‘Tek’ are almost frightening in their fierceness, while even the release’s sedate moments, like the celestial ‘Nice People,’ manage to be hugely immersive. The brothers pieced together their own monster soundsystem to help create the LP, with the intention of bringing it out on the road for gigs — be ready for a full-body experience. Bruce Tantum
For fans of: Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Venetian Snares
Progressive house producer Lauren Mia started her musical journey as a vocalist and instrumentalist, a fact that makes her intricate compositions shine brighter. Earlier this fall, she released an immersive techno remix of paraleven’s ‘Tidal Wave,’ followed by a spacey and expansive treatment of Phandora’s ‘Euthymia’ on the Art Vibes label, demonstrating an impressive bandwidth and range.
Mia is likely a familiar face to Anjunadeep fans, who may have caught her at their annual Open Air event at the Brooklyn Mirage, or at one of the label’s many “On Rotation” tour stops in cities like her hometown of Los Angeles. Later this month, she’ll show Austin and San Francisco what she’s got alongside emerging label- mates like Marsh and Nox Vahn. To get a sense of her intoxicating flow and orchestral transitions, give the mix she contributed as part of BBC Radio 1’s Wind Down x Somatic Records Residency a spin. Megan Venzin
For fans of: Nora En Pure, Moonwalk, Cassian
With its percolating keys, yearning synth line, rubbery bass and, in the background, angelic chorus, there’s a deep-house-in-the-cosmos ambience running through ‘Healing Wounds’, the latest tune from South Africa’s Donald-Tek. Released on the on-fire Iron Rods Music label, that vibe is a common thread to his output to date, much of it released via the excellent Vitamin Deep Recordings.
There are comparisons to be made to artists like Larry Heard — he himself cites like-minded artists such as Atjazz and Martin Stimming as early influences — but Donald-Tek’s managed to carve out his own aural identity through a decade of experimentation. In interviews, he’s compared making music to meditation, and it shows, as there’s a calmness and intimacy at the heart of his music that’s hugely appealing. It’s not exactly peak-time material, nor is it meant to be —instead, it’s music as a soothing balm, the kind that helps to smooth away life’s rough edges. Bruce Tantum
For fans of: Ron Trent, Atjazz, Charles Webster
Queer, LA-based producer Marie Nyx is doing all she can to reconnect dance music with its inclusive roots. Earlier this year, she launched Delusional Records with her partner Maude Vôs in an effort to build visibility for underrepresented artists and to create a safe space for marginalized voices to experiment and express themselves fully; she dropped her own debut EP, ‘Elysium,’ via the label on October 20th.
The release is a trio of minimal and melodic techno tracks with a deeply personal message to boot: “Elysium is defined as a place or condition of ideal happiness and bliss,” Nyx shares. “This EP is about the steps I’ve taken in the journey of reaching a state of elysium.” Nyx details how she intends to reach her fullest potential through healing tones, energetic kicks, and expressive synths. It’s a compelling listen, and one packed with introspective lessons too. Megan Venzin
For fans of: Octo Octa, La Fleur, Magda