If you thought 2012 was a fine vintage for speaker-cracking sounds, get a load of these lot. They're some of the cats who'll be making the dancefloor an intoxicating place to be this year. Serving up everything from deep disco vibes to subterranean bass darkness, these are the DJ/producers destined to make a splash in 2013...
There’s more in the semantics of Alexander Berg and Nils Krogh’s production moniker, Genius Of Time, than there is in most. It suggests that with the passing of the ages comes wisdom; that greatness only comes with experience. Whilst the Swedish duo aren’t bold enough to be claiming greatness just yet, they are certainly on their way, largely thanks to their breakthrough track, 'Houston We Have A Problem' released in 2011 but still very much on people’s minds.
“We were living in Sweden so we didn’t really know it was getting played a lot,” says Alexander. “It took us a while to realise it was some sort of club… ‘hit’. It feels good — it’s what you aim for isn’t it? That people want to play your tunes — but at the time we made the song, it was only meant to be an edit to play in our own set. We didn’t plan to release it, but got good reactions when we played it and Clone wanted to put it out, so we said, ‘OK, let’s do it’.”
Somewhat incredibly, given the fact the duo have spent most weekends in 2012 playing revered clubs like Fabric and Robert Johnson, that EP is one of only four full releases to date. The rest have come on the increasingly essential label they run with friend Fabian Bruhn, namely Aniara. It’s not for lack of material; rather, this pair prefers to lay down their tracks and then let them stew. They like to road test them before release and make sure the final production is “special”: for them, it’s all about timing.
“This [success] hasn’t happened to us over night. It’s been gradual,” says Alex who, like his partner Nils, also has a solid solo discography behind him that takes in everything from ambient to folk to world music. The pair had been friends for years, living in the same city before departing for full-time jobs. Eventually they reconvened, inspired by getting out into proper clubs (having been too young to do so when they first started soaking up jungle, d&b, jazz and more in their early days in Sweden) and began producing together.
“Actually going to clubs changed how we worked on things,” says Niels. “We had a clearer idea of what we wanted to do. We understood [the] dynamics of the club more and could see what worked, what didn’t work. Although, the nice thing about growing up in Sweden is that the scene is much smaller. I think what happens is that you romanticise the idea of a really good club night with amazing music, but because you can't have that very often, you spend time in the studio trying to make music for those moments.”
The aesthetic of the pair to date has been one that marries fuzzy, frayed analogue lines to heartfelt hooks, all underpinned by chugging deep house grooves. The agedness of their sound, though distinctive, is a product of the real hardware they use, rather than a conscious effort. Take latest EP, 'Tuffa Trummor', two slabs of dusty but direct house that bump and grind as much as they sooth and caress.
“We like having something physical in front of us that we can play, that we can jam with,” say the pair together down the phone, finishing off each other’s sentences throughout the interview. “We bring quite a lot of it when we play our live show too — a sampler, four sequencers, an 808 and 909, some synths and a mixer. We experiment a lot with it. We see ourselves as conductors conducting our little machines.”
Given their slow but assured approach to life, the mid twenties pair are reticent to shout about new projects, though promise that they will “up our release rate slightly in 2013”. So too will Aniara release more deep and cultured sounds in the mould of the first few releases, whilst a full-length from the pair is very much on the cards. Good things, then, will come to those who wait…
22-year-old Alex Blaxx already has the chops for the transitory DJ lifestyle. Having been born in Cape Town, raised in Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland, before heading back to Cape Town, he's currently residing in Manchester (after attending the Rainy City's rather funkily-entitled Manchester MIDI School).
“There wasn't one single house night anywhere near where I lived growing up,” he says. “I only actually started going to house nights about a year ago, after I moved to Manchester.” The most cursory listen to his debut EP for Ben Watt's Buzzin' Fly label, 'The Evening News EP', will make that particular statement scarcely believable.
From the opening vibraphone melody to the tingling Detroit ride cymbals, the high, hanging strings, the Whitney Houston samples and the warm, enveloping organs, this sounds like house music crafted by someone with an impressive working knowledge of New York house music in the early '90s. Not someone who came to the table last year.
“Mostly, I guess, I listen to folk music,” he says, only adding to this baffling mix of elements. “The Tallest Man On Earth [Swedish folk artist], his first album was recorded in a shed, and that always stuck with me. I started producing a little tech house, but I found it too clinical, too clean.
“So I gravitated more towards deeper house. People like John Daly have really stuck out for me, that he was getting rewarded for having a really rough sound.”
Ben Watt patently thought the same, snapping the track up for Buzzin' Fly. “A friend wrote a bit of an article on the track on a website, and Ben saw it,” he says. “He asked me for the track to play on his 6 Mix radio show on 6 Music, and it got a good response. When he asked if he could put it out on Buzzin' Fly, I was absolutely ecstatic.”
With a possible follow-up EP in the offing, things are, as he says, 'falling into place'. “I've been getting responses on the track from people like Laurent Garnier,” he says. “I just have to keep pinching myself.”
Unlike the usual proverb, it wasn’t a move to Berlin that set Dana Ruh on the path to underground stardom, but rather getting away from the city. Working a full-time job, Ruh (originally from Gera, 200km away) decided something needed to change. A vinyl collector but not a DJ since youth, she dipped into a record shop in New York when taking a holiday on her own. It proved an inspirational catalyst that saw Dana get deep into the scene she had been ignoring back home in the capital, start DJing and eventually leave the safety of her ‘proper’ job.
“I had to make a decision. I was working in a TV production company, so was very busy,” Dana says of a period during which she was also trying to produce music. “I didn’t feel 100% in my day job or 100% in music. I just had to go back and ask myself what I really wanted.”
That was two years ago, and the only answer was music. Since then, releases have come on Buzzin' Fly, Ostgut Ton and Cocoon, each one an able ode to the dancefloor that sits just left of where you’d expect. A case in point is the precision-cut, edgy and incendiary tech house rave up that is 'Voyager', released on Cocoon back in October.
“2012 was really good,” says the woman who also co-runs her own Brouquade label with a friend. “I had the time to really search for my sound. I was digging really deep in my studio. A highlight was definitely my release on my own label and the track with Andre [Galluzi] for Cocoon.”
Unwilling to limit herself, Dana uses Brouquade as another creative outlet, but not only for her own music. “The label is a platform for musicians we find talented. It’s not necessary that you have a ‘big’ name. It’s just about music.” she says before saying that her own style is constantly evolving as she adds new bits of hardware to her studio for “extra feeling” and a “more natural” sound. As for the future, expect more Ruh collaborations with both Galluzzi and Andrea, as well as some “secret surprises” from this new doyenne of dancefloor dynamite.
It’s been a pretty momentous year for Maarten Smeets and Lars Dale, aka Amsterdam production duo Detroit Swindle. With EPs on house tastemakers Saints And Sonnets, Freerange and Dirt Crew, as well as storming gigs at Panorama Bar and Tresor, and the launch of a live show, it’s a wonder they’ve managed to stop to catch their breath.
“2012 has been such a rush,” admits Smeets, as he stops to reflect on their annus mirabilis. “Our first release got so many good reviews from artists, press and dancefloors that we stumbled from one opportunity to another. Suddenly we were asked to do releases for amazing labels and parties. It’s a really cool and humbling experience that people enjoy your music so much.”
From the thick, intricate low-end that characterized their debut, 'The Wrap Around EP' on Huxley’s Saints And Sonnets imprint, to the Rhodes and skittering hats of their latest, ‘Guess What’, the duo have blended a unique sound from a broad pallette of influences, with a more global reach than their name would suggest. It’s house music, pure and deceptively simple, but with an infectious funk sitting just below the surface.
“We had the same interest in old school and sleazy deep house,” says Dale, “and wondered if we could add something to the scene that was contemporary, but not transient like so much stuff that gets put out.” And while Dale admits their rise in 2012 has been head-spinningly swift, it’s followed two-and-a-half years of DJing together, and spending as much time in the studio as they could find. “Then it kind of got out of hand, to the point we’re at now,” he laughs.
Next year sees a further slew of releases, although Smeets is tight-lipped about exactly when and where they’ll be — “We like to surprise ourselves, and see what we feel when we’ve got our tracks ready” — and an expanded live show that’ll see the boys “sweating and panicking”. Although with the year they’ve already had behind them, we doubt they’ll need to panic that much at all.
Stoke-born but Sheffield-based, Beneath, aka Ben Walker, makes music that almost spits out of the speakers. While the lines that link early dubstep, UK funky and grime may seem fairly clear cut, on his three EPs this year, Walker’s pulled at the thread of raw aggression that sits in each, twisting it into a jagged sonic palette that’s wholly unique, and at times utterly terrifying. Not that Walker would see things as quite so clear-cut.
“I don’t know what my approach is,” he admits. “Sub bass is important, so are drums. My general rule is just try not to be bait and sound like someone else, or follow any trends.” It’s an admirable aim in a scene where originality is increasingly rare, but if you’ve had your eardrums clattered by the spiralling percussion of the recent ‘Prangin’', lost your mind to the shuddering ‘Trouble’ or been buried in the subterranean low-end of ‘Rough’ on Walker’s own No Symbols imprint, then you’ll know it’s one he’s hit wholesale.
Walker’s is rough and utterly unique club music; a distillation of UK sounds into a potent, body-rattling brew, and a sound that’s set to explode in 2013 with Beneath leading the charge. Watch out.
Leeds based wAFF is a perfect encapsulation of how the newly democratic world of electronica works. With but a laptop and an internet connection, he’s soared through the ranks off the back of just one solid release on label of the times, Hot Creations, having been a fully paid-up indie head not many years ago. It was a chance night out in an electro club, though, that first turned his head on to the possibilities of electronic music. Soon heading out of his Hull hometown in pursuit of more each weekend, the 20-something born Jon Wafer eventually landed in Leeds where one of his most formative musical experiences took place: catching merry minimalists Luciano and Magda hard at work.
“I had no idea what minimal was, but I loved it. It was just so weird, so empty yet so groovy,” he says enthusiastically. Before long Wafer was promoting his own parties, Koala, in Hull and teaching himself how to make tunes in Fruity Loops. His breakthrough track, 'Jo Johnson', eviscerated floors all season in Ibiza in 2012, a deeply grooving chunk of house, but that early love of minimal has clearly left its mark, because the man’s first EP proper bares all the hallmarks of the genre without succumbing to any of its austere trappings.
Something of an oddity for the more pop-house leaning Hot Creations, maybe his ‘Rainbow’ EP is heralding a new direction for Jones and Foss’s label. It’s deep and rolling, slick and frictionless like techno, but with subtle hooks buried deep within its neon hues which is no doubt what made it so appealing to the Hot Creations chiefs.
“I’ve always had this planned in my head,” he beams with scruffy stubble and a baggy beanie hat. “I wanted to get exposed, but I can’t believe how quick it’s happened. Hot Creations wasn’t the first label I thought would be good for my music either, but I sent it to a mate, Richy Ahmed, who sent it on for me.”
Being taken into the Hot Creations circle has had other almost immediate benefits. Despite only going to the club as a punter for the first time a couple of years previous, 2012 saw wAFF make his DC10 debut, something many dream of but will not achieve in two lifetimes, let alone their first year of production.
“It was amazing, I never expected to play there so soon. But I always thought that if I did make it, I would play there, as my music really suits the club.“ Said music is, at the moment, made exclusively on a laptop in Ableton with just a simple pair of headphones. “I’ve never had any money until recently, so I’ve had no choice,” admits Jon, before going on to say that his ever more full DJ diary has taken its toll and means he is currently writing less than he ever has, instead content with chilling on the Xbox when not travelling.
That’s not to say he hasn’t got plenty more releases lined up. “My tastes are changing all the time. I’m into techno right now, nothing too heavy though. I’ve got an EP coming on Dogmatik and am sorting one for Visionquest in the New Year.” Refreshingly forthcoming and candid about his dreams, wAFF continues. “My dream is to play the Amnesia terrace,” he gushes between tales of taking acid, “seeing energy” and the role ketamine played in his understanding of minimal. “I’d love to get signed to Cocoon but I also want to stay on Hot Creations, as they have served me so well until now.”
As part of the team behind Nottingham’s hugely successful Zleep parties, Chamboche’s been a name on the lips of those in the know for a few years now. His first release back in 2009 enjoyed a blinding remix from The Revenge that wound up in many an end of year chart, and since then he’s pricked the ears of everyone from Weatherall to Jamie Jones.
The man known to his mum as Sam Williams started out making “wacky, Orbital-inspired, overtly melodic electronica”, but after studying at Nottingham’s Confetti studios he’s honed his sound into an alloy of disco, sub-heavy house and techno that’s been picked up by Tusk and Under The Shade, and enjoyed the remix work of hot young things Bicep. With releases for Saints And Sonnets, Throne Of Blood and a swathe of other material coming up, 2013 looks set to be another big year for the Nottingham don.
Considering he’s only got two EPs under his belt, the prevalence of the name Last Magpie on flyers may seem unexpected. But if your first release features on one of the most anticipated compilations of the year, perhaps a heavy touring schedule shouldn’t come as a surprise.
When ‘No More Stories’, the title track from his debut on Hypercolour offshoot Losing Suki, was picked up by Maya Jane Coles for her 'DJ-Kicks' in March, its blend of two-step and deep house felt immediately at home alongside more seasoned producers like T.Williams and Kris Wadsworth, and belied the Leeds producer’s seemingly novice status. Indeed both his EPs to date have shown that genre schizophrenia, wrapped in crisp and thudding production, that’s characterised house music in 2012, and seen garage fight its way back onto dancefloors.
“I’ve experienced so many different scenes in electronic music,” he explains when we ask about this blending of influences. “From jungle and hardcore raves to underground techno parties, going to events like Sonar and the whole Ibiza thing. I’ve enjoyed and been influenced by a whole range of music and have a lot of love for a wide range of genres.”
Even the multi-faceted sound of Last Magpie isn’t enough to hold his experimental interest, and he also produces and DJs under at least one different moniker — although he’s keeping that under wraps for now. It’s especially impressive, considering he only made his first forays into production fairly recently, when he finally chucked his factory job and enrolled in a music production course at college. That jump has paid dividends, and he’s now been warmly welcomed into the extended Hypercolour family, an enviable place for an up-and-coming producer to be.
“They’re good lads to party with,” he laughs. ”And they’re forward-thinking, and have a great breadth to the music they put out. It gives me the freedom to produce a wide range of sounds, and explore all the different styles of electronic music I enjoy.” With a host of new releases slated for the label in 2013, we eagerly await hearing how those explorations turn out.
There’s no shortage of somnambulant deep house around, but it’s rare to find any that’s as infectious as that crafted by Adelaide emigrant Ben Sun. Though based in London, tracks like ‘Love Hotel’, replete with sunset guitar licks, or the blissful synth stabs on ‘Path Of Nonattachment’, reference the sunnier climes of his homeland, and mark him out in a sea of the uninspired.
Sun unsurprisingly cites Theo Parrish as an inspiration, and the Detroit wizard sits strongly in his lush, sweeping sound. Working with an almost exclusively hardware studio to avoid “distraction from the essential bits”, there’s a rawness to Sun’s productions that fits perfectly with his new home, Delusions Of Grandeur.
After a 2012 that’s seen him play alongside the likes of Floating Points, and push his own label Voyeurhythm into ever brighter places, 2013 looks set to be the year he punches his way into the upper echelons of house.