Too often underground dance music lacks mystery. Regardless of whether you like the DJs in the Top 100 poll, there's no denying they get full marks for dressing up. Cool cats might argue giant mouse ears, boxes on heads and oversized glasses merely serve to mask the soul (or lack of) underlying the music of a scene that's more of a light show than a feeling, but when it comes to the crate-digging end of the spectrum there are enough bald beardy blokes in flat caps named Terry or Phil to fill a Wetherspoons. That's exactly why Kenny Dixon Jnr is such a marvel. Not only does he play (and make) some of the classiest funk-laden deep house on the planet with distinctive style, his Moodymann alias is as sleazy and rambunctious as the music, oozing personality that's ever present when he DJs, throwing together vinyl and barking on the mic with attitude.
Press-shy, he's rarely interviewed, preferring to remain elusive so that his larger-than-life comedy character persona remains intact. Whether he's guzzling liquor with a beer belly, a comb wedged in his afro, or dressed in dapper purple velvet — but always flanked by divas (his sisters) on roller skates — this Motor City don isn't a musician, he's a one man show. Instead of hiding behind his image, he uses music to make it real.
For many these days, DJing isn't an art, it's a means to an end. A way to make money after blowing up, courtesy of a big Beatport hit. Sven Weisemann is an exception to this rule. Despite putting out two albums and releasing an illustrious back catalogue of wax for labels like Mojuba and Essays, it's as a DJ he is loved most.
A disc jock who pays as much attention to his mixing as he does his tune selection (which is a lot!), his technical ability on the controls is immaculate, granting him full freedom to build the mood and tone of a set gradually while using the odd tricky flick of the crossfader to keep people on their toes. A guy you can rely on for the warm-up all the way through to closing, Sven — grinning throughout, his head jaunting repetitively in the booth — is likely to enjoy it as much as the dancefloor. A lover of the rich house and techno heritage of Chicago and Detroit, his policy is to dig through and find the deepest, most lush textures from across generations and mix them into a shuffling, rhythmic concoction of crisp percussion and blissed-out samples. Not afraid to throw in a broken step here and there, he's a sonic architect of the finest pedigree and more aware than most of the subtleties of frequency, key and sub-bass. Rather than fetishise the past, somehow he manages to make things feel fresh and edgy while keeping it classic, timeless even — and that's why we love him.
Boiler Room spoofs aside, Ben Klock is a true master. Techno was built on moving forward; after all, you'll be hard pushed to find a more worthy ambassador. A Berghain regular, you get the impression that black, sooty industrial silt pumps through this guy's veins rather than blood; open up his skull you're more likely to find a complex of cyborg circuits than gooey brain matter. His DJ sets are the stuff of Terminators too. Greased hydraulically throughout, his metronomic laser-guided hand is one of the most controlled masters of steely, sinewy techno there is. From Truncate to Trevino, you may know what to expect from his sets, but you're never quite sure where you gonna go — each session, a mind-boggling descent into a twisted wormhole that will chew up and spit you out a sweaty, saucer-eyed mess four hours later. And the fact he once dropped the Grandstand theme tune in homage to a certain YouTube video, we know he has a sense of humour too.
You only need look at Jane Fitz's annual summer festival residencies to get some idea of the reputation she's amassed over two decades of playing everywhere from New York to Berlin, Goa to Tokyo. A key fixture at infamous Welsh jaunt Freerotation, Bulgaria's freewheeling Meadows in the Mountains and UK newbie Field Maneuvers, her blend of early UK acid house, spacey grooves and psychedelic tech has seen her play in every form of surrounding, indoor and out, all on the basis of an unfailing feel for the floor. You can sample it at Night Moves, the nomadic London party that she runs with fellow resident Jade Seatle, or their summer Day Moves party. If you're too far away to check any of those just yet though, don't sweat it. She's just committed her debut release to vinyl, as one half of production duo Invisible Menders, which is available now on Porn Wax with a string of further releases to follow.
The pendulous relationship between New York and London night life is in constant flux, but anyone who has spent time in NYC recently can tell you exactly whose court the ball is currently in. Emerging from the city's underground scene of voguers and club kids, Michael Magnan is the lynchpin of its fiercest parties, working closely with tireless promoter of the moment, Ladyfag. Serving up classic runway tracks, the latest ballroom SoundCloud cuts, UK and US bass and house, and indeed anything else that will move the floor, he's resident at the weekly 11:11, which counts nightlife legend Amanda Lepore amongst its hosts and Honey Dijon as another resident, as well as warehouse extravaganza Shade and the recently launched Holy Mountain, which promises to bring together the city's various tribes on the dancefloor. Listen out for Magnan's budding productions too as one half of Fatherhood, alongside Berlin-based Physical Therapy.
He's played in Berlin, Helsinki, Tokyo and Melbourne over the last few months, but Jerome Hill's heart is firmly hitched to the sound of UK breakbeats. Blasting out around the world with his weekly Roots of Rave show on Kool FM/Koollondon.con (every Wednesday 11am-1pm GMT), Hill's been cutting and scratching since the '90s, compiling his collection from behind the counter of record shops such as Dragon Disc and Trackheads, and honing his turntable skills from his days on '90s soundsystem, JIBA, to his current bi-monthly party Don't — as well as touring as scratch DJ with hardcore hip-hop crew The Criminal Minds. With a love of everything from hip-hop to acid techno, via Northern bleep, hardcore, jungle and even dancehall and '50s/'60s rock 'n' roll, if it has bass or breaks, it's likely he's involved in some way. It also explain why he needs three labels to help feed his record bag; Don't, Fat Hop and Super Rhythm Trax, the latter of which has just released his own 'Paper Bag Acid' EP.