Since the early 2000s, Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival has celebrated its city’s place in the history books. This year, as attendance soars and crowd-pleasing artists like deadmau5 pepper the bill, Patricia Johnson wonders if the best parties emerge as the main events draw to a close.
Seattle’s Decibel Festival is an impressive five-night dance music marathon, run almost entirely by dedicated volunteers and fueled by a genuine love for electronic music (and a whole lot of Red Bull). In its 11-year history, Decibel has earned a reputation as one of the best electronic music festivals in the United States and is therefore a respected authority on the best of dance music’s current offerings, from the hottest underground artists to genre-defining veterans.
DJ Bianca Oblivion has only been in town for a year, but her booty dropping rhythms and slick LA style are are already taking over the city. She’s proven her skills at numerous venues including Good Life and Zuzu, where she’s landed a residency at weekly party Zuesdays. Her main mission: to inspire you to dance.
Alix Perez has been referred to as one of the biggest and best drum & bass producers since his first string of releases in 2005 and 2006. He quickly rose from the smaller drum & bass labels to the inimitable Shogun Audio with his full-length releases 1984in 2009 and Chroma Chords last year. Now, Perez moves to Exit Records with his latest EP, U.
What is it about dark, dingy basement rooms that makes for the best parties? The floor is sticky, the bathroom line is endless, the air is humid and thick with cigarette smoke, and the bar – if there is one – is only half-stocked with my least favorite liquor. In such a raw environment there are no frivolities and no pretension, and all that matters are the subs that shake my bones at just the right tempo. A single green laser cuts through the fog and I’m front and center, dancing like a lunatic with a goofy grin slapped on my face.
Voices of Black are Jules and Baba, two friends who met as high school students in Teaneck, New Jersey. The pair bonded over a shared eclectic taste in music and joined forces to create their own sounds. The multifaceted Voices of Black style draws from hip hop, house, soul, and funk, enriched with their own vocals and original lyrics.
Before the streaming giants took over with their algorithms and celebrity-curated playlists, independent music blogs ruled music discovery on the internet from the mid to late 2000s. They were seen as cultural curators — the DIY music distributors of the new internet age — offering up free (and often illegal) mp3s from undiscovered artists. Music blogs with a large community following had the capacity to launch a new artist’s career, earning them enough virtual praise to be noticed in the big leagues.
“VJs in general … we’re kind of like pirates,” says Jon Bonk, local visual artist and head of the Together Boston VJ Competition. “We just swoop in, set up our own equipment, stay late, and no one really knows exactly what we’re doing but they kind of like it.”
I spent countless hours of my ‘90s childhood in the backseat of my mom’s car, traveling between school, sports games, and birthday parties with her tunes as the soundtrack. A collection of cassette tapes in a cardboard box sat at my feet, the contents of which included Bonnie Raitt, the Neville Brothers, and James Taylor. Though I was only a subconscious listener, these routine car rides were among my first introductions to music and no doubt continue to shape my taste today.
Cooper’s concept behind Human, his first full-length release, is the human condition. Each track conveys a common theme–anger, warmth, relaxation, loneliness–thereby providing a look into the wide array of complex human emotion. The album twists and turns from one theme to the next, at times eerie and brooding, then abrasive and raging, and even soft and beautiful.
It takes a uniquely talented musician to find fresh sounds within one of the most ubiquitous musical instruments of our time. Berlin-based pianist Nils Frahm has achieved just this, experimenting with his craft unlike any before him to unite neo-classical, jazz, and electronic music.
I once understood live music as a one-way transaction: shell out $40 + fees to Ticketmaster, pack into a large venue with a crowd of flat-footed head bobbers, and stare straight ahead as a band reproduces their latest album on stage. I enjoyed it, sure, but live shows always left something to be desired; it was difficult to connect with the music by simply standing around and watching someone else perform.
Sara Abdel-Hamid is a renegade. First as a drummer in metal and hardcore bands, and now as an electronic music producer/DJ who evades categorization, she’s made a career out of balking at the traditional. She calls herself Ikonika, derived from iconoclast: “That means someone who destroys religious artifacts, but in my case it’s more to do with music. When I started out I was a little bit of anti- everything to do with the music industry.”
You’re probably already familiar with DJ/producer Riva Starr’s most popular track, whether or not you realize it. You’ve seen it on tank tops and drawstring backpacks at EDM festivals, and you’ve heard neon-clad college kids chanting the four-word title ad nauseam: “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat.” Riva Starr (otherwise known as Stefano Miele) released the track — a collaboration with Fatboy Slim, featuring vocals from Birdyman — in June of last year, and with the help of a remix from EDM king Calvin Harris, it has since become something of a raver’s mantra.
Jubilee, aka Jessica Gentile, is the reigning queen of the Brooklyn bass scene. The Miami native’s spicy medley of tropical beats, dancehall rhythms, and sassy rap anthems have been known to scald club dancefloors, and her playful personality on Radio Lily and Brooklyn Radio has earned her respect as a bass music tastemaker. Her latest EP,Pull Ova, is released today on Mixpak Records, and DJs are already dropping the grimey Miami bass track “I-95″. This Thursday Jubilee stops by our hood at Middlesex Lounge to celebrate her EP release and thaw our winter-weary bones.
Judging by the faces of my fellow morning commuters, we could all use a little cheering up. My antidepressant of choice? House music. It soothes your soul and stimulates the release of endorphins when you dance up your heart rate. Foolproof! This week’s DJ Set of the Week is a potent seventy-seven minute dose of uplifting piano chords, deep basslines, and tremendous vocals from the gospel house pioneer Terrence Parker.
Once upon a time, I found myself on a blind date (technically we exchanged numbers on the dark dance floor at Middlesex, but I think that still qualifies) with a quirky man sporting a sly grin and a mild case of crazy eyes. When I told him that I didn’t “get” Burning Man, he confidently informed me that it is “the coolest thing you will ever do, with the coolest people you will ever meet.” A bit hyperbolic, probably, but pretty much in line with everything else I’d heard about the dusty desert festival: it’s an experiment in self-expression, a spiritual journey, a radical community, a giant art project — all vague descriptions that mean little to someone who is used to structured music festivals with schedules, maps, and security. With no agenda, what could you possibly do for the ten full days you’re there?
Producer Jim Coles has spent his 20-year musical career migrating through different styles and artistic identities. As so many UK teens did in the ‘90s, Coles found his introduction to the rave scene through jungle. He spent the better part of a decade experimenting with breaks in his bedroom before emerging in 2003 as hip hop producer and turntablist 2tall. With three albums, several mixtapes, and recognition as a finalist in the DMC World DJ Championships on his 2tall resume, he had achieved a level of success that might keep some producers comfortable in their niche.
Fresh out of the car from Boston, I jumped in line at Output in Brooklyn and waited impatiently to start my weekend at the sixth annual Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival with the Skreamizm kick-off party. With three nights plus the Thursday pre-party featuring an intriguing lineup of underground artists at six of Williamsburg’s favorite music venues, you could say I was pretty excited.
House and techno DJ Cassy Britton is the definition of a globetrotter. She performs at clubs throughout the world and is regularly on the move, free of the urge to set down roots in any city. When we spoke with her over Skype, she had just enough time to give us some insight into her transient lifestyle before heading to a studio in Switzerland, where she planned to work on a remix with Swiss producer and sound engineer Lad Agabekov of Caduceus Records.
26-year-old DJ Oneman (née Steve Bishop) hails from South London. He’s known for seamlessly blending different styles of UK dance music from across decades, mainly garage, grime, dubstep, and UK funky—sounds synonymous with the London borough that raised him. His old school meets new school style is right at home at Rinse FM, the London radio station that has shaped underground electronic music for nearly 20 years.
Glaswegian producer Rustie is one producer mucking up the lines, blending a laundry list of genres so diverse that the resulting product defies classification. In fact, he’s been awarded his own genre: aquacrunk. Say wha? Unless you’ve devoted far more time than I have at keeping up with each and every trivial sub-genre development, then this word is probably utterly unhelpful in describing Rustie’s sound.
Appearing on a number of best-of lists, including RA’s top 20 live acts of 2012 and Beatport’s top 10 artists of 2012, Max Cooper’s experimental approach to electronic music has earned him the respect of both producers and listeners alike. Cooper is one of today’s most innovative electronic musicians, pushing both himself as an artist and us as listeners to transform how we experience music.
London duo Mount Kimbie has spent much of 2013 touring in support of their latest album, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, which was released on Warp Records this May. Often classified as post-dubstep alongside their close friend and collaborator James Blake, Mount Kimbie have expanded upon the strictly electronic sound present in their first release, Crooks & Lovers, to include a more human touch in the form of vocals and live instruments. Though they still produced the entire album on a computer, it’s difficult to tell that there were not actually any live instruments involved in the recording–and as a result, the album translates quite well to the stage.
This week, I bring you not one but two live DJ sets, both by Bulgarian house and techno producer KiNK. Our man Strahil Velchev is known for his hands-on live sets, which feature little pre-programming and a lot of composing on the fly. He even occasionally enlists the audience’s help to craft an original track live.
This week, dirtybird boss Claude VonStroke released his third full album, Urban Animal. The release is well-timed, with VonStroke and the rest of his dirtybird compadres currently riding an enormous wave of success after a prolific summer of festival tours and hit releases. The dirtybird name has become widely recognizable and synonymous with their own brand of unique house music featuring playful, bouncing bass. With Urban Animal, this is just what VonStroke delivers.
Detroit house OG Omar-S has a bit of a reputation. He’s notorious for his occasional aggressive attitude in interviews, for bitterly shunning the music industry, and for making the following statements, among others.
Disco: a glitter-coated pop music cheese-fest that hit its prime in the ‘70s… right? Maybe not, as in the past decade several notable artists have lead the disco revival with a modern upgrade in the form of nu-disco. The London-based Mighty Mouse is one such DJ helping to introduce this generation of club-goers to the genre with his own fresh perspective.
Emiliano Nencioni and Giacomo Godi, otherwise known as Italian duo Supernova, have been a considerable force in the house music world with the library of original productions and remixes of classic tracks that they’ve amassed since they began working together in 2002. They have brought their dynamic DJ sets to venues large and small across the globe, energizing dance floors with their funky mix of tech and deep house.