Parisian duo Loge21 have released a grip of production gold from their new Unprocessed LP, touting forward-thinking bass and G-house.
With eight tracks, the heavy-hitting project introduces the set with “Revenge,” a fist-pumping bass house thrasher with sustained synths that lift the production’s dark tonality. The second track, “UZI,” carries a more familiar G-house sound while “Cratedigger” proceeds with a more glitched-out bass house skeleton with familiarities akin to Skrillex and JOYRYDE‘s “AGEN WIDA.” “Breaklaw” also follows this formula, for a complex tonal percussion masked through heavy sampling. The entire compilation showcases a variety of styles within the bass house arena.
Dexter’s Beat Laboratory is a weekly collection of songs from DA managing editor Robyn Dexter. With a taste that can only be described as eclectic—to say nothing of a name that lends itself to punnery—DA is happy to present a selection of tracks personally curated by Dexter for your listening pleasure.
When I started using SoundCloud in early 2014, I made playlists weekly (read: obsessively). I’ve backed off a bit in recent years, but I still take time to collect songs for my yearly “best of” playlist, which I create every January and add to throughout the year. In late December for the past five years, I’ve narrowed it down to my 50 favorite releases of the year. They range from hard-hitting anthems to serene soundscapes, which truly sums up my music preferences.
2019 was a stellar year for drum ‘n’ bass, exhibited in tracks like Kove‘s “Le Retour,” Koven‘s “Love Wins Again,” 1991‘s “Guiding Light,” Metrik‘s “Hackers,” and so many more. The genre took some fun twists and turns, which fans heard in Mat Zo‘s Latin-infused “Games” and Sub Focus‘ earth-shattering remix of Bring Me The Horizon‘s “Mother Tongue.”
This year saw the arrival of a slew of monstrous collaborations—some unexpected and some that simply made sense. Regardless, tracks like Sullivan King and Grabbitz‘s “Crazy As You” and Delta Heavy and Zeds Dead‘s “Lift You Up” blew my mind. I was delighted when Fox Stevenson and Feint teamed up on a remix of the former’s “Out My Head,” since it flawlessly combined both their styles.
Speaking of Fox Stevenson, the UK producer released his highly anticipated album, killjoy, this year, and it’s a dynamic journey through all sides of the producer’s capabilities. Goldroom wowed me with his double-sided, multi-faceted Plunge/Surface effort, which has quite a story behind it. I had a hard time picking a favorite from A R I Z O N A‘s nostalgic Asylum LP, which is gorgeous and heart-wrenching from start to finish. I also need to mention what was likely my most-listened-to album of the year, which isn’t on SoundCloud: Ollie Wride’s Thanks in Advance. It’s gold. I lived in the aforementioned albums this year, and I’m so grateful to the artists who made them for sharing their creativity with the world.
Without further ado, here are my 50 favorite songs of 2019, in no particular order.
Gearing up for an extended agenda of 2020 tour dates, the notorious Gary Richards, aka Destructo, is back with a new house jam, “Twisted.” Per usual, it’s been another active year for the LA-based DJ/entrepreneur, touring his live sets while sitting as current president of LiveStyle. Richards oversees all of North America for the large-scale festival machine, with properties including Electric Zoo, Life In Color, Mysteryland, AMF Seattle, and more. Most recently, he performed alongside Diplo, MK, Justice, and others at an All My Friends flagship event in downtown LA.
Heading into the holidays, Richards plans to keep the party going with “Twisted,” the latest in his G-house arsenal, which samples “Got It Twisted” by iconic hip-hop duo Mobb Deep. The original release from 2004 brings us farther down the sampling rabbit hole, borrowing from a 1980s hit by Thomas Dolby, all of which is encapsulated in the Destructo revamp on top of hard-hitting bass, swaying leads, and a drop primed for the warehouse front.
Richards will kick off 2020 with the second edition of his new AMF cornerstone, the Friendship cruise, running January 6-10, hosting a wide range of performers like Ty Dolla $ign, GRiZ, and TroyBoi. After the boat ride, he’ll officially embark on the Twisted Tour, beginning in February. Head here for tickets and more information.
A thick cloud of uncertainty loomed over the months leading up to the 2019 iteration of Spring Awakening Music Festival. A venue change for any festival leaves a precarious taste on a prospective attendee’s tongue. With one location swap already in recent memory (the move from its iconic Soldier Field footing to Addams Medill Park in 2016), organizers of the Midwest’s largest strictly electronic music festival had plenty of work ahead them following the announcement that Spring Awakening would not only be on the move again, but would be altogether leaving Chicago: its longtime, hallowed home. The somewhat nebulous news of the upcoming edition landing about an hour outside of Chicago, in Hoffman Estates, was at first daunting, as seen in the discordant social media reactions from repeat patrons of the festival. There were quite a few qualms to assuage—indeed.
Though, with the latest chapter of Spring Awakening, React Presents proved that its hallmark event has deservedly endured the treacherous festival front, where so many promising productions have folded in recent years.
The most apparent ingredient in the June affair’s success was a lineup that obviously spoke to its audience. Trend-setting talent from the bass-centric house domain came in droves, compliments of quintessential electronic curator, Gary Richards, and his All My Friends stage takeover, while deeper, melodic appetites found plenty of fuel from a long length of Anjunabeats‘ renowned repertoire. All the while, scene staples like REZZ, Chris Lake, Rusko, Illenium, and last-minute addition to replace an injured Martin Garrix, Kaskade, made the 2019 ticket all-the-more difficult to turn down. In its aftermath, the bygone roster of this year’s Spring Awakening echoes the famed Field of Dreams adage: “If you build it, they will come.”
But besides a robust, wide-reaching lineup, Spring Awakening saw its 27-acre Poplar Creek festival grounds succeed in rectifying much of the sound-bleeding issues it’s experienced in past years. Some traffic stoppages at the entrance and exits (mostly confined to the event’s first day), and a smattering of mud (mitigated partially by organizers as the festival stretched on) throughout the venue proved to be the primary, isolated complaints from the 26-30,000 attendees the festival amassed each day of its three-day run.
This year, Dancing Astronaut sought to get the artists’ perspectives on not only the newest chapter of Spring Awakening, but its legacy in the national and Chicago event spaces. We sat down with both first-time performers at the fest and well-oiled veterans, rounding up talent from different ends of the map, including native Chicagoans (Porn and Chicken), Aussies (Dom Dolla and What So Not), even a Frenchman (Shiba San) for good measure. Here are their takes:
Nora En Pure
Real name, Daniela Di Lillo, En Pure has traversed the Chicago club scene quite extensively over the years, though 2019 was the South African-Swiss artist’s first Spring Awakening. The “Come With Me” producer has been a revered name in the deep/melodic four-by-four realm for years, touting a length of accolades for her mixing proficiency, ever-apparent in her radio show/event series, Purified.
I love playing Chicago. It’s a great city for me to play: very music-driven. It’s very rewarding. You can play more elaborately and really try things.
Of the 2019 lineup:
…very diverse, I like that there are not too many similar acts to me, so I can play my sound and people can appreciate it. It’s a mix between that really uplifting stuff and deeper stuff… sticking to the melody.
All My Friends label head and taste-making guru, Destructo (Gary Richards) returned to Spring Awakening this past year, with a trove of on-the-rise talent in hand. As one of the first festival organizers to book acts like Diplo and Skrillex at his Southern Californian and now-ubiquitous brainchild, HARD Events, Richards is certainly no stranger to simply figuring out what’s cool from the underground, and feeding it to the masses.
My parent company, LiveStyle, owns the festival. It was a natural fit to bring an All My Friends stage here. But also too I feel like every one of our festivals we do needs that bass-house lane. It was fortunate enough that we got our hand in Spring Awakening. It’s just really worked out. I think it’s important for the scene as a whole to make sure this festival stays healthy.
On what goes into curating a stage takeover:
Finding the new breed of producers, trying to showcase new talent and bring up new people. Dance music’s all about the new. I think the masses only know the tried-and-true names, and I’m trying to break through new people to keep it fresh, but also to help those young producers really shine.
What So Not
One of the most omnipresent talents in the electronic ether, Australian-born What So Not was another familiar face at the most recent Spring Awakening effort, having played the fest in 2017. A driving source of innovation not just in his cross-genre niche, but the scene at large, What So Not’s most prominent cuts — like “Gemini” and his “Innerbloom” remix — continue to resound throughout festival grounds across the globe.
It’s a great festival to come out for. Last time I played, I think it was at 3 pm; really hot. They were struggling to move—staring into the sun. I remember being like, ‘Come on guys, let’s dance.’ They all just kind of laughed like ‘We’re trying!’ I’ve got some friends coming on a little bit later I’m really excited to catch, like [DJ] Snake. The Bass Tent looks like it’s going crazy. I want to go in there, put on a hoodie, and go get sweaty.
A Dirtybird crown jewel and more-than-seasoned purveyor of infectiously animated deep and tech-house, Shiba San returns to Spring Awakening as one of the lineup’s most coveted acts. Having established his very own label, Basement Leak, along with several acclaimed EP releases, the Parisian producer has certainly been busy since his last Spring Awakening stop.
Spring Awakening was one of the first festivals I played in the US, around the time I played HARD. It was so packed, and very special. I started my house music with the ’80s house music of Chicago. Each time I play in Chicago, I remember where house music came from. Chicago is house music. I’ve been waiting on an offer to play Spring Awakening again for a while.
I think they do a good job of placing up-and-coming artists at good times and fair stages. It can be hard for smaller artist to play a big stage at 2 PM, and then no one shows up.
Another Aussie, by the name of Dom Dolla, made his Spring Awakening debut this year. The “Take It” artist is quickly proving himself one of the most enticing propagators of the forward-thinking tech-house sound that’s taken American festival stages for ransom of late.
American audiences are super excited: house music is evolving so fast for them. Australia has quite a few established cultures. We’ve got our tech-house scene, a bass-house scene, a progressive/melodic scene, and all these established artists who tour within them. But dance music really only started to hit America in a commercial sense a few years ago. It’s been a really interesting tipping point observing what I can get away with in a set.
I’m performing a lot tech-ier here than I was a few years ago. I think the focus [at Spring Awakening] is very much on dubstep, trap, and that EDM sound, but I think they’ve picked their house artists really well, Shiba San, Chris Lake. It’s a distinctly American house sound, that Blackbook Records, Dirtybird sound, which I love.
Porn and Chicken
Having played the festival every year since its inception, Porn and Chicken are the invariable authorities on all things Spring Awakening. Known for their outlandish and voraciously attended event series (of which, unsurprisingly, visuals of porn and chicken are a cornerstone), the Chicago-based “dubstep-rock” crossover outfit has had one the most intimate vantage points of Spring Awakening’s progression.
We first played the festival on the Red Bull truck, which is no longer here. The stages are 10 times the size. This festival has grown as much as we have over the years. I feel like we were babies when we first played it. It’s been very interesting to see how the festival has matured, as we have as performers over the years. The festival’s identity is almost parallel to ours. [Spring Awakening has] faced so many challenges… But it’s bigger than it’s ever been.
The curation of the festival has always been electronic dance music, but throughout the years I think the sub-genres have been represented equally. You can find dubstep, you can find techno, you can find house, and everything else in between. It brings together all the best the world of dance music has to offer. I remember one of the first years we played: You could walk over and see Green Velvet on one stage and see Skrillex just across the way.
From the local level to the headliners, the festival takes care of you. They make sure that the local artists get a chance to shine.
The immersive two-day festival will have four curated stages, taking place in Rawhide Western Town & Event Center—Arizona’s massive 1880s western-themed entertainment venue. The venue is home to other Relentless Beats festivals including CRUSH Arizona, Decadence, Phoenix Lights, and many others.
There’s nothing more potent for an up-and-coming electronic music producer than an element of mystery; and Masteria doesn’t need a mask to achieve it.
Indeed, the Detroit-born artist has emerged in electronic ear view with the swiftness and precision of a winged warlock. In under a year, the shadow-friendly Masteria has gleaned support from just about the most auspicious players in his chosen, niche realm of house. This attention has yielded a decisive pair of EPs on Tchami‘s CONFESSION imprint, regular plays on both NightOwl Radio and Diplo’s Revolution, and most recently, an invite from Destructo to play at his branded AMFAMFAMF stage this year at Spring Awakening Jun 8.
In anticipation of his SAMF debut, Masteria has mixed a half hour of dastardly decadent groove-oriented house. From his new Billie Eilish “bad guy” remix, to a number of his own CONFESSION tracks, to a sundry of selects from equally ill-behaved counterparts, all nefarious aural ingredients are accounted for.
Masteria will also be playing the All My Friends after party with Destructo and What So Not Saturday Jun 8 at Spybar. Tickets to Spring Awakening and official after parties are available here.
Electronic music consumers over the last two decades would be hard-pressed to pinpoint an individual who’s impacted the dance music event space harder than Gary Richards. Since the 1990s, Richards (also known musically as Destructo) has taken his talents miles above their subterranean roots, largely helping shape the Southern Californian rave scene, relentlessly seeking new ways to secure dance music a more tangible, industry-wide foothold. From championing a quaint little get together, now known as Electric Daisy Carnival (incepted under the ‘Magical Mickey’ masthead, from when the event series bore Richards’ earmark in the ’90s), to hatching the now-legendary HARD Events, which bred the still fervently attended Holy Ship! and HARD Summer, he’s exuded a visionary’s proclivity for predicting (and propelling) the next electronic it thing oozing the je ne sais quoi that really makes an event stand above the rest.
Richards not only has a promoter’s penchant for garnering the excitement needed to get ideas off the ground, but a masterful musician’s tact to make them stick. A desire to liven up a scene subject to cyclical staleness served as the impetus for Richards’ most recent brainchild, branded AMFAMFAMF (All My Friends).
“The landscape is very competitive,” Richards said of picking up shop in 2017 after a decade at HARD to breathe life into yet another new endeavor. “There’s a lot at stake now and business people don’t want to see new things pop up. But dance music’s all about new and fresh and that really can’t be stopped.”
Though, despite the daunting nature of starting over in one of the most volatile industries in existence, the All My Friends event train gained almost instantaneous headwind, perhaps due to Richards’ own reputation preceding him. The first edition of the company’s cornerstone party, FriendShip Cruise, amassed thousands for its four-night maiden voyage aboard the Celebrity Equinox to the Caribbean. With it, came a colorful stream of genre-traversing acts, from Boys Noize to Busy P, RÜFÜS DU SOL to Rico Nasty. Richards’ seemingly curious curation must have struck a resounding chord, as the 2020 cruise is already 70 percent sold out.
In addition to a stint captaining Def American’s A&R sector under the emphatically accomplished eye of pioneer producer, Rick Rubin, driving innovation in the music industry is in Richards’ DNA. His father, Barry Richards, a concert promoter and prominent radio personality of the late ’60s and early ’70s, made sure his son’s sonic sonar was firing on all cylinders before he hit puberty, ensuring his kids got to catch everyone from Rick James to Black Sabbath. Barry himself is known for helping to introduce progressive rock to East Coast radio stations in his time. Quite ironically and somewhat timelessly, Barry certainly imparted his intuition and curative periphery to his son, as they stood on the precipice of a consequential musical uprising Barry never saw coming. Barry, it seems, believed Eminem when he quite comically announced “Nobody listens to techno,” on 2002’s unforgettable “Without Me.” Little could Barry have known at the time that Gary would famously sample the line years later for for his 2015 club sensation, “Techno.”
“My dad was always like ‘Don’t mess with that [electronic] music cause no one likes it,’” Richards said. “20 years later, he called me up and was like ‘Hey, what’s a Major Lazer?’”
With this perpetual irreverence for convention as a promoter/organizer, so comes Richards’ success as DJ-producer, Destructo; a success which can be characterized as a career-long dedication to discovering strange new ways to merge the house and hip-hop domains, which historically has been tough to do properly, even despite the two genres’ inextricably shared origins. Richards maintains his success as a musician is innately linked to his success on the business side of the coin.
“I think when you’re just a concert promoter you’ve never really been in the artists’ shoes, so you don’t really understand the nuances—especially DJing electronic music,” Richards said of his entrepreneurial edge amidst a capitalism-catalyzed sea of eager competitors.
Securing collaborations with rap icons like Ty Dolla $ign, YG, Yo Gotti, and Busta Rhymes, Destructo’s music soon became something of a G-house archetype: flippantly feel-good tracks for a night out up to no good. However, his latest record, a Dancing Astronaut exclusive, strides outside the hip-hop-predicated mold of his most notable works, for what Destructo himself dubs his “hardest-hitting track yet.”
“No Surrender” is a bass-driven battle cry primed for the perennially raucous festival frontlines. Bolstered by Parisian bass house duo, Loge21, the track employs Richards’ own thunderous, Sparta-inspired vocal cut. Destructo isn’t asking this time; he’s just cutting to the chase and coaxing listeners directly to dance floors.
AMFAMFAMF recently announced dates for both its Seattle and LA dates— Seattle will see a July 4 affair with Chris Lake and Justin Martin in tow, while LA’s October 19 – 20 event roster still remains a mystery. Though, as Richards’ newest festival property continues to build brand equity within a heavily diluted electronic events circuit, Richards’ is already sure of All My Friends’ longevity, noting it is one of his most important entrepreneurial accomplishments so far. “With that it’s the same Gary, just a different name,” says Richards. And if the last 20 years of dance music events are any indication—if it bears Gary Richards’ name, it’s going to be a hit.
Chicago’s premiere electronic music festival, Spring Awakening, has rolled out the official lineup for its branded stages: Destructo‘s All My Friends footing, an Anjunabeats onslaught, and SAMF’s longtime staple, the Bass Kitchen.
Anjuna will activate the three-day weekend, Friday, June 7, flaunting a fearsome inventory of trance, progressive, and melodic house from the likes of Spencer Brown, Andrew Bayer, Tinlicker, and more. Saturday will see the signature Bass Kitchen up in sweet sonic flames with a little help from Liquid Stranger, Dion Timmer, Spag Heddy, and more talent from the trap/dubstep dominion. Finally, Destructo will quite literally bring All his Friends for an AMFAMFAMF takeover Sunday, hallmarked by a performance by the label boss himself, Dombresky, Matroda, Dillon Nathaniel, and more in the bass-infused house hierarchy.
Spring Awakening, this year headlined by Excision, REZZ, Illenium, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, just to name a few, is setting up shop for the first time at its new home in Hoffman Estates, the 27-acre Poplar Creek, June 7-9.
Tickets to Spring Awakening, the full lineup, and additional festival information are available here.
Gonza and Destructo (real name, Gary Richards) have been aligning production savvy for a few years now, beginning with Gonza’s remix of Destructo’s “4Real” in 2017. The pair soon followed up with a full-fledged collaboration, their off-the-wall club stomper, “Shots To The Dome.” In a similar vein, their latest, “Rubber Band,” fires slapping percussion and rolling bass lines from all cylinders. The house-heathen frenzy stutters its way into an infectiously ostentatious vocal hook, followed by an onslaught of strobe-reminiscent synth pulses and percolating bass.
While Destructo’s prolific involvement in the LA and national event circuit (founding HARD Events and since establishing his already-flourishing new AMF imprint and coinciding festival series) speaks for itself, Gonza continues working towards solidifying household acclaim. Known for his drum-bolstered live sets, Gonza certainly has friends in high places. In addition to snagging multiple auspicious releases on CONFESSION and Night Bass, last year he followed hard house patriarch, Tchami, on tour across the US. Gonza’s found himself in good company yet again, as “Rubber Band” denotes.