Launchpad is a playlist series showcasing music we love, hand selected by our staff. The tracks come from both emerging and mainstream artists; it’s all about the quality and the unexpected. If you’d like your music featured in Launchpad, submit it for consideration here.
House music’s appeal runs deep. From the jackin’ house that pours out of Chicago to this day, characterized by its repetitive 4/4 beats, drum machine rhythms, off-beat hi-hat cymbals, and synthesized basslines, to the present tides of “deep house” and future house that are washing over the music world, the chances are high that listeners will fall in love with the genre — especially considering its deeply entrenched, continual evolutions and odes to the past. Today, we’re premiering a sweeping Launchpad playlist of house music. It’s filled with tribal house and progressive house, but no matter what you’re into, it’s plenty easy to get lost in this playlist.
DA Launchpad Selects: Domenic Cappello – “Time to Begin”
Domenic Cappello’s “Time to Begin” is one of three lush cuts on the Sub Club resident’s debut EP which came out in early-December under his own name. Over the years, Cappello’s gone on to headline some of the UK’s best underground clubs. Between Back2Basics to Plastic People, to Fabric, as well as Berlin’s Panorama Bar and Paris’ The Rex. Domenic’s work has certainly aided in solidifying Sub Club’s legacy for years to come, so it’s only right we commemorate the release of this legend’s new EP with a feature on this playlist.
Kim Anker – “Stay (ft. Andrew)”
Newcomer Kim Anker’s “Stay” is a chilled-out track that beckons its listeners to throw it on in rotation.
Tracklist: Demuir – “El Latino Es Negro” Domenic Cappello – “Time To Begin” JR from Dallas – “Downtown City (Sebb Junior Remix)” Jackson Snapp – “Another World” Kim Anker- “Stay (ft. Andrew)”
DA Presents: 15 artists that rocked the underground in 2017
Dance music’s second wind persists at a seemingly endless rate. In fact, its current boom has resulted in a complete infusion of the genre and into the fabric of the mainstream; megastars like Calvin Harris, The Chainsmokers, and Kygo have helped shepherd in a new age of ubiquity and recognition from the masses.
The mainstream isn’t the only area of EDM that has flourished. A renaissance of sorts is currently underway below the surface, with subgenres like progressive, techno, and house exploding back into the public eye with new vigor.
As 2017 comes to a close, Dancing Astronaut undertook the arduous task of selecting 15 underground artists that were particular standouts throughout the past year — in our subjective opinion, of course. We also made special mention to two artists that consistently push music forward in their respective arenas.
Words by Christina Hernandez, Grace Fleisher, and John Flynn
Zak Khutoretsky, better known onstage as DVS1, has brought warehouse techno to some truly interesting places. The Berghain/Panorama Bar resident has pushed the sonic boundaries of techno in obvious places like London and Berlin, but has also found himself at more all encompassing festivals such as Florida’s Okeechobee, Belgium’s Tomorrowland, and Ibiza’s CircoLoco event. Equipped with an arsenal of more than 30,000 records, experience at some of the world’s most established techno clubs, and an admiration for purist techno, Khutoretsky has broken ground in the global technosphere by forming his own dark sonic landscape.
Words by: John Flynn
Amelie Lens is on the ascension as Belgium’s latest techno stalwart. After debuting on the Italian Lyase Recordings, Lens is paving her way as an impenetrable force in the genre. She’s finished off the year with her Stay With Me EP, which is a heightened juxtaposition of both the beauty and form of techno. In an utmost surrendering to the astounding, Lens boasts her ominously pulsating prowess, complete with a thrilling remix from the esteemed Perc.
Considering Lens’ 2017 standing with Drumcode labelmates, an occupation of copious underground lineups around the world, and her own nights at Labyrinth club in Hasselt, she brought her foreboding techno to a circuit where it will deservedly reign for quite some time.
Words by: Grace Fleisher Photo Credit: Guy Houben
Jeremy Olander had an undeniably powerful 2017 — a result following his creativity down a path that has since placed him among the ranks of fellow Swedes like Eric Prydz and Adam Beyer. The year saw his Vivrant imprint come into its own, defining its dark, progressive ethos with releases by Khen, Tim Engelhardt, and more recently, André Hommen. Additionally, the former Pryda Friend released some of his most well-loved pieces yet on his label, in the form of his Damon and Gattaca EPs.
His success extended outside Vivrant in plenty of other ways as well: in May, he made his debut on Bedrock alongside Cristoph, only to move onto Anjunadeep in December with a euphoria-inducing Crossed. Having also underwent an enormous year of touring, which included a residency in LA, it’s safe to say that 2017 was the year of Olander.
Words by: Christina Hernandez
Floating Points — real name Sam Shepherd — has been a mainstay in experimental techno for quite some time, but it was only until this year that he began to boil to the surface of mainstream music. After releasing the wildly innovative Nuits Sonores/Nectarines, he released his debut album Elaenia much to the acclaim of critics. Performances at large scale festivals such as St. Jerome’s Laneway, Disclosure’s Parklife, and Pukkelpop under his belt, 2017 marked a capstone year for Floating Points.
Possibly the largest indication of mainstream infiltration, though, were Shepherd’s performances at Coachella this year, performing both with his expansive 11-piece live band The Floating Points Ensemble and in a packed Yuma tent for a three hour back to back DJ set with colleagues Four Tet and Daphni. Needless to say, 2017 marked a momentous year for the intellectual techno auteur.
Words by: John Flynn
With the release of her highly anticipated album, The Best Of Both Worlds, in the fall of 2017, Honey Dijon has delivered a testament to her extensive background and immense knowledge of dance music with a compelling bevy of material. As a black, trans woman, Dijon’s relationship with dance music is a culminated collection of necessity. Her music is beyond passion. In 2017, her cross-genre sets at Berghain, Space, Smart Bar, as well as her speaking out on issues of gender in club culture, solidified the need of cultural representatives like Honey Dijon in underground dance music culture. Considering Dijon’s involvement in the dance scene dates back to when she was 12-years-old, it’s likely that the future has even more in store, and thankfully so.
Words by: Grace Fleisher
Bedouin‘s late 2016 Essential Mix served as an indicator of the kind of year the pair would have in the coming months. However, 2017 brought even more milestones than one might have expected, and secured their reign over the deep, desert-inclined tech realm. They have been utterly unstoppable in past months, charting releases on Cityfox, All Day I Dream, and Crosstown Rebels with their sought-after remix of Pink Floyd’s classic, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” While dominating the music sphere with a plethora of new records, Bedouin also broke new ground in the promotion arena with the foundation of their SAGA series Ibiza, which saw the likes of Guy Gerber, Damian Lazarus, and more transform Heart into a mecca for all things mystical. The duo will only continue to build upon their strong 2017 foundation until they’ve reached the top.
Words by: Christina Hernandez
I Hate Models
Green to the techno world, the mysterious nature of I Hate Models is part of the purist techno producer’s M.O. Steeped in nebulous synth work and carried by the gut wrenching thud of fibrillating pulsations, I Hate Model’s brilliant soundscape is the result of authentic emotions and nothing less than a perfectionist desire to create near perfect techno music. Their 2016 EP Warehouse Memories catapulted I Hate Models to stardom with the seminal tune “Daydream,” which amalgamates a rapidly paced, thunderous kick pattern with Detroit-inspired space synths and acid melodies. “Melancholy, nostalgia, passions, the suffering self,” reads their official Biography, “The expression of personal feelings” it continues, “The taste for loneliness, the desire to flee, travel, dream…” IHM’s State of Control EP was another step in their artistic evolution, further solidifying them as one of underground techno’s most audacious newcomers in 2017.
Words by: John FlynnPhoto Credit: Helena Majewska
Despite having over two decades of music production experience, and releases on Hernan Cattaneo’s Sudbeat, Guy Mantzur’s Plattenbank, and more, Chicola just released his debut album Could Heaven Be on Guy J’s esteemed progressive label Lost & Found earlier this year. The LP spans twelve tracks and is an eloquent exploration of the Israeli artist’s personal dealings. Could Heaven Be boasts sinister drum work, but soars in its serene, cinematic soundscapes. Such sophistication is exactly what has allotted Chicola’s impressive array of work and sustained friendships in the underground. Chicola’s delectable builds and swathing beauty are inching towards the work of Dixon, Sasha, John Digweed, and Hernan Cattaneo; which is certainly something we can’t wait to watch come into fruition.
Words By: Grace Fleisher
Venezuelan duo Fur Coat have asserted their authority in the melodic techno realm, helping pioneer the rise of this relatively new sound with innovative new music and in purveying it to the global masses. After opening their year with an EP on Sasha’s Last Night On Earth, they proceeded to carve an even deeper niche into the underground with the foundation of their Oddity imprint and the subsequent release of a breathtaking Genesis EP. While only containing two bodies of work thus far, the fact that Dubspeeka, Natural Flow, and Slam have signed work onto the fledgling label demonstrates its caliber moving into the new year.
Fur Coat’s recognition extended into the indie pop world in 2017, with the outfit being tapped for re-working both Röyksopp and Sailor & I into their own ethereal interpretation.
Words by: Christina Hernandez
Charlotte De Witte
Charlotte De Witte spends most of her days traveling for gigs or at home in Belgium, where she is working steadfast to promote up and coming talent on her local radio show. Her native Belgian roots in the underground have provided a more than apt framework for the young DJ & producer to work from, but the world is also calling Charlotte De Witte’s name. The myriad festivals that De Witte has performed at in 2017 is striking: Dour Festival, Awakenings, Tomorrowland, EXIT, Oasis Festival, the list goes on. With four EPs under her belt in 2017, and a plethora of commanding live performances, Charlotte De Witte has solidified herself as one of techno’s most forthright newcomers.
Words by: John Flynn
Maceo Plex pupil and Argentinian techno phenom Shall Ocin has carved himself a unique niche in sinister techno over the last few years. Ocin has a knack for the foreboding analog, which is largely driven by the use of modular synths. The underground mainstay has even established his very own Clash Lion imprint. The label’s very first release was from Maceo Plex himself, albeit under his Maetrik alias. Shall Ocin’s doubled down on his diverse output of gut-wrenching techno in his latest EP Bounty Hunter. It’s brimming with atmospheric modulations, slow pulsating synth work, and an experimental analog amalgam. Ocin’s passion for innovation is clear, and with a demonstrated ability to continually work outside of his previous material — he’s even closed out the year with a Beatport artist of the week mix — Ocin’s proving to be an impenetrable installment in the underground circuit.
Words by: Grace Fleisher
The word “Rinzen” translates to “sudden awakening” — a definition that couldn’t be any more pertinent to Michael Sundius’ development under the moniker throughout the past year. He found a new home on Mau5trap beginning with his original debut “Renegade,” and has since shown the dance sphere just how deep his creativity runs. Years of hardwork culminated in Forbidden City — his first ever EP — which stole music afcionados’ hearts with its enchanting, yet sinister storyline that depicts a hero’s journey by way of cinematic string elements and clever synthwork. Not to mention, his skills attracted promoters at Brooklyn’s prolific club Output, who placed trust in him to spend the entirety of NYE weekend opening for both Cristoph and Eric Prydz. With a fire that burns stronger, tangible passion for his craft, and a strong sense of humility, we predict great things are in story for Rinzen after such a dynamic first year on the scene.
Words by: Christina HernandezPhoto credit: Michael Drummond
UK based Jay Donaldson — aka Palms Trax — has acquired a taste for a plethora of world influences ranging from Chicago house to European Nu-Disco, and everywhere in between. Donaldson has made waves with his Cooking with Palms Trax radio show (which has now become a full blown residency at Glasgow’s intimate , expansive boiler room sets, and performances at festivals such as Dekamantel, Glitch Festival, and CRSSD, as well as in such legendary clubs as Berlin’s Berghain. By amalgamating sounds from across the entire globe, Palms Trax’s sets feel like a voyage from nation to nation, plucking groove heavy flutes, synths, and drums from nearly every geographic region and time period.
Words by: John Flynn
Since the inception of Rødhåd’s first record on his Dystopian label in 2012, the underground purveyor has been praised by innumerable global mavens. Artists like Jeff Mills, Marcel Dettmann, Ben Klock, Laurent Garnier, Sven Väth, and more, have praised Rødhåd as the king of the anti-establishment underground. He’s built his reputation on an immersive idiosyncrasy and delivered dramatic, engulfing sets at industrial utopias around the world. More recently Rødhåd’s slung out a cavernous catalog of brooding, cinematic techno. In 2017, the Berlin native delivered his enveloping 10-track album Anxious. The record’s an aptly-named theatric affair, which Rødhåd’s described as “the time we live in.” Expectedly, it served as an integral timepiece of the brooding, underground circuit, which will propel the brand of afflicted release to entirely new heights, and continue to allow listeners to lose themselves, only to discover new dimensions in the acts that will follow in Rødhåd’s foreboding footsteps.
Words by: Grace Fleisher
Henry Saiz is an artist in every sense of the world, pouring his entire being into each production and going above and beyond to seek innovative new ways to compose music. Having succeeded in crowdfunding his expansive new audiovisual album project, 2017 saw the artist and his band travel to new realms to both create and roadtest new musical concepts. This endeavor bled into his outputs for 2017; at the tail end of September, he earned a nomination for the Essential Mix of the Year after making his debut on the series. Prior to that, he celebrated the 10th anniversary of his Natura Sonoris label with a rare second contribution to the Balance mix series. Progressive and electronica are having a moment currently, and Saiz has proved himself to be one of the leaders in this new revolution.
Words by: Christina HernandezPhoto credit: Chris Soltis
Special Mention: The Black Madonna
Marea Stamper told Resident Advisor in 2014 that she hoped to embody “the core values of inclusion and pure dance euphoria.” In the year of #MeToo, where women spoke out against their oppressors, and where sexual assault outings, misogyny, and political turmoil seemed to unravel on an endless timeline, The Black Madonna doubled down on the use of her platform as a voice for the voiceless. Her music amplified the voices of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. Stamper’s sets raised up the central voices of club history — ones that have been forced to the periphery or silenced entirely — through a provocative exudence of acid house, disco, and outright emotion. In 2017, the Black Madonna seamlessly linked the past and the present through her track “He Is The Voice I Hear.” Dedicated to a string of disco legends —Larry Levan, Walter Gibbons, and Loleatta Holloway — the multifarious number rode out a spine-tingling idiosyncrasy, encapsulating her aforementioned goal — as if she hadn’t already — with an apt juxtaposition of anxiety and groove. Without uttering a word, the harrowing empowerment of “He Is The Voice I Hear” spoke volumes and epitomized the socioeconomic atmosphere of an entire year that had still yet to unfold.
Words by: Grace Fleisher
Special Mention: Hernan Cattaneo
There’s a reason why Hernan Cattaneo is called “El Maestro” among fans. He possesses an uncanny ability to mix records, making seamless transitions and taking his audiences on a deep journey within themselves through each of his sets. While he serves as a continual pillar of inspiration within the progressive, and underground sphere as a whole, the Argentinian legend also had some key milestones in 2017 to date. His Sudbeat label saw an abundance of releases, and he was also able to assemble a powerhouse slate of artists to help kickstart the year with a Balance compilation. We imagine this incredible artist will continue to use his platform to proliferate top quality music as 2018 sets into place.
2017 would prove to be a career defining year for Zedd, the producer dethroning his 2012 Foxes feature, “Clarity,” as his most recognizable single via the release of “Stay,” a track that would not only earn Zedd his second double platinum certification plaque, but a VMA for Best Dance Video, and a Grammy nomination to boot. Departing with his highly celebrated single and Grey in tow, Zedd hit the road on his 12-date North American Echo Tour.
Photo Credit: @zedd/Instagram
A masterpiece of modern electronic production, the Echo Tour proved to be an intricately designed venture both highly stylized and deeply experiential in nature. Reflective of Zedd’s self professed desire to engage a multitude of “…senses that come together into one experience,” the Echo Tour appealed to sight, sound, feel, and touch via visuals, color and lighting, lasers, smoke, and of course, Zedd’s musical library. Far from hesitant to lay claim to the choreographed quality of his shows, Zedd acknowledges “Every song that I’ve ever played has a specific visual that goes with the song,” but the pre-show preparation extended beyond just that—the producer also matched specific lighting and color effects to each song, rehearsing the ensembles prior to the tour’s debut. The effects that characterize the Echo Tour’s individual shows, however, are produced live, projected to the crowd in real time despite the tour’s various pre-debut run throughs.
Photo Credit: @zedd/Instagram
An exposition of Zedd’s progression as artist, performer, and production strategist, the Echo Tour contained a message that was reiterated on each show date. Those that identified Zedd as an ‘artist to watch’ back in his earliest days had their fingers firmly planted on the pulse of dance music’s future, a rhythm that has beat with increasing intensity given Zedd’s continued ascendance to electronic acclaim.
Mastermind of progressive house and music industry satire, Joel Zimmerman brought his ‘lots of shows in a row’ tour to an international audience in 2017. Kicking off at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom in March, the tour made noteworthy stops at large scale festivals and venues alike including Mysteryland, Creamfields, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Shrine Auditorium, Tomorrowland and Hï Ibiza.
Photo Credit: EDM Tunes
The crown jewel of deadmau5’s recent tour was the new and improved Cube 2.1, which boasted state-of-the-art LED screens and crystal clear, new graphics for an unparalleled visual experience. Standing at 15 feet tall and 16 feet wide, the behemoth showed comedic images of dancing cows, wonky-eyed mice, and even a tribute to the video game Rocket League among other visuals during deadmau5’s sets.
Hypnotic tracks like “Relax” and “Premonition” were brought to life with hauntingly psychedelic visuals, tied together by REZZ’s signature LED goggles. Mass Manipulation was indeed achieved across the Mau5trap supported tour, which made notable stops at Ultra Japan, Electric Zoo, EDC Orlando, Something Wicked among others. After selling out numerous locations along the way, it’s no wonder REZZ was recently named Billboard Dance’s “Breakout Artist of the Year.”
ODESZA’s critically acclaimed A Moment Apart journey has seen the group move between sold out stadium-sized arenas all over the country, with Sofi Tukker and Chet Porter in tow as openers. Since its inception in Spring, the ever-evolving A Moment Apart set has morphed slowly over time to include new songs from the album, live edits with a full drum line, and many unreleased surprises along the way. On a given night, it takes a team of 60 people all working relentlessly behind the scenes to put on a show of this scale.
That the tour necessitates many helping hands is hardly a surprise given the many components it’s comprised of. Among their rotating cast of live instrumentalists, ODESZA play along trombonists, trumpeters, guitarists, and a choreographed drum line. The sonic elements combine with lighting looks ranging from moody hues to glittering whites flank lasers, pyrotechnics, and smoke as the special effects that work in tandem to create the tour’s ethereal aesthetic.
Pictured: Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight of ODESZA organize the order in which songs and special effects will appear on The A Moment Apart Tour on a white board with Post-It notes denoting respective songs and effects.
Photo Credit: Julian Bajsel
Beyond the music, the standout feature of the tour is the stunning visual production, headed up by Saxton Waller, former lighting designer to STS9. With all that ODESZA has been able to accomplish this year creatively, it’s no wonder they are rumored to appear high on Coachella’s 2018 lineup
Over his storied career, Richie Hawtin has become an influential part of Detroit techno’s most revered proponents. With a deep back catalog of accomplished releases under his belt and a reputation for crafting fabled live sets extempore, Hawtin has deservedly solidified his status as a global force in the genre.
Richie Hawtin’s Close tour existed at the intersection of anthropomorphic spontaneity and robotic absorption. Utilizing vantage point cameras from a multitude of angles and a plethora of live instrumentation devices including computers, mixers, and drum machines, Hawtin was able to create a fleeting, mercurial audio/visual experience in which audiences could watch — and of course listen to — momentum build in real time.
Photo Credit: Billboard
The 75-minute live audio-visual shows under the Close umbrella are expressive of what Hawtin terms his “very unique way of playing,” an approach that sees every movement that he makes captured by the live-feed cameras and projected to the audience in real-time. The absence of a table to support Hawtin’s mixers lends an additional unusual element to the Close shows, exposing Hawtin’s entire body and in turn, permitting the audience to visually follow each step of Hawtin’s musical execution.
“The very simple act of moving that table away—which is quite strange for a DJ because you’re completely open and naked to the audience—is probably the most important decision we made,” Hawtin says of the alteration. “Without that decision, there wouldn’t be the show. You have to see that human form moving and gyrating.”
The Close tour made its debut at Coachella in Indio, and made stops at Movement Festival, Melt, Primavera Sound, Pukkelpop, and Creamfields, among other banner venues.
“Together we make magic happen.” That is the ethos by which Spanish production company Elrow runs their now legendary party collective. The Barcelona-based collective has hosted more than 100 shows in over 50 cities globally and hosted showcases at more than 25 festivals worldwide including Glastonbury, Disclosure’s Wildlife Festival, and Hideout, to name just a few.
Pictured: shots from Elrow’s Glastonbury showcase.
Elrow’s status as an influential party promoter dates back long before clubbing even existed, with the company’s family roots dating back to 1854. The vibrant party promoters invade the island of Ibiza each Saturday at the world renowned Space Nightclub; the shows regularly feature wild costumes, a genius array of expansive stage production, and no shortage of confetti.
What will Coachella’s EDM programming look like this year?
Coachella‘s status as a music festival has grown to become larger than life since its humble, European-inspired beginnings in 1999, and their yearly lineup is both a cultural statement regarding the current state of music and a presage to future trends.
The behemoth brand has always integrated electronic music into their programming, with artists like The Chemical Brothers, Paul Oakenfold, Moby, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, and even Daft Punk helping to shape its reputation as an audacious tastemaker when it comes to curation. Until Coachella, electronic music had a hard time making it across the pond — it certainly never occupied such prime real estate as desert fields filled with upwards of 60,000 attendees.
Coachella’s longstanding relationship with EDM has been as mercurial as the multifaceted genre itself, with its programming interests shifting in conjunction with the tastes of festival attendees. 2010 saw Tiësto occupy a sub-headlining set, playing after Muse on the festival’s main stage. Swedish House Mafia’s seminal 2012 performance has become solidified as one of mainstream house’s defining moments as a genre. Calvin Harris‘ iconic set in 2016 marked the first year that an EDM artist has headlined Coachella, a precedent that has since shaped the festival’s programming ethos. Its most recent iteration saw the most electronic artist names in both the second line and undercard areas of its lineup in its entire history.
So, what will EDM look like at Coachella 2018?
As always is the case, Coachella’s internal forums and sub-Reddits have been crawling with speculation around the lineup since the end of last year’s festival in April. However, 2018 has been more silent in terms of credible rumors than in recent years. 33 names on the 2017 bill were confirmed by this time in 2016, including all three headliners. This year, a mere 8 names are confirmed, with only Beyoncé confirmed as a headliner due to her unexpected cancellation.
The Chainsmokers‘ potential elevation to headliner status catalyzed a lot of buzz earlier in the year, for example, but these rumors have since been proven insubstantial at best. Such hypotheses beg the question: Who aside from Calvin Harris does have the EDM star power to headline a festival as large as Coachella? One could only name a few potential candidates, really: the new ‘it boy’ Marshmello, Daft Punk, Zedd, and maybe Major Lazer or Skrillex off of a new album.
The Sahara Tent
Most of the Coachella’s EDM selection tends to be confined to one of North America’s most storied destinations for the genre: the Sahara Tent. Since the festival’s recent attendance expansion, it has gone to great lengths to increase the amount of space between stages, removing bottlenecks and increasing traffic flow. However, it failed to predict that the jump in attendance would largely be from those looking to quench their collective thirst for EDM.
Massive acts like DJ Snake & Martin Garrix were placed one after the other in 2017, rather than being scheduled in conjunction with one another to help ease crowding. The same was true of Sahara mainstays Dillon Francis and Steve Angello, both of which played there once more at peak hours.
The likely reason for this lack of counter programming stems from the fact that fans pay a great deal of money to see as much of their music of choice as possible, so directly countering EDM with more EDM would likely upset Coachella’s core demographic. Still, the Sahara Tent is nearly uninhabitable after sundown, and fans can’t even break into the tent to catch their favorite sets if this scheduling methodology persists.
Coachella’s online forum users have pointed towards the prospect of the festival adding another gargantuan tent similar to the current Sahara Tent, which could showcase similar styles of music while lessening the bottleneck effect in the Sahara. A more plausible option, though, would be the expansion of the current Sahara Tent to accommodate a larger number of attendees.
Regardless of how they tackle it, Goldenvoice must, and likely will address the overflow of wide-eyed festival goers flooding into the Sahara Tent in dangerous fashion.
With so many dance titans occupying the second line of Coachella’s roster over the past couple years, its seems like the event has almost jumped the gun just a bit. Booking so many of EDMs hottest names means that there are now far less to look at for 2018, assuming there are no repeats — quite the conundrum indeed.
ODESZA appears to be one of Coachella fans’ most sought-after artists. Fresh off of a new album and accompanying tour, which saw them incorporate a drum line and other exciting elements into the mix, the seminal indie/pop electronica duo is likely going to claim one of Coachella’s top spots come Spring of next year. One could even go so far as to wager that they will fill the third name on the second line and occupy the same main stage sunset spot that Porter Robinson & Madeon occupied in 2017.
Since Kygo’s ascension to national stardom that essentially began in 2015, the Norwegian giant has garnered hundreds of millions of streams and has since gone on to popularize the “tropical house” sound and captured the attention of the masses. A key second line slot seems fitting for Kygo in 2018 — a step up from his 2015 booking — and the artist certainly has the clout to headline the festival’s second biggest stage: the Outdoor Theatre.
Eric Prydz is another name that hasn’t played Coachella in years, and has since accrued a massive increase in popularity among the dance music community. With the release of Opusin and the debut of his new Epic 5.0 stage setup, Prydz is certainly a candidate for high placement on Coachella’s 2018 poster — there’s even a good chance he could occupy a similar after-dark set on the Outdoor theatre, à la Justice in 2017. Or, perhaps Prydz could headline the legendary Sahara Tent during a main stage set from The Chainsmokers.
One of trap music’s most elusive figures, RL Grime, has been on his headlining Nova tour for the last two months, which features groundbreaking visuals that are rarely seen in the trap world, or EDM world at large. The LA native, who has redefined trap music’s fundamental style, always ensures his sets are filled with a tangible verve. He could very well close out the Sahara Tent or perform second to last on Coachella’s Outdoor Theatre, especially if he releases an album in the foreseeable future.
Finally, after their meteoric rise to mainstream recognition since Group Therapy, Above & Beyond is also primed to their long-awaited return to the Polo Fields — maybe for 2018 after the release of their Common Ground album. The trio is known for filling their sets with tear-inducing moments aided by sentimental visuals, and like RL Grime, would make for perfect counter programming in the Sahara Tent or placement at the Outdoor Theatre.
GRiZ has never performed at Coachella and, fresh off of the release of his newest album Good Will Prevail, the Michigan DJ and saxophone master is definitely evolving into an excellent booking choice. With live, instrumental-centric sets that are full of insurmountable energy, it’s only fitting that GRiZ occupies a coveted slot on the lineup. GRiZ seems to be on the cusp of second liners — he may be closer to filling a high spot on the third line — regardless, he might make his debut at the 2018 iteration.
Yuma Yuma Yuma
As Coachella’s electronic programming progressed through the years, organizers soon felt a need to incorporate a tent that captured the essence of the underground dance niche. Thus, the Yuma Tent was birthed in 2013. The stage’s indoor setup features awe-inspiring lighting schemes, air conditioning, a giant disco ball, and even giant beds that sore feet can head to rest and soak in the sounds of top underground talent.
In years past, the Yuma Tent has featured such legendary acts as J.E.S.u.S (Jackmaster, Eats Everything, Skream, and Seth Troxler), Richie Hawtin, The Belleville Three (Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson), Bicep, and Ben Klock, to name just a few.
So who will DJ in the legendary tent this year? Our bets are on the return of artists like those that comprise J.E.S.u.S. Others that are due for a return include Maceo Plex, Carl Craig, and Dubfire.
Coachella’s Yuma tent selections continue to break ground within the electronic side of the festival sphere, but it will need to expand upon its current scheduling methodology in order to keep up with the growing factions that divide ‘popular’ underground leaders — like Hot Since 82, Solomun, and The Martinez Brothers — and their lesser-known counterparts.
Will bookers finally decide to pay homage to such pivotal acts as Len Faki, Amelie Lens, Rødhåd, Detroit Swindle, and The Black Madonna? The aforementioned underground acts have not typically made the cut in recent years; whether this is due to them not receiving an offer, or simply not wishing to play a mainstream festival like Coachella, is entirely unknown.
One thing that is for certain is that they would do well to expand their horizons in terms of the styles of techno and house they book, given the apparent lack of diversity in the Yuma Tent’s recent years. Ultimately, the stage is still defining its identity after only half a decade of existence, so who knows what it will have in store come April 2018.
Coachella’s most consistent aspect is its stellar undercard, and electronic music within this area of its roster continues to act as an integral force in its success. Acts like Nicolas Jaar, Tycho, Galantis, Kaytranada, Jai Wolf, and Four Tet all occupied its undercard last year. When one considers that even some of electronic music’s most established and hottest acts didn’t even make the second line, the festival’s depth becomes entirely apparent.
This year’s bill has the potential to showcase an array of tantalizing dance music up-and-comers. Some acts we predict will appear on the 2018 undercard include Virtual Self (Porter Robinson’s alter alias), Ekali, Big Wild, Gorgon City, Malaa, and Oliver, to name a few.
A Cultural Phenomenon
Coachella holds strong in the festival sphere of influence, continually expanding its attendance rates and selling out each year thanks to bookings like Lady Gaga, Radiohead, Outkast, Kendrick Lamar, and more.
The festival is a glaring manifestation music’s current state and where its headed: this is especially true for its electronic programming, in which its talent buyers are faced with a more arduous task than ever to remain cutting-edge for the upcoming rendition.
Coachella’s upcoming lineup is most definitely going to be incredible no matter what, and we’re excited to see who makes the cut.
From its industrial home in the heart of Detroit to the dusk-till-dawn underground events that dominate Europe’s rigorous party scene, techno knows no boundaries. In recent years, the genre has since exploded in Asia, further playing into the genre’s exponential growth across the globe. One festival in particular stands out among the rest.
Epizode, which made its Vietnamese debut nearly one year ago, is an 11-day, immersive musical experience hosted on the country’s largest island, Phú Quốc. Picturesque views of the Gulf of Thailand and year-round tropical temperatures encapsulate the Epizode Festival experience to facilitate the natural charm of a techno-laden beach haven. The fest’s distinguished lineup featuring the likes ofCarl Cox, Dixon, and Jamie Jones, amongst a handful of other house and techno mainstays, is enough to make any two-stepping aficionado swoon.
Ahead of Epizode Festival’s 2018 edition, Dancing Astronaut sat down with founder Roustam Mirzoev to discuss introducing an all-techno event into Vietnam’s growing music scene, and how Epizode creates an authentic presence amid the growing destination festival circuit.
Tell us about Epizode Festival’s roots: how did the idea come about, and at what point did you start producing the festival?
The roots of Epizode are undoubtedly coming from the legendary project Kazantip Republic. The president of Kazantip – Nikita Marshunok and his core team – were doing just the same more than two decades at the Crimea peninsula, since 1991. Then they moved the event from there in order to ensure that the visitors will be safe in 2014, and were looking for a proper location which would be suitable not just for a one-time event but to settle permanently. After several attempts, we finally landed on Phu Quoc, working together with the great people from Mikhail Danilov’s Sagrado Corp. from Moscow. So this is essentially a continuation of Kazantip, but better and more exotic than ever before! The name “Epizode” came to us in 2016 and I think it matches our ideology even more. I have been personally heavily involved since this year’s edition, while having the honor of playing Kazantip festival and organizing events there many times before so was already really familiar with the team. It was always a highlight of my touring schedule for obvious reasons.
Why Phu Quoc Island specifically, and how difficult or easy was it to get the country on board for a week-long electronic music festival?
Actually, we had little to no problems with the authorities. We have a great team working locally with them. The economy of the land is currently growing drastically and they welcome new projects that can develop the land further. Besides that, their approval was also heavily influenced by the fact that we are not a festival in the common meaning of the word but rather a gathering of people who just want to have fun, not only dancing to the high-quality sounds from the best world-known DJs, but also to enjoy the happiness, relax at sunsets, exchange emotions, experience each other and the unique atmosphere we create. We bring a certain unmistakable vibe that people long for. You can compare it to Burning Man; it’s just not so extreme and takes place at an ocean beach instead of a desert with a lot semi-clothed people running around and having the time of their life.
Considering Vietnam’s music scene is still developing, did you feel as though you were taking a risk by creating a strictly techno festival in a country where the genre is less prevalent?
Believe it or not, this was often the kind of question Nikita was asked for any place where they made the event before, regardless if it was in Crimea, Georgia or Cambodia. After a short period of time, our event always changed the whole region around it. Kazantip/Epizode can be compared to those terraforming projects from sci-fi films about the future — we land on uncharted lands, build tremendous art installations, bards, decorations and dance floors and literally transform the space, time, minds, people and attitudes around us. We have done it many times before and with Vietnam’s current growth potential are sure to do it again. Also we aren’t sticking to a strictly techno paradigm — we will also have trance, drum’n’bass and breaks artists, along with a proper representation of the local scene and other great asian and related acts. We are going for a balanced schedule that could appeal to different groups.
What are some reasons fans from abroad should consider going to Vietnam to check out Epizode?
With everything that has to do with Kazantip before and Epizode now the aim was to create something unique. Epizode is our creation, same as all past projects, and it is definitely incomparable to anything else currently existing in the world. Look, sometimes in the movies you see those “perfect moments” when everything is just right. It sounds impossible but we’ve really always managed to give this feeling to people inside the reality we created, regardless where it was. And we will do it again, even better than before. So if you are a fan of amazing music, exotic beach locations, quality people that understand you and sunsets that will make even the hardened skeptic cry, then Epizode is definitely for you. You cannot find a more hedonistic festival on that side of the world and we take great pride in that — our sense of freedom that we provide!
Initially, many people drew comparisons between KaZantip and Epizode, considering both festivals are produced by the same team. What differentiates the two, and in what ways does Epizode stand out?
It can be considered as our next level. The difference for us is probably that we don’t have to struggle with any authorities, their laws, or any kind of corruption. Phu Quoc is a really safe place where we can breathe freely. For people who are coming to us who you would call participants or visitors and we call “the great nation”, it’s also almost the same as Kazantip, only in even more beautiful place with nice specialities and unique Asian touch. Kazantip was well-known for its tradition for people to experience and enjoy sunsets together, many thousands gathered at the beach each afternoon. Now at Phu Quoc we have easily the best sunsets on this planet, amongst other things. Also the food is just incredible for those moments when you need to refill between your favorite artists’ sets!
What worked really well this year, and what didn’t? What additions or improvements will attendees see next year?
Last year it was our first landing at that location. We had to learn it from scratch, got our first experiences, and managed to establish our authentic atmosphere within the shortest time. You see many of our unique art objects on photos over the whole Web. Besides that, we also built really cool forward-thinking dance floors equipped with top hardware, various awesome bars, a food court and so on. I am satisfied with our achievements from last year. We invested hard into basic things because we wanted this location to be our place not only for a year but for many to come. This time we can concentrate more on perfecting everything, for example our lineup will be much more powerful, we will do everything possible to guide and inform the new coming visitors, there will be even more special events and happenings, and so on.
What is your strategy when curating Epizode‘s lineup?
I am not a fan of names for the sake of names. There is a lot of bullshit on the market and a lot of fake artists getting undeserved hype and fees for nothing, while real musicians struggle. For me, it’s a basic question of “is the music good or not?.” I always said, a really good track must give you goosebumps, going deep into your heart. So for this year we tried to do a balanced approach. We have things like a crazy 3-day HYTE takeover with major headliners, Carl Cox for New Years celebration, personal events from Luciano and Dubfire, Dixon closing out the festival and other amazing artists and showcases spread out through the whole 10 days. It really has something for everybody and we tried to stack a massive line up, so hopefully festival goers won’t have much time for sleep haha.
Has Epizode considered going abroad – such as Europe, or possibly even the US? Ultimately, where is the festival headed?
Epizode, as well as Kazantip or Befooz, is not a place or location. First of all, it is about people. People who are doing it and people who take part. Our mind is always open for any next change as long as we believe that it will be better for us all. It is good to have some special place on the planet that is unique like Phu Quoc, but besides that we definitely are now able to establish this authentic atmosphere anywhere else within just several months. Somewhere in the future we see a world expansion, nothing is impossible when you have a great idea, а strong team and a true community.
Touring across North America with close friends and having full control each set is not a feat that many people can say they’ve accomplished, let alone by the age of 18. Proudly hailing from Chicago, Ethan Snoreck started off like many other aspiring producers, putting together beats and remixing songs, then uploading them to his SoundCloud account. Fast forward two years later and known better by his stage-name, Whethan, the Chi-town native has tackled his dreams and turned them into his reality.
Snoreck’s break into the scene was aided by his Skrillex, who invited out to open for his idol during the record OWSLA pool party in 2017, and quickly garnered attention to his name. With the support from one of the largest names in the dubstep scene and an already quirky quirky to wheat crackers, it’s no surprise his name was instantly recognizable, and talent indisputably apparent.
The blooming talent is currently in the midst of his headlining “Good Nights” tour, where he has already performed in cities across the East Coast while being supported by friends like SAINT WKND, and Ashe. With the recent releases of some brand new music, and the announcement of his NYE set at Dillon Francis‘ Ultra VIP NYE Experience, we caught up with Whethan to talk about how he’s adjusting to tour life, and his immense success over the last year.
Throughout 2017, you’ve gained a ton of success with your music, and a fanbase that extends around the world. Is there a specific moment from this year that rings true to your success?
Red Rocks was the one that really did it for me. The fact that I got to play on the same stage as some of the most iconic musicians of all time was absolutely surreal! It was also one of my favorite sets I’ve ever put together so while Lollapalooza and Coachella were ridiculous, Red Rocks was definitely my favorite show so far.
Five singles and a handful of remixes later, you’ve put out a lot of new music this year. Is there any thought of an EP or album in the near future? Even if not, can we expect any upcoming collaborations after the tour has concluded?
Yes, I’m currently working on my album. It’s my main goal right now and once I get off the road, I’m going to lock myself in my house, get a case of peach tea, 100 boxes of waffles, and finally finish this thing. I’ve been working on it for a while now, and it’s grown into something a lot bigger than I thought it would. There are a ton of features from artists all across the spectrum so I think everyone will have a song to connect with.
You’ve travelled around with future-bass duo Louis The Child a little bit this year, tell us about your friendship with Robby & Freddy, and the success you’ve all seen since growing past Chicago’s music scene.
What can I say? They’re family. We came from different places in Chicago, suburb wise, and now we literally live 5 minutes away from each other. It’s a weird and wild ride that we’re all on and I’m just happy to have them in my boat. We’re always collabing and hanging out, bouncing ideas off one another, and honestly just having fun. Having true friends that you can count on is important , and I’d put those guys at the top of my list for sure.
You’ve managed to accomplish a ton of things that many 18 year olds haven’t – do you ever feel like you’ve missed out on doing “teenage” things?
That’s a tricky one for me. It’s a little bit of both honestly. On one hand, I don’t think I missed out on too much because I graduated from high school in the normal 4 year time period and had a ton of fun the whole time. But on the other hand, yes because I’m not going to college like the rest of the people my age. That being said, being out on the road so much I sometimes feel like this is my own personal version of college. Travelling can teach you a lot about yourself and the people around you and I’m forever grateful to the experiences I’ve had so far. I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way so to worry about what I’ve “missed out” on is just something that doesn’t cross my mind.
With the Good Nights’ tour going around every major city this fall, you’re on the go for the rest of the year. Besides your hometown, is there a particular city that holds a place in your heart?
Well first and foremost, every city we go to has a special place in my heart. How could they not? My fans are amazing and they show SO much love! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people come up to me at the end of a show and give me something they made just for me. Pins, posters, shirts…you name it. I actually just met a fan who had my logo tattooed on him, which was wild! But if I had to pick one place besides Chicago, I would have to say Los Angeles. LA is my new hometown and I don’t have any plans to live anywhere else. It was the first show of the tour and I couldn’t have been any more nervous, but as soon as the lights went down and the curtain came up I was locked in. It was one hell of a way to start this awesome journey across the country.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve found living on a tour bus, and how have you coped with said challenge?
I mean there’s a lot of challenges that you could run into on tour bus but I’ve got some great friends out here on the road that make all those challenges go away. It really comes down to the people you surround yourself with. I have my good days and my bad days but my tour fam is always there to remind me that we’re the luckiest people in the world.
You’ve also just announced your plans for New Year’s Eve, playing at Dillon Francis’ Ultra VIP NYE Experience in Los Angeles – what should fans expect from that show that’s different from your sets on tour?
I play new music at every show but I might break out some ultra-rare VIP sounds for that one.
In a past interview with Billboard, you mentioned that you ended up working with one of your idols, Skrillex, in the studio. Will that collab every officially come to light?
Trust me, I’ve heard that question a million times. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see what happens. We’re both super busy and are constantly doing a million things at once so I think it’s just a matter of time.
The Sex Pistols are undeniably one of the greatest punk rock bands in history, as their influence on both contemporary music and pop culture is inarguably ubiquitous.
While punk counterculture seeped into nearly every cultural crevice of the United Kingdom in the late sixties, it had yet to ooze into the streets of the United States for some time. Of course today, punk rock is a seemingly omnipresent cultural phenomenon in the US’s rock culture. This is not to say the counterculture was non-existent in the US before bands like the Sex Pistols’ sonic shipment overseas, but rather, full-blown anarchy vis-à-vis music was simply offset.
Certainly, as any punk pundit knows, it wasn’t just the music that catapulted bands like the Sex Pistols to the top of the industry or allotted for punk music to see the light of day. Rather, it was the movement’s ethos, specifically punk’s raw propensity for authenticity, its attacks on social conformity, and actions like the Sex Pistol’s continually neglected deference to the Crown.
Formed in London in 1975, the band initially lasted just two and a half years until 1978. They produced four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, during that time. Following this breakup, three band members went on to record songs for their manager Martin McLaren’s film version of the Sex Pistols’ story called The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, which depicts the journey of a band that went from fighting systems of oppression to one who had traded a pursual of “cash for chaos.”
It is with the Sex Pistols’ unfortunate demise — and opening up of a counterculture to the public eye that musical composer Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo found inspiration for his latest album under his Bloody Beetrootsmoniker. In it, he has cultivated an effervescent punk endeavor over the last decade that is explored deeper with each individual release.
Surely, it is with The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle in context, that Rifo contextualizes the modern space electronic dance music resides in, too.
“I am absolutely defeated at defining any aspect of the EDM cauldron – at the moment, electronic music seems to be rather reductive and poor. EDM has become a useless and empty acronym. It deserves a deeper cultural structure and it is time to start working on it.”
Rifo has expressed a belief publically that punk died in 1977. This was the year the Sex Pistols attained mainstream popularity, and thus lost their edge in the process.
Rifo challenges EDM The Great Electronic Swindle (TGES),an industry he very much believes has lost its edge, too — much like the Sex Pistols sought to do during their time as an institution.
Rifo himself embodies much of what the early Sex Pistols encapsulated, with his boundary-less lifestyle and a long list of musical achievements, and it is through The Great Electronic Swindle that he asserts his demeanor.
Rifo may argue punk died in 1977, but for an artist to refuse to adhere to a genre by way of their outpouring, and to have managed to collaborate with legendary acts like The Cool Kids, Peter Frampton, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, and not to mention The Beatles’ Sir Paul Mc Cartney along the way, he’s about as punk as they come.
“I believe we’ve been experiencing parallelism at the same time: much of the electronic music we hear has become flat and those who often occupy the stage are just ‘figures’ and no longer ‘artist’,” Rifo asserted. From my point of view, I saw the emergence of electronic music from a very strong underground scene where there was a lot of real stuff and way less money than today. Knowing that the artists who are on the stage NOW are not the authors of the piece they are ‘playing’ – I think it’s a big scam.” Presently, as his music evolves to a higher sonically communicative niche, language — in all its gravity and fluidity — plays a pivotal role in the Beetroots’ furthered deliverance.
“The album is my way of alerting people about this scam, about these people who are not artistically legitimate. It has often happened to me, especially during the years of the SBCR project, to know about DJs and producers and to congratulate them on their respective hits and to hear that the piece in question wasn’t produced by them or even written by them. ”
Certainly, the fluidity of the Italian-born artist’s own outpouring hasn’t stopped him from connecting with audiences worldwide over the years. Almost immediately after he unleashed The Bloody Beetroots in late 2006, Rifo’s vision was amplified. Inspired by a lifelong love of comics and punk rock, the visceral kick of the Beetroots’ sonic outpouring has been featured prominently in pop culture.
The Bloody Beetroots discography features a dizzying array of successful EPs and two full-length albums: 2009’s Romborama and 2013’s Hide. Indeed, clubs, theaters, and festivals around the world have willingly laid host to The Bloody Beetroots’ incendiary live show. Between Coachella and Lollapalooza to Governor’s Ball and more, The Bloody Beetroots’ lively dance-punk has enthralled millions.
But Rifo’s tantalizing vision extends far beyond the sonic space. Rifo strives to engage his listeners; rather than veering towards singularity, or struggling to find the balance that pleases his audience on a multitude of fronts, his work is challenging—both intellectually and emotionally. TGES serves as an epitome of his means.
Fans are ensured the induced-introspection and extrospection is respectively cyclical. In turn, this degree of expectation, from both his listeners and himself, has enabled Rifo to work closely with a myriad of artists on his latest album.
“I had not planned to have so many singers on TGES but the story I wanted to tell required a broad range of nuances…above all, empathy. So I turned to friends who introduced me to friends with whom we developed this fantastic adventure called TGES. Each and every one of them tells a piece of my life story of the last four years, it was a long and arduous experience that made me grow a little more,” Rifo explained.
Frontman for the alternative rock band Jane’s Addiction and the creator of LollapaloozaPerry Farrel is just one of the standout acts that join Rifo on the album. Certainly, fundamentals of melody, harmony, and classical music theory are present on the resulted collaboration “Pirates, Punk, & Politics.” These elements were internalized for Rifo at a young age in his classical training and on TGES, they’re incessantly tapped into.
“As an artist I need to see the music as my primary element of expression, which takes time and can not be artificially reproduced,” he states.
Doubling down on the extensive body of work and pulling in an opposite sonic direction are two tracks from the Swedish songstress Greta Svabo Bech, known best for her deadmau5 collaboration “Raise Your Weapon.” Bech joins The Bloody Beetroots on two tracks, “Invisible” and “The Great Run.”
Ultimately, Rifo sought out artists he felt would create a challenging body of work. Henceforth, Rifo incorporated his collaborators’ ideas into the work, too. Often on the new record the working and re-working of numbers has become one with managing a sole vision.
“My Name Is Thunder,” released as a double-single with Rifo and Australian rockers Jet prior to the record, serves as a prime example — after all, there are two versions of the track.
“I knew this song needed a certain rock tone… a tone like Nic Cester of Jet had. We thought instead of someone ‘like Nic Cester,’ how about we get the real Nic Cester! Thinking he would be in Australia, it was fate that he lived just a couple hours away from me in Italy. I found him,” says Rifo. “We worked together, ate together, drank together and created something very powerful together. Around this time the Jet guys started talking and thinking about getting back together when Nic shared this with his bandmates, the idea came up to have all of Jet involved. Because of our different influences, we had different ideas on the mixing and from that, we came up with two versions.”
Of course, this expansive, genre-crossing creative body of work requires immense amounts of work, but such is Rifo’s M.O.
“You have to take the time to create something consistently relevant,” he stresses.
In an era of seemingly mind-numbing and instantly-gratifying tunes, dumbed down pop culture, and situational fleeting relevancy of hot subgenres, Rifo strives on The Great Electric Swindle to create a true counterculture — much in the spirit of the Sex Pistols, who inspired him.
TGES is thus a thoughtful investment of musical pieces, scraped and re-scraped, even lacking concise direction at times. It’s a record that gives way to a palpable culmination of energy, and it lends way to where things can be taken with a widespread re-integration of the underground.
“I want to open a little window onto the meaning of freedom, and what art and music should be in a society,” concludes Rifo.
“I’m convinced that a new, completely rational counterculture is emerging and it will rethink all the choices of artistic growth out of every music business rule. TGES will hopefully be an example for other artists who will make the choice of bringing back quality to electronic music. The more we are – the more we will take control!” he continues.
The Great Electronic Swindle doubles down as a celebratory round for the tenth year of The Bloody Beetroots and it is with Rifo’s continuously effervescent attitude that he delivers his most expansive, challenging music to date. And yet, candidly unsurprising, Rifo hints that this is only the latest chapter in a story that has just begun. “Anything is possible!” he ensures.
It’s incredibly exciting, and yet, surprising almost that UK house maestro Nic Fanciulli is just now releasing his debut record — especially after playing such a pivotal role in the UK underground scene over the years. Fans of the virtuoso are ensured that it is with his prolific touring life and keen propensity for considerate curation that the phrase, “ Good things come to those who wait,” is quite applicable.
Surely, in an increasingly instantly-gratified, widespread age of musical connection that is oftentimes driven by the release of EPs and singles, a full-length album is hardly ever expected from those who frequent the circuits.
Fanciulli is one such act. After all, the artist has been busy cutting his teeth into the underground circuit for some time now. One may expect that the artist would not have the time to write and record an extended, cohesive body of work.
However, it is with his undeviating modus operandi and a refusal to remain sonically stagnant that allotted the creation of his first-ever LP, My Heart. It is also with his personal experiences in contextualization and a cultivated understanding of the impacts of dance music — both inwardly and outwardly — that Fanciulli shines on such an undertaking.
“This project actually started around ten years ago in 2007, right after I was nominated for a Grammy. I was surrounded by so many talented artists that I felt I really wanted to push myself and produce an album.” – Nic Fanciulli
On My Heart, Fanciulli delves into new experimental waters. The house don succeeds in an exploratory venture by way of a pleasantly employed variety of sonic landscapes, explored moods, and equivocal emotions over the course of 16 tracks. Through this, he presents an amalgamation of club-ready tracks and more downtempo numbers for the at-home listener.
My Heart, if the name hadn’t already served as a prior indication for its respective listener, comes from a considerably personal place.
“The music and touring aspect of my life was amazing but I didn’t feel I could channel the positivity I felt there into anything substantial at the time. The idea behind making an album was always to create something strong and meaningful, I wanted to make something that sounded as good at the afterparty as it does in the car, something that becomes relevant to every situation you listened in.”
Several thought-provoking numbers particularly stand out among an album filled with a blend of influences. One such tune, “Little L,” featuring Eagles & Butterflies, is a sound employment of all that Fanciulli set out to explore in his record.
Released prior to the full album, “Little L” offers a glimpse into the deeply emotive psyche of Fanciulli.
“The project name, MY HEART, came about when I realized I couldn’t switch off, or do this project part time – I had to totally immerse myself in it, and give my heart to it in order to finish it in a way I was proud of…”
Collaborations have certainly been a recurrent theme throughout Fanciulli’s career. He also teams up with the esteemed Guy Gerber on “The Perfect Crime.” The number, in turn, exudes immense melancholy and euphoria.
It’s clear from the deliverance that the collaborations were all really organic. However, perhaps, the best testament to organic collaborations on the piece is Fanciulli’s piece with Gorillaz‘ Damon Albarn.
He humbly describes the experience: “The craziest collab was having Damon Albarn on the vocals for ‘Saying.’ I had just finished a remix for the Gorillaz, and they really liked it; the next day I went into the studio and thought ‘I’m going to make a record for him and see if he likes it’. Luckily his management called, said he loved it, and within a week it was finished! It’s surreal for me; this is a guy who I used to listen to when I was doing my exams at school, I must have been a fan for 20+ years.”
Indeed, My Heart is an illustrious presentation of guest collaborators, delving into the waters of Fanciulli’s highly polished production skills and opening up fans to the newfound lush sonic beaconing of his soul.
“The album is called My Heart because I put my heart into it, Fanciulli asserts. “It’s a reflection of everyone I’ve ever met, everywhere I’ve ever been, and I hope everyone that listens can find something that resonates with their heart in the music. ”
Pretty Lights is slowly & successfully building his movement (Event Review)
When Pretty Lights announced his record label was evolving into the newly-minted Pretty Lights Movement, many caught a tiny glimpse into what Derek Vincent Smith had in store for the evolution of his growing family. It was around the time of his Episodic Tour: Season Two Premiere at The Gorge Amphitheater – followed by a series of constantly evolving, innovative live band performances that took place across the nation.
Dancing Astronaut was invited to attend the final episodic event of the tour at Whitewater Amphitheater in the small hill country town of New Braunfels, Texas, wherein we witnessed the raw energy of the live band, the regional beauty of small town hidden gem of a venue, and the sheer vitality of the Pretty Lights Family. Here are five reasons why Pretty Lights Live is more than a mere musical experience, but a way of living.
Smith’s creative decision to put the decks on the back-burner (and, yet, keep them front-and-center) takes his live shows to the next level. The stylings of the live band – made up of Brian Coogan, Borahm Lee, Alvin Ford Jr. and Chris Karns — are spotlighted, as each member aids Smith in bringing the organic analog aspect of his musical stamp to life. In addition, each show features a heavy dose of amazing special guest talent. Whether the heavy bass beats of Ganja White Night, the soulful stylings of up-and-comer Maddie O’Neal, or the funk-driven glitch-hop of Aussie producer Opuio, the Episodic Tour was jam-packed with amazing talent conforming to a clear sound stamp and an accompanying vision of which direction these shows are driven.
2. The PL Family
A heavy sense of family, community, and kindness among this close-knit group of Pretty Lights followers permeates the parking lots and showgrounds alike. The sheer feeling of euphoria and jovial admiration for their leader and their lifestyle is easily one of the most genuine and welcoming that any newcomer to this scene will experience. Take the Pretty Lights Illuminators, for instance, who are tasked with creating special activities, caring for their fellow attendees, or just generally spreading the good energy around each gathering. An emphasis on the small (yet out of this world) aspect of the crowds along these Episodic Tour stops likens them to an early Bassnectar following before it became too big to manage. Hard as it is to capture in words, experiencing is truly is believing with the PL Family.
3. A sense of heady spiritualism pervades
Smith freestyles about crystal children, hyper-dimensional space, positive vibrations, and metaphysical energy whilst refracting light with crystals on stage. Essentially, his antics and overall outlook on life embodies the spiritual self-awareness that guides Pretty Lights shows and the people living within these spaces. Burning Man principles like radical inclusion and self-reliance, gifting, and communal effort guide social interactions at these Episodic Tour stops.
4. The venue(s)
The Pretty Lights team chose a wildly picturesque venue in Texas’ Whitewater Amphitheater for the final stop of Episodic Tour. Its breathtaking hill country views, fresh smells of nature, its friendly easy-going staff, and its setting along the Guadalupe river made the experience feel almost surreal, wherein attendees would float into the venue with new stranger-friends as they shouted their hellos to Smith himself across the river banks. Couple this with other world class venues such as Washington’s legendary Gorge Amphitheater, and one has a series of shows where attendees are guaranteed a weekend of re-connection with the earth.
5. The production value
Pretty Lights’ Episodic Tour is not a typical large-scale electronic music festival, but the production value sure feels like it. For one, every stop along the tour offers rare tracks and unique flips catered to each location. The lighting show — courtesy of LazerShark — is one “not to miss” in the electronic music realm. Whether it’s the wall of lasers projected across the stage, the abstract, psychedelic visual displays, or how they become amalgamated into one with the analog sound, these creative, oft-times improvisational elements are at the forefront of cutting-edge performance in the electronic music world.
Music lovers around the world are familiar with the legendary Colorado venue Red Rocks. Artists dream of playing the world-class outdoor venue for sometimes their entire careers.
Slow Magic is one of the lucky ones chosen to share his music there as an opening act for ODESZA, and he vivdly recalls the myriad of emotions coursing through him as he stepped up to the stage amidst a sold-out crowd.
“I was actually just telling myself throughout the set, ‘This is really scary, and crazy, don’t mess up,’” he announced in a conversation a few days ago.
The clean, crisp elevation air chilled the audience’s skin, as the Mile High sun set over the Rockies. That’s when Slow Magic stole the show last May with his energetic showmanship and impeccable production skills, balancing live and electronic instrumentation.
“It was an incredible experience,” continues the enigmatic producer, “and after the show it kind of all sunk in.”
It wasn’t always this way. Before the young musician was playing Red Rocks, Slow Magic was still learning his instruments of choice back in 2011.
“On my third [ever] show, my laptop completely fried just before my set so I handed an iPod with all my tracks to the sound guy and borrowed a drum from my friends who were also playing that night. I had played drums for a really long time but never connected the dots until that moment. I played the drum in the center of the crowd for the whole set and by the end my hands were a bit bloody.”
Armed with his instruments of choice — a computer, a MIDI keyboard, and a couple of drums — Slow Magic has become known for his unmistakable sound and his imaginative, animalistic persona. “Music by your imaginary friend,” reads his Twitter bio.
His image, a tribal-inspired live ethos, has become synonymous with his sonic identity, with its ethereal mix of distorted vocals, swirling synths, and light jazz.
Yet, it has been three years since the release of his sophomore project, How To Run Away, which the producer says was focused around themes of escapism, and of disconnecting from a sense of place.
October 4 marked another milestone in Slow Magic’s career as he releases his third studio album, Float, on the Sony-distributed imprint Downtown Records. And, while he’s far past the point in his career of having to explain why he chooses to stay hidden beneath the neon zebra mask, the 13-track LP lays out his innate, authentic sound while asserting a clear artistic vision for where he’s been (and where he’s going).
“Its also an album about Love, in a happy and a realistic sense, even sometimes in a dark sense.”
Work for Float began during Slow Magic’s time in Iceland. Referring to the album’s major underlying message, Slow Magic points a similar theme of his last album: “To me its about escapism, wanting to float away. Not exactly to disconnect but to float above.” Yet, on Float, Slow Magic refers to his newly-minted vision of ‘escapism’ in the transcendental sense. It is about transcending physical place, rather than a need to disconnect from it.
Once the instrumentals began to take shape, Slow Magic turned to vocalists Peter Silberman (from The Antlers), Kate Boy, Tropics, Toulouse, and MNDR to add more layers to Float.
Speaking to his vocalists, which he alluded to as a completely new challenge, Slow Magic lightly quips about his collaborators never having met him in person.
“Funny enough I realized that I never was in the same room with any of the collaborators, which is fitting as no one knows who I am anyway.”
One artist Slow Magic lamented on not being able to work with in person was MNDR, who’s laid down vocals for the likes of Feed Me and Flume. “MNDR is amazing, and her vocals have a lot of depth to them. The song really came together naturally, and I think it’s because her vocals were so strong from the start.” Standing as the album’s fourth track, “Shivers” spotlights MNDR’s Grammy-winning vocals, with it’s airy, narcotic allure, pulling them together into a distinctly chill track with distorted synths and Slow’s signature budding drum work.
When one thinks to Slow Magic’s theme of escapism, and how it resonates across multiple albums, it speaks volumes to the spaces with which Slow Magic lives and inhabits. Elaborating on the Float‘s theme further, Slow Magic mentions how “its also an album about Love, in a happy and a realistic sense, even sometimes in a dark sense.”
He elaborates, “It’s kind of a balance on the whole album between happy and sad or dark emotions.”
One track he cites at the center of this thematic is the Peter Silberman-assisted ballad, “Belong 2 Me.” The album’s centerpiece track is haunting and mysterious, yet relaxed and unrestrained, speaking to the yin-and-yang duality in which Slow Magic calls attention to. “Love is something powerful and sometimes uncontrollable,” he finally reveals.
Looking to the future, Slow Magic says he would love to see himself working with a distinctly eminent type of artist – from DNTEL and Ben Gibbard to Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros, and Yung Lean.
As for the extremely well-rounded vocal talent on Float, Slow Magic seems drawn to certain type of vocal quality — airy and atmospheric, bright and elegant — for which the producer says adds to the particular kind of aesthetic he’s working to create.
“Since it [Float] was my first time working with vocalists for features, I approached it very carefully. I think the challenge is to bring a lot of people in on the project but still to keep it cohesive sonically, and I think it ended up working very well. All of the vocalists compliment a each other in some ways.”
From the sprawling warmth of “Light,” featuring Tropics, to the 80s indie-pop throwback style of “Mind,” featuring Kate Boy, Slow Magic’s thoughtfulness to vocals really shines. There is a keen balance between his erratic, raw sounds and what each vocalist brings to the track.
Take, for instance, Kate Boy’s energetic pop-sensible style that calls on the “shoegaze” style of late 80s/early 90s British indie-rock. One almost feels as if they’re center stage in an angsty John Hughes teen movie. For “Mind,” Slow Magic wanted to take a step back from the original sound of his debut album, Triangle, while still doing something new.
Perhaps what makes the entire Float LP come together so coherently are the album’s instrumental tracks. The album’s first couple of instrumental tracks — “Valhalla,” “Skeleton Pink,” and the previously released “Drums” — string together the entire first half of the album so seamlessly that the tracks begin to take on a quality of their vocally mastered counterparts.
Yet, the album’s twelfth track, “Midnight Sun,” may just be the standout instrumental track of the album. Equipped with quirky synths, changing tempos, and a fun and elegant song structure, the track is light-hearted and laid-back. Its the type of piece one would find themselves chilling out to in a hammock down by the creek or gearing up for a night of partying with the friends.
One cannot speak about the musicality of Slow Magic’s third studio album, Float, without speaking about his visceral live production. The experience is so authentic and imaginative, so ethereal and raw, that one is transported to another time and space. Perhaps that is the kind of full circle experience of his cross-dimensional appeal. To listen to the Float LP in full is to be certain of an eventuality that one will see the songs performed live somehow, someday soon.
As an artist, though, the break-out producer says he’s always looking for new ways to grow his live production set-up. “The more I think of expanding the more and more i feel like I can do with the simple set up and the more I want to challenge myself.”
Watching Slow Magic on stage, as he balances the many moving parts of multiple instruments, is as intimidating to think about doing as it is an impressive sight to behold. “I am working on a ton of new things for my upcoming tour though, things I can’t say at the moment. So I’m always thinking of ways I can make the show a better experience.”
“I tried to stay away from listening to current electronic type music while I was working on this record.”
Above all, Float is transcendental, creative, and other-worldly. It is at times soothing and melodic, while, at others, staccato and upbeat. What stands out most about the album, however, is how it stands in complete opposition to itself. Like the yin-and-yang, the album reminds us of the duality of the human experience. It is both light and dark, gritty and soft, imaginative and real, both deeply conflicted and profoundly enlightened – and, ultimately, Slow Magic’s message is about learning to love ourselves in all those spaces.
Slow Magic will embark on a world tour in support of Float this fall. Stream the full Float LP below.