July will mark one year since RL Grimes’ second album NOVA. Now, seven months later, RL Grime is releasing new music in collaboration with Graves. The track “Arcus” is set to debut next Wednesday, February 6th. Since NOVA, RL Grime has been rocking the festival circuit. But, we haven’t heard much new music from him other than
Since the advent of recorded music, albums have reigned as the supreme vessel through which artists put forth their most hallowed creations and define their oeuvres. In the modern era of streaming, wherein declining royalty rates demand that musicians tour incessantly and the necessity of instant gratification demands a correlative, unending supply of singles and remixes, the process of producing a full-length record is perhaps more daunting than it’s ever been.
However, the LP is far from a dying art form, as legions of artists have duly proven in the past year. In the realm of dance music alone, 2018 saw an abundance of stellar, individualized efforts, providing our editorial team with quite a difficult feat in selecting a Top 10. Below, we’ve compiled ten innovative, stylistically diverse, and evocative albums that shook the scene and stirred us so resoundingly that they manage to stand out among a formidable pool of contenders.
10. San Holo, album1
Since its founding in 2014, San Holo’s bitbird label has made monumental strides, helping propel his releases — along with those of artists like DROELOE and Taska Black — to notoriety. Perhaps the label’s biggest buzz this year was that of San Holo’s inaugural LP, appropriately titled album1, which made its debut in mid-September. After pouring months of passion into the record, San Holo wasted no time incorporating live instruments in album1, kicking off the compilation with a wistful guitar melody in “everything matters (when it comes to you).” This theme continues throughout the album’s 12 tracks, with each song exuding pure emotion and spirit. In its entirety, album1 is sonically pleasing and a fresh breath of air in an often monotonous EDM scene.
Words by Robyn Dexter
9. Pleasurekraft, Friends, Lovers, and Other Constellations
It’s hard to believe that, prior to this year, Pleasurekraft had yet to release a full-length record. The transnational duo have been regarded as lodestars in the genres which they’ve graced for practically a decade, thanks to their acutely analytic approach to producing. The past few years have marked an evolution of sorts for the Kraftek label-heads, as they’ve shifted toward establishing their cinematically-infused brand of cosmic techno. And, their inaugural LP, Friends, Lovers, & Other Constellations, which kicked off the duo’s year in January, showcases their progress from its opening act (the genre-defying “Interiors”) until its closing bow (the similarly mellifluous “Last Transmission”).
Words by Will McCarthy
8. Justice, Woman Worldwide
After a two-year gap following the release of Woman, French electro luminaries Justice returned in 2018 with Woman Worldwide, a “live” album — perhaps, more accurately an homage or counterpart — to the live production which accompanied their much-lauded third studio LP, rebuilt in the studio through what Xavier de Rosnay described to Dancing Astronaut as a “proper Justice record.”
De Rosnay and Gaspard Augé didn’t spend their lapse between albums by writing “new” music. Rather, they spent this time fine-tuning every minute of the their live performance, ultimately recreating the Justice concert experience in their studio. The final product speaks for itself: Woman Worldwide has yielded the duo’s third Grammy nomination, and showcases what wound up being one of the most in-demand touring electronic music performances of recent years.
Words by David Klemow
7. RÜFÜS DU SOL, Solace
Weaving a follow-up to an acclaimed album is a formidable task for any artist to face. It has to be different enough from its predecessor to keep fans’ attention, but it also has to retain the signature sound that initially drew people in initially. After gaining major recognition from 2016’s Bloom, Rüfüs Du Sol were faced with that exact challenge.
On Solace, the Australian trio stepped up every part of their production process. Tyrone Lindqvist’s vocals are more emotional and over-stated than ever before, while the instrumentals are crisper and full of new textures. Though the vocal-house formula of Bloom and their debut album, Atlas, is still intact, what Rüfüs Du Sol have presented with their third record is a growth of their sound to the precipice of perfection.
Words by Anthony Manganiello
6. REZZ, Certain Kind of Magic
Rezz’s Certain Kind of Magic solidified the mau5trap mainstay into the electronic music history books with her gritty synth-work, head-banging rhythms and uneasy melodies that juxtaposed uncertainty and confidence throughout the LP. Looking forward to 2019 with a grip of festival headlines, the Canadian artist took the rock tinged genre into a new realm with a cohesive haunting narrative centered around a carnival in hell. Rezz even took to an emo rock, acoustic track, “Toxin,” with the Berklee College of Music artist Fytch to showcase her versatility and early influences.
Isabelle Rezazadeh also used her album to shed a light on up and coming producers. Through promoting talents from the likes of 1788-L, 13, Deathpact, Kotek, and the aforementioned Fytch, the mau5trap favorite reaffirmed her dedication to highlighting industry newcomers in the face of her now-innumerable accolades.
Words by Chris Stack
5. RL Grime, Nova
For the duration of trap music’s prominence as an EDM sub-genre, Henry Steinway has been a key figure, thanks to his unparalleled ability to weave simplistic, but devilishly effective pieces as RL Grime. Yet, some of the most evocative tracks of his career have resided in a more melodic realm. Such is the case with NOVA. In his sophomore album, Steinway looked beyond the dark melodies, aggressive, layered bass lines, and fast paced ascents characteristic of trap, to tinge traditional trap aesthetic with pop and hip-hop tints. His embedding of pop and hip-hop stylistics within the trap oriented inclusions of NOVA helped to further the appeal of thoughtful, trap-infused productions, marketing trap to listeners who might very well have written the sub-genre off as one simply “not for them.” For those who like pop, there was the digestible, vocal-centric single, “I Wanna Know” with Daya, which stood alongside hip-hop features such as the Ty Dolla $ign assisted “Take It Away” and the Chief Keef joint, “OMG.” Boasting a laundry list of highly demanded collaborators and the production deftness to warrant them, RL Grime’s sophomore showing effectively merged musical worlds, while expanding conceptions of what trap music might sound like, and to whom it might appeal.
Words by Rachel Narozniak
4. Jon Hopkins, Singularity
Throughout dance music culture, accolades such as “seasoned” or “veteran” are often thrown around all too liberally. After all, when the pace of an industry moves a mile a minute, a producer with two years’ professional experience can arguably be considered a “long-time luminary.”
That said, when an artist truly is a master of the craft, the results speak for themselves. Jon Hopkins stood out in 2018 as a truly veteran artist, with the release of his fifth studio album (and first in five years), Singularity. From energetic, mesmerizingly erratic pieces such as “Neon Pattern Drum” and “Everything Connected,” to more subdued, mystifying pieces “C O S M” and “Recovery,” everything on Singularity is indeed connected via the English artist’s unparalleled aptitude for creating mellifluous, lo-fi opuses.
Words by Will McCarthy
3. Dillon Francis, WUT WUT
Dillon Francis’ WUT WUT feels like the culmination of his entire career thus far. A call-back to his first big hit, “Que Que” alongside Diplo in 2011, WUT WUT is a full circle return to Francis’ moombahton roots which perfectly describes where Francis has been, and, ultimately, shows off where he’s going. The record also feels like a rite of passage of sorts for Francis, who moved from merely being a superstar DJ to a taste-making A&R that has helped boost lesser known Latin artists into the spotlight in 2018 — a year in which Latin music experienced a head-on collision with mainstream pop.
WUT WUT has earned Francis a well-deserved Latin Grammy nomination, and while Francis’ moombahton revival project didn’t bring home the hardware this year, it not only kept artistically true to Dave Nada’s beloved blend of genres, it helped progress his flagship style and introduce it to a much wider audience in 2018.
Words by David Klemow
2. Medasin, Irene
Medasin’s Irene takes all the right risks. The glistening offspring of the producer’s climb out of a deep, former addiction, the eponymous album was inspired by Medasin’s outpatient counselor, the real-life Irene. Sounding at times like underwater elevator music from a far away realm (“Ramen” or “Slinky Man”), and others radiating smooth, saccharine R&B (“Tired”), the project seamlessly reconciles its differences floating through its duration with effortless cohesion. Irene oozes Medasin’s invariable experimentalism, with minimal vocal interruption—though the two vocal features do add an accessible flavor to the otherworldly recipe—letting his playful, quixotic production do the talking.
While Medasin’s blissed-out, slow-motion rendition of Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” won his fellow artist’s respect (garnering him official remix opportunities from the likes of Martin Garrix, Khalid, and more) Irene spoke to listeners, ravaging Reddit threads and streaming services alike months after its release.
Words by Bella Bagshaw
1. ZHU, Ringo’s Desert
ZHU has certainly come a long way since “Faded.” The producer’s sophomore album, Ringo’s Desert arrived as a sensuous, cross-genre scorcher that showed off ZHU’s signature, haunting vocals, while all the time seeking to evoke the landscape of the desert. The album’s environmental influence taken into account, and considered alongside the album’s overarching lyrical narrative of love that leaves one bereft, left to wander in search of the kind of solitude that satiates, much like the drink of water dreamt of by the eponymous desert nomad, Ringo’s Desert easily constituted one of the year’s finest, most meticulously woven concept albums. With its breadth of musical emotionality and mainstream appeal via collaborations with heavyweights such as Tame Impala, it stands out from the crowd in an inimitable fashion.
Words by Rachel Narozniak
Honorable Mention: Steve Angello, Human
Steve Angello’s Human is a symphony of self-exploration. While the Swedish icon has proven himself a master craftsman of the album in the past, his newest album saw him pivot from the avant-garde take on dance pop crossover on his preceding record, Wild Youth, over to a personal journey fueled by electronica and rock inspirations. The 21-track Human is a tale of creating art out of therapy, as Angello explored his own relationship with spirituality and religion. The product is beautiful, moving and memorable — certainly something to be proud of as the remainder of 2018 shifted from a focus on Steve Angello to the triumphant return of his beginnings with Swedish House Mafia and their reunion in the next year.
Words by Steph Evans
RL Grime provides a formidable follow up to the first wave of NOVA remixes with NOVA (The Remixes Vol. 2). The second and final installment in the two-part saga of alternative takes, volume two presents listeners with 11 more innovative revamps of album inclusions like “Pressure” and “Undo.” The variant collection of remixes sees re-imaginative work from Valentino Khan, Vincent, QUIX, Devault, and more.
Also comprised of 11 tracks, volume one saw an equally able cast of producers submit NOVA reworks including 1788-L, k?d, Said the Sky, and Eptic, among others. That NOVA has yielded a total of 22 different remixes from 22 respective producers speaks to the album’s influence in the electronic sphere this year, particularly in the trap domain. NOVA quickly solidified its status as a strong sophomore showing from RL Grime immediately upon its July release, and now, the caliber of the album seems only to be affirmed anew by the abundance of NOVA remixes currently in circulation.
RL Grime‘s Nova saw the trap maestro easily surpassing the sophomore slump and further cementing his stance in the world outside basic electronica with cutting-edge sound design and allstar collaborators that included the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremih, Torey Lanez, and beyond. The LP was well received by a wide spread of fans, quickly climbing to the top of multiple charts after its official release. Nova has since inspired a good deal of interpretations from other artists, eleven of which were selected by RL Grime and his team to appear on the first official remix compilation.
A notable addition to the group is k?d, who’s become a power player in recent years since his break in to the dance music scene. He provided quite a wild take on “Rainer,” peppering the original with ricocheting synthesizers and adding his unique sound design into the mix for a sinister remake. Up-and-coming talent 1788-L also contributed a remix to the pot, transforming “Era” into chaotic, dubstep piece designed to break necks on the dancefloor.
Order the ‘Nova’ remix compilation here
1788-L is back to what made the enigma so popular in the first place: remixes. This time, the sophisticated producer tackles the trap stylings of RL Grime on a remix of “Era,” a single from the No. 1 Billboard Dance album, NOVA. Combining elements of trap and heavy bass, the remix extraordinaire computerizes the festival anthem original into three different drops of glitch-filled dubstep and psy-trance.
2018 proved to be a successful year for for 1788-L, collaborating with some of the biggest names in dance music and releasing his debut extended play, S E N T I E N C E, on Zeds Dead‘s Deadbeats imprint. The artist also recently ended a fall touring stint, supporting Ekali and REZZ in select cities.
Double, double trap and trouble, fire burn and beats bubble on RL Grime‘s Halloween mix series. New RL Grime music and Halloween are mutually inclusive and have been ever since 2012, when the trap tastemaker dropped off the inaugural installment in what would go on to become an October tradition. Since then, the NOVA producer’s Halloween mix has been rife with bone-rattling bass and annually released in time for Halloweekend play for the past seven years.
Grime’s Halloween mix has cultivated somewhat of a cult following over the years, and now that the seventh mix in the sonic saga has arrived, Dancing Astronaut ensures that what to play next on the aux once “Halloween VII” times out will be the least of costumed celebrators’ worries, by revisiting each of RL Grime’s past Halloween mixes.
“Halloween VII” sees Shaq, RL Stine, and Jake Foushee hop in the cut alongside Grime to collaboratively stagger shiver-worthy drops throughout the mix. A heavy hybrid of hip-hop selects and trap-oriented inclusions, “Halloween VII” provides a forceful soundtrack to weekend festivities, with Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and more receiving nods. With no calories, no sugar, and no consequential hangover, the one-hour mix bears absolutely no tricks.
The prelude to RL Grime’s sophomore album, NOVA, “Halloween VI” only laid claim to one ID, despite streamers’ collective belief that Grime would use the sixth mix as a platform to debut new music from the forthcoming production. Fans later championed “Halloween VI” as the best crafted installment in the series thus far. With Rae Sremmurd, Eprom, Post Malone, DROELOE, and more on the track list, it’s no wonder that “Halloween VI” was so warmly received.
RL Grime spiked adrenaline at “Halloween V’s” intro with a spoken intro delivered by none other than Pharrell Williams. “Halloween V” melded a series of rap-flavored releases with electronically grounded selections from GTA, Baauer, and more, making for a monstrous genre mashup. “Halloween V” additionally ushered in an advanced listen of Grime’s collaboration with Skrillex and What So Not. Grime dropped the single, entitled “Waiting,” several days later on November 3, 2016.
2015’s Halloween mix marked RL Grime’s fourth consecutive year of sinister, seasonal material. Comedian Hannibal Buress verbalizes the mix’s intro and Goosebumps author, RL Stine, makes his yearly appearance as well.
Backtrack to 2014, a time in which rising producer, Henry Steinway, was still solidifying his trap reign as RL Grime. Grime’s third annual Halloween mix predated the release of his debut album, VOID, which pulled up on the electronic scene with fervor on November 14, 2014. With his inaugural longform production looming, but still a ways off, 2013’s Halloween mix enabled RL Grime to work some unreleased magic into the mix’s track list, including the then unreleased “Monsoon.” 2013’s mix featured tunes from Mr. Carmack, Bobby Shmurda, and 2 Chainz, among others.
2013 brought an approximate 60 minutes of musical madness to streamers’ sound systems, as RL Grime followed 2012’s inaugural release of his Halloween mix series with a chilling sequel. Jam-packed with momentous drops and exhibitive of RL Grime’s deft ear for mixing, 2013’s mix was a formidable follow up to 2012’s, with releases from Drake, Gesaffelstein, Sage The Gemini, and Dog Blood.
“Happy Halloween everyone…picked out some of my favorite spooky tracks in celebration of today,” RL Grime on SoundCloud when he uploaded his inaugural Halloween mixtape. The first of the series to feature a spoken gambit from literary legend, RL Stine, Grime’s 2012 Halloween mix arrived as a humble 33-minute product comprised of just 18 tracks.
AND NOW THE MOMENT WE HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR! Fresh off the drop of his banger of an album “NOVA” RL Grime has taken to the mix table for his annual Halloween Mix, Halloween VII. Year after year, this mix has held a special place in our hearts. I remember last year almost going
RL Grime‘s Halloween Mix is an October tradition for the trap tastemaker, who now looks ahead to the 2018 installment of the annual series. RL Grime invites those with ghoulishly good material to send their song submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org as a part of his new call for producers to submit their “scariest songs” for consideration in the spooky sonic venture.
2018 marks the seventh edition of the mix, and if the impending release follows in the fashion of the 2017 mix, then listeners can expect RL Grime to intermingle a new ID or two among the selections that will comprise the mix. Last year, the mix featured several previously unreleased cuts that would later figure on Grime’s sophomore album, NOVA. Wynwood Fear Factory’s recent announcement of RL Grime as one of its Halloweekend festival headliners should only further incite excitement among RL Grime fans for October’s arrival.
Relive past RL Grime Halloween Mixes here.
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Four years ago, RL Grime‘s unique sound design and production arrangements took the electronic music world by storm. Since then, many in the community have hailed Henry Alfred Steinway’s debut a masterpiece, some even going so far so to reminisce on the album as trap music’s magnum opus. Unarguably, tracks like “Scylla” and “Core” have gone on to become staples in the trap music community, just as much as they have in the EDM community at large. They created an era of producers all over the world that were hoping to embody an ounce of the raw, thumping 808s that Steinway’s early material so exuded. But, Steinway has always been one to suggest that his influence would not diminish, even without directly saying the words, his annual mixes, and festival appearances have always suggested so much.
The inception of RL Grime came at a time when electronic music was at its height in the states — Skrillex‘s Recess had just been released that spring, and deadmau5 was fresh off the summer release of his album while(1<2). and now, with a visibly changed dance landscape in the states and an assimilation of the music into the very fabric of contemporary culture — what many refer to as the post-EDM era, and an age of electronic music that dips its toes in the proverbial ponds of hip-hop and pop — RL Grime’s returned with his second album, NOVA, an effort that channels the sheer potential for the genre’s production future while also providing a range of sounds that harken back to the early material that drove his project in the beginning.
On NOVA, RL Grime’s collaborations run wild. He’s created a collection of searing coalescences of melodic rap and R&B refrains from some of hip-hop and R&B heavyweights like Miguel, Jeremiah, Chief Keef, Tory Lanez, and Ty Dolla $ign; taking the depth of his project to unforeseen heights. Meanwhile, though Steinway’s beats are less concerned with trap than they used to be, his music’s fitting for the US festival circuit, with moments of sheer ecstasy, rolling drum’n’bass, and the same unfathomable drops the world has grown to know, love, and look forward to.
Technicolor hues, hi-definition psychedelic landscapes, and heart pumping cuts of a motorbike rider comprise the official music video for “Pressure,” notably RL Grime‘s last release leading up to the arrival of his sophomore album, NOVA, due out on July 27.
The action packed production capitalizes on visual thrill, engrossing viewers with its successive scenes of RL Grime’s biker navigating constantly contorting territory. The titillating nature of the video complements the single’s gritty, bass heavy technical constructions.
Listen to RL Grime’s latest NOVA heresingle, “Light Me Up,” .