While the electro-rock trio NERO remain mostly dormant (as they have since 2015) the individual members are enjoying the opportunity to expand their catalogs into unexplored territory.
Two of the members, Dan Stevens and Alana Watson, have remained in close proximity, churning out a pair of space-funk records under their new project, The Night.
The third member, Joseph Ray, is off on a dancefloor adventure taking the dastardly overtones he mastered as part of NERO and applying them to four-on-the-floor beats.
In the past year, Ray put out a solo EP on Anjunadeep entitled Room1.5/Chem-X, and most recently made his mark on Yotto‘s progressive, minimal experiment, Nova. Conjoined by the same sweeping, melodic breakdowns, Ray’s version of the track takes provides a backdrop of darkness rather than light as the original does.
Yotto began the year as one of the brightest acts on one of the electronic ether’s most revered label destinations, Anjunadeep. But by mid-2019, Yotto left his longtime label housing, taking the precarious plunge of setting up his own imprint, Odd One Out (OOO), which also serves as the title of one of his most popular Hyperfall singles from last year.
He got the OOO release train chugging this past August, with the pumping progressive delivery, “Nova,” which received a prompt remix treatment from Anjunadeep label mate, Cassian. The 32-year-old Finnish producer’s reputation as a multitalented performer has grown so steadily over the years, with his colorful catalog of original tracks swelling all the time.
It’s an audacious play to bid adieu to such a well-aligned organization, but one that’s also redolent of self-courage and earnest resolve. Since then, he’s released a steady stream of singles through OOO alongside the very first installment in the label’s new mix series, which he plans to use as an outlet for artists to test drive sounds outside their expected sonic spaces. Dancing Astronaut caught up with Yotto on the tail end of his Odd One Out world tour to talk about climbing the fierce learning curve he’s been managing in the last year, his life outside of music, and his plans to keep the label in front of convention.
You’ve spent most of the second half of 2019 on world tour, how has it been? Have there been any highlights or lowlights? What’s it been like?
I think it’s been a great tour. Obviously it’s a little tiring, but being able to play bigger and bigger venues, you know, moving from only club shows into doing a bunch of more theater-like venues as well has been a cool little change. Overall it’s been a really good tour so far. And then I’m just [finding myself] continuing to say, “Thank you, fans.”
Are there any types of specific venues you enjoy playing more than others?
I think I’m still, at the core, I’m a club DJ, there’s something about that dark sweaty room with a lot of people in it, well not that many people in it. It’s pleasing.
During that time, you’ve also been running Odd One Out. Are you enjoying being in charge?
Yeah, I’m enjoying it a lot, it’s a new experience, running a label, and being responsible for everything. I find it refreshing. And, you know, I have worked with Anjuna for a while and they’re such a great company to learn from and to see how they run things is a very good learning experience. Of course I’m not operating on the same scale as they do, as a label. But there’s always some takeaway from seeing them succeed and do a great job with everything.
Is there anything in particular you learned from Anjuna that’s been helpful for you?
I think schedules matter. I’m not very good at keeping up with deadlines and stuff usually, or I prefer very free-flowing, like “Oh I have a track let’s just put it out tomorrow and that will be fine.” kind of approach. But that doesn’t necessarily always work, so it’s good to have some sort of a plan so you know what’s gonna happen and when.
What else have you learned over the last few months running a label while touring the world?
It’s hard work, but it’s great to see that people have actually been engaging with the label and coming to the shows knowing that it’s part of the Odd One Out tour, which is basically a launch tour for the label, in a way. I learned that there’s so much you can probably say when it comes to data. We can see who our listeners are, where they are listening to music from, but it’s just kind of mind blowing that you pretty much know who’s listening to your music instead of just seeing numbers on paper.
You recently released your first Odd One Out mixtape, what do you have planned for the series?
I wanted to start the series with a mix that represents what I’m playing at my shows right now and the music that I’m relating to in a club environment. But also, as the name of the label kind of suggests, I want to do something a bit different every now and then so I’m gonna get guest mixes from some people, where they would play something else than what they normally play. So having like a house DJ play a set of whatever he’s into, whether it be instrumental hip-hop or anything… Give people a different look into their own personal taste.
Are there any artists in particular you’re dying to work with on Odd One Out?
I will always work with Sasha, but that’s also a bit of a reach, but I don’t know. I did a remix for him on his label, so maybe one day I can gather some cash or bribe him or whatever to make a remix for me. That would be a good one, because I’ve always just felt love for what he does, and he always has a really cool catalog. He never does useless records.
I heard that you ran a couple marathons this year, is that true?
Yeah I did, I did five of them. I used to run a lot more, I’ve done a few marathons before, they’ve always been very easy marathons, on concrete and in cities. But this time I did one on the Faroe Islands, which is between Iceland and UK in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, It’s part of Denmark. It’s just a small mountain, a small island, and there was a mountain trail marathon that I did that I really enjoyed. It was awful, it hurt. I’m not gonna do that one again, or maybe I will as long as my toenails grow back some from losing them during that one.
That sounds so hard, I could never.
Yea, it was really interesting, it ended up being so steep at most places that it was more like a very long, extreme hike instead of a running marathon. Most of the terrain was so difficult that you just could not run, just climb. But yeah it was cool, as part of that you kind of have a goal, or if I sign up for a race like that then I have to consistently train and force myself to hitting the treadmill when I’m on tour, so it kinda plays into that puzzle. When I started touring it was all about enjoying the free alcohol that was everywhere and partying, but it gets a bit tired. So I find that when I sign up for a race, I’m not doing anything stupid on tour, I’m just laying real low and training every day. It’s a good balance I think.
Switching topics quick, DJ Carnage just tweeted out that “openers should always bang it out” and you responded, “impressively bad advice.” What advice do you have for openers?
Yeah, well I think it’s just a very bad generalization from someone that big to say something like that. You know, if it’s a party where it’s a bunch of people who are into very aggressive heavy bass music, that’s all they want to hear then sure I think you should play that. But I think the opener’s role is, you know, to open the night, set the mood for what’s to come. So I don’t think it necessarily always works to mash it out. I think the opener should always do their best, and that’s the way you can impress people. You play to the room, you play to the night, you play to the DJ who’s playing next. It doesn’t matter that much at a festival where people might move between stages, so the musical arc of the night isn’t as important as in a club, but when you’re just in one room all night it becomes quite important to have a flow to the night.
Do you approach your club sets differently than your festival sets when you’re preparing?
…Yeah (at a festival) you might only have 90 minutes to do the best you can, usually that means mixing a bit more frequently or faster or just trying to get more up-tempo from the beginning, where at a club show if you have four hours you can take your time, get into it.
[Voice in background] Sorry, that’s my son
How old is he?
One-and-a-half years. Tiny little monster.
How do you have time to go on a world tour and start a label and raise a son?
That’s a good question, I think my wife would be better at answering it [laughs]. Yeah, I fly home pretty much every week, even if I’m touring on the other side of the world just to get a few days of family time in. It’s not as fun to be away on the weekends anymore as it was before he was born. But you know, people have to travel for their jobs, so it’s not an unlikely scenario to fly sometimes, but sometimes I leave him for a while, so there’s that. But he has come with me, my wife and the baby we all went to LA for a couple months just now. When I was touring in the US it made it a lot easier because it didn’t take me twenty hours to get home, just more like two hours.
Can you tell at all if he has a knack for music like you?
He does dance a lot whenever I play something, so maybe. And he loves smashing the keys on the piano, but he also loves smashing whatever makes a sound, so, you know, maybe.
2020 is around the corner, are you making any resolutions?
Release more music than 2019. And get another marathon in.
Where do you see yourself and Odd One Out in five to 10 years? Do you have any long term goals right now?
Yeah, definitely the goals that I have are more long term… In five years hopefully Odd One Out will be a label that actually has a published roster of artists under it and have put out a few… I’d like to start a compilation series where it’s not a million tracks just put together, just a few really cool tracks that fit each other. And then I would like find new artists that I could publish as part of the team. And then, some kinds of events so I could bring the guys from the labels do shows.
Now, his remix of Yotto’s brooding deep house track “Nova” has arrived. Cassian repurposes “Nova’s” sinister horns to set a more playful tone. While the core identity of “Nova” remains intact, Cassian’s take creates an entirely new atmosphere and feeling. This remix marks Yotto’s first collaborative effort under his recently-launched imprint Odd One Out. Cassian is slated to open for Yotto on his final two US tour stops in New York and Los Angeles.
Finnish producer Yotto has made a name for himself in the deep house scene, and now the producer is officially expanding his reach with the launch of his own imprint, Odd One Out. His label launch was accompanied by a single release, “Shifter,” and now he’s delivered the imprint’s second one, “Nova.”
“Nova” has a melodic tech-directed approach, playing with powerful pulsating rhythms and modest synths. As his four-part single series continues, Odd One Out begins to take shape and bring the eclectic sounds of Yotto’s repertoire to the dance floor.
“After two weeks of running a record label, I can safely say I’m already reaching the skill set of Berry Gordy,” the producer said in a press release. “The second installment from Odd One Out continues in the galactic zoo theme. Originally this piece was titled, ‘Ass Horn Track’ – title did not test well with my focus group of elderly Finnish ladies, so I switched it to ‘Nova.’ I like it, hope you do too.”
Yotto will be accompanying his label kick-off with a tour across the U.S. and Australia. Those hoping to see the producer perform live can find tickets to his tour here.
RL Grime‘s momentous sophomore album, NOVA, will reach its one-year anniversary in July, but the trap tastemaker isn’t waiting until then to celebrate the LP’s first birthday. Cue Nova Pure, a full-length album featuring instrumental versions of all of the cuts that first graced its progenitor album. NOVA is rife with powerhouse collaborations: Jeremih, Miguel, Tory Lanez, and Julia Michaels represent just some of the artists who contributed some vocal star power to the longform outing.
On NOVA Pure, listeners indeed get NOVA in its ‘purest,’ most unadulterated form. Sans the original features, Nova Pure foregrounds the climactic, cinematic affective presence of RL Grime’s production. In its narrowed focus on the electronic foundations that under-gird the featured vocals of NOVA, Nova Pure focalizes RL Grime’s technical acumen.
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.
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.
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.