Dexter’s Beat Laboratory is a weekly collection of songs from DA managing editor Robyn Dexter. With a taste that can only be described as eclectic—to say nothing of a name that lends itself to punnery—DA is happy to present a selection of tracks personally curated by Dexter for your listening pleasure.
When I started using SoundCloud in early 2014, I made playlists weekly (read: obsessively). I’ve backed off a bit in recent years, but I still take time to collect songs for my yearly “best of” playlist, which I create every January and add to throughout the year. In late December for the past five years, I’ve narrowed it down to my 50 favorite releases of the year. They range from hard-hitting anthems to serene soundscapes, which truly sums up my music preferences.
2019 was a stellar year for drum ‘n’ bass, exhibited in tracks like Kove‘s “Le Retour,” Koven‘s “Love Wins Again,” 1991‘s “Guiding Light,” Metrik‘s “Hackers,” and so many more. The genre took some fun twists and turns, which fans heard in Mat Zo‘s Latin-infused “Games” and Sub Focus‘ earth-shattering remix of Bring Me The Horizon‘s “Mother Tongue.”
This year saw the arrival of a slew of monstrous collaborations—some unexpected and some that simply made sense. Regardless, tracks like Sullivan King and Grabbitz‘s “Crazy As You” and Delta Heavy and Zeds Dead‘s “Lift You Up” blew my mind. I was delighted when Fox Stevenson and Feint teamed up on a remix of the former’s “Out My Head,” since it flawlessly combined both their styles.
Speaking of Fox Stevenson, the UK producer released his highly anticipated album, killjoy, this year, and it’s a dynamic journey through all sides of the producer’s capabilities. Goldroom wowed me with his double-sided, multi-faceted Plunge/Surface effort, which has quite a story behind it. I had a hard time picking a favorite from A R I Z O N A‘s nostalgic Asylum LP, which is gorgeous and heart-wrenching from start to finish. I also need to mention what was likely my most-listened-to album of the year, which isn’t on SoundCloud: Ollie Wride’s Thanks in Advance. It’s gold. I lived in the aforementioned albums this year, and I’m so grateful to the artists who made them for sharing their creativity with the world.
Without further ado, here are my 50 favorite songs of 2019, in no particular order.
Few moments are more sacred than the reprieve Saturday night provides from the daily grind of school and work. Its importance is meant to be emphasized, and thus, a feature dedicated to “doing the night right” was born. Saturday Night Sessions are set around energizing mixes meant to get the party started. New or old, each episode has one cornerstone thing in similarity: they serve as the perfect backdrop for the weekend pregame.
R3HAB is a producer who has successfully achieved mainstream notoriety while maintaining a positive affinity within the electronic music scene. Once an artist starts enlisting high-profile pop collaborators, many fans are quick to peg him or her as a sellout. R3HAB, whose real name is Fadil El Ghoul, has found a way to release singles authentic to his electronic beginnings while also producing radio hits that blend subtle progressive undertones with a compelling vocal line in order to maintain its radio appeal.
Recently, El Ghoul enlisted one of the most high-profile pop collaborators out there. He tapped Zayn Malik, former member of pop band One Direction, and Jungleboi for new single “Flames.” After the track received a warm reception, they have released an elaborate and thought-provoking music video for the single that’s set to come out in January.
Dancing Astronaut spoke to El Ghoul about the thought-provoking video, and about how the concept for the visual narrative came to be. He explains, “It’s Zayn’s creation to be honest. He had this concept and storyline, and all I really had to do was read it and enjoy.”
While “Flames” is the artist’s most recent release, he has been putting out music for more than a decade. He started off his career putting out various singles alongside Hardwell, and the rest is history. While El Ghoul’s music certainly speaks for itself, he believes that his studies and background in business is certainly a contributor to his success. He got a B.A. in economics, and he even goes as far to say that a lot of today’s successful artists are good entrepreneurs, which has directly correlated to their success. He states, “My mom insisted I study when I was younger. I followed economics and B.A. and I felt like I got a very good handle of things. I’ve definitely been able to apply those skills to my career. A lot of today’s successful artists are actually very good entrepreneurs.”
Fans of the producer’s experimentation with pop will be delighted to learn that he will be releasing a full EP in 2020 alongside Sofia Carson. The duo recently put out single “I luv You,” and their sonic chemistry is apparent.
When asked about his foray into pop and about the single itself, El Ghoul notes, “I’ve been experimenting for quite a while actually, going back to the Trouble album with the song with Verité and with Sofia Carson herself on “Rumors” from The Wave album. Electronic music has so many vibes and feels and I enjoy many of them. Besides, someone has to sing these tracks and Sofia does such a great job – we are actually releasing an EP together next year.”
Part of El Ghoul’s mark on the music industry has been his label CYB3RPVNK, a breeding ground for up-and-coming house artists, as well as the artist’s home for many of his own releases. When asked if there are any particular artists he has worked with through CYB3RPVNK who he thinks have burgeoning careers, he notes, “Please check out CITYZEN and Waysons both. Cityzen is a super productive new House producer that is getting lots of love all over at the moment. He just released a remix on OWSLA too. Waysons, is a duo that I’ve worked with for two years and now they are doing their solo thing – cool groovy atmospheric dance music.”
El Ghoul features both of these artists in his Saturday Night Session mix, which he promises prepares listeners for a Saturday night that is “always upbeat and energetic. Great music for the weekend and the freshest new sounds.”
You’ve stated that you have used your business education background to help you get your start in music. You’re such a household name now that we infrequently touch on your beginnings. Can you tell us more about this time in you career and how you applied your education to help you make it as a DJ and producer?
My mom insisted I study when I was younger. I followed economics and B.A. and I felt like I got a very good handle of things. I’ve definitely been able to apply those skills to my career. A lot of today’s successful artists are actually very good entrepreneurs.
Now that you have achieved what you have as a music producer and performer, what are your biggest goals for yourself? Where do you see the most opportunity for growth in your career?
There is still so much to be done. Great songs and collaborations to share with the world. So many artists to work with and not to mention many parts of the world that we are only just scratching the surface of.
The music video you guys put together for “Flames” has an incredibly elaborate story line. Can you tell us about your inspiration for the video? How did you all come up with this?
It’s Zayn’s creation to be honest. He had this concept and storyline, and all I really had to do was read it and enjoy.
You are currently on tour with Cash Cash. What have been some of your favorite or most anticipated stops on that tour?
We just did the Palladium in Hollywood which was insane. Very much looking forward to a sold out Avant Gardner in Brooklyn Nov. 29.
Is there any up and coming talent, perhaps who you have had sign songs to your label CYB3RPVNK, that you think will be a force to be reckoned with in the future?
Oh for sure. Please check out CITYZEN and Waysons both. Cityzen is a super productive new House producer that is getting lots of love all over at the moment + just released a remix on OWSLA too. Waysons, is a duo that I’ve worked with for 2 years and now they are doing their solo thing – cool groovy atmospheric dance music.
What is your ideal Saturday Night if you are not on tour?
In the studio making music of course 🙂
“I Luv U” shows your continuation of experimenting with pop following your single with Zayn Malik and Jungleboi. What has inspired you to experiment with this genre and is this a direction fans should start to expect from more of your releases in the future?
I’ve been experimenting for quite a while actually, going back to the Trouble album with the song with Verité and with Sofia Carson herself on “Rumors” from The Wave album. Electronic music has so many vibes and feels and I enjoy many of them. Besides, someone has to sing these tracks and Sofia does such a great job – we are actually releasing an EP together next year.
What kind of a Saturday night is your Saturday Night Session going to get listeners ready for?
Always upbeat and energetic. Great music for the weekend and the freshest new sounds.
A new addition to Saudi Arabia’s live event circuit, the inaugural MDL Beast Festival will be held from December 19 – 21 in Riyadh. The region’s largest music and culture festival, MDL Beast has curated a global selection of dance acts for its introductory event.
Headliners of the diverse, genre-fluid lineup include Afrojack, Black Coffee, David Guetta, FISHER, J. Balvin, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, and Sebastian Ingrosso, among others. Saudi artists such as the country’s first female DJ, Cosmicat, and production duo, Dish Dash, also top the MDL Beast ticket, exemplifying organizers’ commitment to programming that strikes a balance between local talent and international electronic heavyweights. Cosmicat and Dish Dash will be joined by 22 other regional talents.
In a statement, Steve Aoki expressed his excitement, “This summer I got to play in Saudi Arabia for the very first time; it was the most incredible experience that I’ll never forget. When I got the offer to play at the three-day MDL Beast Festival, I was thrilled to become part of it and be back in the region again.
In addition to singular live sets, MDL Beast will also host a series of noteworthy back-to-back performances. Martin Garrix will take the decks alongside Tiësto, CamelPhat will share the stage with FISHER. However, these are just two of the illustrious joint appearances that will unfold at MDL Beast.
“I’m so proud of the fact that we’re hosting this festival in Saudi; it’s a great reflection of the Saudi audience being able to experience the music they love, both local and international, right here in Riyadh.
As one of the first female EDM DJs here, I’m excited to be flying the flag and representing women on the scene. I can’t wait to share the stage with some phenomenal global talent and play for the MDL Beast crowd. This is going to be the set of my lifetime,” says Cosmicat.
The multi-sensory, multi-stage festival will pay homage to Saudi Arabia in its Saudi influenced stage design and production, which will be tailored to reflect the architecture of the region. Tickets to the first installment in the newly budding history of MDL Beast are available now, purchase here.
2019 has been the year of R3HAB. In just this year alone, the artist, born as Fadil El Ghoul, has toured around the world with more than 120 show dates, released more than 30 singles and remixes, and now rounds out his accomplished era with one of his final, show-stopping performances of the year at the Djakarta Warehouse Project.
Ahead of the gargantuan three-day festival, R3HAB has prepared a delectable hour long-mix for Dancing Astronaut in anticipation of his set at the “Garuda Land” stage, aptly named after the country’s enriching coat of arms, the Garuda Pancasila. The mix opens with the thunderous bassline and sultry vocals from ZAYN, the opening notes to their latest jaunt “Flames.” With a quickening change of pace, the mix flips through high-energy hits and remixes from his catalog, including his Latin-inspired single “Fuego.” Throughout the mix, R3HAB shows support for budding artists on his CYB3RPVNK label, mixing in tracks from artists like CItyzen and his collaboration with Skytech.
While he’s currently city-hopping with long-time friends and electro-house trio Cash Cash, next on his global takeover marks a performance at Djakarta Warehouse Project, one of the largest electronic music festivals in Southeast Asia. The festival falls in the heart of Jakarta among his circuit of tour stops.
Tickets and more information about the Djakarta Warehouse Project are available online.
It’s most important day of the week: New Music Friday. With the overwhelming amount of tunes hitting the airwaves today, Dancing Astronaut has you covered with the latest edition of The Hot 25.
At long last, Madeon’s sophomore LP, Good Faith, has arrived. Though it’s been long-anticipated, the electronic music community didn’t have time to anticipate new deadmau5, which dropped out of thin air on Nov. 15. Dillon Francis’ Magic Is Real makes a full appearance alongside these, tapping artists like Vera Hotsauce for “Barely Breathing.” MK and Sonny Fodera link with Raphaella for “One Night,” and Chris Lake and Solardo “Free Your Body” on their latest. GRiZ’s Bangers.Zip has arrived, featuring songs like “Tiger Kingdom Space Camp,” and MJ Cole’s remixed Flume and Vera Blue’s “Rushing Back.” Friction delivers some drum ‘n’ bass goodness on “Good To Me,” and Eli Brown puts his own spin on Dom Dolla’s “San Frandisco.” Snails, Kill The Noise, and Sullivan King team up for a new mega-collab, “Front 2 Back,” and NGHTMRE and Gunna bring the heat with “CASH COW.” Gammer returns to Monstercat for “Brostep Strikes Back,” and Klingande releases his long-awaited debut LP, The Album. Oliver Heldens links with Firebeatz, Schella, and Carla Monroe for “Lift Me Up,” and Dirty South and Marion Amira prove a formidable force on “All I Need.” Dillon Nathaniel goes deep on a new tech house heater, “Do It Again,” and R3HAB teams up with ZAYN and Jungleboi on “Flames.”
As each week brings a succession of new music from some of electronic music’s biggest artists, here’s a selection of tracks that shouldn’t be missed this NMF.
Win and Woo stem from humble beginnings remixingBryce Fox‘s “Burn Fast” and an official edit for The Chainsmokers chart-topping hit “Don’t Let Me Down.” Since then, they’ve received widespread acclaim, with key looks including a sync during NBC’s Sunday Night Football and the Blue Moon “Shine Brighter” campaign. With the increased traction, it’s no surprise that they were selected for an official Katy Perry rework.
The remix alludes to the originals’ slower tempo, yet adds a darker, punk-inspired touch with bold guitar chords on the verses layered over light piano riffs. The duo’s pop-influenced sound is driven by strong bass lines and melodic drops—evident on the drop with looped vocal samples—and maintains what can wholly be described as an electronic rock-band arrangement.
Win and Woo are fresh off an edit of the iconic Otto Knows track “Million Voices” and will be direct support for Gryffin in Saint Petersburg, FL November 23.
Each week, New Music Friday sweeps through with torrential force, showering streaming platforms with immeasurable amounts of new tunes. Just like Dancing Astronaut rounds up 25 of the biggest songs of the week for the Hot 25 Spotify playlist each New Music Friday, Lunar Lunes serves as a landing pad for SoundCloud users who want a whole new dose of tunes to kick off the work week.
Seven years and no signs of slowing down. It’s been a long journey since R3hab broke onto the scene with his “chainsaw madness” sound and ever since his production style continues to evolve. The same holds true for his latest remix of X-Factor winner James Arthur’s “Treehouse.” Fadil takes the emotive indie hit and puts a high energy electropop spin on the original’s hopeful tone. The Dutch phenom’s interpretation still carries Arthur’s inspiring vocal hooks but bolsters them with bouncy and melodic electronic elements, transforming it into a bonafide festival anthem.