Escape with Soul Catalyst

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Discovering Soul Catalyst is like discovering a hidden snack at your marketplace and it becoming one of your favorite treats of all time. In the last couple years, Soul Catalyst has consistently been awarding fans with one great tune after another, continuously finding ways to present his layback, worldly sound. “Escape” winds it down compared

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Johnny Yono Dreams Big With “King Of The Dream” (Free DL)

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The Detroit native, LA based Johnny Yono is perhaps one of trance music’s most overlooked and underappreciated talents. Owning a bevy of the heaviest, emotive, and download quality trance tunes you’ll hear, covering a spectrum of dark and techy to blissful and inspiring. Last year he celebrated numerous releases, such as a handful of bangers

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Scene rising: Ocaso Music Festival is a testament to the searing underground potential of Costa Rica

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Tamarindo, Costa Rica’s Ocaso Music Festival is already finding its sweet spot.

Such a feat is not an easy one to accomplish — especially in an increasingly saturated festival market where success rides a fine line of talent booking, production, and risk-taking. Nailing a major festival production can take years, even with a strong team and a prime location. However, Ocaso only took two editions to get its footing in the contemporary event-organizing arena.

 

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What originally began in 2017 in Tamarindo as a free event has since transformed into an unparalleled, explorative venture diving deep into the realms of underground house and techno. This year, Ocaso Festival focused on delivering a more concise lineup of house and techno artists than it had last year. 2017’s lineup boasted artists like Hot Since 82Art DepartmentLee Burridge, DJ Tennis, Doc Martin, Cristoph, Anthony Attalla, Dance Spirit, Edu Imbernon, and Andreas Henneberg. Although 2017’s curation doesn’t appear to be any less concise than this year’s artistic assemblage, the main shift for 2018 was allowing extended DJ sets from a plethora of acts throughout the weekend.

Found on the 2018 lineup were underground house and techno pioneers like Doc Martin, Hector, Claptone, and Carlo Lio, plus live sets from Rodriguez Jr and Tone Of Arc, as well as a local takeover from Costa Rican DJs like Javee, Oneiro, Maria Wabe, Samu, and more. The rambunctious, SoCal Desert Hearts party crew featuring Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, MARBS, Porkchop, and RYBO also held it down for two surprise nights of the festival.

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Tamarindo, Costa Rica’s appeal lies in a multitude of offerings: great weather year-round, a party atmosphere near the beaches, ease of air travel, and a somewhat equidistant geographic location to major markets such as North America, South America, and Western Europe. Aside from the music, the Tamarindo Playa can be explored in a number of ways, from snorkeling the coral reef to scuba diving, surfing, or zip lining through nearby jungles. For those looking to err on the side of relaxation, Tamarindo offers luscious, local cuisine, as well as a superfluous number of bars and spas.

What Tamarindo’s nightlife lacks, one could argue, are the gargantuan dance venues similar to those of Ibiza. Though Costa Rica’s San José does bolster an array of nightlife institutions and party organizations, Club Vertigo and ANTIK being on the leading edge of the scene, the city is significantly less developed than much of the leading destination festival world. Rolling green mountains stretch beyond the city limits, where the jungles carry on as far as the eye can see. In this regard, one could argue that Costa Rica is ripe for its growth in the scene, but cities like Las Vegas and Dubai are light-years ahead. Even other “would-be Ibizas” such as Punta del Este in Uruguay, Cyprus, Bali, Romania, and Croatia, are too.

Though it’s important to understand: Costa Rica’s not aiming to be “the new Ibiza.”  

Unlike other destination festivals, Tamarindo’s Ocaso Festival points to a budding underground and a scene whose deserving musical and cultural celebration is deeply embedded in the country’s very livelihood.

Costa Rica will likely not in two lifetimes approach what Ibiza has done for the dance music — it’s unlikely any new “hotspot” will, for that matter. Providing a niche destination and unique attraction between that of a boutique and underground festival experience for the scene though is growing increasingly appetizing. To this effect, Costa Rica is well-positioned, and Tamarindo’s Ocaso Festival is leading the front.

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Tamarindo is the biggest beachfront city in the area on the Pacific side, also within an hour drive of the new international airport in Liberia, making the ease of travel to Ocaso Festival a major attraction. Being on the Pacific side of the country is also incredibly important, the festival’s founder Devin Ellis has articulated to DA; Costa Rica’s dry season occurs only on the Pacific side of the country from mid-December to May, making the destination a key player in attendee’s delight.

Having organized underground warehouse style shows in the early nineties, “We have always had house and techno as our main attractions but added genres like hip-hop, drum & bass, and jungle at some of the bigger events,” the sonically well-rounded founder of Ocaso Festival is unequivocally rinsed in the underground scene.

After traveling to Acapulco Mexico in 2001 for an event called the ACA Soundfest, Ellis became drawn to the hedonistic and ground-breaking open-air possibilities a music festival could offer, and so he incorporated these elements into Ocaso.

It was “unlike anything I had ever experienced,” he’d said of ACA, also telling the Huffington Post prior to Ocaso, “I wanted to find a similar setting for my own destination festival. Removing people from the everyday stresses of life, and immersing them in an isolated setting produces a truly paradisaical experience full of freedom. In my first full night in Tamarindo a few years ago, I knew then Costa Rica was going to be home for Ocaso.”

After traveling extensively for a few years, Ellis remembered how much he enjoyed good music and its versatility no matter where he was.

“We just wanted to throw a destination festival to give people the opportunity to listen to world-class techno and house music in some of the most amazing locations on the planet,” Ellis told us of the mission behind Ocaso.

To pull off a world-class party, Ellis and the Ocaso organizers capitalized on a threefold relationship with the natural environment.

Beginning with the beach, the lifeblood of Ocaso festival was the relationship cultivated between the attendee and musical setting. Named after the Spanish word for “sunset,” it was incredibly apt that Ocaso’s second incorporation of an environmental element was a driving force of the country’s ethos: its sunsets. Ocaso’s decision to move from the opening party on the beach to a rooftop of a hotel for its days and final evening was a masterful one. In doing so, they displayed a threefold understanding of the need to entertain, but also to delight with the country’s natural beauty, and aid in attendees’ cultivation of a memorable experience with one another.

The most integral piece of Ocaso’s environmental planning though was its ascendance into the Costa Rican jungle for two nights. A sublime union between attendees and their environment, Ocaso’s underground roots were elongated with the use of the “La Senda” venue. Ocaso’s organizers paved the road leading from Tamarindo to La Senda, which was previously a dirt path, and quite literally allowed attendees to descend into the festival’s jungle accolade.

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Citing natural beauty as one of the number one attractions of Costa Rica, Ellis’ move of Ocaso to a natural amphitheater and next to an open Labrinyth structure for two evenings was immensely felicitous.

Besides the musical venue lied the Tamarindo Labyrinth, which according to both its website and locals, serves as “a maze you get lost [in] and have to find your way out, a labyrinth has only one path which symbolizes our life’s journey and takes us inward guiding us to find out who we really are. ”

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Photo Credit: La Senda Costa Rica

Translated into the design of a labyrinth by Ronald Esquivel, the jungle’s labyrinth uses sacred geometry and the number three, uniting two opposing centers — the feminine and the masculine into a third center, the Vesica Piscis — which is believed to be the point of creation.

In sacred geometry, the Vesica Piscis is the passageway from “the One to the many,” or the portal through which all forms and patterns of our universe are created. Since symbolism flows so deep within many, this figure is intended to allow inner expansion, exploration, inspiration, and spiritual self-discovery.

Respectively, Ocaso didn’t disrupt the landscape of La Senda, instead, they laced the jungle stage beside it, but the natural labyrinth’s proximity to the music and the natural amphitheater where it instead took place still beckoned an embracement of the country’s holistic energies — indeed propitious to the festival’s spiritual ideology.

Other than Ocaso’s optimal choice of venues, and its oneness with its destination, the festival soared in its palpable energy, although such a feat is rendered impossible without a diverse booking of world-class acts like Doc Martin, Claptone, Kenny Glasgow, Desert Hearts, and more.

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Ocaso’s not looking to make any drastic changes in its programming in the years to come, though Ellis hopes to continue to build on the vibes that have exploded since they began. 

Ultimately, it’s the energy of the underground that will keep people coming back to Ocaso. After all, that’s what’s kept the underground scene bubbling beneath the surface worldwide. With both Ellis’ and Ocaso’s investments in the Costa Rican scene, as well as their dedication to creating goosebump-inducing moments, and allowing the spaces to do the rest; its no surprise that Ocaso will be returning to Tamarindo next year with the same devotion to its natural environment, and most importantly, with the same love for the music that keeps it going.

All Photos Courtesy of Pablo Murillo

DA Presents: 15 artists that rocked the underground in 2017

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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

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DVS1

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

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Amelie Lens

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

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Jeremy Olander

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

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Floating Points

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

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Honey Dijon

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

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Bedouin

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

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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 Flynn Photo Credit: Helena Majewska

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Chicola

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

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Fur Coat

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

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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

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Shall Ocin

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

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Rinzen

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 Hernandez Photo credit: Michael Drummond

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Palms Trax

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

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Rødhåd

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

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Henry Saiz

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 Hernandez Photo credit: Chris Soltis

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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

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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.

Words by: Christina Hernandez

Galestian – Rituals

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With a successful 2017 in the books, mostly due to the underground hit ” Tell Me”, nomadic producer Galestian is ready to make a big impact on the dance community. Spending the last few years diverting from the trance field and honing in on a deep and proggy sound, Galestian has finally found his sonic home. “Rituals”

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Involve Records releases 5 year anniversary compilation CD

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Involve Records has released a 5 year anniversary compilation to celebrate their genesis as a record label. The Madrid, Spain record label has chartered groundbreaking territory in the global techno-sphere since 2012. With releases from such artists as Jay Lumen, Alan Fitzpatrick, and Marco Bailey, Involve has planted themselves as an independent powerhouse in the techno underground. The label has gained global notoriety and esteem in recent years as a result of their authenticity and consistent stream of quality releases.

The anniversary CD features tracks from Yotam Anvi, Alien Rain, FJAAK, Regal, Exilles, and a diverse roster of additional producers.

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Explore Destructo’s personal record crate with this new ‘OG Underground’ playlist

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Before Destructo became the king of west coast dance events and G-house’s popular champion, Gary Richards resumé already boasted the legwork that galvanized the 1990’s rave scene, creating and operating his own label, as well as a co-sign from Rick Rubin to lead Def American’s early electronic A&R channel. Richards is effectively a living time capsule of modern underground music’s most formative moments and at the root of his complexion is techno. He’s seen where it’s been from a firsthand perspective, so those looking for a crash course in underground dance history, tune in. Destrcuto has dropped off a new Spotify playlist curated to be a crate digger’s dream.

Stocked with cuts from OG’s including The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Moby, Kraftwerk and The KLF, Destructo offers up a lesson in techno and house history, showing off 30 of his personal favorites. Lords of Acid, who Richards had even signed in a past life, 808 State, and The Prodigy make appearances all well, giving an inside look at the tracks that shaped the industry leading tastemaker Richards has become today. Tune in and take notes.

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Black Coffee speaks on nurturing new talent, the South African dance scene, and more [Interview]

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The name “Black Coffee” has been one of high interest as of late on the house circuit. Cutting his teeth in the South African underground during his youth, the beloved icon — born Nkosinathi (Nathi) Maphumulo — initially broke into the scene in the early 2000s and worked his way into becoming a household name around just a decade later in 2015 as the “Breakthrough DJ of the Year” at the DJ Awards. A year later, he became the first South African to win a BET award.

Nathi’s continued success comes a large part from his keen talent at dismantling preconceived notions of what himself or others from his region sound like. Instead, his ultimate and unwavering vision is to paint worldly, class imagery with his carefully-crafted sets while also moving people with original productions that he hopes will be carried far into the future. His unrelenting humility and passion also set him apart from the fact, as fans feed off his infection energy worldwide.

The past summer season has been yet another monumental one for Black Coffee, who was chosen to lead one of Hï Ibiza’s first residencies. While one might feel a certain pressure playing a venue that was once the iconic space, Nathi navigated his residency with poise and distinction, enchanting each crowd with his blend of memorable hooks, subdued rhythms, and creative melodic manipulation. Additionally, he curated a caliber roster of artists joining him for his residency which represented the best of fellow South African talent.

Ahead of his next round of tour dates, one of which includes an October 21 show at Brooklyn’s Output (tickets here), Black Coffee took some time to talk more about these artists he nurtures, the South African dance scene, new bodies of work, and more.

 

Black Coffee

You’re wrapping up your first season at Hï right now! How is playing that club? Do you think it can fill the void that Space left?

It’s been such an amazing experience. As a DJ I’ve always envisioned a residency in Ibiza, and to have a club to play at for the city. I never expected it to be on this level. Hï is the ultimate for me. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my career. I’ve learned so much from it!

Do you think it can fill the void that Space left?

Definitely, definitely. The very big room was something that we are always very much aware of. Normally I have my reservations and fears about making it work and every night it would be at full capacity. And between those nights I would do shows outside on the island and because of that now I’ve started seeing the difference and the impact that the residency has because of all these places I go to. Now, most people go to Hï in Ibiza and it has somehow grown my audience as well.

You mentioned fears and reservations, does playing big rooms normally make you nervous?

I get nervous everywhere, because I consider all I do a little bit differently. I always walk into a room to educate people on a different sound. Education is good, but it’s not a pleasant thing at times and I always get nervous at that fact. Whoever’s playing before me, no matter how underground the music is, it’s definitely a sound people in Europe are accustomed to, or anywhere for that matter, and here comes me who’s gonna come with a different sound, blend it with different things. I never take anything for granted or think they [the audience] will know who I am. It’s just going to happen. Whether the venues big or small, it’s the same for me.

Tell us more about the artists you chose to play alongside you? What made them stand out?

These are artists I really respect and most of these guys have been doing it for awhile on the island. The entire idea was when we mold this night we tried to create a certain vibe or sound in the room. For everyone who was chosen they were chosen on what they’re bringing in the room. It was all based on a preset we had. Ok, this is what we’re doing, this is what we want to achieve because Hï is a very big club. We wanted artists that are related musically to what I am doing.

How has the South African scene grown and developed over the years? What do you think is needed to make it into a dance music mecca, or is it already in your opinion?

It still has a very long way to go. Music there is a big thing. Dance music is a huge thing. You go to different parts of Europe and dance music doesn’t exist in communities, only in the night, in the dark, in the clubs. Obviously at the festivals too, which is a seasonal thing, but the difference with South Africa is that it’s constantly there. On the radio, house music is constantly in people’s lives, which is cool, but then there’s no control or there’s no culture. For instance, mostly when people go to South Africa they will send me a message: ‘Hi, I’m in South Africa where do you think I can go for a great night out?’ And I never have that answer. Because we don’t have much of the house music clubbing scene. There’s no structure in that sense. Music is there. It’s everywhere. There are clubs but clubs are just for entertainment. On nights you’ll get a hip-hop DJ or a house DJ or the live act or a live house singer. All of that is there but there’s nothing for the house music scene at all, and I think it starts there — with creating a home. When there’s a home there’s also education and then we can start bringing the same lineup I was having here at Hï, so that the locals will start to get educated on what’s happening internationally. For now, we’re just small and local. We love our local sound and it’s cool but we’re not growing on a bigger scale. We’re still like homegrown so I just feel like we need more clubs that will specialize on the scene and we can start interacting with the world and bringing different people vice versa and local artists will start going out as well. We need to create that cultural exchange of some sort.

Do you feel that a house club would be a good means of cultural exchange or do you feel it could possibly diminish the integrity of music South Africa’s established?

Yeah, I think it will add value. What’s been established there is there. It’s not going anywhere.

We need a place where you wanna go and just listen to house music., you know? A place where you get to hear of new local DJs that you didn’t know existed, along with some international DJs you didn’t know existed as well. In that sense, everyone is growing also. Young kids who DJ, maybe even aren’t producing music at all, they’re just DJs and at this point and there’s no place like that here because the venues are booking established acts for business. So there’s no home for house, but I want to change that.

Would you say then that as a successful DJ, it’s more important than ever to show off budding local talent from the homeland if the chance is given?

Extremely, extremely. This is all I do all the time. The music that I play most of it is music from directly unknown DJs. Some of them have no recording deals or anything. So I’m always looking for stuff to play. Actually, one of the DJs were bringing for the closing, his name is Enoo Napa. He’s like one of those DJs who has been releasing music with no record deal yet, but has literally been dominating my sets this summer. Then I proposed let’s bring him and this is his first trip overseas.

Along the way, I’ve wanted to pick up those young ones that I feel like have potential. But it mustn’t only end with Hï. I was in Berlin playing at Watergate and they have this party called Rise. And it’s literally about playing Afro-House music and they will have South African DJs playing with the locals from Berlin and I was saying to them, ‘I want to be able to take that party to South Africa so we can start doing the same exchange. ‘This month we bring two Germans the following month we take two South Africans to Germany.’

An exchange residency, in a sense.

Yeah! This is how I feel it’s going to go! If we can do it with Rise, we can do it with Djoon in Paris, and someone else in Japan and start doing collaborations. Bringing a Japanese DJ in Angola on Friday, he goes to South Africa on Saturday. For me, I think this is how we can grow the culture. This is how we can expose people to what’s happening in the world. And those elements will grow our city locally as well.

What are three tracks that have played large roles in your rotation at Hï, and what do you think makes them work particularly well on the dance floor?

One has to be a song called “Zow Music” it’s a remix by Lalou, an African producer who lives in Geneva. It’s a European-inspired song with an Afro beat. It works so well with what I do, because that is what I try and look for in my sets. My sets are not pure African tribal,you know. I try and borrow from both European and African worlds to keep it very unique. Because of the sets I’m starting to play with these elements, even back home, the producers are starting to understand the sound that crosses over. Some producers are young and they only know South Africa, their dream is to eventually grow and start doing shows outside and being recognized outside as well. I try and play music that connects those two worlds. This song is one of those songs.

Another one that’s been very strong is by Da Capo called “Resistance,” featuring Renee Thompson. I can’t really explain this one. I think it’s in the vocal approach and how it’s produced, how Da Capo worked his magic on the rhythm of this one.

A third one I can think of is, its a South African song, by Styx & Bones that is remixed by Manu. The song is called “Amasoon?.” The song is also on another level. Manu is originally from South Africa but he lives in France so he understands you know that bridge I was talking about also. Most of the music he creates, its a reflection of who he is, an African man who lives in France. These are the songs that I can say have been very strong on the sets at Hï.

What sorts of things are in line for Black Coffee for end of year/next year?

Because of the tour I’ve been really, really struggling on production work. I think that’s one thing I would like to establish, not given a single, but be to be able to get back into the groove. It’s always a complex thing for me to work in production. But once I start I get into that loop you know. So I’m expected to release a single on Ultra by the end of the year. But first, I mean the goal for me is to get back into production work and start working.

From what I understand, South Africa has so much value in albums themselves, are you still planning to continue creating albums as your body of work?

Yeah! Yeah, I’m working on an album to release possibly February or March next year. So lazily I have I been having ideas down. I think of this one song I did with an artist from London called Tom Misch. Very young, very, very talented kid. We were talking about working and so we went to the studio last month and did something. So far that’s the only song that has direction!

Even last night I was working on it so the whole idea by the end of February or March I release an album.

Sounds like something we can look towards that’ll be intersecting various styles with South Africa.

Yes, but also the world. My idea with this album is I wanna go across all genres. I’ve done a song with Burna Boy from Nigeria and a song with Swizz Beats and that’s the kind of album I want, someone you wouldn’t expect on a Black Coffee album. *Laughs* You know. Like guys from the world, have a Pharrell… if I can find a Pharrell. That’s the kind of an album I want, it’s not just, you know, more, more dance and techno based it’s everything that I’m inspired to do at the moment. Slow-tempo, mid-tempo, up-tempo, doesn’t matter.

 

Interview conducted by Grace Fleisher

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