12 Sets You Need To Hear Before EDC Vegas

While ‘The Headliner Is You’ at Electric Daisy Carnival, you can still count on an A-list cast of DJs leading each night from dusk ‘till dawn. As we count down the days until EDC returns to the Las Vegas Speedway, inthemix stacks up 12 Soundcloud sets that should soundtrack your road-trip.

Armin van Buuren’s trance masterclass

On the final night of EDC Vegas last year, trance don Armin van Buuren stepped into a 2am slot at the Kinetic Field between David Guetta and Porter Robinson. With just an hour to work with, he went straight for anthems like Marco V’s take on Mr Brightside and the Dash Berlin remix of his own Not Giving Up On Love. The night before, after the ASOT arena was shut down by the desert storm, he’d gone back-to-back with Markus Schulz in the A State Of Trance studio. So, what’s he planning for 2013?

The DJ’s recent three-hour session for Pete Tong’s Essential Mix should clue you in. As he announced on the show: “It’s been a while since I did my last studio mix so I decided to make something special for you, have a proper build-up in this one, starting at 125BPM and building up all the way to a whopping who’s afraid of 138BPM.” Armin gets the job done with a host of exclusives from his own studio and beyond, and the climax brings “some proper banging and uplifting trance”. Sounds to you like a perfect EDC soundtrack? You’re not the only one.

The singular Eric Prydz sound

“There’s big things happening with dance music over in the States and my last proper tour there was about 2008,” Eric Prydz told inthemix in 2012, as he prepared to make the move to L.A. Since arriving in America, the Swedish powerhouse has proven to be unstoppable. From closing the Sahara structure on both weekends of Coachella to his Black Dice residency in Las Vegas (“we blacken out the whole club, put the lights down, and make it all about the music,” he told inthemix), Prydz is a unique breed of big-room DJ.

On the road to the Las Vegas Speedway this month, he’s already lit up the stages of EDC in New York and Chicago. In the company of headliners like Tiesto, Calvin Harris, Afrojack and Avicii, the Swede brings a different class of peaktime set: dark, hypnotic and unmistakeably Prydz. “95-percent is my own music, which is just the way I play,” he told inthemix. “I make the music I want to play. I do edits, private remixes – when people see me who follow the Pryda label, they don’t want to hear the tracks they’ve heard a hundred times before.”

In February of this year, Prydz was invited to return to the BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix studio for a two-hour session. It showcased just how much custom-made fire-power he has to work with, with a battalion of Pryda broken up by a few like minds including his protégé Jeremy Olander. For proof of the mastery he’ll bring to EDC under the desert sky, look no further.

The MPC mastery of AraabMUZIK

AraabMUZIK was in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” according to his reps, when he faced an attempted robbery and shooting in early May. But the so-called ‘MVP of the MPC’ rallied quickly, even setting up a portable studio to his hospital room. Now, he’ll take his rightful place on-stage at EDC Las Vegas – and, with trap music having its mainstage moment, the timing couldn’t be better.

Before dance fans fell for trap’s thundering basslines, simmering snare drums and head-nodding tempos, AraabMUZIK was tapping these sounds as a hip hop producer. But his debut album, 2011’s Electronic Dream, revealed he had EDM clout too: the LP sampled Kaskade, deadmau5 and OceanLab. Araab’s performances at this year’s Ultra Music Festival proved that he can mesh the genres with ease (and the push of a button or two). He’s even releasing an album on Ultra Records in July, which will feature remixes of tracks from the label with his signature twist.

AraabMUZIK’s February mixtape For Professional Use Only offers a taste of his innovative, uninhibited style; tribal drums flirt with electric guitar riffs on The Prince Is Coming, for example, and a delicate vocal gets chopped and sampled to pieces on Beauty. While there’s more to Araab’s music than just ground-shaking low-end, the prospect of experiencing his music on festival-grade speakers has us excited for his EDC debut. His show is part DJ set, part on-the-fly beatmaking – but, more than anything, it’s one hell of a show.

‘Dope treats’ from Porter Robinson

“It’s approaching 4:45pm at Electric Zoo Festival in New York, and I’m shoulder-to-shoulder in a surge of neon,” inthemix wrote in September of last year. “The traffic is headed in one direction: towards the mainstage. Inflatable dolls, home-made signs, American flags, effigies and arms decked out in kandi bracelets are all pointed skywards. The reason for this swarm is the day’s next DJ, Porter Robinson – or, as a girl I pass would have it, ‘PORRRTTTERRR!’”

There’s no doubting the mass appeal of Porter Robinson – before even turning 21, he’s amassed a fan count in the hundreds of thousands and, with only a few years of experience under his belt, is regularly called on to saddle up next to the likes of Tiesto for the biggest sets of the day.

But his sets stand apart from his mainstage peers: rather than working through ‘The Playlist’, Porter drops unexpected tracks like Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker in next to the electro-house he’s built his production career on. “I have no issues presenting a high-energy thing, but now I also like to make references for more knowledgeable crowds,” he told us.

Look no further than Porter’s recent 30-minute mix for triple j radio for an idea of how he likes to do things: he and Mat Zo’s mega-hit Easy is in there, alongside ‘dope treats’ from big-roomer Kaskade, Mad Decent fast-riser GTA and trance duo W&W.

Art Department’s deep groove

Canada isn’t credited for an abundance of dance talent like, say, Sweden or the Netherlands, but Jonny White and Kenny Glasgow – better known as Art Department – are doing their country proud. The combination of the duo’s studio skills and Glasgow’s vocals has resulted in deep house burners with both dancefloor appeal and an emotional edge. Art Department’s tracks, whether originals or remixes (such as their iconic take on Let Love Decide by Roland Clark), have made them one of the leading assets on the Crosstown Rebels roster.

The duo’s EDC gig marks the midpoint of what’s already been an incredibly successful summer: White and Glasgow have already played Circoloco at DC10 in Ibiza, Manchester’s Parklife Festival and their own Social Experiment night in Barcelona. They also had one of the best shows of the weekend at Detroit’s Movement Festival in May. The set manages to retain its energy throughout, while also dabbling with different moods. The EDC crowd may not be quite as attuned to the underground as Movement, but Art Department will no doubt earn new fans among those looking for a non-mainstage experience.

@ARTDEPTMUSIC – Liveset @ Movement Electronic Music Festival (Detroit) – 26-05-2013 by Technolivesets on Mixcloud

Boys Noize going in hard

For the hardened fan, there’s two opportunities to catch Alex Ridha on stage at EDC: his back-to-back set with Skrillex as Dog Blood and alone as Boys Noize on the HARD stage. This time, it looks like Ridha is leaving his “terminator-esque” ‘Skull’ set up at home in favour of a DJ set.

“As a DJ I want to play only new stuff,” Ridha told inthemix earlier this year. That means cuts from last year’s album Out of the Black like XTC, Ich R U and What You Want, his new Go Hard EP and the latest from his ever-busy label. Ridha doesn’t take his duty as a DJ lightly: “I don’t have a problem sitting alongside other DJs who play more radio-friendly, cheesy stuff,” he told inthemix. “I’ve had it many times before where it actually works really well. For me, it’s a good challenge too, to go up there and play my sound and rock as many people as possible. That’s actually a lot of fun.”

“I can only speak for myself, I was always doing mixtapes at home, I was a warm-up DJ for many years; you get a good feeling of ‘the moment’ really and how to play to it. And that for me is the most exciting thing as a DJ, and I think a lot of DJs who don’t have that experience think they have to play the stuff people know to easily rock the crowd. But you can rock the crowd in so many different ways.” If you’re after a primer, Ridha’s Ultra Music Festival set should do nicely.

Avicii’s gamble

Avicii could’ve taken the easy route at Ultra Music Festival back in March and stacked his set with what Kaskade calls “big ass festival sounds”. Instead, the superstar Swede made a bold move. After opening with a succession of anthems, Avicii then invited live instrumentalists and singers onstage to showcase his album material. After EDM all day, the shades of country music and bluegrass came as a curveball. “He just turned Ultra Music Festival into a red-neck carnival,” wrote one disbelieving fan. “To be honest it isn’t the worst thing I have heard,” another reasoned, “but it sure as shit doesn’t belong on the mainstage.”

Avicii’s set ended up as one of the most talked-about from Ultra. A few weeks later, he met the criticism head-on with this hour-long mix, featuring the controversial new album tracks. “In a 75-minute set, I brought a 15-minute different breakdown with live musicians to a festival with non-stop dance music for three days straight, two weeks in a row,” he wrote.

So what can the thousands at the Las Vegas Speedway expect from Avicii? Less kazoo and banjo and more bangers, we’d expect. His Le7els label has been firing in 2013 with big-room gear, and he’s a pro at those melodic build-ups and honeyed vocals. We expect he’ll have a prime spot on the EDC mainstage, too.

Calvin Harris: made for mainstages

At last year’s EDC, Calvin Harris was on the mainstage as heavy winds forced the festival to shut down, just as night two was accelerating. So he’s got plenty to make up for when he steps up again at the Speedway for (god willing) an uninterrupted set in 2013. There’s certainly no shortage of mainstage-ready tunes from his own back-catalogue – it was just the other day when Calvin surpassed one Michael Jackson for the UK sales record of the most chart hits from one album with his blockbuster 18 Months.

Not that Calvin limits his sets to his own output. At this year’s Ultra Music Festival, he worked through cuts from Tommy Trash, Axwell, Basement Jaxx and Justice vs. Simian’s evergreen banger We Are Your Friends in his fast-moving hour-long slot. His decision to ditch live shows to focus on giving the DJ thing 100-percent has paid off: the energy’s always kept high and the tunes are always anthemic. Not sure what stage he’s on? Just follow the crowds.

EDC’s hard-man Headhunterz

“On our largest stage, we’re going to have everything from hardstyle to house to dubstep to trance to techno,” EDC’s mastermind Pasquale Rotella told inthemix about the vision for 2013. “It’s going to be different. We’re actually going to have a hardstyle act play on our mainstage, which has never been done in the United States. We’re going to experiment.” It didn’t take much to deduce that the hardstyle act in question is Dutch dynamo Headhunterz, who is midway through a blockbuster year.

The DJ’s own Hard With Style radio show continues to fire, and it’s an aspirational platform for young producers. “That’s why so many young artists are overloading me with smashing tracks,” he told inthemix of his show. “They feel the quality, see the success and they’re excited to be a part of it.” Through remixing EDM names like Nicky Romero, Hardwell, Zedd and Kaskade, Headhunterz is winning a legion of new converts to the harder side. On the road to Vegas, he’s already closed out EDC in Chicago and New York. Here’s his set from the Q-dance stage at Tomorrowland 2012 in Belgium.

Techno, techno, techno from Adam Beyer

Sweden’s Adam Beyer has followed techno through just about every twist and turn it’s taken over the last decade, but in the last year he has gone back to his roots: banging, mechanical and rhythmic techno laced with gritty, hypnotic funk. With his label Drumcode going from strength to strength (Beyer was even invited to curate a Drumcode stage at the legendary Awakenings in Amsterdam), Beyer is again one of the go-to guys if you want it slamming.

This set recorded from Hyperspace in Budapest is everything his fans love about Adam Beyer and a good indication of what you can expect at a large festival like Electric Daisy Carnival where it’s all about the energy: long, smooth mixes, rolling percussion, subterranean basslines and full-throttle grooves. Strap yourself in.

Major Lazer’s party mission

The Major Lazer festival philosophy is simple: make it loud and make it fun. “We like to play mainstage sets because we like to embarrass other DJs, because they’re all so boring,” Major Lazer ringleader Diplo told inthemix ahead of this year’s Coachella. “A lot of the time our fans aren’t at the mainstage just for us, but we just like to go in there and give people more of a show and do something differently musically. We don’t wanna just play the same top ten Beatport tracks everyone else is playing, we wanna play new stuff.”

Sure enough, you don’t need to be a hardened fan to enjoy a Major Lazer festival set. Between the girls called up on stage to express themselves, Diplo crowd-surfing in a giant ball and the best back-up dancers this side of the Caribbean, there’s no shortage of spectacle. Couple that with Diplo’s forward-thinking taste in music and Major Lazer’s own explosive catalogue of hits, and you’ve got an unmissable set.

Want an idea of the sort of tracks to expect? Major Lazer’s Coachella set had House of Pain’s Jump Around next to their own Jah No Partial and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, with dancehall vibes dominating. Listen to that Coachella set below, and expect them to go even bigger at EDC.

Dance music according to Sasha

One of the originators of the progressive sound, Sasha has enjoyed a consistent place at the top of the game thanks to his ability to adapt.

Riding high from the recent release of Involv3r, Sasha is pushing an interesting mix of house, techno, indie-dance and electronica, infusing them with the irresistible energy of progressive house. No stranger to U.S. clubs or to big festivals, Sasha has the credentials to tear up EDC on a line-up that also includes his legendary sparring partner John Digweed. While on a festival stage, Sasha’s sure to be in peaktime mode, his recent BBC 6 Mix captures the DJ’s musical head-space right now. In the man’s own words, it’s “a lot of beautiful music”, from Dominik Eulberg and Isolee to producers of the moment ThermalBear, Jack Dixon, Bicep and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.