20 acts you should really get to know in 2016

Photo credit: @williamselvisphotography

Around this time last year, we waxed lyrical about 20 dance acts doing big things on the international circuit. Our list of bright young producers and DJs of course included some Australian talent (the likes of Naderi and Kanyon have continued to kill it), while also pledging our love for internationals including Jerry Folk, Clouds and Yotto. Things have also worked out pretty damn well for our picks Mija, Jauz and Marshmello.

2016 has so far delivered an avalanche of head-turning electronic music, with new producers emerging from their bedrooms each week. With that in mind, we considered it high time for another list. This year our roll-call of acts you should know includes a strong contingent of locals blowing up overseas, while also turning the spotlight on next big things from Chicago, Munich, Vancouver, Manchester and Niagara Falls. Our selections swing from raw underground house to festival-ready bass music and many shades in between. Time to get listening.

#20 Fakear

Théo Le Vigoureux, better known Fakear, is part of a new generation upholding France’s reputation as an electronic music hotbed. Spending his teenage years absorbing the music of national heroes Daft Punk, he gradually made his own move into making his own finely-constructed electronic collages. In 2014, he aligned with Parisian label Nowadays Records, releasing the breakout single La Lune Rousse. He swiftly became a crowd-puller in France, selling out the Olympia music hall in Paris last year.

Now, at 24 years old, Fakear’s debut album Animal is taking him to a wider audience. The LP was a long time in the making, with Fakear finessing the tracklist until everything fit. Animal has the backing of pioneering UK label Ninja Tune, and Fakear’s distinctive style has impressed a wide range of artists from DJ Snake to M.I.A. Having supported the likes of Bonobo and DJ Shadow, it’s only a matter of time before this French whiz hits Australia.

For fans of: Bonobo, ODESZA, Dream Koala

#19 Zeke Beats

On the heavy-duty Zeke Beats track Meltdown, a voice urgently reminds us that the “tempo has reached critical level”. As a producer, Zeke Beats loves to take things up to the critical level. The Perth resident has earned international attention with his slamming yet intricate bass music, not least via his recent Meltdown EP on London imprint Terrorhythm Recordings. In addition to that firing title track, the EP includes three more cuts that are guaranteed, in the words of the Terrorhythm team, to make you “pull a screwface”.

Zeke Beats now counts the likes of Terrorhythm boss Plastician and Glacci as labelmates, which should give bass heads a good picture of how he gets down. Perth’s latest bass music star has been busy on the road in North America, including a slot at the Shambhala festival, a gig he’s “always dreamt of playing”. While overseas fans will be keeping him busy in the future, Australia’s sure to see plenty more of Zeke Beats.

For fans of: G Jones, Plastician, Alix Perez

#18 Louis The Child

Last year, Taylor Swift posted a list to fans of “new songs that will your life more awesome”. Closing out the tracklist was It’s Strange, a perfectly calibrated piece of electronic pop from Chicago duo Louis The Child and vocalist K.Flay. The endorsement was probably welcome, but Louis The Child hardly needed it. It’s Strange swiftly became a runaway hit, with the duo later releasing a collection of 21 remixes and donating the proceeds to the charity Kiva. It was a feelgood move by a duo that trades in feelgood music.

Their output in 2016 so far includes From Here on Skrillex’s OWSLA imprint and Weekend, a collaboration Swedish duo Icona Pop. They’ve capped it all off by playing Coachella, Ultra and more marquee US festivals. Starting in November, Louis The Child is heading across America for some major headline shows, cementing their status as next big things. Not bad for two guys who met as bedroom producers at a Madeon concert.

For fans of: SNBRN, Madeon, Alison Wonderland

#17 Willow

Unfortunately, Googling the name Willow returns a whole lot of results for Will Smith’s daughter, but that’s not who we’re talking about here. The Willow who matters right now to electronic music is the Manchester newcomer otherwise known as Sophie Wilson.

Wilson’s breakout record as Willow was 2015’s Feel Me on Manchester label Workshop, which immediately made tastemakers take notice. Deep house savant Move D included the track at the tail-end of his fabric 74 mix in 2014, and a year later it turned up as part of the Workshop 21 EP. With its warm bass and blunted R&B vocal, Feel Me remains a DJ favourite. While the producer is presumably back at work in the studio, she’s also accelerating as a DJ, playing at the famed Paris party Concrete in September. Willow also recently made her Boiler Room debut in London, and her selections will impress any house head. We eagerly await Willow’s next move.

For fans of: Move D, Tama Sumo, Levon Vincent

#16 Whethan

Whethan is a whole lot busier than most kids his age. The 17-year-old from Chicago has built a devoted SoundCloud following over the last year with his slick remixes of Opia, Elohim, Louis The Child and TYuS. Judging from the stream of excitable comments left on all his uploads, Whethan could’ve easily stuck to remixes only.

This month, though, he delivered his first original single Can’t Hide, featuring vocals from Ashe. Whethan called on his friend Light House to play trumpet on the track, and the end result is a bright, buoyant hit of future bass. The track went quickly to No. 1 on Hype Machine. Not bad for a debut effort.

When he’s not heads-down in the studio, Whethan is making himself known on the tour circuit. Having ticked off HARD Summer, heading out soon for shows with Vanic, before hopping over to Flosstradamus’s November tour. Expect to see Whethan climbing higher on line-ups in years to come.

For fans of: Louis The Child, Flume, Wave Racer


#15 Haelos

Here’s a proposition for you. What if there was a band that echoed Moby at his most uplifting, with delicate boy/girl vocal stylings that evoke The xx, underpinned by Massive Attack-inspired beats, all spliced together to create something unique yet still retro-sounding? If your musical tastes were just summed up in that one sentence, then it’s time to get acquainted with Haelos.

The London trio is responsible for one of the most impressive (and criminally underrated) albums of the year so far, Full Circle. The brooding, atmospheric collection of songs was released back in March on Matador Records, home to indie trailblazers including Yo La Tengo, Interpol and Belle and Sebastian. Band member Lotti Benardout sums up the feel of Full Circle perfectly: “It’s the music you put on after the club. You can still feel that energy and euphoria, but it might bring you back to reflect on certain moments or memories.” Rumours of an Australian tour later this year are already circulating.

For fans of: Moby, The xx, Massive Attack

#14 Kate Miller

Berlin is buzzing with Australian DJs doing good things, among them Tornado Wallace, Andy Hart and Claire Morgan. Also on that list is Melbourne export Kate Miller, who is steadily making her mark on the world’s house and techno capital. With regular bookings around Berlin, Miller has also ticked off the DJ dream of playing at Panorama Bar – a resounding testament to her talents as a selector.

Right now, Miller is focused on being a DJ and co-hosting a show on Berlin’s Cashmere Radio. Her SoundCloud is stacked with recorded sets across different moods and tempos. Her recent Groove podcast, for example, is dedicated to electro, with several lesser-known gems making the tracklist. As Miller told Groove, she’ll take the step into production when it feels right. In the meantime, she’s having no trouble standing out from the crowd.

For fans of: Jus-Ed, Kerri Chandler, Fred P (plus some techno and electro too)

#13 Ekali

Vancouver native Nathan Shaw, aka Ekali, is no one-trick producer. While some fans associate the name with party-hyping bass music, others know him as the creator of slow-burning remixes perfect for headphones. Ekali was a participant in the 2014 Tokyo Red Bull Music Academy, and he’s been on a hot streak ever since. One of his main claims to rising fame came last year, when his track Unfaith was sampled by Drake and PartyNextDoor for their collaboration Wednesday Night Interlude.

The Drake nod came as something of a curveball for the beatmaker, who subsequently landed a credit on the rapper’s album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Ekali’s SoundCloud includes a collection of his original productions that play with different tempos, from Unfaith to his recent collab with Falcons and Vanessa Elisha, I Won’t Lie. On the remix tip, he has a thing for toying with tracks by Australian producers, including Flume, What So Not and Ta-ku. Ekali recently spent the “best day of his life” blowing up a packed festival tent at HARD Summer, and he’s only getting started.

For fans of: RL Grime, Hudson Mohawke, What So Not

#12 Kllo

Melbourne synth-pop duo Kllo has a lot of good things bubbling right now. Cousins Simon Lam and Chloe Kaul make a fine team, pairing crisp electronics with warm, enveloping vocals. Kllo released its breakout EP Cusp back in 2014, and this month the duo has returned with the assured follow-up Well Worn.

In America, Well Worn is out through Ghostly International, the tastemaking label founded by Matthew Dear. With labelmates like Shigeto, Tycho and Gold Panda, Kllo is in very good company. The duo is currently on an Australian EP tour, before they jet off to Europe and the U.K. with RÜFÜS. In between live shows, Simon and Chloe also do the occasional DJ set. You should expect to hear a lot more from these electronic all-rounders.

For fans of: Little Dragon, CHVRCHES, AlunaGeorge

#11 UNiiQU3

If you want to witness how New Jersey native UNiiQU3 gets down, look no further than her Boiler Room NYC set from earlier this year. “Y’all already know I’m about to come crazy,” she quips on the mic before launching into a scorching hour of Jersey Club, hip-hop and bass-heavy house.

UNiiQU3 went from dancing in clubs to rocking them herself, starting off as a DJ and rapper/vocalist before moving into production. In the first half of 2016, she’s turned out club-ready remixes of Anna Lunoe’s Satisfaction and Skepta’s That’s Not Me, while hooking up with Brenmar for Hula Hoop and LA upstart Saint on the celebratory jam I’m Lit. She also joined the ranks of NLV Records, the burgeoning label from Aussie tastemaker Nina Las Vegas. UNiiQU3 has been keeping busy on the tour circuit, too, most recently traveling to Mexico with Red Bull Music Academy. It’s no wonder she’s earned the title of Jersey Club Kween.

For fans of: Brenmar, Hoodboi, Trippy Turtle


#10 Jim-E Stack

30 seconds into a Jim-E Stack track, you know you’re in safe hands. The Brooklyn-based producer has a way with woozy vocal samples, warm house pads and crunchy drums that stretches right across his output so far. Originally hailing from San Francisco, Jim-E first caught the internet’s attention with his 2014 album Tell Me I Belong, featuring the standout tune Reassuring.

He’s only developed as a producer since then. This year, two Jim-E Stack productions, Deadstream and You Are Not Alone, have crept into the sets of DJs like Diplo, Baauer and Tourist. Both tracks walk a line between house, garage and bass music, with intoxicating results. Jim-E also recorded a brooding and propulsive version of Bjork’s Hyperballad with Jana Hunter stepping in on vocals. On the road, the producer switches between DJing and a live set, and it’s in the latter context that his deep production output really shines.

For fans of: Kastle, Maribou State, Tourist

#9 Fort Romeau

Once upon a time Mike Greene was the live keyboardist for La Roux. Now this mild-mannered Englishman produces slow-burning, blissful Chicago house-meets-disco-meets-electronica as Fort Romeau. However, playing alongside the pop star has clearly had an impact on Greene, as his tracks display a keen sense of musicality and love for melody, while still consistently moving a dancefloor.

The guy’s no slouch at DJing either. Hit up his SoundCloud and you’ll see what we mean, with killer sets logged for BBC Radio 1, Dekmantel, Groove Magazine, Phonica and more. The past 12 months have been particularly fertile for the South London producer, as he’s unleashed several original cuts, a sophomore LP flirting with space disco and kosmische, plus remixes for the likes of PBR Streetgang and Kate Simko & The London Electronic Orchestra (take a listen below). You never quite know what you’re going to get with a Fort Romeau release, but that’s what makes him so thrilling.

For fans of: Lauer, Gerd Janson, Ewan Pearson

#8 The Zenker Brothers

After already making names for themselves as solo artists amongst purists and crate diggers, Dario and Marco Zenker teamed up to form the label Ilian Tape in 2007. Since then the Munich-bred brothers have pushed their unique techno flavours all over the globe.

Combining elements of the soulful, deep and melodic Detroit roots of house and techno, the chunky rhythms of 90s breakbeat, and the hazy, heady atmospheres of classic dub, the Zenker Brothers have created a sound that’s both intelligent and danceable. Their back-to-back sets have rocked dancefloors all over Europe (and more recently North America), and their original productions are regularly played by the likes of Jeff Mills, Marcel Dettmann and Ben Sims.

For fans of: Jeff Mills, Basic Channel, Djrum

#7 Christopher Port

Producing UK garage in 2016 isn’t exactly a radical concept, but there’s something about Christopher Port’s cuts that makes the Melbourne newcomer stand out from the pack. Perhaps it’s because while most budding producers are content with mimicry, Port is doing his own thing; taking cues from two-step and pushing them in his own creative directions.

Port made a standout impression last month with his debut EP Vetement, which features five tracks that play all around the bass spectrum. For an idea of the artists he admires (and in some ways resembles), hit play on his recent Ripe guest mix, featuring tracks by Mark Pritchard, Burial, Boards of Canada and more. With a start this strong, Port is gearing up for his next phase as a touring live act. The producer will head out on his first headline tour later this month, making stops in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. We can’t wait to hear the likes of Heavens and Even played through a big sound system.

For fans of: Pre-Settle Disclosure, Rustie, Hubert Clark Jr.

#6 Bob Moses

Despite what it sounds like, Bob Moses isn’t one dude. Rather it’s the band name shared by two Canadians, Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance, who have been delivering some of the most compelling indie-meets-dance in recent memory. Howie and Vallance went to the same high school in Vancouver, but they properly connected over music in New York five years ago, and things have accelerated from there.

The duo’s moody beats and smoky guitar licks first surfaced on the Brooklyn-based imprint Scissor & Thread back in 2012, which put them in the company of Francis Harris and Anthony Collins, who run the label and produce as Frank & Tony. After a couple of well-received EPs for Scissor & Thread, Bob Moses was picked up by Domino Records, where they now rub shoulders with the likes of Hot Chip, Junior Boys and Animal Collective. It was the duo’s album for Domino, Days Gone By, that really showcased what they can do. Further cementing their cred, Aussie trio RÜFÜS asked Bob Moses to support them on their national tour earlier this year.

For fans of: Darkside, RÜFÜS, Junior Boys


#5 Kobosil

24-year-old Max Kobosil is proof that techno dreams can come true. Growing up in Berlin, the teenage Max was turned on to good dance music by his sister. Later, after turning 18 and already developing as a DJ, his mind was blown by a weekend at Berghain. He decided he didn’t just want to party there, but join the family. Amazingly, that plan worked out.

In 2013, Kobosil released a remix of Barker & Baumecker’s Silo on Ostgut Ton, Berghain’s in-house label. Inducted into the club’s inner circle, he has now played some defining sets at the notorious Klubnacht parties, earning a reputation as a powerful DJ. His sets deliver the steely, propulsive techno for which Berghain is renowned, while also lacing acid, industrial and drone tracks in with classics made before he was born. For a snapshot of how he plays, look no further than his heads-down set for Boiler Room Berlin’s fifth birthday.

Kobosil’s production output has been particularly promising, too. At the start of this year, he delivered his debut album We Grow, You Decline for Ostgut Ton, a varied collection of tracks that showcase all Kobosil’s different shades. A new techno star is born.

For fans of: Marcel Dettmann, Answer Code Request, Luke Slater

#4 Umfang

A lot of career highs are happening all at once for Emma Olsen, the Brooklyn-based DJ and producer better known as Umfang. Straight after delivering a new EP Riffs for the lo-fi Canadian label 1080p, Umfang is now on the road as part of the Discwoman collective’s first European tour. The touring party – which also includes DJ Haram, Bearcat and Volvox – has some incredible bookings lined up, culminating in Volvox and Umfang playing Berlin’s hallowed Berghain.

It took a lot of steady work to get Umfang to this point. As a cofounder of Discwoman and a regular at Brooklyn’s forward-thinking Bossa Nova Civic Club, she’s a strong presence on the New York techno scene. Along with her scorching DJ sets (take this one, for example) Umfang is building an impressive catalogue of music, which includes last year’s OK album on 1080p. At this rate, she better get used to Berghain bookings.

For fans of: The 1080p crew, Rrose, Florian Kupfer

#3 Mall Grab

While still in his early 20s, Mall Grab is already one of Australia’s standout producers on the international house and techno scene. From the raw, lo-fi sound of his productions, you might not expect it’s the work of a young dude called Jordon Alexander from the coastal NSW city of Newcastle.

Mall Grab has spent the last couple of years turning out records that sell out in the blink of an eye. From his Elegy 12″ on 1080p last year to the recent Menace II Society EP on Unknown to the Unknown, Mall Grab is proving to be one of the most sought-after producers on Discogs. His own label Steel City Dance Discs is also much hyped, despite its modest output so far.

Despite the serious credentials of his music, though, Mall Grab isn’t the most serious guy. His social media is handled with tongue firmly in cheek, and his DJ sets are far from chin-stroking sessions. Take, for example, his recent Boiler Room set, which opened with a Dannii Minogue remix. It worked. Unpredictability is one of Mall Grab’s best assets.

For fans of: Lil’ Louis, Omar-S, Harvey Sutherland

#2 Maribelle

Maribelle is, as we pointed out last month, a true multi-threat talent. By the age of 20, the Melbourne-based singer, songwriter and producer has already notched up an impressive list of achievements, with more to come in the second half of 2016.

You’ve probably heard Maribelle as the vocalist on Carmada’s On Fire, which blew up on Skrillex’s OWSLA label back in 2014. Since then she has worked with the likes of LA duo Penthouse Penthouse and Australia’s own Lojack, and the collaborations are sure to keep coming. Maribelle also oversees her own record label Crush Club and the publishing company Defs Not, with a mission to rep the new wave of Australian electronic talent.

All this has paved the way for Maribelle’s soon-to-be-released solo EP, which features co-production from Mad Decent recruit Djemba Djemba. Once that release drops, a lot more people will know the name Maribelle.

For fans of: Kelela, Nao, Ta-ku


Photo by Rukes at HARD Summer.

It’s good to be REZZ in 2016. The Niagara Falls native is, in short, killing it. Since first turning heads with her gritty-yet-polished productions, REZZ has kept on hitting new life benchmarks, including releases on mau5trap with the full support of Deadmau5 (we know he’s a hard man to impress), slots at major festivals including Shambhala, HARD Summer and Movement Detroit, and an ever-growing legion of fans.

REZZ kicked off 2016 with her first mau5trap EP The Silence is Deafening, confirming her M.O. in four razor-sharp tracks. Just this month, she delivered the dark and hard-hitting track Voice in the Wall for mau5trap’s new compilation. It’s a thrilling teaser for what’s to come on the upcoming REZZ EP, Something Wrong Here. While this Canadian prodigy is clearly on an inspired studio streak, she’s also a killer DJ, with sets that blaze her originals, remixes and edits with breakneck force. The Gesaffelstein comparison still makes a lot of sense, but REZZ is very much her own artist.

For fans of: Gesaffelstein, Bassnectar, Deadmau5’s darker side