Every January we bring you a list of new artists who’ll make your year over the course of the following 12 months. This time round we thought we’d switch things up by picking 30 DJs and producers who have below 30,000 plays on each of their tracks and mixes (ie. no single upload to SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify et al has surpassed that amount).
This means we can tip artists on the rise as well as those long-serving individuals who’ve, for some reason, remained criminally underrated. Below you’ll find music that’s been hiding in the many niche cracks and crevices of the scene – enjoy digging!
For an artist with over 40 albums and EPs, three aliases, numerous releases on Aphex Twin’s Rephlex imprint and over 20 years of artistic experience, the lack of recognition surrounding Aleksi Perälä and his expansive music career is a bit of a mystery.
Hailing from Finland, Aleksi Perälä’s fully realized his sonic calling following the release of the Aphex Twin album ‘Selected Ambient Works II’ while studying abroad in Michigan during the Spring of ‘94. Sending tape after tape to Richard D. James’ Rephlex imprint, Perälä’s first appearance on the label came in 1999 under his Ovuca moniker. From that point forward, the Finnish artist has continued to develop his sound with a deeply philosophical and virtuoso-like mindset, dedicating his musical output to an abstruse and mathematically-savvy tuning system known as the colundi sequence.
Most of Perälä’s tracks consist of an unpronounceable pattern of letters and numbers, bearing names like ‘UK74R1620080’ and ‘NLL561606933’. While a practice such as this allows the music to speak for itself, perhaps it has also hindered people’s ability to spread and subscribe to the artist’s distinct and extensive catalogue. Regardless, Aleksi Perälä’s album ‘Paradox’ - released at the tail end of 2017 via Nina Kraviz’s трип imprint - has locked onto a bewildering vibe which has left a great number of techno enthusiasts swooning. Shying away from his phantasmic synth work to make room for more ironclad drum patterns, the LP is peppered with an enchanting selection of locked-and-loaded techno gems. Despite his veteran status, Aleksi Perälä’s new tunes have found an exciting sweet spot that will hopefully help this musical maven amass some much deserved notoriety. Cameron Holbrook
Manchester’s Meandyou collective has been throwing mind-bending parties in intimate settings spanning the basement of a Greek restaurant to the jewel in the city’s club crown Soup Kitchen since 2008. Co-founder Andrew Lyster can regularly be found complementing the soundtrack of experimental techno headliners with disorientating, dynamic warm up and closing sets. His selections hit a perfect sweet spot between pleasing the connoisseurs with weird, dubbed-out textures and getting the party rocking through angular rhythms that rouse the dancefloor. In his roles running the Meandyou and Youth record labels he curates plenty more fuel for DJs on this tip. Andrew Lyster keeps clubs fresh and exciting wherever his presence is felt. Patrick Hinton
The full-steam-ahead Black Girls Like Techno Too Mix for Honey Soundsystem was the first I heard of Atlanta-based DJ Ash Lauryn. It was a relentless coming together of dubby techno, fidgety acid stabs and weighty bass blows, and a trigger for me diving deeper into what she’s about.
Deep South is a crew she’s involved in alongside Vicki Powell and Robert, the three throwing queer parties in Atlanta and booking the likes of Horse Meat Disco. We haven’t been, but Ash’s mixes (another being for Josey Rebelle on Rinse FM) and shows on NTS Radio tell us we should fork out for a flight real soon. Dave Turner
Bristol artist Bakkos first caught our attention after appearing on Eats Everything’s Podible podcast series. Listening on a whim to a completely unfamiliar name with less than 500 followers on Soundcloud, what I found was a shockingly masterful mix, with a hard-hitting and refreshingly eclectic selection.
The Bakkos sound makes its mark with bouncing, energetic percussion, sometimes in the form of bright, ricocheting bongos and others in low, stirring and expanding bass quakes. It’s crisp house music presented by a selector of polished music knowledge with a distinct taste for unpredictable energy.
With a collaborative EP releasing and being picked up as one of Elrow’s key players this past year, many of the scene’s biggest names have their eyes on the new act. Sydney Jow
Through the multiple forward-thinking activities CCL is involved in, the Seattle-based artist is dedicated to making a difference. These include TUF, the proactive intersectional collective that provides essential support to its members and fosters positive growth through events such as workshops, and Decibel, an organisation that promotes events showcasing the most exciting and out-there sounds in electronic music. A sense of difference translates into CCL’s DJ sets that eschew any notion of straightness in favour of cutting between tempos and styles with exhilarating dexterity. One way or another, CCL is an artist keeping people on their toes. Patrick Hinton
Feeling tired? Whack on a Ciel mix and you’ll burst into life in no time thanks to her bounding, upbeat track selections. They could be either acid house heaters or old-skool jungle flavours, her taste for the latter showcased in a fierce, flying Ilian Tape podcast back in November. Other mixes for Discwoman and The Fader are filled with erratic shakers designed for rowdy dancefloor reactions.
The Toronto artist, previously going by the name CL, made her production debut last year with the ‘Electrical Encounters’ 12” on Shanti Celeste’s Peach Discs label. If you fancy a trip to breaks-meet-lush pads dreamland, this release is the ticket. Dave Turner
Cõvco glides swiftly through the night, detonating footwork sets in sweat-drenched, dim lit basements. The London selector quickly cut her teeth on radio (her regular show on NTS is the definition of frenetic club music) before stepping out onto the club circuit, gaining props from Kode9 and Teklife crew for her deep knowledge of 160bpm music.
You’re guaranteed to be caught off guard by a Cõvco set, as she pinballs from out-there club oddities to the newest, lighters-in-the-air edits that you’ve definitely never heard before. And most telling of all, even the deepest dives through the #juke and #footwork tags on SoundCloud and Bandcamp won’t reveal where she gets her fire from, for she’s truly a DJ one step ahead. Seb Wheeler
A deep and delicate house track got copious love from Mixmag staff members last year, the adorable “how are you? I’m tryna dance” vocal samples being the main reason. It came under the name Plush Throw on SoundCloud and little did we know it’s an alias for Vancouver’s D. Tiffany until she released it as part of the ‘Blue Dream’ EP last summer.
Tiffany has dusty house jams by the bucket load, her self-titled 2014 album on 1080p being another release to whisk you into the chillout zone. It’s that relaxing and soothing we might just call it hangover house… Dave Turner
Dis Fig is an artist who’s binned the rule book. As a member of the New York label and collective PTP, the Berlin-based, American-born talent is nestled alongside a roster of other like minded artists such as Geng, Celestial Trax and Gila.
Melting syrupy, euphoric vocals over frenetic, at times abrasive instrumentals, her use of club dramatics and a “no fucks given” approach to production means her blends, remixes and track switch-ups often hone in on the emotions of the track, while rewiring the beat into something inherently darker and delicious as she moves through grime, techno, jersey, rap and more. And whether she’s at the helms of a Discwoman mix, hosting her Berlin Community Radio show Call Dibs, or bringing her dizzying sound to centre stage at Boiler Room, you can always expect a slice of stylish mayhem from Dis Fig. Jasmine Kent-Smith
Smart Bar in Chicago is amazing for a lot of reasons. It’s one of the city’s most lauded venues and it’s steeped in a rich history of electronic music over the ages. Its programming is some of the best in North America and the residents, well they’re as good as the show-stopping talent that’s booked in from around the world. We’ve featured one of the residents before in the shape of Olin and alongside spinning tunes regularly at the Chi-town hotspot, he also takes care of the bookings.
Now though, there’s another resident who’s in the spotlight and she’s taken center stage on the Mixmag radar. Eris Drew may not be a name you’re totally familiar with but after a jaw-droppingly good RA podcast last year, we can’t get enough.
Her hedonistic blends of breaks, club tracks and groove-fuelled house are enough to keep any party topped up with vibes and her eclectic selection means every record takes you around a corner with no idea what awaits on the other side. A glance at her upcoming tour schedule reveals stops in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles before she heads to Europe for performances at about://blank in Berlin and Concrete in Paris. Beautifully unique and damn-right talented, Drew will be going from 30,000 to 300,000 in no time, mark our words. Funster
Giant Swan pulsate with energy. See them live and witness their improv techno arrive like a psychedelic thunderclap. Put the needle on their records and be led into the sonic undergrowth, where unpredictable rhythms and dense blasts of noise roam free.
The Bristol duo have kept it local since 2015, releasing a series of records on the city’s Howling Owl, Fuck Punk and Timedance labels. South West heads obviously know how Giant Swan steamroll right through functional forms of dance music, providing more excitement than a thousand faceless laptop performances combined. But it’s time for the rest of us to get fully involved: following shows at Berghain, Unsound and No Bounds, the pair will drop a record on Whities and continue the demolition into ‘18. Don’t sleep – Giant Swan are a force to be reckoned with. Seb Wheeler
As one third of queer Cleveland party collective In Training, Kiernan Laveaux aims to provide an antidote experience to the structural violence that afflicts the lives of marginalised groups. To help foster this world of letting loose she spins subtly off-kilter sets of industrial-influenced sounds that help dancers reach a higher plane. A sense of unrestricted flow underpins her DJing, even amongst the uncanny noises that emerge sporadically from murky depths and distortion that hisses with psychedelic impact. She's got something for your mind, your body, and your soul. Patrick Hinton
2017 went from 0 to 100 real quick for dancehall connoisseur Lil C. From joining Reprezent just over a year ago she has supported DJ Lag for Boiler Room and played on the Red Bull stage at Carnival supporting none other than bashment and dancehall queen Spice. One essential fact: Lil C will inspire body moves that will most likely get you lucky, which seems good to me, especially if you don’t want to eat breakfast alone the morning after the rave.
Key figures like Cadenza and Hipsters Don’t Dance have all praised the young DJ and tipped her for big things in 2018 – Lil C will soon be the new queen on everyone’s lips. Sherelle Thomas
Mafalda isn’t just a DJ, she’s a curator. Hailing from Portugal, she made the jump to move to London around four years ago and since then she’s become recognised as one of the city’s foremost crate diggers and selectors. Alongside Floating Points, she runs the Melodies International imprint, a record label dedicated to unearthing and reissuing forgotten treasures.
You know, those tracks that make you smile, swoon and tingle on a glistening dancefloor. To put it simply, she brings forward happy vibes and Mafalda’s performances showcase those in abundance with a sound that touches upon soul, jazz and beats from around the globe. Her Boiler Room session is a great starting point to appreciate the time, effort and care she puts into sculpting her sets. She heads to Goa at the end of the month for GOAT Festival but London folk can catch her creating love on the floor at the start of Feburary at Corsica Studios, so be prepared for some joyous barbs of euphoria in the South London hotspot. Funster
At the tail end of 2016 a friend sent through a new track on Desolat produced by a pair of artists. One was Guti, who I had been familiar with for years, but the other was Morgan, an Australian artist whose music I had yet to discover. That track, titled ‘Swing’, is one I still love to play out with its warped vocals and deep bass textures hypnotizing the dancefloor.
Then the following year their collaborative ‘This Must Be The Future’ EP released on The Martinez Brothers’ imprint Cuttin’ Headz easily caught my attention once again. The deep, soulful and jacking music is a fine blend of contemporary house with a nod to the old-skool. I quickly went digging for more of Morgan’s work and discovered she possesses everything I’m after in terms of the style of dance music that has strong dancefloor appeal, whether at peak time or at a Sunday morning afterhours.
Her original work is pure and emotive. From minimal deep house cuts on Sunday Money Music and Budare to her charming DJ sets and radio shows, Morgan is making rumblings in the underground scene and is undoubtedly making all the right moves. Harrison Williams
NAINA is a DJ with the world at her feet this year. Pushing forward-thinking underground club music to the masses, she frequently rubs shoulders with the likes of Machinedrum, Teki Latex, Nina Las Vegas, Scratcha DVA, Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990 during her popular friday night show on Reprezent Radio.
As a DJ who can’t be boxed in, her high energy sets will leave you stuck to the dancefloor, scared you will miss another floor-pumping banger. Toilet breaks are a no-go as she commands your attention with her selections in every right. In her recent Boiler Room she moved slickly though 130 to 170 bpm without breaking a sweat.
When she isn’t playing support to The Prodigy, she is plotting world domination in the shipping containers of Reprezent Radio or the plush studios of Beats 1. Her distinctive taste is on the pulse of London’s flourishing club scene, making her a DJ you need to know this year. Sherelle Thomas
White Peach Records mainstay Neffa T is unlike most grime DJs: he has an octopus-handed approach to DJing across 3 decks. He chops and merks a set, leaving you wanting to slap your best friend across the jaw quicktime without any reason and without saying sorry, either.
Keeping his composure in the sweatbox environment of a grime set, he blends remixes of classic r’n’b joints, like ‘Fantasy Refix’, with heavy and dark OG grime instrumentals such as ‘Bongo Eyes’. Many times I’ve witnessed his highly technical ability catch out MCs who are just not ready for this ability to spin them out of their 16 bar-for-bar.
And his DJ sets don’t always feature grime. In a recent b2b with White Peach head honcho Zha, he reached for a wealth of jungle breaks and haunting melodies, his track selection showsing deep knowledge of myriad musical soundscapes. Sherelle Thomas
Los Angeles-based producer Dennis Cao (aka One Child Policy) is an artist with a distinct knack for crafting thoughtful tracks with a vivacious dancefloor orientation. Releasing his breakthrough EP ‘Cultural Transmissions’ via Droid Behavior’s sister label VRV this past year, One Child Policy’s kinetic production is paired alongside a pensive aesthetic which aims to explore the artist’s Asian American heritage.
Raised by two engineers who were brought up in China during the Cultural Revolution, Cao’s EP pays homage to his parents who instilled in him a curiosity and appreciation for both his ancestry and all things electric.The spark of Cao’s personal narrative alongside his informed musical processes makes for a captivating listening experience that sharpens the senses, using a radiant range of knotty drum patterns, sultry pads and memorable vocal samples. Cameron Holbrook
Last year we documented the rise of the selector. DJs like Debonair, Josey Rebelle and Saoirse are lighting up dancefloors off the back of their track selection and mixing but they don’t produce and another selector that we think will see an explosion in popularity this year is Peach. The Canadian DJ who’s now based in the UK has played numerous times at Corsica Studios in the last 12 months alongside a flurry of UK gigs, and for an expansivel insight into the varied house, disco and techno sound that she pushes, there is a treasure trove of mixes and podcasts on her SoundCloud.
Through holding down a regular slot on Radar Radio, Snacktime w Peach has seen guests like Bwana and Club Fitness down to the bubbling station and more recently it’s led to shows on NTS. Mix-wise, her recorded sets for Lobster Theremin, Coastal Haze and Siren showcase a DJ that’s not afraid to take risks and one that keeps listeners on their toes. If Peach hasn’t doubled her gig schedule this year, then something’s up, but we’ve got high hopes. Funster
‘Love’s Theme 2014’ ensured Physical Therapy entered 2018 with a suckerpunch. Despite what the title would suggest, the track on Exotic Dance Records is a grizzly, revved-up house smash. It wasn’t exactly a secret he was capable of knockout tracks, what with a collection of chugging techno tunes on Delft last year.
Don’t just expect house and techno when he’s DJing, though. His Breakbeat Science mix is a nostalgic rinse-out for all the junglists out there. Sit tight for his ‘Buttercup’ EP arriving on Renascence at the end of the month, too. Dave Turner
Is lo-fi house dead? Finding ourselves in 2018, the sound that was propped up as 2016’s most exciting genre seems to have already lost much of its steam for many house music enthusiasts. This prevailing mindset can be found in the title of German producer Ray Kandinski’s 2017 EP ‘Lo-Fi Is Dead’, an artist whose music might actually prove the contrary. Running in the same circle as some of the scene’s most creative and sensible artists, such as Baltra, DJ Boring and Yaeji (who he has collaborated with), Kandinski shows great promise in the furrowed and dreamy arrangements of his unobtrusive style of house.
Adding to his ‘90s inspired aesthetic, Ray Kandinski and Karl Lumont plan to drop a new EP titled ‘Project Chicago’ at the end of the month, promising a release that is “deeply inspired by the origins of the mid 90s melodic Jungle and d’n’b movement.” The curveball in his production style paired alongside his brand new complet. imprint shows that Kandinski is full of surprises and has much more to offer in the way of fresh new music. Cameron Holbrook
Algorave is arguably electronic music’s most exciting new movement, with its artists who write code to reprogramme your listening sensibilities, its parties and festivals that take place all over the world and its open source, anyone-can-do-it ethos.
Raised in the US but currently residing in the shadows cast by Tokyo skyscrapers, Renick Bell is one of this scene’s more flabbergasting producers, sculpting tracks that slip and slide like the movement between stations on an analogue radio dial; bursts of static, the uneasy collision of rhythms, and all.
You’ll find reams of his music on SoundCloud and his first legit release came last year courtesy of Lee Gamble’s pioneering UIQ. The follow up, a debut album, will land soon on Rabit’s equally fearless Halcyon Veil. Seb Wheeler
The New Year is only a few weeks old but one of 2018’s best releases has already dropped and it’s from an artist with only 360 Soundcloud followers. RGL is the Tokyo-based producer, effortlessly hopping dance genres with impeccable production. His Cosmoplyphonic radio show has long been a bastion of genre-warped goodness where vibe is emphasized over genre, but the producer first caught our ear with ‘SUGA’, a bumping, chopped up house cut at the beginning of 2017. Since then he’s produced laidback acid, mellow electro and showcased upbeat boogie influences. With the backing of south London/Berlin imprint Breaker Breaker, the same label that helped launch lo-fi darling Ross From Friends, RGL has the platform to go to new levels this year. We’re hotly anticipating whatever he he produces next. Louis Anderson-Rich
RKSS’ latest, thus far unreleased, music landed in my Facebook DMs recently and is a perfect example of their headspinning approach to electronic music. 15 tracks riff on the paint-by-numbers industry of the EDM sample pack, using a Burroughs-esque cut up technique for track titles (‘bigroom, dutch tracks! Incognet Club essentials Vol. 1 is first pack in this series,’) and the music itself: chopped ‘n’ diced big room noises whirl around, like when you reach warp speed on the waltzers at a colloquial fair ground. At one point, a generic EDM melody and beat is pitched down to a grinding halt across 2 minutes, proof of RKSS’ fun and adventure.
There’s also a keen sense of humour in the title of ‘Top Charted’, the similarly backflipped cassette tape RKSS dropped for Where To Now? and, away from the ultra avant, an intriguing foray into dusky house for Alien Jams. While there hasn’t been an official release from the producer for a year, ‘18 will see them line up the aforementioned dubs for Haunted and UIQ. Seb Wheeler
Last summer, an email arrived into my inbox, detailing a then forthcoming release from underground artist SHALT, due out on LA imprint Astral Plane Recordings. The project, titled ‘ʃælt’, caught my attention immediately, as I recall closing my eyes mid-work to consume the tracks in their entirety. Premiering my immediate favourite ‘First Pulse’ in the weeks after, the release showcased both artist and label, with its clean, crisp and immersive sound design, backed up with SHALT’s distinctively unique take on drums, club sounds and sci-fi imaginings.
The EP was the producer’s third offering on the label, adding to a succession of impeccable, at times challenging tracks designed to make you feel first, dance later. Take his 2016 EP ‘Inertia’ – packed full of quivering, driving compositions and stirring club-not-club sounds. With a sound not entirely dissimilar to the likes of of M.E.S.H. et al, (in fact, the two artists collaborated on a remix project for SHALT’s inaugural Astral Plane release ‘Acheron’), SHALT is a name to watch out for as his thoughtful imaginings and other-worldly sound design continues to draw him out from the underground. Jasmine Kent-Smith
LA-based Sha Sha Kimbo offers a uniquely Californian take on bass-loaded club constructions. In a scene dominated by textures of the ice cold variety, Sha Sha’s productions dazzle with a vivacious sheen befitting of the Golden State. Her beats are every bit as hard as the rowdiest basement heaters, with sharp percussive hits and thundering bass laying the foundations. Above this, she builds more playful layers, utilising everything from accelerated Missy Elliott samples to synths that surge like adrenaline shots. Her DJ sets are equally intoxicating, coursing through glossy sounds, hype vocal cuts and muscular rhythms in the field of trance, trap, techno and more. Keep your eyes on the CyberSonicLA label, party and mix series she co-founded with Sweltá for guaranteed thrills. Patrick Hinton
Sold’s instalment in the Blowing Up The Workshop series stood out among 2017’s most singular mixes, stitching together everything from natural field recordings to ambient footwork to form an intimate, sensory trip. In a club setting, they get parties moving while never losing sight of the qualities that make dance music interesting, crafting sets as transportive journeys that push listener’s bodies to unchecked dancing while elevating minds to vivid heights. Drexciyan fizz, high-energy house and slippery acid flow seamlessly through the sets you can hear Sold regularly playing at parties like Hugo Ball in Smartbar where the Chicago-based DJ holds a residency, the dance scene equivalent of a golden seal of quality assurance. The city that gave us house music never stops giving. Patrick Hinton
It was a balmy spring day in Brooklyn when I decided to head out for a dig at Halcyon. Axe Traxx was hosting an in-store session as label head Fede Lng was in town to play my Goonroom party taking place at Black Flamingo later that night. He invited some locals to share the decks with him at the shop, including the rising talent Tape Hiss.
I was sifting through the new arrivals when I heard an infectious and graceful acid-tinged track coming through the speakers. I approached the booth to ask about this gem and Tape Hiss, the DJ playing the tune, said it was one of his own forthcoming on Just Jack Recordings. That track was called ‘Hell’s Angels’ and I would later scoop it up to get premiered via Mixmag at the tail end of 2017.
As one of the many bright spots within the local Brooklyn scene, Tape Hiss is set to breakthrough in a big way following releases on Love Notes, Axe Traxx and Just Jack. His distinctly analog production style showcases true talent in the studio, fusing retro-synth melodies with gripping rhythms. Shimmering atmospherics, deep squelchy acid and relentlessly raw beats, he’s one to watch for dancefloor bombs. Don’t sleep, this sound is taking over clubland and Tape Hiss is right on time. Harrison Williams
As a mainstay on Mr. Mitch’s revered underground imprint Gobstopper Records, Tarquin has been consistently honing his frenetic sound into something both boundary-pushing and dancefloor accessible for awhile now, as evidenced on his previous Gobstopper project ‘Grease’/’Foxtown’, which landed in late 2017. With clear nods to grime’s past, while overtly focussing on the future, the productions signaled a shift for the artist, who has quickly earned a reputation as one of the scene’s rising, most innovational stars, with his unique, multi-faceted take on contemporary grime imaginings. Tune in to one of his Rinse radio shows, catch him on the London club circuit, or lock in to one of his many icy mixes for the likes of Brunswick Sound and Acid Fantasy to hear his heaters for yourself. Jasmine Kent-Smith
We were all fighting over the office speakers at Mixmag in Brooklyn when I decided to give in and let my colleague play some tunes to finish off the day. Then suddenly my headspace was filled with this brilliant blend of trippy and raw electro with a nod towards the simplicity of minimal house and techno that I’ve been craving, but didnt know where to find. It was a mix by an artist called TC80, who I would come to learn is a French producer and DJ living in Berlin.
I immediately thought this was a newcomer to the underground scene, but in actuality TC80 is a seasoned veteran who has held down club residencies in Germany for the past decade and has played alongside the likes of Laurent Garnier, Nastia and Point G among others. On the release front he’s only been delivering original material for the past two years, but in that time he’s launched his SEQUALOG imprint and has graced DJ Masda and So Inagawa’s Cabaret Recordings with a stellar EP and a standout album that reveals his diverse range of intricately woven rhythms.
TC80 has made a big splash in just a short amount of time, so expect him to thoroughly take over the rave scene in the near future with his captivating dancefloor material. Harrison Williams