When we were sourcing artists for our annual Top 40 Artists To Watch list this past December, I reached out to a few friends to help round out the final artists we needed to fill the list. Among them was Deadcrow, whose track “Hive Mind” made him an immediate clear choice. Later, when the list had been finalized and we were creating the playlist with everyone’s tracks, I noticed a trend… a lot of the songs, like Heimanu’s “Worlds,” juuku & Rossy’s “Euphoria,” and Kumarion’s “Hold You” had similar vibes.
At the time, I didn’t put much extra thought into it, as so many artists share similar styles anyway.
It wasn’t until Hex Cougar hosted his Alter/Ego stream in mid-December that I realized there was a name for this sound: wave.
The live stream featured performances from RemK, Deadcrow, Heimanu, and Hex Cougar, and while I was watching, the name “wave” kept popping up over and over and over in the chat. I happened to DM one of these people and asked if they had a playlist that I could listen to. He gave me two.
This sound felt fresh and innovative and I loved digging into it, especially now that I had something to call it.
Feeling a need to find out more, I reached out to a few artists — Heimanu, Deadcrow, iSorin, and enjoii — as well as Brett Hapoienu, owner of vibe.digital Agency, which represents Deadcrow as well as another popular wave artist, Skeler.
How would you describe “wave”?
iSorin: I think the main differing factor with Wave vs other bass music genres is its emotiveness (if that’s even a word lol). It is usually very melodic and commonly has chopped up vocal samples pitched up and down with reverb and delay. And of course one of the main differences and what seems to be a constant with just about every wave track, is that a reese is used for the bass. Traditionally the percussion choices for Wave are mostly trappy drums with rapid hi-hats being very common, but lately a lot of artists in the scene have been pushing boundaries and experimenting more with other percussive sounds and it’s fucking awesome!
Heimanu: For me, wave is all about the emotions it gives you. Stylistically, things can chop and change and still remain under the umbrella of wave. With that being said, some common sonics that are present are ethereal, trance-like melodies, dark and moody vocal chops and thick low-end reese basses. A perfect combination for a storm of emotive bass music.
enjoii: Electronic music for modern time. For me wave is more than a genre. Wave is a community and movement of amazing creatives and supporters all around the globe. It is so nice to be part of this community.
Deadcrow: Every time someone asks me that, I tell them it’s basically like the Yung Lean – Kyoto instrumental made into a genre. But nowadays it has gotten a pretty hard edge, basically as if it’s trance/hardstyle but with half time drums and a reese bass.
Brett: I often like to simply describe it as “melodic, emotive, bass/electronic music.” Over the years “wave” has come to include a wide spectrum of sound ranging across all BPMs. Sometimes dark, sometimes bright. Often characterized by the use of a “reese bass”, trap drums, heavy atmosphere, arpeggios and more.
What attracted you to this sound/why did you choose to start producing it?
iSorin: The main thing that attracted me to the sound was that it was melodic and trappy. At the time I was very into trap but it started to get obnoxious to me with too many screechy sounds and I kind of got tired of it. When I first heard Wave I didn’t know it was Wave, I just considered it chill trap. But the more I got into it and the more artists I discovered, I noticed that it was definitely different, and the main differing factor at the time was that each track used a reese for the bass, compared a typical trap song that would use an 808 for the bass. I chose to start producing Wave because I couldn’t help myself lol. I was obsessed and basically it was the only genre I listened to in 2016/2017. So at that time I dedicated all my studio time to Wave and haven’t looked back 🙂
Heimanu: I was listening to wave before I knew it was even a genre. There was something about the mood of it that made me feel connected. It wasn’t until years later, once I stepped away from the heavy trap and bass scene, that I found my passion for it again. This was reignited by Skeler, who altered the genre into what is known as “Hardwave” – essentially a more club version of its predecessor “wave”. Skeler connected the dots for me – he moved the genre to where it would get dance floors moving at similar energies that harder bass music provided, while also retaining the mood and emotions that wave captures so well.
enjoii: For me, wave was a natural transition from underground witchouse which was pretty popular in eastern Europe, I think freedom of musical expression with futuristic twist attracted me the most.
Deadcrow: Its melodic aspect in combination with the trap foundation is what attracted me to it the most. I had been into dubstep, trap and other harder stuff for a long time but also really enjoyed when things got melodic, so wave for me filled up that empty space. It was a way for me to put emotion into my songs while still keeping in those trap beats. And nowadays I’m also combining it with hardstyle a lot, which is partially the music I grew up on. I feel like I can express myself pretty well by making wave.
Brett: After spending most of my DJ career at music festivals focusing mostly on heavier bass music, I found myself digging for something new in ~2014/15. I’ve always liked more melody in my music and found myself drawn to the slowed down more emotional vibes. I’ve also come to fall in love with many of the individuals in the community which makes me want to work to push their sound even more.
What makes wave so good?
iSorin: When I first discovered Wave ~5 years ago it made me feel something deeper, it was thought provoking in a different way and somehow for me many Wave tracks can help me relax one day and then energize me during a workout the next day. It’s also awesome that there are so many talented artists pushing their own kind of sound, and with a good number of these artists you can know right away who produced a track.
Heimanu: I loved the feeling that wave gives me. It’s dark and deep, and sounds mysterious and otherworldly, while at the same time making me feel like I’m understood and at home. The emotions it gave me, combined with the sonics that I love (trance leads, dark basses, emotive vocal chops) led to me to become an avid supporter and promoter of the genre, scene and community.
enjoii: Whether you want to feel like in cyberpunkish dystopian world longing for home or futuristic cyber world full of possibilities, you will find something for yourself.
Deadcrow: I think the answer to this is kind of the same as to the previous question! The combination of emotion and instrumentation to me makes it a great genre. And you can do so many things with it too, also since you aren’t really bound to a certain BPM. On top of that the sound is just fresh.
Brett: It’s hard to describe really but there’s just a certain mood/vibe/emotion that really captures my ears and my heart. There’s also a lot of versatility possible in the sound. My DJ sets can start at 100 and end at 200 and find something to play everywhere in between. I can play heavy or go deep.
Though wave is quite new, relatively, the community around it is already absolutely diehard. Do you think it’s the vibe of the sound or the desire for something new that has attracted so many early fans?
iSorin: It is likely a combination of both. Many fans of electronic music appreciate when something sounds fresh and new and is not something that is being regurgitated by every artist. There are many people out there that would likely love Wave but don’t even know it exists, and I think the reason for that is because it combines elements from so many genres.
Heimanu: I believe the reason why wave has a very established core underground community is because of the connection and experience that the genre offers you. Wave songs are always an emotional journey and as such we can connect to and appreciate the genre on a more emotional level. Compared to most other EDM sub-genres, where it’s mostly about energy and often superficial emotions, wave goes much deeper than just the surface level sound and feeling. Because of this, fans of the genre are so much more emotionally connected than they would be to other dance genres. As a result, the fans are absolutely diehard.
enjoii: A variety of sounds which have deep emotions in common. I think it’s both vibe and the desire for something new. Wave has naturally evolved into hardwave which attracted new listeners and the wave itself is the result of many other genres where people met each other. I think is interesting to observe this process from the beginning.
Deadcrow: I guess relatively it’s sort of new, specially in the EDM realm, but it’s been around for more than half a decade now. I feel like when new sounds emerge on the internet, instead of it being concentrated in a certain country, it grants more possibility for a big loyal fan base to grow. Genres also don’t exist without their own communities, so I think the musical aspect as well as the community aspect make it attractive to people. Some other new genres rise to fame very quickly and then just die out, with not much of a core fanbase being left because people have moved on. I think that’s where wave is different, the community was already there before it became bigger, so even if the current hype settles a bit, the community will still be big enough to sustain wave as a genre.
Brett: A bit of both for sure. The wave community really started developing years ago and there’s many of us just ecstatic to see it taking off with wider audiences and for various artists we’ve followed for years to get some more notice. There’s a lot real love for the sound and real talent in the scene. I’m grateful for you taking the time to share about it!
What do you hope for the future of the genre? Do you want it to get big, mainstream, well known, etc.?
iSorin: Might be an unpopular opinion but I do hope the genre gets bigger. Some of my peers and close friends who are also producing wave are working their ASSES off every single day trying to make a name for themselves and trying to hopefully make music their fulltime job. And unfortunately as much as some people would love the genre to stay underground, that would really limit the potential of so many talented artists trying to break through. 2020 was a pretty big year for wave as it gained more popularity with more faster tempo/club friendly tracks, but there is room to grow in all aspects and all versions of the genre!
Heimanu: I want the genre to expand into something much bigger than it already is and I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the emotions that the genre has to offer. It will also allow artists to live out their dreams of playing their music to crowds, having their music heard by millions and ultimately giving the artists a platform to financially thrive off of, leading back to more music being created in the genre.
There will be obvious downsides of the genre expanding – commercialism and oversaturation of the sound. However, I believe that because the community is so deep-rooted and connected, it will be more difficult for third parties, those only interested in staying relevant and maintaining profit, to capitalize on the genre’s success. We have built something based off of respect for each other and respect for the sound, and I truly believe that our values will hold true with genre expansion.
One more point, the genre is hard to replicate if you don’t get the emotion right in the song. You can have all the sonics and sounds, understand how to arrange and mix the track, but if you aren’t capturing the core emotion you’ll have a hard time to pass it as wave. And if you are capturing those emotions, then you are welcomed, as you understand what we feel.
enjoii: I hope it will keep evolving as it was to this day and will attract new listeners as well as music producers to join our community.
Deadcrow: The way I see it now, wave is on its way to solidify itself as a genre outside of its own community, and that was personally what I always wanted to happen. Because that also means that it’s not just a genre on SoundCloud anymore, and also that there is way more possibility for us artists in the scene to be able to sustain ourselves from making the music we love to make. I really want to see us play big festivals, have our music featured in video games and music, and land placements with big artists outside of the scene. The future for the genre in my eyes is looking very bright!
Brett: My role in the wave scene has served mostly via my label/agency vibe.digital. We definitely have big plans and high hopes for the genre. There’s interest in the sound worldwide and as the world opens back up I’ll be booking tours to reflect that. With high popularity there’s of course the danger, as with anything, for the sound to become oversaturated, cookie-cutter etc. That’s why I I’m investing myself in specific artists through the agency and pioneers of the sound, both old heads and new, through the label.
Who are some other artists we absolutely need to follow?
iSorin: NOAH B, REMNANT.exe, Juche, W/out, SBU, Sublab, Sorsari, Nick Neutronz, Just Connor, gl00my, Mannequin, Fyoomz, Ktrek, TIGEREYES, Ennja, lovewithme, Ytho, and MANY others I can’t possibly list them all 😀
Heimanu: Absolutely need to follow? For sure Skeler, Deadcrow, Teneki, Sublab, and Juche. These guys are the best in the Hardwave scene right now.
enjoii: There are so many talents to follow… I think it’s worth starting by choosing any artist from this interview and start digging for more – that’s how we all met 😉
Deadcrow: REMNANT.exe and Dyzphoria are the first two names that pop up in my head. They’re also some of my best homies in the scene. Definitely check them out!
Photo by Eddie Perlas / ESPN Images