Last year was the one of many highs and lows. From Brexit to the return of breaks, it had moments to forget and plenty to remember.
Looking into the mirror ball of 2017, thing can only get better on from a political standpoint (we hope!) and the good tunes will just keep on coming too, so there’s a lot to look forward to. These are the artists on the verge of setting their scenes alight over the next few months…
Name: Mr. Tophat
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Key Releases: ‘Trust Me (Feat. Robyn)’, ‘KVK 100’ (With Art Alfie), ‘Mood Switch’
Sounds like: Tyree Cooper, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Lindstrom
Rewind back to Sweden, 2011 — Rudolf aka Mr. Tophat finds himself in one Stockholm’s most famous haunts, Riche, where he meets the young Art Alfie for the first time. They bond over their love for hi-hats, disco samples and club-orientated house music for the heads. This is to be the beginning of a long-lasting and fruitful friendship which will transpire into late night studio sessions, and eventually into the makings of their strongest musical output via Karlovak Records.
Starting a label together seemed like a natural choice. Mr. Tophat was well versed at this art already, having founded the very successful independent label Junkyard Connections. “It was a label I started when I was just 18 years old, in fact I got the idea when I was 17. I wanted to release unestablished music from younger producers from Stockholm and Sweden. Then it turned out to be something more organic… the first non-Swedish artist I released was Christopher Rau”. The ‘strictly limited, no repress’ imprint was also a home for his early productions, its releases swiftly becoming hot property in many a DJ’s record bag and Karlovak Records naturally followed suit.
The pair had an impressive stack of dancefloor-ready EPs ready to let loose onto the world, which they kick started with KVK100. As well as an outlet for their own production masterpieces, they’ve had some impressive guests join them so far. “Karlovak is still a label with a lot of reputation in the DJ circles. Ben Sims had actually been supporting since the first release, same as Matt Edwards (Radio Slave) has been supporting us for a long time. We thought why not start a new label and release other artists…” Rudolf muses. They developed this idea and plenty more vinyl series ensued; KRLVK followed KVK, KVKR and for everything else sub-label Karlovak Crome.
Fast forward to 2016 and Mr. Tophat has had a busy year pursuing his own solo adventures. A few months ago he unleashed the news of his record with Swedish superstar Robyn, a game-changing collaboration in so many ways. It was an amalgamation of different musical backgrounds; Robyn coming from the pop world, and Rudolf from the rave scene but they both found a middle ground and it sparked some interesting new ideas.
They first crossed paths in a humble, heartfelt manner after both suffering the loss of legendary Swedish producer and close friend Christian Falke. “Christian was the person that introduced me to buying DJ equipment and such, and also the person that told me that music is actually something that you can live on… not just a hobby.” Rudolf says fondly, “when he passed away, it connected me and Robyn in some sort of way.”
They began working together when she asked him to remix ‘Love Is Free’. His dubbed out, groove-laden rework went down treat and he returned to work his magic on ‘Main Thing’ for her RMX RBN project. It was only a matter of time before they joined forces fully. “She’s always been creating music… but I think she was in a mood where it felt really natural to jump on my projects”
Their latest endeavor ‘Trust Me’ has already taken the press by storm. Deeply rooted in the sensibilities of disco, it’s pop music that doesn’t play by the rules. “Regarding the arrangements… it is sort of pop music, with refrains, and verses… but it also doesn’t really have any arrangement — it’s really loose, the way it starts and ends. For me, it was really important to prove you can make pop music without these kind of classic boundaries.” Mr Tophat’s productions are feel-good dance records with a touch of Nordic charm that will see him follow in Falke’s footsteps.
Words: ANNA WALL
From: Albi, France
Key tunes: Mr. Tophat & Art Alfie ‘I Want You To See (Molly remix)’, Spencer Parker ‘The Improvised Minotaur (Molly edit)’, Verrina & Ventura ‘Riso Amaro (Molly remix)’
Sounds like: John Dimas, Apollonia, Le Loup
Molly first came onto DJ Mag’s radar with a series of sublime productions built around cavernous depth and scorching basslines for discerning labels including Rekids, All Inn and Karlovak. Real name Emeline Ginestet, the DJ/producer is by no means new to the scene, starting out as head of Rex Club’s communications and PR after moving to Paris 10 years ago. “It really helped me as I discovered a lot of new music and artists through it,” she explains when DJ Mag catch up with her over Skype. “It really showed me what you need to do to get on in the scene too.”
The impact it has had on her crate-digging sets is clear as well, which are made up of rare records of sultry house and languid tech. She recently left the role at the Paris venue to focus on her own career, but continues to A&R for the recently launched Rex Club Music label, as well as continue to play as a resident at the club at her own party, HEAD_ON. She has used the monthly event to welcome artists including Delano Smith, Cassy, Fred P, Levon Vincent, Mandar and Dyed Soundorom. “Rex is still my home musically,” she says fondly of the venue. “For me it’s really special to play there as I’m always surrounded by friends.”
Ginestet took some time away from production this year to focus on her DJing, at a time the wider scene has started paying a attention to the groovier sound coming out of the French capital. And it’s an approach that’s paid dividends, with her relentless schedule seeing her spin at Circoloco at DC-10, Panorama Bar, Space Ibiza and Robert Johnson, as well festivals including Amsterdam Dance Event, OFF Sonar and The Weather Festival.
“People’s interest in the French scene has really helped me,” she explains. “I’ve had some great opportunities this year and have really enjoyed it. I hope it will continue with this flow. Circoloco was important to me as being booked there really means something. A lot of people want to play there, so when you’re booked there’s a lot of pressure. You have to deliver.”
When DJ Mag catches up with Ginestet she’s at the apartment in South Beach, Miami, where she’s taking a break from her non-stop schedule to focus on her productions again whilst playing a residency at ReSolute in New York City between December and February. “I have a couple of tracks ready now that are deep and house-y,” she tells of the new material. “They’re definitely starting to sound more American.”
When she returns from the States next year she’s set to launch her own label, Rendez-Vu, with a release from American producer Michael Zucker. Ginestet then says she will go on to put out her own material as well as host a number of upcoming French producers she’s keen to support. After refocusing her efforts once already and establishing herself on the global circuit in 2016, her new label looks to serve as a springboard to launch Ginestet into a fruitful second-phase of her career in 2017.
Words: ROB MCCALLUM
Name: Peggy Gou
From: Seoul, S.Korea (living in Berlin)
Key Releases: ‘Art of War EP’, ‘Seek For Maktoop EP’, ‘Gou Talk’
Sounds like: Morgan Geist, Takuya Matsumoto, Leon Vynehall
Peggy Gou is in love with house. She adores everything about it, but most of all, the fact it makes her want to move. “I just love the history and sounds,” she expresses. “It excites me and it makes me wanna dance all night.”
That definitely comes across in the sparkling tracks created by this rising Korean producer. In 2016, she appeared as if from nowhere with the subtle, fresh ‘Art of War’ EP on Matt Edwards’ long-standing house ‘n’ techno institution Rekids. ‘Troop’, with its trippy bells, floating pads and disco bass, pricked up our ears, while ‘In Sum’ from the same EP unveiled a technoid funk sheen. It didn’t stop there, as ‘Day Without Yesterday’ for Phonica White and most recently, the ‘Seek For Maktoop’ EP for Ninja Tune offshoot Technicolour have confirmed what we suspected: she’s possessed of great style and substance.
The latter EP contained the immense ‘Gou Talk’. If you can imagine John Carpenter losing it beneath the lights of the Paradise Garage, you’re getting close, such was its compendium of sinister electro bass bumps and squiggly, optimistic disco synths. It turns out that disco, as well as house and techno, is a constant muse for Peggy.
“I think disco is one of the genres that isn’t easy to make, but they are just amazing tracks,” she says. “When I need inspiration I listen to a lot of old disco music from The Salsoul Orchestra, MFSB, Cerrone. I didn’t think there was a kinda disco vibe on ‘Gou Talk’, that wasn’t my intention but I’m taking this as a compliment!”
Peggy is from Seoul but moved to London to study English at 14. She did GCSEs and A-levels in Croydon before moving back to Korea. But it was in 2010 when she returned to the UK to attend the London College of Fashion, that she got bitten by the dance bug. “I started to collect vinyl and listen to music after moving back. One early influence was Roman Flügel’s ‘Fatty Folders’ album, I think that was around 2011. Then I started to dig more into underground music and after meeting some crew in London we started to do regular parties. That was the moment I knew I had to learn production too.”
She was shown the ropes by London-based South African producer Esa (occasional member of Glasgow outfit Auntie Flo), and adapted to production quickly, though she says she still has much to learn.
“You learn A, then you realise that you need to learn B too,” she admits. “I think it’s kind of never-ending. I’m going take some live instrument lessons besides piano, and also sound engineering lessons.”
Peggy lives in Berlin now, moving there after a friend suggested it would suit her. It’s a place she loves, though it took a while to adapt to. “It was very different to London, also I moved in November so you can imagine the weather in winter. But that’s another good reason to be in the studio and work on music. Also another thing that I love about it is that when you go out, when you meet new people, most of them are artists, musicians with free souls. It’s very laidback here. I’m a hyper person, so when I come back to this city after a tour, I feel like Berlin tells me to ‘calm down’, ‘relax’.”
Beyond music, the producer draws influences from art and museum exhibitions. “It’s always interesting to see someone else’s work, as it can affect everyone differently,” she notes.
Though she lives in Europe now, she’s encouraged by the development of the homegrown scene back in Seoul. There’s a significant commercial dance element in the city, but Peggy’s noticed lots more underground spots springing up too. “There are amazing clubs bringing artists from abroad such as Vurt, Mystik and Faust and also radio stations like SCR, and the Clique record store. I’m very happy to see this.”
Her latest EP emerged on Technicolour, but Peggy will only hint at what’s coming next. “I will know more about plans when I have my new music done and on which label they would fit. I’m also thinking about my own label too.”
You can be sure that music will be made with the same care and diligence. And also that you’ll be seeing her name a lot more in 2017.
Words: BEN MURPHY
Name: Theo Kottis
From: Edinburgh, Scotland
Key tunes: ‘If I Ever Feel Better’, ‘Future Eyes’, ‘UFO’
Sounds like: Sasha, Guy Gerber, Orbital
Success isn’t an overnight deal for most artists in dance music. Even the most skilled DJs or gifted producers have to slog it out and prove their mettle before they get a shot. That time has come for Edinburgh’s Theo Kottis.
Blowing up in 2014 with the crisp, melancholy house monster ‘Waiting Game’ through Moda Black, last year saw a spree of releases for Anjunadeep and Sasha’s Last Night on Earth, all the while cementing his already considerable reputation as a selector. But he had to work at it. It’s all come about from a good application of elbow grease.
“With ‘Waiting Game’, as the name suggests, it took a while to get signed to a label,” Theo says. “So it felt great to have so much support from DJs and Radio 1. It helped me progress to the next stage and motivated me to keep writing in the studio.”
As a teenager, Theo followed the familiar steps of getting into the more commercial forms of dance music, before falling in love with the real stuff.
“Maybe something I shouldn’t be admitting to, but aged 15 I was a huge trance fan,” he says. “Slowly I discovered more genres like classic French house and eventually a trip to Ibiza aged 18 introduced me to the house and techno scene I’m into now.”
He earned his reputation as a resident DJ at Edinburgh’s Fly Club (where he met Moda Black bosses Jaymo & Andy George and passed them his tracks), later bagging a coveted warm-up slot at Glasgow institution Sub Club. It was in that hedonistic atmosphere that he learnt to read a crowd, and also shape club tunes that could generate an electric crowd response.
“Having played with such a range of great DJs and respected artists there, my understanding of what makes a really good warm-up set has developed and consequently, I’ve matured in the sound I create in the studio,” Theo believes. “It definitely helps and it’s also very inspiring and motivating — after a gig at the Subbie, I have a refreshed energy and am always raring to get going on the next track or mix.”
It was during these DJ sets and late night production sessions that Theo arrived at his sound. Indebted to modern dancefloor styles but with a definite touch of classic progressive house, it’s no wonder that Sasha was keen to snap up some of his work. As to his style, Theo says, “I’d like to be known as a versatile DJ. I play deep, melodic techno and sometimes dip into grooving disco.”
It’s clear he’s reached tipping point, and with a bunch of new tunes ready to roll, road-tested on tour in the US, he’s poised to own 2017.
Words: BEN MURPHY
From: Bristol, UK
Key tunes: ‘Acne Downs’, ‘Emphasis’, ‘Ember’
Sounds like: Benton, Sully, Liar
Over the past few years, the UK underground has once again become a hotbed of experimentation and diversifi cation. As dubstep’s pioneers jumped ship, they paved the way for a new wave of freethinking artists not confi ned by genre, and leading the charge is London-based Bristolian, Otik.
With a percussive yet sultry sound that traverses grime, jungle, techno, bass and more, the 24-year-old has been slowly but surely climbing his way up the ladder with releases through 17 Steps, Durkle Disco, Push & Run and Tessier-Ashpool.
Drawing inspiration from hives of hybrid activity such as Swamp 81 and Keysound, Otik looks to the best of the best as his main source of musical infl uence — Burial.
“I’m sure lots of people say that, but I’d never really listened to music properly until I’d heard him,” Otik tells DJ Mag. “Burial takes influence from a lot of genres but he’s still his own genre in his own right — I guess that’s my aim too.”
It’s an aim he’s well on his way to achieving. Otik manages to blend elements seamlessly so as to make them feel organic. “I can’t stay with one style, mainly because it feels forced to stick to a certain paradigm when producing,” he explains. “If it feels right and it gives me that good feeling inside, I’ll continue with it.”
With fresh music on the way via DEXT and Jakwob’s Boom Ting Recordings, a free hip-hop/beats/ambient mixtape waiting in the wings and a project in the works with some grime MCs, Otik is not only looking to be one of the most exciting talents of 2017, but a long time to come after that.
Words: BEN HINDLE
From: Oxfordshire, UK
Key tunes: ‘March On’, ‘Throwback Therapy’, ‘Rickety Cricket’
Sounds like: Stray, Fracture, Chimpo
Ask anyone who knows anything about half-time drum & bass, and they’ll tell you North London’s Fixate is on fi re right now. A quick look at his catalogue will tell you the same — Diffrent Music, 20/20 LDN, Exit Records.
But like many in their mid-20s, Fixate’s entry into d&b came via the likes of DJ Fresh, Bad Company, Pendulum and Andy C. “My mate had a pair of turntables,” says the man behind the moniker, Declan Curran.
“He’d have house parties where we’d get slaughtered off two Carlsbergs and watch him mix the same tunes over and over.” Ahh, the nostalgia…
It was Declan’s love for hip-hop, grime and dubstep that really led to where he is today though, putting his unique print on d&b with a mad, future-thinking mix of precision and wonkiness, like a drunk who’s somehow managed to assemble a scale model of the Millennium Falcon.
“I’ve always been intrigued by Latin and African percussion so I tend to use those kind of sounds a lot, I think they bring a lot of energy,” he explains. “Obviously breaks as well. I love what a lot of the UK techno guys do with percussion — Hodge, Tessela etc.”
A dab hand at intricate arrangements and with a crafty wit to him (eyes out for the pop-culture references in his track names), it comes as little surprise that dBridge picked Declan up for the hush-hush mass collab project, Richie Brains.
“Going in the studio with those lot was a bit daunting but everyone was open to ideas and we bounced off each other,” admits Declan.
“I learnt a lot from it, not just production wise, but being new to the scene it helped me develop from someone who just makes tunes in his room to wanting to do music on a professional level.” Keep focusing on this guy.
Words: BEN HINDLE