Title speaks for itself on this one, so not much of an intro needed! Ranging from more familiar faces who are in for a blockbuster year, or up-and-comers who are about to bubble over, here’s 25 names we’re very excited about in 2016. We’ve quizzed everyone involved for their plans for the coming year, so expect plenty of exclusive scoops on forthcoming projects.
While Alex Buchan (aka Al Zanders) had already made a name for himself in 2015 with two solid releases under the alias Lodger, the young sheffield producer decided to shift gears in 2015 and debuted three house cuts on Phonica Records sub-label Karakul under the new name Al Zanders. The Slender EP took us back with mutating modular synths and crisp rhythms, and our infatuation was reinforced just a month ago when he dropped Limb Valley EP, a soulfully sampled warming house EP on LUV*JAM‘s Blind Jacks Journey. We’ve been sworn to secrecy about his 2016 plans, although you can expect a release on his very own imprint, a vibrant remix of a local brass band and more music on a well respected house label.
Alex Siedel will go down in history as one of the few who had the audacity (or maybe talent, good fortune and timing) to make an impromptu and unannounced Boiler Room appearance. When Tartelet helped organized a Copenhagen session, all the usual suspects were present: Max Graef, Glenn Astro, IMYRMIND, Wayne Snow and label head Muff Deep. Out of nowhere, the then-unknown 19 year-old popped up to play a few records and slotted in almost unnoticed, such was the young man’s capabilities. A little after that, it turned out he was the latest addition to the Money $ex family, delivering a five-track EP of warm, sample-heavy house grooves. He marches into 2016 in a similarly style, with an EP for Tartelet Records at the beginning of February. We’ve been given a preview and it’ll have you bumping as much as his debut, offering both the smooth and more hard-hitting ends of the house spectrum. After speaking to him, it’s clear the early props hasn’t phased him and he seems intent to take things as they come, be it a continuation of a proven formula or something a whole lot more experimental. Either way, this is one young talent to keep an eye on.
Following releases from London’s finest soul-infused beat connoisseurs Mo Kolours and Paul White, Leamington Spa’s Bastien Keb became the latest artist to join the One-Handed Music family. The multi-instrumentalist’s 11-track debut album Drinking in the Shadows of Zizou was a highlight for us in 2015, carrying everything from far-out cosmic jazz to contagious soul music. Looking forward to this year, you’ll be able to catch him playing in London at Styx and at Gottwood this summer on The Lawn Stage. Alongside more live shows there are remixes in the works for Quiet Dawn (New Word Records) and Golden Rules (Lex Records), as well as a couple other exciting projects we can’t reveal just yet.
Tom Burford is one of three drummers on our Ones To Watch list, a sign of how rhythm – subtle and complex, not just loud and bassy to fill warehouses – is playing such a prominent role in underground music. It’s also suggestive of how the role of a percussionist is moving away from the periphery and into the limelight. Cutting his teath in Werkha’s live band, his own productions were picked up by Bradley Zero, making Rhythm Section an appropriate home for the intricate percussive arrangements on Technician EP, Contours’ debut release. 2016 promise a remix for Werkha due out on Tru Thoughts, plus a couple other releases that we’re not privy to share just yet. For some previews though, we’d suggest keeping an eye out for a Contours remix for Odd Socks Records, dropping soon.
In recent years, Croatian music has become best known for its hospitality rather than its creativity, turning into the number one destination for European festivals. And while Eddy Ramich and Ilija Rudman prove that the talent and interest is there amongst Adriatic residents, the festival boom has not provided a catalyst for homegrown talent to develop as a collective. That is until we came across Fields & Forests, a label out of Split run by Cuisine Dub (aka Ante Matas). The approach of both label and producer is very much indebted to spiritual jazz, not quite balearic in its scope but possessing those sun-kissed qualities that make you want to pop on a tanning bed in the middle of winter. We can’t disclose too much about future plans just yet, but plans are afoot for releases with a Chicago and Rotterdam label, plus more on his own label. We’ll have hands on buzzers to bring you more.
Much like Laolu (featured later in the list), the catalyst for Denis Sulta’s breakout year in 2015 has been as a result of tactical DJ endorsement. This time though, it’s much closer to home, coming from Jackmaster who had signed the track in question. ‘It’s Only Real’ began doing the rounds in sets from Jackmaster, Jasper James and other Glaswegians in the summer and by the Autumn had developed into a private joke amongst ID enthusiasts, such was its popularity. Following in the footsteps of equally powerful releases on Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, ‘It’s Only Real’ captured the imagination for it’s melodic and spectral take on techno, but one which had enough bite to stand out within any set. His Altus alias also made an appearance this year on Mister Saturday Night, offering something a little more sample-based and disco-oriented to his repertoire. Add to this an exemplary Boiler Room debut and Denis Sulta is an exciting all-round package with an exciting 2016 ahead of him.
BE (Garth Be)
There’s a quite rumbling resonating from Manchester, barely loud enough to hear unless you’ve got your ear pressed firmly to the Lancashire soil. His name is Garth Be, an MPC wizard who has been doing things at his own pace since 2007, channelling Manchester’s dance music heritage into a low-slung, off-kilter, jazz-inflected interpretation that draws comparisons with Theo Parrish supergroup Rotating Assembly, or Bristol’s Jay-L. Eight years have brought just four releases, two EPs on SillLove4Music, Hudd Traxx and two albums on his own label Sweet Sticky, The first of those two topped Piccadilly Records’ 2014 list and his follow-up was equally accomplished. Garth can’t disclose too much about the year ahead, but he has told us he’ll be doing an EP with a Manchester label that he holds a lot of respect for. He’ll also be providing a remix for a well-known London label, due out in February, and is due to start a 12” series on Sweet Sticky too.
London six-piece Hester were a diamond in the rough for folk music in 2015 . We stumbled across their Soundcloud page earlier in the year and were delighted by the jazz-injected soulful tracks we discovered. Harking back to the sounds of Melodica, Melody and Me (what ever happened to them?), we fully expect to see these guys making it onto the Communion roster or any other influential folk label of sorts this year. New tracks and a visual project from the band are on the way this year, followed by “something big” in early 2017.
As the age-old proverb dictates, “a Lobster Theremin seal of approval goes a long way”. To extend the marine metaphors a little (stay with us), the label’s thorough talent-scouting is perhaps more akin to a blue whale than a crustacean, gobbling up all the tasty morsels en-mass, but still being able to filter out the dregs at the door. If the music is good enough but doesn’t have an obvious home among the Theremin ranks – either for scheduling or musical reasons – a new label is quickly formed to accommodate. This was the case with Hidden Spheres, who inaugurated LT sub-label Distant Hawaii, which is dedicated more to the sunnier side of house. His Waiting EP is full of gentle percussion, soulful samples and summery keys that make the creation of a new label fully justified. While Distant Hawaii continued with a follow-up from DJ Sonikku, Hidden Spheres looks to follow-up his debut with a release on one of our favourite London labels (which sadly must remain anonymous until the super-injunction is lifted).
Vancouver-based DJ/producer Jayda G was one of the top breakout artists in 2015 for us. Back in May she debuted a track on Australian label Butter Sessions, championing some off-kilter house music alongside DJ Fett Burger. The track led to further collaboration between the two, including a fresh new imprint based on their Vancouver club night called Freakout Cult. Expect to see her name about a lot more in 2016, with a debut solo EP on her new imprint on the cards for later this month, plus an appearance at our Corsica Studios party this Friday. For more Jayda on STW, check her recent Canadian road trip playlist.
With very little published work to go on, this pick stood out because of his uncredited collaborations. As the drummer for Max Graef’s new live band, Kickflip Mike’s talents are self-evident, but soon they’ll be backed up by a solo EP dropping this month on Money $ex Records. Following this, we’re told a follow-up EP has already been finished and work has begun on an album. By the time he tours Europe in the summer with Max Graef, we predict eyes won’t just be on the front man.
Whilst Stormzy and Skeppy ride the wave of UK’s favourite urban export across the globe, lurking in the shadows of one council estate in East London is Ghanaian-British poet Kojey Radical. His evocative spoken words brought a breath of fresh air to UK rap in 2015, with self-directed video ‘Bambu’ and our own live session of ‘Open Hand’ setting the artist apart with sheer ferocity and authenticity. Looking forward to this year, Kojey’s EP 23Winters will be dropping around February and hopefully more live shows across the country.
Whether it was just a clever marketing ploy by Messers Dixon and Âme, or genuine admiration, Laolu’s remix of Dele Sosimi’s ‘Too Much Information’ won the gong as their favourite track of 2015. However cynical you’d like to be about the Innervisions music machine, there’s no other collective that knows how to break a track like they do. Agoria’s ‘Scala’, Frankey & Sandrino’s ‘Acamar’, Ten Wall’s ‘Gotham’ and Âme’s own remix of Paul Simon has all gone through the same cycle of drip-feeding until a state of fever pitch is reached just in time for release. In 2015, Laolu was brought into the club, made all the more remarkable because, until that point, he was unknown in those circles. It was a fine introduction and a monumental platform for the producer to achieve great things in the year ahead.