This promises to be a fantastic year for electronic music, as the calendar is peppered with releases from some of the most exciting names around. Here are some acts to make sure you keep an eye on throughout the year.
A quick note: You can classify much of the music that follows as dubstep, a genre tag that’s become almost altogether meaningless and not particularly useful when trying to describe a sound. (For instance, nothing below sounds remotely like Skrillex.) I’m of the opinion that many, if not all of the artists listed are exploring past the bounds of standardized genres and subgenres. But those of you who thirst for taxonomy can feel free to shorthand it as dubstep, with smatterings here and there of trance, house, and purple, if it’ll help you sleep a little easier.
The former dipset producer disappointed many with an underwhelming follow-up to Electronic Dream. But it’s all going according to plan–now that expectations have been significantly lowered, the mpc wizard is hitting ’em with two new albums this year–another LP of original material and a remix album. You can expect more overwhelming technical wizardry, and heady, irresistible samples from one of the most exciting live electronic acts in the world today.
Darkstar’s North was a slept-on gem in 2010, a hard-edged synth masterpiece that excavated the darkness lying behind the surface sheen (which actually makes perfect sense, given the duo’s moniker.) Their signing to Warp was a huge seal of approval from the world’s best electronic label and should have dubstep fans frothing at the mouth for News from Nowhere, out at the beginning of February and promising to be just as harsh, spacious and absolutely breathtaking as the last album. Fans of Portishead–if these guys stay consistent, they could be the next step forward.
The Low End Theory club in Los Angeles is one of the greatest hubs for electronic music in the world, playing host to Brainfeeder head Flying Lotus, the firebrand Gaslamp Killer and a host of other dazzling electronic artists making some of the most daring music out there. But even among company like this, Nosaj Thing stands out. His 2009 LP Drift was a cold, glitchy slice of sculpted sound that turned heads everywhere–and the follow-up, Home, is cooler, subtler, and bolder. It comes out on January 22nd.
Bit cheap to squeeze these guys in together but they’re both on Friends of Friends, both members of the Wedidit collective, and both millenials with omnivorous musical taste and the ability to boil pop genres down to their bare essentials only to build them back up into a kind of musical Megazord. Hemsworth, the more bombastic of the two, had a banner year last year, putting himself on the map with an outstanding string of singles and mixes. Everything he’s put out so far this year is fire–look out for the track “An Overture Might Help Me Stop Thinking About You” on the upcoming FoF Show Me the Future compilation. As for Shlohmo, you can expect more of the preternatural smoothness of his mellow Vacation EP, when he drops another new one in March.
People have been waiting for the follow-up to Crooks and Lovers since the day the smash album came out back in 2010. It’s finally dropping, on Warp Records (spot a trend?) this summer. Mount Kimbie make music with an astonishing degree of depth, bathing grooves in warmth and sunlight until they’re entirely shot through with a healthy dose of Vitamin D. They’re some of the prettiest electronic tracks you’ll hear coming out of Britain anytime soon.
And speaking of pretty British music… This is the the pick of which I’m the least sure. James Blake is capable of enormous things from a technical standpoint, which is why it was a bit disappointing when he dialed down the experimentation and cranked up the singer/songwriter shtick for his official debut. Electronic fans will be hoping that this year’s album, rumored to be coming sometime in the fall, resembles the dazzling Klavierwerke and CMYK EP’s that Blake originally made his name on.
My 2012 electronic MVP (his BBC Essential mix was the best two hours of music you were liable to hear all year) is taking no days off in 2013. He expects to release at least another album of material, while continuing to operate his imprint Clown and Sunset and releasing great music as Darkside, and with his buddy Sasha Spielberg (yes, the director’s daughter) under the moniker Just Friends. Expect minimalist gorgeousness at all times, as well as an absurdly large cast of influences, all of which come together to make timeless music that’s unlike that of any other artist.