This weekend the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival once again descends upon the northwest corner of Williamsburg for the sixth year running, and it’s expanding from two nights to four for Veteran’s Day, including a pre-party Thursday at Output. This year’s lineup promises another eclectic mix of established and up-and-coming artists, from “cosmic disco” pioneer Todd Terje and constantly evolving dubstepper Skream to sample-based experimentalist Lamin Fofana and Kanye West-approved beatsmith Evian Christ. As with most festivals, it’s tough to decide who to see, what to skip, and when to wait in line, especially when that means leaving a rapidly warming space for the near-freezing outdoors; fortunately, festival founders and organizers Katie Longmyer and Jen Lyon have somewhat alleviated the fear of missing out (and hypothermia) by booking venues within walking distance of each other.
Rather than trample a field in the middle of nowhere with an audience of 40,000 and a practically supersonic sound system, the two masterminds behind MeanRed Productions “opted to grow a little more slowly and stay a little bit smaller as we go so we can keep the purity of the artists we’re working with,” says Lyon. Even though the size of some of the venues is a little larger than last year, she adds, “We thought about how to grow, and we talked about how to do that in a way that maintained tight curation.” To draw both fuzzy-booted ravers and more demure head-bobbers in the back, the two collected artists from a diverse platform, including big-tent bangers like Nadastrom and Lithuanian top dog Mario Basanov. “I like to think that people who like dance music are liberated,” says Lyon. “It’s an exploratory genre,” and BEMF’s lineup definitely reflects that.
To get the most out of the experience, it’s best to go with the three-day festival pass. Even though $125 seems like a hefty price tag, you’ll ultimately save more money that way than if you purchase tickets for individual nights. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim to arrive early if there’s someone you really want to see (the all-ages show at 285 Kent headlined by Jessie Ware and Gold Panda affiliate Star Slinger, for example, will probably fill up fast), but with a festival pass you can move freely to catch as many artists as possible beforehand. The three-day festival pass also includes admission to the official RINSED after party on Saturday night, lineup and location to be announced. In the meantime, check out our list of 10 artists you won’t want to miss. For the full schedule, visit BEMF’s official website.
Dubstep innovator Skream is an easy choice: he headlines Skreamizm, the official BEMF pre-party that’s also the only show on Thursday night. The producer born Oliver Jones was a formative member of South London’s dubstep scene and one of the first to mix the dark, UK garage-pumped sub bass of predecessors like Horsepower Productions with washes of lighter melody (check the flute in “Rutten”). As EDM has grown to dominate the airwaves in the past few years, however, Jones has taken his sets in the opposite direction, starting with his Skreamizm tour last year; his drop-addicted US audiences got so hostile that earlier this year he issued a warning via Twitter: “YES I WILL BE PLAYING TECHNO/HOUSE/DISCO AT ALL FUTURE SHOWS,” he wrote. One audience member was even thrown out for aggressively requesting dubstep. So if you do go, don’t be that guy.
Skream performs Thursday at Output with MK, Oneman, Curses, Route 94, and Sgt. Pokes.
“She’s an exceptional DJ, not just an exceptional ‘female DJ,'” said Fabric Records’ manager Leo Belchetz in a recent New York Times article about women in electronic music, a perennially hot (and fraught) topic. He was talking about the DJ Cassy, but he may as well have been referring to Erika. One of only two women in BEMF’s lineup, the Detroit-based DJ, composer, and founder of record label Interdimensional Transitions grew up in a science-centric household, running her own bulletin board system at age 11 and building her own computers in high school. This attention to precision and symmetry–the video for “North Hex” is derived in part from a WWII submarine oscilloscope–is reflected in her work, which borrows its elegant switches and simmering beats from hometown heroes like Carl Craig.
Erika performs at 285 Kent on Friday, November 8th with BMG, Carlos Souffront, Patrick Russell, Mike Servito, Outer Space, and Bryan Kasenic.
When considering dance music, it’s often more useful to consider tracks above albums and artists; and that’s especially the case with “Ordinary Things,” the breakout from UK producer Rupert Taylor (a.k.a. xxxy). Released in 2011, it’s simply arranged–an urgent, skittering beat and the title repeated in a sped-up vocal sample from Deborah Cox’s 1999 song “It’s Over Now”–but that’s what xxxy does best. For what it’s worth, at times Taylor’s output recalls a less aggressive version of Disclosure, especially this year’s Got Me So EP. But he’s no one-trick DJ: Taylor hops genres as quickly and easily as he does record labels (he hasn’t stuck to an imprint for more than one release), dabbling in anything from minimal techno to Baltimore breaks.
xxxy performs at Cameo Gallery on Sunday, November 10th with Lotic, Lamin Fofana, Max McFerren, and Blacky II.
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“Like White Lightning Up a Black Snake’s Ass” b/w “%-} Dizzy.” Africans Are Real. New York-via-Sierra Leone experimental producer and DJ Lamin Fofana certainly has a way with eye-catching release titles, and his music lives up to expectations (the first is, tellingly, probably his most sonically conventional). Founder of the boundary-pushing record label Sci Fi & Fantasy, Fofana is also affiliated with Jace Clayton‘s (a.k.a. DJ/rupture) Dutty Artz label and shares Clayton’s quick-fingered, sample-based curatorial eye, chopping up the sounds of traffic into a remix of Solange’s “Losing You” and cobbling together laugh tracks, German philosophy, and the sounds of smoking and coughing into his Frankenstein of a “Pleasure Mix.” Whatever you make of his dizzyingly eclectic aesthetic, you definitely won’t hear anyone else doing what he’s doing anytime soon.
Lamin Fofana performs at Cameo Gallery on Sunday, November 10th with Lotic, xxxy, Max McFerren, and Blacky II.
Rumor has it some Norwegian radio stations banned Oslo producer Todd Terje’s “Inspector Norse” because it sounded too much like “elevator music.” That’s not entirely inaccurate–if you think hard enough about it while listening, the track wouldn’t be a bad accompaniment to a Ron Burgundy-riding-an-escalator montage, perhaps while disco-dancing–but it belies the sense of humor that underlies Terje’s output. One third of a “cosmic disco” (which seems to have recently undergone a similarly unfortunate fall from grace as its parent genre) trifecta that includes DJs and countrymen Lindstrom and Prins Thomas, Terje has also co-written Robbie Williams’ “Candy” and produced Franz Ferdinand’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions. So even if he is making elevator music, at least he knows what he’s doing. Plus, he doesn’t visit the U.S. very often, so now would be an opportune time to see him.
Todd Terje performs at Output on Sunday, November 10th with DJ Spun and Vin Sol.
After a knockout set at September’s Basilica Soundscape in Hudson, Evian Christ is back in New York to open for kindred spirit Lunice, both of whom have produced for Kanye West (the former locked down “I’m In It,” while the latter also contributed to Yeezus as part of doom-trap duo TNGHT with Hudson Mohawke). Live, Christ’s chopped-and-screwed samples and lethargic instrumentals climb slowly to an ominous fever pitch so powerful that the 23-year-old upstaged Manchester techno vet Andy Stott–while outdoors, no less, rarely the ideal venue for less-than-Skrillex electronic music–at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival.
Evian Christ performs at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday, November 8th with Lunice, Rockie Fresh, The Blessings, and S-Type.
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John Digweed may pronounce Ibiza “eye-BEETH-a” and say things like “I’m one of those DJs who likes to play true to myself,” but he is indisputably a legend. The British DJ cut his teeth in the early ’90s at Mansfield’s Renaissance Club, where he was discovered by acid house king Sasha; the two then partnered for a residency at New York’s Twilo (when you feel your stamina flagging for the RINSED afterparty, remember that these guys played eight- to 12-hour DJ sets) that was formative for the city’s electronic music scene. And for all his high-falutin’ manner of speech and storied legacy, Digweed is egalitarian: he’s just as likely to spin Simian Mobile Disco and Foals as he is Henry Saiz and Nina Kraviz, and he even likes David Guetta. He’s also, of course, strictly old-school, eschewing a laptop in favor of CDs and vinyl for seamless mixes that won’t let you take a break until the break of day.
John Digweed performs Friday, November 8th at Output with Naveen G.
Parisian DJ and producer Teki Latex goes pretty hard. The founder of the awesomely-named Institubes Records and Sound Pellegrino–and member of French alternative-rap group TTC, which in the early ’00s was among the first of its kind to reach U.S. audiences–mixes house, garage, and techno with harder elements like ghettotech and bass and booty music into forces of nature that beat you into ecstatic submission (just listen to Teki Latex’s take on Tronco Traxx’s 1998 ballroom anthem “Walk 4 Me” and his no-duh transition from “Shabba” by A$AP Ferg to, yup, Shabba Ranks’ “Mr. Loverman” in his and DJ Orgasmic’s Boiler Room set). It’s potent stuff, more than enough to keep you on your feet at the tail end of a weekend of dancing.
Teki Latex performs Sunday, November 10th at 285 Kent with Star Slinger, Distal, and Clicks & Whistles.
You might know Los Angeles-based Brit Graeme Sinden from his insanely catchy 2008 hit “Beeper”–which further proves Spin‘s point that UK pop kicks our EDM-indebted Top 40 asses to the curb–or his collaboration with A-Trak, or his “One Two (1 2)” with 2012 BEMF highlight Brenmar, or his work with SBTRKT (whom, incidentally, Sinden had been good friends with for six or seven years before he found out the SBTRKT who had been anonymously sending him tracks was the same person) or… the point is, Sinden is one of the most in-demand producers both this side and the other side of the pond. It’s not hard to see why: his propulsive mix of techno, trance, and house is downright addictive, so plan on staying for his entire set.
Sinden performs Saturday, November 9th at 285 Kent with Pete Tong, Nadastrom, Salva, and Doorly.
“It’s medicine–that’s what music is.” Darren Cunningham should know: the music he makes as Actress serves as a blown-out low-end panacea for the dance floor, the bedroom (one of his tracks is called “Supreme Cunnilingus”), and the art gallery (he soundtracked the Tate Modern’s Yayoi Kusama exhibit). Cunningham deals in textures and moods rather than the crisp clap and bounce of his BEMF neighbors, and the result is compulsively submersive. At times it sounds almost as if you’re listening to him from within your own warm, gently moving body. It was just announced this week that his forthcoming record Ghettoville may be the last Cunningham releases under the Actress moniker, so be sure to catch him while he’s still with us.
Actress performs Saturday, November 9th at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Honorable Mention: Oneohtrix Point Never
Daniel Lopatin plays New York City quite regularly as Oneohtrix Point Never, so while we highly recommend seeing his mind-bendingly surrealistic visuals and listening to his homage to ’80s digital presets at some point, you can do that pretty much any time. Instead, stop by his Software label’s stage at Glasslands to check out opener Thug Entrancer, a Chicago producer whose music videos are almost exactly the same as Oneohtrix Point Never‘s. Plus, in “Love” he pitch-shifts Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” way down low in the mix, and it’s almost as sexy as the original.
Thug Enhancer performs on Saturday, November 10th at Glasslands with Oneohtrix Point Never and David Kanaga.