Now that the dust has settled on 2016, we’ve started to process everything that happened—or didn’t quite happen, as the case may be. As the dance music community reflected on the year’s most important releases and successful artists in year-end lists and polls, we found ourselves a little surprised at some of the names that hadn’t quite made it into the running. Many DJs who toured nearly every weekend and gigged around the world still didn’t quite break into the more “mainstream” clubbing universe—but because they set up such a solid foundation in years past, we’re sure they’ll make significant gains in 2017.
Volvox, constituent of the New York-based collective Discwoman, is destined for big things in 2017. After honing her skills as a resident at Brooklyn’s trendy Unter party, Volvox secured tour dates throughout the United States, Mexico, Brazil and more recently, Western Europe—including at Panorama Bar, where she played once in August 2016 and already returned in this past month. Already a recognized name in the DJ booth, she has also endeavored into the realm of record label management by starting her own imprint, Jack Dept. 2016 also furnished Volvox with a successful Boiler Room debut, as well as her first featured mix on Resident Advisor.
After a smash-hit on Whities last year that drew the attention and praise of Ibiza headliners and venerated heads alike, Arizona-bred Avalon Emerson launched an intense global touring schedule last year. But her relentless gigging at clubs across three continents apparently wasn’t quite enough to push her into certain prominent year-end lists. That indicates that, although Dixon is aware of her, perhaps his followers haven’t quite yet caught on. But we expect that to change after another year on the road and perhaps a few more releases.
Last year a wave of interest in balearic, lo-fi house surged in cities like Melbourne, Los Angeles and Vancouver, and one of the most prominent names that washed ashore was Project Pablo. Patrick Holland of Montréal cranked out four records throughout 2016, which kept him in the public eye and his touring calendar pretty full. With the foundation already laid, Project Pablo has his work cut out for him in 2017: he’s already scheduled an Australian tour and dates in Europe, including a debut appearance at Panorama Bar in March.
Charlie Duff (a.k.a. Matrixxman) has been on a steady incline for the past two years, especially in light of the success of his first full-length album via Ghostly International, Homesick, in 2015. In addition to receiving acclaim for his hard-hitting techno productions, which have been released on six different record labels in the last two years alone, Duff has garnered considerable praise for his work in the DJ booth. His move to Berlin late last year further accelerated his already busy touring calendar, allowing him to headline high-profile events like Primavera Sound, ADE, Dekmantel and nearly bimonthly Berghain Klubnachts. With his steady artistic output and fervent touring, it’s likely that Duff will be a breakthrough star in 2017.
Following multiple sets for L.A Morillo and DJ Fett Burger’s Trushmix series and launching the Freakout Cult record label with the latter in 2015, Jayda G seems poised to become the breakout star of the Sex Tags universe. Her solo releases, which have appeared on venerated underground outposts like 1080p and Butter Sessions, have testified to the skill and taste that’s also reflected in her DJ sets. With deep house as a cornerstone, Jayda’s repertoire is heavy on sweet and soulful vibes that endear her to listeners, so we won’t be surprised to see her star rise in the coming months.
Bwana’s track record over the past few years indicates interest from dance music labels with traction in the poppier club spheres. LuckyMe, the label that launched stars like Baauer, Machinedrum and Hudson Mohawke, released his Anime-inspired LP Capsule’s Pride last year, and he continued a string of records with Aus, which clocked early releases with the likes of Midland, Joy Orbison and George FitzGerald. And if that constellation says anything, it’s that prescient and heavy-hitting A&Rs see a lot of potential in the Canadian-bred producer, whose talent is only surpassed by the size of his impressive muscles.
It’s hard to exalt one name over the handful of lo-fi producers who turned heads late last year. Melbourne’s Mall Grab made a surprising coup of significant year-end lists and algorithmically determined top spots on most wanted/collected/played lists on sites like Discogs and YouTube. On the tier below him, such ironically named upstarts as Ross From Friends, DJ Seinfeld and DJ Boring also stirred controversy and garnered adoration for their catchy tracks. The latter’s “Winona” EP timed perfectly with a renaissance for the actress following her appearance on the runaway Netflix hit series Stranger Things, and its staggering number of views on YouTube launched it into the feeds of you and every house head you know.
Shanti Celeste has been on the rise for several years now, but has yet to break into Resident Advisor’s year-end reader poll of top DJs or DJ Mag’s corresponding staff list, which to us signals that she’s still pretty underground on the scale of things. Her lovable house outings on labels like Secretsundaze, Apron, Brstl and Future Times bolstered her touring schedule last year, as she travelled throughout Australia, Europe, the US and South America. That bodes well for new heights in 2017, which year she has already kicked off on a high note with the inauguration of her own record label, Peach Discs.
Peggy Gould (a.k.a. Peggy Gou) is a Berlin-based Korean artist known prior to this year for her regular stream of pulsing house and techno mixes as well as her arresting Instagram profile. She has demonstrated her muscles beyond the turntables with astonishing artistic output in the form of four separate groove-driven releases, all of which came out in 2016: Art Of War EP and Art Of War EP Pt. II on Radio Slave’s Rekids, Day Without Yesterday on Phonica White and Seek For Maktoop on the Ninja Tune imprint, Technicolour. She has also earned wide media coverage and played nearly 50 international shows with notable headliners throughout European clubs, including Silencio, De School, Panorama Bar and Fabric London.
It seems like every track this UK up-and-comer releases is a hit among the heads, all of which have appeared on tastemaking British dance music labels. Following his debut on Hessle Audio, he’s notched adventurous outings with Livity Sound, Idle Hands and Timedance. While his work always belies a penchant for experimentation, Bruce’s recent Timedance 12-inch—and particularly the track “I’m Alright Mate”—followed techno traditions more closely, which helped him break out beyond insular UK circles.
Published January 24, 2017.