Dancing Astronaut’s Top 25 Underground Artists of 2012: 15-6
The underground had a big year in the US in 2012 and we only felt it appropriate to highlight some of these amazing artists independently from potentially bigger or more commercial artists in the dance music world today. We considered the year these artists have had in terms of production, live sets, and overall influence. We also generally picked artists we love and admire; artists we feel are extremely important to pushing electronic music forward. This list of 25 names includes legends and young guns alike, but we can assure you that every single one of these artists is incredibly talented and is well worth a listen or a trip to a club for a live set. Picking up where we left off yesterday, we will continue the countdown with our picks from #15 to the #6 spot.
Sasha is a name that should really require no introduction. The Welshman has been DJing and producing for over three decades and was arguably dance music’s first ever rockstar DJ. There is no doubt that he has not lost an ounce of relevancy in 2012 — his remix of Hot Chip’s “Flutes” was our chosen biggest track of September and he’s made appearances all over the US, frequenting both small clubs and headlining major festival stages (like Electric Zoo’s Sunday School Groove). Seeing a Sasha DJ set is a bit of an otherworldly experience, he can hammer out big room tunes or keep it really minimal depending both on the crowd, the venue, or his mood. On the production front, he’s worked with James Teej, M.A.N.D.Y., Thermalbear and appeared on long time partner John Digweed‘s third volume of their famed Renaissance Transitions compilation, released earlier this month.
14. Todd Terje
Todd Terje started this year off strong with the release of his It’s The Arps EP, a production made entirely on an ARP 2600 (a semi-modular synthesizer) and highlighted by the quixotic “Inspector Norse.” Terje produces nu-disco, a melodic breed of techno, and even tracks with trancey elements. Although the Oslo-based producer didn’t make too many stops this year in the US, he did hit up Cielo in New York as well as Miami and Detroit’s Movement Festival. If his highly regarded originals weren’t enough to convince you, Terje also put remixes for Hot Chip, Lindstrom, Roxy Music, and The Units under his belt in 2012. His work is diverse and original — suitable for hipsters and club heads alike.
13. Damian Lazarus
Damian Lazarus has been dominating the underground scene for quite some time now, but he’s really come into his own while heading up the now legendary Crosstown Rebels label, founded in 2003. He’s taken on a bit of a godfather role in the label, pioneering sounds that are both dark and happy and mentoring and collaborating with wildly talented artists like Maceo Plex, Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones, and Art Department. Although for much of his long career Lazarus did not take to produdcing very often, 2012 has birthed “Rise of Zod” – a collaboration with James What – and the Burning Man-inspired “Robot Heart” with Shaun Reeves and Art Department. There’s also been a flurry of activity on his digital-only imprint CDR and Rebellion, not to mention huge powerhouse mixes in the form of his Lazpod show and recently released compilation for the Day Zero Festival coming up in Playa Del Carmen. Check out the video below celebrating Crosstown’s 100 release (Tiga’s “The Picture”) back in August — just another hint at Lazarus’s quirky sensibility as a label head.
12. Miguel Campbell
Miguel Campbell undoubtedly had a breakthrough year as a producer and DJ on Lee Foss and Jamie Jones’s Hot Creations label. Boasting both an impressive album, Back In Flight School, released in October and a fiery Essential Mix in August it was pretty clear that deep house fans just couldn’t get enough of Miguel (not to mention both his album and Essential Mix topped our lists for the year). His sound is fresh; combining classic funk, deep house, and a myriad of other bouncy production techniques. He has not yet toured in the US as much as we would have hoped, but his international influence is clear — hitting up major nights like Hot Creations’ Paradise parties at DC-10 in Ibiza and the Warehouse Project in Manchester.
Paul Rose, who was better known as his dubstep moniker SCB in the not-so-distant past, has unquestionably impressed us this year here at Dancing Astronaut. In addition to releasing his third artist album Personality, Scuba hammered out several more “single of the year” candidates like “Talk Torque” and more recently “Hardbody.” He’s hit up pretty much every major European festival and also made his debut in Ibiza this past summer. Moving away from his background in a bassier production style, Personality featured tracks that represented pretty much every other type of non-commercial house music: ’90s rave, piano house, garage, 2-step, boogie, and definitely even some hip-hop influences.
10. Mark Knight
If there is a DJ that is capable of crossing over quite seamlessly between the underground with tech house bombs and commercial collabs with huge names Florence & The Machine and Tiesto — Mark Knight is your man. Not only did he headline the first-ever Sensation USA in October, but he also celebrated the 6th birthday of his party power house Toolroom Knights and continues to head up the incredibly successful Toolroom Records with releases this year from Fedde Le Grand, Manuel de la Mare, Federico Scavo, UMEK, and a whole slew of solid compilations with that incredibly groovy tech house tinge for which Mark and Toolroom are famous. If that is not impressive enough, “Alright” and “Nothing Matters,” released for 2012’s summer season, were undoubtedly some of the global club anthems of the summer.
9. Jamie Jones
If we’re using influence as one of our criteria for choosing these artists, it should be clear why Jamie Jones appears on this list. Along with partner-in-crime Lee Foss, Jamie spent 2012 solidifying his Hot Creations label as one of the top in the game right and premiered his wildly popular Paradise parties this summer at DC10. More recently, he’s also released his first EP on HOTTRAX, a more underground imprint of Hot Creations. He’s sprinkled his signature 80s deep house vibe into countless peers’ tracks this year, but most notably was his single “Benediction” with side project Hot Natured (with Lee Foss, Ali Love, and Luca C) –a track so well-received that many felt it signified some sort of sell out of the Hot Creations label (Jamie disagreed, and so do we).
8. Justin Martin
2012 was undeniably the most exciting year of Justin Martin‘s almost decade-long career. After having released his first record “The Sad Piano” on Ben Watt’s Buzzin’ Fly in 2003, Martin — with the support of Claude VonStroke and his brother Christian — has worked his way up the ranks as a prolific touring DJ and producer championing the Dirtybird records name across the globe. As a fiercely loyal diplomat to San Francisco and the bass-happy, genre-bending sound for which the West Coast is now known, Justin Martin is having more fun than ever before. Not to mention he released his debut artist album Ghettos & Gardens in May along with 2 volumes of remixes from his entire Dirtybird family in following months. Justin Martin tops this list not only because his productions are reliably jaw-dropping, original, and completely funky, but also because he prothletises a musical philosophy totally surrounded by two things: quality and fun.
7. Seth Troxler
The ever-idiosyncratic Seth Troxler, who has now taken the first and second spots on RA’s Top 100 DJs list in the last two years, has been listening to house music since he was about eight years old and DJing on an international stage since his teenage years. He makes this list as a highly talented DJ and not as much as a producer. Like many great (and potential misunderstood) names, Troxler’s talent and consistency tends to come into question, but there is no doubt this man has an expansive knowledge of music, what works on a late night dance floor, and how to mix records in the most traditional sense.
6. Maya Jane Coles
In a world dominated by men, Maya Jane Coles is queen. The 25-year-old British-Japanese DJ has been rising the ranks for years now, but she’s very much come into her own in 2012. For starters, she produces a super definable brand of unbelievably heartfelt and seductive deep house especially notable on tracks like “No Sympathy,” her remix of Bo Saris’s “She’s On Fire,” and more recently a killer four-track EP Easier To Hide on her brand new I Am Me Recordings. She is also one of the most solid live DJs we’ve seen — turning non-believers into fans and fans into devotees. We also could not be happier that we should be expecting a full length album from MJC in the next year.