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 #5 through the #1 spots.
5. Loco Dice
Loco Dice, the Desolat boss has presided over one of his most successful and impactful years to date. The German institution continues to excel both onstage and in the office, captivating fans with his high-energy techno sets while simultaneously discovering some of the brightest budding artists in the business (see: tINI and Guti) to showcase on Desolat alongside such powerhouses as Shlomi Aber and Carl Craig. Loco was no slouch in the studio either, releasing “Toxic” to critical acclaim and appearing on multiple major compilations throughout 2012.
Helping to spearhead the CNTRL: Beyond EDM tour as Richie Hawtin’s first mate helped demonstrate Loco’s passion and conviction for sharing his styles of music with the unwashed masses, and helped vault him into our top five underground artists of the year.
Cadenza has become synonymous with the eclectic, the underground, and the quality. It’s truly amazing how well label head Luciano has managed to trademark a sound that is ever-shifting and evolving, from jazz and cumbia-inspired slabs of tech house to soulful percussive deep house and smooth techno. Boasting fellow musical luminaries such as Uner and Technasia, alongside rising stars like Andrea Oliva, Luciano’s label took leaps forward in 2012.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in Ibiza this past season, where Luciano’s Cadenza party at Amnesia became one of the consensus top draws of the year. With genre-bending and chart-topping releases like “Rise of Angel” added to the equation, it’s clear that Luciano has cemented his place among the underground music elite.
3. Maceo Plex
No underground artist enjoyed a better year than Maceo Plex. The former ghost producer has shown himself quite worthy of the very limelights he politely avoids, elevating his productions and live show to new levels in 2012.
Entering the year with significant hype to live up to, the artist formerly known as Maetrik excelled under the microscope in nearly every quantifiable way. Whether it was his eye-opening collaboration with Danny Daze as Jupiter Jazz, standout performances or staggering array of unique and forward-thinking productions like “Stimulation,” anyone with ears could tell something special was brewing in Maceo’s camp this year. Clocking in at number-three is an artist who is currently hitting stride at a new paradigm of quality. It will be scary to see what happens when he actually gets comfortable there.
2. Marco Carola
Marco Carola is a sacrosanct name in techno quarters. The Italian export cast himself in a leading role during the 90s global electronic music boom and has remained perched on the pinnacle of his profession ever since. Known for his marathon storytelling sets, Carola does not merely play shows. Akin to a techno shaman, he guides his listeners on shared musical sagas that rarely end before sunrise.
In 2012, Carola continued the enviable task of headlining the world’s top clubs, enthralling audiences from Ibiza to Bogota. He also tackled a major new project with the launch of his new Music On label, opening up new avenues to young artists pushing the techno genre forward into the future. Concurrently considered among the best and most popular in his field, Carola is perhaps best analogized as a techno Tiesto who never had to change his sound to stay relevant. His staying power and continued influence and quality of work make him an easy pick at the number-two spot.
1. Richie Hawtin
From pioneering minimal techno soundscapes against Detroit’s gritty backdrop as Plastikman to reinventing himself as the captain of Berlin’s vaunted M-nus label, Richie Hawtin could stake his claim to the top 10 based on influence alone. But the techno legend has never been content to rest on his laurels and his path to this year’s top spot rests precisely upon his unparalleled record of achievement in 2012.
Even Ibiza amateurs recognize the incomparable responsibility gap between rocking a party one night and planning one for an entire season. While Hawtin has been a regular fixture for years at White Isle parties like Cocoon, he had never made the jump from guest to host until this summer with his critically acclaimed Enter party.
While many of his underground contemporaries were content to disparage the new breed of American EDM fans, Hawtin instead sought to educate them. His groundbreaking CNTRL: Beyond EDM tour coupled marquee techno performances with Q&A roundtable seminars that were as successful in practice as they were ambitious in concept. Extending an open hand to electronic music’s newest initiates displays how Hawtin has never placed scene over substance. Shouldering the burden of being a techno prophet to a new generation of listeners is a major reason why no other underground artist has rivaled Hawtin’s impact over the past 12 months.