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Don't Be Afraid's Semtek picks his 10 favourite new acts of 2013

It narrowly missed out on a spot in our 10 best record labels of the year, but London’s Don’t Be Afraid enjoyed something of a banner year in 2013. 

Closing Mr. Beatnick’s Synthetes trilogy with the Savannah EP – and then marking the occasion with an album release of all three EPs – Semtek‘s label also found time for new releases from Detroit up-and-comer and new Underground Resistance member MGUN, veteran Neville Watson, Alis, Halvtrak and Farah, while also cooking up (ahem) another two volumes in the Spargal Trax sub-series. Few labels have proved as reliable as DBA when it comes to breaking new talent in the house and techno sphere, so we asked Semtek to pick his 10 favourite artists to have debuted in 2013.

Check out his pics over the next 10 pages, and catch Semtek at Way Back Here’s New Year’s Eve party at Dance Tunnel, where he’ll be joined by Funkineven, Capracara and more. More information on that event here, ticket link here.

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01. GREG BEATO

“Hailing from Miami, Greg Beato might have gone unnoticed were it not for the foresight of labels like L.I.E.S. and Apron. Luckily he was picked up by both labels for a number of releases and the quality has been consistent across all of them. ‘3’, on his first Apron release, was the real breakthrough moment, a track which became an anthem of sorts at our own parties, and one which felt like it embodied the true spirit of house music in a distinctly modern form. His L.I.E.S. release, on the other hand, was a more techno affair but it stood out on account of its unrelenting moodiness and dancefloor appeal.”

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02. ADJOWA

“After years honing his style, Adjowa finally got his first notch on the bedpost in 2013 with a release on the superb Happy Skull imprint. 8Ball and Red Leather both stood out on account of their boogie sensibility, something derived from Adjowa’s deep knowledge of the genre. His imminent 10″ for DBA, ‘Science & Soul’ will hopefully help to cement that reputation, although we aren’t the only label who have been drawn to his sound and from what I gather there is a string of releases on its way for 2014 across the board. One to watch.”

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03. BATU

“Batu emerged late on in the year with a release on seminal label Livity Sound. However, he also appeared with the superb ‘Eraser’ / ‘Stairwells’ on Cold Recordings back in August. The UK Funky and even jungle influences make him an obvious recruit for Livity, but he brings something extra to the table with his slower more dubwise cuts. Both 12″s sport a refined style and promise great things for the future.”

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04. PALMS TRAX

“Lobster Theremin’s debut release was an out and out success, gaining plaudits across the board thanks to Palms Trax uniquely house approach. Far from the experimental techno-du-jour sound, Palms Trax’ work is soulful, earnest and original, sporting infectious melodies and basslines over canny drum programming and engineering skill. His move to Berlin during the year has clearly had an effect, with more techno memes starting to appear in his recent work. None of it has lost the playfulness of his first release though and he is without doubt one of the most exciting of the current batch of young UK producers.”

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05. FLORIAN KUPFER

“Kupfer’s Lifetrax has been one of the defining eps of 2013. Released on the cult L.I.E.S. label, it contains the breakthrough track ‘Feelin’ which was the high point of many a set over the course of the year. The track’s dustiness adds to the bitter sweet vocal, creating a nostalgic house jam which builds and builds throughout. His follow-up, on Russian Torrent Versions, is a more arresting and atmospheric techno cut, but the inherent musicality of the first EP is evident yet again.”

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06. KOEHLER

“Koehler debuted on Skudge White earlier in the year with a tech-step-influenced cut. There is no doubt that the sound of artists like Ed Rush and Optical who pioneered the tech-step style plays an important part in Koehler’s productions, but the darker edges are tempered with brief touches of light lending them a balance not heard elsewhere. His forthcoming EP on Berceuse Heroique shows a development in the sound and a more straight-up techno sensibility which is bound to turn heads in 2014.”

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07. BODY BOYS

“Body Boys only just make it into this selection on account of the fact their first release hasn’t quite shipped yet, but it’s scheduled for December 20 so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Opal Tapes’ knack for uncovering experimental ambient music is unmatched and this act are no exception. The entirety of their first release stands out on account of its euphoric beauty, as reminiscent of the Kompakt Pop collections as it is acolytes of the modern ambient sound like Lee Gamble.”

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08. HELENA HAUFF

“‘Actio Reactio’, Hauff’s first solo release and indeed her first foray into production, seemed initially an odd choice for Werk Disks but on closer listening it proved a perfect fit. Inspired conceptually, but less so sonically, by the man who first broke her as a DJ to an international audience, Actress, it perfectly encapsulates the sound of her sets which veer from jacking house to dark modernist techno. A release on Wild Oats has been in the pipeline for some months, but in the meantime her Black Sites project for Pan has proved a worthy distraction, with live shows at Berghain and other cult venues imminent.”

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09. BOYA

“Boya’s debut on Mister Saturday Night was a stand out moment for house music this year. Despite exploring the world of musique concrete and drone, it maintains a soulfulness and a inherently ‘house’ vibe which elevates it above other lesser experiments. Support on the record followed from some of the UK’s top DJs, a feat which most artists would not achieve on their first outing, lending this young artist a real buzz around his name. Here’s hoping that he continues in this direction for 2014.”

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10. OAKE

“Downwards’ continued renaissance in 2013 was a revelation. Rather than simply repeating the past they succeeded in uncovering a number of artists who might otherwise have remained in obscurity and Germany’s Oake were one example of this. Their single ‘Offenbarung’ felt in equal parts dubbed out and industrial, a pairing of styles which deserves to be explored more fully in the future for the noise / experimental scene. A second Downwards release feels more like a ‘sound art’ experiment than their first, and will no doubt gain them exposure next year as a live act to contend with.”

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