Compared to the fast-moving sphere of “club” music, house and techno can seem unchangingly monolithic.
In London at least, the DJs that get booked are often the same names on rotation, with a lucky few each year joining the lucrative circuit. Just look at Resident Advisor’s top 100 DJs in 2014 and 2015 to see how difficult it is for new names to break into house and techno.
Still, while micro-genres and fads come and go, there will never be any shortage of fresh blood. If FACT’s list of the best house and techno of 2015 proved anything, it’s that we’re going through a diverse and inspired period right now, with both the commercial end of the spectrum and the more experimental fringes providing ripe fruit.
FACT’s choice of house and techno producers to watch in 2016 is in much the same vein: whether you’re looking for dank techno, breakbeat rollers, deeper-than-deep house or just a Glaswegian making bangers, there should be someone to pique your interest.
As one of the co-founders of Washington D.C.’s 1432 R label, Dawit Eklund has done a lot to bring the music of the Ethiopian electronic community to wider attention. He’s also a mean producer himself, as his recent debut 12” for the label proves. Combining the breezy grooves of Theo Parrish with the woozy, sun-drenched synths you’d expect from the Future Times crew, Eklund’s music is a breath of fresh air for those looking for a bit more colour in their house. After collaborations with Max D’s Dolo Percussion and Lifted projects in 2015, Eklund looks to be be the thriving D.C. house scene’s next big thing.
Vancouver’s electronic scene is thriving, but there’s more to the city than Mood Hut. LNS is another of the city’s respected selectors, and a recent Trushmix gave the rest of us a taste of her love for sleek, ambient techno grooves and driving, old school percussive jams. Her debut is set for imminent release on the city’s 1080p label, a six-track collection that seemingly takes inspiration from the more downtempo end of the Drexciya mythos, specifically the slo-mo sounds of Gerald Donald’s Arpanet alias and The Other People Place. There are no shortage of electro homages about, but LNS does it with the laidback charm of her hometown.
If there’s one producer on this list you should bet on being a breakthrough success in 2016, it’s Denis Sulta. After a pair of 12”s for Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, the Glasgow native was thrust into the spotlight last year with ‘It’s Only Real’, a Buckfast-drenched banger for Numbers that skilfully straddled the line between classic Dance Mania and UK house music’s more commercial side. He’s just been picked as a “future star” by Radio 1’s Annie Mac, and there’s every chance the co-sign will mean chart success – if there’s any justice, it’ll be Sulta we’re seeing at number one this summer, not David Zowie.
It’s safe to assume there’s something in the water in Vancouver: Jayda G is another DJ from B.C. poised to make waves with her own music in 2016. Last year she launched the Freakout Cult label and collaborated with DJ Fett Burger on two records, creating the sort of bumping, ravey, leftfield house tracks you’d expect from the Sex Tags axis. This year Jayda G will release her solo debut, and if it’s anything as good as her collaborations, it’ll be worth looking out for.
Berlin’s Acting Press label came out of nowhere in 2015 with three great records that combined Mood Hut’s dreamy house template with the trippy rainforest techno of the SUED label. Of the label’s three co-founders, PLO Man is the one that seems poised to break through in 2016: his PLO Radio show on BCR is a highlight of the station’s many gems, and his debut 12” of ambient yet thumping club tracks proved that “breakbeat” doesn’t have to be a dirty word when it comes to house music.
With a moniker like Machine Woman, you’d expect Anastasia Vtorova’s music to come soaked in the sound of heavy industry, but in reality it’s much more delicate. As you might assume from a producer that’s released on clinical Swedish synthesist Peder Mannerfelt’s label, Vtorova’s touchpoints are the delicate brutality of Pan Sonic and the high-fidelity of classic Raster-Noton rather than anything overtly industrial, resulting in some intense productions with an acoustic twist. The thirst for blackened techno shows no signs of abating, but few new producers are making it sound quite so fresh.
Reckonwrong takes the same magpie-like approach as many of his UK peers, but his influences are far more difficult to pin down. There are shades of grime and UK funky in his ramshackle rhythms, but also the sinister gurglings of Kassem Mosse and hints of post-punk in his track ‘Magical Journey’. He’s one to file alongside Powell as a rare producer of oblique club music with an unmistakable signature, and with records for Pinkman and Whities giving us some of 2015’s most satisfyingly oddball house 12”s, 2016 promises to be a big year for the producer.
Those in Brooklyn should be familiar with Emma Olsen, aka Umfang, who has been a resident at the Bossa Nova Civic Club for several years and is one of the co-founders of Discwoman, a platform for increasing the visibility of female-identified DJs and producers. 2015 was a breakthrough year for Olsen, during which she cemented her position as a producer as well as DJ, releasing brilliant tapes for Videogamemusic and 1080p that combined subtle, murmuring textures and slamming, mechanical beats into something with a lot of personality. With any luck, 2016 should see her reputation spread further.
The tight-knit Giegling crew doesn’t add new names often, so when it does, you can assume they’re good. Sa Pa’s debut for the collective’s Forum imprint was one of 2015’s deepest techno LPs, a modern update of the dub techno template whose murky bass concealed the spectral signature of several different influences. The producer’s approach is rough and abstract, but there’s nothing noisy about his music: it’s got the same warmth and intimacy as you’d expect from the best Giegling records. With an appearance on Marcel Dettmann’s label also behind the artist, expect to hear a lot more of Sa Pa in 2016.
Willow made an auspicious start to her career last year with a track for Kassem Mosse and Even Tuell’s Workshop label. With its deep sub-bass and sparse atmosphere, ‘Feel Me’ is a quintessential Workshop production, but it’s also the most instantly crowd-pleasing track the label has released, and it’s easy to see why Move D picked it up for his Fabric mix back in 2014. As well received as ‘Feel Me’ was, a follow-up is overdue – we’d be surprised if the Manchester-based producer doesn’t capitalise on the attention with a full debut this year.