Leaving 2015 behind it is time to do make some first predictions about what we can expect in the coming year. Last year we saw the massive breakhroughs of some people both under and outside the radar of Generation Bass, such as Nidia Minaj, Kamixlo, ANGEL-HO and Santa Muerte. All artists who demonstrate how the underground club scene has become the new centre of gravity for music and how the rebirth of culture from the perspectives and identities of people neglected by the dominant narratives in Western culture, has become the most essential themes. In 2016 these trends will certainly continue and will mutate into new directions. Which ones are not clear to tell yet, but there are some questions that may hint at the possible futures that may give some clues.
(SCROLL DOWN FOR THE LIST OF ARTISTS WHOM I THINK WILL MOST PROBABLY BREAK THROUGH INTO THE SPOTLIGHTS THIS YEAR!)
What will happen to the club trax underground community once its own sucess definitively throws it into the (semi-)mainstream, with its dilemmas around commerce, ethics and ego’s?
We’ve seen this with many other movements once they become popular. Almost certainly will there be copycats at some point who try to benefit from the success formula, with as little dedication as possible. How will this stuff be marketed to larger audiences, and which audiences exactly? What will this do with the high ethical standards concerning race, class and gender which have been unquestionably respected in this scene so far. All these questions we’ve been confronted with before in our history, as the global bass underground was undergoing a similar phase, splitting off into Mad Decent and its following on the one side and.. well.. some small, non-commercial snippets of underground who survived on the other side, including ourselves.
What will happen to the ‘dark turn’ in genres like trap, dancehall or even more importantly, in the club avant-garde?
More importantly, will it really ‘merge’ with the innovations in dark music like crossbreed, rhythmic noise or abrasive ritual ambient techno? Until now there’s only a negligible fraction of the two sides scene really ‘coming together’, either in online groups or with IRL events (I’ll be playing a set of dark industrial flavoured trap & global bass and avant-garde club at a kinky dungeon night this month, magnet for the post-goth alternative scene, and I’m really curious how it will be received!)
Even genres as close sound-wise as witchhouse, trillwave, dark trap and dark/agressive subgenres of hiphop share little fanbase or producer-base. Now the boundaries between original genres and subcultures have effectively eroded, what WILL be the new lines dividing scenes and cultural expressions in the coming year? That immediately leads to the next question..
How will the culture-wars develop this year and what will that mean for music?
If one thing is clear from last year, the culture wars have just started yet. Online underground scenes, in almost any field like gaming, tech or fashion blogging, have now been acquainted with the critical call for more diversity and inclusiveness for people of colour, women and LGBTQ people and have witnessed the unfolding of a ever more heated debate between cultural critics, mocked as ‘Social Justice Warriors’, and their opponents, ‘Free Speech Bigots’, who want to maintain their privileged status-quo with an appeal to free expression. This debate has started to surface ever more into mainstream politics, and with the unstoppable impact of the internet and online underground cultures, I expect this to sore to full-blown heights this year. My expectations are bleak. What will happen if the mainstream political spectrum definitively diverges into Tumblr’s mercilessly militant cultural Marxism and 4Chan’s evil anarcho-nihilist glorification of everything we know to be evil, including racism, sexism and LGTBQ-phobia as the ultimate mark of true rebellion. How will this affect avant-garde music, an alternative cultural area in which sharing revolutionary political ideas is bread and butter? The dark-industrial sound and aesthetic is one that can readily be adopted by either camp and in fact already has been.
EDM is dead, but why does psychedelic rave culture still seem to be boiling in the underground in many places of the world, waiting to have its moment?
Something less bleak but still relevant. Since about 2014, I have witnessed the popularity of deephouse in the US and techno in Europe as a clear response to the loud ‘bass-drop-gasm’ formula of festival EDM. Especially in the case of techno, it was the air of exclusiveness and status-boosting elitism that fueled the magic. Once it reached a critical mass, it really took off in the course of several months, with copycat-techno raves mushrooming everywhere. And with the growing mainstream attention for a concept like Burning Man in 2014, I would have bet a fortune on my prediction of a sudden explosion of a Burning Man-inspired crossover mainstream movement in which techno-hipsters could readily take a ‘next step’ into psychedelics, neo-hippie culture, transhuman-futurist philosophy and a crossover of deep techno, psytrance and potentially supplemented with psychedelic bass music, electrofolklore or transhumanistically flavoured post-vaporwave. But, guess what, nothing of that did happen. On the contrary, Burning Man was loudly declared dead this year and an important initiative to denounce the festival and it’s culture as pseudo-open, culturally insensitive, privileged snobbery came precisely from the club underground. Burning Man may have lost its magic, but psychedelic rave culture still seems to be strong and growing in many new places like Brazil and Mexico. Could it still become a potential new centre of gravity for music to move towards?
Future bass producers like R23X blend elements together like ‘deep’, the ‘dub’, the ‘tech’, the ‘trill’, the ‘wave’, the ‘tresillo’, the ‘dream’, the ‘vapor’ and the ‘psychedelic’ into something from another dimension
What will happen to Middle Eastern electronic music?
Back in the days, every newly hyped genre was immediately incorporated into the broader movement of ‘tropical bass’ and that in turn into ‘festival EDM’. Now since there was no strong ‘centre of gravity’ any more in 2015, all the amazing Middle Eastern electronic music that we have pushed passionately this year with artists such as Deena Abdelwahed, 8ULENTINA, Dj Haram, Mutamassik, C Production and Streamer and genres like shamstep, arabtronix and desertwave, remained kind of on their own. Not that this heavy incorporation was always a good thing, not at all, it usually squeezed a genre into a prefabricated direction before the producers could even get the deserved recognition for what they had created. 8ULENTINA, Dj Haram and now also Deena are solidly part of the new club movement, but that doesn’t obviously go for all the Middle Eastern electronic music that we’re interested in at Generation Bass.
HABIBIBOI, an upcoming name in the club trax underground who is weaving Arabic elements into club music
Are there still any ignored underground scenes left, or have new ones emerged while we weren’t looking?
The question which new ‘centres of gravity’ will be of influence this coming year will not only influence Middle Eastern electronic genres but in fact any new genre or micro-movement that comes under the attention of the blogo- and Facebookgroup-sphere. But then the obvious question is, after half a decade of introducing new genres from all over the world: are there still any such underexposed sounds left anywhere? Has the internet perhaps made the formation of new local undergrounds impossible?
I am cautious to use the word ‘discover’ for the obvious appropriator-colonialist attitude that comes with it and I definitely don’t approve of that. Yet I think that the way Generation Bass has been an integral factor in many scenes in the past locally and globally, especially in countries like Chile, Mexico and Brazil is very valuable. Could there still a future for Generation Bass in this role for new movements and genres? I think the answer is and should ‘yes’. I spoke to Munchi lately and he told me that the entire internet has been sleeping on very interesting things going on in Puerto Rico’s reggaeton underground that have already started to fade away due to the lack of interest. It’s a shame because this is what Generation Bass has been created for down to the essence. We’ll keep you updated!
What will the urban-eclectic scene do now EDM is dead?
We all know the histoy: music today would not be what it is without the urban eclectic scene in the Netherlands, which started with the Antillean bubbling movement, where DJs started remixing dance tracks, which grew into a vivid crossover scene of electronic music blended with Afro-Caribbean styles like dancehall and reggaeton as well as hiphop and R&B which is much broader than ‘Dutch house’, the main sound that it produced. The multi-culturally driven scene scene effortlessly incorporated new genres like kuduro, azonto, kizomba, went through a latinhouse period and is now all about the new wave of afrohouse, without any ‘help’ from the blogosphere at all. Lately though, sadly enough, the lure of the Major Lazer’s bro-ified formula, which has turned acts like Boaz van de Beatz and Shaun D into semi-superstars, has had a big influence. But that whole magic will quickly die out this year if it hasn’t already. But then, what will be the next centre of gravity for this unique scene?
Grime, once kind of an obscure hobby in the Netherlands for alternative hiphop and UK bass fans, is having its moment in Amsterdam right now. This may perhaps, in the long run, pull the broader Dutch scene towards the club trax movement… but that is still far away, even as the club underground is making its first entrance into the Netherlands right now (HERE & HERE!). A more likely guess is that the scene could first transform itself into a reinvented version of the ‘tropical’ movement. The paradox with todays internet culture is that something seemingly worn out online can still be fresh and new for other crowds. True, ‘música tropical’ is a traditional synonym for Afro-Caribbean music in many parts of Latin America and it will probably stay that way, but in Europe it used to be a gimmick umbrella concept to combine Afro-Latin styles and brand them to hipster crowds as an exotic curiosity. A couple of years ago, the concept had its moment of high expectations and then sank away into the abyss of things passing by also on Generation Bass. But right now it seems to be making a comeback and this time free from the EDM hype machine, being more the truly harmonious fusion of electronic sounds with Afro-Latin genres in the way the Dutch scene has already been since the beginning. Much of the sounds from the tropical movement like moombahton and zouk bass have firmly found their way into the Netherlands by now, turning it into something much more authentic and permanent. My guess is you’ll definitely hear more about this ‘tropical 2.0’ this year, especially if you’re in Europe and are following KUDDEDIEREN (if you weren’t yet, you should be now). More info will follow soon!
Les Rowness brings the contemporary sound of the urban-eclectic scene and shows how small the distance has become with what blog readers know as ‘global/tropical bass’
Where is the all the live electronic music actually?
Last spring, I was absolutely convinced that 2015 would be the year to say goodbye to not just the EDM industry but DJing as a whole. After all, producers making the tracks and DJ’s playing them on the dance floor is something that seemed to have reached its absolute dead-end with EDM’s superstar-DJs. I expected to see all kinds of different ways of electronic music, especially live bands. The underground club trax movement’s allergy against big entertainment the appreciation of producer-DJs as conceptual artists and storytellers rather than celebrities is certainly a counter-reaction. But the ‘back to the basics of club culture’ attitude still isn’t a true break away from the DJ-formula. Of course there are many new electronic bands pioneering right now but then I don’t have the feeling that they’re getting the amount of attention and recognition as I hoped they would. It may also be that it’s just ME not having my eyes open enough but I hope to see electronic bands get back to the centre of attention again in 2016. This is what I came across in the area of live electronica towards the end of last year and it’s making me very excited for the future!
Appeared earlier on the blog but I can’t repeat it enough, Bedtime Stories (alter ego of Shinji) is an extraordinary, completely independent musician with a style unlike anything else, blending the neo-dark classical touch of legends like Venetian snares with introspective gothic ambient wave into an intense, despairing yet angelic well of emotion.. all recorded and performed live
Featured earlier in the Afrofuturism Festival series where I witnessed her performances live, Camae Defstar a.k.a. Moor Mother Goddess is an artist whom I should have included in the list below because she is not only a magnificent live electronic artist and but also somebody who I think is on the brink of being lifted into the spotlights of the big forward looking music magazines, her recent interview in THE FADER is only the beginning
And.. finally, of course, which specific artists do we need to keep an eye on this year?
This was perhaps the hardest part of the post because I have my own focus and am not aware of everybody in the reach of Generation Bass who may nevertheless do big things this year. Even within my focus scenes combined, there are many more promising upcoming artists than could be included here. Also, there is a big difference between people whom I might personally HOPE to break through and whom I EXPECT that will do so. I tried my best to balance it out but couldn’t escape my disproportional focus on the club avant-garde. But don’t worry, the focus will broaden this year. The dark underground series will finally be launched, with extra attention for the comeback of witchhouse, and I’ll hopefully be able to keep you updated about the Dutch urban-eclectic and new tropical scene, pay massive attention to electronic bands and solo live acts in as many genres and scenes as possible and will also try to actively promote a future generation of psychedelic/transdimensional music.
Sounds like a lot huh? You’ll hear from us!
1. GAIKA (LONDON)
If there is one artist that I’m 100% sure will make it big from virtually out of nowhere in the same way as KAMIXLO, ANGEL-HO or Chino Amobi did last year is GAIKA, a multi-talented producer, vocalist, songwriter and visual artist from London. Not surprisingly he is also afiliated with the NON label, which will certainly stay one of the most influential labels in 2015. DAZED recently described his unique style as a blend of grime, dancehall, garage, hiphop and R&B with a gothic touch. What makes him particularly unique is that he is with one leg in the club avant-garde scene but at the same time delivers a live stage act that breaks with the DJ-producer formula and can appeal to a much broader audience in scenes like dancehall, grime and hiphop.
2. Florentino (MANCHESTER)
I don’t know what it is about the UK. It’s not just London but also other cities where the new club scene is flourishing and three steps ahead of almost everybody else. In Manchester the forward looking Swing Ting night, already one of Manchester’s best club nights back in 2014, is the big motor. The Colombian producer Florentino went from being a practically unknown bass producer to one of the most promising newcomers with the release of his Tu y Yo EP in October last year. His unique, subtle blend of reggaeton, Latin drums (surprisingly similar to what has been going on in the Dutch underground to my own ears), UK bass and club music became an instant hit in the club underground. Funnily, the EP came out just shortly after I wrote this pasionate post about all the great things that moombahton could potentially be but unfortunately isn’t, and would have been the most perfect illustration of what I meant with that post. As Florentino himself also said in a recent interview with FACT MAG, his lightfooted, romantically flavoured style is complementary to the cold industrialism of Kamixlo, both interpreting and expressing their own connection to Latin America’s most influential subculture (reggaeton) in the context of multi-cultural youth life in the UK today.
3. Lange Sjaak (ROTTERDAM)
Probably the most underrated producer of 2015. As the producer for many hit bangers from Dutch acts like Bollebof and Broederliefde (who are also massively underrated outside the Netherlands), most of the credits still go to the vocalists, the faces you see in the music vids and on stage. His productions draw heavily on tarraxo, kuduro and afrobeats and he is in frequent contact with producers from the Portuguese underground, which will hopefully bring more recognition for Portuguese producers in the Dutch scene and the other way around in 2016. Expect big things this year.
Promising future tarraxo demo 2016!
4. TOXE (STOCKHOLM)
The Swedish talent Toxe was with pain in my heart not included on my ‘Best of 2015‘ list, even though she, as well as other very promising Staycore 117 affiliated producers Mapalm, Mobilegirl and Mechatok are among the most impressive new talents right now. Right when I heard the ‘Muscle Memory EP‘ and the way in which she is able to transmit something intensely deep and meaningful with very mechanical ambient sounds. Everything, from the subtle polyrhythmic elements, crispy sounds, sample work and cryptic multi-layered titles, is in the right place and creates a unique and magical experience, at the same time incredibly conceptual and incredibly powerful on the dancefloor.
Her new release for Rabit’s Halcyon Veil label
Her banger ‘Half Life’ with Mechatok was one of the biggest avant-garde club anthems last year
5. DJ LyCox (PARIS)
Sometimes I have no explanations for why something does not happen the way I am almost convinced it must happen. The Paris based, Principe Discos signed genius DJ LyCox has been one of the most unique upcoming talents (and one of my permanently favourite producers) for more than a year. Exactly a year ago I would have sworn as confidently as now that he would be heading towards a massivbe worldwide breakthrough, joining the ranks of names like Dj Nigga Fox and Dj Marfox. But compared to other names from the Portuguese underground like Nidia Minaj, he remained completely underrated last year. So now I am saying, yes shouting out loud again that 2016 should and will be the year of Dj LyCox. If you’re still doubting, check out this recent, otherworldly forward looking track. The question is, why isn’t there a monumental, recognisable debut EP yet? If it were up to the productivity of the producer, uploading new music almost every week, he could have had an impressive discography on his name already.
He was at the forefront of a whole new experiment in the Portuguese underground sound: Portuguese batucada/kuduro enriched with hammering distorted 808 bass ..and almost nobody noticed..
6. Gil (ZÜRICH)
Promising new talent GIL from Switzerland was lifted into the spotlights with an incredible release on THUMP half a year ago and has further released via Staycore 117 that same summer. In the meantime he has only released two tracks, nevertheless magnificent, and the last one is three months back already. Like for Dj LyCox, Gil’s unique, energetic blend of dembow, dancehall, baile funk, mechanical sounds and sample work just cries for an EP in the same way as we have seen for most of the other newcomers. If it isn’t in the making already to be announced by surprise, Gil, if you’re reading, we at Generation Bass are excited to release an EP from your hand at any time! (More soon about the Swiss underground scene too…)
7. Missdewimusic (EINDHOVEN)
Formerly known as Dj Miss Devana, is probably the most underrated producer of everybody in this list. She hasn’t yet been lifted into the big spotlights by any of the major platforms, nor in the Netherlands, even though she is making incredibly unique stuff for more than a year now. People from the moombahton scene and the wider global bass folks like the KUMBALE label have definitely shown love for a while now and that is a great start but (and that surprises me actually) she is still virtually unknown in the underground club scene. I’m really looking forward to see her get the recognition she’d deserve by platforms like the Staycore 117 fam or the Classical Trax community, as well as by the Dutch urban-eclectic scene. Preferably at the same time. The passionate dedication, unique style and talent is definitely there!
We may know newcomer JKZ, formerly know as Rain Jx or JAKZ, from our massive DoomBahTon compilation and from the Favela Trap House EP but he isn’t even a fraction as known as he should be. Expect a post soon about him and the underground scene around him: a collective of friends who are into experimental music, dark sinister stuff and just doing things differently in a way that creates something unique. JKZ is his producer project, focused on energetic dark trap with a touch of vapor/trillwave and baile funk. Shortly ago, he launched a second project as a rapper rapping over self produced beats: $KA. Where JKZ is about dark energetic bangers, $KA pushes a mystical, smokey ambient chill sound where again, traces of baile funk come back in a way never done before. Much like GAIKA, he creates a format where the producer and the MC blend into a live act formula with the potential to appeal to push the music into whole new directions.
Cloud-rap meets funk in $KA’s freshest tune ‘Puff Puff Pass’
9. Godwonder (AMSTERDAM)
When I got into contact with Munchi a couple of months ago he told me, prepare for the secret EP of Godwonder, carefully prepared and crafted under his direction, dedicated entirely to making music that bridges the gap between the contemporary street sounds of the Dominican Republic and of Amsterdam. 2016, without any doubt, will be the year of Godwonder and not just because Munchi has attached his name to it. With this new EP, out within a couple of days, Godwonder shows that he has found his direction and sound and is ready to leave his lasting mark on the development of music for the coming years.
10. Thomás Urquieta (VIÑA DEL MAR)
Closing with yet another producer from the club underground whom I’m both very enthusiastic about and also convinced he will definitely break through this year. Interestingly although well appreciated in the club trax scene, he is not affiliated to any of its major labels but recently released a magnificent debut EP (‘Manuscript EP‘) on the forward looking label Infinite Machine, which is certainly ‘avant-garde’ in attitude but definitely not limited to club music, also releasing a lot of great experimental techno and house flavoured music. It is precisely this open connection, beyond the immediate borders of the new club scene, that make Thomás Urquieta’s music a powerful example to imagine music in a near future when the current fresh club trax sound has transformed and durably influenced everything.