Rude house and envelope-pushing hip hop are the main staples on which the two out-of-towners Brenmar and Nick Hook have built their statuses as local underground heroes. At Tammany Hall, they will lead a pack of gifted Academy participants from no less than 12 (!) countries, including neon bass frontrunner and Pelican Fly associate Sinjin Hawke.
Brooklyn by way of Chicago, DJ and producer Brenmar represents a strange musical paradox. Somehow defying the odds, he marries the artificial gloss of commercial R&B with the urban grittiness of underground styles like Chicago footwork and global bass music. His releases on the Discobelle, Grizzly, and Hum+Buzz labels have taken him to both coasts of the US, Canada, Japan, and the EU, frenzying crowds with his uptempo, neon-drenched tunes. His recipe for success? Take a pinch of Mannie Fresh snares, a handful of DJ Rashad toms, a dose of deep bass, a generous portion of Hot 97 vocalists, poach it all in a synthesizer broth, and garnish with some Timbaland sheen. You’re getting close. Recently, Brenmar’s production work for the likes of Le1f and Mykki Blanco has been instrumental in the rise of a new subculture in the hip hop world, aligning his rough-yet-polished beatmaking with the vogue-thug personas of these gender-obscuring rap performers.
Heavily responsible for the grimy techno soul of NYC’s Cubic Zirconia and the greasy bass of Drop The Lime’s live show, DJ and producer Nick Hook has been “twisting knobs” (self-description) for a minute now. He is no stranger to the dark underbelly of late-night clubs, having played in some of the finest temples of boom the world over. His unique strain of acid-fried basslines and vintage drum machines have kept him in demand among a smorgasbord of musicians, ranging from El-P and Kilo Kish to Azealia Banks, Machinedrum, and the Gaslamp Killer. He also has red hair, which is clearly a plus in our books.
Before this Barcelona-based Montrealist stretched out on his own with 2011’s The Lights EP on Pelican Fly, Sinjin Hawke already made a name for himself as a tireless activist and facilitator of forward-looking, bass-led celebrations. His hometown throwdown Boomclap linked the great low frequencies from across the globe, and his high-octane mixes have won him legions of fans. His productions demonstrate an innate grasp of sensual alien jams, combining all the familiar elements of half-steppin’ footwork, neon R&B, and instrumental rap; in short, he speaks in tongues we can all understand. Whether he’s operating on his own or teaming up with DJ Sliink or Club Cheval’s Canblaster, Sinjin Hawke’s music adds technicolor to the most monochrome of clubs, creating the kind of atmosphere that brings all us a bit closer together.
If Thomas Duval was a barbecue, he’d be pulled pork. If he was an over-the-counter medicine, he’d be cough syrup. His DJ moniker is perhaps the most honest and straightforward name in the history of DJ monikers— he takes songs like Big Tymers’ “Hello” (not a super brisk track to begin with) and slows them to a crawl, so that every weird, glitchy, spazzy nuance comes to the forefront. However, this snail’s pace gets countered occasionally by spurts of ghetto house, UK bass, and rave stabs (SLOW’s love affair with Chicago’s Dance Mania and Belgian jump-style shines through), which sits perfectly double-timed on top of his musical molasses.
A case of rock guitarist turned house producer, Rio de Janeiro’s Carrot Green enhances the club experience with moody flourishes of live instruments—that is, when he’s not going for 100% hedonism with his jackin’ basslines and 808 punches. A full-time musician residing two minutes from the blue waters of the South Atlantic, the sounds emanating from Carrot Green’s Genelecs belie his true location, and instead inject a dose of Chicago into the tropics. Macio rico.
There’s something very glam about the production work of 24-year-old André Laos. Alternately loungey and anthemic, soaring yet propulsive, it’s definitely house and definitely disco. Whether in his studio, behind the decks, or planning releases on his own Ekstasea label, carefree dancefloor vibes are at the top of André’s agenda. Bearing certain trademarks of his native Sweden (a love of ABBA being the most obvious), Laos says he carries a lot of variety around in his gig bag, from deep house to Balearic, funk, and techno. However, the biggest section is devoted to “classics,” and that sounds about right to us.
Pleasure Cruiser creates tunes strictly for the dancing crew. His blend of sensual house, dark disco, and dreamy techno is the soundtrack for the lingering gazes of strangers. Few understand how to craft a truly seductive seven minutes of slow electro better than this former Manumission dancer. As well as releases as Pleasure Cruiser on Underground Pop, you can find records under his own name, Nic Liu, on his label Organic Art Movement, and London residents might have come across his sounds at his club night, BREED, at Dalston Superstore, which he runs with synth pop act Rex The Dog. Armed with just his trusty Juno 106, these kinds of moves are a walk in the park for the Pleasure Cruiser, who thinks nothing of following his heart and making big changes in his life if he feels like it.
Kaan Düzarat keeps himself busy with numerous projects, exploring the many sides of his musical personality. Under the name FOC Edits, he has released a series of edits of Turkish psych and club classics, consciously weaving a web between Bariş Manço and Moodymann. Under the pseudonyms Shrimpy and Pair Of Dirty Shoes, his work is more overtly electronic, exploring the relationship between slow Detroit house and the extended forms of his homeland, while his electronic trio Falso explores the crossroads of dub and Turkish psych. Kaan’s day jobs include an ongoing stint at Istanbul’s acclaimed radio station Dinamo FM, writing jingles at his studio, nooniki, and running things with his label Vesvese—when the sun goes down you’ll find him at several clubs around the city. Even with all these different endeavors, he still manages to bring the personal touch.
Blessed with an uncanny ability to decode the mysteries of the elusive pop song, singer, guitarist, and pianist Simonne Jones channels the spirit of the Clash, PJ Harvey, and Pat Benatar in her electro-acoustic creations. Using a minimal, one- or two-instrument approach to songwriting, Jones basically operates as a one-woman band (although she appears to bring the energy of at least four). After relocating from Los Angeles to Berlin, it seems she has developed some influential fans as well: Peaches was recently quoted as saying, “I’ve seen the future. Her name is Simonne Jones.”
There’s something magical about merging the naive with the lo-fi: both encompass everything we love about pop music, where simple structures, clear hooks, and danceable beats can undercut the gloss and pomp that are often mistaken for high production values. Lyon-based Camille Bouvot-Duval, the one-woman show behind De La Montagne, cites Tracy + the Plastics, the Knife, and CSS as influences, and it shows. This is brash, coy electro that plays to the sexual politics of the dancefloor while simultaneously subverting them.
Steve Reich’s exhortation that musicians who talk about genres should wash their mouths out with soap would go down well with this field-recording, story-telling fine artist. Currently studying Contextual Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Squalloscope layers vocals, guitars, and beats into music held together by diamond-diffused stories about the tarmac, blood-red aortas and, well, life. The first of her four albums was captured back in ’06 on a peanut-sized microphone in a tiny room in a shared apartment, and the most recent was compiled from travel-diary notes and featured 11 of her friends singing and playing, adding a personal quality to the songs. Naturally, Squalloscope prefers to perform barefoot, in your head.
There’s something hard to pin down about the light-hearted garage pop tunes that Julian Cubillos seems to churn out so easily. Let’s call it the “West Coast factor.” You know, that “whatever hardships the world may hold for you, picking up the guitar, strumming along, and whistling is always an option” type of thing. Luckily, this totally fails as an attempt to describe Julian’s music, as it neglects the fact that he delivers actual substantial songwriting, mature lyrics, and huge harmonies. Making it look easy is always the hardest part. Remember where you heard it first.
If there was a calm in the middle of the creative storm, Mr. Selfish certainly wouldn’t be found there. Weekdays he’s busy in a flurry of activity in his Ade Creative Studio, deep in Rome’s Pigneto district, soundtracking commercials, promos, indents, and videos at a blistering pace. Like a one-man Bruton Music, Alberto Spezzaferro takes his inspiration from everywhere: classics by the Beatles, Lou Reed, or Jon Spencer Blues Explosion get taken to pieces when his noise-rock band Chocolate Starfish or his garage duo Hate Rome play live. Jumping from style to style might be bewildering, but it’s just democracy in action—Mr. Selfish lets all the different sides of his personality have their 15 minutes when the time is right.
Having just completed his master’s thesis, Leo Aldrey continues to develop an interactive, sensor-based tonal navigation system dubbed the Tonal Pizza. Exploring both traditional and technological approaches to music composition, his work is perfectly suited for the contemporary digital landscape. Having already created sound design for projects ranging from animated shorts and commercials to iOS apps, the Barcelona-based electro-acoustic producer has now set his sights on using his unique tech creations—together with traditional acoustic instruments—to score feature films, television programs, documentaries, and audiovisual installations. Combining this love of forward-thinking technology and moving images with quirky influences ranging from the Amélie score to Matthew Herbert and Animal Collective, Aldrey is set to concoct the soundtrack to tomorrow.