When we continued our yearly Trommel tradition in 2020 of tipping off our readers about some of the up-and-coming and must-check-out artists that we love, we hardly expected the year to unfold as it did. As the clock ticked past midnight across the globe, there was a wave of relief that a new year will bring needed change to what was a wretched year, but even more so for electronic music.
Even so, the roots of our scenes have always thrived off adversity, and in 2020 after only around three or so months of gigs, we saw the rise of living room live streams carrying on the partying spirit whilst Bandcamp revolutionised artists being paid for digital releases and of course, plenty of digging on the ‘Cogs.
With that in mind, we offer our 2021 New Year resolution with a twist: 12 must-see rising artists in 2021, focusing especially on those who produced and released last year despite everything.
Back when some of our younger readers were still in pre-school, Detroit-based DJ, Detroit’s Filthiest, known then through a number of aliases’, was releasing musical gold in the form of Ghettotech. A genre that’s hard to describe but has it’s roots in late ’90s Detroit, infusing elements of Chicago Ghetto house with breaks and electro to create an in-your-face genre that still gets playtime today.
Julian Shamou launched his Detroit’s Filthiest moniker in the mid-’10s, his music is of a certain flavour but good music is good music and once you’re exposed to his sound it’s easy to pick out his tracks in any club around the world on any given weekend. 2020 saw Shamou showcase his feel-good, funky electro style on Canadian label ‘Philthtrax’ with his Please Play again EP, go dark on Nightmares 2 Realities / Torture Chamber EP alongside Go Nuclear as well as his cheeky side on Curtis Electronix with his Future Is History EP.
Arguably Shamou’s best music was released on beloved Moroccan label Casa Voyager, his ‘Premium Content’ EP released back in February spanned glossy breaks to silky jungle. However, it was his ‘Original Not Crispy’ album on Casa Voyager which felt like it especially resonated this year. In a year of where everything’s been deservedly serious and uptight, tracks like ‘Hot Cheetos’ and ‘Legend In The Hood’ were some of the most enjoyable tracks of the year with their snappy vocal hooks, playful bassline, and simply put, it’s music you that makes you loosen up and decompress.
The Dutch producer DJ Tjizza made serious headways in 2020, his label, LowMoneyMusicLove, which he co-runs, released three stellar EPs, including one alongside Roderick Merk, with the pair of them combining for their Avos project. The Berlin-based artist isn’t one to shy away from using alias’, releasing his ‘Micromanagement’ EP on Norweigan label Shadow Hide You under his Mr Ricecooker alias. Also, a 2020 highlight from Tjizza was his release as The Spicy Inspector on the Rude Goldberg series with the track ‘Amonal V’, one of our favourite tracks of the year.
DJ Tjizza and his labels resonated this year not only because their music is insanely good, but because there’s an element of playfulness running through them. Sure some of the best-released music this year was music that felt very serious, along the lines of rough ‘n’ tough techno and stinging electro and felt suitable for this anxious year, but tracks like ‘Amonal V’, with its cheeky keys and whirlwind breakdown, was the sort of music that gently reminded us of the sensations that encapsulate being on a dancefloor.
We’ve been enjoying the classy selections of Colombian DJ ISAbella for a number of years now. Her sets alongside head-honcho tINI at her tINI and the Gang parties have done no harm introducing her to an international audience, although her finest artistry has been done in Barcelona, with her Mistress parties at Macarena Club, where stories of her having the set of the night over the headliners aren’t uncommon.
The Barcelona-based DJ made her debut on wax in 2020 and it felt well worth the wait, with most of these tracks naturally making their way into her sets long before the release. The throbbing electro-infused techno of Extrema was a particular highlight for us this year, but the rest of the EP also deserves a mention, featuring another four pumping dancefloor cuts.
It’s not particularly unusual for DJs to be playing out for years before actually releasing these days, and often times their releases sound and feel both more confident and more organic, ISAbella’s 2020 is no exception and further exposure to worlds beyond Barcelona and Spain feel inevitable and we can’t wait to see her again.
It was a daring task to remix a potential track of the year in Triform’s ‘Vinaloop’, but Liquid Earth did it superbly, shifting the track from a phenomenal closer to a melodic roller that maintains it’s complexity and personality. The American producer is one of the more accomplished producers on our artists to watch list, with releases on wax dating back to 2013 alongside producers like Chaos in the CBD featuring deep and shuffling house music.
Freels’ sound feels both more confident and natural these days, still releasing deep tracks but packing a bit more of a punch, showcased as Senator Bongwater on Lemak Records he really showed his full potential of what’s to come with his Transcedenton EP on lovely London label Butter Side Up. A-siders Twisted Metal and Senator Bongwater’s Revenge sound timeless and could easily be from an unknown ’90s UK techno label with their shifting basslines and a deeply-channeled party spirit to them.
There’s a jaw-dropping amount of retro-inspired music that’s being released today, but it’s always important to give it a futuristic touch and Freels has shown already he’s one of the best at doing so.
The Berlin-based Italian has been steadily rising through a variety of means in the past few years. His label, Superliminal and it’s sublabel, Re:discovery, have hosted his releases of gritty techno and tough electro, whilst his other label, Foundation, has given him both a musical and event platform where he’s regularly played alongside the likes of DJ Masda and Andrew James Gustav.
Just before the pandemic struck, the Superliminal label head was breaking out in corners beyond Berlin and his own labels. 2020 saw two significant releases, a head-spinning release on London-based Art of Dark, featuring the blistering Mind Control as well as a release on DJ Masda’s Cabaret, with B1’s Night Racer best showcasing his penchant for idiosyncratic vocals and deep pads but always keeping a keen focus on making tracks that edge dancefloors into pandemonium.
Matthias’ star was rising well before his releases on scene-defining labels like AOD and Cabaret, and since March he’s showcased the plethora of unreleased music he has ready to be released. We’re excited to see what he’s got when he next comes to town.
Standing out as a producer has never been more difficult, especially for those who are dedicated to releasing music and not ferociously-chasing the promotional aspects of being a 21st-century musician. After a string of solid releases over the past two years, London-based producer N-Gynn really seemed to jump forward as a producer in 2020.
What’s led to Gynn becoming a must-listen whenever you get a new release email about an EP from him, is the versatility of what he puts onto wax. His ‘Espetta’ EP on San Franciscan label Warm Fiction, contained lush 2-step garage, stomping acid, and introspective, downtempo techno. There was also his ‘The Rokit Double Pack’ LP on rising London label Zeitnot, double packs can, unfortunately, be avoided by labels, but from a listener standpoint, it’s hard not to buy when N-Gynn covers swinging acid, blissful techno, and stinging electro across eight tracks.
There was also the nice honour of Pleasure Club releasing a remix EP of Dark Side of The Moon track, with features from Voigtmann, Intareality, and an Omar and label head Bobby double-act. It’s hard to stand-out, but with a few gigs with Pleasure Club and an impressive discography already building, it’s hard not to see Gynn regularly behind the decks in 2021.
Aussie Katie Campbell has released a slew of stellar records since 2017 and to some, she’ll need no introduction. EPs like ‘Mwah’ on Kalahari Oyster Cult and ‘Metal Glo’ on Klasse Wrecks show her talent for re-imagining tried and tested genres and creating fresh-sounding music from old ideas.
2020 was a significant one for Campbell even with only a little over three months of gigs, she released her debut album ‘Modern Bliss’ on D Tiffany’s Planet Euphorique label in April, which showcased her talent for producing music from a variety of sounds, shifting from slithering electro to bouncy prog house.
Campbell also crossed another DJ checkpoint, starting her own label, Step Ball Chain, kickstarting with an EP of her own, ‘Stylish Tantrum’. The musical blueprint may have been set out by its first release, a five-track EP featuring break-neck breakbeat, quirky house and even some downtempo for good measure. Campbell’s sets are as fun and eclectic as her productions, so a post-pandemic night out featuring her boisterous style will be oh so needed.
2020 was a significant year Solar Sound System, a musical project from Frenchmen Pascal Ordioni and Jean-Marie Battesti, followed on from its debut EP in 2019, a versatile offering of quirky, downtempo acid and breaks as well as a punchy crossover of techno/progressive house. They also released on London-based label OPIA just as we were beginning to miss club nights.
Their Temporal Rift EP was a perfect encapsulation of both theirs and OPIA’s sound. Unashamedly pumping dancefloor music with a hint of playfulness underpinning all the tracks as a timely reminder all this music stuff isn’t as serious as others make out. Later in the year, Ordioni debuted his solo alias, P.O, on French label Griffé, further illustrating his talent for distinctive re-imaginings of techno and electro with tracks like ‘Pressure’. Once clubs re-open, a debut with OPIA down at Lion and Lamb shouldn’t be too far away.
The London-based producer has featured on Trommel twice this year, both times via Undersound premieres, but each track focusing on a different side of the Italian. ‘Sineking’ focused on his more melodic and deeper side whilst The Fool showcased his blistering and gritty techno side.
For those who party in England’s capital, Sohrab’s been a name that most have become familiar with thanks to being ever-present on dancefloors as well his residency with Undersound during the party’s run in the 2010s. Late 2019 and early 2020 saw him begin to break out further, playing alongside Nicolas Lutz at Art of Dark and what I’m sure was a bludgeoning night in Wire’s basement in Leeds alongside Evan Baggs.
When clubs re-open it should be a bright future for the Italian, there’s an excellent EP on the way for London In Transmission and as his reputation grows, it’ll be exciting to see Sohrab’s sound translate to peak-time where it’s best suited.
With no gigs to provide in-come and the ever-increasing delays with vinyl pressing, in 2020 Bandcamp allowed artists to take control. Their much-needed and now iconic #BandcampFridays, which waived fees and encouraged more music to be purchased, artists saw some much-needed cash come their way but also it placed importance on a centralised music-purchasing platform, specifically for digital music that wouldn’t get lost in the Beatport rabbit hole.
Still, it’s hard to stand out among the Bandcamp crowd, even so in a genre such as minimal, but Bucharest duo Soundopamine, the brainchild of Cristian Munteanu and Natasha Cristescu, left their mark in 2020, exposing the depth of unreleased music that’s been crafted by them and had been waiting in the pipelines for a release. Their style of delicate and introspective yet firmly dancefloor-based minimal was best illustrated in their esoteric New World Disorder LP which is best listened to whilst staring up at the night sky.
For good measure Munteanu and Cristescu did release an EP on wax this year, ‘Una Cu Natura’, on Dutch label EverydayParadise featuring a sublime remix from Harrison BDP. We’ve seen the quality of music Soundopamine created throughout 2020 and Bandcamp has enabled artists to quickly release their music with no pressing delays, so we’re confident their 2021 may be even better. No pressure.
Perhaps simultaneously the most and least known name from our 2021 picks. In 2020, Israeli artist Maayan Nidam re-enlisted her The Waves project, an alias for her music of a pop, indie and new wave genre. The Waves’ first outing was an EP back in 2014, featuring vocals from Lea Porcelain’s Markus Nikolaus. However, The Waves 2020 EP ‘māyā’ was Nidam’s solo project, featuring her own lush vocals as well as some melodramatic basslines and more emotionally charged musical content.
The Waves & Us’ EP in 2014 resulted in a band-tour alongside Nikolai and bass guitarist Louis Mcguire, perhaps The Waves will remain just a production project, but here’s hoping it’s something we get to see in the midst of a crowd. The pandemic left us dreaming of dancefloors but also pushed us to explore music beyond our usual underground tastes, and with the plethora of talented musicians working in underground, it’s always refreshing to see projects like this and we’re hoping there’s more to come from everyone.
There’s bursting on the scene and then there’s Tim Schlockermann in 2020. Although bursting on the scene always feels like a disservice, as artists practice, experiment and create music years before they begin to release records or play out, the point still stands.
The year before the Leipzig-based producer had one solo release, his Transit EP to kickstart Kaizenrecordsberlin’s discography. In hindsight it was a sign of things to come, showcasing Tim’s mastery of lush and tear-jerking pads, treading the line of IDM but always ensuring he’s leaning on the side of the dancefloor.
In 2020 he debuted on John Dimas’ Elephant Moon label with ‘M.sync’ before landing on Alec Falconer and Jean-Pierre Ahtuam to play a part in their 2X series, which quickly became one of the best labels to break out in 2020. The A-side played host to Measuring Trips, clocking in at over five minutes characterised by a cheeky trumphet and a beautiful melody. But it was B side ‘Stray’, which in no uncertain terms feels like a future classic with it’s glistening melody which invites you over to dance alongside it’s melancholic bassline3.