Dancing Astronaut’s Top 25 Underground Artists of 2014 #BIG100
Top 25 Underground Artists of 2014
In an attempt to give credit to some of the best producers and DJs outside the mold of mainstream dance music, we’ve chosen our top 25 underground artists of 2014. These were not the biggest artists of the year in the eyes of the media, main stage audiences, or Twitterverse — nor were they trying to be. These were the artists tucked away in intimate nightclubs, spinning five-hour sets and keeping crowds of zealous devotees dancing through sunrise. These were the DJs holding down the tradition of crate digging — keeping the medium alive while public perception of the art dwindled.
There are hundreds of artists we could have included in this list. Ranking DJs/producers will always be subjective; it’s inescapable. We all adore our particular idols and an unforgettable set from any DJ has the power to change one’s entire perception. It comes down to which artists you saw, which sets you streamed, which tracks you chose to spend your days to. We’re bound to play favorites, and we’re bound to overlook amazing artists for the sheer fact that there are too many exceptional techno and house artists to include in a list of 25. Yet that doesn’t deter us. Rather, it makes every artist on this list all the more worthy of their spot.
[Disclaimer] For the purposes of this list, we’ve chosen to utilize the term ‘underground’ as a means of differentiating these artists from their more commercial counterparts. We are fully aware that many of the artists presented on this list may exceed the underground classification, yet for the sake of simplicity, we’ve chosen to use the term anyways.
25. DJ Koze
DJ Koze’s performances are things of legend. Coming from a hip hop and turntable upbringing, the German artist is liable to throw anything from ambient, to breakbeat, to bangin’ techno your way. Aside from his mystifying DJ sets, Koze is an exceptional producer. He’s responsible for one of the biggest tracks of the year and a favorite by everyone from Maceo Plex to Ten Walls, his remix of Moderat’s “Bad Kingdom.” Tack on some stellar deep house productions and a collaboration with Caribou and Koze had a tremendous 2014.
24. Guy J
Israel’s Guy Judah is not known for his longwinded rants on the coinage of progressive house. He preaches with one of the most full-bred specimens of the sound on the digital market right now, one that has dutifully fueled his own Lost & Found imprint to form a mecca for the misunderstood sub-genre within the global industry. The rise of his own musical sanctuary has not knocked a long serving relationship with John Digweed’s Bedrock Records, who to date have hosted two extensive and eclectic full-length albums as well as a plethora of high-brow singles and remixes along the way. A true luminary to an underdog sound with a convoluted namesake, a Guy J record makes the boxes irrelevant and the future of the craft seem all the more boundless.
Sebastien Devaud is sublime evidence of where France has looked far beyond the clichéd reign of Daft Punk and the commercialized sound of David Guetta in search of creative sanctuary. An accomplished album smith with affiliations to both the Night Sounds festival and the Infine imprint, Agoria has made taking the long way round look incredibly satitfying. He entered 2014 wielding a cinematic sound scope with immediate dance floor relevance, one that translated into remix duties for Moby, Santè and Metronomy, as well as a series of unprecedentedly momentous showdowns at Space Ibiza. Sometimes sinister, sometimes scintillating, you never know what you’re going to get from Agoria, but you can always count on its beauty and cultural buoyancy.
Last year, Pleasurekraft released Beatport’s second highest selling track of all time with their edit of “Got A Feeling” — how would they follow up such a momentous accomplishment in 2014? While they may not have found similar charting success, a relentless global touring schedule saw the duo playing week in, week out, almost nonstop every month. They were also responsible for one of the heaviest techno tracks of the year with their remix of Pete Tong and Monkman’s “The Bumps.” Meanwhile their label Kraftek played home to some of the biggest tech house tracks of the year from ANNA, Jaceo, Paul Ursin and more.
21. Damian Lazarus
Damian Lazarus is a DJ’s DJ. His mastery behind the decks conjures images of wizardry and magic. From hosting some of the year’s best parties with the annual Get Lost gatherings, to frequent flawless appearances at DC-10’s CircoLoco, Damian continued to assert his panache on the performance front. Meanwhile, he unveiled perhaps the biggest track of his career, “Lovers Eyes,” as part of his new collaborative artist project. Lastly, his guidance over Crosstown Rebels continued to steer the label into exciting territory with notable releases by Fur Coat, Ali Love, Matthew Jonson and more.
Recondite had a monumental 2014 to say the least. The German musician crept out of the shadows and into the techno spotlight thanks to an international touring schedule and a handful of killer tracks. “Caldera” on Hotflush became one of the biggest techno slammers of the year, while his album IFFY on Innervisions showcased a deeper side to his production. Along with standout performances from festivals like Sonar and Decibel, Recondite cemented his name as one of the underground’s most promising acts for 2015.
19. Alan Fitzpatrick
First there was Adam Beyer, the techno titan that turned heads. Then there was Alan Fitzpatrick, the first in line to take the reigns. An essential cog in the Drumcode family, the versatile British talent crafted many a fine EP and numerous live landmarks to his name in 2014. Drumcode and Cocoon held the best of his studio output, but there was no denying the huge extension of his sound seen in such highlights as “The Tetra,” “Truant” and “Turn Down The Lights.” This wasn’t to say that Fitzpatrick’s blend of melodic yet mechanically charged techno held any less weight on dance floors across the globe, giving us yet one more British ambassador to the peak of the sound.
18. Carl Craig
The respect endowed upon Detroit legend Carl Craig is unique, but wholeheartedly deserved. Infact, of all the city’s legendary players to emerge with fingers on the pulse of its burning desire to expand, few could claim as much street credibility and authority on the dance floor as that of the Planet E Communication ringleader. Whilst the imprint has leapt from strength-to-strength, Carl’s approach has remained very much his own. Times will change, taste will evolve and herds will flock to see where the history books have led the sacred sound, but the respect Carl Craig maintains on the global circuit appears increasingly fed back into his craft and to the masses that refuse to forget the influence of Detroit’s great players.
17. Hot Since 82
Yorkshire bred, globally exported, Hot Since 82 has cast a unique stamp on the deep and tech house sound. As the UK’s prime export for low-end favoring house music, Daley Padley serves a significant role in the reintroduction of the genre to the next generation of dance music fans. Alongside an exhaustive run of global tour dates and festivals, 2014 was the year Knee Deep In Sound truly took fruition, garnering six EPs from some of the genre’s hottest prospects along the way. Cult following and consistent vantage aside, Hot Since 82’s brand of accessible underground music remains essential listening.
16. Joris Voorn
The magic of Joris Voorn started long before that of unsuspecting Essential New Tune “Ringo.” Whether he is spinning at Ushuaia or remixing Swedish House Mafia, the Rotterdam heavyweight has continued to deliver honest, integral and stimulating music no matter the cultural swell or overnight buzz sound. This commitment rang throughout Nobody Knows — Voorn’s first album in seven years — a beautifully intimate record that proved more than worth the wait from this rare specimen of the Dutch electronic circuit. Unpredictable at best but always keeping it credible and creatively focussed, his off-the-cuff remixes and that long-awaited record made 2014 Voorn’s for the taking.
Scuba turned his attention fully to techno in 2014 and the underground is grateful. His live performances were dark and brooding and every bit as thought-provoking as his productions. His three part Phenixseries proved some of his most conceptual and brilliant work to date, wielding everything from warehouse techno to experimental electronica. Presiding over his label Hotflush, Scuba helped curate some of the year’s biggest tracks courtesy of Recondite, Paul Woolford, Locked Groove and more.
14. Art Department
Jonny White and Kenny Glasgow continue to be two of the most lauded figures in the underground. From their mesmeric DJ sets to their experimental productions, the two never cease to turn heads under their collaborative guise of Art Department. 2014 saw the Canadian duo release their sophomore album Natural Selection, bringing an altogether more mature sound to the table. Standout performances from Ultra Music Festival, Coachella, Creamfields Buenos Aires, and an album world tour capped off one of the strongest years yet from the duo.
13. Ten Walls
It speaks volumes when an artist can release a single EP in a twelve month span and become one of the most talked about producers of the year. Mario Basanov’s enigmatic Ten Walls project caught fire in 2014 thanks to one track: “Walking With Elephants.” It’s safe to say the cinematic original is responsible for enrapturing thousands of dance floor phenoms this summer. In addition to the glorious production, Ten Walls delivered one of the standout Essential Mixes of the year in September, charting a journey unlike anything else we heard in 2014 on the legendary BBC show. Those lucky enough to catch one of his live sets can attest to the beauty and complexity of his performance. If there’s one artist primed to takeover 2015, it’s Ten Walls.
12. Guy Gerber
Guy Gerber is a force to reckoned with, and if 2014 taught us anything, it’s that we can never predict his next move. In perhaps the most unexpected collaboration of the year, Gerber’s 11:11 project alongside P. Diddy proved creative liberation at its finest. In March, Gerber began his own label Rumours, inaugurating the imprint with a chart-topping Dixon collaboration. His touring Wisdom of the Glove party was consistently rated one of the year’s best events, making its way to Barcelona, Croatia, Miami, and of course, Pacha, where Gerber commanded another top-tier residency.
11. Tale of Us
Tale of Us have taken on something of a mythic quality. Their sets are granted spiritual significance by enraptured onlookers; their productions serve as doctrine for techno faithfuls. After storming the scene last year, they continued their momentum into 2014, becoming one of the most sought after names in the DJ circuit. From Awakenings, to Time Warp, to Movement, they were consistently present and in the spotlight for much of the festival season. Many regarded their sunrise set from Robot Heart at Burning Man as one of the Playa’s best. Lastly, who could forget their monumental remix to Caribou? Alongside Mano Le Tough, their take on “Can’t Do Without You” was easily one of the biggest tracks of the the summer and fall.
10. Adam Beyer
Adam Beyer is the Swedish techno king, and Drumcode is the gold standard. If his brand is synonymous with one thing it’s consistency. There’s a reason Drumcode records are some of the most played out in the industry: the name alone speaks quality. From taking over festival stages to holding 24 hour parties, Drumcode continues to become bolder and bigger thanks to Beyer’s guidance. The man himself has had a remarkable 2014 with standout sets from Time Warp and Awakenings, not to mention plenty of five-hour-plus performances from around the world.
9. Nicole Moudaber
Much like broadcast peer Annie Mac, Nicole Moudaber has little interest in discussing the ramifcations of being a female DJ. Instead, she has taken pole position as techno’s leading lady. Versatile enough to hold both the most intimate club spaces and the grander global festival stages, her hobbies outside of turntable dexterity include a long running streak with INTEC and separating the boys from men through her own MOOD imprint. The London-based heavyweight managed such highlights as “See You Next Tuesday” and a top tier remix for Carl Cox’s “Kommen Zusammen” along the way, but remained the unsinkable ship of her genre where ear and integrity are concerned.
An Essential New Tune in “Cassiopeia,” a debut appearance at Glastonbury, a marker season on the White Isle and whisper of a second album for Kompakt. Between crafting songs about childhood memories and taking the ‘pop’ out of Coldplay, Kolsch has driven the sound of techno to places it has never been before. It was hard to believe that there was to be any topping of 1977, the emotive full-length debut from ex-radio don Rune RK that set in motion a melodic revolution to the underground market. Now, as a creative muse capable of balancing pop with a reign of intuitive electronic music suited to both the Radio One airwaves and credible club floors alike, there really is no one doing it like Kolsch right now.
7. Loco Dice
Loco Dice is looked upon as a god in the underground. He’s one of the most consistent DJs you’ll encounter, and his mixing style is second to none. With his unparalleled ability to read crowds, the Berlin DJ has become an international favorite over the years. In 2014, Loco Dice took the DJ circuit by storm. Highlights included Hideout Festival, Movement, Ultra, as well as a momentous back-to-back set with Carl Cox from Space Ibiza’s Music Is Revolution closing party. His label Desolat with Martin Buttrich was responsible for one of the biggest techno tracks of the season with Traumer’s “Hoodlum,” while Dice himself contributed remixes to Nightmares on Wax, Neneh Cherry, and more.
Luciano is consistently a fan-favorite, and for good reason: the Chilean’s enthusiasm for DJing is infectious. Sporting some of the grooviest tech house around, Cadenza brings a Latin American flair to his performances that sets him apart from the pack. His multi-deck mixing is some of the best in the game, and 2014 saw him showcasing his skills everywhere from Ultra Music Festival to Amnesia’s Closing Party. Throughout the year, Cadenza’s label of the same name continued to serve as a platform for some of the best tech house in the business.
Diynamic’s head honcho comes tried, tested and revered for his extensive and eclectically tailored sets. An underground house poster boy turned reforming Ibiza veteran, every facet of his career points to a domineering vision for where house music is being returned to its rightful owner: the club floor and the people that want to listen to it from every angle. Remixes for Lana Del Ray, Claude Von Stroke and Foals made for welcome extensions of his moody studio etiquette, making for an otherwise sparse run of original material in 2014. Barron it may have been, but the Samson EP paired with his reliably unpredictable sets made the German heavyweight as welcome at the top tier of underground dance music as ever before throughout the year.
4. Marco Carola
Hype off, Music On. Marco Carola accidentally sparked one of the most influential brands of underground clubbing with his ‘Music On’ concept and throughout 2014, it reigned supreme on a global scale. Vast crowds, vivid programming and earth shattering tunes are the tools by which the Italian heavyweight has pulled on heartstrings at every corner of the globe, but it is those long and relentless sets that have put the starry eyed charm of late night club culture back on the menu. We need Marco Carola in 2015 because, quite frankly, you’d struggle to find a more consistent and well-orchestrated techno advocate anywhere else in the game.
Dixon is inimitable. At this point, the Berliner is legendary status. He’s dazzled enough dancefloors in his lifetime to earn the title and more, yet he isn’t stopping any time soon. In 2014, he continued his run of stirring performances, enrapturing crowds across the globe in a seemingly endless tour schedule. Alongside Ame, Dixon continued to shape Innervisions as one of the industry’s most well-regarded imprints with notable releases from David August, Recondite, and Ian Pooley. Meanwhile, the label’s Lost In A Moment world tour brought their mystical brand to Barcelona, Rio, Dubrovnik and more.
2. Maceo Plex
Was there any bigger producer in 2014 than Maceo Plex? With every track, the Barcelona-based musician seemed to be amassing an unstoppable momentum. His Conjure series provided the backbone for his success, with tracks like “Conjure Balearia” and “ENTER.Space” earning plays by Richie Hawtin and Carl Cox. Remixes to GusGus’s “Crossfade” and WhoMadeWho’s “Heads Above” further edged Maceo into a league of his own, pinning his productions on every techno tastemaker’s radar.
Of course, you can’t talk about Maceo Plex without mentioning his divine abilities behind the decks. Flooring every festival from Coachella to EXIT to Movement alongside a residency at Space Ibiza’s ENTER., Maceo showcased why he’s the most in-demand underground DJ in the world.
1. Richie Hawtin
It’s undoubtedly a misnomer to classify Richie Hawtin as underground at this point — his brand has become a global business — yet it would seem far more egregious to label him under the EDM umbrella. The fact is, Richie Hawtin has managed to become a worldwide icon without sacrificing his vision. Though recent drama surrounding his unprofessional behavior at Time Warp US may distract some people, one cannot overlook the truly phenomenal year Hawtin has had in 2014.
From releasing his first Plastikman album since 2003, to dual-headlining Sonar under the alias as well as his own name, everything about Rich’s year was monumental. Not only did ENTER. serve as one of Ibiza’s most talked about parties, but Hawtin brought the brand to Los Angeles, Montreal, and Buenos Aires, spreading the techno gospel.
Hawtin’s label Minus had one of its biggest years yet, and is easily a contender for imprint of the year. Hosting everything from Gaiser’s album to Maceo Plex’s Conjure Two, to Julian Jeweil’s various steamrollers, Minus brought techno perfection and DJs and dancefloors alike couldn’t get enough.
Tying his tremendous accomplishments in 2014 together, Hawtin received the the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at London’s AIM Independent Music Awards.