Deconstructing ‘Anjunadeep 12’—the next wave artists behind the label’s most expansive compilation
Anjunadeep‘s rise to international recognition has been a journey of humble cultivations, first as Anjunabeats‘ underground offshoot, and then as the sonic seed that gave life to the institution that has been enjoyed and celebrated across the dance music community today. Now, label heads James Grant and Jody Wisternoff challenge with their most ambitious play yet—the three-disc Anjunadeep 12. Harboring a stunning 56-track vault, the newest compilation exemplifies the chronicle of the Anjuna sub-label and all its transformative phases up until now: familiar strongholds like Lane 8, Yotto, Luttrell, and more take their rightful places alongside the fresh introduction of rising talents—and everyone in between.
An imitable fact that has upholstered the Anjunadeep compilations as arguably the most anticipated and beholden events annually owes to the innate escapist nature of its musicality. The common sonic identities across the various installments can be found in Anjunadeep’s overarching appeal, sought after by devout fans in the form of Anjunadeep tours, gatherings, and releases. In the diverse offerings, participants experience contemplativeness, spirituality, invigoration, and peace—a type of sacred connection exclusive to the brand.
The Anjunadeep compilations have long been the nucleus behind the imprint’s talent-shining ethos, leveraging their fervent popularity to beckon eager listeners to the unheard, underground, and upcoming wave of artists. A mix of the finest quality, each volume is a fluid forecast study of the trendiest, most exciting waves of evolution; to gain an invitation means unlimited access to Anjunadeep’s dedicated core of audiences, and vice versa. Dancing Astronaut invites readers to join us in examining the next generation of electronic sounds and the innovators who create them, all hidden within Anjunadeep 12.
Like its forefathers, Anjunadeep 12 prelims the stage with a sonic warmup. The first of the three-part package leads listeners in with generous ambience building devoid of the standard four beat. PBSR presents a complexity of layers in the understated “Niebla” which juxtaposes downtempo elements with breakbeat structures, unfolding an ephemeral awakening of epiphanic levels in just the second entry of the 18-track disc. The Spain-originated musician’s heavy involvement in cross-disciplinary arts, particularly the audiovisuals, have led him down a less-traditional path than most electronic artists. His craft has reaped visual art collaborations, ambient project Flying Solo, and a flurry of other accomplishments that liken him to a renaissance man of sorts. The musical references that brought him to where he is today are an equally eclectic assortment, owed to his father. PBSR details,
“He has been a constant source of inspiration since I was a child, and my musical background, in conjunction with my classical training in Spanish guitar, would be impossible to understand without his references, ranging from World Music to Japanese New Age, Classical music, or Psychedelic Rock. This holistic look at different time periods and styles, with a focus on the instrumental and outside of the margins of the mainstream, has influenced heavily the way I approach writing a song, buying one instrument or the other, or how the lyrics have a secondary role in my music.”
The transition into warmer colors arrives expertedly smooth, as the lush and plentiful surround sound design of tropical warmth in Joseph Ray’s “Ogou (Pran Ka Mwen)” provide a welcoming organicness in its uplifting totality and positive light, reflective of the cultural and musical influence from collaborator, Haitian collective Lakou Mizik. Conjunctively, the track offers a refreshing palette cleanse from the Euro-centric view permeated in dance music, its uniqueness unlike any other on the tracklist.
The mix then navigates to icier terrain, crossing Nordic evocations with the emotional fragility of cuts like CRi’s “From Me,” and proceeding to plateau into a pace bordering motion and meditation. The intro disc is largely cerebral, despite carrying underlying dance rhythms. Its latter half shifts temporarily for an impassioned run from Jerro‘s “Go Back Now,” with tender vocals and fluttering synths populating house rhythms. Backed by both This Never Happened and Anjunadeep, Jerro’s speciality in both melodic house and downtempo has evidently made a stylistic case for himself that now finds its wings on Anjunadeep 12. His inspiration lies not within a specific genre, but a feeling, as he reveals,
“I specifically remember listening to “Pjanoo” by Eric Prydz when I was 14-years-old. When I heard those epic chords for the first time, I felt something that I had never felt before when listening to music. It hit my emotions pretty heavily. This was when I knew that electronic music was special to me. Now, when I produce, I strive to make my listeners feel that same rush of emotion that I felt when I first heard that track.”
Simple twists and turns whisk the glacial electronic paints in tracks like Nordfold’s “Letter To Lillehammer” to the folksy derivatives in M.O.S.’ “Orchidea,” before traveling down a final route through a comforting panorama of melodic and deep offerings, and conclusively, Dosem‘s suspense-driven closer, “Magma.”
Disc two enters in serene washes of spoken word and beating pulses, carried by piano compositions and melancholic cadences. Vocals take precedent early on in part two of the triptych, as seen in Jody Wisternoff’s & James Grant’s “Metroma” rework, with diaphanous layers weaving into increasing crescendos of energy, as more steady house anatomies take centerplace and lead to the progressive-influenced tinges of Enamour and Meliha’s “Say Hello.” The mix then winds down to introduce Nox Vahn’s “Technobloom,” whose languid, weepy hook merits its own recognition as a dark horse among its electronic companions. Vahn’s dynamism has especially blossomed throughout his various Anjuna appearances—from the sinister depths of breakout “Brainwasher” to Anjunadeep 11 induction “Dream Of Love“—and his electronic inspirations come almost surprisingly relatable. He shares,
“I was largely influenced by the emergence of huge electronic acts around 2010 when dance music began to take off in the U.S. Albums from deadmau5, NERO, and Daft Punk come to mind, but there have been many influences along the way that have helped shape my sound.”
A short interlude lays the bridge for Braxton‘s “Indigo,” an amalgamated creation of transcendent qualities that project from worldly flutes, showering synths, and delicate breakbeats. The number comprises a quiet vortex of adrenaline brimming with sun-beamed synth backdrops and elemental forces. The British producer’s breaks-integrated production approach has landed him on Anjunadeep and Colorize, where he’s showcased an effortless application of both melodic and progressive work. It only makes sense that he attributes that success to one of the all-time greats—Sasha. Braxton offers,
“There were a few great albums and compilations that came out in the late 90s, but nothing influenced me more than Sasha’s ‘Global Underground 013: Ibiza’ compilation. It was the first time I’d heard such a unique selection of tracks that sounded completely individual, but slotted so effortlessly, perfectly together. After I heard it, I went to the Global Groove record shop in Stoke with a copy of the compilation and bought all the available records from it to recreate the mix at home. Poorly.
It was also the first compilation I heard where there seemed to be more of a narrative than just a collection of songs. There was a clear journey—and that’s something I’ve always looked to emulate in my music and mixes ever since. It’s an absolute masterpiece and one that slathers me in nostalgia every time I hear it :)”
Faster tempos integrate into the mix, with Ezequiel Arias’ “Solar” picking up a playful disposition, sprinkled with warehouse-primed glitches and drum lines. From that point onwards, the familiar uprising of dance floor oriented cuts begin to crystallize, bringing massive heaters like Cristoph’s “SFB,” Franky Wah’s “Boundaries,” and the genre-defying “Lager Beers” from My Friend, slotting interjected leveling outs in between. Anjuna staples top off the second disc with heavy hitting appearances that chart a momentous finale: Tinlicker arrive back-to-back with their solo piano house track “Light Beam” and Ben Böhmer union, “Voodoo,” and Lane 8 disseminates what fans have informally deemed as his “Neon Jungle” remix sequel, “Is This Our Earth?.”
Listened sequentially, the trio discs piece together beautifully as each delves deeper and deeper into an ocean of selections. The final segment of the extensive mix wastes no time in early introductions to a more awakened momentum, with its mellow three-track warmup just primed enough for a cathartic pivot to the melodic glazes of haunting standout Budakid and Esther Veen’s “Surga.” By Luigi Sambuy’s and Arswain’s “Partitioning II,” disc three fully embraces liberal pacing as spirituality, the dance-spirited, and motion synthesize into one interconnected amalgam. There’s a profound intensity within the closing CD and it finds its multiple zeniths within vocalized productions like Rezident‘s “One Good Reason.” The emerging 22 year-old act pinpoints music at a special intersection between “celebration and therapy,” a concept that rings true in his poignant Anjunadeep appearance, bringing soul-stirring melodies together with restorative bass lines. Of his pivotal era, Rezident states,
“The most important time for me was probably moving out to college in 2016 to pursue a media/audio degree.
I met a lot of cool people and together we’ve been listening to electronic music and making our own small events. There was an appreciation for more mellow Deep-House music (like ‘Kiasmos’) that I haven’t experienced before outside of my Laptop-Screen at home. Knowing that there is a place for the type of music that I was hyped about made the whole process feel more ‘real’ and inspiring.”
Even in moments of respite, the driving force continues to ascend through the veins of the tracklisting as a constant reminder of the compilation’s dance-tuned mission. Reoccurring themes interlock the organic with the computerized, as nature motifs and simplistic instrumentals mingle among electronic counterparts. In spite of digitalized filters and production maneuvers, glistening instrumentation and ethereal top lines shape tracks into real bodies of feeling—taking listeners through terrestrial landscapes and time particles: vast skies in Hessian’s “Oracle,” seeping dawn light in Luttrell’s “Snoop Dawk,” and lush reefs in Simon Doty‘s “Belikewater.” While Doty’s submission finds a perfect home on Anjunadeep 12, the affecting track is a definitive timestamp of the Western Canadian’s artistic development, as his formative origins no longer necessarily parallel his current sound. Speaking to his journey, Doty shares,
“In 2016/17 I was making and listening to a lot of darker music; releasing on labels like Stil vor Talent and einmusika. Early on in 2018, I was feeling like all the dark music was making me extra negative personally, so I just made the decision to shift towards a much more uplifting and positive style. A few months later my first really emotional track ‘Dawn’ was signed by Anjunadeep, and sent me down the path I’m on today.”
Doty’s offering symbols the descent of Anjunadeep 12 into its bittersweet culmination as the succeeding tracks wind down with control, but without stagnation. Penultimate placement “Sinuous” could very well be an opening to the three-disc trove in the same manner that it paves the closing. Its oceanic synth-play by duo Warung casts a nostalgic film over the ensemble of simplistic chords, inducing a contemplative comedown that melts with fluidity into Jon Gurd’s evanescent finisher. Pulling from icons much like their Anjunadeep peers, Warung said of their approach,
“Our inspirations draw from artists of an era where dance music was in its rawest form. Some of our biggest influences come from artists able to take the listener on a multi-genre journey not only in their sets, but their records too. We find that our creative license can be restricted at times when we start trying to fit records to labels, so we find it important to stay inspired by the likes of artists such as Sasha & John Digweed, Leftfield, and Chicane to name a few.
We’re very excited to share ‘Sinuous’ via Anjunadeep 12 and our four-track EP coming out later this year showcasing this multi sub-genre approach—yet all under the deep umbrella.”
Like the distinction between an average DJ set and one that transcends simply an auditory experience, Anjunadeep 12 reminds us why we come time after time again to the music altar—for the discovery, for the sensation, for the odyssey.