House Music in 2013
The Press Loves to Moan About Hot Natured and Disclosure, So Who Should We Be Listening To:
Dialogue Inc's Picks for House Music's New Guard
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Before we dive down this oft-ketamin-fueled rabbit hole about trends in house music, we should make a full, upfront disclosure: We, well, like Disclosure. The broken groove and sing-a-long soul of "Latch" give it as much leftfield appeal as crossover appeal in our eyes, and we turn it up whenever it finds itself in the rotation on our iPod. The same is becoming true of the U.K. duo's AlunaGeorge collabo "White Noise." These kids are top-notch producers even if they are rising through the ranks a bit too quickly.
Ok, now that we've gotten that off our chest, we'd like to talk about what's bubbling in house music in 2013, why outlets like Vice are right to bemoan trending hashtags like #neohouse and the largely undeserved popularity of acts like Hot Natured, and who we should actually be listening to. We've revisited Vice's recent story, "What's Going to Kill the House Revival?" a number of times since it was published last month. It makes some great points. A new genre tag carries a heavy burden with it—namely a legion of imitators aping said genre's defining moment(s), be it the number of tracks clutching at the heels of a Blawan track like "Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage" or before that, "Getting Me Down" or the steady stream of tracks attempting to sound like they're from the '90s. Besides, 'future garage' is just a ridiculous name. It ranks up there with "aqua crunk," some crackpot blogger's dismally lame attempt to paint Flying Lotus into a corner.
Even with scenes and sounds have largely avoided the genre tag nuisance, like Crosstown Rebels and the artists that orbit around its solar system, high points tend to get lost in the buckshot scatter of lesser releases wanting in on the action. In this case it's not just over saturation from the label, but from kindred camps like Wolf + Lamb or the worst offender, as Vice so astutely points out: Hot Creations. We've tried—we really have—to get into the LA label's releases but a few exceptions like the recent releases from DC pop-house duo Benoit + Sergio...
or the latest from Germany's Butch...
... not withstanding, there just isn't much to get into. And all these producers are so bro-ed out it's frustrating. We momentarily feel guilty for holding this against them, but at the same time we should. Yeah, you should too.
So then the question becomes, who should we be listening to? If Disclosure is destined to sell out and Julio Bashmore's "Au Seve" has become so ubiquitous it's gone bland, where do we find relief? Here are a few of our top picks:
The London-based duo Dusky has quickly established itself at the forefront of bass-facing techno that still manages to sneak in much-needed doses of soul. Its 2011 debut LP, Stick By This for Anjunadeep, flew largely under the radar, but tracks like "Plastique" were already hinting at the pair's ability to blend complex rhythms, a low-end tweak, UK garage undertones, unique vocal textures, and intense moodiness into a sound that would come to captivate dance floors, and do it without going too heavy-handed into the '90s house retread that's bogging down peers like Huxley. More recently, releases for Aus and Dogmatik have cemented Dusky's place on the scene, captivating DJs as diverse as Pete Tong and Loefah. For the most recent example of Dusky's prowess, look to its Nobody Else EP.
More firmly rooted in a straight on four-on-the-floor sound, but still embellishing with touches of breaks, bass, and 2 Step and garage, UK highlight Citizen is the man on this round-up who's likely to best appeal to heads old and new. Referential and respectful of where his music comes from while still pushing it into brilliant new territories, this quiet operator wraps up the peak moments in 20 years of house and distills it into each of his tracks. He caught our ear thanks to placement on Resident Advisor's best of 2012, but outlets like XLR8R and heavyweights like Kerri Chandler are just as quick to sing his praises. He's discography is short but potent, and includes two highly potent releases for the gorgeous Love Fever label and one more on the way for Chandler's MadTech.
In our eyes, the new guard's home base is London, and the third player on our list from that mecca across the pond is leftfield groovemaker Blacksmif. There's more shuffle to his sound then some may be comfortable with, but that doesn't mean he doesn't land somewhere in this neo-house/future garage/revival sound. In fact, his latest EP for Brighton's eclectic Blah Blah Blah imprint gets our heaviest rotation around the Dialogue Inc HQ. Oh so soulful and with just enough complexity to challenge a crowd, tracks like "Hoop Dreams" and "How the Fly Saved the River" get us giddy in a way we haven't felt since discovering Jazzanova or MJ Cole back in the, well, '90s. This relative newcomer's music feels fresh and relevant, but as is important in making this list, it also gives a strong sense of knowing where it's coming from—and that is undeniably house.