By: Andrew Brown
Ok, so Michigan’s witch house/drag act Salem isn’t technically new – they’ve been kicking around since 2008 – but 2010 was a big year for them. The group, whose members have at time been homeless, used hard drugs (they have an EP called Yes I Smoke Crack), and prostituted themselves (no, not the female one) overcame a legendarily horrific performance at SXSW with their solid debut LP King Night. Perhaps “charisma” isn’t the best term to use to describe the band – member Heather Marlatt has said that she doesn’t care what people think of them – but Salem’s uh, charm has lured music lovers and critics toward witch house, whose other acts like oOoOO owe much to Salem’s antics.
Hospital Records signed Belgian producer Netsky (real name Boris Daenen) last year when he had just a few drum and bass production credits to his name. Now the liquid funk producer has a number of successful remixes and singles, like “Smile” and “Memory Lane” to his name, and is the only solo musician on this list with a full length artist album. Oh, and his mix on BBC’s Radio 1 is up for Essential Mix of 2010, putting him in the company of Magnetic Man, Nero and Four Tet. Not bad for 12 months.
Though 21-year-old Arty (Artem Stolyarov) is a newcomer to trance (his first productions were released in late 2009), he’s caught the attention of some of trance’s biggest players. Armin van Buuren and Above and Beyond have featured his remixes and original songs heavily in their weekly podcasts. And for good reason – all of the young producer’s tracks are exceptional. His remix of Cosmic Gate’s “Back 2 Earth” stayed atop Beatport’s trance chart for weeks (it’s currently number two), and his dub of Darren Tate and Jono Grant’s “Let the Light Shine In” has trance’s biggest, warmest drop of the year.
Skrillex’s rise to fame has been rapid. His remix of “Bad Romance”, one of his first productions, garnered attention on Hype Machine last year, and in 2010 he dropped two EPs, one of them for free. Labelmate Deadmau5 has supported 22-year-old Skrillex (Sonny Moore) heavily – first by playing “My Name Is Skrillex” in his live sets, then by asking his fans to buy Skrillex’s first EP and touring with him. Perhaps as a result of Deadmau5’s urging, Skrillex now has more than 70,000 fans on Facebook. It’s not hard to see why – with songs in electro, progressive house, dubstep, and most recently drum and bass, Skrillex is accessible to almost anyone who listens to EDM.
1. James Blake
Dubstep producers are lamenting 2010 as the year that killed dubstep. The UK musicians who pioneered the minimal style of production driven by percussion and low subs have been forgotten. The kids who listen to today’s midrange wobble/brostep iteration of dubstep probably wouldn’t even consider Loefah or Burial tracks to be dubstep, let alone recognize them.
But one good thing happened for dubstep in 2010: James Blake. The three EPs Blake released this year are mercifully free of discordant wobble and rattle. Nor are they sub-bass assaults a la Digital Mystikz or Untold – Blake’s version of dubstep is original, a third strain of the genre. And perhaps for the first time, a melodic one. Bare, unprocessed piano is a frequent fixture on his tracks – hear it in the convalescent “I Only Know (What I Know Now)” and “Limit to Your Love”. Never mind that the brostep generation has never heard of him and would never appreciate him if they had – Blake is the future of dubstep.
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