O, Canada. It’s undeniable that the dance-music scene to the north has seen huge growth and popularity in the last few years—particularly if folks like Deadmau5, Excision, and the Art Department are any indication. In fact, it’s not only the production and DJ side of the equation that is exploding, but the festival scene is as well, with events like Eclipse, Digital Dreams, MUTEK, Piknic Electronik, Veld, WEMF, Harvest, Shambala, and Sound in Motion showing the world what Canada brings to the table. So, join us in celebrating Canada Day today with some of our favorite recent releases from Canadian artists.
Halifax, Nova Scotia producer Ryan Hemsworth is a master of pairing old-school ’90s R&B and pop samples with perfect basslines and grooving, housey beats. His latest self-released EP, Still Awake, is the embodiment of his sound. “Perfectly” lives up to its name—it’s melodic and pretty with pitched-down vocals thrown in for good measure.
Montreal-by-way-of-Toronto producers Yes Ma’am (that’s Alicia Hovinga and Jesse Morrison, aka Alicia Hush and ana+one) take a colourful approach to minimal techno that pairs Hush’s quirk with ana+one’s charm. The title track of their debut EP, Sluice Box, is a bassy, bouncy number with “future classic” written all over it.
Hot on the heels of what has inarguably been a great year for Toronto’s Nathan Barato—a year that saw the release of his EP The Sub of Queen West and an incredible performance at Movement Festival in May—the Roots + Wings label boss also remixed the current queen of techno, Nicole Moudaber, and gave “In The Mood” a sexy, grooving new atmosphere.
Marc Leclair—better known by his stage name, Akufen, which a play on the French word for tinnitus—has been a staple of the Montreal minimal house scene since the mid-’90s, and it’s fair to say he always will be. His remix for UK producer Natalie Broomes’ “Say Something” takes on classic house overtones and sunny upbeat vocals that are perfect for summer.
Jacques Greene has been steadily honing his approach to post-R&B with classics like “Motivation,” “The Look,” and a soulful remix of Radiohead’s “Lotus Flowers,” and with releases on LuckyMe, Night Slugs, and his own Vase Recordings, is doing plenty of damage on the international scene. His most recent release, a collaborative effort with Chicago’s How To Dress Well, showcases some rapid, bubbling beats paired with featherlight R&B vocals.
These days, New Yorker Alain Macklovitch (aka A-Trak) heads up the always on-it Fool’s Gold label, but as Kanye West’s former DJ and a DMC champ in his teen years, the electro-house maven first found his footing in hip-hop in the late ’90s. The Montreal native’s latest EP, Tuna Melt, features “Landline,” a collaborative moombahton-inspired banger with GTA.
2011’s “Ungirthed” marked the start of Purity Ring’s union as a duo and also the impending rise to indie stardom that Edmonton natives duo Corin Roddick and Megan James would experience. The now unstoppable pair released the highly lauded Shrines last year, and their subsequent cover of Soulja Boy’s “Grammy” is enroute to becoming a contemporary classic.
A former Montrealer now based out of Berlin, Scott Monteith (aka Deadbeat) has been developing his dubby version of minimal techno since the year 2000. Monteith’s most recent release for BLKRTZ, Primorida, is a reissue of his first album, Primordia, and features the conceptual “Elder Drum,” a soothing, organic track perfect for summer nights.
Art Department—the brainchild of Kenny Glasgow and Johnny White—is infamous for knowing exactly how to take a party to the next level. Both producers are well known for their relentless approach to techno and house, and together as Art Department, they’ve become internationally renowned and earned a spot on the Crosstown Rebels label. Their most recent release is a collaborative effort with Damian Lazarus, Shaun Reeves, and BLUD—a pretty but dark take on deep house.
Montrealer Kevin Celestin has become celebrated for his reworkings of classic ’90s hip-hop and R&B, working under the Kaytranada moniker, a subtle nod to his Canadian heritage. The successful release of his debut album, Teriphikness, in 2010, put him on the map, but his funky remixes have kept him there. His take on Amerie’s “Why Don’t We Fall in Love” debuted on Rinse FM before being released a couple months back, subtly pairing Amerie’s vocals with bumping hip-hop beats.