In celebration of International Women’s Day today, Beatport News honors the contributions of women to the electronic music world. From newcomers like Holly Herndon, to rising stars like Maya Jane Coles, to industry veterans like Heidi and Karin Dreijer Andersson, here are 10 ladies that are making a difference in all aspects of dance music. Feel free to add your own picks in the comments section below.
With a decade-long career in dance music, DJ Heidi has become a staple in the house industry. Growing up in Windsor, Canada, Heidi Van Den Amstel was first drawn to the music scene from across the border in Detroit. After a stint with Koobla Records, Heidi become one of the founding members of Phonica—London’s foremost dance-record store—marking the beginning of her foray into DJing in 2003. She was mentored by M.A.N.D.Y. and DJ T in the early years of her career, which began blossom in 2006, and since, Heidi has become one of the biggest female house DJs of her time. She was the first woman to get signed to Get Physical Music, and is now the force behind Jackathon Jams, a compilation of EPs, the first of which featured an all-female cast including the likes of tINI, Miss Kittin, and Maya Jane Coles. Heidi held down a spot on BBC Radio One’s In New DJs We Trust program, and has continued to fuel the tech house and house scenes, playing at heavyweight events like the BPM Festival and WMC.
Tennessee native Holly Herndon’s experimental sound is rooted in vocal processing and extended vocal techniques, pushing her to the foreground of avant-garde electronic music. While studying to receive her MFA at Mills University, under the tutelage of John Bischoff and Maggi Payne, among others, Herndon earned the Elizabeth Mills Crothers Award for Best Composer in 2010, for her stunning composition “195.” Since then, her career has been rooted in words, in more ways than one—aside from her vocal efforts in her productions, she’s celebrated as a music intellectual, often speaking out in defense of the personality of electronic music and the technical skills required to use a laptop as a performance tool. Last year, the San Francisco-based Herndon released her debut solo LP, Movement, an experimental album that fuses more accessible, pop-based influences with her signature processed vocals.
Dub-pop experimentalist Inga Copeland is best known for her work as one half of mysterious London lo-fi duo Hype Williams. Also known by her stage name Karen Glass, Copeland and her musical partner Dean Blunt have been producing together under various monikers since 2005, making a name for themselves through their hard-to-pin-down sound that hovers somewhere between psychedelic, noise, and hyper-stylized hazy wonder. Copeland’s solo project under her own name articulates that same uncategorized sound, a synth-fueled mixture of dub, pop, and indie. Together with Blunt, she co-founded World Music Records, a label that is part art project and part music group that supports the same forward-thinking music that she produces, including her own forthcoming solo album, Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going, to be released in the coming months. Copeland has wisely provided a preview of the album with a three-track 12”, World Music’s first official release, which includes tracks from her solo debut, “So Far So Clean,” “Speak,” and “A&E.”
Fatima Al Qadiri
Having gained early notoriety for her eclectic sound that fuses elements from a number of different genres, Kuwait-reared Fatima Al Qadiri is a relative newcomer to the electronic music scene, having dropped her first releases in 2011. Now based out of Brooklyn, Al Qadiri’s most notable EP, Genre-Specific Xperience, was rooted in experimental percussive sounds, while pulling in juke, hip-hop, ’90s trance, and electro references, which all continue to fuel her productions. A musician, producer, and composer, her experience with music is not limited to electronic-based sound, but her most recent EP, Desert Strike, is solid proof that electronic music is where she belongs. Inspired by the videogame of the same name, Desert Strike, which was released on Kingdom’s Fade to Mind label late last year, is a nod to the “militaristic futurism” of the game itself, and a haunting look into Al Qadiri’s own experience living through the Gulf War. The video for Desert Strike’s opening track, “Ghost Raid,” featured artwork by Alex Gjovic, tying in the horrors of warfare with the glorified, desensitized visions of atrocity spotlighted in videogames like Desert Strike.
Karin Dreijer Andersson
Known for her work as one half of Swedish duo The Knife, Karin Dreijer Andersson has one of the most acclaimed voices in electronic music today, renowned for its fragile yet resonating quality that recalls an almost ghost-like presence. An active part of the music industry since the late ’90s, Dreijer Andersson and her brother, Olof, began performing together as The Knife in 1993 but found their cult following in 2003 with the release of their second album, Deep Cuts, a grinding synth-fueled take on electro-pop. The pair created their own label, Rabid Records, in the early years of their career together, and although their success has been great, they are famously camera-shy. Dreijer Andersson’s solo project, Fever Ray, is equally shrouded in mystery, often employing theatrical tactics like masks, heavy makeup, and a gauze screen that obscures her from view during her live performances—though, that is not to detract from her skills as a singer and a musician. As Fever Ray, Dreijer Andersson’s voice is all the more eerily beautiful, showcased in her stunning solo album, which dropped in 2009. Recently, The Knife has made a comeback afters years spent on hiatus with the epic video for “Full of Fire,” the preview to their forthcoming album, Shaking the Habitual, set to be released in April.
Chicago native Kate Simko has been a steady presence in the deep house and minimal techno scenes since the early 2000s, when she spent a summer in Santiago, Chile, and began producing with Andres Bucci as ambient-minimal duo Detalles. Their first album together, Shapes of Summer, was critically acclaimed, but the pair was forced to part ways as Simko returned to Chicago to study. It was then that she began her journey under her own name, producing music that recalls the Detroit techno and Chicago house sounds with which she grew up. Her first solo EP, Strumm, dropped in 2006 on Seattle-based label Kupei Musika, and Simko has been unstoppable ever since. Her DJ sets and live shows continue to make her a powerhouse in the industry, with recent releases—including her widely successful 2012 EP Kabuki Drop—on Ghostly International, Hello? Repeat Sounds, and Leftroom Recordings. Her latest remix EP for her hit “Go On Then” features reworks from BLOND:ISH, Ian Pooley, and Franck Roger.
Founder of the acclaimed independent record label BPitch Control, Berlin-based producer Ellen Fraatz, better known by her stage name Ellen Allien, is one of the leading females in contemporary techno. Allien first began DJing in the early ’90s, quickly earning herself a residency at Berlin’s Fischlabor, Bunker, and Tresor clubs, among others. It was when she started her own radio show, BrainCandy, and record label of the same name, in 1992, that her career in electronic music began to grow. Despite giving up the BrainCandy projects in favor of her own event-production company, which has grown into today’s BPitch Control, Allien’s success as a musician was fueled by her unrelenting drive. Her first solo release under the Ellen Allien moniker, Stadtkind, came in 2001, marking her as a production dynamo—her vocals are sung in both English and German, and form the backbone of her many releases. Not only has the Berliner created a name for herself in music and production, but her clothing line, Ellen Allien Fashion, is likewise an extension of her personal expression, and has helped shape what can certainly be called the Ellen Allien brand. Her latest release on her own label, “LISm,” is surprisingly far from the dancefloor-oriented music that fuels BPitch Control, a highly experimental piece of electronica that layers strong piano riffs, looped, fragmented vocals, and a downtempo beat.
Maya Jane Coles
A product of London’s underground dance scene, DJ/producer Maya Jane Coles has quickly made a name for herself, releasing hit after hit in the few years she’s been active. At only 24 years old, Coles has become one of the leading female deep house DJs, having been voted Best Breakthrough DJ by Mixmag in 2011, and that was only the start of what have been incredible years for the young producer. Coles grew up in a musical home in England, and she is the jill-of-all-trades when it comes to electronic music; not only is she a producer, she also has the role of composer, songwriter, engineer, and artwork designer under her belt as well. After signing with Dogmatik Records in 2008, she released her first records that year and broke through as a DJ in 2010 when she put out the widely acclaimed EP What They Say, on Franck Rogers’ Real Tone Records, of which the title track was undeniably her greatest hit thus far. Since, she has gone on to produce under two more monikers, She is Danger, an electronica duo with Lena Cullen, and Nocturnal Sunshine, her secondary solo project that focuses on dub-influenced beats. In 2012, Coles founded her own music imprint, I Am Me, for which the first release was her internationally successful EP Easier to Hide.
Easily recognizable by her famously blonde curls, DJ/producer tINI has been on the rise since being discovered by techno legend Loco Dice in 2008. A native of Germany, tINI began playing at notable clubs there before joining the Desolat label in 2008 alongside techno’s finest, like Loco Dice, Martin Buttrich, Guti, Hector, and Yaya, to name a few. Her production debut came just one year later with her track “That’s Right,” released on Movement Sound Recordings—a powerful, driving minimal techno piece that perfectly showcased her groovy yet sultry sound. Often inspired by the landscape, people, and beauty that surrounds her, tINI’s mixes and productions are an astute representation of the world she lives in. In 2011, tINI released her debut solo album, Tessa, named after her best friend, who introduced her to the magic of Ibiza. Her most recent deep-house release, “Room 305,” has seen incredible success since its integration into Loco Dice’s 5 Years Desolat compilation, released earlier this year.
2012 was a big year for Moscow-based producer Nina Kraviz. Born in Siberia, Kraviz moved to Russia in her youth and slowly began to discover the world of electronic music, becoming involved in the scene by helping with A&R and booking agencies in her now-hometown of Moscow. Despite the city’s rather small dance-music scene, Kraviz cultivated her own brand of Russian house, which earned her attention from the likes of the Red Bull Music Academy (in which she participated in 2006), and Underground Quality Recordings (with whom she released her first production, “Voices,” in 2008). A slew of releases and remixes followed, including her breakthrough tracks “Pain In the Ass” and “I’m Gonna Get You,” which debuted on Rekids in 2010. The last couple of years have seen a massive uptick in popularity for the producer, whose recent collaboration with Hugo Boss has surely helped to put her name on the map, but it is her late-2011 dancefloor banger “Ghetto Kraviz,” arguably an anthem of 2012, that has solidified her reputation—not to mention her amazing dance moves behind the decks.