The time is now for electronic music in Toronto
Toronto is all a-boom with wobble and untz. More than ever, the city's electronic music scene is thriving. We Torontonians do very well on the electronic charts. Many hometown heroes continue to kill it internationally (MSTRKRFT, Deadmau5, Art Department, Holy Fuck, Austra, Azari & III, The Weeknd, Crystal Castles, XI). It's also good to see the diversity of electronic talent brewing in good ol' Tee Oh. Indeed, and sometimes ad nauseum, Toronto's diversity is credited as one of its great strengths. Cliché or not, when it comes to producing producers, the city's healthy balance between mainstream and underground as well as the intricate web that supports every scene, sub/culture and genre only serves to flavour and tweak our up-and-comers.
While every music ecosystem needs its die hard gendarmes de genre, there are equally as many who take a more "open relationship" approach to production, seeing splendour in all sounds and incorporating a varied range of elements for a more complex and layered artistic product, a trend that is gaining notice and acclaim as the city produces more and more world-class artists. And not surprisingly so, given Toronto's super-hyper-multi-cultural atmosphere, a near clash-less milieu where cultures, interests and proclivities cross, inter-mingle and collaborate with relative ease.
Toronto's tendency towards inclusion has seen producers embrace the erasure of cultural lines and musical genres, making way for selectors to drop every possible permutation of world music into the mix -- from Tropical Dancehall, Break Beat and Balkan to Electro Swing, Tech House, Indo Gypsy and beyond. Toronto's electronic scene is also enjoying more mash-ups of art, theatrics and multi-media than ever before, with one-night-only events taking cues from larger festivals and happenings by incorporating installations, performance art and interactivity into a night's unfolding.
Over the past year, Toronto has lost a number of its well-known producing artists to outward migration. Noah Pred, Jamie Kidd and others flew the coop to pursue projects in Berlin, while iLL.GATES left for San Francisco to make serious headway in his own right and collaborate with Bassnectar. But Toronto-the-Good doesn't dwell. It maintains a healthy practice of non-attachment, proud of those who go on to greatness and confident that the next big thing is already incubating.
Here's a list of local acts we should all be excited about - some are poised to blow up, others just doing their duty to keep Toronto honest and interesting.
For over ten years, Jonah K has been one of the most sought-after DJs in Toronto's underground electronic scene. He has an insatiable hunger for experimentation, which has seen him take a distinctive and dexterous approach to Dubstep, championing the genre as a producer here in Toronto. Combining the best of Deep Dubstep and Drum & Bass, with the odd world influence thrown in for good measure, his music is haunting and cinematic with live DJ sets that are nothing short of relentless: Piercing, heaving, bass-heavy and cripplingly beautiful.
His two latest EP releases landed him on Mixmag and Beatport DJ charts and, with great acclaim from Ninja Tune's Solid Steel Radio, Skream, Tes La Rok, Generation Bass, Dov, Laurent Garnier, Dj Allbury of Rinse FM, and Shelley Parker, Jonah K is fast becoming one to watch. He has played internationally and can regularly be found at events across Canada sharing the stage with the likes of Beats Antique, iLL.Gates, Heyoka, Eskmo, Sub Swara, Deadbeat, Mimosa and David Starfire. His new album, Metal & Bone, will be released on Permanent Damage Records August 6th but you can catch him live on Friday July 13th at Drop Festival.
A shining example of Toronto's musical diversity is LAL who also perform together as Murr, ft Rosina. Their work plays with, disassembles, ignores and elevates the bounds of genre, collaborating with a wide range of artists and pulling influences from Hip Hop, Drum & Bass, House, Worldbeat, Techno and Down Tempo. Between the two projects Rosina Kazi, Nicholas Murray and Ian De Souza have opened for Tricky, Digable Planets and Terry Callier, have worked with K-OS and Thunderheist, have released on New Kanada and received rave reviews.
And while you may come to like LAL for the deep, breathy vocals, engaging lyrics, rich and detailed compositions, and for their energetic, playful and genuine live performances, you may come to love them for their commitment to using music as a tool of non-oppression, for the fact that they make albums that mean something and for their being living proof that music can transcend enemy lines and harmful beliefs to generate ideas about how we can help every people be better people. Just when you thought electronic music was all glow sticks and after-hours. LAL leave this week for a summer tour that will take them to Germany and throughout India but you can catch them on their return at The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre fundraiser in August.
Nautiluss, (Graham Douglas Bertie) is working hard and touring lots and though technically a Montreal native, he now calls Toronto home. Rested and redirected after an overwhelming spell of notoriety as one half of Thunderheist, he is touring his solo project to huge acclaim. Also a fan of genre-bending, he seems to build on 4four foundations but deftly weaves elements more commonly found in broken [beat] styles into his music - eerie samples, sinister synths, dark, rumbling rhythms. According to reports back from Mutek this past weekend he tore up Montreal, impressing techheads and bassorexics alike and securing his position on "one-to-watch" lists almost everywhere. Including this one. He just played Toronto last month with Jacques Greene and Alex Charleton. Be on the look out for more shows forthcoming.
A tireless supporter committed to growing the pool of local electronic music talent, Nick Coghlin (aka Niko) hosts the ever-popular Weekly Dose on dubplate.fm with the view to champion Toronto and its global contributions. With an extensive background in classical and jazz piano this Dubstep producer doesn't just write songs, he creates compositions, complex and beautiful, balancing artful influences with sick, sick beats. He's collaborated with iLL.GATES and others, can regularly be found hitting 40Hz and cirQlar stages and has recently shared the bill with Cyrus, Heyoka, Silkie, VibesquaD and XI, throwing down dynamic and danceable sets. Catch him on The Weekly Dose every Wednesday 8-10pm and live at the Roy Thompson Stage for Luminato Festival this Sunday June 10th from 7-11pm.
There is nothing in the world quite like Squid Lid. Kind of like Polyphonic Spree without the bath salts, the Toronto band, comprised of James "Zirco" Fisher, Warner Reshife and vocalist Chloe Dellark, have created something totally unique. Far from gimmick, the project is built on a foundation of solid releases that weave elements from Industrial, Electro-House, Worldbeat, Dubstep and Circus for a wild, weird, and wonderful ride. But it's their unforgettable live performances that truly blow audiences away. Inviting various theatrical and experiential elements with signature staging, installations, costumes and roving characters, Squid Lid is both Festival favourite and top-in-town for a fun, circus-sideshow feel that doesn't disappoint on the dance floor.
Writing by Naoise Hefferon. Photo of Niko by Andrija Dimitrjevic