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Billboard Dance Emerging Artists: December 2019

HAAi
Imogene Barron

HAAi

The deep winter edition of Billboard Dance's Emerging Artists series is delivering five hot new acts for these cold, dark days. Whether your sound is techno, bass or straight-up rave music with an old-school edge, there's a sonic gift to unwrap under this metaphorical tree. Let's dig in. 

HAAi

Metal and punk dance crossovers gets a lot of attention these days, but Australian-born, London-based HAAi uses her psych band roots to massive techno effect. Teneil Throssell was a singer and guitarist before a serendipitous trip to Berghain changed her life; soon after, she started a U.K. party series called Coconut Beats, which led to shows on Rinse and Worldwide FM.

In 2017, her tune “Be Good” set the tone of her sound; a six-and-a-half-minute sonic sprawl inches night moods over heartbeat bass. Her 2018 Essential Mix worked tracks by Axel Bowman, The Black Madonna and a Trentmoller remix of Bruce Springsteen to become Pete Tong's favorite of the year. That distinction earned her a show on BBC Radio 1 which continues into 2020. She's played Sonar Fest, Glastonbury, and Boiler Room, but it's her original material that pushes her star potential.

In November, she doubled down on synthetic psychedelia with her six-track Mute Records debut, Systems Up, Windows Down. The EP opens with the warm crackle of a well-loved vinyl into the rev of her stepdad's 1960s Mustang. “Don't Flatter Yourself Love” grabs you by the collar with undulating synths, followed by a frenetic breakbeat rhythm and two-tone bass line that pulls you along for the ride. She finds melody in cacophony on “Stop Looking At Me Swan,” hits hard and heavy on “6666,” brings the club to the jungle on “Chonkiboi,” lets her freak flag fly on “It's Something We Can All Learn From” and finishes in a blinding cybernetic blaze on the titular closing track. Keep your ears peeled for a forthcoming album. -- KAT BEIN

Syr

Polish native and Berlin-based producer Vonda7 is putting aside her peak time, hard-hitting techno to explore the more melodic side of her productions with a brand new project. Teaming up with her brother Rob, the sibling duo have come together as Syr to share their electronica-leaning creations, which feel light and exuberant, offering a bright contrast to Vonda7’s typical dark and nightclub ready sound.

Syr’s debut will arrive on the art | werk label on Dec. 13 in the form of a two-track EP called Little Wonders. Both the title track and “111” demonstrate the duo’s extensive musical backgrounds -- Rob's in sound design and Sylwia's as a seasoned producer -- with blooming synthscapes and hazy vocals, all masterfully crafted to create a dreamy atmosphere all of its own. -- V. Lee

Blessus

Who are Blessus? The world might not know the identities of the mysterious duo just yet, but based on the production levels of their few releases, fans who have speculated that the group is likely a new project from a pair of prominent solo artists in the electronic space are definitely onto something.

Making their debut on “Here 4 U,” a collaboration with Alison Wonderland for her Awake album, Blessus have already received support from Baauer, RL Grime and Los Angeles-based party crew Brownies & Lemonade, who tend to have an eye for up-and-coming dance acts, especially in the trap space. The duo recently released a dazzling original called “Elephant,” an appropriately sized title for the fervent track, which came paired with a captivating music video featuring a crew of eclectic characters. Whoever Blessus may be will be left for the duo to reveal in time, but with a full album’s worth of material ready to release, trust that we will be finding out much more from them in 2020. -- VALERIE LEE 

Of the Trees

Bass music seems like an unnatural habitat for delicate sounds of a bird warble or a trickling stream, but for Of The Trees, the found sounds of the natural world outside the studio end up being as moving as the computer-generated beats that rattle your subwoofers. 

Up from the icy depths of Portland, ME, Of the Trees' nearly decade-old project first swooped into view via a Bassnectar remix EP in 2015. But the bass producer born Tyler Coomb didn’t really start shaking the branches until this year. In April, he signed with Boulder-based management Madison House. Just last week, he announced he’d be playing his Electric Forest in 2020 — which Madison House co-produces — on its ten-year anniversary this June.

But even if Of The Trees drops the bass in Electric Forest and no one hears it, expect him to make noise: He’ll follow the drop of his new EP Tanglewood (out Dec. 12) with a slew of big gigs, including shows with French producer CloZee and bass OG Minnesota. -- DYLAN OWENS

Prospa

In the ‘90s, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers were rave gods who brought fire-starting, block-rockin’ energy to sweat misfits and adrenaline junkies out of their JNCOs. At 21 years old, Prospa (aka Harvey Blumler and Gosha Smith) are too young to have experienced these pioneering acts -- who are the Leeds duo’s primary musical influences -- during their heyday, but they’re bringing rave euphoria in their own way.

Though Blumer and Smith have been producing together since 2013, it was only a few years ago that they went all-in on classic dance after experimenting with, and eventually tiring of, deep house. Tipped by Pete Tong and Annie Mac as artists to watch, in October of 2018 Prospa was entrusted with re-launching the storied ‘90s label Stress Records with their single “Prayer” -- a gamble when a less-established act is concerned, but one that paid off and put both parties on the map. Subsequent tracks “Intended,” “Get That” and “Back to the Motherland” echoed the duo’s visceral, rave-ready M.O. via larger-than-life synths, acid, breakbeats and chopped vocal samples, all skewed just left of center to burrow in the brain’s deepest folds.

Now settled into their sound, Prospa recently launched their own Rave Science imprint with Control the Party, a trio of dripping warehouse workouts whose title track isn’t just an anthem for the dancers, but for the DJs who hold the life of the party -- the music -- in their hands. With gigs at Creamfields, ADE and Parklife already under their belt, Prospa looks to conquer new territory in 2020 with bookings at Holy Ship, San Diego’s CRSSD, Austria’s Snowbombing, Annie Mac’s Lost & Found festival in Malta and a trio of club shows in January and February. -- KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ

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