Coronavirus

5 Emerging Dance Artists Who You Need to Know About This Month: May 2020

Tiff Williams
Tiff Williams

Ninajirachi

Quarantine is prime time for music discovery, especially now that so many of us have some extra time on our hands to explore new sounds as we shelter in place. So get out of the rut of those old standby playlists and inject your catalog with some fresh heat, courtesy of these five up-and-coming dance artists whose art you really should know this month.

Ninajirachi

There's really nothing we don't like about Australian producer Ninajirachi. Her music has a shimmery, fractal, fantastical quality balanced with the toughness of bass that bangs in a way that makes you want to get off your butt and get moving. It's a memorable amalgamation outfitted with resonant melodies and lyrics sung by the artist herself.

Hailing from Australia's Central Coast, the 20-year-old producer has been simmering for years: Her 2017 debut track "Pure Luck" (with Fraya Staer) was the year's second most played song of the year on Australia's influential radio station triple j, she co-produced the anthem for the 2019 Women's World Cup, dropped a mix for BBC Radio 1's Diplo and Friends series, made official edits for artists heavyweights including Anna Lunoe and Flight Facilities, and toured with Crooked Colours, Hermitude and What So Not, playing Australia's biggest music festival Splendour in the Grass.

That's not all. Tomorrow (May 8) she also drops her new single "Blumiere," a propulsive, fiercely feminine thrill ride that's the title track from Ninajirachi's forthcoming sophomore EP, coming on June 5 via Nina Las Vegas NLV Records. -- KATIE BAIN

Duke & Jones

It's hard to pin down Duke & Jones' sound to one genre, given that the rising U.K. duo switch it up on every other release. One second you're cruising down the highway on a downtempo midnight ride ("Easy") or drifting through the clouds in a lucid daydream ("Self-Isolate"), only to have your insides shredded with some rumbling low-end subs ("Escape") and pummeling dubstep ("Coming Down," with Sikdope).

No matter the genre, what remains consistent is the duo's textured sound design and exploratory sounds. Hailing from Manchester, Duke & Jones have been making waves over the past few years, with their shape-shifting sound landing them major releases with key imprints Spinnin', Thrive, Barong Family and Circus, among others. Add this to remixes for superstars such as Dillon Francis and Alison Wonderland, Louis the Child and Party Favor.

Duke & Jones keep the experimental spirit alive on their forthcoming Solace EP, dropping this month on Deadbeats, Zeds Dead's tastemaker label, which has been a regular home for the group since 2018. Solace also keeps you guessing about where it's going next: Previously released single "Surrender" delivers laser-cut dubstep, "Detox" offers minimalistic trap beats, while "VHS" is a bass-heavy head-trip.

Up next for Duke & Jones is a slate of major collabs with Yellow Claw, Slushii and a few other big-name acts. Word on the street is they've also been in the studio with Marshmello, a team-up that's bound to pop off all (digital) festival season long. -- JOHN OCHOA 

Kloud

In the COVID-19 quarantine age, capitalist structures are breaking down while we find ourselves more dependent on technology than ever. What better time to deep-dive into the work of a masked producer who depicts themselves as a sentient A.I. breaking free from the evil corporation that birthed them?

The full Kloud backstory is shared in the “Exit Alive” video, which we wrote about last summer, and while it's incredibly cinematic and intriguing, a mask and a good backstory does not a great artist make. It's Kloud's dark, stormy, bass-heavy but groovEable productions that have us hooked. This A.I. is young, but consistent. The analog synth sounds hit somewhere between industrial house and slamming techno. They've already dropped two EPs this year, the second of which, Synthesize, came out the top of this month. It's sensual and mechanical, exploring the shadowed intersection of man and machine where Kloud makes a home. The visuals are 100 percent Kloud-made, and the latest video for single “Insane” will both turn you on and give you nightmares.

Kloud is signed to Lowly Records, and we know they're working on big things when quarantine ends and tours begin. Keep an eye and an ear on this smart tech. -- KAT BEIN

Franky Wah

As the saying goes, you have to know where you’ve been in order to know where you’re going. Back in March, Yorkshire DJ/producer Franky Wah posted on Instagram photos of the first CD he ever bought (the Best Club Anthems Summer 2002 compilation) and the first mixed CD he made when he was 9 years old, a time capsule of ‘90s and early-2000s dance floor anthems such as “Universal Nation” and, of course, “Sandstorm.”

Early on in his production career, Wah cycled through a number of projects and genres to some success, but when he settled back into the old-school sounds of his youth, he hit his stride. Whether he’s pulling from piano house, trance, breaks or garage, Wah’s music swells with a melodic nostalgia that feels both euphoric and melancholy, like the fading last song of a magical all-nighter.

In the last year, he’s signed to Ministry of Sound Recordings, played iconic UK festivals Glastonbury and Creamfields, remixed Duke Dumont and was declared one of Pete Tong’s Future Stars for 2020. Wah’s latest single, “Come Together,” is currently blowing up on BBC Radio 1 with support from presenter powerhouses Tong, Annie Mac and Danny Howard, in the lead-up to his mixtape, The Revival Volume 1, out May 29. -- Krystal Rodriguez

Bearcubs

Jackie Ritchie is Bearcubs, a producer and singer who has been rightfully nominated the newest must listen for fans of downtempo, electronic-bending artists such as James Blake and Jamie xx. On May 15, Bearcubs will release his second full-length album, Early Hours. The LP is dreamy and iridescent; upbeat with afro and house tones on tracks such as "Même Langue" and "Everyplace Is Life" and elsewhere, slow-burning and melancholic with "Screentime" and "DLT."

Ritchie, based in Berlin by way of London, aims to address the convoluted nature of human connections on Early Hours. Though created pre-quarantine, he's continued the theme with the single release of "Everyplace Is Life." "[The song] is about little moments that happen around us everyday," Bearcubs wrote in a tweet, asking fans to send in clips of their everyday routines at home. (The clips will eventually be used to create a communal music video.)

Social distancing restrictions willing, Bearcubs is set to tour Europe in the fall, with stops in Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, London and beyond. -- VALERIE LEE

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