LWE’s Top 5 Breakout Artists of 2008

For our third year end column, LWE staff writer Colin Shields highlights his top five breakout artists of 2008.

2008 has been an exciting year for electronic music in many ways, not least because the means of production and distribution have become so thoroughly democratized. Some focus on the cookie-cutter, “Abletonized” records in which this can result, but the flip side is the bevy of producers who have burst onto the scene with individual sound palettes and fully fledged sonic signatures. Two years ago only a few four/four auteurs seemed to grab widespread attention, with homogeneous productions getting more sales and club play. Things have gone all the way in the other direction now. Dozens of scenes located around a very specific sound, and often a specific place, vie for attention, without any one coming out on top.

Perhaps the fractured nature of clubland in 2008 is what has resulted in the aimlessness or lethargy commentators like Philip Sherburne have perceived. What it has also ensured, though, is that those producers who sound unlike any others have received a whole lot of attention, and this state of affairs has been favorable to a few acts who were more than ready to leap into the fray with distinctive and adventurous productions. It’s not an exaggeration to say a lot of the best records of this year have come from fresh-faced producers. Although none of these picks started releasing records in 2008, they have all increased their output frequency and released on more widely distributed labels this year. What’s more, they have all come into their own in a way that’s made a big splash in the last twelve months and which firmly suggests great things can be expected in years to come.

Peter Van Hoesen
…is no new kid on the block. The Brussels-based producer has released under the names Vanno, Object and RM for years, and his experience with electronic music goes all the way back to 1998 in relation to audio-visual art. On the website for his new label, Time To Express, he is a keen advocate for a range of cutting edge techno artists, from Belgium to Birmingham and further afield. His sensitivity to a wide array of sounds and his sensibilities from years spent as a sonic explorer outside the bounds of conventional techno make for a heady experience on this year’s releases under his own name. They live up to his promise to “yearn for playback in cavernous, sweaty spaces, where throbbing bass and deep heartbeats collide.” All his tracks are, indeed, a sweaty mess, and not all of them emerge intact. The best moments, however, have been extraordinary. The heaving mass of “Empire In Decline” sucks the listener down a sleazy techno vortex, whereas “Casual Care” freezes them in their tracks with its unsympathetic glare. Here’s to 6 A.M.

…pull off what so many try and so few can do: interdisciplinary dance music. In interviews they are coy, saying they stumbled on to electronic music after trying all other kinds and finding they needed to be “too serious” or that “there weren’t enough girls.” It’s probably this attitude that allowed the Parisian house experimentalists to capture so many ears of late. Not only do they cover jazz records, sing on everything and play instruments, they do it all with an accomplished, self-regarding rock and roll swagger. Many dance producers let the studiousness with which they employ exotic combinations of instruments and beats shine through. dOP, on the other hand, hide their competence behind a thin yet un-tearable skin of drunkenness, sloppiness, and fun. dOP make you feel like you’re listening to warts and all, ad-hoc concoctions of everything and the kitchen sink. At the same time, their perfect arrangements tangle then untangle without missing a beat. The combination’s magic.

…are two strictly anonymous producers currently resident in Manchester. I’m told they hail from parts of the world quite a ways from there, but whether this is more than rumor is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that, despite remaining faceless and nameless, they are no longer hiding in plain sight, thanks to a top-flight RA podcast. Their productions on their own Meanwhile imprint have been quietly appearing since 2004, and their hesitancy to seek the spotlight has ensured that they’ve had plenty of time to incubate a distinctive sound. That sound is firmly in touch with the dub techno style that has been dominant in Manchester this year. Whereas stellar forerunners like Echospace put out records that are sometimes dreamy and ponderous, Murmur keep more than a little bit of house-tinged accessibility in their tracks. Their performances are as good as their 12″ output, and Meanwhile, which they run with comrade-in-arms Bovill, is also quickly becoming a magnet for the best of the new guard of dub techno. Quantec, Bvdub, and Sven Weisemann have all graced the grooves of their records; Murmur, however, have shown themselves to be more than worthy of that stiff competition.

Kassem Mosse
…first caught my attention with the superb “Workshop 03” EP. The rusty bass line on the A side is one of the simplest and most satisfying hooks that I own on wax. On the flip, it took me a while to be certain that I was playing the record at the right speed. The two ultra-slow grooves were every bit as confounding as the A side was immediately satisfying. It’s that second side of his productions that he returned to for a flurry of activity late this year. “Aqueous Haze (The World Disappears Into An)” abandoned the fuzzy, rough-around-the-edges style many Mosse records used, but built the same tension between groove and abstraction. That tension is built on Mosse records with ever-changing idioms. The frustratingly slow developments on Workshop and the frantic evolution of “No Peace No Love No Unity” both perplex because they never manage to scuttle the groove that flows underneath the rest. Those idioms, however, all seem to convey the same meaning, and although that meaning always proves elusive, it also intrigues and captivates. It will be a treat to hear how one of the most beguiling sounds in techno proceeds from here.

…known to his friends as San Francisco’s Brock Van Wey, has had a stunning year. Stumbling across his releases on Styrax, Meanwhile, and Millions of Moments feels like meeting an old friend. Wey’s combination of stepping rhythms and peaceful melodies that distill the spectrum of a rainbow into a few notes is so natural that encountering elicits feelings of familiarity or recognition. In reality, there’s nothing familiar about them: Wey has only been producing since late 2007. In that time, he has managed to produce dance tracks which are beautiful. Titles like “Requited Love” and “A Moment’s Peace” speak of emotions which Bvdub’s tracks really do give us a taste. In this way, he has already launched himself into rarefied territory. If 2009 is as rich a year for him as was 2008, he may earn a place among the all-time greats.

jason  on December 16, 2008 at 9:28 PM

dOP: seconded

sam500  on December 17, 2008 at 12:31 AM

PVH is a pretty special DJ too. He rocked it at Labyrinth earlier this year.

chrisdisco  on December 17, 2008 at 3:18 AM

a very well thought through and put together list. no complaints, and strongly agree with peter van hoesen and bvdub.

james kartsaklis  on December 17, 2008 at 7:16 AM

this is a really awesome list. good idea and def agreed with all the selections here.

Jamie  on December 17, 2008 at 11:17 AM

I would also put my vote for Luke Hess.

chrisdisco  on December 17, 2008 at 1:50 PM

yeah, i guess the only problem with the list is that it could easily be much longer!

littlewhiteearbuds  on December 17, 2008 at 2:08 PM

Indeed. If I could add one producer, it would be (no surprise) Paul Frick. Great first impression this year and hopefully even better things to come in 2009.

colin s  on December 17, 2008 at 3:46 PM

So hard to narrow this down. Luke Hess has been amazing, ditto Ben Klock, and quite a few dubsteppers.

Spoiled for choice this year!

harpomarx42  on December 17, 2008 at 6:22 PM

I approve of this list.

kuri  on December 18, 2008 at 11:51 AM

BV Dub and Murmur seconded. keep you eye out for Kyle Hall though too-the kid is talented.

kuri  on December 18, 2008 at 11:52 AM

Forgot to mention Lerosa and Lee Holman too. Both are killing it.

Nightowl  on December 20, 2008 at 10:45 AM

what about arto mwambé? their brontosaurus releases 006 (hum along) and 009 (ouverture antenne) during the last month and the outstanding remix for télémetric by telespazio were on heavy rotation too. or, do you think, that arto mwambé’s a 2007 break out artist due to its mudhutma ep?

kassem mosse, murmur, bvdub with a more or less dubbed out soundscape in 2008 – so, what are the predictions for 2009?

littlewhiteearbuds  on December 20, 2008 at 11:00 AM

For me, Arto were 2007 artists who had a great 2008. I wish I owned both of those singles. I bet they have a fantastic 2009 as well.

littlewhiteearbuds  on December 20, 2008 at 10:59 PM

Yyou heard it hear first: Ben Klock will rule 2009, starting with his single and followed by his album. Again, though, he’s releasing early in the year. Here’s hoping it has the momentum to ride it into the year’s end.

Nightowl  on December 21, 2008 at 1:44 PM

@ littlewhiteearbuds: okay…yeah, i guess they will have an outstanding year 2009. hope to catch them on january the 31st in freiburg (ger.) where they will play live and together with rainer trüby.

ben klock – agreed. and there’s another artist i will focus on: martin stimming. he will release his first artist album in 2009 too.

Damian  on December 25, 2008 at 1:03 PM

I was lucky enough to grow up listening to one half of Murmur play the most amazing sets back in the old days in his native country. He opened up our ears to real quality and has to be the most fluid DJ I’ve ever heard. So glad to see him making an impression – he deserves it.

bvdub  on February 4, 2009 at 10:08 PM

whaaaaaa? i just saw this. wow, thanks guys :) it’s an honor…



Peter Van Hoesen, Attribute One EP - Little White Earbuds  on May 13, 2009 at 10:25 PM

[…] noted fans, the audiences they decimated with his tracks were just as keen, and he easily topped LWE’s breakout artists list. Van Hoesen seems poised to leave his mark on 2009 as well, starting with the “Attribute One […]

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