Vancouver’s underground music scene has been a major player in the indie and punk world for years, claiming everyone from the New Pornographers to White Lung as their own. In recent years, however, the city’s reputation as a breeding ground for musical visionaries has expanded into the world of electronic music.
Though there have always been major electronic players calling Vancouver home, the city’s latest crop are doing wonders with their equipment by deconstructing techno, bringing back ’90s house, and exploring some seriously weird sonic territory. Thanks to labels like Mood Hut, Hybridity, and 1080p, along with smaller online boutiques like the ASL Singles Club, Vancouver is ushering in a new era of dance music.
Here’s a guide to just some of the fascinating new producers making the west coast come alive, though let this serve as more of a jump-off point for some deep Soundcloud digging—these artists are surrounded by talented, likeminded individuals.
Pender Street Steppers
At the forefront of Vancity’s electronic renaissance is the Mood Hut collective, a network of producers and performers with a penchant for forward-thinking musical ideas. The collective’s own Pender Street Steppers is comprised of Liam Butler and Jack Jutson, both of whom used to perform in the Vancouver indie pop group No Gold. Earlier this year, they released a pair of 12-inches in Openin’ Up, via PPU, and Bubble World via Mood Hut. Both showed that these guys are capable of making truly singular electronic music. And in a genre with so many uniform sounds, their creative approach is more than welcome—it’s needed.
Another Mood Hut mainstay making waves is Hashman Deejay. Though he was born on Vancouver Island, the producer has made himself right at home with his blissed-out productions. Less tied to genre than his own visionary aesthetic, Hashman Deejay is an adept performer with a smart ear. The artist made blissed-out magic on his Tangerine 12-inch, which arrived via the hotly tipped Washington, DC label Future Times earlier this year.
Like the chemical pipe cleaner he’s named after, Bobby Draino will unclog any misconceptions about the limitations of electronic music. The prolific house and techno explorer never shies away from unique ideas, nor is he afraid of coating his beats in a thick layer of distortion. The result is a batch of addictive releases (via labels like 1080p and Los Angeles’ 100% Silk) equally suited to dance floors and home listening.
If you need further proof that Draino works outside of genre, just look at his resume—when he’s not helping reinvent the wheel with noisy house excursions, he plays drums in the impossibly great fuzz-punk band Weed.
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The 1080p Collection, a cassette and digital label based in Vancouver, is good for finding new, weird sounds the world over, though it’s not without a solid local showing. Along with Draino and the visionary post-swag rap god Young Braised, the label recently released Much Less Normal, a new release from Vancouver producer LNRDCROY (a.k.a. Leon Campbell). A disciple of all things electronic, the release offers vague fragments of techno, house, and early IDM, though it’s all drenched in lo-fi production and warm washes of ambient synth. In other words, it’s pure aural pleasure.
Vancouver-based producer Markus Garcia was once a member of the beloved duo LOL Boys alongside Jerome LOL. The laughing out loud eventually ended, however, and he now makes solo music under the name Heartbeat(s). He’s released music via 1080p and helps run the ASL Singles Club, a digital-only label with a stark black-and-white aesthetic and some t-shirts that’d also suit a hard-hitting hardcore band.
There’s no Integ-worship or Terror-style mosh calls in Heartbeat(s)’ music, however. Instead, it’s some sleek, sexy house music that pays tribute to the vintage sounds birthed in Chicago and Detroit.
Garcia runs ASL Singles Club with the help of Patrick Holland, who previously made music as 8prn and is now making waves as Project Pablo. The artist makes wonderfully danceable house music with nods to the ’90s, but there’s something a little more utilitarian about his work. After all, his brand new 12-inch Utensils sees him writing songs named after the items he finds in his kitchen.
Though deconstructed and lovingly appropriated dance music tropes are the name of the game for many Vancouver producers, there are also people making magic outside of house and techno realms. Producer Eli Muro runs Jellyfish Recordings and drops freaky beat music under his own name. Elements of hip-hop and jazz collide with cut-up samples in his decidedly experimental, though routinely sensual, tracks.