The top 5 downtempo, electronica and underground producers in the world right now
It would be all too easy to call this category ‘other electronic music', such is the stranglehold of the likes of house and techno on the charts. However, that would be doing such a diverse category a disservice.
From downtempo beats to lo-fi treats, there is plenty of electronic juiciness for you to tuck into, but which five artists got the most votes in this year’s poll?
The MusicRadar Best in music tech awards 2017 are brought to you in association with Softube - Tools for the Audio Professional
5. The XX
With their 2010 debut, London three-piece The XX brought a crisp, minimal sound back to pop music that felt like a reaction to the over compressed tracks that were flooding the radio at the time.
With their latest LP, they’ve flipped the formula on its head again, replacing that stark coldness with a melodic, upbeat new sound built around vintage pop samples and house-inspired beats.
Rather than feeling like them betraying their roots though, this reinvention simply cements the trio – and particularly beatmaker Jamie Smith – as one of the UK’s most dexterous acts in UK pop music.
As Future Music’s meme-worthy 2014 studio tour proved, Dutch producer Legowelt – aka Danny Wolfers – is a man who really likes his classic synthesizers.
What sets Wolfers apart from other synth heads, however, is that where others are mere collectors of vintage sounds, he is a relentless experimenter; clearly obsessed with pushing classic gear to create weird new sonics and thoroughly off kilter grooves.
3. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
The cynics out there often claim that modular synthesis involves a whole lot of work just to create a few soulless squelches and bleeps. Well Buchla-loving musician Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is here to prove them wrong.
With her excellent new album, The Kid, the California-based synthesist has created an utterly entrancing cocktail of Terry Riley-esque percussive patterns, polyrhythmic synth melodies and effects-drenched new age vocals. One that is undeniably technically impressive, but first and foremost routed in mood and melody.
2. Throwing Snow
Ross Tones’ 2017 album Embers is a masterwork of detailed, meticulously designed electronic music.
Built upon a backdrop of synth ambience and otherworldly textures, the album is structured like a cyclical journey, rising and falling on a backbone of futuristic beats and pulsing synths, before coming to rest back where it began.
Few electronic in recent years albums can claim to be so well thought out and executed.
1. Four Tet
Arguably more so than ever before, with this year’s New Energy, Kieran Hebden created a record that sounds like no other electronic producer out there right now.
Combining classic house and techno drums with skittish found sounds, mangled acoustic timbres and infectious melodies, the sound of Four Tet in 2017 has a multi-layered depth to it that feels head-and-shoulders ahead of most of his peers.
What’s perhaps surprising then, is the minimal set-up used to create it – Hebden revealed via Twitter that the LP was created using little more than a laptop and basic MIDI controller, with Spectrasonics’ powerhouse plugin Omnisphere handling the bulk of synth duties.