Quick question: Which artists truly smashed it in 2021?
Short answer: Way too many people to mention! It’s been an exceptional year for forward-thinking music.
Longer answer: these artists below, as picked by the UKF editorial team, are some of the hundreds of talented souls in the bass world who’ve gone out of their way to push themselves, push boundaries and create new and exciting sounds…
It’s always a bountiful year to be an Amon Tobin fan. Last year, for example, he served up a spread that ranged from the gnarled electroid beats and bass of his Two Fingers album Fight! Fight! Fight! to the mesmerisations of his cosmic faraway folk alias Figueroa. Both were incredibly fitting for the turbulent times.
2021 has been just as fruitful. If not more as Tobin has once again donned all the right caps on all the right occasions. As that vicious third lockdown bit down hard, so did he with the dramatic Two Fingers weapon Seesayer. It was swiftly followed by the epic grunge fusion embedded above – Rise To Ashes which joined the dots between the 60s, 90s and 2020s with distorted, cosmic mischief.
Later came his Stone Giants project. A psychedelic escapade that focuses almost solely around his voice, the Stone Giants debut album West Coast Love Stories eased us into the summer with outer-planetary allure and provided an ideal soundtrack to the travelling we were finally able to do again.
In true Tobin style, it was backed up by yet more dispatches, included a return to his garage rock inspired alias Only Child Tyrant and another album; his (I think) 10th studio Amon Tobin LP How Do You Live. A horse-fronted trip that ties together some of the many strands and strains Tobin has been weaving with for well over 20 bountiful years. (Dave Columbo Jenkins)
Big up Bou – this year has seen him really come to the forefront of the drum and bass scene, particularly with all the new music he churns out constantly and his relentless sets. I’ve been lucky to see him play at a few festivals and events and his sets are always unbelievable. His most recent release with High Contrast, Don’t Need You is a perfect example of his versatility as an artist – he has collaborated with a whole host of people over the years but this could be my favourite one yet – the track perfectly blends Bou and High Contrast’s signature sounds together with just the right balance of both.
He is definitely a favourite of mine this year not just because of his ridiculous production skills, but he has to get a special mention for his DNB 4 Peace project. DNB 4 Peace – The Charity LP, is a collection of 62 tracks, all donated from some of the most exciting drum & bass artists imaginable to support the Medicins Sans Frontieres’ work in Palestine, with all proceeds from the sale of the album going to them. A great idea and a wonderful way of using his platform, and music, to help an extremely important cause and raised over £30,000 in the process. And if that’s not quite enough, he also launched his own label Gossip this year and he’s just announced his biggest show to date at E1 in London next March. There’s been no stopping him this year and I’m excited to see what he’s got in store for us in 2022. (Louise Lake)
Wow, somebody was busy this year! Disrupta has absolutely rattled out releases throughout 2021 and barely come up for breath, with his sound developing and diversifying along the way. From summer scorcher ‘Like the Sun’ to collabs with DRS, Duskee and Waeys, this newcomer is not so new anymore as he solidifies himself amongst some of the biggest names in drum and bass right now. Two EPs and many singles later, Disrupta is positively thriving, with his tunes blessing a catalogue of labels such as Hospital Records, V Recordings and Onyx Recordings.
Donning a refreshed style of smooth liquid and head-wobbling rollers, Disrupta has had one of the biggest and best work rates of the year. What is most exciting is that this is only the beginning of his drum and bass journey, and the bar is already set pretty high… (Hannah Gowen)
Surfing on the algorithm of online music streaming can often lead to wonderful discoveries. This certainly is true with Esseks. Five of his tracks went into my favourites list this year.
Admittedly it’s credit long overdue when looking back now at his long standing streak in the electronic (bass) music scene. Especially since the brilliantly diverse The Villains Journey album on Deadbeats isn’t his first one. Or the first release from the Brooklyn based and multi talented bassline-wizard for that matter.
2021 not only saw the arrival of his third solo album, this release also marked his very first vinyl pressing. What’s more: the cover-art of The Villains Journey is something Esseks himself created, thus also became his first in being immortalised like this.
More than 90 tracks/projects, dating back as far as nine years, can be listened to on his Soundcloud. A fair portion arrived in 2021. And guess what? Almost all of it can be downloaded for shenanigans of your choosing. You can simply donate as much as you decide to say thank you.
Despite his unmistakable signature sound, Esseks’ music differs wildly. He smashed through countless ceilings to arrive at this level of expressiveness. The different works in styles like dubstep, glitch and electronic music add up into a versatile and fitting whole. One that oftentimes swings so fucking well.
Anticipations for 2022 are already quite high: thirty demos have been processed and ‘set free’ this winter. So there’s definitely more to come from Esseks in the near future, too. Big up. (Michael Janiec)
Wow, what a year it’s been for Hyroglifics – excelling across a plethora of tempos and sounds has always been his forte, but this year he’s really taken it to a new level. For a producer who’s always got something new, fresh and varied in the locker, it’s safe to say it’s been yet another stellar year for Gliffy.
So, where to begin? He’s been back on his home of Critical with a number of crackling efforts, namely his collaborative Mercy & Misery / Clubcard two-tracker with AC13, and more recently with his Forlorn EP, which treated us to more of those yearning, quintessential pads & atmospherics on Waiting, and the aptly-titled, heavily-supported smasher Dancefloor Friendly Club Track. Drum & bass-wise, we were also treated to the fantastic Dog Town, dropping in May via Flexout Audio – a collection of high-octane riddims that continue to cement Hyroglifics’ place as one of the go-to artistic bastions for flavour and style.
And, if you’re familiar with Hyroglifics, you know he’s got many, many strings to his bow, and that’s where I’ve been further impressed this year. 2021 has seen him lean further into drill production with partner-in-crime Sam Binga, launching their SNM Records imprint with top-drawer vocal efforts from sbakarma (Take Those Risks), CastroTRU (Samurai Jack) and more. Elsewhere, the incredible output continued with gnarly Drone-collaboration Faded on V.I.V.E.K’s leading SYSTEM imprint, GSC on 20/20 LDN’s stacked Hyperkicks EP and his remix of Binga’s Drop That, Pop That; a booming 4×4 workout if I’ve ever seen one.
The real icing cake is his full-length LP with Lee Scott – [gate clicks shut] – a mammoth effort that’s packed full of glorious productions and vocal features. We’re lucky to have him! (Cal Sorensen)
“Show me, show me”… Chances are you read that in either a pitched up, or pitched down voice, and if you’ve been to any raves the past few years, chances are you’ve heard these 2 sweet words echo through a sound system alongside some warm, rumbling bass as a highly-coveted dub… A dub I didn’t even know how to identify until my good friend Jon GLXY shouted “Jubei and dBridge” at me with a knowing nod at one special sit-down rave earlier in the year where Jubei unleashed the elusive gem… It was then I realised this was the tune I’ve been trying to ID for over three years.
Naturally I cornered Jubei right after his set to discuss the track, and he revealed he’d be launching it with his very own label – Carbon Music. Fast-forward just a few months and he’s made a triumphant return following a 2-year break from regular releases, having launched his new label in spectacular style with Show Me (which has since garnered wide-spread critical acclaim with nominations in both the Drum&BassArena Awards as well as DJ Mag’s Best Of British), along with Barracuda on the flip. Then came the brilliant Reform EP with all his signature calling cards – rolling, weighty drums in Slipstream and Running Scared, plus an epic link-up with SubMotive on punchy stepper Component.
Throw in the launch of the new Style & Technique series, as well as his powerful, rolling rework of EastColors’ Dubby, a regular radio show on SWU.fm alongside a busy club and festival season and it’s safe to say Jubei’s well and truly back, inspired, and releasing some of his best music to date, and it’s come at the perfect time….
Debate has been rife in recent years about what actually constitutes a roller, with some confusion in younger crowds who seem to have attributed the term ‘rollerz’ for everything but rolling drum & bass. In my humble opinion the modern curriculum needs updating and Jubei’s the headmaster we all need – so gather ‘round, children, school is in session. (Maja Cicic)
Smashing us all into 4×4 turbo oblivion, and tearing down boundaries for LGBTQI D&B artists and fans in the process, 2021 will go down as the year of Mandidextrous.
Already a renowned headliner in free party and ragga-tek circles, and a cult figure at festivals like Balter and Boomtown, this isn’t Mandi’s first rodeo. But last year their career took an exciting new twist as they joined EQ50’s mentorship program and were linked up with Ram Records for releases and guidance. With the label’s backing, and Mandi’s own diesel powered DIY momentum and ambition, the volume levels have been raising ever since.
Right at the forefront of the prominent 4×4 dynamic that’s been pounding into D&B this year, Mandi’s Speed Bass sound has been a breath of fresh air. Bringing in elements of hardcore, and hard dance, it’s like UK bassline that’s aged into a moody, joyriding, speed-taking teenager – unruly, obnoxious, full of ridiculous energy and impossible to argue with. Naturally it’s been a fitting soundtrack to the last six months of freedom as Mandi’s delivering their free party spirit and unique sound to D&B with consistency and positivity via their label Speed Bass, releases like the October Program release Techno On My Mind / Move Faster and their parties like Kiss My Kickdrums and the recent Rave Monster.
Proudly flying the flag for non-binary and trans artists and ravers with everything they do, 2021 isn’t just the year of Mandidextrous, it’s the year Mandidextrous changed the game. (Dave Columbo Jenkins)
Of all the ‘newcomers’ in the drum & bass scene, if you can even call him that at this point, Molecular has been perhaps the name on people’s lips most, and for good reason. Whilst the end of 2020 saw him crowned Dub Wars Season 2 champ, and close out the year with his Skank EP on Sofa Sound & The Computer on Delta9, the Portuguese don had the perfect platform to push on from in 2021, and boy has he certainly done that with aplomb.
Kicking things off with his remix of Subtle Elements’ Shuffle City on Ekou, this was swiftly followed by a rupturing 2-tracker via Cause4Concern’s C4C Recordings, with Objectiv in tow on The Foundation. Moving through the middle of the year, things began to really heat up with The Path (one of my favourite tracks of the year), dropping on Overview’s Zone 2 comp, and the much-anticipated ‘All Systems’ via aforementioned Italian imprint Delta9.
Now, let’s chat Sofa Sound Bristol! Now fully onboard at DLR’s stronghold of 174 funk, we’ve really seen Molecular go from strength to strength here, all leading up to his recent acclaimed ‘Funky Times’ EP, that just released at the start of December. Prior to that, a couple of collaborations with UK favourite MC Gusto have been unleashed to the masses – Nothing Is Everlasting (on Sofa King Sick 3) and Back To The Rave w/ DLR (on Gusto’s ‘Deadly Chain’ EP) – all have gone down seriously well. What a 12 months it’s been, we expect another huge year in 2022! (Cal Sorensen)
One of the best things about the next gen of talent driving forward the D&B scene is their attitude to give anything a go, and Mozey is no different. Jump-up, rollers, soulful cuts, funky D&B – Mozey has been proving he’s capable of doing it all this year. It’s no surprise why labels including V Recordings, Hospital, Elevate, 31 Recordings and Souped Up have all brought him onboard for releases. His versatility serves as a nod to the deep music understanding this producer drives into everything he touches, and it’s for this reason I have no doubt we’re going to see Mozey up there with the best in years to come. Make sure to check out his work with Shady Novelle, it’s epic! (Jake Hirst)
It’s been one helluva year for London-based Nia Archives. Having burst onto the scene with last year’s dreamy Sober Feels – she’s gone straight from newcomer to icon in one fell swoop.
Her meteoric rise might come as a surprise to those who haven’t been paying close attention, but it takes just one look at Nia’s output and approach to her craft to see this didn’t just happen overnight. This is the result of hard graft, determination and a true vision for her art.
Nia is a powerhouse who embodies DIY culture, having self-taught herself instruments at a young age she’s not only a producer and DJ, but a singer-songwriter and film-maker, with many of her singles landing with her signature ravey, ‘90s-era visuals she films of herself and her friends in and around London.
A true creative in every sense of the word, Nia’s trademark is stamped all over her work, her sound drenched in nostalgia, yet fresh and innovative. Few artists have been able to carve such a distinct and recognisable identity in what appears to be a short period of time, but in Nia’s case it’s clear to see she’s been expressing herself creatively since a very young age.
A recent graduate of EQ50’s prestigious mentorship programme, this year saw her unleash her sublime debut EP Headz Gone West, featuring her signature jungle flavours, interspersed with a dreamy, psychedelic edge and her neo-soul vocals.
She followed the EP with a superb remix for the legendary Congo Natty & Phoebs’ Magpie, and more recent outings Forbidden Feelingz and the infectious 18 & Over.
In this year alone her progression and experimentation with her own ideas and processes has been intriguing and exciting to observe, currently moving into a more production-lead approach with the heavyweight rhythm of 18 & Over.
With her roots in the foundations and her sights firmly on the future, Nia has a seriously bright future ahead of her, and with artists like her shining through and bringing a refreshing new sound to a scene that sometimes falls victim to a lot of the same sounds and trends, it’s safe to say the future of drum & bass jungle is in very safe hands. Looking forward to seeing what she has in store for us in 2022 and beyond. (Maja Cicic)
Not many artists have managed to successfully plaster their name across the dance music scene as well as Ruth Royall has this year. Whether it’s BBC Radio One, Introducing, Spotify editorial, or on countless awesome tunes, it’s fair to say there are many people taking note of this vocalist’s talents right now. I can still remember seeing Ruth perform back in the day when Fred V & Grafix toured their live show, and it’s incredible to see the career she has carved for herself since. You won’t find many names in dance music who have had such an intense work rate this year, and that’s the reason why this talented artist is destined for great things. Like that’s not enough, she’s even finding joy with her Paper Dragon collective, who you should definitely go check out. (Jake Hirst)
Not only established as a top drum & bass producer, but one with an impeccable, unmissable touch. Satl’s 2021 North Quarter EP Bedroom Producer With A Dream is his best liquid drum & bass project to date, complete with appearances from DRS, T.R.A.C, and Tokyo Prose. It’s end-to-end soul-driven bliss, with Give Up being a particularly touching tune, striking all the right tones for me personally.
After a number of fantastic collaborations and remixes throughout the year, comes his latest project with FD – LIN000. We’re now presented with a new and exciting path for Satl, further showcasing his ability to go beyond liquid. Lastly, his new remix of Braver by Alexx A-Game is a final reason why I’m choosing Satl as a 2021 favourite, and why I’ll be feeling the FOMO for the southern-hemisphere Summer. More liquid, and more LIN000 next year please, Adrian. (Sam Yates)
Forward-thinking, completely his own, and beautifully electronic with a certain crispness and power that encapsulates the modern-day evolution of drum and bass music, The Caracal Project’s idiosyncratic style has elevated itself to new heights this year.
A quite sensational year from an artist who’s been at the forefront of the recent wave of talent flooding out of France, it would be criminal of me to not give a mention to The Caracal Project for the impact he’s made over the last twelve months. Debuting on Hospital Record’s with an incredibly intricate remix of Camo & Krooked’s ‘Set It Off’, landing on DIVIDID with ‘It’s about time we run into you’, a collaborative EP with fellow young French producer Skylark, a four-track project, entitled ‘4WD’ on Pilot, and most recently a release on UKF with IMANU and Leotrix, The Caracal Project has truly elevated his name, reputation, and quality of music in 2021.
After the success of 2020, it was never going to be easy to beat his exploits of last year, but with groundbreaking tracks such as the Spanish-infused dubstep work of art Te Vi Caer, which features Maria-Lea, and the groove-laden, made for the dancefloor sonics of Hello, The Caracal Project has pushed his own boundaries this year and the results are nothing short of breath taking. (Charlie Cummings)
You wouldn’t suspect it if you listened to his discography but Yoofee was largely flying under the radar until 2021 when he took the dubstep world by storm. His Seek & Move EP quickly turned heads before he released arguably his most prolific work in the form of two EPs on White Peach.
One track in particular to highlight is Czeck Mystik with its gothic funk and delicately placed but heavy drum work grounded by a rolling bassline. His experimentation at different BPMs along with his technical capabilities beyond bass music equips him with the tools to infuse grooves and progression into his tunes along with flawless sound system compatibility. Such a strong year of releases suggests there’s so much more to hear from Yoofee so you’d be silly to not keep your eye on him in 2022. (Purav Parmar)
Visages have absolutely smashed it this year, grinding out consistently high-quality music that is quite simply intoxicating for lovers of minimal drum and bass. Everything about their projects is neat, crisp and addictive. Their cool, dark sound is just the face of their talent, as this group are clearly focused on attention to detail and artistic cohesion.
The Dark Guru EP is a journey through a shadowy, wooded area – guided only by the rumbling bass up ahead and the subtle vocal tones of an unknown identity. The Frenchmen have concocted a whole list of similarly mysterious yet enticing tunes this year, such as the impressive collaboration with Monty, Vibin’. They find themselves well at home on Alix Perez’s label, 1985 music, amongst some very good company.
Their ability to make minimal drum and bass incredibly detailed, intricate and enjoyable is a real skill. The sheer consistency of releases this year places them right at the top of impressive artists in 2021, but the quality of these tunes sets the quartet apart from the rest. (Hannah Gowen)
If you thought Waeys was tearing it up in 2020, you had another thing coming this year. Four examples come from his Snoar EP on Critical – where we get to see a nice range, including something a little more soulful than usual with Bold Courage. As for remixes – he’s been busy. His takes on Data 3’s Tric City and Arkaik’s Fate Determined (both on Flexout) were two big 2021 favourites for me, among a myriad of others. Casper rounds the year off with a collaborative EP on Overview, a label he’s grown in parallel with. The Prima Dollo EP with Reuben gives us more club-ready rollers like Hooh, as well as his solo effort Inconclusive – a dramatic, sensational tune to finish off 2021. (Sam Yates)
If you’re anything like me you love your dirty basslines combined with an unparalleled understanding of music production, technicality and filth combined in beautiful synchronicity. Wingz is your man. Starting off the year with the track Badman released on Overview music he then followed with more remixes and collabs than you can shake a stick at adding his clean snappy snares and distinctive bass timbres to tunes by: Bass Dubberz, Teej, Koven, Data 3, Dubshun, Operate, Rizzle and Grey Code. This isn’t even all the remixes he put out this year because the list would be too long to read! Wingz also released two EPs this year, Affection EP and Lost Projects. Both of these releases showcasing the more heartfelt liquid side of drum and bass with the remixes and singles he has released this year exploring the darker, technical, rolling side of drum and bass.
Because of the overarching quality, consistency and sheer amount of releases this year Wingz has to be my top choice for this year. (Jake Williams)