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Ones To Watch: 2021

In just days before the first month of the year is out… It’s our annual Ones To Watch rollcall.

A collection of 21 artists our editorial team believe will be going beyond the call of duty with their craft this year, flavours displayed here range from beautiful exploraitve leftfield beats to extreme dancefloor D&B bangers.

To echo the sentiment in our recent 21 Labels Provide Positivity For 2021 round-up, the year may currently seem uncertain and bleak at large… But the music is guaranteed high grade. Get to know:

 

Askel & Elere


Askel & Elere aren’t entirely new to the scene, having released both individually and collaboratively since 2018, yet their ever-diversifying output has been steadily laying down foundations for them to slide further into mainstream territory. Labels like Delta9, Fokuz and Hospital have welcomed their music, while Soulvent have provided a home for them to really grow as producers. Each release on the label has shown considerable progression, with the latest Glass EP feeling miles apart from their first label appearances in terms of experimentation and individuality. Songs like Glass almost feel detached from the genre itself, with such rich musicality making the masterfully produced drums and silky-smooth bass melt into nothingness while the musical elements steal the spotlight.

The foundations have been set in stone, and with the recent announcement to officially ‘boybandize’ themselves as a duo, there is no doubt they will be a household name by the end of 2021. (Scott Claridge)

 

Blckhry

 

Most frequently found bouncing and flexing between Pick N Mix and Bagged & Tagged, Blckhry’s been slaying us with basslines since 2018 and really picked up pace with his Bop EP around late 2019.

With roots in both hip-hop beatmaking and a reputation for raucous party-melting jump-up, Harry’s distinctive sound hits with both a savage energy and great sense of grooves, all of which we heard in large quantities last year. Undeterred by the great rave shutdown, he continued to pummel us throughout 2020, most notably with his How Deep EP (with the lead track craftily utilising a vocal from big crossover pop hit) and his Trigger EP which showcased his broadest range of styles yet from bouncy old school Bristol sounding vibes (Fill This Space) to emotional Airplane-sampling madness (Surely) And these are just a smidgeon of last year’s many Harry highlights.

We can expect plenty of highlights to come, too. While he’s not going to be quite as prolific as he was last year (preferring, instead, to stash his biggest bangers until the clubs open again) Blckhry’s already kicked 2021 off with a massive Drake bootleg and two gritty jams on Subway Soundz and we’re only a month into the year. More bouncing and flexing is set to land on 8Ball Audio, Timeless Audio and Bagged & Tagged as the year progresses. Deep love for Blckhry right now. (Dave Jenkins)

 

Cauzer

Despite only having officially released one track – her fiery minimal remix of FYM’s Proton on Drum ArmyCauzer is a shining emblem of how to throw yourself headfirst into the drum and bass scene as a new artist. It was, however, her entry for IMANU’s Patreon remix competition that introduced me to the Cauzer sound, a winding dystopian track filled with shining synth work and complex percussive switch ups throughout. It’s hard to believe the young Welsh producer has only been producing for just over a year, yet she has picked up support from the likes of Kyrist, Charli Brix and most impressively bagged a forthcoming release on Critical Music.

With an EP also coming out on Incurzion Audio and many more projects in the works, not much more needs to be said on Cauzer’s 2021 trajectory. (Scott Claridge)

 

Deadcrow

Hailing from The Netherlands, it’s Deadcrow. This dark, multi-faceted producer has proven time and time again that his sound is here to break audio barriers. He spans across all styles of wave and bass music, implementing his cyberpunk and JDM street racing aesthetic in all of his work. Ever since stepping onto the scene in 2016, we have seen a consistent outpour of attention and hype around the Deadcrow project. He has been a strong leader in the growth of the wave music market, being a strong influence to many new producers in that realm. His production style represents a futuristic, yet post-apocalyptic atmosphere, as he skillfully pulls in trance and hardstyle inspirations into all of his music.

After seeing support for this producer from figures like RL Grime and Zeds Dead, the future is incredibly bright for this producer. His release trajectory for 2021 is off on a high note as he’s already started the year off very strong with his heavy hitter release, Predator. Get your bird watching binoculars ready because Deadcrow is destined to be a legend. (Mary Agan)

 

Disrupta

 

22-year-old Disrupta only entered the scene in 2019, and since then he has been stirring up a lot of interest. Following his first release just over a year ago, he has showcased a versatile and developing sound covering everything from the heavy and gritty to the soulful and warm. Securing releases on V Recordings, Bingo Bass and Neksus Sound, he has topped the charts with multiple releases, as well as being nominated in the recent Drum&BassArena Awards for Best Newcomer.

Amongst all of this he is still only just finding his sound and developing as an artist, which makes his uprising even more exciting for the forthcoming year. With an EP on Born On Road and a DRS collab in the pipeline, he is on track to make this year an even better one than last. Beyond production, Disrupta hopes to reach a local venue or festival near you in 2021. (Hannah Gowen)

 

Dutchie

Rooted in dub, garage, soul and so much more, Dutchie’s sound is often uniquely tied together by her blissful vocals. With releases on Hold Tight Records and Infernal Sounds, her productions are organic and spacious, but still pack a punch in the low-end. She kicked off 2021 with the delicately funky Changes, with its playful yet dark melodies, trippy drums and those signature soothing Dutchie vocals. This not only marks her first release of the year, but also the start of Dutchie Productions as a platform for her own music. Looking forward to the rest of 2021, more is in the pipeline including a remix pencilled in for March and further releases to be confirmed. As a multi-talented musician who writes, produces, mixes and sings over her own tracks (as well as being equally talented behind the decks), Dutchie is becoming one of the most exciting names in electronic music. (Purav Parmar)

 

Enta

Anyone tuned into the jump-up side of the game will already be well aware of Enta’s monstrous movements thanks to almost four years of releases on the likes of Shiftin Beatz, Switch! Recordings and Levela’s Multi Function. Most recently he’s been working on Fatman D’s Biological Beats, a label with a pedigree for championing new talent and amplifying their skills to the next level with the likes of Dominator, Bou, Kanine, Traumatize, Turno, Limited and many more enjoying early releases on the label.

Now fully intro his stride, 2020 was a pivotal year for Enta as he began to introduce more styles and influences into the mix. The Formula series was especially of note; the title track (with Pastrymaker) showing a much deeper, futuristic edge to his style. Delivered across two massive EPs – and followed by essential cuts on the likes of Pick N Mix and an insane remix on Impact Music – Formula set new benchmarks that London-based artist wants to raise again in 2021 with a new series of singles on Biological Beats.

“Each single will be its own distinct style / theme, trying to bring together different flavours of D&B,” says Enta, who’s put his extra time during the great covid shutdown to good use. “My production has developed a fair bit since the first lockdown and these singles will show that. I’m trying to push the boat out a little with track themes as well, like with Vortex I tried to capture the chaos of being in a tornado… Or maybe 2020?”

Chaos mode enabled: whatever bad news 2021 brings, we know Enta’s ready and waiting to counter it with a whole new level soundtrack. (Dave Jenkins)

 

Frenetic

An absolute tour de force DJ, Birmingham-based Frenetic has been pushing her junglised blends harder than most working DJs put together in recent years. Prior to the endless stream of lockdowns we’ve suffered since March 2020, she was consistently on road for several years, appearing at big events such as Hospitality and Boomtown. Now she’s equally unavoidable online.

Unwittingly futureproofing herself for the year, in January 2020 Frenetic launched her Triple Drop Tuesdays project where she whips up a weekly video of a ridiculously sharp and technical mix for viewers online. Often including unreleased heaters, cult classics and current releases, her weekly broadcasts were a highlight for many during the mass online-ing that’s still just as prevalent now, almost a year later.

After a short break, Triple Drop Tuesdays are back and will continue to celebrate the most technical and nerdy of mixes. Plenty more is to come, too. Frenetic has told us she’s been using her time off-road to continue sharpening her deck skills and dig deeper into the world of production. Elsewhere this year she’s booked in for some key online streams and counting down the minutes until we can all touch road again. For a flavour of what to expect when the clubs do open again, check this ridiculous hour of warrior power with Natty D. Word on the street is that she’s now saving for a fourth CDJ. Genuinely unstoppable. (Dave Jenkins)

 

Heritage

Over the last few years we’ve seen more open-mindedness towards the cross-pollination of different genres within electronic music, allowing artists like production duo Heritage (a.k.a. Movement and Tribalist) to ruthlessly make their mark on the UK’s underground bass music scene.

Their array of influences include, but aren’t limited to, the flavours of breakbeat, garage, dubstep, techno and more, making it nearly impossible to pigeon-hole their versatile style. 2020 saw Heritage release on Ian DPM’s highly regarded Scuffed Recordings with their three-track EP, The Revelation, which did more than turn a few heads and signalled the duo’s serious intentions. In 2021 those intentions don’t show any signs of easing up. We’ll see them return to a label who released one of their most well received EP’s to date, drop a vinyl-only UKG EP on Hardline and maybe even reappear with a collaboration on Earful of Wax who released their vinyl-only Reminiscence EP towards the end of 2020. Topped off by further plans for their label, Dissident Sound, Heritage are a name well worth keeping an eye on for the rest of the year. (Purav Parmar)

 

Hypho

A man who finds himself often working between the peripheries of a host of different sounds, Hypho’s experimentalism is a unique mash-up that has developed through years of living in the musical hotspot that is Manchester. Taking inspiration from seminal figures such as Loefah and Burial, his leftfield creations fuse elements of breaks, techno, garage and dubstep to form bass-heavy tracks that have featured on labels such as Swamp81, Encrypted Audio and Infernal Sounds.

His shadowy, ominous low-end frequencies are balanced by perfectly executed sound design, bringing a musical depth that runs through all his productions. His work has seen him collaborate with figures such as Biome, Sumgii and Opus, while the likes of T-man, Logan and Rakjay have touched mic on his intricate compositions.

Alongside his personal releases, he also co-runs Manuka Records; a label that has been bridging the gap between the UK and American sound through a carefully curated schedule that has unquestionable quality running all the way through it. A key player in the bass music scene for a number of years despite his age, he’s set to continue his storming rise through 2021, beginning with a return to Deep, Dark & Dangerous at the end of February. (Paddy Edrich)

 

Latesleeper

Previously operating as eclectic electronic experimentalist Awakelate, last year Bristol-based Kai Morgan introduced us to her brand new nocturnal alias Latesleeper.

Still every bit as sonically adventurous as her previous project, but with a sound exploring much darker sound design and dancefloor influences, Latesleeper’s arrival was marked with three powerful self-released tracks that ranged from gritty rollers (WDYK) to cathedral-level synth odysseys (Communicate) Sounding unlike anything else being released at the time, and supported by the likes of IMANU and other Music Squad members, including good friend and collaborator Gyrofield, Latesleeper’s debut releases set the parameters for the dynamic and dramatic productions that are set to drop this year.

“I would like to push certain tropes within electronic music as far as I can and create something artful from that,” she explains of her music. “I’m a big fan of well executed absurdity.”

First up in her arsenal of absurdity are a pair of rule-burning techno-influenced tracks on Skankandbass (Six Gill / She Grew Wings) Then next is a bold and bashy juke-inspired EP on DIVIDID featuring Gyrofield. And that’s just the first quarter of the year, we have it on very good authority that plenty more will follow after that, too. We can’t wait to hear it. (Dave Jenkins)

 

Leniz

Hailing from the Netherlands, young D&B craftsman Leniz has already made many a lush release on a whole array of respected labels: Galacy, Fokuz, Liquicity, Soul Deep and Differential are just a few.  

This d&b prodigy began writing music at 12 and played his first gig at just 16, which is one impressive feat. This persistent passion for drum and bass shines through in his tunes, and at just 18 years old, Leniz has already earned his stripes amongst the touchstones on the more soulful side of d&b with an extensive back catalogue already under his belt.

In 2020 Leniz dropped his stunning Love in Excess EP which is a testament to this producer’s ability to craft the most visceral, emotive style of bass music. The prowess of his productions just proves how within music, age really is just a number. His refined sound is remarkable and in the words of Leniz (AKA Querijn van Bijsterveldt) “rest assured, there’s still more to come”.

He’s not wrong… As well as key forthcoming releases on Soul Deep, Goldfat and Galacy, 2021 will see Leniz reveal his debut album. Entitled Perceptions Of Reality, it’s a 15 track venture on Differential and will take his artfully crafted sound to a whole new level. Expect nothing but basslines, chords, pads, introspective atmospheres… And plenty of experimental excursions and precision beat work along the way.

If 2020 was anything to go by, 2021 will be a super year for liquid, and Leniz is right at the forefront. (Liohness)

 

Leotrix

Leotrix initially drew huge inspiration from Skrillex at the age of twelve, continually asking himself ‘how does he make these sounds?’

Ten years later, it’s a question he still remembers. When looking back since his arrival on the scene in 2017, last year was an especially productive one with singles on Buygore and Discipline Round Table. His biggest break so far, though, was the riddim-heavy Hive EP on Never Say Die Black Label in late 2019, earning him recognition from the likes of Moody Good, Noisia, Slander, Virtual Riot and NGHTMARE.

In 2020 Leotrix’ style shifted. Motivated by personal challenges, he focused intently on  listening to other genres. The love for stinking drops remains, of course, but last year’s releases showed much more room for artistic freedom and a rekindled love for writing melodies. The track Emoboy303 is an outstanding example. It’s still very accessible, yet the melodramatic lead and chiptuney/glitchy influence makes it rather unique, instantly recognizable and highly memorable.

So what’s in store for Leotrix in 2021? A third Never Say Die: Black Label (Leotrix ROUNDIII) release arrived this week and collabs with Slushii, Barely Alive, Tisoki and Ookay are in the works. Plus a confirmed single on Gud Vibrations arrives in a February and a bulky sample pack on one of the biggest production platforms is confirmed following that. Definitely someone to watch this year. (Michael Janiec)

 

Nectax

Representing a whole city that should be every D&B heads’ radars right now, Nectax is one of many outstanding talents currently oozing out of Newcastle. Coming through with the likes of Skantia, Stompz, Kastro, Hexa, Rantik, Jak, KL and so many more, the young artist born Ollie Underhill is neck deep in one of the UK’s most exciting regional scenes.

2020 was more than enough proof of this as his versatile sound caused major missives on the likes of Chronic, Ram, Overview, Audio Addict, Skankandbass and Bladerunner’s Hi Resolution with two collabs with the roller king himself.

“Considering the uncertainty of the current national situation, it’s good to just focus on stuff which you can do,” he tells us. “It’s given me a chance to get a good regular workflow going in the studio and I’m keen to get a load of material released this year as peoples’ appetite for music hasn’t changed I don’t think.”

We don’t think so, either. Flexing between breezy, junglised breakbeats and darker, more futuristic designs, his beats continue to find the most respected and consistent homes. So far for 2021 he can confirm releases on Guidance, Overview and a Skantia collaboration on Ram, some of which can be heard in his 100% productions mix embedded above. Toon after toon after toon after toon. (Dave Jenkins)

 

Neve

Just like Ferraris and pizza, some of the dopest things on earth hail from Italia. Neve is one of them. And every year he keeps raising the level.

Already an established name, Neve (aka Andrea Recla) has spun D&B since 2003 and released on a magnificent array of labels. With his Transistors EP on Ulterior Motive’s Guidance Music already injecting some much needed heat into January with a collaboration with Pendulum G himself Ben Verse, we’ve no doubt 2021 will continue his ascent.

Dealing strictly in fast-paced, no bullshit, d&b, Neve’s years of musical experience as a DJ, producer, and sound engineer form such a cultivated sound and approach to bass music that’s one big patchwork of flavours. He blends old school and new school together, a modern twist on the roots of a sound that he so often pays homage to. Whether it’s 130 breakbeats or wonky footwork, up into jungle and rolling drum & bass – his tunes are fresh yet offer tantilising drops of nostalgia; littered with rave stabs and pitched up hardcore samples with amens aplenty – this dude ramps it up over any tempo.

He also runs his own label The Dreamers Recordings which provides high quality groundbreaking music from Italian and international newcomers and established producers. There’s a reason they’ve been nominated for Drum&BassArena’s Best Newcomber Label on more than one occasion.

Neve’s lack of limits and multigenre flexes makes him truly one to watch out for. Upcoming releases are going to be big indeed, with a collab with good friend Crimson dropping on the mighty Dispatch Recordings, tunes dropping on fresh footwork LA based label Elastic Rhythms, and more heat on Delta9. Expect more dancefloor, and expect the hardcore. (Liohness)

 

Nia Archives

Part of a new crop of talent brought through by the wicked EQ50 initiative pushing for a fairer representation of womxn in drum and bass, Nia Archives seems like a precious diamond that has just been unearthed. As a lover of all things neo-soul, I couldn’t help but feel transfixed when I heard her soulful vocal hooks blended with old school jungle breaks. She sounds like a cross between the vocals of Jorja Smith and production style of Clipz – and who couldn’t get behind that?

Nia Archives really is in her own lane right now with a distinctive sound harking back to the ‘90s rave days with a modern twist. Even the archive video footage she posts on Instagram perfectly feeds into this image. It’s not surprise why V Recordings instantly took her under their wing as an artist they want to help develop. Quite frankly, it’s a match made in heaven. Already with two 2020 singles under her belt in Sober Feels and Don’t Kid Urself, and a debut EP on the way this spring, there’s no doubting 2021 is going to be the year everyone really becomes aware of who Nia Archives is. Watch this space, she is going places. (Jake Hirst)

 

Nikki Nair

Based out of Atlanta, Nikki Nair’s eclectic approach to underground sonics has marked him out as one of the most talented producers in recent times. His aptitude is only matched by his extraordinary work-rate, with ten solo EPs chalked up since he burst onto the international market back in 2018.

With a unique style that sees him effortlessly blur the boundaries between electro, broken-beat techno and breaks, he’s gained significant traction in a number of different scenes across the dance spectrum. A common theme throughout his productions, whatever BPM he decides to tackle, is his intricate layering of samples. These abstract vocalisations are chopped around pounding distortions, pulsating basslines and acid-infused synths, procuring a range of emotions, while ensuring the beats are transferable to be able to tear down any sound system.

His avant-garde methods have seen him release on the likes of Pretty Weird, Banoffee Pies Records, Dirtybird and Gobstopper Records. He closed out his 2020 by returning to Scuffed with his Trying To EP, with the driving energy of the supercharged Trunk perfectly demonstrating the experimental yet refined talents we’ve come to expect. If the American’s storming 2020 is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat this year! (Paddy Edrich)

 

Ray Volpe

Nailing the target by releasing fifteen tracks in 2020 and reaching a staggering one million listeners on Spotify; Ray Volpe well and truly defied the curse of covid while drifting through the shitstorm in fourth gear and one hand on the wheel.

He makes it look easy, but don’t be fooled…. The 23-year-old Long Island wunderkind, worked hard to flip the script on the bad hand we were all dealt. And when the floodgates eventually open, he’ll have the ammo to ascend to even greater heights.

Of course this is nothing new for the Volpetron. He’s been a regular on UKF for a few years now with his epic drops begging for encores. Continually exploring new genres, tempos and ecstatic highs in his productions, cuts such as his collab with Kayzo, remixes for Illenium & Excision, and EPs on Disciple and Never Say Die are all fine examples of his skills and his trajectory into 2021.

As for release specifics, exact details are sparse, but we have it on good authority that Ray is dropping a big EP in the first quarter of the year and it’ll be on a brand-new label as he joins forces with a new agent team. So watch this genius rip the scene more fresh ones in months ahead! (Michael Janiec)

 

SuperAve.

Who is SuperAve.? Well, y’all are about to find out. Harnessing the complementary blend of bass and trap in his production, SuperAve. is coming with nothing but heavy hitters for all of 2021. This mystery project has more IDs in his library than there are bars in a college town.

After an explosive 2020 onto the US bass scene with his huge record, 2047, this producer has been rendering support from the likes of Zeds Dead & Peekaboo, with that list growing every day. Drawing heavy inspiration and elements from hip-hop combined with his hefty sound design, it’s clear this enigmatic artist is paving his own unique path while paying homage to his 90s hip-hop inspirations.

Expect to see SuperAve. on some of your favourite labels in the bass market, because he’s got heater after heater to drop on the public. To kick start this year, he’s released an all original mix showcasing all the gems he has in store for us in 2021. This mix is a very clear message that SuperAve. is here to influence and inspire the entirety of the bass music community. He says it best: 𝕿𝖍𝖊 ⸮𝖙𝖗𝖊𝖊𝖙𝖘 𝕳𝖊𝖆𝖗 𝕰𝖛𝖊𝖗𝖞𝖙𝖍𝖎𝖓𝖌… (Mary Agan)

 

Terror

It’s a name associated with something you would normally run from, but the music Terror is making is something everyone should be running towards.

The artist initially popped onto my D&B radar when he released his Feels The Same single with Obi Franky in 2019, but it wasn’t until the arrival of his Rivers EP at the end of last year that I fully clocked how special Terror was. Sophisticated vocal liquid, festival-ready anthems, filthy rollers – Terror can do it all. I remember the first thought that went through my head was – how can this artist with a few D&B releases be producing at such a high level? But then I found out Terror, aka Tony Friend, used to be part of Modestep… Now it all makes sense.

Going from the full-throttle bass offering of Modestep to the more delicate tones of Spearhead is a challenge in itself, and a real gleaming testament to Terror’s immense production capability. Now very much at home with Spearhead, going forward you can expect remixes of Lenzman, Bcee and The Vanguard Project, alongside an album with Spearhead regular Joliffe, which will explore a world of different sounds. It’s fair to say Terror is a name we are going to be talking about a lot this year. Keep your eye on this one… (Jake Hirst)

 

T95

After a busy year in 2020, in which he climbed rapidly through the ranks of drum and bass newcomers, T95 is set to rise even further in 2021. He operates on the dark and minimal side of the scene and has captured the attention of many with his unique sound and prolific work rate. Despite only producing for four years, and even less under this new alias, T95 is providing some of the freshest sounding drum and bass in the new wave of newcomers. He has already released with Overview, Onyx Recordings and DnB Allstars, and collaborated with lyrical titan DRS and fellow hot prospect, Duskee.

After shooting to the top of the Beatport 100 last year, he has set the bar high for himself and what he wants to achieve in the next 12 months. With bigger and better releases planned for the year ahead, including some special collaborations, T95 is one to watch out for in 2021. (Hannah Gowen)