January is pretty much over, 2022 is kicking in with full effect… But who’s going to be soundtracking this year for you?
We asked members of our writer team to dust off their crystal balls and peer into the future for our annual Ones To Watch round-up. These are the results – 21 acts flexing across the bass spectrum and hailing from America to Australia: Ackroyd, Azifm, Channell, Cortese, DJ Sofa, DJ Soyboi, Ghost Hardware, Ghoulish, [IVY], Kara, Mia Koden, missledz, Mowgli, MYKOOL, Nooch, Samurai Breaks, Sequent, Spectral, SOLAH, Skellytn and Thread.
Read on, get acquainted and find out what each of the artists has in store in the coming weeks and months ahead.
Young UK fusionist Ackroyd whittles a variety of sonic sticks ranging from jungle to techno, and many glacial shades and flavours in between.
Inspired by the likes of Metalheadz, Tim Reaper, Sully and London institution Rupture, over the last few years Ackroyd productions have been spotted on highly respected labels such as Repertoire, Dope Plates, Terra Firm, Skankandbass, Proximity and Modular Carnage. Every cut we’ve heard so far has hit us hard, but we’re anticipating a whole new level of bass bombardment in the coming years as Ackroyd has hinted as his other fusions that veer a little further from the D&B path. Moved by labels such as Lobster Theremin, Fjaak and Spandau20, many of Ackroyd’s future releases will hit at unpredictable tempos, bringing that jungle rawness and energy into different speeds and styles.
Look out for: Releases on Common Grounds Recordings (which he co-runs) and new experimental label SQRS are imminent and plenty more is in the pipeline. (Dave Columbo Jenkins)
Could Azifm be the start of a new wave of Kiwi producers? We’ve all seen on social media, heard through a friend, or experienced first-hand the fantastic New Zealand drum & bass scene. It’s hard to ignore with UK import Alix Perez planting the 1985 flag, and homegrown talents like The Upbeats and Tokyo Prose proudly representing. But in terms of fresh faces breaking through on an international level, they’ve been few and far between.
Cue Azifm – who came in and absolutely smashed it last year with his anthem of a tune Take It Back, out on Workforce’s Must Make imprint. As we mentioned in our interview with him last year, the whole EP smashes it as a proper workout of breakbeats and samples neatly spun together. It’s also the first release from an artist other than Workforce himself to release on the label.
Throughout the NZ summer, Azifm has been shredding up festivals alongside a flurry of touring artists, as well as his fellow young and hungry producer mates. This has me thinking… they must’ve all gotten in the studio at some point. We should get a taste of that this year, as well as a return to Must Make for his sophomore release.
Look out for: Due to the Covid situation in New Zealand, gigs are currently on ice, and it’s too early in the year to give concrete information on releases. However, there are rumours of heavyweight collab with Cesco, some UK appearances and definitely more releases in the pipeline. Watch this space. (Sam Yates)
A look back at Channell’s catalogue shows releases on Liquid Lab, Fokuz, Celsius – the types of labels you’ll often look to for underground, up-and-coming liquid talent. From late 2018 up to now, it’s all been underrated quality. In those very first releases with tracks like The Sines and Wah Heavy, it’s clear he’s a vibe-maker. While the more recent Imagination Runnin’ and Cool Like That come complete with all the necessary hip-hop and jazz influence.
Speaking of that influence… he’s just released on Lenzman’s sophisticated and soulful imprint The North Quarter with his tune Intrigue featuring on the annual NQ State Of Mind compilation. Between this appearance and another release on DJ Marky’s Innerground recently, you can see he’s starting to get noticed by some of liquid D&B’s most prolific labels.
Channell has the talent and the touch, but I wouldn’t expect to see him veering off to create the next commercial anthem. He strikes me more as someone who could be around for a long time, driving the underground liquid scene forward – true to his Manucunian surroundings.
Look out for: Hopefully a return to The North Quarter for a full release, as well as expanding to other suitably soulful labels like Redeyes’ Five Alley. For those in Manchester, keep an eye out for his new night Rare Groove – curated by himself and Zar – where you can expect plenty of liquid flavours. (Sam Yates)
Straight out of the UK dance music melting pot comes the ineffable Brighton and Manchester based duo Cortese. A charming blend of garage, breaks and house make up their core musical DNA, often switching between pumping four-to-the-floor beats and steppier rhythms with a sharp ear for rave-ready yet soul-soothing melodies. It’s the sum of all their influences combined that make their music so special, and it’s quickly being noticed.
Early self-releases like the infectiously catchy Renault Sport paved a clear path, and with every subsequent release you can hear the influences spread wider and the grooves deeper. It’s no surprise that last year saw them supporting acts like Bicep and Mike Skinner, as well as gaining support from the likes of Jaguar on Radio 1’s dance show. 2021 also saw releases on Southpoint, Eton Messy, Time Is Now White, Sasha’s LUZoSCURA compilation, plus their own label Plaza.
Look out for: 2022 will be no different from last year, with an EP on the main Time Is Now label, Just Her’s Constant Circles, and more. You can also catch them at Komedia in Brighton for a special headline show on Feb 12. (Scott Claridge)
Finland representing! When it comes to the new wave of jungle artists who are tapping into the original melting pot source and flipping it for the 2020s, Kia Sofia is right on the forefront with releases stacking up thick and fast.
Interviewed last year on this site, she explained how her roots began as a hip-hop and trap DJ but she soon got hooked on her friends’ dad’s 90s D&B/jungle vinyl collection and has never looked back. You can really hear the influences in the DJ Sofa sound as her tracks bubble with bruising Bristol funk one minute and breakneck Amens and razor sharp rave influences the next. For added insight into Sofa’s influences and her savage sound palette can be found on her brand new radio show Rough Around The Edges on Helsinki and Tallin-based station IDA Radio.
DJ Sofa releases so far have largely been on Finland labels such as Midnight Sun and Straight Up Breakbeat but she’s also been spotted on Albion Audio, Bass = Win (with that epic remix of fellow Finnish artist Infekto embedded above) and Breaking Point DNB. But, as we’re about to reveal, things are about to get a whole load busier and international this year. Just like sofas themselves, this young artist is not to be slept on.
Look out for: A whole stack of releases in the coming months including missives on Tim Reaper’s Future Retro, Coco Bryce’s Myor Recordings, Bristol label Natty Dub, Equal People, Racked Records and more on Straight Up Breakbeat which is run by ODJ Dizzy, the man who’s largely responsible for switching Finland onto D&B in the 90s. Sofa’s roots run deep and her future is very very bright. (Dave Columbo Jenkins)
Manchester based DJ Soyboi has caught the ears of mainy with their wild, hard, and heavy sets, providing your daily dose of protein through a healthy, nutritious mix of jungle, footwork and hardcore. If the end of ‘21 was anything to go by, it’s taught us that four on the floor is thriving, merging its way into dnb dancefloors, second drops, and the like. The face behind CLUB60 on Balamii, Soyboi knows their way around tunes that consistently break the legal speed limit.
And it’s not just their mad blends that are pushing boundaries; Soyboi is heavily involved with the queer dance scene, launching their own hard dance night with salt pillar, FKA HARDCORE & d. clemente called TOUGH ACT, and establishing the first non-binary artists and creatives database for DJs, producers, dancers and more.
Look out for: Upcoming gigs will see Soyboi bringing their refreshing blend of beats to support the likes of rave and jungle heavyweights Sherelle & Tim Reaper, and the 1985 Music Showcase. Production-wise Soyboi’s Soundcloud has some fun, breaksy bootlegs and their debut release can be found on Soyboi’s bandcamp. Apparently a hard jungle EP with heavy gabba influences is on the way to season up the new year nicely. It just might take your brain to another dimension, pay close attention. (Liohness)
Boo selector: If you’re a regular at London D&B events then Ghost Hardware will almost certainly be on your radar already. Amassing a cult following at nights such as Rebel Music, her dark, unrelenting sets are the stuff of legend, as you can hear on her most recent mix embedded above to highlight her forthcoming appearance at pioneering queer D&B event Unorthodox.
Resident DJ for Incurzion Audio, Immrsve, Cobra Sounds and Yamatai, this year has kicked off with a bang for the London-based, Mexican-born artist as she’s just started another regular gig, this time in the form of a monthly radio show. You can catch Rebel Transmissions every fourth Sunday of the month on Goatshed, her first one was earlier this month – check it out here.
Beyond the music, Ghost Hardware is also a visual artist focusing on video installations. With an aesthetic that mirrors and complements her sound as a DJ, she explores themes of contrast, light, dark, the night, anonymity, escapism and beyond. As her bio explains, her works question and challenge gender stereotypes and the stigma of womxn and the night in capitalist society. Check them on her No Reality Instagram account and her visual work has also been commissioned by labels such as Incurzion and Tesseract.
Look out for: Plenty of bookings throughout 2022 including the Renegade Hardware event in June in E1, London, a return to Dub Wars in Lightbox, London and also the launch of Rebel Music’s new rooftop Sunday night sessions, which kicks off in March. Keep an eye out for Ghost Hardware productions, too. We have it on good authority that she’s been busy in the studio and releases are most definitely en route. (Dave Columbo Jenkins)
Originally introducing himself to the electronic scene in 2018, Manchester-based talent Ghoulish has been one of the breakout names of 2021, weaving an eclectic path across a number of genres including UKG, breakbeat, grime, 140 and bass. Initially starting out producing riddim and tearout, this organic change of pace and style has been a fresh, natural step, resulting in that captivating Ghoulish sound we’ve heard as of late, and a satisfying realignment of sonics for the hotly-tipped producer.
In his words, the “last 6 months or so have been pretty chaotic”; alongside completing his masters degree, he was also finishing and releasing a stackload of stellar cuts, culminating in the stonking release of 1999 / Buss It Up’ (the former being “the big one” as the man himself puts it), which dropped via esteemed dubplate specialists ec2a to massive acclaim from various pockets of the underground. “That’s where everyone picked me up from really” he notes, with widespread support coming in from the likes of My Nu Leng, Skream, Dr Dubplate, Riz La Teef, Holy Goof and many more. Other notable drops have included 0161 Soundbwoy, Siesta and his Speed Garage 97 Mix of Katy B’s seminal On A Mission.
Look out for: Alongside some exclusive bits that are still tightly under wraps, live debuts are coming up in Leeds and Bristol, as well as further shows in Manchester, with a slew of self-releases on the horizon running throughout this year. The latter half of 2021 officially put Ghoulish on the map and, if that’s anything to go by, 2022 is certainly looking incredibly bright for the Manny-based talent – keep your ears to the ground for more. (Cal Sørensen)
Originally from France, now residing in Bristol [IVY] storms into the year with a fresh alias. Formerly Ivy Wubs, she continues to hold down some killer residencies with the likes of HighRise, Gyro Records, and Subconcious Audio. Last years’ dealings behind the decks saw her support a variety of label showcases such as Metalheadz, Symmetry, and 1985.
She may have dropped the wubs from her moniker, but they’re still evident in her sound. Her intent as a producer is to continually push her sound design, crafting scintillating sounds and weird wubby basses. It’s no surprise that she was chosen as a mentee for the Overview Music production mentorship last year, under whose wing she’s not one to be overlooked…
Look out for: [IVY] is in discussion with several labels regarding releases for 2022. There’s some mind bending stuff in store and we are so excited to follow her foray into the fusion of house, techno, and psytrance with drum & bass. With these ventures into untouched territory, she aims to fully establish her own genre of 170, and explore the many untapped subgenres of D&B. Multiple festival bookings and her first international set await this year which promises to see [IVY] nice up the dance. (Liohness)
One of the best rises to watch of late has been Kara’s. Many people in music used lockdown as an opportunity to push their craft and gain exposure, and Kara did it just as good as anyone. From her live streams where she showcased quality tune selection (and her parent’s hilarious love of D&B) to generally being a positive presence in the scene with a brilliant attitude to progress. All of this has paved the way for a bright future; we’re about to see Kara come into her own as a music artist.
Look out for: In 2022, there are big things coming from this artist with multiple international bookings and even a tour of New Zealand on the cards. But not only that, 2022 will see Kara come into her own as a music artist with a debut single dropping on a big label soon, and a remix of Jumpin Jack Frost to look forward to. Watch this space. (Jake Hirst)
When it comes to 2022, it’s a dead cert that Mia Koden is going to have a truly mammoth year. Announced at the start of 2021 as the new solo alias for Sancha Ndeko (½ of scene-leading UK pairing Sicaria Sound), the project has been kept tightly under wraps until now, where we’re just starting to gain an insight into this thrilling new chapter.
The first taste of her infinitely eclectic and always-developing sound has recently been showcased via a riveting new mix – Made By Mia Koden Vol, 1 – described by Ndeko as “a sonic testing ground”, and “a WIP/unreleased time capsule of my production journey from 2020 until now”.
In a way, it’s a wonderfully introspective look into her artistic psyche. As she explains… “When I was deciding on what to call the mix I realised for me WIP now means not only “work in progress” but also “what is perfect?” Because I’m tired of feeling like everything I make has to be when it comes to production; end of the day, we all start somewhere right?”
It’s an outlook that’s paying dividends so far, and a pivotal facet of this organically freeform new project.
Look out for: Signs of proceedings firing up to lightning speed, with a rumoured EP pending, and so-far confirmed London dates at HVYWGHT’s massive 4th birthday bash (Electric Brixton, 04/02) and Ivy Lab’s mega forthcoming 20/20 takeover at Fabric (25/03). With the amazing news that the Sicaria Sound project will continue into the future, and with the sustained success of their celebrated cutcross imprint, the future is looking blindingly bright as we move forward into the year. (Cal Sørensen)
An obsession with cats and dark, techy drum and bass… who else but the exceedingly talented missledz? Her instantly recognisable style is an amalgamation of glitchy, alien sounds, snappy transient-led drums, and subterranean basslines – often sporting a tongue-in-cheek nature with her sampling and song titles.
In just two years, she has pushed this sound on *holds breath*… Strictly Deep Dnb, Fighting Fire (her own charity initiative), Liquid Brilliants, Drum Army, Deeper Dnb, Noxious Records, Beats In Mind, Rebel Music, Stand Together, SINE Audio and most recently Four Courners Music. Quite the list, right? Most impressively, in the time since we chose missledz as one to watch, she has put out a guest mix on René LaVice’s Radio 1 drum and bass show, pushing her latest EP Contrivance on SINE Audio. This is undeniably only a taste of what’s to come.
Look out for: Remixes on Bowlcut and FutureVibes, another single on Noxious, a collab with Iris on Guidance, a self-release with Collette Warren, a collab with Kyrist, and unsurprisingly a lot more in the works… (Scott Claridge)
Bun Baloo, cancel King Louie, budge over Bagheera; Mowgli is here and he’s writing a whole new chapter in the jungle book.
Part of the OTC crew – home of JDizz who sadly left us last year – Mowgli (AKA Stephan Blue) is one of the most energetic and fired up new DJs to emerge in recent years. Chipping away locally in Essex for several years, his big break came last year when he won the Dazed DJ competition. His feet haven’t touched the ground since, especially since July when the clubs opened up for real again.
Now gunning for a full year of shows, hitting places further and further afield, Mowgli’s King Of The Swingers reputation is getting louder and louder with every dancefloor he dents. His output as a producer is growing just as exponentially; for now, fat slug-like rollers such as Badman and Hail The King can be found on OTC as free downloads. Watch this space, though, as bigger dispatches are imminent.
Look out for: More bookings across the UK and his first international show in Prague this April. Release-wise his debut EP should land in the coming months and serval high profile remixes are all currently on the bubble right now. Meanwhile on OTC he’s been working with the collective on a JDizz charity LP. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Despite putting out music since 2013, it really felt like 2021 was the breakthrough year for MYKOOL – and about time! We’re talking about an artist who released his debut album Essence in 2016, but overall, has been criminally flying under the radar.
Now with releases on Hospital, 4NC¥ and Yana Music – the latter of which he’ll be releasing a lot more music with in 2022 – it feels like the D&B scene is slowly waking up to MYKOOL and his melodic creations. Make sure to check out MYKOOL’s work with Lost Child – another up-and-comer who deserves a mention and we interviewed last year. Their music is epic. If you’re keen to see MYKOOL in action, then a good place to start is his weekly livestream on Twitch. Stream #100 is coming up very soon!
Look out for: Another LP on the way, plans to incorporate his vocals into his productions more and a mounting pile of VIPs and remixes. This artist is definitely one to get excited about. (Jake Hirst)
Where do we start Jack Nooch? Bad boy Selector, scratch DJ and head honcho of Ransaked Records, he’s been prominent with heavyweight sounds for more than a minute now and has amassed a whole load of killer bootlegs on his Soundcloud and releases on his own label, all rattling with his signature gritty sound.
Nothing compares to what he has coming up this year, however, as he plans to well and truly turbo on us… Despite having his label’s social media hacked and eventually lost. Now rebuilding his brand to even bigger and better standards this year, you can expect a lot more from the man this year…
Look out for: collabs with Bristol-based rappers Datkid and J-Man, an EP called Full Metal Packet and collabs with artists more focused on the drum and bass side of the spectrum such as Jappa and Rise. Needless to say this man has a lot lined up for this year. (Jake Williams)
Wow, what a year 2021 was for Sam Samurai Breaks. On a rapid ascendancy, and celebrated as one of the most consistent and sonically diverse producers in the UK underground, he’s masterful across a number of genres including rave, breaks, jungle, 4×4, grime, footwork and much, much more. It’s hard to lock down his sound because it’s so gleefully diverse, but just know whatever he puts his hand to is turbo-charged and ready to fly out of the stacks.
Powered with momentum from his Acid Puma Racing Stripes album on legendary Sheffield-based label Off Me Nut Records in 2020, last year saw him release a stellar collection of tracks, including the Turbo Rave Artillery EP on Sherelle and Naina’s HOOVERSOUND imprint, a corker of a vinyl drop on Racked Records, plus a further outing on Hardcore Energy. On top of that, he was remixed by heavyweights Coco Bryce and Fixate, launched his esteemed new imprint Super Sonic Booty Bangers and rounded it all off with a deserved award win – DJ Mag’s Best Breakthrough Producer for 2021. What a guy!
Look out for: “EP’s on Born On Road and Mandidextrous’ Speedbass label, a collab EP with Napes, a vocal release with T-Man, my second album for Off Me Nut, a solo project on Trax Haven and a collab vinyl EP with long-time collaborator Arcane”, says Sam. He also tells us how he’s putting “major focus on my label and gigging LOADS tryna make the most of clubs being back open”. Gig-wise, he’s got an appearance coming up at Sherelle’s Phonox residency (b2b with Nova Cheq) alongside much more coming up – this is already a really promising start to what’s sure to be another world-beating year for Samurai Breaks. (Cal Sørensen)
A fellow mentee on the Overview Music production programme, Sequent is an Austrian DJ and producer from Vienna, with several sure-fire reasons to keep your eye on this year.
One of the DJs behind Sunday Sessions, a monthly mix series with fellow Vienna based DJ, Aras, Sequent is also involved in an exciting all-girls collective called ami|kal which features Aras, Jalen Mess, and Sarah Allen. You can find them regularly gigging around Austria, with killer stuff planned for this year.
Look out for: Sequent’s pushing herself this year, with her first collabs upcoming. Weighty tunes are promised with M:Pathy, and a vocal number described as her favourite so far with MC Novy. Past music contributions received support from the likes of Camo & Krooked, DJ Marky, Alibi, HLZ and Arkaik, so the future is certainly looking sensational for Sequent, who vibes it out across deep liquid, and techier, darker flavours.
2022 will see her release her first tune as a solo artist in March on the Colombian deep d&b label I.D BOGOTA MUSIC. She’s beyond excited to be on this VA LP, and Sequent’s also back with longstanding Austrian imprint Blu Saphir with another release. (Liohness)
A young starter, LA born-and-bred Skellytn was already tuned into the sound of Skream, Benga and the late 2000s dubstep phenomenon at the age of 10. By the time Skrillex’s Scary Monsters came into her life, it was already a done deal that she’d pursue a life in big heavyweight bass music.
Back to the future and Skelly, a graduate of the famous high profile Icon Collective audio school (where the likes of Jauz, NGHTMRE, Hvdes and Slander all cut their teeth), has released on the likes of Space Yacht, 40oz Cult, Emengy, Drama Club and, most prominently, Reid Speed’s Play Me Records where she’s currently developing her cybernetic aesthetic, a dystopian futuristic style that befits her high energy signature that’s a fired-up fusion of jump-up, tech and minimal.
Look out for: Skellytn spent the lockdown time very wisely and amassed a haul of 30+ tracks, some of which you’ll hear on her powerful debut album Neurocomputer. A conceptual album that builds on the themes of her last EP Cybernetic Ritual, it continues her exploration of the fine line between humanity and technology and sees her levelling up in a major way. It’s out February 11, it will come with a audio visual narrative mix and will be the first North American D&B album to be released by a female artist! Beyond that expect more singles and collabs with Reid Speed and Dr Werewolf. (Dave Columbo Jenkins)
Let’s be real, SOLAH is by no means a newcomer to the scene or a talent we’ve suddenly discovered. We’re talking about the insane voice behind two of Halogenix’s beloved tunes in Out of Line and Flames, and we actually interviewed her on this site way back in 2019. But in some ways, it feels like SOLAH has found a renewed lease of life in the D&B scene over the past year, and that’s helping people to fall in love with her dreamy voice all over again. From Neverend with Pola & Bryson to her most recent link up with BCee on Spirals, it feels like she’s gearing up for a big 2022.
Look out for: A very big announcement from SOLAH in the very near future. (Jake Hirst)
Spectral’s short but sweet catalogue thus far shows a consistent theme of stripped-back rollers – they feel very Skeptical-inspired. And, like Skeppy, she’s managed to nail the art of making tracks that contain few elements but make a serious impact. Her bootleg of Doja Cat’s Streets can’t go without a mention too – keeping with the minimal mantra, she’s done a fantastic job dissecting a silky R&B track, and preparing it for the D&B listener.
Cutting her teeth with the Incurzion Audio crew on the aforementioned releases, Spectral went on to win EQ50‘s mentorship programme last year. Here, she’s been able to pick the brains of Critical Music’s roster of bass scientists – which will culminate in her forthcoming EP with the label.
Further proof she’s one to watch comes from her skills and selections on the CDJs. Spectral’s earned sets from Fabric to Lakota and plenty more high profile bookings are set for Spectral this year. We can’t wait to see what’s next for this young talent who’s got a keen ear for the deep, dark and minimal.
Look out for: her debut EP on Critical Music and shows at Printworks and Hospitality On The Beach later this year. Trust us, Spectral is smashing through any DJs bucket-list! (Sam Yates)
Sleek is the word that comes to mind when listening to any of Bristol-based Thread’s output. With a focus on synth-forward, sample-heavy drum and bass that teeters on the boundaries of minimal and liquid, his productions are polished beyond his small number of years in the scene. Who needs the discussion of mixdown vs vibes when you’ve got both?
Beyond a few early releases on the likes of Riddim Records and Boey Audio, his music really started to make a mark when Skankandbass picked him up for a two-track single that boasted his juxtaposition of dark and lighter sounds. Other releases include his Crooked EP on Onyx, a single on Impact Music, and a collaborative liquid EP with Kin:etic on Context Audio.
Look out for: The future is looking incredibly bright. Did someone say Integral Records? Also watch out for an EP on a brand-new label from an already established artist, a collaboration with Monrroe, and much more. This is certainly one artist whose newcomer status is hanging on by a thread… (Scott Claridge)