Photos courtesy of Mono Nights
You already know the biggest acts in New Zealand drum & bass: Concord Dawn, The Upbeats, State Of Mind, Tali and Trei have become household names for fans of the genre, putting NZ on the map not just as a nation of appreciative ravers but talented producers as well. Add to the mix other respected musicians like Need For Mirrors, Tokyo Prose, Bulletproof, Dose, Cern, Flowidus and Lee Mvtthews, and we can fairly be accused of punching above our weight.
But what about all the Kiwi artists you’ve never heard of? Or the ones that you’re likely to hear about in the near future? Read on as we reveal a wealth of musical treasures just waiting to be discovered…
If you like your neuro funky, melodic, and impeccably engineered then you can’t look past Unsub, n0isemakeR, and Alice K, a trio who have been pumping out high quality music for a decade. Now releasing on self-run label PHDM, the last two years have yielded a string of weighty LPs packed full of warbling reese basslines, ethereal vocals and clever contrasts of both the light and dark sides of drum and bass. Responsible for all elements of their art, from the visuals to the mixing and mastering, and one of only a handful of acts throughout the country playing 100% original productions in their live performances, they’re a force to be reckoned with. We told their unique story in 2019, it’s highly recommended.
Leaning into the newly evolving techy neuro sound championed by the likes of IMANU and Buunshin, Intercept is a key artist to watch. He’s steadily grown his reputation as a producer to watch with a series of sought-after bootlegs (including Culture Shock’s Bunker and Adam F’s seminal Circles), and his star rose further after coming third place in the recent Teddy Killerz Shine remix competition, earning him an appearance on the prestigious Noisia Radio. Newly-signed releases are forthcoming on Australian label Protocode.
If you like this sound, check out: Obeisant, Deep Notion, Sly Chaos, Catch-22
What if your response to neuro is “nah, rollers mate”? Then look no further than one of the fastest rising stars of 2020 Burnzy. He spent a prolific 2019 honing his craft with a clutch of dubplates generating word of mouth buzz, culminating in a breakout EP release on Audio Addict. A string of boisterous live performances followed, punctuated by cheeky bootlegs (his Thomas the Tank Engine riffing Stank Engine is not only hilarious, but also does bits) and plenty of middle fingers, building deserved hype. Although mostly known for dirty rollers, he’s a versatile producer ranging from liquid to jungle offerings. Watch for future releases on forward-looking jungle-hybrid labels like Liondub International and Audio Addict.
Talented artists in their own right, 2020 saw producer Willy Mav and vocalist Elipsa join forces for a pair of releases putting them firmly in the spotlight. On Falling (signed to DnB Allstars, a label highly supportive of NZ talent), wobbly bass and a stepping beat pair with Elipsa’s haunting, soulful vocals, while Without You (out on up-and-coming NZ label Lunchbox Records) showcases a fresh liquid sound brimming with soulful vibes. Willy Mav has a strong back-catalogue of bootlegs, remixes and originals showing a clear progression, while under the tutelage of none other than Tali, Elipsa is growing in leaps and bounds as an in-demand vocalist, with her debut solo release Alien and features on similarly vibey tunes from Optics, Ethos and Burnzy. As both a performing and production combo, they’re a formidable pairing.
With an increasing number of drum and bass producers striking out from the confines of the standard 170+BPM format into leftfield territory, it’s no surprise that New Zealand also has its fair share of producers willing to break the mold. Veteran producer Stu Habit has established himself on big labels such as ProgRAM and The Dreamers Recordings with a mix of gritty rollers and quirkier fare, and he’s embraced the new rise of halftime with his latest release on fledgling NZ label SBK Recordings (as well as an upcoming LP on the same), and future collabs with a range of producers like fellow Kiwi Dan Aux and Canadian NC-17.
If you’re willing to explore even further off the beaten track, Paige Julia is one of NZ underground music’s best kept secrets, a massively versatile producer adept in a range of genres, from drum and bass and dubstep to techno and breakbeat. A regular standout performer at festivals and doofs around the country and on the cusp of breakout stardom, now is the time to discover her funky, tribalistic sound. Check out Kōpiko below, recently featured on Noisia Radio.
If you like this sound, check out: Biobird, Sick Cycle
Maybe you like your drum and bass loud, proud, and made for singing along to? Bursting onto the scene with a bang in 2020 and quickly making a name for themselves, Pirapus are purveyors of self-coined “stadium drum and bass” – big, bold riffs and soaring hooks meant for the largest possible venues (think Sub Focus, Wilkinson, and other dancefloor dons).
After collabing with the likes of Burnzy and Suune and playing to sold-out shows throughout the country, they’re poised to make an impact: check out the monstrous Fragments (featuring vocalist Ponz) for a taste of their unique brand of dancefloor mayhem, and the euphoric Cruiser on recent NZ/Australia compilation onesevenfour Vol. 1.
Nigel Greene aka Greeen, primarily known as one of the South Island’s finest DJs, has been chipping away at production for a decade. With a surge of activity over the last couple of years, especially his sought-after dubplate Back In The Days doing damage around the country, he has teamed up with experienced audio engineer Mish (formerly Misshin) to form powerhouse duo Mish & Greeen, who spent lockdown concocting a fresh take on their drum and bass sound. A potent blend of dancefloor, old-skool rave and neuro, their debut release E=MC² is out now on Noxious Records.
If you like this sound, check out: Reubik, Flowidus, Lee Mvtthews
Mining the fertile ground of deep, techy minimalism that has seen a resurgence in the last few years, Ben Frost aka Medium began his production career in the early 2010s before bursting back on the scene in 2019-2020 with fresh releases on Terra Firma, Tesseract and Context Audio. The latter label will play host to an upcoming four-tracker, and were also responsible for releasing Screw Up (a collab with fellow Auckland producer Ben Shaw), featured in a recent Overview Music podcast. A dark, moody stepper with attitude to burn, it’s a good representation of his sound, full of crisp percussion, squelchy bass, anxious vocals and cavernous tension.
With a name like a Marvel superhero and an unassuming online presence, MidKnight Moon presents as something of an enigma. But dig into his ample back catalogue and you’ll find a producer of real skill and a solid sonic identity, crafting the kind of deep, minimal tunes found on landmark labels like Flexout Audio and Delta9, with a strong melodic flavour which refuses easy categorisation. Racking up releases on labels as varied as Boey Audio, Hanzom Music and Liquid Flavours Records, there’s plenty of material for you to get stuck into. His imminent EP on Incurzion Audio a great starting place for the uninitiated.
And if amen breaks are more your speed, we’re lucky to have some skilled practitioners of jungle and 140-160 BPM bass music, none quite as charismatic as the Redwood Ranger Liam K. Swiggs. Founder of the Big Fresh Collective, (NZ’s answer to Fracture & Neptune’s Astrophonica), he mines 90s nostalgia for samples and aesthetic in a footwork framework, with influences as varied as LTJ Bukem and James Ferraro coursing through the dreamlike, street-wise tunes.
Another champion of the underground scene, Zuke draws on jazz school training and a rich history of dub, reggae and dubstep in our country to explore the breadth of electronic bass music. A fixture on the NZ festival circuit, performing sets of 100% original productions, he represents the junglist spirit that’s alive and well in Aotearoa.