With the years-long roller coaster of lockdowns and venue closings across North Texas, a fistful of electronic producers and musicians of various stripes have retreated to their bedroom studios to build up their discographies. Local independent artists continue to use Bandcamp to share releases, in many cases launching their own labels to push their music out to wider audiences.
Here are the electronic acts from North Texas that you should be watching this year.
Label: Temporal Loop
With releases on Science Cult and on his own label, Temporal Loop, Kerim Bey has been a steady force in the darker fringes of techno in North Texas over the past five years, holding court at underground warehouse parties in the wee hours of the night. In recent months, Bey started performing on bills with noisier experimental acts with his live electronics alias, [S|3L], which defies categorization.
Bey says he's "not really worried about genres."
"Especially with some upcoming [S|3L] releases," he says. "They are all over the place."
Between his two projects, Bey rides the fine line between industrial grind, experimental power noise and metronomic techno without narrowing his scope to a single genre.
Counting nine releases on his own Temporal Loop imprint, which has released songs by artists such as Yin Yang Audio, Bey is a perfect case study of artists taking the business side of things into their own hands by focusing on artist-to-fan relationships built on Bandcamp, extracting the best parts of the digital experiment without all the noise.
"Bandcamp is a really solid platform; it's my favorite store to shop for music, personally," Bey says. "For managing a label it can't really make it much more straightforward. The way they list the supporters and comments on the release pages are my favorite. People can connect by musical taste and see each other's libraries. I wish this was the way more people connected."
Declan James is another young talent making serious moves in the arena of hard techno, and we mean borderline speed-metal hard. With his Voidware collective and label, James has been a key figure in the rise of underground techno in Dallas. On the heels of his "New Age Psychosis" single on the Los Angeles-based label Space Yacht, James earned a spot at the famed EDC festival in Las Vegas this past October.
The experimental nature of his brand of pulse-pounding techno can be attributed to his diverse musical background.
"I tend to avoid listening to a lot of techno music in my free time," James says. "I often fear that consuming too much of the same genre of music that I make will yield to me making less exciting decisions when I produce. I draw a large amount of inspiration from avant-garde artists from the 1960s and '70s like the Residents, Magma and Aphrodite’s Child, to name a few."
The result is a delightfully blown-out, overly saturated sound with melodic sensibilities, and it's gaining international traction among younger electronic music fans as the artist flirts with mainstream access.
"I think that techno is really starting to move out of the underground and into the mainstream in the United States, and this will become more apparent in 2022," James says. "The big question for me is not whether this is going to happen, but rather how we can ensure that the music continues to be represented properly and not turned into some sort of mockery of itself."
Label: Codec Recordings
The word "prodigy" gets tossed around often, but every now and then an artist comes out of nowhere rightfully earning that distinction. Over the past year, Decoder has made a tsunami-sized splash producing brilliant techno that sounds light-years beyond his teenage years. In 2021, he made an impact with a string of EPs plus the Monolithic Activity Spectrum album from label Subsist, as well as Dark Shape, an album released by techno legend Jeff Mills on his Axis label. Decoder also got the public seal of approval of Richie Hawtin, who name-checked him as a rising techno talent to watch.
Decoder's music taps directly into the minimalist heart of classic techno, building on the bare essentials of loopy synths and motorik beats that recall the early years of Mills or Robert Hood. It's a side of techno that is revered but not all that common in the modern electronic landscape; the fact that this music is coming from a teenager in Texas is outright mind-boggling. Decoder's next EP is set to be released through his own label, Codec Recordings.
For the past decade and a half, Cygnus has been nurturing his own corner of the electro universe over the course of nine albums and 19 EPs, most of the latter on vinyl. 2021 saw him return for his fourth release, the 100% Dope EP, on the seminal U.K. label Central Processing Unit. Adding to an already mammoth-sized discography that dwarfs pretty much every producer or band in the city, the coming year will see Cygnus albums on the Croatia-based Barba Records as well as another LP on his own Biosoft imprint.
After plans for another trip over the pond to Europe were delayed for obvious pandemic reasons, Cygnus' focus is on finishing these next two big releases. Despite his mind-numbing output, Cygnus has still managed to evolve his brand of electro across every release. How does he keep it fresh? Well, in his own words, "I let myself have a lot more fun in the studio, though, and not take things very seriously," Cygnus says. "Keeping a child-like attitude lays the foundation for a lot of fun and the results are always great."
Dwelling in haunting synth-driven melancholy, Llora taps into the dark side of genres that end with the word "wave," a merging of retro influences repurposed into sincerely modern productions.
We've seen only a few singles on Bandcamp and an outstanding video for the entrancing single "Tired," so we've only caught a glimpse of what a full-length album by Llora has to offer. The artist has one album already in the can, and it should see the light of day sometime in 2022. Llora has already proven to have worthy material through astounding live shows further elevated by the recent addition of percussionist extraordinaire Stefan Gonzalez. The dynamic interplay between the two musicians gives post-punk/new wave/EBM fans a really good reason to step out to the local clubs.
Under her alias M'ress, Jessica Edeker explored dreamy ethereal landscapes on her brilliant 2020 album Poemics. With her Subduction alias, she explores a darker path of foreboding synth textures and pounding rhythms.
"I spent a lot of time exploring EBM bass lines and heavy arpeggiation on [the album] Of Glamoury and I exercised a lot of pent-up feelings through that album," Edeker says. "It was very therapeutic."
Both releases emerged by way of her label Endcom, which Edeker co-founded with DJ and tastemaker Rick Simpson.
"Ricky and I really want to build a label where we can feature artists who may not release their music otherwise," Edeker says."[Album] Endcom Compilation Vol. 1 was our first attempt at making this a reality,"
Visions of Glosters
Label: Science Cult
Visions of Glosters is the production alias of Jimmy Freer and his partner Stefan Weise (aka Syrte), who have guided Science Cult into becoming the strongest electronic label to come out of Dallas in decades. With a string of over 30 releases in just the past two years boasting a roster of top talent from across the world, the label's notable artists include electro luminaries such as the Tokyo-based Fleck ESC and Berlin-based Cyrk. Their commitment to local voices came by way of the 214 817 972 compilation featuring the cream of the crop of Dallas electronic artists: Aidin Hafezamini, Kerim Bey, TX Connect, Vectorvision, Red Eye and ill76.
With an emphasis on meticulously designed vinyl releases, the label earned its place in the international scene with an uncompromising vision of leftfield techno, electro and IDM. The label's commitment to vinyl releases is at the core of their label concept.
"Syrte originally wanted a platform to tell a written story through a series of color-coded releases (Astra Spectra)," Freer says. "The whole concept of embedding hidden messages was inspired by David Bowie's last album. We then expanded on that idea and, as vinyl collectors and DJs, we wanted all releases to have a narrative in order for them to be meaningful and timeless."