Dance music has always had a contentious relationship with mainstream Dallas culture. Going out in the city’s nightlife hot spots like Deep Ellum and Uptown, you might think this is the land of trap, top 40 and hip-hop with not much room for anything else. But underneath the surface, local producers of house, techno and electro in Dallas have been moving their music from the bedroom studios to significant chart successes on the major online DJ sites, like Traxsource, Beatport, Clone, Juno and Hard Wax.
When speaking to DJs in dance music hotbeds like New York, Chicago, Berlin, London and Amsterdam, Dallas-bred artists like Convextion, Maceo Plex, Cygnus, Brett Johnson, Demarkus Lewis, Left/Right, TXConnect, Vectorvision and JT Donaldson are most likely to come up as far as what Dallas is known for in the clubs outside of the home turf. Unfortunately for most of the local producers, you are more likely to find them booked in top clubs in these international hot spots than their hometown. Dallas is not necessarily unique to this situation. To paraphrase an old proverb: “No prophet is accepted in his own country.”
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Coverage of these artists is almost nonexistent locally, while finding their names on reputable international media outlets like Resident Advisor is almost expected. DJ Mag (the largest DJ culture magazine still in print) ran a feature on our fair city's rich electro scene — one that even most of the dance music scene barely even knows exists. The common thread among these Dallas electro artists is, they all release vinyl on mostly European labels.
Homegrown labels like New Math, Audiophile and Texas Recording Underground drop digital and vinyl releases, curating a wide range of regional talent. Much like the artists, these labels tend to fly somewhat beneath the radar locally while garnering notable chart success and signing producers from our own backyard along with choice talent from outside the Texas border.
In December, Plano-based electro producer ERP dropped his debut album after years of well-received 12-inch singles to wide acclaim and frenzied sales. That album is currently sitting at No. 1 on the Clone sales charts.
Over at Audiophile, Aidin Hafezami dropped his Missing Detroit EP, which peaked at No. 5 on Beatport's minimal deep tech charts and well over 500,000 plays on Spotify. Audiophiles’ forward-thinking techno compilation EP series Occupants peaked at No. 1 on Leftfield House & Techno, breaks and electronica charts. Local house music legend Demarkus Lewis consistently finds himself in the top-20 sales charts for the last few years and his track on audiophile "Behind Closed Doors" featuring E-Man landed in the Traxsource’s overall top 10. The label also had success showcasing local talent, with Dallas producers Locklear, Buala, Freefall, Kerim Bey, Malla Strana, Niteski, Vectorvision and even local legends of '90s rave Paradigm Shift.
Audiophile label head Jimmy Freer keeps an optimistic outlet on the city’s dance culture awareness.
“It's large and in charge, just not completely in the public's limelight," he says. "I feel people are getting bored, and looking for something new, they will discover the wealth of amazing artists we have here in 2019.”
Samma Lone is a familiar face on the local DJ circuit through his various residencies but also found his own success by hitting No. 1 on the Traxsource Nu Disco charts with his "My Feelings" single related on his own Uptown Boogie imprint.
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2018 saw Dallas’ most successful international DJ Maceo Plex coming home part time between an in-demand touring schedule and launching Lone Romantic as a sub-label of his already successful Ellum recordings. He also found time to release an archival compilation of tracks from his electro alias Mariel Ito on the legendary R&S records overseas while still packing out the top-tier dance clubs and festivals.
Texas Recording Underground label head Gavin Guthrie continued pushing Texas-specific talent in new directions with the Cold Wave-tinged Minimal Compliance 12-inch EP by Mirror Box, a side project from the frontman for local post-punk outfit Nervous Curtains. Guthrie also dropped his own full-length solo album The Totality on Seattle-based Medical Records as well as tracks on compilations from Bordello A Parigi from the Netherlands and Los Angeles-based Black Lodge Recordings.
For this week’s Observer mixtape we have a mix comprised of 2018’s top-tier dance music released by Dallas artists, along with some of the up-and-comers queuing up to be the next big Texas export.
Roos & Deja - Be Me
Mala Strana - Black Orchid
Vectorvision - Vortex Unknown
TX Connect - Ghetto 214
Mirror Box- Critical Blitz
Sammy lone - My Feelings
Mariel Ito - The Fallen
Paradigm Shift - Requisition
Aidin Hafezamini - Missin’ Detroit
Kerim Bey - The signal is Breaking Through