8 artists shaping the future of Canadian electronic music
From guttural experimental to jazzy house, artists across the country are dabbling in a wide range of genres
There is no shortage of artists in Canada making thrilling and innovative electronic music, but they don't always get a spotlight beyond their respective scenes. There are, of course, Canadian producers like Kaytranada, Rezz, Jacques Greene, Deadmau5, Jayda G, Caribou, Beverly Glenn-Copeland and A-Trak, who are widely known and acclaimed, but it's always refreshing to hear what's being created by underground artists.
It's hard to qualify electronic music when it encompasses so much — some may hear the term and immediately think of the EDM hits that get frequent radio play, while others may imagine the four-on-the-floor beats that get played in grungy, dimly-lit clubs in Berlin. Both would be on the right track. The emerging Canadian artists and producers selected for this list are making a wide range of sounds, from guttural experimental to jazzy house, U.K. garage to introspective techno.
Get to know some of the artists shaping the future of Canadian electronic music right now.
Honeydrip is a Montreal-based DJ and producer who has been embedded in the city's undergound scene for years, from her n10.as radio show Waves of Honey to DJing at countless parties. As a DJ first, she has an ear for sounds that will play well on a dance floor and her debut 2021 EP, Anti-Ego, is a testament to that. Blending left-field techno, bass and breakbeat, she makes music that moves you and challenges your preconceived ideas simultaneously. Anti-Ego was "heavily influenced by the symbiosis of black culture and electronic music," she shared in the description of the "Brand New Flava" music video. There's a deconstructionist element to her production style, almost like she's reducing the genres to their bare bones. "Brand New Flava," featuring King Shadrock, provides a perfect example of this — mixing dub, techno, dancehall and reggae to create something completely otherworldly.
Roam crafts sparse and sparkling soundscapes that undulate between moodiness and levity. His music is insular and introspective, exploring the inner workings of a self-proclaimed "disillusioned millennial." In 2018, Noisey referred to him as the "producer bringing dark U.K. garage to Toronto," and he's lived up to that title, releasing two albums and countless singles in the years since. His desire to capture and chronicle millennial ennui informs his take on U.K. garage, two-step and future garage. He cites the films Lost in Translation, Her and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as influences for his 2020 album The Wraith. The artist himself is shrouded in mystery — his face always obscured, covered or turned away from the camera.
As Gayance's Bandcamp bio reads, she makes "jazzy-house with Brazilian spices so you can make out with your crush." The Montreal-based artist's 2021 EP, No Toning Down, perfectly encapsulates that sentiment, especially the opener, "Meu Sol," featuring Maleika Tidjani and Dapapa. The EP was her first foray into her own music making, written over the course of 2020. The music is playful and free-spirited, and heavily influenced by broken beats, U.K. garage, jungle and bossa nova. The Haitian creole origins of her artist name loosely translate to "joyful," and that's what her music inspires in listeners — it's bubbling with fervent energy and jubilance. Gayance is now touring Europe and working on her debut album.
If you can be regularly found in the pit at festivals like VELD or Bass Coast, then Rumpus is the producer for you. The Regina artist mixes live drumming into his DJ sets and has played everywhere from Burning Man to SXSW. His original tracks have been spun by heavy-hitters like Tiesto, Marshmello and Oliver Heldens. From the funky groove of "You Better" to the bombastic and gritty "Money Maker," he makes music to fill big rooms and wide fields. In 2020, he won the Saskatchewan Music Award for electronic artist of the year and was also nominated for the Western Canadian Music Awards' dance artist of the year.
Chippy Nonstop doesn't like to be idle. As her name suggests, her energy is as relentless as the 150 BPM and faster DJ sets she's become known for. The Toronto-based DJ and producer has lived and toured all over the world (Zambia, Dubai, Germany, the U.S., England, Colombia and more) and picked up things along the way that influence her larger- than-life sound. CBC Music named "Accelerate" off her 2021 self-titled EP one of the most underrated songs of the year for a reason: it's cleverly produced, hot and fun — just like her other releases. Blending techno, hardstyle, drum and bass and sensual vocals, she makes mind-melting songs built for the rave. When she's not commanding a mic or the decks, she works on dismantling hierarchies while running Intersessions, a workshop series dedicated to addressing the gender imbalances in DJing, production and the music business.
DenMother is the experimental electronic music project of Ontario-born, New Brunswick-based artist Sabarah Pilon. The sonic disruptions on her East Coast Music Awards-nominated album, Frantic Ram, were created during COVID lockdowns and are loosely based on Dante's Inferno, the occult, mythology and Jungian archetypes. Pilon's prolific catalogue is full of captivating atmospheres, blending layered vocals, warbly synths and moody percussion. Her music moves from chill ambient moments to industrial experimental screeches, and she uses her flexible voice to toe the line between softness and guttural screams. The songs are like incantations that mesmerize and bewilder.
Ciel is a producer, pianist and DJ from Xi'an, China and is currently based in Toronto. She has cemented herself as a fixture in the city's dance music scene with party series like Work in Progress (predicated on combating the erasure of women DJs in the scene) and It's Not You It's Me. There's a subdued quality to her music-making; it creeps up on you slowly, then all at once it transports you to somewhere new. She has an untethered, exploratory production style, making it difficult to pin down her sound, and her ascent so exciting to witness. So far, her discography incorporates elements of techno, electro, house, garage and footwork. Her 2021 EP, All we Have is Each Other, is a smorgasbord of driving broken beats, two-step, twinkling samples, alien synths and muted drums.
Patrick Moon Bird
Patrick Moon Bird used to make hardcore metal, but now he makes lo-fi bedroom pop. It's quite a sonic shift, but the Prince Albert artist is so adept at crafting gorgeous little songs that have an inherent optimism, even when they tackle tough subject matter like depression and bipolar personality disorder. Light, shimmery percussion, gentle synths, far-away vocals and subtle kick drums make his sound approachable and inviting, like a tender caress that engulfs you. He released two albums this year, Going Through the Motions and High School, and both are phenomenal soundtracks for pensive moments in isolation. They encourage the mind to wander and spiral in the best ways.