Record labels have always been an integral part of the music scene, providing a platform for established and emerging artists to distribute their music and expand their fanbase. Oftentimes though, labels become more than just a distribution channel, carving out their own musical niche and developing their own signature sound. Here are 10 dance labels which have been killing it in 2014, putting out a constant flow of massive releases and owning their particular field of EDM.
10. AUS Music
London-based label AUS Music never seems to stop, continuously releasing banging deep house singles destined for the dance floor. Last year, the label dropped countless tracks from some of the most respected deep house producers across the world, including Dusky, Huxley, Deetron and Midland, whose massive single "Trace" proved a game changer in the house scene. They’ve kept up the momentum in 2014, too, with artists like Will Saul, Breach and Glimpse contributing a chain of belter tunes and consolidating the label as the go-to place for pumping deep house beats.
The track you have to hear: Bicep - "Circles"
Bicep is one of the most unique duos in all of dance music, developing a slick old-school image and imbuing their music with a cool 90s aesthetic. Their most recent track, "Circles" is no different, uniting a classic house beat, smooth retro synths and a cutting bass line, all while challenging the conventions of modern house music. It’s a typical AUS Music release - forward-thinking deep house mayhem.
Established by Canadian DJ-producer Tiga in 1998, Turbo has long been the home of quality underground techno. Featuring the likes of ZZT, Jesper Dahlbäck and Clouds, the label is a self-proclaimed leader of the “bravewave” scene, amassing a cult following of fans over the last two decades. As Tiga explains, “We started out singing into plastic bags and shipping them to stores as quickly as possible. Later, we discovered that vinyl sounds way better when delivered by kayak. I learned so much the first few years…Now, as I look towards the future, I can envision music for poor people, sonic odors for the hearing impaired, even MP3s for women....Vroom, sucka!” Wait, what?!
The track you have to hear: Duke Dumont - "Slow Dance"
After spending a year getting thrashed in label boss Tiga’s DJ sets, many thought "Slow Dance" would never see a release date, until it was finally announced last week that the track would come out soon through Turbo. Bringing together a number of huge acid synths and a catchy vocal refrain, it’s an instant winner; get sucked in below.
8. Defected Records
One of the most iconic deep house labels in the world, Defected claims they are “probably the one and only label that carried house music's legacy into the 21st century,” preserving its history and “bridging the gap across generations of music lovers and clubbers worldwide.” Since starting Defected in 1999, Simon Dunmore has taken the name to every corner of the globe, throwing some of the craziest parties of all time and releasing only the best soulful deep house from around the world. Recently, the label has seen success with releases from artists like MK, Huxley and Secondcity who have continued to build the brand’s image of uncompromising quality.
The track you have to hear: Oliver $ and Jimi Jules - Pushing On (Edit)
Tracks like "Pushing On" are the reason we all love dance music, providing a deep, thick rhythm to get lost in, even if it’s only for a few brief minutes. It’s this kind of quality release Defected is known for, bringing together clean percussion, warm, liquid basslines, hanging piano chords, and deep dusky vocals. If you hear this one when you’re out on the weekend, just shut your eyes and enjoy the ride - it doesn’t get much better than this.
7. Spinnin' Records
Founded in 1999 by Eelko van Kouten, Spinnin’ Records has become home to many of the DJs you’re used to seeing behind the decks at the biggest events across the world, from Sander van Doorn to Tiësto, Showtek, Afrojack and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. That’s right, they’re the guys responsible for so many of the drops which drive you crazy on the festival dance floor, sending a shiver down your spine as the lights flash and the fireworks rise overhead. So if you’re looking for that track which blew your mind at EDC or Ultra, Spinnin’ is probably a good place to start. After all, as their team says, “it all starts with good music.”
The track you have to hear: DubVision - "Backlash" (Martin Garrix edit)
Since releasing ubiquitous single "Animals," Martin Garrix has been on a fast track to the top, spreading his high-energy main stage sound across the world. His edit of DubVision’s "Backlash" takes it up another gear again, with an evocative, melodic build-up which launches into an enormous drop sure to make you throw your hands in the air. Just the type of massive release fans have come to expect from Spinnin’.
Characterised by pitched down hip-hop vocals, thick house beats and big dirty bass lines, emerging new genre "G-House" has been making waves in dance music lately - and Paris-based label CUFF is leading the way. Founded in 2013 by French duo Amine Edge & Dance, the label has already pioneered its own unique sound, putting out a slew of huge original tracks and collating an exciting team of underground producers, including Shiba San and Victor Ruiz. Plus, with their release schedule completely packed for the next year, expect the self-proclaimed “mafia organization” to continue the constant flow of hits over the coming months.
The track you have to hear: Holt Blackheat - "Beat That"
Sporting an infectious melody of incendiary bass stabs, perfectly tuned vocals, and tight, crisp percussion, "Beat That" is a classic example of the signature CUFF sound. Check it out below; and expect to come out an instant CUFF fanatic.
5. Future Classic
Australian-based label Future Classic has been on a hot streak lately, dropping a series of charting singles and signing an innovative crew of exciting new talent. Amongst the label’s signees is rising star Flume, whose seen runaway success since the release of his eponymous album in 2013. From the funky disco of Flight Facilities, to L D R U’s spine-tingling jungle trap, they’re not short on diversity either, and yet every track they release fits seamlessly into the distinct Future Classic sound they’ve become so famous for. Be sure to keep an eye out for more cool Future Classic material as the year goes on, there’s sure to be plenty.
The track you have to hear: Lorde - "Tennis Court" (Flume Remix)
Flume’s remix of Lorde’s hit single Tennis Court has been turning heads all across the world. With deep soulful synths, intricate vocal cutting, and even a horse sample, the track provides a fresh new take on the original. The perfect example of a cutting-edge Future Classic release.
According to general manager Glenn Mendlinger, Astralwerks is “all about great music and our willingness to adapt when necessary,” explaining that they’ve “been fortunate to work with some of the most creative musicians from a variety of musical genres.” Amongst these artists is Canadian producer Deadmau5, who released his fourth studio album While (1<2) on the label earlier this year. Astralwerks has also worked with EDM superstars like David Guetta, Eric Prydz and NERVO, affording them a status as one of the most influential electronic music labels in the world. Last year, the label celebrated 20 year of success - and with so many big releases on the horizon, the next 20 looks just as bright.
The track you have to hear: Porter Robinson - "Sea of Voices"
The first single to be released from Robinson's anticipated debut LP, "Sea of Voices" is a perfect example of Astralwerks’ diversity and flare. The track brings together a huge range of influences, developing an ambient electronic sound reminiscent of M83’s work on tracks like "Moonchild." With the full album due for release in August, watch out for more killer releases on the label as the year goes on.
“Our goal wasn’t to create a label,” founder Manu Barron explained of Bromance Records, “but rather to develop Bromance as a brand that would work as a guarantee for successful parties.” Barron has done just that. Since founding the label with French DJ/producer Brodinski in 2011, Bromance has fast become synonymous with modern techno, creating a new space in dance music. As DJ Mag once wrote, “the title for [the] label has come to represent a fraternity of French artists, reinventing the house sound of their respective nation.” The fraternity’s work has seen the label build a polished back-catalogue of massive singles, so the next time you’re seeking a fix of sinister, ‘anxiety’ techno, look no further than Bromance.
The track you have to hear: Louisahhh!!! & Maelstrom - "Night Clubbing"
"Night Clubbing" delivers the exact kind of late-night techno Bromance is famous for, combining deep driving basslines, eerie pads and vocals and a pounding 4/4 rhythm. As Louisahhh!!! and Maelstrom explained, it’s “about the individual experience of the nightlife…the kind of moments when you think you’re invincible, and when the very notion of time disappears.”
Since the label’s debut release by Justin Martin in 2005, Dirtybird has cultivated a reputation as a leading bass music authority, dropping a host of massive singles and winning “underground label of the year” at the 2013 International Dance Music Awards. Founder Claude VonStroke has been instrumental in the label’s continued success, putting out a series of huge singles including inimitable epic, "Who’s Afraid of Detroit?," which cemented their position at the top of the game. More recently, Dirtybird has seen releases from the likes of Julio Bashmore, Riva Starr, Kill Frenzy, Eats Everything and Breach, whose bouncy bass-driven single "Jack" spent 2013 tearing up the Beatport charts.
The track you have to hear: Shiba San - "Okay"
Shiba San’s "Okay" has Dirtybird written all over it, from the big, punchy drums to the funky, rolling bassline. Over the first half of the year, the track has seen massive success, climbing to the top spot on the Beatport house charts and becoming a veritable weapon for DJs. Spend a moment with the hit single below, and prepare yourself for banging, bass-driven Dirtybird goodness.
1. Ultra Records
Since the explosion of main stage EDM and festival culture worldwide, Ultra Records has positioned themselves as one of the go-to labels for big room bangers and massive electro and progressive house. Formed in 1995 by Patrick Moxey, the label has accrued an all-star cast of artists, including Steve Aoki, Benny Benassi, Kaskade, Above & Beyond, The Bloody Beetroots, Axwell, and Adrian Lux. Also well known for trap and other bass genres, Ultra has also featured a number of releases from artists like Flosstradamus and Anna Lunoe, giving them a unique edge which culminated in a nomination for the prestigious Grammy awards.
The track you have to hear: Benny Benassi & Gary Go - "Let This Last Forever" (MAKJ Remix)
Kicking off with euphoric dance plucks and an emotive vocal verse, MAKJ’s reinterpretation of "Let This Last Forever" is bread and butter for Ultra. The remix continues to launch into an extended buildup, before throwing down a thumping big room drop, prefaced with the simple message: “let this last forever." Have a listen below; when it drops, you’ll be wishing it did last forever.