10 Artists Leading the Way in One of Dance Music's Most Creative Scenes
Cover photo: Mutek - Nocturne 4 - John Roberts
Cover photo credit: Miguel Legault
Montreal, Quebec is home to an ever-burgeoning electronic music market and lays claim to an impressive roster of pioneers and movers-and-shakers. As the Montreal dance music community continues to expand and evolve, the industry is keeping a close eye on the artists, promoters and events that continue to push the global electronic music community forward.
Like Montreal's own Insomniac, Printemps Numérique is known for its spectacles, festivals, expositions, conferences and portes ouvertes. One of its most well known events is MUTEK, a festival dedicated to promoting electronic music and digital arts. The five-day festival in early June focuses on providing exposure to Canadian electronic artists alongside international names.
Piknic Electronik is another event every Montreal music fan knows. Every Sunday, Piknic Electronik takes over Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau island for a day of music, food and good vibes. From the local talent to the food trucks and the buckets of sangria, this weekly gathering is nothing but good times.
While these events wouldn't be what they are without great music, they are continually making it possible for new local talent to continue to pop up. Below are some of our favorite artists to come out of Montreal, all of whom have appeared at Piknic Electronik and other Printemps Numérique events.
Louis Kevin Celestin aka Kaytranda is a 23-year-old producer who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti but raised in Montreal. Louis was DJing by the time he was 14 and producing by the time he was 15. He released 8 projects under the name Kaytradamus before he eventually changed it to Kaytranada in 2012. The young producer has already toured over 50 cities around the world and even opened for Madonna on her Rebel Heart tour in two cities. Kaytranada landed a record deal with XL Recordings in 2014 and a publishing deal with eight-time Grammy winning producer Rick Rubin and Pulse Recordings in 2015. His debut album is expected to drop in May.
Frédérik Durand better known by his fans as Snails is the sole creator of an entire subgenre of bass music called "Vomitstep." His forward-thinking brand of dirty bass lines, trap rhythms and mind-bending sound design has converted a legion of fans into bass-heads and more specifically, snail-heads, since his first release on Canadian label Kannibalen Records back in 2012. His track "Wild" with Antiserium on OWSLA records was one of the top tracks at the 2014 Ultra Music Festival. Other standout Snails tracks include "Dirty Raxxx," "RBBR," "SLUGZ" and "Frogbass."
3. High Klassified
Kevin Vincent aka High Klassified is a 23-year-old, self-taught producer who has opened for Chromeo, signed with Fool's Gold and has even performed at Kanye West's Yeezus tour after-party. But he's not too big to where he can't still throw house parties, invite everyone and even try out new tunes. It was his 2012 track "Drama Trap" and a trap refix of Rihanna's "Stay" that first catapulted him into the beatmaking stratosphere.
4. Black Tiger Sex Machine
Dance music fans instantly recognize the live electronic trio made up of Marc Chagnon, Julien Maranda and Patrick Barry by their stat-of-the-art tiger helmets. Also the labelheads of Kannibalen Records, BTSM build a cult following with their live setup that includes a central mixer, drum machines, launchpads and keyboards combined with their signature synched visuals and light show. The trio has released 10 albums and EPs and has appeared at major festivals like Lollapalooza, TomorrowWorld, Electric Forest, Electric Zoo, SXSW, Escape and Decadence.
5. Thomas White
The co-founder of RAW Records, Thomas White takes a post-genre approach to club music, finding the unfathomable intersection of grime, juke, trap and 90's RnB and proving himself to be the vanguard of musical innovation as Piknic Electronik puts it. The fast-rising producer names his top influences to be Aphex Twin, Portishead, DJ Shadow, Modeselektor, Burial, Venetian Snares, Boards Of Canada, Nujabes, Jamie XX, Sinjin Hawke and Radiohead as well as fellow Canadians Amon Tobin and Venetian Snares.
Lunice Fermin Pierre II, who's stage name is simply Lunice, has crafted a unique style of music fusing both new and traditional elements of trap production. Growing up listening to Dilla, 9th Wonder and Madlib, he's always remained loyal to hip hop. He tried everything from graffiti to beatboxing, and he even cut his teeth as a breakdancer. After breaking into the underground Montreal Bass scene in 2007, Lunice began to experience with electro synth, bass and drum sounds and began mixing it with his rap tendencies. After dropping EPs on renowned indie lable LuckyMe, Lunice caught the attention of Diplo and went on to release and tour with Mad Decent. Since then, he's had several successful releases not to mention he produced "Runnin" for Azelia Banks and dropped a hugely popular EP with Hudson Mohawke as the duo TNGHT.
The founder of 'Montreal's Bass Drive Wednesday,' Jenny Carmichael aka Vilify has an eclectic, one-of-a-kind sound that she's developed in more than a decade of DJing experience. She was voted 'Best Club Night' four years in a row in the Best of Montreal 2011-2014. And although she recently relocated to Berlin where she heads up Urbanology Berlin, she certainly left her legacy in Montreal and is only expected to gain more and more international recognition.
Richard St-Aubin aka Shash'U has been composing and producing for over ten years and describes his style as PWRFNK (Power Funk), which is characterized by his distinct drums, projecting bass, 70s- and 80s funk-inspired melodies and old school hip hop flair. He's gained international fame through his long history of producing and DJing for street dance battles and his association with Piu Piu, the electro-beat movement.
Luis Rotondaro aka GrandBuda brings to the decks a diverse music background. He was trained in jazz fusion and for four years, was the rapper for the hip hop prog band New Apple Taste. His first weekly was at Cabaret Underworld in Montreal where he played 90s hip hop and trap, and he's now been producing for the local scene since 2008. Now, he's released several EPs as a producer and DJ, and he's currently working on a full album.
"I'm a rapper first and a Producer/DJ second so i manage to do both with different styles. What i can't do in production i do it as a rapper and vice versa," he wrote in an interview with All In.
By the time she was 20, Mayssam was already playing Montreal's top clubs and events, including Stereo, Piknic Electronik & Igloofest. Over the course of six years, the Lebaneese-born Montrealer developed her own unique, minimal sound which can be described as a cross between different ends of the deep house and techno spectrums. Now residing in New York, she is a member of the Sheik ‘n’ Beik collective and label and is the co-founder of the bi-monthly Just a Regular Session events.
Other producers you should know that came out of Montreal: A-Trak, Adventure Club, Tiga, Chromeo, Amon Tobin and Tommy Kruise.