It’s a new year, and you can’t be caught listening to the same old jams. You need an innovative groove, a bold boom bap, a fresh sonic frontier. Good thing for you, we here at Billboard Dance scour the dance floor underground to catch the coolest trend-makers and hit producers from all corners of the globe.
The first installment of our Ones to Watch series in 2019 takes us to a cozy corner of Melbourne, Australia, then for a few loops aroud the Pacific Northwest of these United States, and finally to the bassiest parts of Moscow. There’s melodic techno, lofi jazz hop, Japanese disco, rowdy g-house, and dreamy moods all througout this list. Keep your eyes peeled for these five acts in the year to come.
Dim the lights, ignite the fire and let the sparks fly. Electro-pop duo Kllo will melt your worries away with their warm, dreamy soundscapes that are quietly infused with R&B and UK garage stylings. The Melbourne upstart is packing out rooms across their home country, Europe hot spots like London and competitive U.S. markets including New York. Triple J has been a loyal support of the project, putting several of Kllo’s songs into rotation such as “Potential,” “Virtue,” and their latest single, “Candid.” One listen to this eclectic group and you’ll be doing victory listening laps around their entire catalog. — DAVE RISHTY
Everything old is new again, and this Portland-based producer is in the business of turning back the hands of time. His music draws influence from ’70s funk and disco, ’90s anime, arcade video games and anything that looks good in a scrunchy sock. Songs like “Suede,” “Ain’t Nobody Like You” and “Selfish High Heels” featuring Macross 82-99 and Harrison play like a remastered VHS tape that left a couple of skips for artistic effect. Synths and slap bass dissolve into shimmering cymbal crashes, opening tabs of retro disco heaven served with roller skate sleekness. To sift through his nostalgic samples would surely be a day well spent, but it’s the way he brings them together in a colorful, quirky vapor-bounce style that pushes us over the edge. He recently remixed The Knocks and Method Man’s collaboration “Goodbyes,” and he’s been on the road in support of Gryffin. He’s about to go on tour with Zedd, and he’s in the studio with Party Pupils working on some serious funk. Definitely expect to see a lot of Yung Bae in 2019. — KAT BEIN
San Francisco DJ and producer Luttrell is getting ready to release his debut album, Into Clouds, and recently embarked on a 23-date North American headline tour. The rising talent has been part of the Anjunadeep family since 2016 and has been steadily building up a portfolio of brooding beats and chilling melodies. Above & Beyond have been day one stalwarts of the project, taking Luttrell on tour and having him remix their silky single “Always” featuring Zoë Johnston. On the radio front, key tastemaker Annie Mac has been pushing his records on BBC Radio 1. And for what it’s worth, Luttrell has a magnificent mustache. Seriously…check it out. It’s impressive. Keep him on your radar as he’s laid down an excellent foundation and put himself in a position to win. — D.R.
If you teach your kid to play piano when their two years old, they may grow up to build beats as silky as quickly, quickly’s. Now 18, the blossoming producer has been making his own beats for nearly seven years, and his creative voice has moved well past its awkward teenage stage. He blends lofi hip-hop beats with rainy R&B moods and wraps it in an innovative blanket of smooth, ever so slightly off of center jazz. Wonky electronics drop his 2018 debut EP Over Skies somewhere among the crowd of “future” genres, but more in the sense that he’s moving things toward a new golden horizon than fitting into a distinct formula. That year also saw the release of his full-length LP Paths, a 16-track collection of bright boom baps decorated in sentimental piano and languid atmospheres. There’s a quiet soulfulness to the riffs of his latest single “Greens” that transcends the sugary cuteness of its melodies. He recently hit the stage opening for RAC and took a digital stand at Minecraft.xxx. He tweeted in January that he’s feeling quite on top of his games, and warned fans to expect an album in 2019. — K.B.
Ask All My Friends and former HARD founder Gary Richards who he thinks the future of music may be, and he’ll be quick to namedrop Volac. The Russian twosome blast next-generation bass house from their hideout in Moscow. It’s an energetic mix of ghetto blaster booms and classic house groove. Bouncing behind the decks in bucket hats and oversized Ts, the modern maestros look like they just stepped out of 1994, but not in some trying to be trendy sort of way. This thuggish “Russian Style” is just who Volac is. Fans love the Volacasts, a mix series that features the duo and its friends, each introduced with its own crude cartoon-intro. The latest featured Night Bass don AC Slater, whose label released the duo’s latest two-song EP in December. It’s led by A-side “Funky,” a tune that’s as cheeky as it is a monster slapper, while B-side “Bass So Low” plays like a space-age twerk anthem for freaks in 3030. The dudes absolutely smashed a few sets on this year’s inaugural Friendship festival cruise, and we expect more big looks from Volac in the months to come. — K.B.