The Best Minnesota EDM Releases of 2014

Vaski put out one of our favorite EDM releases of 2014.

Vaski put out one of our favorite EDM releases of 2014.

Minneapolis is home to an ever-evolving rotation of dance clubs, above and underground. The dance music scene is alive and well here, and sometimes it seems like everyone is a DJ. The year 2014 was full of noteworthy local EDM releases, so in preparation for the next weekly dance night one need look no further than this top 10 local EDM release list we compiled to give you fuel for your mixtapes and your decks.

DVS1 - Distress (12" vinyl EP released by HUSH in June 2014)

Zak Khutoretsky makes spidery, spine-tingling, warehouse-at-4-a.m.-under-strobe-light techno. Distress is a four-track travel through another dark space inhabited by his DVS1 persona. "Traverse" is an official invitation. Hard-edged claps, soaked in reverb, are joined by a clicking snare. The title track, "Distress," is a snappy and sexy travel into something playful and sinister. All of DVS1's material is superb in its immediacy: Any track could be played and the dance floor responds immediately. His Mistress label has been releasing a smattering of local and international artists, and in July 2014 he released Klockworks 13, another 12" vinyl on the German Klockworks label. 

TML - One Inch of Water (Limited edition cassette released by Always Human Tapes in March 2014)

Peter Lansky ended the run of his Sovietpanda persona by moving Too Much Love into the Entry at First Avenue and renaming it Real Fun, partnering with friend and dance music maverick Jim Frick. Real Fun wound up being a good party with a short run, and the end of 2014 saw the party's end as well. Yet Lansky had an incredible trick up his sleeve via the One Inch of Water tape released as TML, his newly assumed DJ name, on the Always Human Tapes label. The first song, "Blood Meridian," is a somewhat tense, vastly minimal soundscape where the techno beat is driving and insistent. The concept sprawls greatly though, and with the third track, "EVA," there's a wave of crunchiness and disillusioned static and synth that requires us to let our minds melt in tandem with it. The album is challenging, distant at times, but it speaks as a piece in its entirety. The journey through all nine tracks to "Time Killer" is a thorough trip.

Dustin Zahn - Monoliths (Album released by Drumcode in March 2014)

Minneapolis-raised, Berlin-bred musician and producer Dustin Zahn spent the better part of these past four years working on Monoliths, his full-length debut. Monoliths is full of heavy dance floor techno hitters. The soundscape-y opening track, "1984," dissolves into "District of Light," which enjoys a slow climb into a pounding club track with a curious use of sampling: "Bring the lights down!" It's club techno at its finest, influenced by dark nights in Berlin and sweaty underground clubs around the world. The ensuing journey he takes us on after the opening tracks bears the signs of a skilled producer and an artist who shows raw talent for his craft. At times the sound even leans on industrial, a connotation for the cold Berlin winters in which Zahn ruminated over this material. It's dark and forceful, packed with momentum.

Dirty McKenzie - Let's Riot (Compilation album released by Bass United Recordings in July 2014)

Dirty McKenzie is actually Dory Kahalé, a Beirut-born and Berlin-bred producer who moved to Minneapolis in 1988 and became Clubhouse Jager's first ever resident DJ in 2007. He plays house and nu disco for Dance Your Pants Off there every second Saturday. In 2014 he released the compilation album Let's Riot, an 18-track travel through Kahalé's archives. "I put it out because it has tracks on it that I love and released under a bunch of different aliases but had received very little attention the first time around, so I released them all under one alias," he says. McKenzie shows us his interpretation of dance music over the past 20-something years, giving us a bit of techno, a bit of house, some nu disco, and even progressive house. Though it is a bit of a schizophrenic listen, there is a constant groove throughout.

Vaski - The Explorer (EP released by SMOG Records in February 2014)

Vaski recently moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, but he's still maintained a huge hometown presence. In 2014, he was the first electronic music artist to perform during a Twins baseball game, and he held down a successful residency at First Avenue's Record Room, regularly selling out the venue. He also released his SMOG Records debut, The Explorer, a six-track EP. The Explorer is Vaski experimenting more deeply with elements of "rage on the dancefloor." He told VIBE that the inspiration for "Can't Bring Me Down" comes "from the same mental space as metal or punk music." While Vaski is known widely as a dubstep artist, The Explorer delves into a more electro-house vibe, borrowing from elements of hip-hop. It's a snarky rave-ready debut from an artist who has a huge future ahead of himself.

Heckadecimal - On Location at Premises (Limited edition cassette released by Always Human Tapes in March 2014)

All of the music Josh "Heckadecimal" creates originates in a live setting, and it's meant to be conveyed in such a way. Picture a tall, skinny figure hunched over a table full of machinery, twisting and pulling calculatedly at the knobs creating a mad mélange of rhythms, intonations and beats that come together somehow to create a soundtrack for your Friday night dance floor. On Location at Premises is such an amazing release because it was recorded in a dark and dingy warehouse in north Minneapolis, the perfect setting for Heckadecimal to do his magic. 2014 was full of cool, weird live sets, and we saw Heckadecimal play out more thanks to the development of The Midnight Brigade, a space fostering the creativity of underground local electronic music artists. This tape is the perfect excuse to drive your neighbors crazy and have a really loud and awesome rave in your living room some time this week to celebrate the new year.

Doubt - CHAOS OM VISION I & II (Both Limited edition 300 copy 180g vinyl pressings released by Disposable Commodities, 2014)

Ian Lehman (Doubt) is another local electronic artist who had quite a busy year. He released a dark, sparse self-titled EP on DVS1's Mistress label. He's been releasing tapes under Doubt and the name EECEE on the Always Human Tapes label. His first release of the year, a set of EPs on Milwaukee's Disposable Commodities label, stands apart in its interesting balance between ambient experimental and dancefloor readiness. CHAOS OM VISION I & II are explorations in the realm of lo-fi techno, inhabiting another darker dance world. Somehow, Lehman achieves stability with dissonant melodies and grime-ridden synth bits. It's dark and sketchy, but we still want to dance here. "Fact Punkd" is a favorite track of ours, amply displaying that theory.

Mike Gervais - Behind You (Vinyl and digital EP released by SYSTEM Records in June 2014)

Mike Gervais established SYSTEM in 2011 as a platform for underground electronic music in Minneapolis. The idea grew from events into a record label in 2014 with Gervais's Behind You. Though Behind You is a three-track EP, its tracks are as hard-hitting as any dance songs we've heard out of Minneapolis this past year. "Behind You" and "Slip In" are two functional techno tracks, embodying a dark and dingy underground feel while displaying a high level of production skill. The third track, "Push," is a bit softer, rounding out the EP nicely, feeling almost like a glorious dance floor comedown. SYSTEM will be celebrating its four year anniversary with the music video release of Gervais's new song from his upcoming Assailant EP on the SYSTEM label (out March 2015) which features remixes from Doubt and Luis Flores, at First Avenue's Record Room this Friday, January 9.

Complicit - Natural Balance (EP released by Nonpop Records in December 2014;
Featuring Complicit, Joules Alexander, Komprezzor, Gusgo, and Maxson)

Though this one came out just before the end of 2014, it still deserves a mention on our list. Complicit is the Minneapolis-based techno production team of husband and wife Travis and Tanya Norman. They're a staple of the Minneapolis techno scene, and Natural Balance is composed of five tracks that are ready to be played out, including remix versions. "Natural Balance," the original mix, brings in a strumming guitar along with soothing samples. It's got those same dark DVS1 vibes, but more of a melancholic feel. There are moments of complete break that eventually funnel into the song's reopening. The remixes of this mix are successful too. Komprezzor's reworking of "Natural Balance" gives us a heavier, more heart-pounding interpretation, and both remixes of "Long Night" had us grooving.

Human Crisis Compilation (Limited edition cassette tape from Always Human Tapes and Crisis Urbana)

Choosing this compilation is more like choosing something that contains a ton of intriguing local artists rather than choosing each of their releases individually -- because then our list would be about 25 artists long. Instead, we settled with Human Crisis because it's an awesome representation of the electronic music scene in Minneapolis. The tape includes tracks from Pleasurlife, one of AHT label owner Ryan Wurst's projects, alongside tracks from Minneapolis-bred and Seattle-based Bankie Phones ("Yo, Just Bang Rocks and Smoke Newports") and EECEE ("Patience") and TML ("Dirt Rack"). Other artists included are represented by Detroit label Crisis Urbana. The tape was released in conjunction with a two-day festival at First Avenue's Record Room and The Midnight Brigade last year. It's a unique and inclusive representation of the finest local underground electronic music, and definitely worth checking out if you're looking to round out your DJ set.


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