yaeji cover

Into the Mix: The hottest DJs of 2018

Exposed’s nightlife writers tell us who we should be looking out for behind the decks over the next 12 months. From established names that are about to go global to emerging talents, these three are all worth your time.

One of the most unique artists around at the moment is Yaeji, a Korean/American DJ who sings and raps over her sets. On paper it sounds awful, but it really, really isn’t. ‘I’m into it all’ reads the bio of 24-year-old DJ, producer and vocalist Kathy Yaeji Lee. Through the genre-spanning nature of the music she plays and produces it’s easy to see the meaning behind this statement. Her own music, which can be heard on the two hit EPs she’s released within 12 months of each other, teams deep basslines with chant-like hushes. These animated beats coupled with the tender intimacy of her vocals often mirrors the complexities of her identity. She draws largely from her own experiences of being in-between two cultures and of moving from New York to Asia as a child and then back again for college, where she found a route out of isolation through the NYC underground house and music scene.

Her flow between English and Korean initially began as a mechanism by which to disguise the intimacy of her lyrics, but has subsequently provided Yaeji a broader palette with which she is able to elicit the feelings of experiences and memories that are often the subject of her music. Take ‘Raingurl’ for example, a party anthem from the second EP. The carefree feeling of dancing around others is invoked through the dynamic beats and chorus of the track, whilst the whispering Korean interludes covertly describe the contradicting introspection that many of us experience in these atmospheres. Yaeji may come across as fun and somewhat superficial at first, but there’s a depth to her music that gives me an inkling that she’s not only here to stay, but she’s about to blow up – big time. She even made the BBC Sound of 2018 longlist, some achievement for an electronic artist.

Louise McDermid

Or:la has been making a name for herself since signing to SCUBA’s Hotflush Recordings last year. The 25-year-old hails from Northern Ireland and moved to Liverpool to study, starting her own BYOB club night Meine Nacht. Her 2017 went from strength to strength after a glittering Boiler Room Set at AVA festival, which featured one of the viral sensations of the year: ‘funky shirt and sunglasses guy’ – go check it if you haven’t already.

What’s more, she recently secured a residency at Manchester’s Warehouse Project and released the first 2 EPs on her Deep Sea Frequency label. Her own nights in Liverpool focus on making use of obscure and often abandoned locations around Liverpool, creating an atmosphere more akin to a house party than a big club night. Her excellent digging skills along with a true ability to carry a story through a set has made her one of the hottest selectors on the UK scene. “Futuristic” is a thoroughly over-used phrase nowadays, but in this case it’s entirely fitting. Taking influences from dubstep, breaks and acid house, tracks like ‘Wendy Wild’ showcase some of the most cutting edge dance music from 2017. Keep ‘em peeled for what she gets up to in 2018!

You can catch Or:la on at Pretty Pretty Good on Saturday February 24th alongside Roman Flügel and Pangaea at Hope Works.

Greg Brown

You might remember the name Joe from 2014, who rose to fame when Joy O aired the unforgettable ‘Thinkin About’ on his Essential Mix. The track remained one of the most wanted IDs of the year, until it was finally released on Four Tet’s Text records almost 12 months later. Shortly after, Joe announced that he would step back from DJing to focus on production. After two years of silence he made his return to the scene in style in October with ‘Tail Lift’, once again coupling weird and wonderful samples effortlessly with dissonant melodies and broken beats, reminscent of his early post-dubstep years on Hessle Audio.

His first set after this long hiatus came courtesy of Pretty Pretty Good at Hope Works. Hopping between genres, speeds and rhythms like a well-seasoned pro, Joe exhibited skills that could only come from a deep understanding of production, proving that his break was valuable to say the least. Since then he has picked up a host of headline shows in both the UK and Europe and is back on a trajectory that some may not have imagined when he left the scene a few years ago. While 2019 will be the ten-year anniversary of his first release ‘Grimelight’, 2018 is sure to be his coming of age.

Ben Slater

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