When What So Not rolled out a giant chrome horse on monster truck wheels during his headlining Coachella set last year, it was his boldest reminder yet that he doesn’t play by the same rules as his peers. Now, with the arrival of his debut artist album, Not All the Beautiful Things, he’s continuing to blaze his own trail, forging a complete vision for what is now much more than just a dance music project.
Over three years in the making, Not All the Beautiful Things is about transformation and metamorphosis, a culmination of everything the Australian-born artist behind such massive anthems as “High You Are” (50 million-plus streams), “Waiting” (with Skrillex and RL Grime), and his remix of RUFUS du Sol’s “Innerbloom” (#30 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 list for 2016) has been working towards as he’s built his reputation as one of the most innovative producers in the game, garnering over 455 million combined streams (200 million on Spotify alone) in the process. More than an album, it’s a fully realized artistic statement in which What So Not is in full control of every aspect, from the stage design and visuals to the music videos and merchandise. “I didn’t want to put anything out that doesn’t cohesively match the essence of the songs,” explains the man behind it all.
To help represent the many moods and voices of the project, What So Not enlisted a small army of collaborators and guest vocalists, including Skrillex, Slumberjack, San Holo, Michael Christmas and legendary Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns, to name just a few. But perhaps the album’s most head-turning collab comes on “We Keep on Running,” which features rock supergroup Toto, whose classic track “Africa” What So Not has been dropping into his live sets for years. That their anthemic arena rock fits so seamlessly into Not All the Beautiful Things’ epic orchestrations is testament to how far What So Not has pushed his sound.
Not All the Beautiful Things is What So Not’s first release on Ninja Tune imprint Counter Records, which is co-releasing the album with his longtime label Sweat It Out, who have been with him since the beginning. “For me it’s the best possible scenario,” says What So Not. “Being such a fan of Counter and Ninja Tune for so many years, to be alongside acts now like Odesza and Bonobo and be part of that roster is very exciting.”
As much of a creative leap as Not All the Beautiful Things represents as an album, What So Not promises it’s just the beginning of what fans can expect from this exciting new phase of his evolution, as the artist who’s already co-headlined with Baauer and A-Trak and headlined festival stages from Coachella to Pukkelpop to HARD Summer looks ahead to his 2018 touring schedule. “We’re creating this entire world that people can step into,” he says. And whether that world will still feature a giant chrome horse – well, fans, will just have to wait and see.
Sydney dance music producer Tom Stell chose the artist name Golden Features in 2014, around the same time he started to DJ and play live sets wearing a gilded mask.
For Stell, anonymity was a means of deflecting attention from himself and having his art appreciated for art’s sake, values that were instilled in him as a teenage graffiti artist.
Ironically, the mask has only attracted more interest in the mystery man behind it, but there’s no doubt that Stell’s music has spoken for itself, and loudly.
His self-titled EP in 2014 landed him extensive airplay on youth radio kingpin Triple J; his follow up EPs XXIV and Wolfie/Funeral, in 2015 and 2016 respectively, saw him sell out his Australian headline tour in 2015 and rack up appearances at Falls Festival, Splendour In The Grass and Field Day. His long-awaited debut LP, SECT, delivers on the promise of his earlier releases. It’s the work of a perfectionist, who took a year off touring to concentrate on the album. “I was in that same space, a 3-metre by 3-metre studio, every day,” says Stell. “I had a hard time switching off at family functions and stuff. I’m always thinking about music.”
A former underground hip-hop head, he was introduced to electronic music at a Future Music Festival headlined by Chemical Brothers and Boys Noize. “It set the whole thing in motion and I got hooked,” says Stell. He bought some equipment and dabbled in “hyper-aggressive dubstep” and big-room EDM, but a visit to Miami left him disillusioned with the scene that had initially seduced him.
He turned instead to some of the biggest names in electronic music of the past twenty years – Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers and Justice, to name a few –to take notes from the masters, influences that inform his rich, assured work as Golden Features, with his own modern, distinctive flourishes.
While making SECT, Stell was listening to everything from Joy Division and New Order to Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana and “a lot of that 2007 era Ed Banger stuff”. His travels inspired him too, particularly a trip to The Louvre museum in Paris, where “a lot of the art is really extravagant and over the top,” he says. “I like the idea of going too far with melody or sound or arrangements.”
A sect describes a group of people with radically different beliefs to those of wider society. It makes sense that Stell, who says he’s always felt “detached and alienated a bit”, would choose SECT as the name for his album. “I’ve always liked the idea of people being able to come together under the grounds of feeling alienated elsewhere,” he says.
As Stell launches the album with his biggest national headline tour to date, expect his growing sect of followers is set to reach great new heights. One of Australia’s most exciting young talents has just delivered his best work yet -- and he’s just getting started.
In the past year Perth-based duo SLUMBERJACK have brought their music to new heights, turning out massive club hits like “RA” and increasing their total streams to over 40 million across platforms. During that time, musicians Morgan Then and Fletcher Ehlers have also pushed to a new level in their artistry and carved out a more boldly challenging sound than ever before. With their first-ever headline tour in the works, SLUMBERJACK now deliver a new EP that, in Ehlers’s words, “explores the dichotomies of light and dark and beauty and ugliness,” and ultimately creates a world unto itself.
Revealing SLUMBERJACK’s more refined musicality and heightened experimentalism, the new EP Fracture is a potent composite of bass-heavy club anthems, hook-driven pop tracks, and lushly cinematic pieces that show their film-score-inspired sensibilities. With its moody intensity and gorgeously jagged textures, the EP’s lead single and title track debuted in January and quickly became triple j’s most played track for several weeks. “Fracture” features a powerful vocal performance from Sydney-based singer/songwriter Vera Blue, infusing the song with an emotional depth that endures throughout the EP. “We want to create club tracks that have a story to them,” says Then. “You can dance to it at a festival or jam to it anywhere, but you can also listen more closely and study it and see how it relates to your own life.”
Along with bringing more exacting vision to the making of Fracture, SLUMBERJACK broadened their musical palette to add in obscure instruments from around the world. On “Cradle to Grave,” the duo use an Indian violin called a sarangi alongside a Japanese end-blown flute known as a shakuhachi, brilliantly offsetting the track’s more futuristic elements. A fittingly majestic opener to Fracture, “Cradle to Grave” came to life on a boat in Fiji as Then and Ehlers made their way home from playing the Your Paradise festival. “Everyone on the boat was sleeping and we were zooming over the Pacific Ocean and I thought, ‘I could sleep too, or I could try to write in this half-asleep, zonked-out state and see what happens,’” Then recalls. “So I started writing and saw the sunrise and kept writing once we were off the boat and at the airport, and 24 hours later the song was completed. It felt like a possession, like once I started I couldn’t stop.”
Fracture EP also features a Tuvan throat singer, who lends an eerie grandeur to the darkly charged yet ethereal “Paralyse (Figured It Out).” (“It’s so strange-sounding that it almost seems synthetic, but it’s really 100 percent human,” says Then of the throat singing. “When you hear that voice it feels like the world is ending.”) And for “Take Me,” SLUMBERJACK bring in the sarangi once more, this time conjuring up a frantic and feverish sound intensified by a relentlessly repeating bassline crafted by Ehlers.
Since breaking onto the Australian electronic music scene in 2014, Then (a Borneo-bred, classically trained concert pianist and former world-music artist) and Ehlers (a Vietnam-raised Australia native who taught himself to make electronic music at age 11) have tapped into their kinetic chemistry to guide their sound into new directions. With their synergy stronger than ever—and with multiple #1 tracks on Hype Machine now under their belt—SLUMBERJACK are currently focused on prepping for their upcoming tour, and aspire to deepen their engagement with each audience. “The show’s going to be about slowing down a bit and focusing more on what’s happening in the moment, rather than always looking to the next drop,” says Ehlers. “There should be moments where you just absorb something ugly or unusual, and then get the payoff later when you experience something beautiful. We don’t want to just have people going crazy the whole time—we want to give them a show that takes them on some kind of a journey.”
Motez’ soundscape pushes the boundaries of your regular house producer, going way back before he was making wholesome, wall-to-wall club cuts and rocking festivals stages. His classical piano know how and clear influences of the 90’s allows him to flex his skills and musical-taste across all of his releases, chalking up six Hype Machine #1s, an ARIA Gold single and dropping official remixes for Disclosure, Sam Smith, Goldlink and Ellie Goulding. Motez has join Diplo & Friends, Beats1 Radio and triple j Mix Up Exclusives to lay down his favorite selections. Motez’ back catalogue across Sweat It Out, Food Music and Universal/AATW speaks for itself. His streak of infectious dance-driven releases continued on from 2016’s ‘Down Like This’ ft. Tkay Maidza to 2017’s ‘Praise’, which led him to his first ARIA Certified Gold single, ‘The Future’ ft. Antony & Cleopatra. Three years in the making, ‘The Future’ is Motez’ most personal offering to date, receiving support from BBC- R1, KCRW, Live105, triple j, and amassing over 16 million streams.
Motez kicked off 2019 through the lush house groove that is 'Steady Motion' featuring Zimbabwe born UK based, KWAYE before indicating his hunger to give back to his club fans, with two dance-floor driven releases on Club Sweat to come over the middle of the year. Expect a new sonic direction for Motez as he explores new sounds and ways to produce that is feeling like his most exciting work yet.
On the road and to the stage, Motez has played to thousands at Splendour In The Grass, Holy Ship, EDC, HARD Summer and Electric Forest, fronted main support duties for Disclosure, RÜFÜS DU SOL and Fatboy Slim, and filled clubs all over Australia, North America and Europe. 2018 was busy with a sold out national festival tour with Fatboy Slim & Gorgon City, a main-stage slot on Mountain Sounds Festival and his biggest North America tour, including Electric Forest & Splash House. Motez welcomed 2019 in with a summer tour in support of his single ‘Steady Motion’, including plays at ForTheLove, Warehouse Collective Sydney, Foreshore and Up Down Festival.
Wafia’s elegant, vaporous voice is as penetrating as a diamond bullet. Her songs have found champions in music heavyweights like Pharrell and collaborators like Ben Abraham, Finneas and Tak-ku. Her tracks, like “Bodies” and “Only Love” from her forthcoming VIII EP, are dance floor siren songs. It's big pop: triumphant, thunderous and crystalline. But dare to dig a touch deeper and one will find something more sweeping. Wafia, born Wafia Al Rikabi and of Iraqi and Syrian heritage, has personally felt the political tensions of our modern era. She brings it all to the fore in her powerful, boundless music.