The term “underrated” is relative. One could argue that the Beatles are underrated considering Parliament hasn’t renamed Liverpool after them. But for our purposes here, let's boil it down to this: an artist who is not getting the attention he or she deserves.
These days, DJ rankings tend to be synonymous with Facebook likes. But at this year's Ultra Music Festival, some of the most intriguing acts are not in the boldest font. To find the real talent, one has to look in unconventional places, so we compiled an international collection of artists that might not be on most people’s radar but should be on yours.
10. Rabbit in the Moon
For those who know, it would be blasphemy to say RITM is underrated, but it’s been a while since Bunny and David Christophere have taken the UMF stage. Through the years, the Tampa duo has played ten Ultra shows, the last taking place in 2010. “More than half of the music is new, and of course we’ll play some classics,” David Christophere tells us. “We are ready to bring the magic of Rabbit in the Moon to a new audience as well as our longtime loyal fans. Everyone there will experience something new and surprising.” No dance-music act has even come close to RITM from a performance standpoint. David Christophere’s mixing and Bunny’s theatrics were a UMF highlight for years. The show is something you have to see to understand. But luckily the magic of Rabbit is back.
OK, before you head to the comment section, hear us out. We should all be eagerly watching Deadmau5’s upcoming trance set at Ultra, if only for the pure drama of the situation. What started as Joel Zimmerman’s Twitter beef of the week has become something real. On July 10, 2014, @deadmau5 took a digital shot at Armin van Buuren's weekly radio show, ASOT (A State of Trance), when he Tweeted, “ASOT is about as much 'trance' as Nelson Mandela is indie punk.” To which van Buuren replied, “Why don't you come and play #ASOT700 and show us what 'trance' is? Or backing out again?” Now, two years later, Deadmau5 is on the ASOT Ultra lineup to (hopefully) give us a proper trance set that sounds like something from the genre’s late-'90s heyday. Be assured, the #trancefamily will be listening closely and be ready to rip his mau5head off if it sucks. But we believe in you, Joel!
So many artists were influenced by Depeche Mode – Marc Kinchen, known as MK onstage, is one of those artists. He grew up in Detroit, ground zero for house music, and would eventually learn from the great Kevin Saunderson himself. MK is long recognized for his signature sound and remixes. “I know I’m going to play my new record with Becky Hill, 'Piece of Me,' along with my RÜFÜS DU SOL remix for 'Say a Prayer for Me,'” Kinchen tells us about what to expect during his Ultra set. “We’re in Miami so I want it to be hot, full of soul and house music. I will be playing a few things that will be familiar, along with a few things that are brand new. I don’t like to plan my exact sets; I like to keep it loose in case I’m feeling something different once the show goes on – that way I can change it up.”
Together, Ruben Den Boer and Victor Pool are Vicetone. And, yes, we're sorry to throw yet another pair of Dutch DJs your way, but, well, they deserve the credit. This is Vicetone's third consecutive appearance at Ultra. The duo's song “United We Dance” was the soundtrack to the official 2014 Ultra aftermovie. But this year, they tell us that that they're excited about catching another Ultra act. “We want to check out Eric Prydz. He's been a childhood favorite of ours, and it's amazing to see that he's still going strong.”
Morten came to Miami two months ago for Life in Color Miami. He had just released his new track, “Beautiful Heartbeat,” featuring Frida Sundemo. It was well-received then, and it’s still going strong. Originally from Denmark, Morten is now living in Los Angeles and is making his tenth trip to Miami Music Week. Getting his start in Denmark, Morten would DJ four days a week till 6 a.m. He’s classically trained to play the flute, has been DJ'ing since he was 13, and returns to Miami with momentum, an Ultra act worth your time.
This is a homecoming for Lookas. He reps the 305, he was made in Dade, and he’s coming home to rip the roof off the fucking place. He’s been crushing every one of his sets lately, and his Ultra set is sure to be among the most insane sets at UMF 2016, a must-see for the drop connoisseur. With no shortage of stage presence, Lookas has the "it" factor behind the decks. He’s on the last leg of Phase I of his 15-city Zero Gravity Tour, and Phase II details are coming soon. But for now, the Miami bass gods are liking what they’re hearing.
4. Merk & Kremont
The Milan-based duo of Merk & Kremont will take the UMF Radio Stage on Friday. Italy has produced so many good artists through the years – Mauro Picotto, Benny Benassi (who shares a manager with Merk & Kremont), and Marco Carola to name a few. Perhaps Merk & Kremont will carry the torch.
3. Ben Gold
London's own Ben Gold is making one appearance in Miami during MMW, and it’s at Ultra in the ASOT tent on Sunday. “Trance is on fire fight now,” Gold tells us. “Giuseppe Ottaviani, Alex Di Stefano, Standerwick, Tempo Giusto to name just a few.” A major accolade for trance producers each year at Ultra is to produce the official A State of Trance anthem, and Ben Gold wears the crown this year with his “I'm in a State of Trance (ASOT 750 Anthem).” He’s dedicating this year's Ultra set to the fans. “As at every ASOT performance I’ve ever done, expect a high-energy set packed with new music, new edits, and exclusive mash-ups.”
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2. Nicole Moudaber
In 2009, Carl Cox called Nicole Moudaber the most underrated DJ in the industry, and we’re not in the business of arguing with Mr. Cox. Techno fans know and love her, and casual EDM fans strolling through the Carl Cox tent on Saturday will surely be Googling her after the show. She got her start throwing parties in Beirut in the '90s – not an easy or safe thing to do. But she has new material for Ultra. “I recently finished a remix for Coyu & Ramiro Lopez called 'That's Not Happening,'” she tells us. “There’s a lot of great music around for the time slot I have. I'll keep it locked in a groove and throw in some techno cuts for sure.”
1. Wave Racer
Wave Racer is the latest arrival on the the big Australian tsunami of talent that's brought over acts like Empire of the Sun, Knife Party, and Flume to the States. But Wave Racer is different. His music is — if frustratingly boiled down to a single genre – future house at its best. An overwhelming and intricate blend of bright noises and whistling melodies, Wave Racer will make you feel like you're player one in a video game designed by a family of pink dolphins from Pluto.