Ashley VenomOne of Miami's own, Ashley Solage is well known in the city's underground scene for her work with III Points, Space Tapes, and the (F)empower collective. But she has also been striking out on her own as a the DJ Ashley Venom. Her recent mixes for the likes of Discwoman and Rinse FM show a proclivity for punishingly heavy, electro-tinged techno — a surefire antidote for those looking for something a little darker on Rakastella's lineup.
Ben UFOIf any DJ's reputation should precede him, it's that of Ben UFO. For the unenlightened: Ben Thomson is one of the few DJs on the underground circuit that doesn't produce, but he's made up for it by running the venerable label Hessle Audio for years. Founded around the dubstep scene in mid-2000s London — think "Midnight Request Line" by Skream, not Skrillex — the label (and Ben, in mixes for Rinse FM) expanded beyond this initial sound to cover the whole range of U.K. electronic music, from house and garage to techno and grime. They broke artists such as Joy Orbison and Blawan, and released the first EP by James Blake (he wasn't always a singer). Ben UFO knows a thing or two about curating music, and his sets show it.
Call SuperThe London-born Call Super mixes from the perspective of a certified club-culture lifer. In a 2018 interview with New Times, he discussed how going to squat raves in the city and taking Ecstasy for the first were formative experiences for him. His sets usually comprise a smooth blend of house and techno, with some attention-grabbing R&B, jazz, and reggae cuts thrown in for good measure. Meanwhile, his own albums — such as 2017's Arpo — blend atmospheric, left-field production with more analog touches such as woodwind recordings made by his father.
Danny DazeYour fest ain't shit till it's had some Danny from Miami in it. The international electro master, Omnidisc label head, and certified 305-till-he-dies lifer will be back in town for Rakastella, and his sets are always a must-attend. The DJ/producer has always repped his hometown, and the distinctive beats of the Magic City are fundamental to his creative process. Go see it for yourself.
Eclair FifiWhat makes Eclair Fifi's sets so distinctive is her anything-goes attitude and genre-agnostic approach. Balearic, Italo, acid, bizarre house tracks you may never hear again — as long as it's cool, this talented Scottish DJ will play it. It's this state of mind that makes her a perfect fit for the LuckyMe collective, along with the likes of Hudson Mohawke and S-Type. In addition to performing radio sets for everyone from pirate stations to NTS, she's also a graphic designer and record label head; her new imprint, River Rapid, has issued releases from artists such as Afrodeutsche and Santiago Salazar.
Jayda GGrowing up as the only black girl and the only Jewish girl in her rural British Columbia town, Jayda G pursued a career in biology before her career in dance music took off. Originally a fixture in the vibrant Vancouver scene, she moved to Berlin to earn a postgrad degree and turned to music as a way to make money (imagine, making money from doing music! Isn't Europe wild?). Her sets focus on disco and house music, and she occasionally throws in classics from artists such as the Gap Band or Black Box to stand out from the deep cuts.
KinkGlobal dance culture reaches far nowadays, even into the most isolated states of the former Eastern Bloc. Hailing from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, Kink, AKA Strahil Velchev, got into house and techno through cassette recordings of radio sets and pirated albums. Today he's known as one of the biggest hardware aficionados on the international circuit. He doesn't just play tracks: He supplements them with sequencers, drum machines, samplers, and all sorts of contraptions. Check out one of his Boiler Room sets to see him working a table full of blinking lights, buttons, and keyboards. The amazing thing is he knows exactly how to work each to its maximum sonic potential.
Marie DavidsonHailing from the same lineage of Montreal-based electronic artists that produced Tiga and Jacques Greene, Marie Davidson has made an odd career in dance music out of, well, hating it. Her most recent solo LPs — Adieu au Dancefloor and 2018's Working Class Woman — contained a melancholy and critical streak. It's palpable on her banger "Work It," with its stark lyrics wringing dark laughs out of a workaholic state of mind. "From Monday to Friday, Friday to Sunday, I love it. I work," she sardonically declares. Now, even after a Grammy-nominated Soulwax remix of "Work It" began burning through the clubs, she's declared an end to her personal rat race. She announced her retirement from club music earlier this year, and Rakastella will mark her first public appearance since her last live show in September. She still plans to release music — she recently released an EP with her minimal-wave duo Essaie Pas — but if you want to see her DJ, Rakastella might be your one and only chance.
Motor City Drum EnsembleHailing from Germany's "Motor City" — Stuttgart, home of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz — Danilo Plessow grew up playing jazz in his school band and takes heavy influence from genres conceived by black Americans such as soul and funk. He has since become one of the world's foremost disco specialists, integrating touches of house and techno into his soulful selections via his many vintage drum machines. Rakastella 2019 will mark his first performance in Miami.
Palms TraxBest known for releasing the first record on the celebrated English imprint Lobster Theremin — the epochal EP Equation — Palms Trax offers a clean, seminostalgic brand of house that's invigorating, colorful, and, one could argue, epoch-defining. His sound is big, but not big-room, and not ambient enough to compare with the likes of DJ Seinfeld, but it still speaks for the new class of outsider house aficionados that left an impression over the past decade; Palms Trax and his musical kin look back while pushing their own style forward. This mentality carries over to his DJ sets, which include sporadic Italo, acid, and classics cuts alongside newer dance floor–ready bangers.
Rakastella. 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday, December 7, in Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; 305-960-4600; rakastella.com. Tickets cost $45 to $225 via residentadvisor.net.