An annual DEF blog tradition as we look back over the past year and recall some artist highlights.
With touring severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic, Austra chose an alternative method of celebrating last year’s album, HiRUDiN, recording an intimate performance at Toronto venue Roy Thomson Hall. Entitled , it was broadcast over the early May weekend that fell on the album’s 1-year anniversary with the audio also available for the same period from the Austra bandcamp. You can watch the cover of ‘Mirrored Heart’ by fka Twigs from the performance below. In December, a series of 2022 tour dates in Canada and the US were announced from February through to April – more info on those performances here
2021 marked four years since the previous Fever Ray album, Plunge, and Karin Dreijer chose to observe this landmark by reflecting on Hannah Black’s text. The zine associated with that album, Plunge Psychics, designed by Fever Ray in conjunction with Alexey Layfurov, was released in January in four limited edition variants and covered extensively in a profile piece in Paper Magazine. Those wishing for some insights into current Fever Ray listening habits should check out their recently compiled Spotify playlist, If I was A DJ, below.
M83 celebrated not only the 10 year anniversary of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in 2021, but also 20 years of releasing music. He chose to mark this dual landmark with a special message to his fans on October 18th, 10 years to the day Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was released. This was then followed by a brand new music video for ‘My Tears Are Becoming A Sea,’ which revealed itself to be a prequel to the ‘Midnight City’ trilogy of videos from the album’s original release. Watch below. A new limited double-vinyl edition of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was also announced in conjunction with the video. The album’s original cover stars, Cormac and Kimona, both feature on this new cover. More info on the album here.
Moby remained as busy as ever in 2021. In May, he released the album Reprise on Deutsche Grammophon, working with a series of guest artists and the Budapest Art Orchestra on reimagined versions of some of his most iconic tracks, including ‘Porcelain,’ ‘Go,’ and ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?’. Gregory Porter, Amethyst Kiah, Jim James, Víkingur Ólafsson and Kris Kristofferson were among the collaborators. Continuing the theme of the album, for the music video for ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?,’ Moby enlisted Steve Cutts, the animator responsible for the original’s corresponding video, to deliver a new version. Watch below.
Upon release, Reprise charted in 16 countries, including top 10 in Austria, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland and Switzerland.Further music videos for Reprise versions ‘Natural Blues’ and ‘Extreme Ways’ were also released and Moby also shared a wealth of extra content explaining the origin and conception of key tracks from the album. He also started a Tiktok with a beatbox version of ‘Go’ a DEF office favourite.
Released on the same day as Reprise was MOBY DOC, a film Moby made about his life, music and activism that he described as “an honest and unconventional music documentary unlike any other music documentary.” You can watch the first five minutes of MOBY DOC below with the full film available to watch on your preferred streaming platforms here.
Known widely for his long-term commitment to veganism, in September Moby published a cookbook of vegan recipes from his time at Little Pine restaurant. He later chose to celebrate his 34th year as a vegan in November, with a week-long Veganniversary; releasing a series of daily films and shorts on the topic as well as an Art, Animals & Activism livestream. Watch that back here with all the other veganniversary content also available on his YouTube channel
In January, Olof’s remix of “Monument” by Röyksopp and Robyn was released on the former’s Dog Triumph label. An animated visual from Martin Falcke can be watched below. Reviewed by Resident Advisor, the remix was described as a “2-step-adjacent shuffler with the trademark tropical lilt of Dreijer’s recent work.” Olof later released the 13-minute track ‘Echoes From Mamori’ on Rabid Records, a composition originally written for a Spanish exhibition in 2009. The track was then included on Melodies Record Club 002, a 12” vinyl compilation curated by DJ Ben UFO for the Melodies International label. Olof also produced Fleuves de l’Âme, the debut album from Tunisian multi-instrumentalist Houeida Hedfi, which was released on the Phantasy Sound label in November.
In May, Planningtorock marked the 10 year anniversary of their album W with an acoustic version of ‘The One’ performed and recorded in Tallinn. Soon after in June, a new Planningtorock EP, Gay Dreams Do Come True, was announced in. Recorded after they married their partner Riinu in Estonia last year, the EP was Planningtorock’s own personal exploration of queer love. Stream it here and read more about the EP in their new artist biography, written by the journalist El Hunt. The music’s conceptual framework extended across all elements of the EP release, from merchandise to Instagram filters and IG Live conversations to playlists, but most importantly the series of queer couple portraits from artist Joyce Lee that featured on each of the single’s releases. A video for the title track, directed by Greedy Goons and featuring animation from Butt Studio, saw Planningtorock look to “Groove Is The Heart” and “Pump Up The Jam” for inspiration and can be watched in all its glory below.
Remixes of the EP came from Kiddy Smile, ATRIP, rRoxymore and Joe Goddard (stream all here) and a further music video for ‘Her Heart Is My Home’ shot on location in Tallinn was released in late October – watch out for Barron the horse. ‘Girl You Got My Heart’ from the EP was selected to soundtrack Jeremy Scott’s Moschino S/S 2022 show at New York fashion week. Planningtorock also managed to take the EP to the live stage in October with two UK shows at London’s Scala and Yes Room in Manchester.
Complementing all of this activity, Planningtorock also built up a weighty list of remix credits in 2021 with a contribution to Lady Gaga’s Dawn of Chromatica remix album perhaps the most prominent. Messer, Perfume Genius, Groove Armada, Sullivan and Desire Marea were also blessed with a Planningtorock remix this year. All can be streamed here. They also recorded “Queer,” a celebrated collaboration with Venezualan artist Arca which featured on her album Kick IIII and contributed the first guest mix to Tim Sweeney’s relaunched Beats in Space show which now lives on Apple Music.
Rex the Dog
This year saw Rex the Dog continue to build a community of like-minded modular enthusiasts via his monthly Synth Club livestreams on his Twitch channel. In November, he decided to end season one of Synth Club to focus on building a Patreon channel – you can watch a video outlining all the benefits of the latter below. Over the summer, an official Rex the Dog store was launched with a series of tees and sweatshirts, prints and accessories now available. The REXSTASY playlist featuring Rex’s ‘favourite bleeps and bloops’ continues to be updated on a monthly basis – stream it here.
Previously premiered by Robyn on a lockdown Club DOMO stream in 2020, Olof Dreijer’s remix of her Röyksopp collaboration ‘Monument’ was released in January. Later in 2021, Robyn unveiled another Scandinavian collaboration in the shape of “Call My Name” with fellow Swedes Smile. Stream it below. She also joined Annie Mac on one of the broadcaster’s final shows of her long-running Radio 1 residency over the summer.
In January, Svein and Torbjørn announced “the «Lost Tapes» series has come to a halt for the time being,” though they did later release a physical edition featuring the first 10 Lost Tapes on double vinyl, CD and cassette in September. 2021 was also the 20 year anniversary of their debut album, Melody A.M., and the band commemorated the landmark with a new double vinyl edition in March. As mentioned above, an Olof Dreijer remix of “Monument,” Röyksopp’s collaboration with Robyn was released on their label, Dog Triumph, in late January and another iconic S&T production, “What Else Is There?,” was later remixed by Ukrainian duo artbat. You can listen to that below. To celebrate this release, the band put together a playlist featuring Röyksopp remixes by Apparat, Trentmøeller and Maceo Plex. They later released another playlist, An Introduction to Röyksopp, which features 30 classics from their discography – stream it here.
Along with doing a series of Norwegian shows, Susanne released a Spotify playlist this year featuring all of her music in one place – stream it below.
2021 saw Karin and Olof continue the 20th Anniversary celebrations they started last year. This commenced with a first-ever vinyl edition of Tomorrow, In A Year, their 2010 album with Mt Sims and Planningtorock, which featured new artwork from Martin Falck. New double vinyl editions of Silent Shout and Deep Cuts followed with the 20th Anniversary celebrations arriving back at the start as a green 7” version of ‘Bird/Afraid Of You,’ the first ever single from The Knife was made available in July. A new edit of ‘Bird’ was made available on streaming services for the first time. Listen below. To coincide with this release, an in-depth bio written by the journalist Ruth Saxelby was made available on the band’s website.
To mark the actual anniversary of the celebrations starting, The Knife released ‘Manhood’ from RABID010 and the Revl9n, Tobias Von Hofsten and FPU remixes of ‘Handy-Man’ are on streaming services for the first time. A playlist delving through the bands discography, entitled Haga Castle Evening Cream, was also released and can be streamed here.
Zhala finished filming the Swedish independent film “Sagres,” which was directed by award-winning director Lovisa Soren. She also completed a track called “Bells of the Denial” for the film, which she co-wrote with Patrik Berger. The film will be released in spring 2022. She is also working on new music for release next year. A playlist of current favourites, entitled Z<3L, can be streamed below.