Considering the massive popularity and mainstream reputation of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, it’s easy to overlook the stellar selection of DJs and more left-field or lesser-known musicians on the lineup. The techno and house names for day one (April 12th and 19th) alone persuaded me to finally check Coachella off my festival bucket list this year. Here are the first day’s artists that will have me turning it up to 11.
Queen of Techno Nina Kraviz played on both the Great Wall of China and the Eiffel Tower last year, which should give you an idea of the Siberian DJ’s groundbreaking style and world-class pedigree. Her hypnotic sets catapult audiences across a propulsive sonic spectrum of wicked acid techno. These transdimensional voyages feature labyrinthine beats from her otherworldly label трип (Trip), eclectic and experimental track choices, and the mixing sensibilities of a sci-fi, deep-space traveler. I’m not exaggerating when I say the first time I saw Nina was a mystical, life-changing experience that evolved my music tastes and exalted her to the status of my favorite DJ.
In the three years since her first EP, Amelie Lens has soared to the top tier of the European techno ladder, with Mixmag naming her their number two DJ of 2018. Her ferocious, banging acid sets have soundtracked my drives on repeat for weeks this winter because this Belgian badass brings the HEAT. For the kind of fast-paced intensity that radically energizes a person into a truly transcendental state on the dancefloor, only Nina and Amelie (…or drugs) can open the door to that realm on the first day.
Representing the underground side of techno royalty is Nicole Moudaber. Her expert improvisation spinning behind the decks and expansive song library have bolstered her distinctly different, weekly live sets for her radio show. In person, these factors palpably create a deep and dynamic mood to drive the crowd toward their primal party instincts.
British house duo CamelPhat produced an eternal dance anthem with 2017’s song of the summer, “Cola,” and it still makes me light and airy everytime I hear it. You better believe a whole set from these two sustains such levels of irresistible melodic grooves, mixing in a sizzling flavor of funk and disco with a vrooming electro seasoning to send it to the stratosphere.
Last month Blond:ish went from duo to solo act, but the fusion of entrancing electronica with cultural instrumentations and chantings, which have defined their worldly house vibes, will still be on full display at Coachella. Opportunities to see the Spanish DJ stateside only come to the coasts (and once in a while at that), so count on her spiritual sounds to deliver a particularly special set.
Where Charlotte Gainsbourg’s acting roles are more overtly dark and dramatic, her music draws from both the wistful and the solemn, blending synth-pop with sweeping instrumentation and her soulful, hair-raising singing. She strikes a sublime chord between haunting sadness, cool reverberation and euphonic depth, incorporating a healthy amount of beautiful French lyrics throughout as well.
The ambient melodies of Danish maestro Kölsch resonate with gliding emotion. Elevated orchestral and synth elements coalesce with techno underpinnings to move the bodies and hearts of the crowd in a subtle yet substantial way. His three albums translate a childhood of mixed cultures and frequent European travel into more of a cinematic score for memories of his youth, relatable on both subconscious and universal levels.
For a more old-school dose of deep house, British DJ Hot Since 82 has your fix. This veteran resident of the Ibiza club scene knows how to throw a real classically bumpin’ sort of party. Likewise, Nic Fanciulli curates underground house and techno imbued with a distinct disco influence. He melds more traditional roomy vibes into seductively spicy beat-waves with an unstoppable flow.
A champion of the collab track, Chris Lake has carved out a legacy as the current prince of irresistible and accessible electro house. Over the last three years he’s produced a ridiculous number of hit bangers – the kind that absolutely destroy the dancefloor in an undeniably wild furor – as well as a killer amount of straight-up FIRE remixes.
The pulsing hooks and rolling-thunder vibrations of Walker & Royce have earned the Brooklyn house duo a well-deserved spot among the Dirtybird crew. The dream-like distortion to their sound is punctuated by strangely appealing, bleep-bloop techy noises and drops. South African-Swiss DJ Nora En Pure, on the other hand, supplies upbeat indie melodies in a deep house package, carrying a particularly intoxicating energy as she infuses songs with exotic tribal ingredients.
Producer and DJ SOPHIE zig zags between more standard pop music, unambiguous hip-hop and rap, and weird, schizoid electronic tunes defying standard classification. She’s worth checking out at least for a taste of her definitively bizarre set. R&B, funk
Both weekends of Coachella are sold out, but you can sign up for the ticket waitlist here. YouTube has live streamed the festival for the last eight years, so you can still catch a lot of the sets from home. Last year four simultaneous live stream feeds each broadcast different performers, with one channel streaming VR180 views for virtual reality headsets.