The EDM Industry’s Top Visual Artists & Live Animators [Part II]
In the commercially-dense era of so-called “EDM,” musical artists enjoy life at the focal point of the world’s attention. Quite literally, they sit centerstage, perched on high as a zenith over the audience, and beneath the brightest spotlight. This privileged positioning carries into off-stage life as well. All too often, DJs and producers are afforded rock-and-roller status, lavish lifestyles of the rich and the famous, and a mass-scale influence that extends far beyond the decks.
Rarely, though, do music fans pause to reflect on the creatives who propelled the musician into this optic center in the first place. Even less times do mainstream fans stop to appreciate how critical these visual artists are to fostering the powerful, universal moment of connection that happens in live music. Live music is so much more than what one is experiencing aurally. It goes way beyond what we hear with our ears. As a fully-embodied enterprise that stimulates all five human sense, the creative process on-stage incites emotion, taps into thoughts, and knocks on the door of one’s own consciousness.
Once concert-goers buy into their own redemption from the mind, music invites us to move into the sixth sense as we explore entirely new planes of existence. Once audience members begin reaching towards their transcendence from the constraints of time and space, music encourages us to activate the seventh, eighth, and ninth senses, and perhaps move beyond them. It’s limitless, psychosomatic, and beautifully inexplicable. Most of all, music is highly technical at its core.
So where does the source of live music’s power lay? Does it resonate from sound frequencies alone? Does it reside in the visible wavelength of the light spectrum? Or does it emanate from the moving animations projected from complex computer algorithms? Perhaps all of the above, because they are all conscious processes of creation.
That’s why Conscious Electronic is bringing our readership the second feature-length piece in a two-part series honoring the industry creatives behind-the-booth. Last week saw the team’s Top Ten picks for lighting designers in dance music. Now comes the time to pay respects to the visual artists who are causing ripples and making waves across the industry. This is a tribute to the animators and the illustrators, the engineers and the technical gurus, the vision movers and sight activators, the imagination shakers and the illuminating tastemakers—all of whom bring music to the visual dimension.
The entire CE team devoted countless hours of editorial attention and conversation, along with intensive research, ethical concerns, and a democratic voting process, to create our meticulous selection method. Narrowing down the list was no walk in the park, which is why we couldn’t even limit the list to ten artists. So without further ado, here’s our Top Visual Artists in the EDM Industry.
Andrew “Android” Jones is someone who needs no introduction. As a live digital artist, master painter, and long-time Burner since 2003, his multi-media displays are world-renowned—from album artworks and live VR animation for Shpongle, Bassnectar, The Grateful Dead, and many more, to famous Burning Man art installations like Embrace (2014) and Union (2014), and Space Whale (2016), to his visual projections on modern wonders of the world like the Sydney Opera House and Empire State Building, and even an art exhibit at the Smithsonian.
As a Colorado born-and-bred artist, Android Jones’s vast and storied collections are characterized by their very distinct psychedelica-inspired aesthetic. Armed with a self-described style of “Electro-Mineralism,” he attributes to the wonders of technology and credits the planet’s resources for advancements in art production. In a documentary about his Renwick Gallery exhibition at the Smithsonian, Jones was forthcoming about his creative process:
While Android’s main focus nowadays is in digital drawing, he combines a mixed media approach to be relevant in the modern, technological age. He began studying art at the age of eight and was academically trained in traditional drawing, painting, and animation at the Ringling School of Art & Design in Sarasota, Florida.
Incidentally, the school is named after the Ringling Bros. of the American traveling circus with Barnum & Bailey. Suffice it to say, the carnival culture of Sarasota certainly must’ve had an effect on Jones’ spectacular appeal.
As the brainchild of the immersive 3D dome experience, Samskara, and interactive virtual-reality application, Microdose VR, Android Jones actually combined the two forces at 2017’s Oregon Eclipse for a fused 360 mega-dome experience where spectators could interact with his digital scapes and guide Jones’ artistic world for the audience.
With constant invitations to showcase art annually at Burning Man, Black Rock City was also the place on earth that defines Jones’s artistic vision. “My first burn was in 2003, and I’ve been every year since. Burning Man has been a foundational aspect of my identity as an artist.”
The playa is also where he accidentally stumbled into an art instillation that changed his view on how art influences humanity, and moved him to start working towards his current career. While living and working in the pop-up utopian society of Burning Man, Jones tells Artsy of Burning Man:
Jones is speaking to his art exhibition above, which was on display at The Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC just last year. He and other revered Burning Man artists brought the participatory art of “the playa” to the nation’s capitol in the hopes of sharing the cultural movement, creative spirit, and feeling of Burning Man with everyone who hasn’t been to Black Rock City.
He is also widely celebrated for his live animations and on-stage collaborations with music artists like Tipper, Bluetech, and so many more. Whether it’s accompanying The Grateful Dead on their Fare Thee Well tour or crafting intense fractaled Neon Jungle journeys for CloZee livestreams using Microdose VR, he’s a top content creator in the music industry with a reach that extends much further into the art world. With countless art contributions on six continents, Android Jones is nothing short of a visionary.
Steve McCorry isn’t your typical classically schooled visual designer and digital artist. The Rochester-native is a self-taught motion designer, known more widely as Glass Crane. Born and raised in upstate New York, McCorry has developed a variety of digital mediums over the course of his career that all take viewers into other-worldly realms.
When CE reached out to McCorry for comment, he graciously offered his unique vision in all its complexity:
Collaboration in the name of creation is the energy that defines Glass Crane’s artistic output. He’s worked for many of “the greats,” from Tipper and The Rolling Stones to Pretty Lights, The String Cheese Incident, and Skrillex’s From First To Last. He’s worked with established artists such as EPROM, CloZee, Shlump, Boogie T, and so many more. He’s even made time to work alongside rising stars in the bass music sector, including Jade Cicada and sfam.
McCorry has brought the visual dimension to countless musicians’ sonic worlds. His process seems like pain-staking labor of love: To go about interpreting an artist’s sounds and intentions, then work tirelessly to bring the music to life for an audience, and translate the music’s deeper meanings on-screen through mind-bending visual displays. It’s an emotionally exhausting, highly-meticulous technical process, and it seems like nearly-thankless work. At least, that’s the way it was for a long time in the music industry.
All too often, visual artists would be completely left off the musical billing. However, the culture is shifting more towards recognition and inclusion, thanks in large part to visual artists pushing towards progress. “There are some amazing artists such as Actualize (David Schunneman) leading the charge in ensuring the visual artists are credited on the flyer and given their due diligence,” Glass Crane tells CE.
In a larger music industry built around fierce competition, access points, and driving barriers, Glass Crane knows the true formula for success: That is, support and mentorship.
Speaking exclusively to CE, Glass Crane touches on both concepts when talking about his long-time friend, inspiration, and collaborator: “For years now, Android has been a mentor and a friend, and he has given selflessly to help me grow as both a person and an artist.”
Glass Crane has recently spent time working on Microdose VR under the helm of the software’s creator, the legendary Android Jones. He had nothing but praise for Jones. “His art is his service to the world,” McCorry said, “and his footprint permanently ingrained in the history of visionary and fine art.”
“He’s not playing favorites though, he helps everyone he can get his hands on. Constantly pushing the meta by creating new tools for artists, while simultaneously inspiring every person to catch a glimpse of his artwork,” McCorry says of Android Jones.
Glass Crane’s collaborations with Android Jones (Peek-a-boo, 2020) and DRO1D Visuals, both of whom made CE‘s Top Visual Artists shortlist, are truly sights for sore eyes. He spoke highly of DRO1D as well. “Harryson [DRO1D] plain and simple has to be one of the best VJ’s on the planet, and every piece/animation he releases drips with detail and masterful composition.
Glass Crane has a few more notable collaborations, most recently a piece entitled “Hylozoism” with Justin Totemical. “Justin is truly something else. He’s prolific, selfless, helpful, and impossibly intelligent and resourceful,” McCorry says of his collaborator. “Working and interacting with him daily over the last year has been fantastic, and he’s been merc-ing the crypto-art game piece by piece.”
He also collaborated with Elohprojects: “Sean has been a friend for a few years now, and always gives great advice and an attentive ear whenever I find myself lost in the sauce,” says McCorry.
Looking towards the future, Glass Crane also has a few high-profile collaborations in the works with the legendary Samuel Farrand, Giant Swan, and Actualize. He considers all three artists to be highly-influential mentors of his work. Speaking the the mentor system that drives his creative process, Glass Crane reminds the world that the first step is to simply reach out to your inspirations: “You find someone who can already do what you want to do, be transparent and honest with them, and make a friend. Find a way to be useful to them, and in return they will want to help you as well.”
Above all, his humility and wisdom are what impressed us the most in talking exclusively with the artist, and why CE is pleased to include Glass Crane in our Top Visual Artists shortlist.
While he’s most well-known for the visual art behind the productions of Tipper & Friends, Andrew Hunter has been turning heads with his truly forward thinking psychedelic visual art and VJing capabilities as The Void. Much of his time is spent exploring digital realms and computer-generated images.
Inspired by the cosmos on macro- and micro-scale, much of Hunter’s growing portfolio reflects the mechanisms of daily life that seem incomprehensible. With a background in software development and graphic design, he has found an outlet that puts traditional media (namely, painting) into a wholly new digital perspective. From tantalizing color pallets to incredible never-before-seen visual worlds that can only be created at the fringe states of human psychology, The Void has come to be an integral member of the consciously-attuned bass scene.
According to his website, Hunter seeks to push the boundaries of digital art into realms unexplored. Blurring the line between what is created by a human and a machine, The Void actively seeks the boundary between fine art and digital mediums. His live performance melds a variety of styles that takes viewers on a mind-warping journey that can only truly be experience, not explained. In a sense, seeing is believing when it comes to The Void’s melting live animations.
Hunter was first noticed by Dave Tipper, who invited The Void to showcase at his events and launched him into his current success. Right before quarantine, in fact, The Void showcased his latest work and love for the culture of New Orleans at the three-night Tipper & Friends run just after the turn of the new decade (watch the visually stunning recap below).
In addition to rendering his own imagery on-stage, The Void devotes much of his energy to illuminating the artwork of friends and fellow artists to display as visuals during live concerts and music festivals. Some of his most notable collaborators are Chris Dyer, Randal Roberts, Morgan Mandala, John Speaker, and many others.
Since being discovered and consistently recognized by Tipper, The Void has gone on to develop his craft to curate visuals for artists across the psychedelic bass genre—from Smigonaut, Supertask, Tipper, Hullabaloo, Jade Cicada, Detox Unit, and more, while even making special appearances at Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors events. Even despite the rapid reduction of live events in the industry, The Void has yet to slow down and has been spinning visuals for The Rust Music’s Featherbed Sessions, which brings bass music fans monthly livestreams that debut many of the aforementioned artists.
Although he’s most popular for his digital work at live music events, The Void is an accomplished painter as well and specializes in using acrylics on canvas. His paintwork portfolio is packed with many of his most unique and imaginative visual-scapes. Whether it’s old-fashioned painting or fractal geometry or the latest in high-tech wizardry like neural-network-based image enhancements, The Void shows up and shows out for musicians in need of top-tier visual performance. There is no limit to the tools he uses to create and animate his original works.
Visual artists and animators like The Void are beginning to make a name for themselves these days, at least more so than lighting designers. This is thanks in large part to artists like Dave Tipper, who often put their turntables and decks behind the screen or off the side of the stage. Tipper has led a movement within the bass community that reminds musical artists to always list their visual artist counterparts on line-ups right up against their own names in marquee.
As these industry practices become more commonplace, although not yet beyond the underground bass music world, visual artists are now coming to enjoy somewhat of a headliner status in some electronic music circles.
It’s the kind of inclusive industry work that needs to be done, which is why CE is proud to include The Void in our shortlist for industry-changing visual designers.
Visual artist DRO1D is somewhat elusive in terms of his personal life, but highly talented and known across the bass world for collaborating with some of the best downtempo artists in the country. Based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the creator has worked alongside Tipper, Benji Robot, Truth, and more both by performing live sets and by making album art. His most notable performances as of late have been at Tipper’s NOLA event and ReVibe retreat in Myrtle Beach.
He has an otherworldly style to his name, crafting worlds that are intricate, beautiful, and completely surreal. With clear influences from human figures and natural scenes, he weaves in elements of vaporwave and eighties color palates to develop a unique and stunning reality. Vivid colors, the divine feminine, and unnaturally shiny metallics make DRO1D’s work pop, and leaves a lasting influence on those who attend a set he VJ’s.
Like many others, DRO1D was a rising star who had to put his work on hold this year. But if his frequent uploads of experimental artworks are any indication, he’ll hit the ground running when live performances make a full comeback, and be a force to be reckoned with on the festival circuit once again.
Has worked with: iLL.Gates, Golf Clap, Spoonbill, Get Real, Movement Detroit, ReVibe Retreat
Words by: Ryan Morse.
Kelly Fin is a video jockey, graphic designer, animator, projection mapper, and self-described “realtime creator” currently based in the Midwest. She comes directly out of the massive, albeit tight-knit, former Bassnectar community alongside rising artists like DATA_BYTE, Wreckno, Ravenscoon, and more. With some three years under her belt, she has already established an impressive portfolio and fast-growing fanbase community under her Facebook page, The Art of Kelly Fin.
Graduating recently with a B.A. in Animation from the University of Michigan in 2019, Fin has come a long way in only short time. She was already building her portfolio en entire year before graduation, developing customer visual packages for the likes of UHNK, HE$H, iLL.Gates, and Claude VonStroke. Beyond her already-thriving résumé, which includes work with some top-ranking producers on the global dance music circuit, Fin’s senior project is worthy of mention for how she transformed the historic Michigan Bell Building in Detroit into an immersive, projection-mapped display of bubbles, patterns, and lights.
Fin’s mission revolves around finding “the precise moment of creative energy that lifts projects to exceptionalism.” Driven by a fierce love for creative action and flow, it’s a vision that is “symbiotic with [her] physical senses and “overtakes all other thoughts and emotions.” As she explains further on her website, “my goal is to evolve into a being that can create everything that I ‘see’ when I hear music” while becoming “a leader in designing the immersive entertainment of tomorrow.”
And what a leader she has already become. Professionally, Fin has worked for a plethora of big-name techno and house artists as a two-year stage production team member for Movement Detroit, the same city where she only recently earned her creative degree. Look no further than her live, on-stage visuals for Get Real, Richie Hawtin, Charlotte De Witte, DJ Holographic, and more. She’s also been invited to work for Destructo‘s recently-minted All My Friends (AMF) events, where she can be seen running visuals for the like of Golf Clap.
Kelly Fin is also well known across the bass music community. Armed with collaborations under the banners of Mean Mug Music, iLL.Gates’ Producer Dojo, and the recently launched and massively successful socially-distanced event, ReVibe Retreat, there seems to be no slowing down this talented up-and-comer in the world of live visual animation.
Whether it’s running live visuals for Mystic Grizzly, Khiva, Thriftworks, and Dorfex Bos, or a music video accompaniment for BUKU, or creating vibrant psychedelic patterns for Supertask using the Touch Designer platform (watch below), Fin is not just one new artist to watch in the realm of live animation and on-stage visuals. She is one of the few women who’ve catapulted herself to the top of a professional field heavily dominated by the “boys club.
Admittedly, the team at CE lamented at how females were so heavily under-represented on the recently-published Top Lighting Designers in EDM shortlist. So much so that it launched an ethical discussion over inclusion and female visibility in the industry and whether we were perpetuating the vast gender divide in the industry further. Coming to the conclusion that the problem exists on a much deeper systemic level than can be explained or unpacked here in length, we recognized that it’s a problem that begins in childhood socialization and how societal expectations for women discourages them from pursuing the technical fields early on.
So imagine how overjoyed the entire CE team was upon coming across artists like Fin, whose work is on-par (if not better) than most of her male counterparts. That’s why we’re happy to showcase her visual work as a top visual artist in the dance music industry.
João Beira, the founder and creative director of Datagrama Visuals, has become something of a legend. With a team of six designers, programmers, VJs, and photographers under his helm, the Datagrama team is widely-respected across the festival and live music industry landscapes. Based in Austin, Texas, the team has become lauded for their cutting-edge visual animations, mind-bending live stage productions interactive art installments like Monolith, Monolith v2.0, projection mapped displays, and graphic design softwares.
Known best for their stunning projection mapping displays at event around the world, including Portugal’s Boom Festival, SXSW, Okeechobee, Tipper’s Coalesce NYE, and Astral Lights, 4321 Eclipse Festival, and more, every grounds that Datagrama touches is blessed with the team’s spatially augmented reality. For proof, one need look no further than their displays at Euphoria Festival in 2016, which included projected faces on the trees and river behind the Dragonfly stage, or their tree projections at Tipper & Friends’ Full Moon Gatherings at Suwannee in 2016 and 2019.
Perhaps their most impressive work to date, the Datagrama team joined headliner Dave Tipper at the 2019 edition of Camp Bisco in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Datagrama team, in association with Imaginex, was responsible for a fully immersive projection mapped world on the ceilings of the festival’s most celebrated tent stage. It’s a performance that is still being talked about today.
According to many who were lucky enough to attend the 2019 edition of Camp Bisco, the technological feat was referred to as “jaw-dropping,” “eye-opening,” and “mind-blowing.” The ten-thousand person crowd was not only looking at the custom-made content and generative visuals unfolding on stage right before their very eyes, they were also dancing directly below them.
João Beira used drones to create 3D-scans of the amphitheater ceiling three months out from the event. Imaginex said the drones “allowed for higher quality mapping and a simpler production workflow for every team involved.” Over one thousand pounds of projectors were then put into position as graphic software Synesthesia crafted impromptu visuals in real time with the music above the heads of the Pavilion audience.
“Having those visuals morph right above you made you feel completely immersed into the musical and visual journey that Tipper is known for taking fans on,” said one fan of the experience. Another fan stated, “It truly took things to the next level because the visuals were not just on the giant LED screen in front of you, they were all above you.”
The experience was so ground-breaking that the entire technical team, along with Dave Tipper, were invited to integrate the same technology at Camp Bisco 2020, which was canceled due to COVID-19. Datagrama’s production could very well be something fans will see more of in the future and will likely prove to set the bar high for the industry.
Time and again, Datagrama creates a psychedelic world of projection-mapped visuals that fans can interact with directly, whether it be on nature or a festival mainstage tent. But the team’s résumé extends far beyond that world. Datagrama is well known for “their experimental work and research with neural networks,” according to their website. For instance, their D-Tox teaser illustrates Datagrama’s passion and expertise for vortexes, toroidal flows, and fractal designs.
Datagrama are also the technical minds behind a “custom-made generative software exploring the intersection and overlay of light between the physical and digital space.” It’s a software program that informs the work of many leading visual designers and animators in the field.
Their extremely defined and uniquely diversified body of work includes visual animations for one particularly noteworthy animation that accompanied a “Bicycle Day” video at Tipper & Friends Full Moon Gathering on April 20, 2019. During Tipper’s Friday night closing set, Datagrama shared the stage with good friend, Steven Haman, who is also featured on CE‘s top visual designers shortlist. Datagrama and Haman were responsible for a moment that completely stole the show, wherein the entire crowd stopped in their tracks to take part in a 2D-animation to Tipper’s “Sayonara” against “Jettison Mind Hatch.”
Projected on a unique stage created by Ernest Hoodie Salinas, the animations (by Lorenzo Veracini, Nandini Nambiar and Marco Avoletta) were meant to celebrate the 76 anniversary of the famous bicycle ride by Albert Hoffman and the LSD trip. “Sharing this animation at the event was a very special moment,” Datagrama said on their Facebook page, “and we are stoked to finally share with you guys here.”
Datagrama’s work, which truly separates this team of collaborators from all other visual artists, has gone international and Beira has found himself spending a lot of time back and forth between countries working on art installations, performances, and 3D projection mapping. He’s even hosted various workshops to teach more about his one of a kind experimental work.
Datagrama Visuals is arguably one of the festival scene’s most talented, dedicated, passionate, and hardworking teams of designers and creative coders to date. They have such an expansive portfolio that CE had to include them in our list of Top Visual Artists in 2020.
For anyone who’s found themselves front-and-center at an ODESZA show, it’s likely you were standing in blissful awe from the opening song. It’s likely the sheer euphoria of the music and the moment also had you pick your heart up off the floor by the set’s end. That doesn’t even make mention of the fact that you most likely had to pick up your jaw as well. The guy to thank for that is Luke Tanaka, ODESZA’s creative director and visual artist who is responsible for Seattle-based duo’s breathtaking visual productions, organic animations, and fully immersive lighting display.
As the lifeblood of the well-oiled ODESZA machine, Luke Tanaka specializes in 3D animation, compositing, and concert programming. Working closely with Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, the guys behind ODESZA, since the beginning, Tanaka has overseen the the album tours of My Friends Never Die, In Return, and A Moment Apart. He developed the live tour experiences from the ground up. Unity and love fills the air at every show and, suffice it to say, this is by-and-large partly because of the genuine relationships built behind-the-scenes.
Luke and Harrison were best friends at New Media Design school at Western Washington University. Shortly after graduating in 2012, ODESZA took off and Luke stepped in as the visual director for the tour—pioneering the ocular experience. The prominent creator specializes in 3D animation, compositing, and concert programming— making every event one for the memory books. Working with ODESZA has opened the door for Tanaka to explore the infinite possibilities digital art has to offer, including mind-boggling VR and working with a cutting-edge drone display at Coachella 2018.
As ODESZA’s Coachella creative directors, Luke Tanaka and Sean Kusanagi were the true masterminds behind ODESZA’s storied performance in Indio Valley that year. They constructed moving pillars to prop up the drum-line and horn performers, extendable, moving LED screens, and aerial drones to cap it all off. It was the first time a music festival had ever seen drones dancing in the night sky. As ODESZA’s first main stage set in primetime, Tanaka was instrumental in creating and implementing a performance that will not just go down in Coachella history but live music history.
The designer’s most recent feat was leading the creative direction for ODESZA’s groundbreaking 22-month A Moment Apart tour. As an artistic visionary and trailblazing stage designer, Tanaka exemplifies the 2018 album’s title. How? By creating a space for their fans to truly take A Moment Apart from the madness of the world and drop into the magic of ODESZA.
For those seeking for the mind to be transformed, altered, or otherwise mesmerized, look no further than visual artist Johnathan Singer and his incredible digital choreographies and transportive artform.
Sitting at the crossroads between art and music at the age of 24, Singer began his career working for a socially-conscious lifestyle magazine called West Side Life. During his early tenure, Singer was swiftly catapulted into Los Angeles culture under the wing of some pretty potent influences. Soon finding himself motivated by a realm of musicians and artists, Jonathan Singer sought to create his own storyline. What has resulted over the years is a visual tale of magnificent colors, textures, and pixels, as well as a penchant for spellbinding moving animations.
Equipped with a network of performers and live event professionals from his work as a journalist, along with a strong graphic design background, Singer began testing the waters of visual performance and live art. Despite software and equipment being either too expensive or oversized at first, Singer’s talent grew alongside the capabilities of the industry, partly thanks to himself. Motivated by his own creative drive, hard work, focus, discipline, and passion, Singer honed his technological savvy into a physical product.
His visuals became a lifestyle brand just as much as his live shows became a feeling like nothing else.
As a scientist or chemist looks to develop a cure, or city planner designs a street’s roadways and infrastrutures, so too did Singer experiment with tantalizing visuals in order to mine new avenues to create dazzling displays of digital animation. Some of those animations include compositions and harmonic marriages between computer-generated graphics, texture maps, custom 3D-images, abounding color patterns, and several other special effects.
These days, Johnathan Singer’s experience includes work with musical greats such as Ott and Tipper along with artistic legends like Alex and Allyson Grey and Android Jones. One of Singer’s more notable compositions is the ambient set he designed for CoSM in collaboration with Dave Tipper and the Greys.
But the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors isn’t the only venue that Singer has filled with his spectacular visuals. Red Rocks Amphitheater (Denver), Soldier Field (Chicago), The Beacon Theater (NYC), The Sony Theater (NYC), and The Fillmore (San Fransisco) are all among the infamous spaces that the California-born VJ/designer has filled with his experimental psychedelica and journey-like moving pixels.
After buying into his ideas on screen, fans can partake in Johnathan Singers’ craft right outside the concert venue via his clothing line and prints. In a Q&A with software company Mettle, Singer said that the visual designs seen in his popular merchandise were inspired by “psychedelic posters and images” that he concocted during his early years as a graphic designer.
In the same Q&A, Singer nods to these communities he is so deeply intertwined with, thanking the hardcore fanbase for the support they’ve given him throughout his artistic career.
Time and again, Johnathan Singer teleports his audiences through the psychical hallways of the mind, into the interstellar fast lanes of the cosmos, and brings them back to earth again. With the ways in which Johnathan Singer leaves the crowd feeling after his mind-bending animations, with utter shell shock and speechless bewilderment, its on par with a sort of digital transformation that is rather hard to put into words.
That’s why Singer deserves all the adulation, affirmation, and admiration that comes along with being named one of dance music’s top visual artists (if not the top visual artist). In some way or another, Singer serves as the embodied inspiration to creatives everywhere that the “starving artist” won’t always go hungry forever. Smashing the stereotype into tiny bits, Singer offers himself up as a living, breathing sledgehammer. He’s a reminder to visual artists to keep pursuing their commitment to craft with drive and determination, guts, and unadulterated intention.
Becoming a visual artist takes true grit and sheer force of will. Creating art on its own is already challenging, but then making it move and sync to music is a product of commitment and patience. Although he’s the newest artist on this list, DATA_BYTE (or Ash Mohammed) is rapidly proving himself as one artist to watch in the visual field. The self-taught creator has worked his way up steadily up the ladder after initially being discovered at BassCenter XII during the heavily-chased basshead anthem, “Kyrian Beep Bop.”
Calling himself a “verified rarible and unknown origin artist,” the self-given tile couldn’t be more true of DATA_BYTE. Mohammed initially began promoting himself heavily on social media and soon became recognized as the rising artist that refused to be ignored. After working closely with fellow producers, Wreckno and Mize, who were coming into the spotlight around the same time as Mohammed, he began honing his talents and collaborative spirit through more audio-visual mixes. Before long, DATA_BYTE caught the eye of notable bass artists like Liquid Stranger, G-Space, and more. He has also performed or had his work used at events including Sound Haven and numerous bass shows throughout the US.
After growing up in Baghdad, Iraq, Mohammed migrated to America roughly a decade ago and took an interest in live production not long after. He became curious about visuals in particular while in college, attending events and learning everything he could completely from scratch. While he’s most proficient in programs like Adobe After Effects and Premiere, DATA_BYTE has made an effort to try as many other methods and programs as he can. Whatever his creative methods are, it’s paying off at rapid speed. One need only look to his recent animations to see how astronomically fast DATA_BYTE has come in just a year’s time.
Be though as it may, the formula he’s using are the age-old ingredients for success: a bit of talent mixed with discernible hard work, a desire to learn and grow, and an obvious passion that just can’t be taught. This recipe has definitely paid off too. DATA_BYTE has been featured on some incredible livestream sets with Duffrey, Benji Robot, Templo, and more noteworthy underground bass acts. In addition, he has crafted visuals for mixes that are crisp, flawlessly timed, and beautifully colorful and abstract.
Mohammed’s signature style tends to be highly stylized with endless fractals, impossibly glossy shapes and strange creatures set in realistic settings. It’s highly psychedelic and almost spiritual, engaging the viewer in what becomes an immersive and captivating experience. DATA_BYTE hasn’t let the pandemic slow him down, either. If anything, it’s motivated him stronger. He continues to put out new art and find more opportunities to stay relevant in a struggling industry. If raw talent and a real work ethic amount to music industry success, he’s sure to become a big name in visuals. Luck may have something to do with it, but either way we can’t wait to see where DATA_BYTE goes and what he does next.
As a visual and graphic artist born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Louis Colindres is a freelance illustrator who creates album art, music videos, posters, books, and comics. As a Columbia College graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration, his visual style focuses on fluid line work, psychedelic patterns, and vibrant colors techniques. He deals mostly with horror-esque themes, so one can imagine how his album cover art works well with riddim artists.
With a freelance résumé that includes visuals and artwork for entities such as mau5trap, Circus Records, Billboard Dance, and Electric Forest, Colindres has become well known across EDM industry circles. He told CE exclusively,
At the same time, Colindres’ artistic portfolio extends beyond the dance music world. Still based in the Windy City, he’s been noticed for his urban artwork techniques and graffiti mural painting. As an illustrator, he’s also the creative force behind his very own REZZ Mass Manipulation comic book.
Still, dance music culture will always remain at the center Colindres’ world. Colindres attributes his psychedelic patterns to the EDM scene’s influence and the immersive lighting of EDM stages to his color palettes. “My artwork itself started to get more vibrant when I started illustrating for music,” he continues. “What consistently draws me back to the EDM community is the love and support both the musicians and the fans have for each other.”
Without a doubt, what dance music enthusiasts may know him for best is his famous cover artwork for REZZ. From her breakout debut LP, Mass Manipulation, and her seminal sophomore studio album, A Certain Kind Of Magic, to her Somethings Wrong Here tour poster, REZZ’s early sonic catalog will always call up the style of Luis Colindres. With visual animations that seeped into her live mainstage performances, Colindres’ art was given a certain scale of attention and focus that can only be described as “mass manipulation.”
With visual animations that seeped into REZZ’s live mainstage performances, Colindres’ art was given a certain scale of attention that can be likened to “mass manipulation” itself. All joking innuendos aside, his definitive style has enjoyed mainstream levels of acclaim. Colindres’ psychedelic style seems to complement the hypnotic nature of REZZ’s sets perfectly as well. Perhaps the most unique piece in his EDM-influenced artwork collection is the REZZ mind trip coloring book, DROPPING COLOR, which contains some of his favorite visuals to date.
Samuel & Cate Farrand
Has worked with: Alex Grey
Words by: Emily Mullins.
Hailing from Burlington, Vermont, Samuel and Cate Farrand are the design power couple whose work has been infiltrating the psychedelic art community for years. Known often by their clothing, art, and merchandise brand name, Tetramode, Sam and Cate Farrand create art that’s straight from another dimension. Their ultra-colorful, synergetic style has made waves throughout the art community, and secured it’s place among the EDM scene as well.
The Tetramode project began before Samuel and Cate ever even met each other. After Samuel became inspired to begin creating digital art in the 2000’s, he successfully pulled off his first art show in 2012 and would launch his Etsy shop just a year later. He had a clear vision from the start, immediately catching the attention of Alex Grey, and his art soon went worldwide and viral online. Now, Farrand has several visual performances under his belt, dozens of festival art displays, and is Art Director or designer for an impressive range of events.
While Sam was building his half of the empire, Cate was hard at work on her own side of artistry. A fellow digital artist, she first came up with the idea for Tetramode back in 2014 after a car accident that became her spiritual awakening. Her eye-catching style paired well with Sam’s, and they merged their passions together to start selling clothing under Tetramode.
Spiritual gurus will love their creations: usually crisp, stunning colors forming psychedelic shapes and dreams out of blackness. If you’ve ever wandered among art exhibits at a festival, it’s likely you’ve seen one of their pieces contributing to the culture. This power couple is here to stay–and we’re so excited to see what’s next. Speaking as one entity, The Farrands write on their Facebook page, Tetramode,
Has worked with: Tipper, Jade Cicada, Shpongle
Words by: Bridgette Mitchell.
One of Dave Tipper’s star co-creators is Steven Haman, an esteemed multi media artist from the Bay Area. Haman specializes in digital imagery, motion graphics, painting, sculpting, and more. He is most known in the music community for his live psychedelic visuals paired with a top tier audio experience, creating an inspiring space for transformation.
Haman takes the visual experience to the next level. From pioneering projection mapping at several music festivals to turning his art into wearable clothing items, there’s nothing this man can’t do. Haman has left an imprint on several mainstream and underground festivals including, but not limited to, Arise, Bicycle Day, Bonnaroo, Coalesce NYE, Gem & Jam, Imagine Music Festival, Resonance, SummerCamp, and fan-favorite, Tipper & Friends.
Has worked with: Mystic Grizzly, Mickman, 5AM, Pluto Era, Ott., Goopsteppa, EAZYBAKED, The Rust Music, Equinox Festival, ReVibe Retreat, Couchfest
Words by: Maggie Johnson.
Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Actualize is a prolific visual designer that has made the world his canvas with his intricate stage designs and moving art installations, using the latest cutting-edge technology to make his dream come alive. Anything is on the table with this East Coast visionary, from producing live visuals and 3D-imagery on the fly in real-time, to state-of-the-art projection mapping turning architecture into art.
Actualize found his calling for visual design while working with a New Hampshire promotion company called Electric Impulse. Upon noticing the lack of visuals at their shows, the now-established VJ decided to take matters into his own hands, jumping right in with the popular visual software Resolume.
He recently joined many of the fellow VJs on this list on the visual lineup for ReVibe Retreat, a socially-distanced festival experience that took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Actualize has stated some influences to be Android Jones, Totemical, Cameron Gray, Beeple, Ben Ridgeway, and more. In addition to his VJ work within the electronic music community, the accomplished digital artist has also explored his talents in various different mediums, such as in the form of limited edition prints, tapestries, and apparel.
Has worked with: Tipper & Friends, Jade Cicada, Schmoop, Kursa, The Rust Music
Words by: Ryan Morse.
As an exciting addition to the EDM industry’s visual art community, Tenorless is a visual artist, designer, and developer based in Asheville, North Carolina. As a live video jockey, Tenorless regularly tours and works with his close friends, Jade Cicada and Schmoop (one-half of Wonky Llama). In early 2020, Tenorless was featured as an opening visual artist in Tipper & Friends three-night run in New Orleans. He ran animations for musical opener TEEBS during Saturday’s downtempo night, a set where Tenorless came out as one of the most-talked-about artists of the weekend.
Most recently, Tenorless released his latest audio-visual mixtape with bass talent Jade Cicada, a stunning hour-long composition to raise money for personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff working through the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaborative effort was debuted on The Rust Music’s weekly live stream showcase, The Featherbird Sessions Vol. 6. The evening also saw visual work from The Void, DRO1D, and Steven Haman, all of whom made CE‘s Top Visual Artists shortlist.
With a rather enigmatic online identity, Tenorless’ visual work has vastly increased due to his heavy involvement in quarantine live streams and his commitment to raising money for front line workers. It’s a classic example of how “actions speak louder than words,” and if actions could talk, they’d tell you Tenorless is committed to making a difference. “In times like these, it’s easy to feel like we can’t make a substantial difference to our awful situation,” he said on his Facebook page. “But this isn’t true.”
“If you truly want to create positive change, and consistently put yourself in places where those opportunities exist, it happens,” he continued.
It’s this kind of mentality that makes Tenorless so uniquely-suited for our list of visual artists who stand out in the industry. Not to mention, it’s his unbridled commitment to raw experimentation, clean animations, and mind-blowing visual displays that make Tenorless One To Watch for when the live music industry hopefully resumes in 2021.
Has worked with: The Widdler, Android Jones, Microdose VR, Meow Wolf, The Black Box
Words by: Maximilian Vanegas.
What is to be expected when the visual artist by the name of tenstriip begins transcribing his labyrinths of color and geometric illusions?
Everything, and nothing.
While past performances might leave a fan thinking they know what tenstriip is capable of, surprises are sure to take place in any one of his sets. Ethan Stewart, the mind behind tenstriip, has become known for baffling audiences back and forth (and back again) with his heavy artillery of gooey, digitized, and psychedelic visuals.
Getting his start in digital design at CU Denver and working his way up to a residency at Colorado music venue The Black Box, Stewart has undoubtedly shown that there is truly no end to the amount of tantalizing graphics and cosmic visuals that one can produce behind a computer and/or animation platform. With roots in website design and UX/UI development, Stewart asserts that what he is doing now “is just an extension of that design thinking and application in different contexts.” Using the building blocks he was taught in school along with his experience as a web designer and content creator, this visual artist exemplifies what it means to successfully transition between industries.
While he might serve as an inspiration for young artists and designers to explore realms beyond their territory, Tenstriip’s objectives fall far beyond just that of a motivator. With a mission to start a physical gallery and workspace in Denver, along with his long-term goal of turning Tenstriip into a fully loaded A/V project, this young artist certainly appears to have an appetite for creation. Which, in the realm of electronic dance music and visual art, is all the fuel needed to keep this magical world of sound and light moving forward.
Don't forget to check out Part One in this feature series!!
A conscious way to consume EDM.