Since the mid-2000s or so, the consensus about Canada's electronic music has been more dispirited than encouraging. Canada could've been a hotbed of industry and creativity had the rave explosion of the '90s been allowed to mature on its own terms without crackdowns on its legality and legitimacy by police and government agencies. Many of our brightest talents have given up on home turf to pursue careers in countries where they at least an opportunity to make a living.
Those problems persist, but 2011 has proven to be more about changing the rules than merely rooting out the exceptions. And no year since 2001 – when Montreal's minimal techno scene made an international splash – has been as robustly productive as this one. The differences between 2001 and 2011 are ample enough to conclude the changes may be here to stay: the talent pool spreads more uniformly across the country; the development is not relegated to any one style or community; and homegrown producers are closer to the cutting edge of electronic music than they've ever been.
The proof is everywhere. Last year's rumblings from the Toronto underground boiled over this year with high profile debuts from Egyptrixx, Art Department (pictured), Arthur Oskan, and Azari & III. Bass producer XI scored international critical success with his Gamma Rain EP, while bass producers such as ill.Gates have found new audiences.
Noah Pred's Thoughtless Music imprint, working hard for a number of years on the techno front, broke through after 50 releases to a level of acceptance and recognition that had previously eluded it. To add, new labels such as No.19 and Loose Lips, and even online upstarts such as Basic Sounds, showcase just how deep the current crop of emerging talent can be.
On the West coast, Babe Rainbow hit a homerun with his Endless Path EP, which showcased that the spirit of bass music was also transforming the shape of electronic music on the other side of the country as well. Names such as Michael Red, Monolithium, Daega Sound System, and more are adding a new dimension to a region traditionally divided between Shambhala's hippiedom and Wagon Repair's techno.
In Montreal, the likes of Jacques Greene, Ango, Hissy Fit, Lunice, and others are leading a garage-infused bass attack on a city traditionally associated with techno and house. Promoters are back in the game in a big way, as they appear to be in practically every major metropolis across the country.
We haven't even touched on the wealth of indie-tinted dance music made by the likes of Polaris finalists Austra and Exclaim! cover stars Miracle Fortress. Nor have we gone into any details about veteran artists like Deadbeat, Solvent, Junior Boys, Venetian Snares, Frivolous, Secret Mommy, Tim Hecker and others who released critically acclaimed records. And then there's the massive success of producers like Deadmau5, who routinely draws five-figure audiences across the world. All of these artists and more have made 2011 a benchmark year.