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The Mid Year Report launched in 2016 with the intent of spotlighting 10 artists within the realm of music who share and represent the adventurous, independent spirit of NEST HQ. Similar to our end-of-year superlatives, the Mid Year Report recognizes those musicians who are outpacing their contemporaries due to fearless creativity and deliberate integrity, and this week, we’ll be discussing 10 artists who we believe are pushing their genre forward in 2018.

Read below for our Mid Year Report on Peggy Gou.

Peggy Gou perceives and gives meaning to the world through the lens of records. She’s a selector in every sense of the word, by the tracks she spins and with the sounds in her original music. Her choices are rich and delicate, loosely-associated yet densely-woven, and this year has been a major one for her rise with three stellar releases thus far, each of which adds another element to her solid oeuvre and unique musical identity.

Before she started producing music, Peggy Gou made her name as a DJ first and foremost. That’s rare these days, where most successful electronic musicians need the backing of some original tracks to rise, but Peggy did it off her quality sets and mixes alone. She befriended some of the people at Phonica Records when she was living in London and a regular at their shop, giving her an entryway to DJing, and once they got a glimpse of her spirit, they were hooked (Phonica later released her second EP on their white label imprint).

Later she moved to Berlin, and in 2017 she played more than a hundred live shows, all the while preparing the release that would take her to the stratosphere, the Once EP released on Ninja Tune this March. Hailed across the board as her most refined work yet, Once took all the disparate strings of emotion evident in her DJ sets and put them on full focus. Its lead single, “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane),” pools the prettiest drums and cleanest synth licks together over a churning acid-twinged bassline and her most pronounced vocal feature yet: a sensual, vibrant Korean hymn.

The EP gets closed out by another track that’s seen plenty of love this year, “Han Jam,” which gets into the squelchy reaches of space with its rotating arpeggiations. What’s most exciting about the work is how much she’s expanded on her voice, and how uniquely it can be blended into her productions. It makes me think back to how Anthony Gonzales slowly discovered his vocal abilities with the M83 project, but whereas that took a decade for him to fully embrace his confidence, Peggy’s embracing her breadth from the outset.

Her earliest music was inspired by her community and the experiences around her: the name of one of her biggest releases of 2016, the Seek for Maktoop EP, was inspired by close friends who encouraged her music-making the most. That level of consciousness has grown to the global stage with her rise as she seeks to wield her new influence towards social activism. She followed up the Once EP by supporting the UN’s HeForShe campaign, an initiative to foster gender equality, with a charity double single alongside the Israeli techno duo Juju & Jordash. Her contribution, “Shero,” is a supreme ode to successful women. But she hasn’t forgotten her roots, returning to Phonica White with an off-kilter, contemplative song called “Travelling Without Arriving.” The two tracks couldn’t be more divergent, but they are both so innately Peggy that it’s without question something that could only come from her soul.

It’s no wonder, then, that Mixmag and The FADER gave her such praise this year. Even the music retailer Bandcamp described 2018 as “the year of Peggy Gou.” She won’t stop pushing herself or her limits in service of her music and community — in that Mixmag interview, she describes learning a new Korean instrument called the gayageum to give her more natural sounds in her music, and how using those sounds helps bridge the music to her parents — and those traits are what will keep her soaring. Before Once, she was already inspiring deep fandoms, but now she’s on the rise to become a global electronic music goliath. If she continues using that power well, like she has been, hell, she could become the Bono of our industry.

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Words: Neal Rahman