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Fresh Kicks 169: DART

Dublin’s Jordan Rafferty AKA DART steps up for the Fresh Kicks series with an eclectic mix of dreamy breaks, pumping techno and progressive club sounds, and speaks with DJ Mag’s Amy Fielding about emotive breakdowns, early inspirations, and this year's return to clubs and festivals

Dublin-born Jordan Rafferty has been connected to Ireland’s electronic underground since before he can remember. With both of his parents immersed in Dublin’s ‘90s rave scene, at a time when legendary institutes like Olympic Ballroom and the Asylum were alive with the sounds of trance and house, Rafferty’s love for music, specifically the progressive, club kind, has been passed down through the generations.

Rafferty is better known by his stage name, DART. A regular fixture on the Irish circuit and beyond, the DJ and producer has spent years refining his sound to where it sits now: “somewhere in between ‘90s progressive house, old school trance and modern techno”. “My ma actually handed down all of her records to me when I was around 12 years old, I think,” Rafferty remembers, “There were some absolute gems in there that I still keep to this day.”

Citing records such as Dionne’s ‘Come Get My Loving’, Lionrock’s 1993 vocal cut ‘Packet of Peace’ and Kariya’s ‘Love You For Tonight’, he began to mix soon after, digging for his own records in Dublin. Rafferty would listen to hip-hop and punk rock at home — he still does now — but was captivated by the sounds of electronic producers. “I started to venture out more and bought loads of old progressive trance & house records from an iconic record store in Dublin called Abbey Disc, which is now gone,” He says. “The influence of the old prog-trance sound still makes it into my own tracks now. I’m big lover of emotional pads & breakdowns.”

Eventually, Rafferty took that love for classic, emotive rave sounds, and utilised them at his residency for Dublin’s Hangar club, where he DJ’d alongside fellow local talent such as Tommy Holohan, KETTAMA, Long Island Sound and Shampaign. “Those people around me when I first started are my biggest inspirations when it comes to making music,” he says. “To be honest, I still think to this day I’m just creating without actually defining a sound. There was a big wave of Irish artists all emerging at that time, and I feel like we all bounced off one another.”

In terms of more recent output, DART has released tracks and EPs via HOMAGE, Shall Not Fade and Hot Haus Records, with his most recent EP, ‘Dawn’, landing via Hammer’s digital Remmah imprint. Taking in six tracks, the EP weaves through sci fi-inspired atmospherics, nostalgic melodies and trancey synths, taking in key elements from raves past and pushing them forward into the future. 

Elsewhere, Rafferty is set to release a new EP this month via Scuba's Hotflush Recordings' sister label, Rhythm Nation. "I've been exchanging music with Scuba for almost a year now, so I'm buzzing that I'm finally doing a release for him" he says. The three tracker, titled 'Tonic Ice', fuses futuristic-sounding elements with twinkling breaks and euphoric harmonies, resulting in an EP that settles in DART's unique grey area between straight-up dancefloor cuts and powerfully emotive productions.

Later in the year, Rafferty is also slated for a release alongside Hammer, and will return to AVA Festival in Northern Ireland in June, after the event made its rapturous comeback in September last year. "AVA is always a special one for me," he says of the return. "They’re like a family. I won their emerging producer competition in 2018 and since then I’ve been back every year, and going on the road with them for the annual castle party and AVA London events. I feel like last year was really a turning point for the festival, and I’m sure many would agree with me that they’re now up there with the best."

As of this week, all coronavirus restrictions in Ireland have been lifted, and just last week (w/c 17th January), the government has signed the consultation for review of the country's alcohol licensing, something which Rafferty says will hopefully be "the start of a positive change and freedom in Ireland's nighttime economy". Ahead of his first headline performance in Dublin next month, at the reopening of the city's Centre Point venue on 4th February, Rafferty joins DJ Mag's Fresh Kicks series with an hour of dreamy techno, vocal-heavy cuts and progressive club sounds. Check it out below.

DART + Hammer 'Scope (Forthcoming)'
Swoose 'Bloom'
Priori 'Winged'
Kim Ann Foxman 'Magic Magic (Matisa Remix)'
Tony & Hawk 'Who Lands Drones'
DART 'Unreleased'
X Club 'Concentrate'
Cromby 'Try Acid'
Billie Jo 'Saturn'
DART 'Unreleased'
DART 'Unreleased'
SWIM 'Love (Skin On Skin Remix)'

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