Whether causing chaos on a Boiler Room or soundtracking an old warship in Amsterdam, Holly Lester has had an attention-grabbing ascent into dance music. Originally hailing from rural Northern Ireland, she’s been busy carving her niche in the world of house and techno since emerging from England’s north-west dance scene midway through the last decade.
It was as a DJ where she first rose to prominence, regularly playing for institutions Shine and Chibuku Shake Shake before a residency at the Warehouse Project beckoned. To date, she’s shared stages with the likes of Motor City Drum Ensemble, Optimo, Joy Orbison and Paul Woolford.
The dancefloors she’s commanded have included familiar names such as Printworks, XOYO, Wilde Renate and IPSE. Her knack for pursuing more exciting projects has seen her play in an array of unique locations across Europe. These include an abandoned bowling alley in Baku, a forest off Ireland’s east coast and an ancient wine factory in Tbilisi, all sashaying to Lester’s inimitable sounds.
This natural talent for sharing the music she loves naturally lent itself well to radio. As well as appearances on BBC radio, she was one of the founding residents of Manchester station Limbo. Free from the confinements of the dancefloor, Holly explores ambient, jungle, downtempo Balearic cuts and more, alongside new and unreleased music from around the world. With a keen urge to represent local Irish talent, she regularly invites guests both north and south of the border on her show, alongside international artists from as far as Melbourne and Montreal.
A natural progression in her evolution as music curator was of course to begin her own record label. Launched in 2020, Duality Trax is inspired by the idea that two contrasting energies or emotions can exist simultaneously in the same space, bringing about a natural symbiosis and balance. This happy collision of opposing forces is the mission statement for the imprint, with a strong desire to represent balance and inclusivity across each release.
On the dancefloor, she’s established herself as a frequent player in the cities of London and Belfast, ticking off various European hotspots like Berlin, Amsterdam and Prague in-between. A permanent fixture for AVA festival, it was here that she recorded her infamous Boiler Room in 2018 alongside Job Jobse and Mano le Tough. That moment would lead to DJ Mag and The Guardian citing her as a star on the rise, the latter likening her to fellow compatriots Bicep.
While it’s a flattering comparison, Lester’s sound is all her own. Raw analogue jams rub shoulders with dreamy trance tinged melodies and swirling breakbeats, driven continuously by the distinct percussive energy that has become her trademark. With a penchant for the sounds of yesteryear, expect to hear early French house slammers and forgotten Detroit classics interlaced with her unique approach to modern-day house music. Her commitment and humble demeanour remains central to her continued success, ensuring her name won’t be going anywhere any time soon.