The 25 Best Mixes of 2015
Aux cord gems for long rides to nowhere.
Photo by Joel Fowler, Design by Christopher Classens. Drum machine featured Elektron Analog Rytm.
Online mixes are now more ubiquitous than ever, allowing curious fans to check out banging performances from everyone from Skrillex to Ben Klock without having to leave their couch, buy a ticket to Ultra, or get past Sven at Berghain. This year, the internet was packed with countless top-notch sets, and today, we bring you 25 of our favorites. Whatever you use them for, turn them up. And if you're wondering what we we were listening to when we weren't jamming these, check our list of the 50 best tracks from this year.
Relocating to Berlin after a residence in San Francisco, producer and DJ Avalon Emerson enjoyed some star turns at Panorama Bar this year. The American DJ's debut Boiler Room set finds her armed with a throwback lollipop headphone at the tail-end of a Berlin summer, merging her affinity for hard-hitting percussion with the resounding physicality of her own productions.—Lachlan Kanoniuk
Is this mix that Arca made for Hood By Air's January Pitti Uomo fashion show really even a mix? It definitely contains mix-like elements, including some hyper-abstracted flips of Mississippi producer Beek, prog rock god Robert Wyatt, and frequent collaborator Björk. That said, it feels more like a 15-minute, hypnagogic sound collage than a compendium of the Venezuelan-born producer's favorite jams, unless by "jams" you mean the sounds of sheep bleating, security alarms blaring, and industrial machines pistoning. When you're in a certain poetic frame of mind, those things can be pretty musical too, though, right? Sure, but it's rare that they sound as mysterious and soothing as they do here.—Emilie Friedlander
One of the original masters of French house music, Etienne de Crecy emerged from a ten-year slumber this past January with the launch of Super Discount 3, a long-awaited reboot of a pivotal album/EP series he'd launched back in 1997. This mix gave De Crecy a platform to show off his latest tracks while also reintroducing the world to a long-dormant flavor of house. This is contemporary French Touch at it's finest.—Gigen Mammoser
If you wanted to wrap your head around Scotland label LuckyMe's particular brand of weird, this mix probably wouldn't be a bad place start. It's a helter-skelter, absolutely relentless rush through the sort of self-aware happy hardcore sounds we've come to expect from the Glaswegian crew. And to judge from the inclusion of his own exuberant track, "Helian 17," it's a sound Marinetti knows inside out. At no point during the this 30-minute session for Tank Magazine does he let up, so despite its brevity, it's a pretty exhausting experience—in an amazing, hands-punching-the-sweaty-ceiling kind of way.—Angus Harrison
All DJs sets try to move the listener in one way or another, but it's rare they're recorded atop an actual moving object—unless you're at Burning Man that is. Scott Hanson, aka Sacramento ambient electronica artist Tycho, recorded this one aboard the Dusty Rhino art car during one of the Burn's legendary sunrise sessions, flying across the Playa's sprawling and chilly desert plane. The two-hour mix touches on a spread of heart-grabbing tracks built for the hours when the night bleeds into morning—from the transcendent techno of Jon Hopkins and Daniel Avery to the IDM bloops and bleeps of Aphex Twin and Board of Canada, whose classic 1996 track "ROYGBIV," according to the tracklist, appeared as the sun was coming up.—David Garber
While a lot of people were spending the summer BBQ months blasting The Weeknd and Drake out of every orifice at their disposal, we were downing our burgers and brews to the sweet sounds of Moon Boots' second annual Backyard Boogie mix. This deliciously easy-going collection from the Brooklyn disco dude rides like the decked-out time-traveling Cadillac from Austin Powers, cruising through classic cuts from Donna Summer, Rick Wade, and Robert Hood, along with some funked-up edits from Danny Krivit, JKriv, and Moon Boots himself.—David Garber
There's a comment on the YouTube video of Denis Sulta's boisterous Boiler Room set in Glasgow this summer that reads, "the only issue I have with Sub Club is that it fucking ruins going to every other club for the rest of your life." And it's actually a pretty funny summation of the leaking-out-of-your-fucking-headphones energy that positively drips off this set. Sulta's had a sensational year, and this Boiler Room's a perfect testament as to why Glasgow continues to be the most exciting place for getting hyped and sweaty in the UK. From his own cuts "LA Ruffgarden" and "It's Only Real," to the screaming Lumberjacks From Hell release "Hit It N Quit It," every second is an irrepressible tribute to the joy of clubbing.—Angus Harrison
Back in May, Tri Angle Records celebrated its fifth anniversary by partying into the wee hours of the morning inside an office building in New York's financial district (you know, the same building where Hood By Air conducted its own Wall Street takeover a couple fashion weeks ago). I was home sick with a flu, but Alcohol-stained dispatches from scene reported, among other memorable details, what appeared to be an hour-long DJ set from Björk, clad in a sequined mesh mask and boogie-ing down in the crowd.
The whole affair sounded too turnt for words, but when a recording of the Icelandic producer and singer's appearance surfaced on SoundCloud a couple days later, it seemed less like a party set than a deliriously fractured sound collage, kicking off with a downtempo ballad from Pakistani singer Abida Parveen and splicing bits of classical choirs, chilean flute music, and central African folk song between beats from folks from the Tri Angle coterie. There were danceable moments, sure, but also enough haunting beauty to warrant the occasional tear—and that's when you know you've had a really wild night.—Emilie Friedlander
Both genre-jumpers in their own right, Actress and Martyn also find common ground in their knack for blending different historical moments. Over two action-filled hours, this mix for London ration station NTS zips between Balearic re-rubs of David Byrne, post-punk, techno, and Tinariwen. The result is kind of like the Dr. Manhattan of electronic music: a physical manifestation of the past, present, and future.—Eduardo Roberto
This one dates back to the first time Mike played Bunker in 2009, though it was only just released as part of The Bunker NY's podcast series. Mike is like a surgeon behind the decks, hopping with laser focus between records that toe that line right between house and techno. This is a Huckaby mix at its best, rinsing through Moodymann's classic "Tribute," Rhythm & Sound, G Man, Baby Ford, and Kerri. He beats you down with some dubby techno only to pull you back up with a beautiful Rhodes lick. Pure class.—Joel Fowler
Newark's Cherise Gary, AKA Uniiqu3, is one of the most vibrant voices in Jersey Club—and that's not just due to her totally ass-rattling productions and remixes, but also the way she reps her homies to the very core of their bed squeaks. The spontaneous, no-rules ethos of crews like the Brick Bandits and now-international stars like DJ Sliink shines brightly on this hour-long mixtape for The Wire, dredging up a plethora of party-geared rhythms and IDs from out of the heart of the city that she loves.—David Garber
Should you ever find yourself on deck for a mix on Gilles Petersons' famed Worldwide Family Mixtape, you'll know it's time to get out a magnifying glass and look deep into your record crate. For a mid-year edition of the series, UK breakout duo Bicep put their house-flexing guns on hold for a way-too brief half-hour of afrobeat and shimmering disco. It's a mix that focuses especially on the glorious rhythms that came out of 70s Africa, running through two excellent Soundway releases from Ghanaian legends—Kiki Gyan and The Ogyatanaa Show Band—before moving into some Nu Yorcian Soul and wrapping things up with Jimmy Hyacinthe's 1979 hit, "Yatchiminou." —David Garber
In her article on this THUMP mix by Tzechar, our very own Michelle Lhooq praises the Australia-based K-pop remixers' ability to draw unexpected musical connections between their globe-trotting source material. "When a track by Shanghai/Tokyo footwork duo SLV segues into Azealia Banks' 'Heavy Metal and Reflective,' it sounds like a revelation," she writes. "This mix is about more than just bangers. It's about uncovering the secret musical lineage shared by underground dance music from both sides of the world." This sense of cross-connection is stark and powerful from the start, when a track from Kenji Kawai's Ghost in the Shell soundtrack rides right into an industrial classic by Throbbing Gristle—it's quite an entrance, and things only end up getting more interesting from there.—Alexander Iadarola
It's fair to assume this is the only mix on this list to be served in a tin. Hell, it's fair to assume this is the only release this year to be served in a tin. With Paradise Goulash, Prins Thomas delivers a hearty three-disc serving of weird brilliance in tribute to New York clubbing institution Paradise Garage. It's a lot to digest, but each listen rewards with the Norwegian artist's unique lens on disco. Sample an entrée by clicking the link above.—Josh Baines
Fred Peterkin is a contemporary deep house hero. You may know the Queens native for his seminal Soul People Music label, which he founded about a decade ago as an outlet for his own productions, many of which appear under the moniker Black Jazz Consortium. His mix for FACT is emotionally rich—almost spiritual—wrapping its gentle but firm narrative arc within a warm, enveloping ambience. It includes contributions from other soulful house luminaries like Chez Damier, Ron Trent, Mr. G, and frequent collaborator Jus-Ed, and it will brighten any bad mood you throw at it. Scrumptious.—Max Pearl
Kraviz has been relatively quiet on the production front this year, offering fans just a remix 12'' of her neo-classic "Ghetto Kraviz" and a couple of singles on her трип label. So it seems only fitting that she'd give us a glimpse of her DJ prowess—this time with one of her most-high profile commercial mix CDs yet. When she wants to, Nina can be a great storyteller. The tracklist is a rolodex of masters like DJ Bone, Fred P., Terrence Dixon, and Plaid, as well as a smattering of artists from her labell. The result is adventurous and well-executed, with trippy contemporary gems rubbing shoulders with some excellent 90s IDM tracks.—Juan Pablo López
I've got most of Prosumer's Beats in Space mixes archived for grey winter days, and it never ceases to amaze me how he's able to pack Skye, St. Germain, Tuff City Kids, and Dollska into a one-hour set and make it work—but that's the beauty of this German big-wig. This one plays in sections: sometimes he's showing you how he can pan mix with the best of them; at others, he's letting you know that he can play a 90 BPM Jamie Lidell record if he wants to. Because he's Prosumer—and that means "a person who consumes media." —Joel Fowler
Teki Latex is probably one of the best DJs to appear on this list. Listen to his live shows on Rinse France, or catch him in the club, and what you're hearing is a master of his craft—a technical wizard, in the Jeff Mills sense of the word. This set, recorded as part of Don't Watch That's livestream series Just Jam back in May, is a prime example of why the Sound Pellegrino man is so revered. I'd don't think there's anybody else on planet earth who can get from the Fraxinus edit of Fidel's "Doors to Manual" to "Forever in Electric Dreams" in 45 minutes, and if there is, there's no way that they do it with the ingenuity and excitement of Teki Latex.—Josh Baines
There is a reason why Bunker resident Mike Servito is called Mike "Swerve"-ito in the underground dance music circles he runs around in. His fearless DJ sets—usually laced with a heavy dose of acid—reliably flip the room sideways. This year has seen the Detroit native go from local legend to a rising figure on the international circuit, with a virgin entry at #90 in RA's oft-shaded, but still respected, Top 100 DJs poll.
Recorded at The Bunker's studios in New York on two Technics 1200s, a Rane MP2015 rotary mixer, this vinyl-only mix, Servito told me over email, was his favorite of the year: "I think it captures me in my true element. Detroit elements. Chicago elements. Acid elements. Old vs. new tracks. It's a very energetic mix right out the gate. I have a tendency to be all over the place sometimes, but this mix felt cohesive and just right when I was finished."
"The sound is pretty representative of how I've played out this year and the kinds of tracks that were in my bag," he continued. "I think it stays pretty steady throughout. It's got twists and turns and has some aggression to it." More than anything, this mix makes me want to do what I've seen Servito himself do on many occasions: jump up, snap my fingers, and scream, "Werk, hunny!"—Michelle Lhooq
The announcement that DJ Harvey was going to be recording a Boiler Room this summer was a genuine cause for nervousness. The man practically trades on smoky rooms, hearsay and, mystery. His sets aren't shared on Facebook; they are talked about with reverence. How could someone so mythologized possibly hold up under the harsh stare of a digital camera? The answer? Unbelievably. Harvey managed, somehow, to bend the rules of the livestream, turning a normally sterile format into an experience that felt a million miles away from whatever cold bedroom or cluttered desk we were watching it from. Built into the darkness, he simply rolled out record after record of the most heart-breaking, eye-watering disco and balearic imaginable. Records you'll never find or hear anywhere else. An hour and a half of a master at work.—Angus Harrison
In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Arca described Total Freedom as "the king of painting through chaos." He's right: alongside his own maniacal edits and tracks from his Fade to Mind label mates, Ashland Mines has been known to play everything from hardstyle to choral music and breaking glass. There are few DJs so deft at merging the aggressive with the sensual—or at combining two samples in a way that makes you feel something you've never felt before (think: the seething horror movie screams he'll often pull in at just the right moment, adding a layer of impermissible ecstasy.) We're lucky a recording exists of his set at Rinse this past March—a two-hour masterpiece that's hard-hitting not in spite of, but because of, its masterful experimentation.—Alexander Iadarola
Endless waves of publicity have been washing over Berghain in recent years, but its fortress-like walls have not cracked under these swells of mainstream popularity. Still, setting the bar for underground clubbing perfection is a herculean feat—one that demands that the club's resident DJs hit the mark night after night without slipping.
Maintaining these standards is paramount to upholding the club's reputation, which is perhaps why Function (AKA Dave Sumner), when asked to helm the seventh edition of Berghain's storied mix series, called it "the single most difficult music project I've ever worked on." The Berghain resident, who moved from New York to Berlin in 2007, is the first non-German to participate in the series—but the 90 minutes of intricately stitched and impeccably paced techno that he delivered was proof that he was no outsider. The 30-track mix, featuring staples like Silent Servant, Rodhad, DVS1, and Rrose, included a whopping 17 exclusives so coveted that they were later released as vinyl EPs.
In an interview with RA, Sumner dedicated the mix to both Berghain and Limelight—the 90s New York club where he first felt the dark kiss of techno via resident Jeff Mills. "They are the only two clubs I've been to in the world that had an immense, life-changing effect on me," said Sumner, "and the only two places where, when I walked in, I felt this is home."—Michelle Lhooq
One of the best things that happened all year took place in a field just outside Paris on an unseasonably chilly night in June: Robert Hood, playing as Floorplan, smashing through two hours of ecstatic, uplifting, unreal house and techno. The club culture legend preached from on high, smashing through the ten commandments of the dancefloor with aplomb. Watching Hood at work is an exercise in transcendence, and after all, isn't that why we go to clubs and festivals, why we listen to mix after mix, record after record—to find something above and beyond us? I found it that night. I'll never forget it.—Josh Baines
This past March, I conducted an awkward, crackly phone interview with DJ Koze in which the Hamburg-born producer and Pampa Records founder admitted to me that he thought his latest album, the psychedelic and shapeshifting Amygdala, was probably the best record he'd ever make. "My time is over," he said. "I need to make space for the younger generation now." DJ Koze is something of an inveterate trickster, so I suspected at the time that he might be pulling my arm; when he dropped this DJ Kicks mix just few months later, I realized he most definitely had been.
Appropriately, there's plenty of humor throughout the hour-plus-long collection: a computerized welcome message from someone claiming to be Koze's own neighbor; track IDs from a German-speaking toddler; a William Shatner song produced by Ben Folds. But Koze did more than make us, and himself, laugh; he followed up every chuckle with a moment of open-eyed musical appreciation—often from artists we'd never heard of, or maybe that we never expected Koze to dig, from California beat scene legend Madlib to British psych-folkers Broadcast, cloud-rap progenitors cLOUDDED to Hawaiian lapsteel music. Everything is handled with the same, delicate hand he uses in his proper productions, like he's taking us on a guided tour of some of the most prized records in his collection, whispering his commentary instead of speaking at full volume, the better to hear the songs.—Emilie Friedlander
Plastic People was a tentpole in British dance music culture for the better half of two decades, home to scene-defining nights like the pioneering dubstep party FWD>>>. When the Shoreditch club announced that it would close in January earlier this year, Four Tet and Floating Points—two DJs who grew into who they are today thanks to the time they spent in that wonderfully sweaty, pitch-black room—gave it a fitting farewell: going b2b for six whole hours against a steady crowd roar on each track cue, exchanging two records each for the night's entirety.
They start off with some Brazilian music, then eventually transition to Four Tet's "Pinnacles," reportedly played for the first time (and now the last) on the venue's sound system. (Four Tet made a track named after the club on his 2010 album but chose not to play it, replacing with the equally meta "Plastic Situation"). We also taste Floating Points' Vacuum Boogie EP, said to be born out of the room; classics from friends like Daphni and Joy Orbison; plus Jimi Hendrix, J Dilla, some seminal Chicago house, and, of course, UK dubstep. "To say this space [...] was fundamental in our personal musical formation would be a complete understatement," they said in a note accompanying the mix. In celebrating the tracks that'd inspired their own adventurous trajectories, Four Tet and Floating Points reminded us that the best DJ sets are more than just the soundtrack to a party. They're a reflection on the people who make the party great.—David Garber
- jersey club
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- boiler room
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- Hood By Air
- Nina Kraviz
- burning man
- DJ Harvey
- four tet
- Gilles Peterson
- Moon Boots
- Étienne de Crécy
- Floating Points
- DJ Kicks
- plastic people
- robert hood
- essential mix
- Avalon Emerson
- beats in space
- mike servito
- fred p
- joseph marinetti
- texi latex
- mike huckaby
- best mixes of 2015
- dennis sultra
- fact mix
- tri angle records set