Mixes aren't just fun to listen to; the best ones feel like the temperature of their time, drawing throughlines across scenes and sounds worldwide. We've already told you the year's 30 best tracks and the 25 best albums , so as we reach 2016's halfway mark, let's take a look at the year's finest attempts at this sort of magic, the 13 best mixes of 2016 so far.
ANGEL-HO - Red Devil
Cape Town producer ANGEL-HO arrived on the scene last year with a succession of deafening releases, like the "Death Drop From Heaven" mixfile and Ascension EP. With this April's Red Devil mix—comprised exclusively of original material—the NON WORLDWIDE co-founder proves that their plummet into beguilingly unsettling sounds has enduring value. Bringing together the processed voices of industrial machines, human voices, and animals—for a result that sounds alternately revving, piercing, and shattering—it's a slow burn, innervating yet viscerally perturbing. —Alexander Iadarola
The Black Madonna and Mike Servito - As You Like It Podcast #50
To understand the symbiotic potential of a Mike Servito b2b Black Madonna set, you had better check out the latter's uber-endearing Facebook post about her seat-of-their-pants-preparations for the one they threw down together at San Francisco's As You Like It party. Apparently the recipe for nearly four and a half hours of smirking techno and house is a bunch of kiki-ing via text, impromptu record planning, and pushing every aspect of the party to the edge of total failure. Clearly, this duo with midwestern roots doesn't take even a marathon set like this too seriously, which is probably why their collaborative sets are so damn fun. Oh, and they have a special pre-set drink ritual—two quick and dirty shots of plain 'ol whisky.—David Garber
Bonobo - Outlier Radio 002
Bonobo's DJ sets have the ability to make your favorite songs feel like foreign lands. The second installment of British artist and Ninja Tune signee's Outlier radio show on NTS, for one, sorta makes you feel like you're walking through a part of town you've been to a dozen times before, but that you have never stopped to fully take in. It's an intoxicating blend that takes you from Thai psychedelic group Khun Narin's "Lam Phu Thai #1," to the indomitable Moritz Von Oswald's "Sounding Line 3", and to California rapper/producer Anderson .Paak's "Room in Here". Even if you've heard all of these tracks before, they've never felt quite this unfamiliar—Anna Codrea-Rado
Chimpo - i-DJ Mix
Chimpo—an integral part of Manchester's heaving-with-talent LEVELZ crew—is one of the most fearlessly fun DJs out here in the UK, and this mix for i-D is a complete fucking riot. Slamming between trap, jungle, bassline, mutated dubstep, dancehall, and pretty much everything in between, it's a master class in just how exciting DJing can be when the DJ in question is as genre-agnostic as Chimpo. Stuffed to the gills with dubplates and exclusives, it'll leave you furiously trying to find every gem he smashes through—to no avail.—Josh Baines
DJ Haram - Mixpak FM 095
A few tracks into DJ Haram's April blend for Mixpak's ongoing series, she offers a mission statement from a curious source. Reality TV personality, possessor of one of the world's greatest Twitter accounts, and general pop culture rabblerouser Cardi B's beamed in via a track from her debut mixtape, released just the month before. She speaks, first quietly, then more insistently: "I wanna hurt you."
Across the handful of tracks the Philadelphia producer's issued this year, as well as all the touring she's done up and down the East coast, that simple phrase has been something of a guiding principle—turning the juddering rhythms of Jersey Club, distant siren sounds, and rap's more ecstatic corners into dancefloor weaponry. On this mix, this inimitable skill is rarely as evident as when she barrels through dizzy originals and blistered edits of friends and forerunners like SCRAAATCH's lawd knows, Stud1nt, and Fatima Al Qadiri. There's even a several-minute stretch where a scream echoes in the background—so yeah, this one's gonna sting a bit.—Colin Joyce
J-Cush - Rinse FM DJ Rashad Mix
The Lit City Trax boss runs through two hours of his old friend DJ Rashad's work, and it's exactly as good as you'd expect two hours of material by DJ fucking Rashad to be. Emphasizing the late, great Chicago artist's almost-supernatural abilities as a producer and J-Cush's incredibly nimble DJing style, it's a perfect reminder of why the Teklife boss is so revered, and missed. Not that you needed a reminder of that, of course.—Josh Baines
One of the strongest releases we've heard this year, British boy wonder Leon Vynehall's latest long-player Rojus is a psychedelic collection of steamy house cuts that sound as propulsive as they do mossy and tactile. Vynehall's debut on BBC Radio 1's Essential Mix series back in March served as a coming-out party of sorts for the release; though Rojus' mindblowing "Blush" serves as the two-hour mix's gorgeous centerpiece, there's plenty more on display besides jacking beats and rippling melodies. With an impeccably varied playlist spanning Steve Reich, Fela Kuti, and techno heads like Mark E and HNNY, Vynehall's Essential Mix is a trippy, eclectic voyage through the crates of one of the most exciting dance producers working today.—Larry Fitzmaurice
The enigma born Kenny Dixon Jr.'s had a tradition-bucking career over the decades, but it still seems strange, somehow, that this DJ Kicks entry is his first-ever commercial mix CD. That said, KDJ chose to do something special for the occasion, adding 11 crafty re-edits to a slew of oft-forgotten house, soul, and funk. There's even a folk jam thrown in for good measure, though like the others, it's the sort of casual, intimate track that doesn't beg for your attention, only revealing its true mysteries on a second, deeper listen. In other words, this mix is kind of like Moodymann himself: part showman, part weirdo, part guy you just want to hang out outside and smoke a blunt with. This mix is for all of that, or whatever you want it to be for, really.—David Garber
You like Balearic, we like Balearic, everyone likes Balearic. And if you like Balearic, you like Moonboots. The Manchester man's one of the best curators on the scene, and this mix for Test Pressing is an immaculately selected breeze through sunset sax-on-the-beach belters. Major points for the absolutely perfect deployment of Mike Francis' seminal "Let Me In"—a late-night tearjerker without reproach.—Josh Baines
Objekt - Kern Vol. 3
There's always a rogue streak in an Objekt mix—an erraticism that makes his blends as unnerving as they are beguiling. While his addition to Tresor's Kern series sits on the more accessible end of his output, his ability to confound looms large. Cuts like Echo 106's "100M Splutter" do a good job of establishing the tone: dark but never aggressive. In fact, around the clattering business of Birdland's "Can U Dance To My Edit?," you could almost call the mood jubilant. What's the chaotic coherence of this mix makes clear above all is just how deserving Objekt is of his growing cult status. Like Ben UFO before him, he promises unlikely delights in the darkest of places.—Angus Harrison
SHYBØI - Guzzum Power
Brooklyn-based producer and visual artist Yulan Grant's work is about freedom. As she told THUMP back when she released her Guzzum Power mix earlier this year, all of her output is weighted down with "ideas of identity, notions of power, perceived histories and the entanglements that happen within these topics."
She confronts these themes head-on from the opening moments of the mix, with an ominously echoing sample of the Brooklyn rapper Shyne: "Dear America, I'm only what you made me/ Young, black, and fucking crazy!" But then, as Grant is wont to do, she rises above these weightier matters. Even as she blends barking dogs, sickened static, and deeply upsetting audio of the arrest of the late Sandra Bland, she teases more uplifting musical sounds too, bringing together mutated pop songs, footwork, and the sort of ascendant dancefloor powerbombs that similarly minded producers like Arca and Rabit have been issuing over the past few years. It's a reminder of the club as a space where you can metamorphose, slough off your hardened skin, and start again.—Colin Joyce
Soul Clap - Prince Mix
Instead of throwing together some quick edits or a moment of silence in the wake of Prince's death, Eli Goldstein and Charlie Devine of Soul Clap decided to go all out, pulling together a two-hour set full of classics, edits, and remixes and surprise-dropping it at a high profile festival slot. Coachella wasn't a bad setting for this to go down; it's a democratic sort of place, one where sounds from across the spectrum come together across one steaming desert—something Prince himself would likely have supported. Even two hours isn't enough to fully distill a legacy as enduringly sexy as his, but this mix deserves a spot in whatever time capsule will preserve his life for the future.—David Garber
Via App - Fact Mix
The first time I heard Via App's mix for Fact, I couldn't even get myself to look up which tracks were playing—the Brooklyn-based, Boston-bred producer had crafted such an internally consistent, three-dimensional sound world that I pretty much forgot that I was listening to a mix. The recognizable earmarks of this particular techno movie: muted industrial clangs and wonky half-melodies; the brittle but hopeful pitter-patter of drum machines that have broken and been repaired many times over; the panic that grows as you realize you're stranded without phone service in a poorly lit industrial neighborhood where the trees are bald of leaves, the rats grow extra limbs, and the rare humans around chirp pleasantries at each other in detached robot voices: "I think you're out of focus."
That's a line from Digital Princezz' "Out of Focus"—one of my favorite cuts on this mix, along with equally hypnotic material from Christian Vogel, Ciarra Black, frequent collaborator Bookworms, and Via App's own vault of originals—but Dylan Scheer's sonic portrayal of life in a post-post-post industrial world feels anything but blurred. It's as sharp as a kick in the gut.—Emilie Friedlander