|RA Poll: Top 50 mixes of the '00s
RA celebrates the art of the mix with our list of the best compilations of the past ten years.
Like the full-length, the mix CD had a rough decade. Despite diminishing sales, however, its prestige has never been higher. There is no surer sign of faith in 2010 than a label or artist ready to spend the resources required to properly release a mix CD. And that's why, if you peer down our list of the 50 best mixes of the past ten years, you'll likely notice that some of the most celebrated were released in the past three years. The mix CD is dead? Hardly. Here are 50 reasons why we had—and continue to have—faith in this format.
50. Alexander Nut - Rinse: 08 [Rinse Recordings, 2009]
Few mixes epitomised dubstep and wonky hip-hop's late '00s love affair as well as this one.
49. Omar-S - Fabric 45 [Fabric Records, 2009]
The prickly Detroit producer's "song of myself."
48. Todd Edwards - Full On Vol. 1 [i! Records, 2001]
By 2001, the New Jersey producer had already been acknowledged as a serious influence on the UK garage scene, and his Full On Vol. 1 mix—the first and best in a series of three that solely showcased his own productions—provided the perfect way to immerse in Edwards' heavily swung beats and inventively cut-up samples. Anthems such as "Push the Love," "Sweet Jesus" and "Perfect Love" enforce a springy and uplifting vibe throughout the entire disc. - Richard Carnes
47. David Holmes - Come Get It I Got It [13 Amp Recordings, 2002]
A typically dusty and cinematic mix from the soundtrack buff.
46. John Digweed - GU019: Los Angeles [Global Underground, 2001]
The darkest GU installment from Diggers eschewed euphoria for deliciously restrained grooves.
45. Swayzak - Fabric 11 [Fabric Records, 2003]
An early Fabric highlight that's barely "mixed" and all the better for it.
44. Danny Tenaglia - Back To Basics - 10th Anniversary [React Records, 2002]
The tribal house king celebrates the Leeds clubbing institution in fine style.
43. Carl Craig - Sessions [Studio !K7, 2008]
The greatest hits of a great producer.
42. Optimo - Psyche Out [Eskimo Recordings, 2005]
Scottish duo figure out how to make Hawkwind and Chris & Cosey funky in equal measure.
41. Stanton Warriors - Stanton Sessions [XL Recordings, 2001]
OK, so we all know the popularity of breaks has waned in recent years. But looking back over the yearbook marked "2001," electronic music fans were dining in droves at the table of breakbeat. Dance floors in the UK and beyond were reverberating to exactly the sort of low-frequency pressure Stanton Warriors Dominic Butler and Mark Yardley were pushing through tracks such as "Da Antidote," while their genre-defining Stanton Session mix projected the experience upon the home listening platform backed by highly respected London-based indie XL Recordings.
- Ryan Keeling
40. Technasia - Fuse Presents Technasia [Music Man Records, 2003]
A quick-hitting mix of house, techno and electro courtesy of Charles Siegling and Belgium's favourite club.
39. DJ Rolando - Vibrations [Underground Resistance, 2002]
Classic after classic of Detroit techno from an Aztec Mystic.
38. James Lavelle - GU #023: Barcelona [Global Underground, 2002]
The Mo' Wax head finds happiness in diversity.
37. Ivan Smagghe - Bugged Out! Presents Suck My Deck [Resist Music, 2004]
From his infamous "moody" days at the Parisian Rough Trade shop and Radio Nova shows to his current semi-residencies at Fabric, Rex, and Robert Johnson, Ivan Smagghe has steadily remained the prototype of the prospective DJ: dedicated, stubborn, passionate, always ahead of the curve and unfalteringly marching to the beat of his internal BPM. Suck my Deck is only one of the many stellar and inventive mixes Smagghe released, but it is the one on which his intimate knowledge of underground French tech-house with an acidic twist is displayed with impeccable finesse and technical grace. - Stéphane Girard
36. Danny Howells - Nocturnal Frequencies 2 [Obsessive Recordings, 2000]
The beloved jock's restrained two disc set has only gotten better with time.
35. DJ Marky - The Brazilian Job [Movement, 2004]
A journey through the wide world of drum & bass.
34. Playgroup - DJ Kicks [Studio !K7, 2002]
Punk, indie, electro and dance get introduced to one another by Trevor Jackson.
33. Lee Burridge - 24:7 [Global Underground, 2003]
The Tyrant man slows things down on this moody two disc mix of progressive and tech house.
32. Tiga - DJ Kicks [Studio !K7, 2003]
Rapidly blasting through a selection of early Chromeo, M.A.N.D.Y., Black Strobe and Felix da Housecat, Tiga's contribution to the long-running DJ Kicks series was well ahead of its time in 2002, predating the moment when many of these acts would rise to mass popularity by simplifying their sound for a pop audience. It's a snapshot of electroclash at its creative pinnacle, with Tiga comfortably mixing the dance-punk of Le Tigre alongside the electro-disco of Antonelli and the deep techno of Schatrax. For a genre critically maligned as superficial and unoriginal, Tiga demonstrated that electroclash was in fact one of the most eclectic and interesting musical movements of the decade. An absolutely essential history lesson delivered with flawless pacing, creative mixing and plenty of drama. - Bernardo Arrospide
31. Zed Bias - Sound of the Pirates [Locked On, 2001]
A collection of the finest that UK pirate radio had to offer at the turn of the century.
30. DJ Deep - City to City [BBE, 2005]
The French jock connects the dots between Detroit, Chicago and New York.
29. Jacques Lu Cont - FabricLive 09 [Fabric Records, 2003]
Stuart Price's keen pop eye is put to good use for the famed UK club series.
28. Joris Voorn - Balance 014 [EQ, 2009]
A mix symphony composed of more parts than you can count.
27. Andrew Weatherall - Hypercity [Force Inc., 2001]
A ride deep into the world of microhouse.
26. Steve Lawler - Nubreed 003 [Global Underground, 2000]
Steve Lawler's genre-defining selection of tribal house was the third instalment of Global Underground's Nubreed series. But contrary to the aim of the series, Lawler was already a star by the time of its release. He had been dubbed the King of Space, thus making Nubreed his coronation, a double CD mix package that captured the raw attitude of his live performances, but also found ways to highlight his immense talent as well. Lawler's style has subtly shifted in recent years, but Nubreed stands as a reminder of what he—and tribal house—once meant to so many. - Tom Jones
25. Surgeon - This Is for You Shits [Warp Records, 2007]
The tireless Anthony Child shows off his digital DJing technique.
24. Wighnomy Brothers - Metawuffmischfelge [Freude Am Tanzen, 2008]
The magnum mix opus of Jena's finest.
23. Tom Middleton - The Sound of the Cosmos [Hooj, 2002]
Hooj tunes from all genres find their way into this three disc epic.
22. Efdemin - Carry On, Pretend We're Not in the Room [Curle Recordings, 2008]
The Dial man's ode to deep house.
21. M.I.A. & Diplo - Piracy Funds Terrorism [Not on label, 2004]
As advertisements for yourself go, you can hardly do better than this mixtape, which sealed the reputations of both credited parties as party-rocking visionaries with ears as big as anyone working. Yet for all its crazed, smart sonic team-ups (the beat of M.I.A.'s "Fire Fire" coupled with the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian") and flown-in-from-wherever cameos (the trio of Brazilian favela funk tracks), Piracy Funds Terrorism never seems merely thrown together: its canny sequencing is clearly the work of two people in deep sync, at the peak of their creativity. M.I.A. may have topped it, but Diplo never has. - Michaelangelo Matos
20. Sasha - Involver
[Global Underground, 2004]
Mix or album? That is the question...still...with Sasha's Involver
. In 2004, Global Underground commissioned yet another project from the Son of God. Bored with the idea of simply mixing records together, Sasha went deeper, creating a record composed of exclusive remixes and recreations of ten tunes. The results were epic: Like Richie Hawtin's DE9
, Sasha's Involver
asked big questions, and answered with big rewards. The key to Involver
's enduring legacy isn't the concept. It's the music, which further pushed his signature progressive house and breaks sound and even garnered Sasha a Grammy nomination—his first—for his love-it-or-hate-it refashioning of Felix Da Housecat's "Watching Cars Go By."
- Todd L. Burns
19. Marcel Dettmann - Berghain 02
[Ostgut Ton, 2008]
As great as real-life Berghain may be, there is probably no club more superior than the Berghain that exists in the mind's eye of a techno fan who's never been. The cavernous main room, the muscular techno pounding through a legendary Funktion 1, the strobe light revealing snapshots of the dance floor's lurid goings on... images like these take on fantastical dimensions within the virginal punter's brain. And nothing could inflame the imagination like the stony sounds of Berghain 02
, a mix whose pulsing, gravelly thrum is a perfect proxy for the thick sounds heard inside the club. Today, Ostgut Ton and its infamous home base occupy the uppermost tier of the techno ziggurat, helped there in no small part by Dettmann's flawlessly sculpted mix.
- Will Lynch
18. DJ Rupture - Gold Teeth Thief
[Violent Turd, 2002]
It's been nearly ten years since Gold Teeth Thief
, and DJ /rupture's omnivorous musical appetite has clearly not abated in the slightest. Over the past few years he's released two mixes
as ridiculously wide-eyed and educational as its famed predecessor. And yet Gold Teeth Thief
remains lodged in the memory. Perhaps that's because you can still download it directly
off his site. Or maybe it's the fact that you can't beat something that starts with Missy Elliot's "Get Ur Freak On" and ends with Muslimgauze. But I tend to think it's everything in between, a fearless free-for-all of sound that will gladly flub a mix if it means that we can get somewhere more interesting moments later.
- Todd L. Burns
17. Matthew Herbert - Letsallmakemistakes [Tresor, 2000]
"Now, I must remember, I'm a human, I'm allowed to make mistakes." So says Matthew Herbert in the intro to his Tresor mix CD that collects the likes of Green Velvet, Theo Parrish, DBX, Mr. Oizo and Isolée. And so he does. Plenty of them. But what Herbert lacks in mixing skill, he makes up for in track selection. The idiosyncratic music of the aforementioned list of heavy-hitters would likely never work together in a traditional mix CD. Yet here they are, forced to live together because of Herbert's refreshing naivete, finding that they're not so different after all. More than simply a good mix, Herbert's Letsallmakemistakes
is a manifesto: Clearly we should forgive ourselves more often.
- Todd L. Burns
16. Richie Hawtin - DE9 - Closer to the Edit [Minus, 2001]
"After recording, sampling, cutting and splicing over 100 tracks down into their most basic components, I ended up with a collection of over 300 loops, ranging in length from 1 note to 4 bars. I then started to recreate and reinterpret each track, putting the pieces back together as if an audio jigsaw puzzle." With such a robust conceptual process, perhaps the most surprising aspect of Richie Hawtin's DE9
"piece" was how coherent, and moreover, musical it sounded. The resulting 31 "ID points" charted everything that was good and great in post-millennium skeletal techno, and the considerable production prowess of the man himself. DE9
's molecular methodology went on to inspire countless mixes throughout the ensuing decade, but was perhaps most important for directly challenging perceptions of what it meant to be a DJ.
- Ryan Keeling
15. Erlend Øye - DJ Kicks
[Studio !K7, 2004]
"Yes, it's me the singing DJ! And I brought some special records with me today 'cos I know you're special people… " When K7's DJ-Kicks desperately needed a fresh perspective for their long-running series, they ingeniously looked to Kings of Convenience's indie-geek hero Erlend Øye. Pre-Whitest Boy Alive, Øye's softly-sung harmonies gave little indication of the leftfield creativity and finely honed dance-pop sensibility of the mix he'd piece together. DJ-Kicks requires one exclusive original track from each DJ, but Erlend personalized the entire experience, armed with a microphone and an arsenal of pop references. Creating emo-techno from Elvis and The Smiths, crooning snatches of familiar guilty pleasures and spoken-word rapping his own "Prego Amore," Øye's mix remains an audacious and joyfully unironic celebration of the art of the DJ.
- Christine Kakaire
14. Appleblim - Dubstep Allstars 6
Dubstep Allstars Volume 1
, mixed by Hatcha, was actually the CD that got me into the sound. I remember having a complete musical moment with a mate of mine when Hatch mixed in Mark One's "Rage." It was like yeeeeeeeah! This is exactly what the world needs! My mix took me a long time to get right. Doing it for Tempa really honed my skills hugely. I'm no Youngsta or N-Type, so there was a lot of planning, trying out different blends, much gnashing of teeth and banging fists on walls. I wanted to show people the other side to the dubstep sound, the technoey/2steppy/Bristol/Dutch axis of Pinch, Peverelist, 2562, Martyn and so on. I'm really honoured and proud to have repped some of thier tunes for the first time down at FWD>>.
13. Agoria - At the Controls
[Resist Music, 2007]
As with any artistic medium, the mix CD presents the artist with a totally unique array of challenges and opportunities, and Agoria's At the Controls
takes full advantage of all of them. With anthems like Rone's "Bora" cozied up next to sophisticated curveballs like Bauhaus's "Bela Lugosi's Dead," the mix is more eclectic than any album ever could be, but held together by an inky aesthetic that makes it sound impossibly coherent. The mix elegantly unfurls, with each transition occurring like an imperceptible sleight of hand; as diverse as the track selection is, each song sounds like it was tailored to fit into this flawless medley. As beautiful as it is gloomy, the mix plays out like an electronic dirge for the excellent but tragically short-lived mix series.
- Will Lynch
12. Craig Richards - Fabric 01
[Fabric Records, 2001]
Believe the hype if you like, but no one really knew that fabric was going to make it. The zero in front of the one on Craig Richards' debut mix CD was wishful thinking. Nowadays? They probably wonder whether they should have put two
zeros. Richards is a big part of that success, helping to lead the club as its foremost resident DJ and musical guiding light, and on Fabric 01
you can hear exactly why. A remarkable tech house journey via Russian duo SCSI-9, Bushwacka!, Roman IV and more, all of Richards' talents are on display: The mixing is impeccable, the selection unimpeachable, the pacing perfect. People talk about mixes as DJ business cards. Consider this the business card for what would become one of the world's most important clubs.
- Todd L. Burns
11. Henrik Schwarz, Âme & Dixon -
The Grandfather Paradox [BBE, 2009]
An existential riddle about time travel and grand-patricide is the namesake of this collection, subtitled "An Imprudent Journey Through 50 Years of Minimalistic Music." But any implied ambiguity, recklessness or inaccessibility is forgotten when the quartet complete the first mix between Pat Metheny and Etienne Jaumet, as the Innervisions crew seamlessly and shrewdly intertwine the tracks here in a manner that sits well within the context of their minimal house productions and DJ sets. What was intended to be a collection of minimal music from years past quickly became an opportunity to rewrite the definition of the much-maligned "m word" in the present—a salient reminder of the breadth, soul, texture and power within these small moments.
- Christine Kakaire
10. Cassy - Panorama Bar 01
[Ostgut Ton, 2006]
Though the word "static" is frequently used to describe Cassy Britton's smoldering, hypnotic productions, the word hardly applies to the mix CD that heralded her international stardom. A cool, brisk glide along the cutting edge of the day's dance music currents, this mix from the stylish Panorama Bar resident, Hardwax staffer (at the time) and Villalobos collaborator was positively unavoidable when it arrived at the height of Berghain mania, but it's cherished today because it's so inseparable from the DJ herself. Woven with her characteristic unfussy mixing, vibrant minimal dovetails casually with house and retro techno, the disparate threads converging as though a single, insular school of club music—one characterized perhaps by what RA's Jacob Wright labeled "ideological purity," but which we've since found it simplest to tag as "Berlin," "Panorama Bar" or, very often, "Cassy."
- Chris Burkhalter
09. Dave Clarke - World Service Vol. 1
[React Records, 2001]
There was a general frustration for me at the time that I started putting World Service
together that there was so much good electro and techno coming out at the time, and I didn't want to do just one specific genre on a mix. I wanted it to be a continuation of my radio show—similar to the BBC's World Service—available to everyone around the globe. While I think I prefer the electro mix from World Service 2
, there are so many great tracks on the first. I remember getting the Fashion Party 12-inch on promo in the late '80s, for instance, and I put it aside thinking I would use it one day. It's also good fun to be able to use something 13 or 14 years later.
- Dave Clarke
08. Ricardo Villalobos - Fabric 36
[Fabric Records, 2007]
Few artists could make a mix CD as divisive as Fabric 36
. When the all-Villalobos tracklist appeared online in Fall of 2007, the skeptics came out in force, calling it arrogant, pretentious and self-indulgent. What did this even have to do with Fabric? Wasn't Villalobos effectively hijacking the compilation to release a new album? Ricardo didn't deny it—in fact, he admitted that Fabric 36
was a convenient way of sidestepping both the hype of a new album and the hassles of a commercial mix. A clever ruse, and one he might have gotten away with had the CD not been totally brilliant. Dark and subtle, made up of weirdly tactile thumps and snaps, Fabric 36
shows Villalobos at his best: strangeness at full tilt, but anchored by the task of mixing a coherent set—in other words, just how he might sound in room 1 sometime past 9:00 AM.
- Will Lynch
07. Magda - She's a Dancing Machine
There was a lot of talk in the past decade about DJs changing the face of mix CDs by collecting enormous amounts of source material to construct their compilations. Few delivered on the promise, however, getting bogged down in the details and losing sight of the big picture. Not so for Minus cohort Magda. On her debut mix CD, She's a Dancing Machine
, she successfully juggled both micro and macro, stamping the proceedings with her brand of minimal funk throughout. People will surely talk about the process when recommending Dancing Machine
to their friends, but it's more likely that they'll finish their sales pitch with the fact that it's among the best minimal techno mixes ever made.
- Todd L. Burns
06. James Holden - Balance 005
While the prog-house boom of the early '00s would deliver celebrity status to the Sasha and Digweeds of the DJ world, James Holden's aversion to stasis and dedication to doing things his own way would see him carve a wholly unique career path for himself. It all started with Balance 005
, which launched his brand of shoegazing progtrance to the world. Using as-yet unknown Border Community stalwarts like Nathan Fake, Petter and Avus to craft an epic trip deftly balanced on the difficult line between commercial viability and experimentation, Balance 005
would be a career-defining moment of unsurpassable glory for most other DJs. For the young enigma, though, it was just a nice way of kicking things off.
- Leigh Dennis
05. Dixon - Body Language Vol. 4
[Get Physical Music, 2007]
Deep house never went away, but it sure seemed like it in 2007 when Dixon was among the many championing its peculiar charm to ecstatic effect. For many, Body Language Vol. 4
was the defining document of its reemergence, a striking convergence of timing, taste and the extraordinary distribution muscle of Get Physical. But what we're left with is the music, and a stunning collection of blends that were so good that he had to use a few of them twice
. Among the exclusives on Body Lanugage
, though, it's Henrik Schwarz's remix of "Vuoi Vuoi Me" sliding gracefully into Thom Yorke's "Eraser" that delights the most, a perfect example of the sophisticated yet populist sense that Dixon brings to everything that he does.
- Todd L. Burns
04. I-f - Mixed Up In The Hague Vol. 1
Although his follow-up six years later was equally well-selected and compiled, the sheer iconic nature of I-f's Mixed Up In The Hague Vol. 1
makes it one of the most celebrated mixes of the decade. The Italo renaissance started here. Many of the big Italo-disco anthems that you know and love are included on the CD, with Charlie's euphorically melancholic "Spacer Woman," Alexander Robotnick's timeless "Problèmes D'Amour" and the rousing arpeggiated stomp of Mr. Flagio's "Take A Chance" all featuring alongside US electro and electronic disco, with I-f also incorporating a handful of modern electro and Italo from fellow Hague residents Alden Tyrell and Ronald Claver.
- Richard Carnes
03. 2 Many DJs - As Heard on Radio Soulwax Vol. 2 [PIAS, 2003]
By now the once-shocking segues (Dolly Parton --> Röyksopp!), blends (Skee-Lo + the Breeders!) and juxtapositions ("Push It"/"No Fun"!) this mix brought into most of its listeners' lives can be taken for granted. But what's amazing is how fuck-off forceful
a statement the Dewale brothers' official DJ set still makes. Radio Soulwax Pt. 2
is a line-in-the-sand record in two ways: It redrew the map for clubbers who'd 'ad it with big-room bombast, and it claim-jacked pop history for the laptop generation. Hip-hop and rave had reconfigured bites from all over the musical spectrum, but 2 Many DJs grabbed songs and styles whole and fit them into a new framework—one that no one before or since has quite matched. It's one thing to break ground; quite another to still transmit that here-goes-nothing feeling years down the line.
- Michaelangelo Matos
02. Daniel Bell - The Button Down Mind Of Daniel Bell [Tresor, 2000]
Aside from the year-end polls, the most read feature on RA in 2009 concerned the esoteric art of the opening DJ
. The Button Down Mind of Daniel Bell
could easily be its soundtrack. Ask any experienced DJ and they'll tell you that the opening slot is the hardest spot of all, but Bell excels in the role. Eschewing the easy route of anthem-led house music, Button Down
is a study in how to build a set slowly and carefully to a gentle climax without sacrificing any of the personality of the mixer. Bell had better records than you in 2001—and he still does—but his lessons are universal to all DJs: Know your crowd, believe in your sound and always bring Nick Holder's "Feelin' Sad."
- Todd L. Burns
01. Michael Mayer - Immer [Kompakt, 2002]
There are battle DJs and there are DJs like Jeff Mills, and it's their principle to create something new out of two records. But I'm not that kind of mixmaster. I think it's a DJ's duty to respect the artist, and I prefer to serve the tracks—instead of putting me on top of them. That comes from me starting to DJ at a very young age, I think. I was playing all sorts of music, I was playing songs. And that's still the way that I do it, one record after the next.
Immer reflects the way that we did the later part of the warm-up at Studio 672 at the Total Confusion parties in Cologne at the time. It consists mostly of records and labels from the bigger Kompakt family, which made it easy to license. But I really like the whole preparation process anyway, it's very different from playing in a club. I always thought mix CDs were a beautiful format to tell a beautiful little story, and to do something that lasts a bit longer than one night. Something that should be forever. Immer.
- Michael Mayer
Published / Wednesday, 27 January 2010