|RA Poll: Top 20 compilations of 2011
The staff at RA flag up the mixes and compilations that did the business in the past 365 days.
This is usually the bit when we say: "compilations and mixes: still digging their heels in despite the proliferation of online mixes and podcasts…" And yeah, we can say the same this year. And will probably do the same next year. If you're really looking for fault lines in the market, though, there is a point of note here. Almost all of the entries in our top 20 this year came from long-established series. The big players—Fabric, !K7, Ostgut Ton, Kompakt—continue to dominate the market, with few signs of fresh blood making an impact.
This is of course understandable: if you are going to pay for a mix you'll want it to come from a trusted source (not to mention the licencing and general legwork involved in pulling things together). With the history and weight surrounding the old guard, what's kept the format engaging—and in turn, the market afloat—is how DJs and labels continue to work up fresh angles and approaches. With this in mind, we decided to call up the artists behind our top 20 to better understand how they handled the challenge and the weight of expectation.
A lot of the tunes on Mosaic
were earmarked as singles for Exit. But it became really clear that I wasn't going to have the schedule to get everything out, so a compilation seemed like a good idea. In the same way as the [Autonomic] podcast, putting this music together served as a platform for people to get their heads around it. If the tracks are all in dribs and drabs it sort of goes unnoticed. I think compilations and the podcast kind of helped identify this group of artists producing this music. I suppose that's where the title Autonomic came from. It's funny that it became a genre name sort of, because that was never the intent.
We didn't manage to get all the masters, so all I could do was record Nu Groove 12-inches from my collection. Fortunately, I have almost the entire catalogue, even if some of them are really bad quality now. I also have a Nu Groove compilation mix by Little Louis Vega, so I took some from there too. Most of the tracks I selected were not the most popular, but Bass Noir and Tech Trax Inc. were of course. Those were the hardest, because I was obviously concerned with not ruining the track. I knew I was doing something very risky, so I tried not to overthink and get too anxious about the project. I just tried to have fun with it.
People can call the compilation what they want. They can call it UK bass music, but I worked in a record shop for ten years and I'm kind of over genres. Obviously they are very important to distinguish between styles of music, but in terms of releasing stuff I don't really care. CD 1 was just a list of the main tracks of the last 18 months, and for CD 2 I just phoned everyone up and asked if there were any new tunes. It was funny because Pitchfork
reviewed that CD and said, "It doesn't really work as a CD." I said, "Of course it doesn't, it's not an album, it's just a bunch of tracks." Quite a lot of thought went into the first CD, while the second was just us having a bit of fun.
- Dan Foat, Label manager
is a mix of my current and old time favorites. We were unable to use the Bluemoon Production a few years ago, for example, when I did the Berghain
mix because we were unable to license it. The track selection for Conducted
is a blueprint of the time when I was doing it. I have traveled a lot in the last few years, and met so many people and have heard so much new music. It's so inspiring all the time. I could do a mix every year.
- Marcel Dettmann
For me, it's better to go to a club and listen to a DJ than to listen to a mix CD. So it was important that after all of these podcasts—and because you only have this minimum of time on a CD—to try to give a feeling about a name and a music. I wanted to make a recording like you would in the '80's for a good friend—to make a tape, you know? We licensed most of the tracks via email, and it was really fun! Discogs helped us, and the international network—it is really fantastic. We had a really small amount of people that gave no response, but what can you do?
I had a request from Get Physical to do a mix for their Body Language series. I missed their deadline but was so into the mix, and it was important for me that it came out. Michael Mayer was the first person I thought would be interested in releasing it. I was so nervous and at the time living in the middle of nowhere with no internet and a bad phone connection. So I went to the town's one post office and put a CD in the post to Kompakt—old school style! We were lucky: Michael told me that all artists and labels were happy to contribute their music to the mix. Which was a good thing, as the mix was already done, which is often quite dangerous in this business. I don't think there will be another Robag Wruhme mix CD.
- Robag Wruhme
I wasn't directly involved in the process of choosing tracks for Back & 4th
, but the goal was to present a gradual evolution of the label's sound over the last few years. It was also an opportunity to bring in a few newcomers who provided a clear manifestation of that same evolution, with Roska, Boddika, dBridge, and FaltyDL adding their own flavors to the mix. I was also glad that Scuba picked up my own track, "Axis." It's the first one I made that I was really satisfied with. My favorite track on the compilation, though, was Boxcutter's "LOADtime." He's always been really inspiring to me, as a veteran producer whose talent and skill really set him apart.
- Incyde, Label Manager
We thought it would be nice to make a little compilation after every ten 12-inches that we did. There are people who don't have a turntable or who only listen to music on their computer, so we wanted to make it available to them as well. And when we compiled it, it worked quite well as a CD, so we just went for it. With [our parent label] Dial, we really only work with specific artists and do albums with them and 12-inches with quite involved artwork and everything. It's nice to have a platform to release something a little bit quicker without such a huge commitment.
- Carsten Jost
I regard the whole techno scene as more or less like a big family business. You have your own family, and you have relatives you are very close to and relatives you are not very close to, but it all fits together somehow. I love Cocoon and putting together this CD with them. They have this really great sense of humor and they love Dial, Smallville and Laid. We have always been on their compilations, and I once did a track for them. Doing the mix reminded me a bit of doing my first podcast on Resident Advisor; you really think a lot about it. Putting an hour of house and techno music together from more than 20 years of history is quite an exciting process. I was lucky that Cocoon was able to license every track I asked for!
With the exclusives, [I guess] the secret to most of the tracks is slowly being revealed now that Soundstream released Sound Sampler Vol. 1
. I'm a big fan of his work, so when it was clear that I would make the mix CD I asked him if I could listen to some of his old work. I spent hours and hours listening to tracks he made over the years. It was really hard to decide which ones to choose because all of the tracks were so brilliant, but I finally narrowed it down to a few. The Steffi track "Sadness" was the first track she ever played to me, and it hit me immediately. I kept waiting for her to release it, because I thought it was so moving, but I was happy she never did so I could have it exclusively for the CD.
We had the idea for the compilation at the end of 2010 and started putting the wheels in motion soon after that. We approached some people we hadn't worked with before as well as asking those we had if they were interested in the concept too. Luckily for us, everybody was. In terms of the name, the three of us were on the train coming back from our distributors after talking about the project, thinking of titles. I'd been re-listening to Experience
by the Prodigy a week or two earlier and one of the tracks on there is called "Everybody in the Place (155 & Rising)." So 116 & Rising
(referring to the BPM of the slowest track in the comp) is a bit of a joke, but at the same time summarises the project and a lot of what we're about nicely.
Kruder & Dorfmeister was the first DJ-Kicks
I listened to. It was maybe 1996? I can't remember. That was when I was like 12 years old and I was a paperboy walking around, smoking spliffs listening to K&D, Nightmares on Wax and also Carl Craig. When I created mine, I ran through something like 200 or more tracks. It's become increasingly hard these last few years to license things. Even the most obscure soul or disco is under control of the major labels. I knew, though, that the Sun Ra track was something I wanted to have on there and the Robert Hood track. I really wanted to show where I come from and try some crazy things.
- Motor City Drum Ensemble
Fabric has a company that they employ to do all of the licensing, but I think it was quite difficult for them. It was right down to the wire with the DJ Funk track. I was very relieved, because I did it the wrong way around: You're supposed to license all the tracks, and then mix the CD, but I just went ahead and mixed it and prayed. I actually ended up doing three or four versions of the mix in case. A lot of people ask about myself and Ben UFO "just" being DJs. It's just kind of the way it has worked out. I think it's a right place / right time kind of thing where there is this interest in the actual artform of DJing right now. I hope that we see some more good young DJs coming through. That would be really exciting.
We went to Miami with quite a bit of our DJ-Kicks
mix done already, and we just put out a call to the label and said, "Look, we are working on this comp and we really want everybody to make something amazing and send it to us." Then we basically spent a month going through all of the tracks with the artists and tightening things up. Everything was in front of us, and it pretty easily fell into place with our mix master Eli from Soul Clap weaving the whole thing together into one giant mix. I don't even think we had more than two or three comments once it all came together. Everyone was on the ball and knew exactly what we were aiming for.
- Zev Eisenberg, Wolf + Lamb
A few things didn't come through [licensing-wise] unfortunately, and I also didn't try to license certain bootlegs of mine as they would never get cleared. But most things ran smoothly and, in general, all the label owners and producers were very helpful and efficient in sorting it all. The launch party at fabric was an amazing and overwhelming night really. Great mix of school, uni, and music friends. And I got to program the evening which was cool. It was quite surreal to be headlining room 1, as I can remember my first time going there just a few years back.
- Pearson Sound
I collected a lot of music for the mix—maybe 50 tracks or something like that—then we talked about the licenses. Hans Zimmer and Massive Attack, for example, are two artists I tried to include, but couldn't in the end. I used some delays and some reverbs on the mix, nothing specific—just some good plug-ins. It was to make the mix a bit more lively, to point out some spots and do some layers with effects. I did some of them those live and others—like the beginning and end—after the mixdown. The response has been really great to the mix overall. The bookings are coming more and more each month, and from areas that just weren't possible before. I'm really grateful to be able to make people happy with my music and sets. It's been great.
- Marcel Fengler
I've been a fan of the DJ-Kicks series since it started really, and the more recent ones have revitalized the whole thing quite nicely, so when K7 asked me to do one, I thought, "Why not?" They mentioned to me that they wanted me to do it, and then went completely silent for about three months, and then called me up and said I had two weeks to finish it. So it was a mad scramble to get it all together. It was pretty labor intensive trying to get something together that sounded coherent but had the ranges of styles and range of different feels that I wanted to get on there. It was a solid two weeks of hell basically. Generally speaking, I tend to work better when there is some pressure or a deadline looming, and I'm generally happy with how it came out.
I actually played the opening night of Robert Johnson. It was an unofficial opening on a Thursday where Ata played, and invited all his friends to show off the club, and then there was an official opening with me and Ata. I hadn't planned to do another mix CD, but when they asked if I could do the final mix CD for the series, I of course agreed. I did an edit of Barnt's "Collection" for the CD, which was interesting I think. Most of my edits would not be considered creative at all. Better playable maybe. For this one, though, I rearranged it a little, deleted all the beats from the original and made a beatless version. I think this little trick brought out a lot of beauty in a track that I already liked very much.
The mix CD is a funny kind of format, especially now that we're bombarded with free mixes all the time. I suppose the model for my mix—or the people that make mix CDs meaningful these days—are people like Optimo who bring lots of different styles of music under a broad umbrella and almost make it a compilation of wildly eclectic stuff. I don't think that my selection of tracks on Rinse 16
was quite as broad, but that was kind of what I was going for. I want to draw in all kinds of disparate sounds and try and make them all come together with a common purpose in mind.
- Ben UFO
The first time I went to fabric, I saw Daft Punk. It was the opening week of the club, and it was obviously pretty amazing. Me and Trevor Jackson went together. It was the Warp anniversary that day and we had already seen Boards of Canada, Autechre and Squarepusher that night, and we got in a cab to go to this new club that was opening and we walked in and Daft Punk were playing. The perfect start.
A lot of the tracks for my mix were taken from vinyl. I just wanted a consistent sound all the way through. For me, it either needed to be perfectly clean digital stuff all the way through or more vinyl sounding. When it leapt between a quite rugged and crackly sound to a quite clean sound, it sounded inconsistent, so I just did whatever I thought would make the most pleasurable, constant listening experience. The same with the leveling. Lots of stuff nowadays is just annihilated with the mastering—a constant thing the whole way through. It was important to me to have a dynamic. I wanted it go from quiet to loud, and for things to move around.
- Four Tet
Published / Tuesday, 13 December 2011