Many of them are label compilations. These have a huge benefit, though it's probably not to us punters: there are a mountain of them because labels don’t have to pay themselves licensing fees. The most successful unmixed comps this year were, of course, from labels who had a lot of excellent tracks up their sleeves: M_nus' form in 2006 ensured ‘min2MAX' was worth your pesos, ‘Total 7’ on Kompakt boasted over a dozen memorable cuts, while Innervisions 'Where We At' contained amazingly big choons for such a small new label. All three were nominated in our poll.
Slam’s ‘Soma Compilation 2006’ and Mobilee’s 'Back to Back' weren't just label compilations. They tried to have it both ways releasing CDs of unmixed tracks with label mixes thrown in for good measure. Good stuff, but in the end we feel restricting DJs to one label limits the scope of mixes. Across the board in 2006, label mixes have lacked the same breadth that we hear from the same DJs out in the clubs: Nothing against Get Physical, but we much prefer M.A.N.D.Y. on 'At The Controls' to M.A.N.D.Y. on 'Get Physical Vol. 2 - 4th Anniversary', and likewise Steve Bug's 'Bugnology 2' is a much better listen than the recent Poker Flat showcase 'Bets'n'Bluffs'. Elsewhere London house DJ Rob Mello allowed himself more scope on his 'No Ears Mix' CD, nicely combining rarities and unreleased tracks from two labels (Classic and Music for Freaks), while electro production machine Stephan Bodzin had better material than most to draw from (mostly his own) on 'Systematic Colours Vol. 1', though the results confirm he’s still a better producer than a DJ. In summary, mixed label compilation didn’t really find a groove in 2006.
Better bang for your buck are those strangely shaped boxsets and oddities that sit behind the counter at the record shop. 'GU 10' contained fifty tracks on 4CDs this year, while Om Records released numerous 2CD and 3CD mixes, the best of which was probably Colette & DJ Heather's 'House of Om'. If you're a trust fund baby, you could have splashed out on the monster 6x12" 'Cocoon Compilation F' pressed on lurid lilac vinyl. Lots of good tracks there, but it's a limited edition, i.e. good luck finding it on eBay. Elsewhere there were the ‘high concept’ releases, including Jeff Mills’ orchestral collab 'Blue Potential' DVD set (short review: techno + orchestra = weird) while the 'Time Out: Other Side Of...' DJ tour guide releases took on London and Paris. If you've ever wanted Black Strobe to show you around Paris or Damian Lazarus to tour you through London (and we’re not sure there are that many of you), you’ll already have picked these up no doubt.
In the end our top five winners are all, unsurprisingly, mixes from DJs playing records from many labels. If you look closely, each CD is a volume in a series, a concept we’re all familiar with in clubland. 'Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi.', 'DJ Kicks', 'GU', 'Balance', the myriad Renaissance creations, 'Body Language', 'Boogybytes' and 'Kitsune Maison' - you know the names - all put out worthy mixes this year and all scored a poll nomination or two. Elsewhere Sven Vath delivered his seventh Ibiza summary, which we haven't heard yet because no one will send us the CD (Hi there, Cocoon!), John Digweed shifted further towards electrohouse on 'Transitions', while both Garnier vs. Craig and Danny Howells successfully looked to the past for inspiration – 'Kings of Techno' and 'Choice' both featured among our RA poll nominees. On the club tip, London's Fabric perhaps found more success with eclectic DJ volumes from Rub N Tug ('Fabric 30') and Cut Copy ('FabricLive 29') than with stricter electronic fare such as Audion ('Fabric 27') and Tiefschwarz (‘Fabric 29’), though all were nominated in our poll. On the continent, Fabric's Berlin counterpart Berghain/Panorama Bar has also got into the series game, following up last year’s 'Berghain Vol.01' by Andre Galluzzi with Cassy's 'Panorama Bar Vol.01', both of which were fine listens.
But instead of telling you what mixes came out, perhaps it's better just to list some nominations we recieved. Votes came in for Henrik Schwarz ('DJ Kicks'), Heidi ('Monza Club Ibiza Compilation Vol.1'), Radio Slave (‘Creature of the Night’, Paolo Mojo ('Balance 9'), Ame ('Mixing'), Magda ('She's a Dancing Machine'), Trouble Soup!! (‘Y4K’), Steve Porter (‘Porterhouse’) and Rub N Tug ('Fabric 30') to name a few.
Last but not least there were the freebies. Voters rallied around both Lawrence's Groove magazine mix 'Groove #100' and the free Modular CD in the NME. Hawtin also did 'Electronic Adventures' for Mixmag in April, but that's strictly one for the hardcore fanboys we're afraid. And then of course there's Internet mixes. But we won't even go there.
Here are the RA top five mixes/compilations of 2006.
“This mix is the first release from dance music’s current Xanadu, Berlin’s Panoramabar, so you already know which way it’s going to jump – ideological purity all the way. And that purity of vision, expressed here by resident Cassy, has produced a hugely evocative document of just why so many of us want to go hear a DJ play one record after another for hours on end. Many people will hate this CD for the exact reasons I love it. I love the fact that Cassy brings in each track loud and early, the way you would in a club. It makes me want to hop straight on a plane to Berlin (even more than is normally the case). As an interpretation of minimalism, it’s the polar opposite of Hawtin’s otaku fussiness. It’s stripped back, it’s raw and it’s uneven, and that’s what gives it such energy. If you love house right down to its DNA, you’ll love this.” – Jacob Wright
“Released in February, is this early contender the mix that managed to capture the spirit of 2006? Featuring tracks by many key producers from across the genres including Gabriel Ananda, Anja Schneider, Slam and of course Kiki himself, ‘Boogybytes Vol.01’ should easily provide plenty of pleasure, either for post-club carry on or home listening. This is one of those mixes that grows on you more after each listen: moods range from dark and deep (Michael Forzza) to stripped down and minimal (Marc Houle, Troy Pierce), from bigroom (Âme, Guy Gerber) to the unexpected (Infusion), and while you can appreciate Kiki's mixing abilities from start to finish, it's really the core tracks (numbers four to fifteen on your CD player) which make this special. The front cover shows Kiki looking rather surprised, and after listening to this, you will be too, pleasantly.” - Mohson Iqbal
“What holds these disparate tracks together is not a stunning display of cross-genre mixing from Holden, but the indie-rock aesthetic that so many of them share. Guitars dominate, along with “live” sounding drumming. Vocals are equally important, with many of the tracks functioning as songs. Of course, it’s not all indie-rock: Apparat’s mix of Nathan Fake’s 'Charlie’s House', and Paul Kalkbrenner’s 'Gebrünn Gebrünn' will get heads nodding and hips swaying. Nevertheless, Holden faced something of a tough sell with 'At the Controls'. Those looking for a mix similar to his Balance release, or fans of techno expecting something directed at the dancefloor may have been somewhat disappointed. But for those who wanted a mixed compilation of tracks and songs for home listening, or as a soundtrack to their next Friday night knees-up, 'At The Controls' is the best mix(ed) tape you’ve never made. Recommended.” – Cameron Eeles
“Following up one of the best mix CDs ever was always going to tough, and it seems that Kompakt don Michael Mayer has taken the defiant route: pulling the rug out from under the great early flow here with, er, ‘space disco’. It’s a bold move, and pretty, well, wrong, and it takes the length of the Rice Twins’ soothing ‘For Dan’ for Kompakt wussies like me to fully recover. As a sequel, it might not be a Godfather 2-like triumph, but it’s far from a Godfather 3-like travesty, and as a standalone mix, I like it. Nevertheless, in an ideal world Mayer would drop the funk and stick to what he does best: lush synth throbbing, as evidenced on the Supermayer cut here (as well as the recent ‘Like You’ remix), tracks which prove he’s also found form as a producer in 2006.” – Jeremy Armitage
“This mix is a cocktail-smooth leisure accessory which would be at home on coffee tables, in car adverts, played by decadent sophisticates in JG Ballard novels. This isn’t a criticism: M.A.N.D.Y’s approach to the concept of the lifestyle mix is to toy with it, to have fun with acres of piano-dappled, cheesy-listening basslines and witty segues. Cheesy listening maybe, but we’re in mature dolcelatte territory: though the touch is candyfloss-light, the track selection is unimpeachably heavyweight. The emotional climax of the mix sneaks up on you: Trentemøller’s remix of Djuma Soundsystem’s ‘Les Djinns’ is astonishing, texturally and melodically sumptuous and utterly all-encompassing. And then a pause, and a hidden track, and a neat shot of soul in Henrik Schwarz’s take on Coldcut’s ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’, and it’s all clear: M.A.N.D.Y’s mastery is in locating the beating heart within the superficially gorgeous sheen of lifestyle gloss.” – Alex McPherson
Contributors: Jeremy Armitage, Peter Chambers, Richard Chinn, Paul Clement, Cameron Eeles, Tami Fenwick, Stéphane Girard, Chris Hobson, Ben Hogwood, Nico Ilickovic, Mohson Iqbal, Matt Langler, Alex Macpherson, Joshua Meggitt, Tal Messing, Dave Noonan, Barry O'Donoghue, Siana Petro, Dave Rinehart, Nick Sabine, Kiran Sande, Christopher Thomarios, Jacob Wright.
What are your top five compilations or mix CDs of 2006? Have your say in the RA forums.