If we're heading towards a music market in which the physical product is of niche interest, then compilations will surely be considered luxury items. Why pay for something you could quite easily download for free and would serve much the same purpose? Well, in this much altered climate of consumption, any artist throwing their hat in the ring knows that their game and the product itself must be raised tenfold.
Take this year for instance. Joris Voorn took the trouble of melding over a hundred tracks on his effort for the Balance series; Dixon changed his approach to mixing by slicing up exclusive source material to form Temporary Secretary; and the Warp imprint presented 20 years of their history in an ultra-deluxe, limited edition vinyl/CD box set.
In other words, compilations are unlikely to account for the bulk of your music library these days, but those that do make the grade, are likely to be treasured.
20. Horse Meat Disco - Horse Meat Disco [Strut]
Disco? It never went away! Or so claim the lovers of the genre, bemused that it's coming around once again. But those of us not paying attention don't know any better, and that's why Horse Meat Disco's two-disc compilation sounded so fresh to so many ears in 2009. That the boys were purists, inclined to educate their audiences? Well, that was all the better.
19. Will Saul - Balance 015 [EQ]
Will Saul began his music industry career in the A&R department, and in listening to Balance 015 you can hear why. The man has exquisite taste in the many genres he loves, cherrypicking the best of the best from cosmic disco, dubstep, tech house, minimal and more over the course of the mix's three discs—a breadth that is similarly showcased via the catalogue on his Simple and Aus imprints.
18. Various Artists - Delsin 2.0 [Delsin]
Amsterdam's Delsin Records has found a sound, and has little interest on innovating past it. And that's OK. Because the talented Detroit-influenced producers it surrounds itself with have found innumerable ways to make techno fresh and vibrant, not least on Delsin 2.0 in which Redshape, Newworldaquarium, D5, Shed, Vince Watson and more showcase their wares. Being stuck in the past never sounded so good.
17. Loco Dice - The Lab 01 [NRK Music]
You already know about our love
of Loco Dice's decision to go intimate this year, but to have it followed up by The Lab 01
felt like the man was spoiling us. If you questioned Dice's skills before, it was a disc that put those doubts to rest amid the host of funky, percussive house of modern and classic vintage with plenty of character.
16. Various Artists - The Best of Balihu 1993 - 2008 [Rush Hour]
Rush Hour's excellence continued apace in 2009 with their decision to compile Daniel Wang's Balihu imprint, showcasing the three phases of the label—Wang's sample phase, his reactionary "no samples" period and the opening up of the imprint to outside producers. Balihu has quietly been responsible for some of the most indelible disco of the past 15 years, thankfully now it's available all in one place.
15. Various Artists - Wild Angels [Planet Mu]
Mary Anne Hobbs' keen curatorial eye helmed her third compilation for Planet Mu in 2009, and it might have been her best yet, moving effortlessly from Mark Pritchard's remarkable album opener "?" to work from Rustie, Floating Points and Nosaj Thing. Always a step ahead of the pack, Hobbs has plenty of names here yet to strike it big, but considering her track record, taking heed sooner rather than later is encouraged.
14. Various Artists - Selected Label Works #1 [Permanent Vacation]
Looking over the cast of characters that Permanent Vacation has drafted for remixes over the years should help you understand why Selected Label Works #1 is so special: Todd Terje, Tensnake, Aeroplane, Holy Ghost!, Junior Boys. These are artists who don't simply do remix work for hire either—making the originals that appear here by relative unknowns like Lullabies In The Dark and Bostro Pesopeo all the more enticing.
13. Various Artists - Warp20 [Warp Records]
When you have a history like Warp, you can do pretty much anything you'd like to celebrate two decades. That's why it was such a pleasure to see the imprint offering up plenty of exclusive material over the course of the five CDs and five 10-inch vinyls. Exclusive tracks from Boards of Canada, Plaid, Flying Lotus and more? Remixes from classic artists of classic songs? Happy birthday to us is more like it.
12. Prins Thomas - Live at Robert Johnson [Live at Robert Johnson]
Live at Robert Johnson was one of the most consistently thrilling series of the year, and its crowning achievement was undoubtedly Prins Thomas' edition. The Norwegian took the unofficial mandates of the series (surprise, educate), and made a mix that spans the indie prog of Trans Am and Ricardo Villalobos' minimal bomb "Waiworinao" effortlessly, proving why he's among the best DJs in the world.
11. Sebo K - Watergate 04 [Watergate]
Sebo K's got a back-up plan
if this music thing doesn't work out, but he needn't worry too much. Watergate 04
easily takes in the likes of Rick Wade, Mood II Swing, dOP, and Daze Maxim in a swirling, soulful deep house mix. That he also has a wandering genre eye—his edit of Martyn, for one—leads us to believe that he'll have no trouble adapting gracefully whichever way the wind blows.
10. Dixon - Temporary Secretary [Innervisions]
It wasn't until Temporary Secretary Edits emerged that it became clear exactly how much work Dixon had put into his 2009 solo mix. Armed with this knowledge, and hearing them work dance floors across the world throughout the year, though, it's clear that Temporary Secretary is among the greatest achievements in the form this year. The mix CD is dead? Hardly. It just needed someone to try harder.
09. Pépé Bradock - Confiote De Bits / A Remix Collection [BBE]
We knew. But we didn't exactly know. Lucky for us, then, that BBE thought to lay out the argument that Pépé Bradock is among the world's foremost remixers, a producer capable of radically reengineering work to suit his twisted needs. Zero 7, Namlook, Charles Webster, Roy Ayers and more have all seen (or been convinced of) the genius of this idiosyncratic Frenchman. Now it's our turn.
08. Tama Sumo - Panorama Bar 02 [Ostgut Ton]
Ostgut Ton is hardly a trend-hopper, yet their decision to offer up the second mix in the Panorama Bar series couldn't have been better timed. Tama Sumo's deep house love seemed particularly timely in 2009, what with her connecting the dots between seemingly every corner of the genre, from Nina Kraviz to John Roberts to Trus'me to Kassem Mosse to Levon Vincent, all the way back to Sumo herself.
07. Modeselektor - Body Language Vol. 8 [Get Physical Music]
As if having two of the top live shows of 2009 weren't enough, Modeselektor also did a spot of DJing as well. But despite their live show often eclipsing their albums, their frenetic DJ style is often captured cleanly—and best—on disc. To wit, the ridiculously eclectic Body Language, Vol. 8, which was largely dubstep in composition and also found plenty of room for Animal Collective and Norman Nodge.
06. Various Artists - Club Tape Club Mix [Underground Quality]
A scene stalwart that has only recently started to get the recognition that he deserves, three of the year's hottest producers and two more mixes from underrated DJs? All for a party that more than delivered on the hype? We can't think of an example of this happening before, which is why Levon Vincent, Fred P, Nina Kraviz, Jus-Ed, DJ Qu and Anton Zap's Club Tape Club Mix is one of the finest compilations of the year.
05. Henrik Schwarz, Âme, Dixon - The Grandfather Paradox [BBE]
Looking over the tracklisting to The Grandfather Paradox is kind of mind-boggling. So many mixes trumpet how wide-ranging their sound is, but Henrik Schwarz, Âme and Dixon took the cake in 2009, finding the place where Steve Reich, Liquid Liquid, Yusef Lateef, Ø, Raymond Scott not only make sense together, but combine for one of the smoothest rides of the year, blending effortlessly into one another.
04. Joris Voorn - Balance 014 [EQ]
Joris Voorn changed the way that we think about mix albums in 2009. It's territory that had been explored before, most notably by Richie Hawtin, but Balance 014 and others felt a bit like a sea change, as though we have finally entered into an age where DJs will no longer be able to get away with two turntables and a mixer on officially released compilations. Welcome (finally) to the future.
03. DJ Koze - Reincarnations [Get Physical Music]
DJ Koze is a great remixer. It didn't take Get Physical to remind us of that. No, what was amazing about Reincarnations was how much it sounded like a carefully sequenced album, jumping from ambient fare to full-on house party delirium. Unlike Pépé Bradock who filters everything through a narrow (and awesome) prism, Koze's world feels slightly more varied, open to going just about anywhere his mood takes him.
02. Various Artists - 5 Years Of Hyperdub [Hyperdub]
After five years, the memory starts to fade. The good things get better, the bad things start to seem far worse (or far more insignificant). Which is why 5 Years of Hyperdub seemed almost necessary to remind listeners of the enormous impact that the label has had in its half decade of operation—from Burial to Zomby to Joker to label boss Kode9 himself—and to anticipate what might be coming next.
01. Omar-S - fabric 45: Detroit [fabric Records]
Music is often as much about the force of personality surrounding it as it is the music itself. And few other personalities were as strong in 2009 as one Omar-S. Luckily, the music more than backed Omar's strong words up: The Detroit-based DJ/producer's fabric mix solely featured his own material, with few tweaks, few exclusives and no frills. The thrills, though, were legion, from the stunning closer "Set Me Out" to the mid-set epic "Psychotic Photosynthesis." Plenty of producers have enough material to craft a mix of their own songs, few have the music (or personality) to pull it off. fabric has been lucky enough now to have two. Dare we hope for a third?