Mike Servito No Way Back
No Way Back once called itself "a celebration of the lost art of the late night Midwestern DJ," a description that very much rang true at their Movement afterparty in May. That night at 1515 Broadway—the former site of The Music Institute, arguably the first techno club of all time—Detroit underdogs like Carlos Souffront, Patrick Russell and BMG rocked the hot, dark and tiny room with the kind of sets that can only come from decades of experience in a city like Detroit. Everyone was fantastic, but the highlight of the night was Mike Servito.
BMG calls Servito's sets "a massive bitch slap
," which is pretty much what you get on this recording. His headsy but party-rocking selections are ceaselessly flawless, his quick and cut-happy mixing style is a riot, but perhaps the real winning ingredient is the pacing and programming—throughout this mix, it seems you're never more than 16 bars away from another explosive hook. And how often do you hear a bomb like KiNK's "Existenz" veer into a curveball like Talking Heads' "Girlfriend Is Better?" Lost art, indeed.
Top 10 official mixes
As we found out earlier this year, times are tough for the mix CD, and let's be honest: the pickings get slimmer every year. If there was anything we learned, however, it's that those who want to continue will keep on keeping on. Many of the format's regular practitioners had excellent years (we're looking at you, fabric), while there were some outliers who did something different (Optimo) and even a few newcomers (Beats In Space, Mister Saturday Night) to keep things fresh.
But making the biggest wave was one mix that abandoned the physical format entirely, stretching the idea of what an "official" mix means and pointing towards one potential future for the format.
Tim Sweeney Beats In Space 15th Anniversary Beats in Space Records
Guests draw you into Beats In Space, but Tim Sweeney keeps you coming back. Beats In Space 15th Anniversary Mix
celebrates the show's second act, when Sweeney assumes control of the decks and occasionally outshines whoever played first. Featuring classics like Tensnake's "In The End (I Want You To Cry)" mixed to perfection, Disc 2 testifies to Sweeney's knack for spotting huge tunes. But the new cuts on Disc 1 suggest the past 15 years haven't dulled his ears in the slightest.
Rebolledo Momento Drive Kompakt
As a DJ and producer, Rebolledo is obsessed with forward momentum. "I try to imagine the reaction that a track has to create," he told us this year, "and for me, it's always this feeling of constant motion, getaway, getting lost in the music." This quality was obvious on his Momento Drive
mix for Kompkat. He's latecomer to the style, but this sense of movement was created by a mood that often felt closer to krautrock than contemporary dance music—the sounds were otherworldly, the mood was dim but hopeful, and underneath it all the drums rolled on and on…
Pangaea Fabriclive 73 Fabric Records
Techno is serious business. You don't need to look at all the black and white photos of morose-looking producers and gloomy track titles to see that. Sometimes it takes an outsider to show just how fun the genre can actually be. On Fabriclive 73
, Hessle Audio co-founder Kevin McAuley's most high profile outing yet, he played serious music in a non-serious way. McAuley found hooks and bounce in rough, dark techno, presenting tracks in a quick-fire way that made them almost unrecognisable. This was techno with a twist.
Will Saul DJ-Kicks !K7
"Write what you know," goes the old saying, a piece of advice Will Saul seemed to translate to his DJ-Kicks mix. The 21 tracks were largely drawn from his labels, Simple and Aus, and producers in his immediate orbit. This approach gave the mix a wonderful coherency, something that was due to Saul knowing his source material intimately. Its tight composition was further enhanced by its overall aesthetic: Saul said he wanted the mix to mirror his club performances, but its bubbling synths, washed-out pads and careful percussion gave it a dreamlike quality that sat snuggly at home.
Prosumer fabric 79 Fabric Records
Andrew Ryce described Prosumer's last commercial mix, Panorama Bar 03
, as a "joy to listen to." Much the same can be said of fabric 79
, which struts its way through classic house, grainy techno, funk and disco in a way that's both deft and insanely danceable. As much as it feels like a party mix, though, there's plenty in there to turn devoted crate-diggers green with envy. But then that's always been Achim Brandenburg's charm: playing music that stimulates head, heart and hips in equal measure.
Optimo (Espacio) Dark Was The Night Endless Flight
It's dark. It's winter. It's nighttime. This is the setting Jonnie Wilkes and Keith McIvor drew from on their mix for Endless Flight. Inspired by 1927 blues number "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground," the Glasgow pair led us through a selection of chilly minimalism and icy post-punk—Grouper, Terrence Dixon, Silent Servant, Nurse With Wound—before finishing with the stunning Angel Corpus Christi cover of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream." It might just be their best mix yet.
Prins Thomas Rainbow Disco Club Vol.1 Endless Flight
These days the term "disco" often gets tagged on anyone whose sets are simply too eclectic to be described any other way. Prins Thomas is a case in point, as Rainbow Disco Vol.1
makes clear. Though the end result is exactly the kind of breezy thing we expect from the Norwegian DJ, the selections themselves are all over the shop, connecting the dots between Surgeon, Bee Mask, Skatebård, Shed, Floating Points and about 20 others. Disco or not, this is seriously impressive DJ wizardry.
Pinch & Mumdance Pinch B2B Mumdance Tectonic Recordings
Pinch is the godfather of a music scene that's obsessed with pushing things forward. On this head-to-head with younger disciple Mumdance, he takes UK dance music so far into the future that it's barely recognizable. Drums spring and sputter chaotically, booming bass notes slam out of nowhere and the melodies—well, what melodies? Dark, unforgiving and sometimes mind-blowing, Pinch B2B Mumdance
was the sound of two visionary artists not just breaking the mould but exploding it.
Marcel Dettmann fabric 77 Fabric Records
Marcel Dettmann long ago mastered the form
of the DJ mix. His latest could have been like any of his others, furthering his reputation as a classically minded techno fiend. fabric 77
emphasises another side: the new music obsessive. Packed with previously unreleased material (much of it just released
on his MDR label), this mix doesn't seek to define techno so much as chart its course—less a dig through dusty crates than a trawl through his USBs for a way forward.
Ryan Elliott Panorama Bar 06 Ostgut Ton
Ryan Elliott's Panorama Bar mix was momentous for two reasons. The first is simple and obvious: a master DJ spinning great tunes and nailing the vibe of his home club. Packed with new tracks from the likes of Newworldaquarium, Deadbeat and Nick Höppner and littered with favourites new and old, the mix moved gracefully between styles with the steady hand of an expert. And, at 35 tracks and 90 minutes long, it was a bit meatier than the typical mix CD, which brings us to the other point—Panorama Bar 06
marked Ostgut Ton's move away from the mix CD into digital territory. No mere podcast, the freely available download
came with a high-quality digital booklet complete with photography, liner notes and detailed credits. It proved that you don't need a piece of plastic to deliver the same level of careful curation as any other big-name mix CD. We don't yet know what sort of effect Panorama Bar 06
might have on the future of the mix CD, but one thing's for sure: in 2014, Ostgut Ton changed the game.
This poll is decided by the votes of RA staff members and current contributors.
Label of the month: 1080p
Andrew Ryce speaks to Vancouver's Richard MacFarlane about running one of the most unpredictable—and exciting—new labels in electronic music.
In the next edition of RA and SONOS's film series, we hear how a city's music scene saved one of dance music's favourite DJs.
Machine Love: San Soda
After a few years spent mostly DJing, the Belgian producer recently got back into his studio swing. Jordan Rothlein paid him a visit in Berlin to see what's been cooking.
Top 10 January / February 2015 Festivals
RA picks ten of the best festivals kicking off 2015.