10. Cape Town Electronic Music Festival
February 5 - February 7
Cape Town, South Africa
Many festivals serve the purpose of bringing electronic music to a given city or region. But few form such a vital outpost as Cape Town Electronic Music Festival. Since it started in 2012, CTEMF has formed an essential bridge between South Africa's electronic scene and the global dance music community. In addition to a two-day festival at Cape Town's iconic city hall, the programme includes parties at a variety of clubs and a three-day series of workshops and showcases where luminaries from around the world cross paths with South Africa's many up-and-coming talents. With the festival still a few months off, only a handful of names have been announced so far, but Goldie, Nightmares On Wax and SubClub's Harri & Domenic are among the international artists locked in.
RA Pick: Rude Boyz serving up the raucous strain of South African house known as gqom.
09. St Jerome's Laneway Festival
January 30 - February 14
Laneway plays an important role in Australia. The touring festival, which has satellite events in New Zealand and Singapore, is a melting pot, bringing dance music to the indie kids and vice-versa. Its programming is as on-point as ever in 2016. The main draw-cards will be Grimes and QT, two acts on the truly weird end of the dance-pop spectrum, plus experimental-leaning bands like HEALTH and Battles. A big part of Laneway's appeal is its well-chosen locations: the Sydney leg, for example, is happening at Sydney College Of The Arts, whose lovely campus dotted with sandstone buildings makes for an exceptionally pleasant festival backdrop.
RA Pick: SOPHIE, making his second trip down under, should melt minds solo and as part of QT.
08. Sugar Mountain
January 23 - January 24
Victorian College Of The Arts
Since planting their seeds at The Forum Theatre back in 2010, Sugar Mountain has blossomed into one of the most vibrant and distinctive annual events in Melbourne. A strong visual art presence enhances the already beautiful Victorian College Of The Arts campus, the festival's current home, and the eclectic lineup draws an equally diverse crowd of music fans. The 2016 edition showcases the modern funk sounds of Dâm-Funk, the alluring R&B vocals of Kelela, the indie-electronic live action of Hot Chip, the space disco vibes of Tim Sweeney and the bass-heavy house of Julio Bashmore.
RA Pick: Harvey Sutherland's full live band experience is unmissable.
January 14 - February 6
Split across four weekends in January and February—Montreal's coldest months—Igloofest isn't your typical inner-city festival. Rather than battle the sub-zero temperatures, the organisers embrace them, entertaining the thousands-strong audience with weekly ski-suit competitions (this year dubbed "Iglooswag") and a lineup that'll get your feet moving no matter what the weather. The festival is keeping the names for their tenth edition under wraps for now, but expect a long list of local and international acts from across techno, house, bass music and more.
RA Pick: Igloofest tends to go out with a bang, so make sure to save your most flamboyant onesie for the final night.
06. Astropolis L'Hiver
January 18 - January 23
One of Astropolis's greatest assets is its crowd. For the past four years, the festival's winter edition has offered clubbers in Brest, an industrial port on the outermost tip of France's Atlantic coast, an opportunity to escape the bracing conditions and party indoors. It's an opportunity they grasp with both hands: venues like La Suite and La Carène, located right by the city's harbour, are guaranteed to be sweaty and intense for the duration of Astropolis l'Hiver. The lineup for the 2016 edition stays true to the festival's rave ethos—expect the likes of Laurent Garnier, Levon Vincent and Randomer to provide suitably full-throttle sets.
RA Pick: Ron Morelli's tough, bleak techno feels like the ultimate soundtrack to Astropolis l'Hiver.
05. Sónar Reykjavik / Sónar Stockholm
February 18 - February 20 / February 26
Harpa / Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre
Reykjavik, Iceland / Stockholm, Sweden
Sónar in Barcelona is one of the biggest, most reliably boundary-pushing festivals in Europe. Their sojourns outside of Catalonia are small by comparison, but the bookings are just as fearless. When Sónar touches down in Reykjavik and Stockholm on back-to-back weekends in February, they'll treat the Scandinavian capitals to a who's-who of club music (Ben UFO, Rødhåd, The Black Madonna), exquisite live performances (Holly Herndon, Floating Points, Oneohtrix Point Never), cult favorites (James Pants, Yung Lean) and up-and-coming locals (Sweden's Toxe, Iceland's Bjarki). So although it's a given that these festivals will lack Barcelona's endless sunshine, Sónar is still bringing plenty of heat up north.
RA Pick: Sónar tends to nail spectacle, so don't sleep on Lone's live show with visual artist Konx-om-Pax in Reykjavik.
04. Bugged Out Weekender
January 15 - January 17
Bognor Regis, UK
British weekenders are their own special kind of fun. Pack thousands of revellers into a family-friendly holiday park with nothing to do but let loose and rave for three days straight, and the results can be magical. Seminal UK party crew Bugged Out have been running their own version since 2012, inviting many of the world's top DJs to soundtrack a wild weekend at Butlins Resort in Bognor Regis. For next year's fifth edition, they've cobbled together the usual world-beating cast of international stars (Armand Van Helden, Âme, Kerri Chandler), underground heroes (Paranoid London, Gerd Janson) and UK favourites (Joy Orbison, Erol Alkan, DJ EZ).
RA Pick: On such a house and techno-heavy lineup, Mumdance and Novelist's modern grime will be especially thrilling.
January 29 - February 7
It's easy to see electronic music as little more than the soundtrack to an epic party. And while it's certainly true you'll have a great time at CTM—the presence of Honey Dijon on a lineup pretty much guarantees it—few festivals show the more thoughtful side of club life quite like this Berlin festival. Part of that is programming, and with Rabih Beaini (AKA Morphosis) signed on as co-curator, we're in good hands this year. Then there's CTM's flair for the unique, which means works from Peder Mannerfelt, Fis & Rob Thorne and Aïsha Devi you won't see elsewhere. It certainly doesn't hurt that the festival has Berghain up its sleeve—they reliably present the club's edgiest night of the year.
RA Pick: Lena Willikens' adventurous selections will fit CTM like a glove.
02. Let Them Eat Cake
When it comes to festivals and dance events, New Year's in Australia is massive. In such a congested market, Let Them Eat Cake—now entering its fourth year—shows that in order to succeed you have to focus on the details. From the local food and drink options and colourful art installations to the elaborately themed stage design, lush parklands of Werribee Mansion and vibrantly costumed crowds, the whole operation is based on quality as well as decadence. Music is the central focus, of course, and this year's bill once again brings together the best the global electronic scene has to offer, from Ben UFO, Âme and Four Tet (all of whom are playing the RA stage) to Jon Hopkins and Motor City Drum Ensemble.
RA Pick: Detroit hip-hop royalty Slum Village should make for a pretty special New Year's gift.
01. The BPM Festival
January 8 - January 17
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
It's hard to understate the effect of stepping off a plane in the middle of winter and finding yourself in perfect weather—with a salty, Caribbean breeze in the air, no less. This is just one of the many details that makes The BPM Festival so exceptional. With ten days of seaside parties in the Mexican resort town of Playa Del Carmen, BPM is an embarrassment of riches. More than 100 DJs have been confirmed for 2016, from A-listers like Sasha and Dubfire to underground picks like Midland and Job Jobse—and that's only phase one of the lineup. For many of the people who go every year, Playa Del Carmen is not exactly a quick trip, but they keep coming back year after year. It's not hard to see why.
RA Pick: Lee Burridge's knack for wistful grooves has made him a BPM highlight in years past.