The RA staff pick their favourite mixes, compilations and reissues from this year.
Top 10 compilations
Our favorite compilations from this year touch on many sounds from many eras from many places around the globe, but they all share one thing in common: each one welcomes the listener into its own world, whether that's a Guadeloupe nightclub in the 1980s, a party in Durban in 2016, or the studio of an extraordinary artist. These collections are lovingly compiled grab-bags of music you really shouldn't do without.
This was the year the Vancouver sound went global. Mood Hut's first full-length compilation, a collaborative effort of unknown artists from the label, is the most thorough document of the scene so far. It stakes out a sound that's only loosely tied to house music, drawing equally from new age textures and kaleidoscopic dub effects. These hazy tracks may be harder to grasp than Mood Hut's club-friendly 12-inches, but their subtle details give you plenty to chew on, listen after listen.
Emo Kid - IYona feat. DJ Bradolz
Providing the most in-depth look yet at the South African genre gqom, The Sound Of Durban captures a scene at a particularly fertile time—no longer brand new, but not yet fully formed. Bursting at the seams with the volatile energy of youth, the collection came during a year when gqom artists went on their first tours of Europe and Asia, bringing the sound of Durban to the rest of the world.
It can be hard to know where to start with Aleksi Perälä—the Finnish sound scientist put out four albums this year alone, a pace he's kept up for years. Enter Clone Basement Series with The Colundi Sequence Volume I, a highlights reel of Perälä's ongoing Colundi series. Presenting his impossibly crystalline techno in all its various shapes and moods, this rich and transportive collection makes it hard to see Perälä as anything other than one of the best in the game.
James Ruskin & DVS1 - Page 1
For Blueprint's 20th anniversary, James Ruskin didn't revisit his label's storied back-catalogue like most label bosses would have done. Instead, he assembled 17 unreleased weapons from a who's who of modern techno. Planetary Assault Systems, Regis, Oliver Ho and Steve Bicknell brought the veterans' touch, while Randomer, Blawan and Tessela represented the style's new guard. Structures And Solutions: 1996-2016 asserted that, after 20 years, Blueprint is as strong as ever.
Milton - Mizik Nou
It would be a stretch to say there was a zouk revival in 2016, but this sound, which was born in the '80s in the French West Indies and weaves together elements of funk, boogie, Latin and African music, was a notable presence on dance floors this year. For anyone who wanted to get acquainted with zouk's sun-streaked vibe, Digital Zandoli, the compilation curated by the French label Heavenly Sweetness, was the perfect primer.
"Domenique Dumont - Comme Ça"
Mark Barrott's music peeks into a different Ibiza, a magical island full of exotic flora and fauna. His weekly sunset residency at La Torre beach club was where he presented that vision to an audience. The compilation that came from it gently expands Barrott's Balearic style with selections from Domenique Dumont, Penguin Cafe Orchestra and András, perfect for chilling on a patio with a cold drink or curling up inside dreaming of distant tropical islands.
Saverio Celestri - Jez Zie
Slow Life applies a contemporary sheen to the classicist house its DJs have been playing for years, and no release captures this better than Chromophore. Comprising tunes from core artists S. Moreira and Saverio Celestri, plus label newcomers like Mick Welch and Luis Malon, Chromophore delivered the kind of house sounds you'd usually need to sift through crates of second-hand vinyl to find. Paired with Slow Life's always-classy modern touch, this was one of 2016's essential house compilations.
20 Below - A Lil' Tribute To The Moody Black Keys
Even before it became the title of Dekmantel's festival and compilation series, the term "selector" recently had a resurgence. This is thanks to DJs like Motor City Drum Ensemble, whose sound is defined by a strictly enforced special-records-only policy. To no one's surprise, the German crate-digger got Selectors off to a fantastic start, saving from obscurity (and exorbitant Discogs prices) eight exquisite cuts of deep house and disco.
In an ideal world, records would be collected not for their speculative value but because of a personal connection with the music and the possibility that someone out there might feel the same way. Maybe that's why Jeremy Underground's Beauty feels so special—the idea for the compilation formed naturally when Psychemagik's Danny McLewin heard Jeremy playing records backstage at Bestival. While Jeremy Underground is best known for his exhaustive knowledge of '90s house, Beauty takes us on a journey through cool Jamaican soul (Sonya Spence), library music (Christer Norden) and impossibly rare '45s from the late '70s and early '80s, all with a generous personal touch that makes the music's obscurity feel inconsequential.
A Made Up Sound - Sun Touch
Collecting tracks originally released as separate 12-inches, A Made Up Sound gave us the chance to think of Dave Huismans' label with a sense of continuity, a beginning and an end. In a way it seemed to state the obvious: that his eponymous imprint is one of the most remarkable catalogues of underground dance music's last decade. But, in light of the complacency that can come from familiarity with an artist's work, it was a claim that needed to be spelled out for us.
In an era increasingly beset by nostalgia and producers relinquishing their ideas of the future, Huismans carved out a fractured and flowing vision that broke from house and techno's feedback loop. The ingredients that make up A Made Up Sound were certainly out in the ether—the rhythmic interplay and sampling savvy of the UK hardcore continuum, Detroit's reclamation of the future, the Hague's grittiness, the horizontal sweep of Berlin-style dub techno—but Huismans shaped from these inputs a truly modern vision of dance music. It's an important reminder that house and techno didn't run out of ideas, but rather that producers stopped seeking them out with the scintillating rigour that makes A Made Up Sound such a definitive document.