We round up our favourite mixes from 2018.
Feel free to share your favourite mixes from 2018 in the comments below.
- Yu Su
Truancy Volume 201
In an infinite pool of online mixes, Truancy Volume 201: Yu Su felt remarkably personal. The Chinese-born, Vancouver-based artist's mix references her classical piano training, the death of her mother and her love of Edward Yang films. In Yu Su's singular world, Liszt's impressionistic piano swells blend seamlessly into Terekke's deep dubs and the motorik optimism of Kraftwerk. The mixing and flow are remarkable.
- Nathan Micay
BIS Radio Show #946
Nathan Micay has long professed a love for trance and progressive house anthems, but few of his sets capture it as well as this radio session, which begins with the euphoric swell of Björk's "Big Time Sensuality," weaves through Paul Oakenfold remixing Smashing Pumpkins and Grooverider reworking The Stone Roses, with newer day-glo productions holding things up in between. If you're dying for an alternate future where '90s excess never ended, this mix is for you.
Akua is one of many young techno artists who aren't afraid to notch up the tempo, and she's also one of the DJs who does it the best. Full of throttling kick drums, careening synths and thrillingly broken rhythms, Akua makes you feel like you're hurtling through the air at Mach 3. It's a fast and skilled mix worthy of the DJ heroes—Claude Young, Mike Dearborn—that she names in the accompanying interview.
HNYPOT 291: Ode To The Queer Steppas
On "Ode To The Queer Steppas," their entry in Honey Soundsystem's excellent podcast series, CCL gives us tour through dubstep's strange outer reaches. Weaving together cuts from innovators like T++, Peverelist, Pinch and Shackleton, as well as newer bits from labels like SUED, the mix is balmy, psychedelic and utterly devoid of genre clichés. HNYPOT 291 exemplified that most difficult of DJ tricks: make a familiar style sound utterly different.
FACT Mix 667
LSDXOXO's journey from enterprising hip-hop producer to edit master to no-holds-barred DJ has been exciting to watch. This mix, jumping from old-school house and techno to Baltimore club to ghettotech to hardstyle and lots of subgenres in between, is no less of a rush. It's classic, it's new, it's queer and it's tough, and it's an example of the kind of flair that should help this New Yorker make waves in his new home of Berlin.
- Avalon Emerson
It's not exactly surprising that Avalon Emerson's Essential Mix is good as it is, but you still have to marvel. The mixing is slick, dynamic and bold. The tracklist is full of private edits and upcoming music by talented friends (Aurora Halal, Nathan Micay, Overmono), as well as curveball bits of shoegaze and synth pop. As for that bit with the Soul II Soul acapella played at the wrong speed over a rumbling Paul Woolford track—was there a better moment in any mix this year?
XLR8R Podcast 557
Recorded live at the debut edition of Orbits festival, you can almost feel the sweltering Portuguese heat emanating from re:ni's opening tracks. Everything is built from the same building blocks—precisely layered percussion, unconventional rhythms and airy pads—as the mix builds up from soft dub and trippy chuggers to psychedelic techno. It's a lesson in coaxing mid-afternoon revelers onto the dance floor.
"I don't think I've been ever very good at the chill thing," Peach admitted when her Discwoman mix was published in October. No matter: her sets happily exist in a space well outside the chill zone. DISCWOMAN 55 was as bright as it was tough, with dreamy breakbeats, 135 BPM rave, the odd dollar-bin oldie and loads of great new music. This was Peach doing what she does best.
- Ricardo Villalobos
What constitutes a good Ricardo set is one of dance music's enduring questions. This one, recorded at Amnesia in Ibiza, has been decried in some quarters for being too commercial. There are some bigger-room tunes in here, not least the Girada Unlimited rework of "Zapatac," but Ricardo's signature tightrope walk between hyper-precision and his famous no-fucks-given attitude is in full effect. And you know from those fader-flicks in the opening stretch that you're in for a treat.
MOJ mixes 15
Though currently based in Berlin, Omar comes from Uruguay, a scene where Nicolas Lutz looms large. No surprise then that he'd deliver such a stellar contribution to the podcast series of My Own Jupiter, a "multidisciplinary art platform" run by Lutz and Edurne. A high-energy trip through charismatic techno, electro and house, Omar's mix moves through a range of sounds and moods, strung together with the slick transitions associated with Uruguay's homegrown selectors.
If you're the type of person who delights in music that sounds like nothing that came before, Mumdance is your guy. Recorded as a free companion to the compilation he curated, this mix flirts with techno and drum & bass and swerves off the genre map altogether. Featuring tracks from Nkisi, Bambounou and Galaxian, Shared Meanings rounds up some of the most defiantly futuristic club tracks of the year.
- Kyle Hall and Jay Daniel
Live: Fundamentals @ Marble Bar Detroit
Despite their international acclaim, Kyle Hall and Jay Daniel are doing it for Detroit. Case in point: their Fundamentals party, a no-frills back-to-back session that's gone down over six years at bars, coffee shops and lofts in the D. This live recording from Marble Bar is a masterclass exploring the intersection of Detroit house, the jazzy '90s Chicago sound, UK broken beat and a whole lot of soul.
Slikback's first gig outside East Africa took place in a Kraków basement on a chilly night at this year's Unsound festival. That performance saw the Kenyan artist play an hour of trap, grime and deconstructed club music—all his own music and remixes, including a tune he'd made earlier that day. It was one of the festival's highlights, announcing the arrival of yet another exciting Nyege Nyege talent.
- Beatrice Dillon
FACT Mix 657
Unafraid of pauses, jitters or pivots in direction, Beatrice Dillon showcases her distinctive approach to DJing on this winding mix. She describes it as an hour of "complete tracks and cut up fragments of work by so many different artists," with credit given only to artists and no track titles. Carefully arranging tracks like a jigsaw puzzle, it's the way they interlock and sit together that reveals a bigger picture as the mix unfolds.
- Mx. Silkman
Beyond / Below 10
In less than a year, Hi-Vis's Beyond / Below mix series has established itself as a go-to for ambient mixes, thanks to an open-ended approach that emphasizes both patience and personality. This mix from Cleveland's Mx. Silkman might be the best of them all. It's peaceful with a hint of tension, and underlined with a kosmische-inspired sense of melody.
- Skee Mask and Zenker Brothers
Unsound Festival is ostensibly a showcase for music's cutting edge, but it's also earned a reputation for being a superb place to cut loose. Exhibit A: this three-way back-to-back from Skee Mask and Zenker Brothers, recorded early one Sunday morning in Hotel Forum's main room. The range of styles reflects the Ilian Tape sound, but its rowdy energy draws from jungle—from the spinbacks to the volatile, seat-of-your-pants mixing.
Blowing Up The Workshop 98
There are artists who stand out in their field, and there are artists who are their own field—like Yaeji. Not content to merely play 40 minutes of her favorite music, on Blowing Up The Workshop 98 she adds improvised vocals to create a kind of mix/mixtape hybrid. Yaeji hums, whispers, raps and sings over modern club tracks from the likes of Etch, Chevel and the late DJ Rashad, using her voice and effects to make stylistic jumps feel like natural transitions.
- Teki Latex
The Naked King
This guy doesn't call himself the "king of blends" for nothing. The third and final instalment in the French artist's mix trilogy might be the most hilarious and impressive of them all. Squarepusher into Lil' Flip? Sure. Crime Mob's "Knuck If You Buck" over Swedish House Mafia? Why not. Eurythmics into Daft Punk into DJ Deeon? Naturally. Every moment of this mix is so turbo-charged with energy and humour, it's like a roller coaster ride you'll want to go on again and again.
Sounds Of Sónar
Kampire set the tone for her standout set at this year's Sónar festival with this Sounds Of Sónar mix, released a couple of months before the main event in Barcelona. It was some calling card from the Kampala DJ, mixing up fresh sounds from Angola, Uganda, Nigeria and the DRC. Full of catchy pop hooks and booming bass, this one showed precisely why Kampire is one of East Africa's leading DJs.
- John T. Gast
UVC Roots & Destruction
John T. Gast's enigmatic druid dub creeps quietly out of London with little fanfare, but his fans are cult-like in their devotion to him. This year's instalment of the Roots And Destruction mix series for Bus Editions is more like a solo album than a mixtape, an extension of Gast's private universe that connects dub, knackered electronics and ambient, making heartbreaking paeans with MIDI instruments.
- Mama Snake & Solid Blake
Live: Dekmantel Festival 2018
Apeiron Crew cofounders Mama Snake and Solid Blake are formidable DJs in their own right, but this live recording from Dekmantel shows how phenomenal they are back-to-back. From the brooding electro to the Shepard tones of Ploy's "Garys," through wild cuts of breakbeat, electro, techno and trance, the duo's 90-minute set at Dekmantel's UFO stage is a reminder of the kind of synergy that a back-to-back makes possible.
Crack Mix 214
As founder of the record label Naive, cofounder of Rádio Quântica and a string of local parties, Inês Coutinho is a galvanizing force in Lisbon's music scene. She's also a sick DJ, as small clubs and parties around the world are beginning to discover, and as her Crack mix makes clear. Elegantly swerving through one raucous banger after another, never playing the saying type of track twice, Crack 214 shows a gifted DJ having a blast with her records.
BAR Radio #40
When she's not making bangers, Thessa Torsing, AKA upsammy, spends most of her time digging for bleepy curios. She's got a particular penchant for downtempo tracks in the 90 BPM range, a style she explores beautifully on BAR Radio #40. The mix is a slo-mo meander through golden ambient, IDM and other hard-to-define melodic jams. There's even a UK bass track played at the wrong speed. Together, they form one of the year's classiest and most adventurous mixes.
- object blue
Bandcloud Guest Mix
The Beijing-born, London-based artist object blue was a producer and live act before she was a DJ, and the way she mixes tracks has the arresting flair of a live performance. Her Bandcloud mix is a good example. Dizzyingly complex but intuitive, blending techno, breaks, experimental club and footwork, she bobs and weaves through angular, futuristic sounds with an ease that reflects her level of technique.
- Flo Dill
The aesthetic of Australia's Sanpo Disco mix series is leisurely—"Sanpo" is Japanese for "stroll," the series being inspired by its founder's love of long walks. NTS regular Flo Dill got the memo, starting out with some glorious Pat Metheny on ECM, before spending an hour sharing the wistful music that soundtracks her bus commutes around London.
- DJ Healer
In May, a few weeks after his his double-album release on Easter Sunday, DJ Healer released a free mix through his Soundcloud page called Planet Lonely. Except it isn't really a mix. Moments of silence separate its dozens of tracks, which dip through ambient, downtempo and something like drum & bass, their mellowness offset by themes of self-destruction and apocalypse anxiety. Released as an album, Planet Lonely would have been among the year's biggest records. And yet this oddly understated format seems fitting, if only within the strange logic of this artist's word.
- DJ Senior Vasquez
You probably know about the Detroit-Berlin connection, but how about the New York-Lisbon connection? New York master Junior Vasquez was a fan of the Portuguese tribal sound of the mid-'90s, and he often played tracks by Portuguese producers at the Sound Factory in Manhattan. DJs like Danny Tenaglia caught on too, and a musical bond formed between the two scenes. Lisbon's Photonz makes this sonic connection audible with this funky, smooth mix of Portuguese house from that era.
Mixmag - Kazakhstan scene
The proverbial electronic music map has expanded these last few years, with cities like Kiev, Tbilisi and Montevideo earning overdue recognition. Nazira's January mix for Mixmag turned our attention to Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, and her hometown. Capturing the sound of Nazira's ZVUK parties, its big basslines, razor-sharp synths and precision rhythms offer a thrilling glimpse into this small but lively scene.
- Evan Baggs
XLR8R Podcast 530
In the two years between Evan Baggs' RA Podcast and this mix for XLR8R, his focus on an acidic strain of vintage sci-fi techno has tightened. Baggs embodies excellence in this field, and the mix is a sort of mission statement for the vision he's built over the past three or four years alongside artists like Binh and DJ Masda. Without feeling remotely nostalgic, it's a history of dance music's forgotten corners that jolts the present with new energy.
- Olive T
Truancy Volume 205
On first glance, Olive T's Truancy mix feels like it's going to be a smooth ride through deep and melodic house. Then it starts to get more psychedelic, ratcheting up to a rude and heavy breakbeat section before settling back down again. That mid-section explores UK-inspired sounds, but there's something so American about the demeanor of the mix—its confidence, its soul—that reminds you why she's one of the country's up-and-coming DJs.
As a bonus, here are ten of our favourite RA mixes from the past 12 months.
- DJ Bus Replacement Service
RA Podcast 610
Doris Woo's RA Podcast, which includes a recording of a North Korean newsreader, an ode to Donald Trump sung by preteens, and a song called "'Roxanne' By The Police But Every Time They Say 'Roxanne' It Gets Faster," shows that her DJ-set-as-stand-up routine isn't just funny—it's downright innovative.
- Octo Octa
RA Live: Sónar, Barcelona
The New York artist's jubilant live set from this year’s Sónar festival covers a wider variety of sounds and genres than we’ve heard in her music before. Slipping effortlessly through bouncy breakbeat, shimmering trance and heads-down techno, Octo Octa's music has never felt more vibrant.
Version: RA Label Of The Month
Version is known primarily as Germany's preeminent dubstep outpost, but Orson's mix for Label Of The Month shows the impressive scope of their vision. Fusing Version dubplates with old records from rave heroes like Joey Beltram, Frankie Bones and Lenny Dee, the mix exemplifies Orson's knack for time-travelling blends.
Breaking Through: Violet
Through her record label, party and radio station, Inês Coutinho has emerged as a crucial voice in Lisbon's club scene.
The art of DJing: Vladimir Ivkovic
A singular DJ outlines his philosophical approach to the craft.
Label of the month: Basic Channel
On its 25th anniversary, we examine the roots and philosophy behind one of techno's most beloved labels.
Opinion: Why we're closing comments
Our comments section closed today. Here's why.
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The year in review
RA's best films of 2018
We round up some of our favourite films of the past year.
RA's best longform of 2018
Enjoy some of our best in-depth journalism from the past 12 months.
Reflections On 2018
Artists, promoters, bookers and label heads talk about their year in electronic music.
2018's Best Tracks
RA staff pick their favourite tracks from the last 12 months.